Archive for ‘April, 2011’

At Conduce Software we have always believed that if you make business software more appealing, more fun and more rewarding then users will not only enjoy using it, but they will use it better, the quality of the data they enter will improve and mission critical data will be entered in a more accurate and timely manner. I’ve personally preached about this during talks and presentations and have suggested that business software has a lot to learn from social media and games to achieve this aim. We have experimented with adding gaming mechanics to some of our applications as a result of this belief.

I didn’t realise, but this practise of adding game mechanics in a non-game environment has a name: Gamification. It also never really occurred to me that gamification is all around us and has been for years. The concepts of customer loyalty programmes, buy-one-get-one-free, sales targets and employee reward schemes are recognised as mature gamification techniques. With 3 generations and 30 years of a multi-trillion dollar electronic gaming industry the science behind gaming is very well understood and is moving into the business arena in a big way.

I decided that to master the use of game mechanics in business applications we have to know a game mechanic when we see it and learn to appraise its qualities. I decided the best way to do this would be to simply play some games together. Last night we had our first ever team Gamification Night. I brought in some sugary drinks and some greasy take-away and we sat down as a team and played together for a couple of hours.

I decided to set some boundaries at the outset so that we would work towards an outcome. I settled upon 6 questions that we would ask ourselves to help us identify and appraise the individual game mechanics in each game we looked at.

These questions were:
Q1: What are the goals of the game?
Q2: What are the rules and resources of the game?
Q3: What is the feedback? (how do you know how well you are doing?)
Q4: What is the core challenge to master?
Q5: What do we like / not like about the game?
Q6: Which is the key game mechanic which makes or breaks the game?

The first four of these questions were suggested to me by Sebastian Deterding a LinkedIn contact and expert on the subject of User Experience and Gamification. Incidentally I highly recommend his Google Tech Talk on the subject.

We began by looking at Angry Birds as this was probably the one game which we all had plenty of exposure to… this helped to bed in the questions I had posed and set a tone for the rest of the evening. We answered the questions for Angry Birds as follows:

Game 1 Angry Birds
Q1: Defeat the pigs
Q2: You have limited number of birds; birds have specific properties, birds must be launched via catapult
Q3: Score, Rating, Success/Fail, state of the pig’s structure, point popup
Q4: Judging trajectory of the birds, timing
Q5: Consistent challenge, well scaffolded challenge, you can play without engaging brain
Q6: Simplicity, Easy to master

We then went on to discuss (without playing) some of the games of our youth such as Scorched Earth, Elite, Worms, Carmageddon and Civilisation. Next we fired up my Playstation3 and sampled a range of games such as Little Big Planet, Gran Turismo, Call of Duty, Sports Champion and Start the Party, whilst taking time to log our findings. Sebastian did suggest to me that we should play board games instead of computer games as we would be distracted by graphics and visuals – but maybe we shall do this next time.

We were particularly interested in the approaches taken during a couple of specific phases of game play. How did game designers tackle the issue of “on-boarding” and tutorials during the early moments of first playing a game; how was feedback delivered and when was it appropriate to use “juicy-feedback”?
 
We agreed that the common denominating game mechanic across the games that we enjoyed most was “Physics”. The games which portrayed gravity, Newston’s Laws of Motion and real world mechanics most accurately were more compelling and delightful. Even games that had no bearing on reality such as Angry Birds and Little Big Planet which successfully rendered physics in the game mechanics were much more appealing that those that didn’t. With this in mind, we examined non-gaming applications that we knew of which also rendered the laws of physics in a compelling manner. We spent some time playing with and discussing Garage Band for the iPad, specifically the ability to bend and hammer-on strings and use the iPad’s accelerometers to play instruments softly or with force. We also looked at e-readers and specifically Apples iBooks for iPhone and iPad.

We had great fun and learned some valuable lessons. The development team have already devised a couple of ways in which we can introduce some physics into our apps by making forms closely resemble paper in appearance and behaviour. The type of feedback which we enjoyed most and examined in detail was the concept of the “killer move”. Some games anticipate a winning manoeuvre and provide feedback ahead of this. In some games this is done quite subtly by changing the colour or properties of a progress bar. In other games this is handled by a very cinematic super-slo-mo visual effect… we all seemed to remember the “Finish Him” killing sequence in Mortal Combat from our youth. We wondered whether similar mechanics might be appropriate within a business application.

Hopefully this was the first instance of a semi-regular event. Some teams like to go bowling or drinking together. At Conduce Software we like playing and discussing games.

Author: Paul Saunders

Related Posts:
Miami Presentation Video
How to Make Simpler MRO Software: Part 4
Time Booking with Social Networks

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Conduce Software feature for the first time in the annual Aircraft Commerce MRO IT Market Vendors Survey in the 74th edition of Aircraft Commerce Magazine. Although not strictly in the MRO software market, we have been listed as a “Specialist Point Solutions” vendor alongside other niche software developers.

Aircraft Commerce MRO IT Vendor Survey
Our write up appears on pages 9 and 10 of the scanned copy of the survey article and states:

“Like a growing number of new entrants into the aviation MRO point solution space, Conduce is a year old and provides a range of iPhone apps ranging from Fatigue Reporting to Technical Logbook [sic]. While the company admits that no customers are live yet, it has gained five orders from customers and is seeking to break into the segment. The solutions are offered as bespoke software through to Software as a Service (SaaS). The company is based in the UK, and the software division comprises five staff, with a total of 20 in the parent company Conduce Group. This is one of several young companies that are worth keeping an eye on.”

Author: Paul Saunders

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Paul Saunders of Conduce Consulting will be presenting at the annual Airline Purchasing & Maintenance Expo on the 5th of May 2011 at Olympia in London. Now in its 8th year, the Commercial Airline after-market networking event will be holding an open “Meet the Experts” seminar programme which features Paul’s talk “What’s Up with Aviation IT?”.

Paul’s talk at 10:30 on day two of the show looks at some of the common IT problems currently being experienced by airlines, aerospace MROs and other aviation companies alike and offers some insights into a possible future for aviation IT. Paul said: “As with my previous talks I will be trying to provoke some thought and discussion on the subject of aviation IT and predict what lies in future for our industry. I’m not sure how well received my opinions will be so I will be dusting off and wearing my stab vest again, just in case.”

For details of forthcoming and recent presentations by the Conduce Consulting team, please visit our Presentation page. Also you can review our conference and speaking profile at Lanyrd.com

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I am assuming that any readers of this post understand the concepts behind Open Source Software, Open Architecture and Open Data (and my positive opinions of them all), but you will be forgiven if you have not come across the idea of Open Source Hardware before.

There have been a handful of fairly insignificant projects that have attempted to provide open source hardware platforms for a variety of applications from computing to farming.

Today Facebook has publically entered the Open Source Hardware arena with the launch of their Open Compute Project. Essentially they have designed their own data centre from scratch with seemingly positive results and are now sharing their lessons learned and expertise with the world.

The Open Compute Project website contains specifications and manuals for server components, data centre services and more… if you are remotely into IT Infrastructure it is an essential bookmark.

So is this a shot in the arm for Open Source and for the previously limited Open Source Hardware arena? In my opinion, “you bet your sweet ass it is!!”. What do you think? Is this a Facebook publicity stunt and means to groom Mark Zuckerberg’s ego? Or is it a powerful force for the greater good?

Author: Paul Saunders

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In an amazing act of generosity, Conduce Group CIO Wayne splashed out on a load of proper coffee making gadgets for our newly rebadged “Executive Coffee Area” (ECA).

We now have a very glamorously titled Delonghi Magnifica coffee machine which makes lots of nice whirring, buzzing noises before despensing a perfect long espresso; a new kettle for the tea drinkers among us; and even a water filter to sift out those bitter tasting minerals from our local Nuneaton H2O. We’ve also got a small truck load of fresh coffee beans which should see us caffeine addicts out until Easter. Currently we’re on Lavazza 100% Arabica…

Ben and Wayne even went to the trouble of having a major sort out and threw away all kinds of junk and paraphenalia. Nev has taken the shonky old fridge and coffee filter machine to be cleaned up and sold on eBay, or some such money making scheme. He even decided to upcycle a batch of suspect looking biscuits…. for his dog he assures us.

And the verdict on the coffee? Mmmmm…. beea-uu-ti-fuul!!

So now staff and visitors can enjoy an “almost-as-good-as-a-Barista-would-make” coffee, in the luxurious surrounding of the Conduce Executive Coffee Area.

Author: Paul Saunders

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News of a BALPA commisioned study being released this week is on the BBC today.

One in Five Pilots Suffer Cockpit Fatigue

The findings are not all that surprising to us at Conduce Software as we know first hand the problems that pilots, cabin crew and the airlines are facing due to our work with our Fatigue Risk Management System FatigueReporting.com and our iPad app Fatigue Survey. The obviously widespread problem of pilot fatigue is further proof that airlines need to put in place rigorous measures to combat and identify fatigue risks.

Please contact us for more information about Fatigue Risk Management Systems.

Author: Paul Saunders

Related Posts:
Do Fatigue Risk Management Systems Matter?
FatigueReporting Production Blog Part 4: 5 Days to Launch
FatigueReporting Production Blog Part 3: Analysis
FatigueReporting Production Blog Part 2: Rebranding
FatigueReporting Production Blog Part 1: Bootstrap Mode

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Conduce Software will be exhibiting at the Aircraft Commerce Airline & Aerospace MRO & Operations IT Conference – EMEA in Frankfurt on the 13th & 14th of July 2011.

Following Conduce Software’s successful exhibiting at the Americas – Miami conference in March 2011, we will be back to show our wares and mix and mingle with the movers and the shakers of the Aviation and Aerospace IT world.

For those who attended the Americas conference or have come across the “visionary” (a respected Miami delegate’s words not ours) presentation given by our very own Paul Saunders, there will be more from the man himself at the Frankfurt conference who will be returning to wow delegates with his next presentation:
“Tablets – Is Aviation Ready for the Post-PC era?”

His presentation poses the question as to whether the Aviation world (in both hangar and cockpit) is ready to achieve a return on investment with tablet devices. It provides an essential guide for hardware and application selection and predicts the future of the tablet in Aviation IT.

With an increasing number of airlines and MROs looking to move towards equipping their flight deck and engineers with tablet devices yet failing to fully realise the potential that such devices can deliver this presentation is bound to inspire and we anticipate it leading to some interesting conversation afterwards.

So, why not pop along to our stand, have a look at our fab products or even pick our brains about something we will be happy to meet you and chat. And don’t forget, on Day 2, 0930 there will only be one place to be and that’s listening to Conduce Software’s presentation. You really don’t want to miss it.

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In the past I’ve known LinkedIn to have a couple of problems now and then. Some 404 errors here and there, or some missing updates, but no big deal. But today they wheeled out someone I’d never seen before.

I’ve never seen a LinkedIn site wide shutdown before… and what a curious fail page. A guy cleaning the floor in front of a vending machine and drinking fountain.

Hmmm.. anyway I sent a tweet to the team behind @LinkedInNews who were providing updates on the outages, requesting details on the mystery cleaner. He needs to have a persona. Your fail page must have a persona.

Twitter has the infamous Fail Whale.

Tumblr has recently adopted the Tumbeasts lovingly designed by the Oatmeal.

I have decided the LinkedIn cleaner is called Clint… hopefully we don’t see him too often.

Author: Paul Saunders

Related Posts:
You have to be LinkedIn it to Win It

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