I've just posted the second episode of my podcast, Creative Good with Mark Hurst. This time...
• my favorite iPhone so far
• my take on the UX of AirPods, and where they're leading us
• listener mail, and a new game recommendation

Take a listen below:

To subscribe to the Creative Good podcast:
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Mentioned in the show:
Help Chip In, founded by Ron Livingston
Agar, the free web browser game I recommended (see also the excellent iPad game Osmos)
Email us if you have a question that I should cover in a future Listener Mail segment.

Finally, I noticed this fake ad from Conan O'Brien, with much the same take on AirPods:

I’m excited to announce the launch of our new podcast, Creative Good with Mark Hurst, in which I discuss experience designs, both good and bad, around a common theme. In the first episode I discuss “games that help” – asking whether fun, engaging games like Pokemon Go might be even better if they had an emphasis on delivering knowledge that extends into the real world.

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Next Steps:
Listen to the first Creative Good podcast.
Email us if you have a question that I should cover in a future Reader Mail segment.
Read my review of Pokemon Go from last month’s newsletter.


Also: just in time for the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn in August 1776, we’ve released a new version of our mobile game, Brooklyn 1776 – and it’s free. Download it for iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

From the NYT: “On August 22, 1776, more than 34,000 British troops landed at Gravesend Bay aiming to capture the Continental Army . . . in what became known as the Battle of Brooklyn.” Your challenge, in the game Brooklyn 1776, is to lead the American troops to survive the battle. (Listen to the Creative Good podcast for more thoughts on how I designed the game.)

Next Steps:
Free download for iPhone/iPad
Free download for Android devices

Surely by now you’ve heard of Pokemon Go, this summer’s mobile-app craze. Perhaps you’ve seen players on sidewalks, iPhones held aloft, trying to catch the little virtual creatures that appear on-screen in the “augmented reality” of the game. I’ve played Pokemon Go myself, walking around Manhattan and catching Pokemon, and I’ve come away with some conclusions.

First: Pokemon Go is worth learning from. Not because the game will take over the world; to the contrary, I think it’s a momentary craze that will cool off within a few months. Dedicated players will stick with the game in the long run, but for most mobile users it won’t remain relevant.

Instead, Pokemon Go is worth learning from because we will see more AR (augmented reality) apps enter the market, which will put pressure on everyone with an app, or a brand, or a mobile strategy – take your pick – to “figure out what we’re doing with AR.” If you’re on a mobile product team, you may be asked to come up with an AR proposal, or at least a perspective on the AR trend, soon – if you haven’t already. And that means it’s worth studying the lessons of the most successful AR app so far.

Second: Pokemon Go has been successful to date, in part, because it offers simple, fun interactions. For the casual player, there’s not a lot of complexity to the game: You walk around outside, you swipe to capture the occasional cartoon monster that pops up on-screen, as it appears to be floating over the sidewalk.* You can walk by local landmarks and tap them to get points. The act of walking itself can confer some modest benefits (gaining points, incubating eggs). As long as players watch where they’re walking, it’s all benign, harmless fun.

Compare this simplicity to AR visions of years past: one AR idea I heard multiple times was that as users held the phone up to landmarks, they could see an overlay of how the skyline looked 100 years earlier. Or something like that. AR has always been too complicated (both for developers and users), and not that fun, so it’s never taken off. Until Pokemon Go. The lesson is that AR apps shouldn’t try be too complicated in what they deliver: just deliver a simple, fun interaction, overlayed over the local area shown on camera.

Third: Pokemon Go will fade out quickly, in part, because there’s no clear adoption path for casual users. I played the game to level 6 and found that I was nowhere near approaching the ability to compete with other players at the local Pokemon “gyms” (locations where players’ Pokemons battle each other). As a casual player – which is to say, someone with a job and a family and not a whole lot of time for Pokemon play – I hit a wall in my interactions in the game within a couple of days. I’ve stopped playing and don’t miss it. The lesson here is that AR games must offer an adoption path that rewards casual players as well as any super-fan players that dive in. (For an excellent example of an adoption path that rewards both casual and expert players, watch Paul Murphy’s talk at my Gel conference, where he explains the experience design of Dots, the chart-topping mobile game.)

Fourth: Pokemon Go is not yet a finished product, as it lacks the basics of battery management and code stability. Playing the game drained the battery of my iPhone 6 at least twice as fast as any other app I’ve ever used – maybe three or four times as fast. And the game crashed repeatedly. I know these are fixable issues, and I’m sure Niantic is working feverishly on a revised app. But other teams won’t have the luxury to launch an unfinished app and gain a huge user base: other AR apps will have to launch with good code stability, and good battery management, starting at launch. AR teams must get the basics of the experience right, or they will fail right out of the gate.

I did enjoy playing Pokemon Go while I tried it out. During this national moment of tension and uncertainty, I found it a welcome diversion to concern myself briefly with how I might catch the next Zubat. (As it turns out, a passing player, who I had never met before, gave me a helpful tip – I give the game credit for creating these serendipitous connections.) And the game gets people outside to just walk: not merely to track their steps or heartrate, but just to go out and have fun. We could use more apps like that.

In the meantime, for Pokemon Go and for all the other product teams working on AR apps, creating a good user experience is the key ingredient of AR success.

If I can help your team create a good experience, drop me a line at Creative Good. Or invite me to speak.

*P.S. I had an awkward moment in Whole Foods, also posted on Twitter, while I was ordering sliced turkey. A Pokemon appeared and didn’t seem too happy about it:

While Pokemon Go has brought a new interest to mapping, as players use their local map to navigate the game, maps are being explored in many other directions, too. Two talks from our Gel 2016 conference a few weeks back took this on:

1. Emily Fischer, Founder, Haptic Lab
Navigating without maps, or “haptic wayfinding,” has been part of human culture for thousands of years. Emily Fischer, artist and designer, brought one of her city quilts to the Gel theater, complete with a sewn map of Manhattan. In her Gel talk, Emily describes the many ways earlier cultures navigated the world without printed maps (let alone digital devices).
Video: YouTube / Vimeo

2. Eric Rodenbeck, Founder, Stamen
Maps aren’t only for physical spaces. Eric and his team at Stamen created the Atlas of Emotions – mapping the interior landscape of human experience.
Video: YouTube / Vimeo

I have to thank you for reading this sentence. You’ve invested over a second of your attention in this column, and I hope that I can deliver some value for that investment.

One second of attention is increasingly valuable today.

Are we in an attention crisis, or an economy full of opportunity for those who can gain and hold attention?

Depends on who you ask…

• “People simply are no longer interested in quality. . . These days, everyone is seeking quick satisfaction and simplicity, but our carpets are the complete opposite of that.” So says Hashem Sedghamiz, speaking (in this NYT aticle) about the decline of traditional Persian carpets.

• At live events, almost a third of 18-to-34-year-olds spend over half the performance looking at a digital device (as reported in a recent Harris poll). Meanwhile: “The impact of laughter is a difficult thing to quantify,” says the executive director of the Big Apple Circus on its decline amidst a “fund-raising culture obsessed with metrics,” as the NYT article put it. (The cofounder of the Big Apple Circus, Michael Christensen, spoke at Gel Health a few years ago – here’s the video.)

• “Are we eliminating introspection?” asks this NYT essay on the proliferation of digital devices. Coincidentally, on the same day I happened across Carl Jung’s answer: “Contemporary man pays the price in a remarkable lack of introspection,” he wrote in 1964.

The threat to attention is nothing new: Star Trek fans will remember the Next Generation episode, called The Game, that shows the entire crew incapacitated by their obsession with a digital game. But this was back in 1991, two years before the Web was even invented. The challenge of attention is much more urgent today.

At the Gel 2016 conference last month, we engaged this topic head-on with two presentations. I know this is a big ask, but if you have an entire lunch break to watch these two excellent presentations, you’ll know what the challenge is, and how we might solve it.

1. Manoush Zomorodi, host, WNYC’s Note to Self podcast
Our first speaker at Gel 2016, after my introductory comments, was Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC’s popular Note to Self podcast. Being bored today can be helpful, Manoush says, a claim she backs up with research she did in her 2015 Bored and Brilliant challenge, followed up by 2016’s Infomagical.

See also:
NYT on “monotasking” (quotes Manoush)
Note To Self episode on UX research (quotes me)

2. Albert Wenger, Partner, Union Square Ventures
The final speaker of the day, Albert Wenger, partner at Union Square Ventures, described the premise of his new book, World After Capital, which is that attention, not capital, is now the scarce resource.

See also: Fivethirtyeight article (quotes Albert)

So: what do we do now? If attention is the coin of the realm, do we turn into gaudy self-promoters, strutting and preening and boasting loudly about ourselves?

Some will thrive that way. But I have a different suggestion:

Write something that’s worth reading.
Record something that’s worth listening to.
Create something that’s worth engaging with.

If you want to survive in the attention economy, create a good experience for your users, readers, listeners, that is worth their attention.

I hope this column was worth yours.