Bow Down Before the Mistress of Task Domination

epicwinRemember when I said „Game base everything“? I was mostly talking about my love for Stack Overflow back then, but there are more and more examples of how making a game out of something (mostly in terms of earning points and badges) can motivate people to take part in something that might otherwise seem suspiciously like work.

Now I stumbled upon something that took one of the most boring things you know – your personal to do list – and turns it into… wait for it… an RPG.

It’s an iPhone app (also available for the iPod touch) and it’s called EpicWin. It’s fairly simple and doesn’t contain any fancy graphics, but it does the trick. You can add your items to your to do list, assign points to them and decide which of your for skills you’re levelling up (stamina, strength, intellect, social and spirit are the options).

For each quest (i.e. item on your to do list) that you manage to complete you get the points and advance further on a little map, collecting loot once you’ve reached a certain place. You also get level-ups for your skills.

Of course, you still enter the tasks by yourself. Theoretically you could just add quest after quest and advance in amazing speed, but where would be the fun in that? If you don’t need a task manager, you won’t need this app. But if you do need a little trick to manage all the not-so-fun chores that pile up around you and at least give you the feeling like you’re advancing to somewhere somehow, this might give you a bit more motivation than just plain old to do lists.

Mind you, if you need to really organize your tasks, add tags and priorisations, define contacts and so on, this also isn’t for you.

It’s for people like me who just need a little push sometimes and who like to pretend they’re a warrior princess in a fantasy world for whom making an appointment with a self storage facility sounds just a bit more fancier if it’s a quest which will add one point to your intellect skill.

You can visit their website here or have a look at the app in the iTunes AppStore here.

PS: And now I have earned my fifty points of intellect and advance further towards my next loot. Yay!

(Don’t) Lie to Me

I recently started to watch Lie to Me with the overly awesome Tim Roth. About a couple of seconds into the intro I knew it all seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite place where I had read about it. Lie to Me is a show starring a deception expert who can tell what people are feeling by interpreting their expressions, mimics and gestures.

It was the part of the intro where they show the „codes“ that make up certain micro-expressions that I immediately recognized. It took me a while to figure it out, but the series is based on Richard Ekman, who I read about in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. Gladwell dedicates a whole chapter on what Ekman did, analyzing and categorizing expressions. The idea is that though we’re able to a certain extend to hide our feelings, there are certain kinds of expressions that we cannot help showing what we feel. As a bonus, they seem to be universal. Those micro-expressions are generally hard to see if you’re neither a natural at spotting them or trained to do so.

I liked the idea back when I read about it and it’s getting more attractive with every episode I watch of Lie to Me.

Then a few weeks ago we had a terrible catastrophe at the so-called Love Parade not far from where we lived. (In fact, we changed our weekend plans so that we didn’t have to use any highway or train around the area.) Twenty-one people died in a crowd when a panic broke. The next day there was a press conference with some of the most important guys responsible for the event. It was the weirdest thing you’d ever see. It was obvious no-one was going to say anything of value, since everybody up on stage was afraid of how they would implicate themselves in the tragedy. At that point I really wanted to be able to read micro-expressions. I got the weird feeling that the faces up there told a lot more about what was really up than what they said.

It makes you wonder how different the world would seem if you had the ability to recognize feelings in short fleeting moments. I can only guess it’s another example of an ability that can be both a blessing and a curse. However, it’s awfully cool to think about it and if you haven’t already you should check out Lie to Me. And read Blink. Both. In no particular order.