I’ve done some recent advising for someone working on a site that’s of a social nature. The site is intended in some form to motivate users, the initial thought on this was to define a lot of rules, and send automated messages to users. To me this approach felt very 1990’s. So assuming that were true, then comes the question of how do you motivate users?
I think rules do usually come somewhere in the process, you need to know when to motivate the users, however the catch is how you expose the results of those rules. And in thinking about it there’s a variety of levels at which you can expose those rules from more raw data forms, to several steps of analysis or actions on top of them. Raw data works for analytical users, users that naturally consume data AND are already heavily motivated for the set goal. Lets say for sake of argument this is 10% of users. This means by exposing very little gloss, and mostly the data which the rules are run on you’ll lose 90% of users.
The other extreme is to almost entirely hide the rule and obfuscate this with actions that you know can lead the user back to their goal. I feel not quite this, but some derivative of it, in the form of social nudging could be incredibly useful for many different means. There’s many real world situations where people rely on each other for support, you can think of traditional AA type settings, or weight loss, or other groups with a central focus of accountability. But these forms of groups seem to be largely absent in the virtual space, or when they are present are realistic groups simple dropped into a virtual space.
What happens when users want some mixed level of privacy, but encouragement? What you need to do is to have your rules define when you need to have users get motivation from others. The fun part is how you drive users to interact at those times, this can be through a variety of options, all depending on your site. A very basic example of this is the birthday reminder on facebook. They’re not just reminding you of it for the sake of it, they’re reminding you, so you use applications to send virtual birthday cards to users and messages, therefore enriching the user experience. If other sites were able to apply this to goal setting, and use social nudging over system rules, users will feel more connected to others and it will likely increase effectiveness.