Curating the eHealth Universe on Wired

I have a new blog post up on Wired Innovation Insights called Curating the Universe: Behavior Scientists, Technologists to Shape a Better eHealth Future. It’s another entry in my ongoing battle cry that one size does not fit all when it comes to health and wellness interventions. Not only do different people need different tools, but any single person will need different tools at different times depending on what challenges are in play at the moment.

Photo from Thinkstock--this dude has lots of choices for apps, like we all should.
Photo from Thinkstock–this dude has lots of choices for apps, like we all should.

In my own experience as a consumer, I’ve cycled through a number of different eHealth tools and apps. I’m on a kick right now with Fitbit and MyFitnessPal, which are working pretty well for my current needs. In the past I’ve enjoyed (ok, maybe not quite enjoyed) calorie tracking with the DailyPlate (now part of Livestrong) and marathon training with a Hal Higdon app. I’m sure six months from now there will be a different app on my phone–maybe something for strength training or flexibility. The bottom line is, Continue reading Curating the eHealth Universe on Wired

Tracking Your Health

I was excited to see this article in MobiHealthNews about a new app my company just launched called Track Your Health. You can check out the product page here.

Track Your Health by Wellness & Prevention, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson Company

I wasn’t part of the core team that launched Track Your Health, but part of my role is making sure we maximize the value of this new tool to deliver meaningful, motivational coaching. I see so much possibility in helping people to really understand the impact of their small behaviors on their larger health and happiness.

I thought it might be nice to share why behavioral feedback is so much on my mind these days. I’d love to hear about your experiences with tracking and how an app might add new value for you beyond what is already out there.

The Value of Feedback at Multiple Levels

One of the key tactics to support user competence through technology is providing feedback on performance. Ideally, the feedback does a few things:

  • Acknowledges success or improvement in order to build self-efficacy
  • Provides clues or instruction on how to improve
  • Arrives in a timely fashion so people have a chance to actually use the feedback

You can think about feedback at a couple of different levels. There’s immediate feedback that’s tied directly to a person’s granular behaviors. An example would be an error message when a person selects an inadequate password (which, if it’s a good error message, also provides feedback on what the user should change to make the password appropriate). I call this level of feedback “proximal.”

My leaderboard for one of my favorite running routes
My leaderboard for one of my favorite running routes

A second level of feedback is what I like to call “distal.” This is the 10,000 foot view of the user’s performance within an ecosystem. How is the user performing over time? Examples of distal feedback include point totals or leveling up over time. On the beer app Untappd, distal feedback takes the form of badges that show how frequently and broadly a person drinks from various beer categories (I’m most accomplished in the IPA category). Continue reading The Value of Feedback at Multiple Levels

The Power of Beautiful Design

I admit it; I make ugly slides.

I can recognize lovely design, and I very much want to emulate it, but the fact is, I just don’t have a brain that can arrange content in attractive configurations. I’m the presenter equivalent of a sensible shoe. I get the job done in terms of delivering the information you need, but you’re probably not attracted by the styling.

One of my personal development goals is to improve my slide style, because the fact is that the format influences how people receive your message. More attractive slides are more engaging and reflect well on the presenter’s overall skills. In many cases, the formatting can even influence whether or not the audience accurately understands your meaning. Continue reading The Power of Beautiful Design

Why the Facebook Top Stories Sort Makes People Angry

If you’re one of the 1.28 billion people who use Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that there are a few different ways to sort your news feed. My favorite sort is “most recent,” which arranges my friends’ activity in reverse chronological order. I can browse starting from the newest activity and scroll down until I reach the first familiar post, which indicates I’m fully up to date. Facebook also has a sort called “Top Stories” which uses an algorithm to determine which of your friends’ posts should surface to the top of your feed. My guess is that the algorithm accounts for factors such as likes and comments on a post, as well as originality (i.e. a Facebook-originated status will carry more weight than a link from another site).

For a user like myself, with a only few hundred friends (only!), the Top Stories sort is sub-optimal. Continue reading Why the Facebook Top Stories Sort Makes People Angry

Big Brother’s in Your Pocket!

OK, I chose the post title just to be alarmist. I don’t really think that wearable and integrated trackers (for example, to count your daily steps) rise to the level of Big Brother. At least, not yet.

I recently posted an entry on Wired Innovation Insights about wearable vs. integrated trackers:

There’s been buzz lately with more device-based trackers like Move and Runkeeper’s Breeze that the wearable might be Continue reading Big Brother’s in Your Pocket!

Motivate Your User Through Design Psychology: Presentation from UXPA Boston 2014

For anyone who is interested, I just uploaded my slides from today’s Motivate Your User Through Design Psychology session at UXPA Boston to SlideShare:

I am really pleased with the session and the comments and conversations I’ve had with people who attended. I feel like I learn so much when I discuss these concepts with people who have fresh eyes (or differently experienced eyes). Big thanks to everyone who attended!

I also learned that I need to spend some work on slide design. As usual when I attend a conference, I am insanely jealous of the people with design skills and their awesome-looking presentations.

Motivational Design for Fitness Apps

I was excited to see this article on NPR:

Most Fitness Apps Don’t Use Proven Motivational Techniques : Shots – Health News : NPR.

I’m clearly biased here, but I agree that a current gap in health apps is that many solutions have beautiful technology or solid science, but rarely both. I get that struggle; the two pieces often require different skill sets. Smaller shops in particular may not be staffed to address both needs in creating their apps. Unfortunately, engagement suffers when the design is poor, while efficacy suffers when the science is missing. Continue reading Motivational Design for Fitness Apps

Innovation by Argumentation

I’m hard-pressed to think of any professional work where innovation doesn’t matter. If you develop products, offer services, or any combination thereof, it’s important to work on consistently improving and evolving. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

At the same time, many workplaces, including my own, have a culture of respect that can sometimes limit our ability to debate with one another. That can be a hindrance because argument is actually a good method for creativity. Check out this article about why and how:

One comment on the article points out that argument really takes place post-brainstorm, when some ideas have been generated to discuss. Continue reading Innovation by Argumentation

Skills I Wish I’d Learned

I really like what I do, so I don’t spend a lot of time regretting my educational and professional choices. That said, there are two major things I wish I’d done earlier in my career that I think would make me more successful (read: effective) today:

  1. Spent a semester or summer abroad. I’ve always loved languages, and have dabbled in several. For a while in graduate school, I even neared fluency in Spanish, being able to read full-on novels in a reasonable time span. But because I never spent an extended period of time relying on and experimenting with a language, I didn’t cement my knowledge. Not only does being multilingual open direct opportunities to work in other cultures, it also makes your cognitive structure more flexible and enhances creativity.
  2. Learned to program a website or a mobile app. Computer science was still a bit outside of the mainstream when I was in college so I never ventured into a class. I did teach myself some basic HTML (so I could have a rockin’ homepage with pics of my cats and my ear piercings), and that small skill is actually still useful today. I feel like I’d be a much more effective program designer if I were able to do at least some of the coding myself, if only to experiment with possibilities and communicate with software developers in more informed terms. I’m not even sure the programming language matters as much as developing some basic proficiency with technology.

Fortunately it’s not too late to pursue these skills, although it’s harder now than it would have been when I was a full-time student. I’m not sure I’ll ever have an opportunity to spend an extended period of time in another country speaking the language, given my full-time job and my full-time employed spouse. That doesn’t mean I can’t consume media in other languages, talk to native speakers, and travel. I’ve also really enjoyed using Duolingo to refresh basic grammar and vocabulary knowledge and to begin working on new languages.

Ditto on learning to program–given that I don’t seem to have natural talents in the area, it would be great if I could just add a class to my courseload, but nowadays I don’t have a courseload. I’ve been flirting with online educational tools to try to bridge the gap, although I haven’t found quite the right one for me yet. I tend to get frustrated when I’m not good at something and so most of my autodidactic attempts at programming end with frustration. Any suggestions of tools I could use to learn more programming would be much appreciated.

Psychology for Health and Happiness