Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Signal vs Noise

I hate Facebook. Well, hate is a strong word. I really dislike Facebook. I have a lot of reasons some of which I have talked about before. However, lately the biggest reason has been the signal to noise ratio has been really low.

Everyone knows what signal to noise ratio is, you might have never heard it that way. Suppose you are driving on a road trip and you turn on your favorite radio station or perhaps are listening to your favorite basketball team on a local station. As you get farther from town you begin to hear a little bit of static since you are further away from the tower. After a while the static gets really bad and you can barely hear the station and at some point the signal is so bad you have switch the station. The signal has been completely overtaken by the noise.

So what do I mean when I talk about signal to noise ratios as it relates to Facebook or other places where you go to get information? Signal is anything that provides meaning to your life. Pictures of your new nephew, results of your mom's surgery, or even inspiring quotes from your best friend. These all have a really high "signal" because they are providing you value. Other things like link-bait, candy crush invites, and status updates from your high school friends that you haven't seen in 15 years have really high "noise" because they provide little meaning to you.

Now that we have a definition we can ascribe values to something based on its signal to noise ratio. Say you follow 1000 people on twitter and you are just scrolling through your feed of tweets. If every tweet was somehow meaningful to you you would have an extremely high signal to noise ratio and you could say your twitter feed is very valuable to you. However if you spent 10 minutes scrolling through your feed to find something you cared about you would have a really low signal to noise ratio and you could argue that your twitter feed is not very valuable.

Ok, why does this matter? In this day and age everyone consumes so much data and often times the data we consume has little to no value to us. It is just noise. The problem is that the internet is tricky and often times we perceive value in things that don't have much value at all. This is one of the problems with pinterest. Spending an hour pinning feels like you got something accomplished but really there was probably a high signal to noise ratio, meaning you had to go though a lot of pins to find the ones you like and who knows if the ones you found are even valuable to you. Facebook also gives the perception of value but has a really low signal to noise ratio.

I say it is time for a digital makeover. Go through your Facebook feed and unfollow all of the noise you see on a daily basis. Go through your email and unsubscribe from the junk that you have to wade though to find your actual emails. Go through and delete half of your pins and then go through again and delete the other half. Unfollow those people who tweet the dribble you have to scroll past to find the gold.

Finally define what is meaningful to you and then try and boost your daily signal to noise ratio.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Gamify your life with HabitRPG

Sometimes I get into a place where I got to stop talking about doing things and start actually doing them I have got a lot of things accomplished over the last month but my list is longer than ever. I am, however, back to blogging about getting things done. The latest is HabitRPG.

A while back I read an article about how companies were increasing their results dramatically by gamifying the work environment. They added achievements, levels, and turned tasks into quests. While this may seem a little silly to some, this seemed awesome to me. I even began writing a system for this myself but didn't get very far.

Two weeks ago I stumbled upon a site called Habit RPG. It is a game when the things that you are trying to accomplish are actual things in your life. Lets say you want to say write a blog post. You can just add "Create Blog Post" to your todo list and once it is done, BOOM! You get experience and some gold. You might even level up. It is surprising how effective virtual rewards are.

A couple of us have formed a party which increases adherence even more as you see your friends leveling up and getting cool stuff. After you reach level 10 you can declare your class, be it warrior, mage, rouge or healer. I am close to level 10 so my productivity of late has been higher. As a group you can get quests from a random drop when you do a task or by purchasing them with in game currency. We are all excited about going on a quest but we have yet to get the drop.

Drops can happen when you complete a task. These tasks fall into 3 different categories: Habits, Dailies, and To Dos. A habit is anything that you want to do on a regular basis. This is also an easy way to farm points. I have things like drinking a glass of water and doing pushups. Dailies are things you want to do every day like taking vitamins or clocking in at work. These give benefits as you do them multiple times in a row. They can also hurt you if you miss them. To Do's are your list of unique tasks to accomplish like replacing a headlight or writing a letter. If you leave a To Do on your list too long it will start to take away hit points but it will also be worth more points so thus a bigger incentive to do the older things first.

Finally there are rewards. These are things that you can either set yourself, so you can reward your own hard work, or purchase from the game. If you are a gamer you understand that it doesn't matter if it is digital, having sweet gear is awesome! The only way to get the gear is to actually get things done... IN. REAL. LIFE. This is a win for me and for my wife. Cleaning the house is a great way to farm up some levels.
I have found that keeping tasks small is the best way to keep the game fun so I put little tasks on the list and feel good when I get to check a bunch of them off. Especially as the levels get longer. This keeps me focused on the small pieces that make up the whole. I also use this for work and feel doubly good about my day when I get things accomplished and level up! There is so much more but you should discover it for yourself.

Check it out if you like and get ahold of me if you want an invite to our party. Maybe we could do some questing together.

Time to check off a To Do!