Sunday, February 8, 2015

Gamifying FitForFood and Where are Apple and Microsoft?

Recently I got a message from FitBit to tell me about FitForFood. They are going to donate 1.5 million meals by the end of the month, assuming that members of the FitBit community can clock in 1 billion active calories. Doing the math, 1.5 million meals at 800 calories each, is 1 billion calories. They are going to donate $150,000 to pay for these 1.5 million meals (I had no idea an 800 calorie meal could be produced for 10 cents considering, my price for 800 calories is likely in the $20 range).

I've computed tons more numbers, I love Excel, and numbers, and Gamification, so I was inspired to spend quite a bit of time on this to really figure out, how in the hell can we gamify and solve hunger in the US?

My results are pretty dismal, since the fact sheets really show that $150,000 is a drop in the bucket. These guys at Feeding America are telling me there are 45 million hungry people (they use terms like food insecure, another nicer way to say hungry). Now, you can imagine that those people have SOME food, just not all of the food they need. You can also imagine they don't have a magical 10 pennies per meal option. So a simple calculation of 2 meals per day, times 45 million, times 365 days in a year could give us an upper bound on the problem at least. So upper bound, if we had a 10 cents per 800 calorie meal factory comes out to 3.2 billion a year. So we need to multiply this FitForFood thing by 21,000x times to solve the problem.

Who Can 21,000x This Thing

So then I was like, hey wait, this Apple company makes a metric ton of cash by selling devices that track active calories all the time. In fact, 3.2 billion is like a drop in the bucket. And if we can cut cost of a 10 cent meal even by a penny, the numbers drop fast. So actually, if we believe the marketing in FitForFood, we externalize all of the costs of finding the hungry people, preparing the food and distributing the food. Then there is in fact a solution, and it could come solely from Apple. The PR and goodwill, increased device sales, etc... from such a worthy showing of a company might actually make them more than 3.2 billion BACK. Wouldn't that be crazy.

Wait, Where is Microsoft Band

So one thing about all of the PR from this effort, is that you have to be in a position to drive sales since you need some way to keep up the good work. Things like FitBit and Microsoft Band are consumable devices. You break them, their batteries die after some time, you lose them, you wash them (though FitBit has lived through 3 washes and 2 dryings which is impressive as hell to me). So a highly popular, yet sold out device, which offers to help with hunger and poverty if you buy one and actively use it, like the Microsoft Band, could really get a boost here I'm thinking.

Instead of a $150,000 limit, put a per device limit of say $10 and challenge people to donate that way. That is like 80k active calories, 100 meals. For your users, that is over 250 gym visits or workouts (extrapolating based on a 300 calorie active burn during an average workout). And this stuff is inspiring. I mean I'm feeding people. So am I more likely to stay on the exercise plan, keep up the active calorie burn? I think so. I mean, I already walk more steps so I can rub it in the face of my 4 or 5 friends on FitBit. And now I can rub it in their face that I'm helping more hungry people than them.

Alas, as of the time of this writing, I've found it exceptionally difficult to even find a Microsoft Band. I've had a couple of friends tell me that they are available in some of the stores from time to time, but the online store has been out for a while. If you set out to build your brand on doing public good, you have to be prepared to meet demand, and sadly Microsoft Band just might not be the right device for this reason, no supply.

Gamification of FitForFood

So let's take it to the next level. While FitForFood is already a limited form of gamifcation, they've relied solely on celebrity engagement and goodwill. I'm not seeing "Active Calories" in my FitBit application. I should be. Show them to me. Inspire me to make more of them. I'm not getting new badges for it. At least I haven't earned any yet. I'm not seeing any challenges from friends over Active Calories. Why not? Why can't I challenge my friends to a feeding the hungry event. Who cares if I walked all over Seattle and back, instead let me show off that I RAN ALL over Seattle, just to feed hungry people.

What about multipliers? How about stairs are double days getting me to walk up more flights of stairs (or just count all stairs as Active Calories because we all know stairs are painful)? What about active donations? Why can't I sign my profile up so that people pay ME for calories I burn and that money goes to donate further meals to the hungry. What about everyone with a FitBit scale who loses a pound donates 3600 calories (my fat goes to feed the hungry? Yes please!)? The possibilities are endless here.

Badges, achievements, challenges, friendly competitions, this FitForFood thing is clearly at the cusp of being something great, if only it added more facets of interaction that make games and game-like applications sticky.

The Challenge

So now I want to know. What does it take? How do you build on FitForFood and create a sustained economy that can help feed the hungry and not bankrupt the company that is driving the campaign? You could imagine extending this to other social problems as well. How many people ever year want to donate, but find it difficult to find out how or get their tax breaks etc... How do we bring this all together and take advantage of Internet scale, Internet Speeds and Internet Costs? And most importantly how do we take advantage of Gamification to make the rewards intrinsic, increase engagement, and improve longevity of interaction.

I'm kind of jazzed her if you can't tell. If you know of any NPO's that are taking advantage of gamification like this contact me and let me know. I'm curious how successful they can be, how large they can scale, and truly how global they can be.

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