Excerpts from New Yorker article, Social Animal

Just read a slightly tangential article in the New Yorker all about happiness, identity, education, the subconscious, and many things in between.  Here are a few of my favorite lines.

On happiness:

Joining a group that meets just once a month produces the same increase in happiness as doubling your income. According to research by Daniel Kahneman, Alan B. Krueger, and others, the daily activities most closely associated with happiness are social—having sex, socializing after work, and having dinner with friends.

On perception: 

Our perceptions, the scientist said, are fantasies we construct that correlate with reality.

On identity and the flow of information:

I believe we inherit a great river of knowledge, a flow of patterns coming from many sources. The information that comes from deep in the evolutionary past we call genetics. The information passed along from hundreds of years ago we call culture. The information passed along from decades ago we call family, and the information offered months ago we call education. But it is all information that flows through us. The brain is adapted to the river of knowledge and exists only as a creature in that river. Our thoughts are profoundly molded by this long historic flow, and none of us exists, self-made, in isolation from it.

A bit more on that:

Happiness is a measure of how thickly the unconscious parts of our minds are intertwined with other people and with activities. Happiness is determined by how much information and affection flows through us covertly every day and year.

If you’re intrigued, dive in and read the rest of the very strange article.

Most health solutions aren’t medical, they’re social.

It’s becoming more obvious to people that our friends and family have a huge impact not only on our current health, but our future health changes. From the ever-wise Jay Parkinson:

This is a significant paradigm shift. The companies that realize the future of health is about life and happiness rather than sickness, death, and medical solutions are the ones that will lead in the next decade. More importantly, the companies that can find a business model around social solutions for the neediest, most costly patients, are the ones who will not only make a killing, but change the face of healthcare in the world.

The whole post is very worth reading.  

Thanks to Jason Kottke for drawing the connection between this general theory about how it all works and the actual goals/effects of playing Health Month.

February… the real start of the year

Some new things for February!

1. If you’re a team-coordinator, you can now invite all of the members from your previous month to play again this month (and I’ll make sure to remind current team leaders to do this before the end of every month).

2. We’ve got a bunch of new “official bloggers” for the month (and a few who’ve decided to continue on from January).  Meet them!

3. Working on some really exciting features for March.  Including the ability to move your rules from month to month in a really easy (and smart) way.  Apologies that this is taking longer than it seems like it should… I’m very much interested in this feature and I want to get it right.  The ability to learn from your rules, and do better and better on them each month, is really at the core of what this site is all about.  I’ve been listening to the feedback from lots of users, and I think that you’re really going to like what I’m working on.

Note about badges:

I’m getting a lot of emails about people asking for badges.  They will be given out for January’s game starting February 1st.  If you don’t see a badge show up for you, make sure of the following things:

  1. You started on the 1st, and have played every single day in the month.
  2. You have more than 0 life points.
  3. Your account is linked to your Foursquare account.

If you pass those 3 requirements, and still aren’t seeing your badge by end-of-day February 1st, let me know your username in the comments here.

Calling all bloggers

I’ve really enjoyed reading about Health Month through the eyes of this month’s official bloggers.  Have you?

I’m putting a call out to anyone who’s interested in blogging their health month in February.  The only requirements are that you’ve got a blog (or can get one), plan on playing Health Month, and are willing to publicly blog at least once or twice a week about how it’s all playing out for you.  You don’t have to “win” the month, you just have to be interested in talking about how it goes (good OR bad).

All interested parties… email me (buster@healthmonth.com) the following information:

  1. Your Health Month username
  2. Your blog’s URL (get one on posterous.com or tumblr.com if you don’t have one)
  3. A link to any of your writing from the recent past (so I can see how you write)
  4. Why you want to do this

Looking forward to hearing from you all!

Your Nutritionista: To Carb or Not to Carb?

Your Nutritionista: To Carb or Not to Carb?

Check in with your spirit animal

Many people noticed that the weigh-ins had been taken off the site about a week ago.  It was just because I wanted to improve the way it worked, and didn’t want to have to migrate data and such mid-month.

Here’s what I’ve come up with.  You can specify what you want to track (weight, body fat, energy levels, stress levels, and mood).  From there, you also mention how often you’d like to check in. 

These stats aren’t being displayed in graph-form anywhere yet.  But they will be soon.

Let me know what you think about it.

Your average behavior, and your notes

I’m excited to be starting the new year with some more new big features.

I was on a roll yesterday and decided to knock out another feature that I’ve been wanting to build for a while.  At the top of your profile page, you’ll see two new things as of this morning:

On average…

We make goals, and we try to hit them, but how do we actually DO on them?  What’s our average number of miles run per week, average number of drinks, etc?  Now you can know.  It will only show stats if you’ve updated at least a week’s worth of data for that particular rule. 

The next step will be to tie this in to the monthly rule creation pipeline… which, by the way, is one of the next big refactors I’m going to make. 

Your notes

There’s also a new section on everyone’s profile page to show the game wall notes that they’ve left.  It’s chronological for all time, across all games.  So now it’ll be a lot easier to find that plea for fruit that you know someone left a while ago.  

Enjoy!

New features: Pop Quizzes! Public reviews!

Pop Quizzes!

Okay, the Wild Wheel had been annoying me for a while.  It almost never chose a rule for me that was relevant.  Lots of other people have let me know that they felt similarly.  And yet, I didn’t want to just kill the feature because I think it’s important to add some randomness and serendipity into the game, otherwise it just becomes too boring and predictable. 

I took a couple hours today to make it a bit more relevant.  Now, if it picks a rule that you aren’t currently following, it will create a Pop Quiz for you regarding that rule.  You’ll get some points for filling in the Pop Quiz even if you didn’t do the work that it’s asking you about. 

I like this feature for a couple different reasons.

  1. It helps you think about other ways to be healthy, even if they’re not necessarily your focus for the month.
  2. You’ll start building a baseline of how you “normally” behave for rules that you aren’t following, and that means I’ll be able to find more clever ways of recommending rules to you in the future.
  3. The serendipity is back.  When you come to fill out your score card, there’s always a chance to think about something new.

Credit to Amy Jo Kim for suggesting this feature.  Let me know what you all think of this. 

I also added new wild cards for categories of rules, so that you can get double or half points for all of your “diet”, “exercise”, and “mental” rules occasionally. 

Public reviews!

Another thing that was annoying me was the whole “handmade notes” thing.  On the one hand it was nice to be able to see activity on the site even if nobody wrote a note about their day.  On the other hand, those auto-notes were cluttering up the Game Wall and I found myself more often than not filtering them out.  And that slowed down the database queries as well.

So, I’ve removed the auto-notes. In their stead, I’ve added a way to make your daily tiny review public.  If you choose to do so, that’ll create a note on the game wall that’s an expanded version of the old auto-note.  People seem to be using it so far, and I like the content that it adds to the page.  Again, it’s just a test, so let me know if you would like it to stay.

And more!

I’ve also temporarily removed the “Weight & energy stats” feature from the Game Wall. I’m rethinking how that will work based on feedback from you guys, and figured it would be best to remove it at the beginning of the month rather than have to figure out how to switch it all mid month.  Stay tuned for something a lot better than what was there before.

Finally, if you’re on a team, the Game Wall will now remember whether you prefer to view your friends, or your team’s, notes.  Credit to Kevin Cheng for suggesting this feature.

Official health month bloggers!

Added a new feature for the new year.  During January, 9 health month users from previous months have volunteered to take their game a step further and blog their health month publicly.  

You can find them at the top of the right column on the Game Wall.

I’m excited for this development because I think the social element of the game is crucial, and as some of us start becoming more experienced at the game, there’s a chance that we can help other newer players play more successfully.

Think of it as a the first hints of a mentoring feature.  Right now, I’ve only asked that they honestly blog about their health month game, at least once a week.  Those posts are out there in the blogosphere in their blogging platform of choice, and also get pulled onto the Game Wall once an hour.

The real question is… will this change how they play?  Will they play better or worse?  And will other players play better or worse as a result of having an example to follow? That’s what this month is going to try to figure out. Please let me know what you think.  If this is successful, I’ll continue it in future months (leave a comment here if you’d like to be considered for February’s game), and I’m sure there will also be things that should be changed and I’m open to all of those ideas as well.

Happy January!