Changing Communication Behavior — Game On!

by Andrew Prokop

I love my Prius, but not for most of the reasons people love their cars.  While it’s nice enough on the inside, it’s certainly not very luxurious.   It’s cute, but it’s far from sexy.  I can get it up to left-lane freeway speeds, but it’s no Camaro.   I’m a fairly tall guy and although I don’t bump my head on the ceiling, I wouldn’t mind a couple extra inches all around.

I love my Prius because it changed the way I drive.  I used to think I was a conscientious driver, but until I sat in the driver’s seat of a car with a second-by-second meter that told me exactly how much gas I was consuming, I accelerated too quickly, waited too long to take my foot off the gas, and spent far too much time ten to fifteen miles-per-hour over the speed limit.  Two seconds into the first outing with my new Prius, I was paying more attention to lowering my gas consumption than to the tunes on my CD player.  Getting better gas mileage went from economic and environmental concerns to a game of personal bests.

Imagine if communications technology was that way.  How about an email system that scored you on unnecessary and wasteful emails?  I receive far too many Reply All emails that never should have landed in my inbox.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was a visual mechanism to stop the sender from wasting everyone’s time, server resources, and network bandwidth?

Let’s take that to voicemail.  Personally, I wish voicemail would simply disappear, but until then, I would love it if people were measured on how short and to the point their messages were.  Like my Prius’ gas mileage meter, voicemail abusers need a real-time look at their messages.  If it were me, I would work on making mine short, sweet, and efficient.  Better yet, the biggest rewards and highest scores go to those who find an alternative to voicemail.  Ten points for every instant message that would have been a voicemail.   Extra points if you don’t speed talk phone numbers.

I wouldn’t stop there, though.  In my perfect world, I would reward on-net calls, smart codec choices, and video when video is the right choice.  Like Pavlov and his dogs, I would create a system that changes behaviors with virtual treats.

If I can be trained to become a better driver, real-time performance feedback can alter the way we send and receive messages — both audible and visual.  Make communications a game and reward the people who learn how to do it well.

Game on!