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The people who make apps and cool websites build them to draw you in. They build them to engage you, to make you return. The people who develop apps have figured out how to stimulate your most inner workings, to create a need to come back. Call it what you will, rewards, gamification or whatever, it is done with intent. The apps are built to “trip off” a very deeply embedded set of responses, chemical responses, that make you want to come back. And if you don’t come back, it creates anxiety, which then drives you to really really really want to come back.

We live in a highly wired and connected society. It is getting more so. As individuals, we are more and more connected with more devices and more apps. More more more. It is very difficult to escape the “net.” Orson Scott Card wrote very eloquently about this very thing. Thank you, Ender. Soon, yes, you will talk to your fridge and pay through your toothbrush, have you not seen the ad for the toothbrush with embedded payments? I mean come on, the thing orders another brush when the bristles get too worn, now that is connected.

Put the two together. We are more “wired in” or “checked in” than ever before and the apps we use are designed to drive us to use. Every time you hear a “ding” or see an incoming text, you fall prey to this phenom. Every time you fail to check out and check your email and text RIGHT WHEN YOU GET UP, you fall prey. I think that is awesome, something like 150% of us check our phones first thing when we get up. This is the thing at work. The people who made these devices and the ones who make the apps are doing this on purpose.

Is this bad? Is interaction bad? Last night 60 Minutes on CBS had a special on this, thank you, Anderson. There was an industry “insider” breaking the news that apps are designed with the intent to engage. He talked about it as a secret no one will admit to. He was a product manager, wow just like me, a product manager. And he admitted to few in the biz actually talking about this. Hmm. Is it really a secret? Engagement and driving return usage does not seem like a bad thing, but here they were being represented as bad.

No, not bad and no, not that secret. Visit the website of any recent UX or UI conference and this is all they talk about, and you can go meet the experts. Read any development publication for the last ten years and you can hear about how app makers strive for and find ways to drive usage. I guess the uninformed folks on this topic, might not realize how far the science has come. They might not realize how good people are at doing this. And the fact that they see it as EVIL, well, that’s unfortunate as the entire business model of many technology companies, including Malauzai, is built on driving usage.

I don’t think we have to apologize for that. CBS didn’t uncover some secret, they highlighted that the real issue is around the constant connectivity and the need to check that darn phone. That is a problem society will have to deal with. The fact that app makers tap into our need to “check” is not innately bad, in fact, it is fun. But one has to control the urge. One has to learn to “check-out.” One has to learn to moderate. Over-connectivity is bad, not the apps!

Robb Gaynor, Chief Product Officer Malauzai Software robb.gaynor@malauzai.com