Weekly I/O #11

The Beginning of Infinity, Game Design, Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation, Reading Hats, Empathy or Solution

Weekly I/O is a project where I share my learning Input/Output. Every Sunday, I write an email newsletter with five things I discovered and learned that week.

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The below is extracted from the email sent on Feb 7, 2021.

Here’s a list of what I’m exploring and pondering these two weeks.

1. All progress, both theoretical and practical, has resulted from a single human activity: the quest for good explanations.

Book: The Beginning of Infinity

I have to admit that this book is beyond my current reading (and perhaps my thinking) level, but the main argument of this book is still worth pondering.

Sometimes when I learn new knowledge, I take this line to examine those and think about what drives the exploration of that knowledge. Can the argument explain everything in a persuasive way? The answer for me is no right now but I believe I will get the chance to challenge my answer in the future.

2. Consider how your product makes customers “feel” instead of what it functionally does for them.

Podcast: Superhuman Part II — Designing Software to Feel like a Game (with Rahul Vohra)

Superhuman is the email productivity app with the slogan “The Fastest Email Experience Ever Made”. In the two ACQUIRED podcast episodes, the CEO talked about finding product-market fit, pricing strategy, game design, and many other things.

The first episode can be found at Superhuman (with CEO Rahul Vohra). In the first episode, Rahul Vohra also talked about waitlist, which is a very interesting marketing technique to study especially when witnessing the Clubhouse Hype recently.

In the second episode, Rahul Vohra talked about Game Design based on his previous experience as a game designer.

His advice for product designers is to “Pull back from user wants and user needs. Instead, design for fun”.

It’s more important to consider how the product makes customers feel than what it functionally does for them. Find opportunities where the product naturally delights, surprises, or gives users a sense of accomplishment, then find light-touch ways to amplify it.

For example, as an email client app, Superhuman found that seeing an email inbox has 0 unread email is one of the most emotionally resonant moments for a user. To amplify the “Inbox Zero” moment, Superhuman uses beautiful imagery as a reward to trigger specific emotions when users empty their inboxes.

A similar example can be found in a to-do list app I love called timestripe. When striking out all the todos in a day, it will play a celebration animation.

3. Extrinsic motivation undermines intrinsic motivation. Focus on Game Design, not Gamification.

Podcast: Superhuman Part II — Designing Software to Feel like a Game (with Rahul Vohra)

“Game design” is making the product naturally fun. It involves the intentional emotional design and the psychological phenomenon of flow, which make it inherently interesting and satisfying.

“Gamification” instead uses mechanisms like badges, levels, leaderboards, and points to make users interact with the product.

“Game design” nurtures intrinsic motivation in players, while “Gamification” creates extrinsic motivation for players.

Extrinsic motivation will undermine intrinsic motivation in the long run. This is important not only in product design but in all the fields that require motivation design.

For example, as a teacher, how can we make students be driven by intrinsic motivation more instead of extrinsic motivation? And as a learner, can we first use extrinsic motivation to trick ourselves and develop intrinsic motivation later?

4. Two reading hats: RICLS(Read for information) and REAS(read for skills).

Podcast: Safi Bahcall — On Thinking Big, Curing Cancer, and Transforming Industries | The Tim Ferriss Show

Safi Bahcall is the author of Loonshots. In Weekly I/O #9, I noted about his writing hats: hunting, drafting, and editing. Here are his two hats for reading: RICLS and REAS.

RICLS is reading for information, content, lessons, and stories. In RICLS, we’re reading very fast, as fast as we can and as deep as we can, and chasing different threads, different footnotes, and different archival. We read for the resources we want to use and the stories we want to tell.

REAS is reading for ear, art, and skill. In REAS, we’re reading about styles, word choice, rhythm, pacing, how people write things instead of what people write. We read for the techniques we want to use to express our thoughts.

It’s important that when putting on the RICLS hat, we have to shut off the part of the brain that cares about style and read it really fast for stories or content. And in REAS hat, we have to ask ourselves “Where am I weak” and find the writing techniques and style intentionally to improve the weakness.

5. When we want to be helpful in response to other’s feeling bad, first figure out what they want is empathy or solution.

Podcast: Lisa Feldman Barrett: Balancing the Brain Budget [The Knowledge Project Ep. #92]

Lisa Feldman Barrett is a neuroscientist, psychologist, and author of How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. In Weekly I/O #10, I noted the five intriguing things in this episode. Here’s another.

What do we do when our partner or friends are feeling something like anxiety or anger? The first thing that we have to do, which is a really hard thing to do, is to figure out what they want. Sometimes what someone wants is just empathy, and sometimes what they want is help.

Think about the time when we offer advice for how to solve a problem to someone who at that moment really just wants a pat on the back or a hug.

For Lisa, the first thing that she does in her house is saying, do you want empathy or do you want a solution? What do you want? She said if she asks her daughter, her daughter will tell her almost 100% of the time, I want empathy. But if she asks her husband, he would almost always say I want a solution.

I’m wondering if it is emotionally (or even culturally) appropriate to ask “do you want empathy or do you want a solution” whenever we get into those situations and can’t differentiate the two. Is there a better way to handle the situation?

That’s it. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy it. If you would like to receive the content every Sunday, sign up below 😎



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