Monthly Archives: July 2013

Books: The War Of Art

war-of-art-gif1-243x387The War Of Art is a short, blunt treatise on why the creative process is so hard and what to do about it. Steven Pressfield, the author, lays out his advice with the kind of certainty that lives somewhere between a combat General and a gypsy fortune teller. He builds his case in three parts:

1. Resistance — Pressfield defines the creative process very broadly (starting a diet, building a company, learning to dance, writing a novel, etc.) and then describes in detail the force of nature, the evil force — Resistance! — that works incessantly to derail creative work.

2. Combating Resistance — the focus on work is the only way to fight resistance and in this section he goes into depth on the difference between amateurs and professionals.

3. Beyond Resistance — this section is about what keeps a person humble and focused enough to be professional. There’s a bunch of psych theory, dreams, and lots of talk of Muses and higher powers, most of it some combination of fascinating and helpful.

Two parts stuck with me on this first read. I loved the quote that shows up a few times — and is the basis for his theory of professionalism — which I think he paraphrased from the Baghavad Gita:

You have a right to your labor, not the fruits of your labor.

The focus on action as reward is a superhelpful mental posture for me.

The second part that stayed with me was Pressfield’s Largo dream sequence — where he’s on a navy ship under attack and everyone including himself is looking for help from this badass sergeant named Largo. After a few encounters with other soldiers it slowly dawns on him that he *is* Largo. I thought that was a pretty cool way for a subconscious to deliver the message — you have more power to be awesome than you think.

The book has a decidedly military flavor which may be off-putting in some quarters, but personally I loved the approach. Pressfield puts creative effort into a moral framework and provides a compelling model of the world that gives me a map and a kick in the butt around things I wrestle with all the time — doing great work and being a professional.

Shout out to Bax for staying on me for the last 3 years to read this, glad I did.

Crush That Candy

Candy_CrushThis spring when King rolled past Zynga for the coveted “Largest Game On Facebook” title I thought I’d join up with the other 50 million people a month and check out Candy Crush Saga.

Of course the game is designed, like Farmville before it, as a carefully balanced short-term gratification delivery system. Say what you want about the moral value of throwing millions of people off an impulse-control cliff, you have to admire the sleekness of the throwing machine.

What makes it work?

1. Portable Skillz
The game is based on the three-in-a-row grid matching puzzle mechanics of dozens of games like Bubbles or Bejeweled or the frooty hipster Dots. There are a lotta people who already have those skills going to waste — here’s a new outlet! I’m still waiting to see a resume from a prospective employee that has video game high scores listed in the Skills section.

2. The Publishing Model
I worked at Microsoft during the most recent industry swing to “software as a service” — better to have a smaller annuity income with lower sales costs and lock those customers in! Can you even buy Office without a subscription now? Someone will wake up soon and realize that they don’t really want to be in the publishing business.. but I digress. Candy Crush saga took the super-popular Bejeweled and — again like Farmville — bolted a “services” model on it. The game currently has 400+ “episodes” and delivers a new set every few weeks, so effectively King is a game content service (um, publisher?) with 50 million monthly subscribers.

3. Friends Give Lives
The genius of Farmville was the tricky scarcity profile of its sharing economy — you might get a golden egg if you feed your neighbors chickens, which you can do only once a day, but when you find one you actually get two — one for you and one for your neighbor. Or the catalog of free things — they’re actually only free if you give them to people, you can’t gift yourself. These mechanics created a pretty powerful incentive to recruit sharing neighbors. Candy Crush Saga builds scarcity around “lives” and you fail a level you lose a life — and these only regenerate every 30 minutes. But, you can have Facebook friends send you a life.. You see where this is going.

Well, Candy Crush Saga was gone from my life after a couple weeks — the “nation-sized” competition pool was interesting, and apparently 1 in 7 people in Hong Kong play the game, so its popularity has social value in its own right (think: Disney, or Angry Birds). But the growth curve is too shallow and arbitrary to keep my interest so my sugar rush is over. What’s next?

Flo the Time Lord

flo_lacey

As a rabid ESPN Streak For The Cash player, I am bombarded by the game’s sponsor mascot — Progressive Flo — pretty much all day long. And following the hot mess of @sarahcuda‘s Beachmint story the last couple weeks has gotten me plenty of looks at the Lacy grill. Hard not to notice the freaky symmetry.

I’m with Lyons on Pando vs. Beachmint — it’s hard to take Dr. Who journalism seriously. Yes, start-up culture rewards aggressive “framing” by founders, sadly, and journalists beware. And yes, PandoDaily has taken a bright red-lipstick approach to getting stories — heck, they’re a start-up too, trying to build a brand.

It will be interesting to see if Sarah Lacy actually issues the widely looked-for “mea culpa” and where Pando will be in a year if she doesn’t.

Betting Bad

For the last season of the TV show Breaking Bad a collection of creative superfans have created a 4-season synopsis video and a prediction game for betting on the outcome of the final eight episodes on AMC.

It’s very cool to see a well-made, fan driven execution on some core B3TZ premises — that

1) passionate communities want *MORE* interaction with what they love, and

2) prediction games are a great way to intensify that passion, and

3) money isn’t what prediction games are about, they are about alignment with the universe, and candy, and

4) when passion goes deep enough it starts to go wide — that is, sustainable, organic reach comes from great content plus a core of crazy love fans who want to spread the word.

The game is obviously kinda cobbled together, but to its credit it is clean and pretty simple to understand. Seventy options, 30 picks — with safe, risky, and lethal plays. Since this was made by “outsiders” and the templates for “bets” have a lot of latitude, the game play is likely going to be pretty lumpy — heck, the game may be over by episode three if too much of the lethal stuff happens early or doesn’t happen at all.

The guys who made this are all creative pros — they were behind the fan-based viral hit The Seven Minute Sopranos a few years ago. AFAIK they’re not affiliated with the show or the AMC channel, and there are no prizes or sponsors on anything. Just love.

I’d love to see this thing go very viral. There were about 600 or so game players signed up earlier today. They close the game down on August 11 so let’s see where it goes. 50k? More?

I’m off to watch the first four seasons of Bad-ness. Hat tip to daily Warming Glow reader Steve.

 

 

The Month of Streaking — Kickoff

sftc1I’ve been playing the ESPN game Streak For The Cash (SFTC) game for a few years now and loving the heck out of it. You could pretty fairly say that it is one of our main proof points at B3TZ world headquarters that a long-running prediction game can work well and make money.

The format is simple: STFC publishes a dozen or so sports predictions every day. The player can only make one pick at a time, but when the pick resolves they can pick again. Players attempt to put together a streak of consecutive wins and the person with the longest streak at the end of the month gets $50,000.

What makes it especially juicy is that with this simple format they’ve added a couple mini-games — the player with the most wins in a month gets $2500, or you can form your own “group”, like a fantasy sports league, and play against one or many friends for whatever stakes you choose. Or you can join a special group of about 150,000 people to play against Flo, the irritating Progressive spokesperson, where anyone who gets more total wins than Flo is put in a random drawing for $1000 — last month there were 137 people who got more than 102 wins, which is what Flo got.

Besides group mini-games there are stunt days — longest streak for the day — and the Stash. Altogether there are probably five or six ways to win, besides the general satisfaction of putting together a nice win streak and feeling that the universe kinda likes you.

All the scores reset at the beginning of the month so yesterday was day one. I did OK — I got all 4 of my picks correct, which landed me in the top 2500 people of about 20,000 that played the first day. I think the player count gets upwards of several hundred thousand by the end of the month, so if I can stay in the top 1000 I’ll be pretty stoked.

Hey, Radwanska just broke Na in the third set in the Wimbledon quarters! I got a shot baby! More later..