We’ve just announced new speakers and their respective talks for the upcoming Habit Summit taking place on March 25th at Stanford. The line-up is amazing!
We’ll hear from experts like Julie Zhuo (Director of Product Design at Facebook), best-selling authors like Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) and Natasha Dow Schull (Addiction by Design), innovators like Josh Elman (formerly of Twitter and LinkedIn), Jeff Atwood (co-founder of Stack Overflow), a number of VCs, product leads, and other phenomenal speakers.
This event was created for product managers, designers, executives, and marketers: anyone whose product or company would benefit from repeat customer engagement. I’m thrilled to be involved and I can’t wait to hear these speakers.
Tickets to the conference are selling fast and we’re on track to sell out. If you are planning to attend, note that prices of tickets go up on March 10th, so get your ticket soon. More information about the summit is available at: HabitSummit.com
Upcoming Hooked Workshop
I’m teaching my 3.5 hour Hooked Workshop the day after the Habit Summit. The workshop is for people working on products they’d like to make more habit-forming and is a hands-on version of my book. Information about the workshop is available here: hookedzurb.eventbrite.com
Finally, blog readers can use the code “NirAndFarFriends” for a $50 discount on either or both events.
I hope to see you there!
Wednesday was my birthday. It should have been a great day. My wife and daughter had prepared a delicious breakfast, I had lunch with close friends, and I finished up some writing and client work. At the end of the day I headed to San Francisco to enjoy a swanky scotch tasting at a friend’s house.
Then I heard the news. WhatsApp had been purchased by Facebook for $19 billion. When I read about the deal I blurted out the words, “Holy Crap!” so loudly that a stranger nearby gave me a disapproving look.
I was having a fantastic day just minutes before but suddenly I felt crummy, like something unjust had happened. The malaise lingered as my mind began to rationalize the news. Was the deal justified? Why had Facebook paid so much? What did the deal mean for the future of the tech industry?
However, the question that most disturbed me was why hadn’t I built WhatsApp? The simplicity of the app made it look easy. Perhaps, I thought, I should get back to starting companies instead of writing books about them.
Then I remembered one of my favorite monkey studies. A bit of primate psychology helped me regain my sanity.
Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University, wanted to know if capuchin monkeys felt jealousy in the same way humans do. His study began by training two monkeys with identical cucumber slices. Whenever they completed a task, in this case retrieving a rock and handing it to a researcher, they each received a slice of cucumber. When both monkeys were offered the same reward, they completed the task as prescribed.
Nir’s Note: Parts of this article are adapted from Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Products.
On February 8, 2014, an app called Flappy Bird held the coveted No. 1 spot in the Apple App Store. The app’s 29-year-old creator, Dong Nguyen, reported earning $50,000 a day from the game.
Then, the Vietnamese developer sent a shocking message. In a tweet many dismissed as a publicity stunt, Nguyen wrote, “I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird‘ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird‘ down. I cannot take this anymore.” And as promised, the game disappeared the next day.
This is not the way success typically ends.
Flappy Bird was downloaded over 50 million times and unleashed a digital tsunami of players and pundits dissecting what turned into a global fixation. Players’ only goal in the game was to pilot a pixelated bird through gaps of pipe. Yet the app seemed to have a mysteriously seductive power. In a TechCrunch article titled Confessions Of A Flappy Bird Addict, Josh Constine wrote, “It humiliates me, but I like it. It’s the dominatrix of mobile games.”
What is at the heart of today’s digital juggernauts and why do they seem to disappear as quickly as they rise? What is it about the things that capture our attention in a mental vice grip, only to be ridiculed as faddish whims later?
Given the meteoric success and subsequent decline of other games like Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds, and FarmVille, perhaps the death of Flappy Bird was more than a rash decision. Perhaps it was a mercy killing?
Nir’s Note: This article is adapted from Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Products, a book I wrote with Ryan Hoover and originally appeared on TechCrunch.
Earlier this month, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone unveiled his mysterious startup Jelly. The question-and-answer app was met with a mix of criticism and head scratching. Tech-watchers asked if the world really needed another Q&A service. Skeptics questioned how it would compete with existing solutions and pointed to the rocky history of previous products like Mahalo Answers, Formspring, and Aardvark.
In an interview, Biz articulated his goal to, “make the world a more empathetic place.” Sounds great but one wonders if Biz is being overly optimistic. Aren’t we all busy enough? Control for our attention is in a constant tug-of-war as we struggle to keep-up with all the demands for our time. Can Jelly realistically help people help one another? For that matter, how does any technology stand a chance of motivating users to do things outside their normal routines?
We hope a few insights gleaned from user psychology may help the Jelly makers improve their jam and provide some tips for anyone building an online community.
Lesson 1 – The Right Reward
In May 2007, entrepreneur and Internet celebrity Jason Calacanis launched a site called Mahalo. A flagship feature of the new site was a Q&A forum known as Mahalo Answers. Unlike previous Q&A sites, Mahalo utilized a special incentive to get users to ask and answer questions.
Nir’s Note: In this guest post, Ryan Hoover, contributing writer of my book Hooked, describes how nostalgia is used to drive attention and build an engaging product. Follow @rrhoover or visit his blog to read more about startups and product design.
Remember Nickelodeon GUTS?
How do you feel right now? Did reading those words stimulate any emotional reaction? Did it bring back memories? Excite you? Make you smile?
Nostalgia is powerful. Simply mentioning the names of childhood toys, old TV shows, classic video games, and other pastime activities often instigate an emotional response, reminiscence. But why? Why is nostalgia so compelling and how can product creators use this to build more engaging products?
The Influence of Nostalgia
The term nostalgia was coined by 17th century physician, Johannes Hofer, based off the Greek words nostos (return) and algos (pain). He prescribed nostalgia as a mental illness, attributing it to Swiss soldiers’ symptoms of anxiety, homesickness, insomnia, and anorexia. Hofer believed “continuous vibration of animal spirits through those fibers of the middle brain in which impressed traces of ideas of the Fatherland still cling,” was the cause of these ailments.
I’m thrilled to announce I’m co-chairing the first Habit Summit!
On March 25th at Stanford University, a gathering of experts, entrepreneurs, and industry insiders will share their hard-won insights on how to build habits. This event is for designers, executives, visionaries, and marketers: anyone whose product or company would benefit from repeat customer engagement.
We’ll hear from best-selling authors like Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) and Gary Taubes (Why We Get Fat). Technology innovators like Josh Elman (formerly of Twitter and Facebook) and Jeff Atwood (co-founder of Stack Overflow) will also be there. Several more phenomenal speakers will be announced soon but in the meantime I wanted to offer my readers special pricing for the event.
Until February 1st, you can use the code “NirAndFarFriends” for $50 off the early-bird pricing. Prices will go up as the event nears so get your tickets here: habitsummit.eventbrite.com
More information about the summit is available here: HabitSummit.com
See you there!
Nir’s Note: This guest post comes from Stephen Wendel, Principal Scientist at HelloWallet and the author of Designing for Behavior Change. Steve’s new book is about how to apply behavioral economics to product development. Follow him on twitter @sawendel.
It can be extraordinarily difficult to stop habits head-on. Brain damage, surgery, even Alzheimer’s disease and dementia sometimes fail to stop them. But why are they so difficult to change? First, it’s because habits are automatic, and not conscious. The conscious part of our minds, the part that would seek to remove habits, is only vaguely aware of their execution; we often don’t notice habits when they occur and we don’t remember doing them afterwards. Across dozens of studies on behavior change interventions, researchers have found that the conscious mind’s sincere, concerted intention to change behavior has little relationship to actual change in behavior.
Second, it’s because habits never truly go away – once a habit is formed (i.e. the brain is rewired to associate the stimulus and response), it doesn’t normally un-form. It can remain latent or unused, but under the right circumstances, that circuitry in the brain can be activated and cause the habitual behavior to reappear.
Another way of thinking of habit cessation is this: if stopping bad habits were easy, we wouldn’t need so many darned books on everything from stopping smoking to dieting. Nevertheless, we can draw lessons from the literature on habit formation and change – which can save product teams needless pain and suffering. Three strategies for handling an existing habit include:
Nir’s Note: Lyle McKeany is an entrepreneur writing and working on an early-stage startup. In this essay, he shares his experience using lean methodologies with my Hook Model at the Lean Startup Machine conference. This article also appears today on Pando Daily. Follow Lyle on Twitter @lylemckeany.
The conventional view of lean startup ideation methodology is to identify a problem, test your riskiest assumption with a certain success criterion, talk to potential customers before coming up with a solution. Then pivot or persevere until you validate a solution. But it turns out that this conventional view isn’t always the appropriate approach. Here’s how my experience at a Lean Startup Machine(LSM) event in San Francisco earlier this month proves it.
The Lean startup movement is not hurting for attention these days. There are plenty of advocates who write and speak about it almost daily, some of them even make their living doing so. According to Wikipedia,
As of 2012, there are lean startup meetups in over 100 cities and 17 countries as well as an online discussion forum with over 5500 members.
And I’m sure those numbers have grown considerably throughout 2013 since the popularity of Lean Startup certainly hasn’t wained.
My lean startup experience
LSM is a roller coaster of an event. I’ve attended two of them, one in March in Mountain View and one in December in San Francisco. They are three days of long hours, getting out of the building to talk with strangers, and deep thinking about the problem you’re trying to solve.
The launch of my new book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, has been quite a whirlwind. The book is currently a bestseller in several categories on Amazon and I’m thrilled the reviews have been so positive.
Below are a few updates and special offers for my blog readers:
I have two Hooked workshops next week.
San Francisco, CA – Monday, January 13 – This is a full-day course based on the class I teach with Dr. Steph Habif. This will be a small group session and only 5 tickets are left.
Brooklyn, NY – Wednesday, January 15 – This is a 3-hour workshop.
Blog subscribers get 50% off either workshop by using the code “NirAndFarFriends.”
I’ve recently published an online course based on the book. Blog subscribers get 50% off the course using the code “NirBlogSub.” The discount is available for people who register for the course by January 17th. The course is available on Udemy here.
Several reader have asked how they can leave a review for Hooked on Amazon. In my opinion, the button is far too hard to find.
Please leave a review by going to the book page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HJ4A43S/
Then, scroll down to the bottom of the reviews but before the “More About the Author” section. There you will find the “Write a customer review” button. Thanks!
Nir’s Note: In this guest post, Ryan Hoover describes the design decisions and strategies used to build a habit-forming product, largely influenced by the learnings on this blog. Follow @rrhoover or visit his blog to read more about startups and product design.
Recently, Nathan Bashaw and I launched Product Hunt, a daily leaderboard of the best new products. As two product enthusiasts, we wanted to create a community to share, discover, and geek out about new and interesting products. But to make it a success, we knew we had to make it a habit, a product people would use every day.
Early feedback suggests it’s been working, as gauged by several tweets and our own site traffic analysis. Qualitative feedback is great, of course, but what people actually do is more important.
- 60% of daily active users (DAU) are returning visitors
- 32% of unique visitors in the past week have visited the site 5 or more times
- 52% of subscribers open daily email digest (yes, daily!) and 23% click-through
This is especially encouraging, considering the site’s minimalism and lack of obvious re-engagement features. Here are the design decisions and strategies used to build a habit-forming product, largely influenced by Nir Eyal’s work.
Build for Existing Behaviors
In a recent interview, Ev Williams, founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium, shared his strategy for building a billion-dollar business:
Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time… identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.