Cabel Sasser has a great post about how his Nike+iPod running gizmo has totally changed his perception of running.
The Nike+iPod kit is an electronic running companion, a little $29 sensor that fits into your shoe and communicates with an iPod nano and tracks your progress (distance, pace). It gives you occasional audio reports, words of enthusiasm and a "power song" to push you when you need it. As a runner and a geek, I've been salivating over this one as I patiently (?) wait for the thing to arrive in Europe.
But Cabel points out that the appeal of the device is more game than gadget. Nike+iPod uploads your stats to a website where your stats dance and sparkle:
The second best part about the Nike+ running — the cool, video-game like part — is that you not only run, but you also get points for running. Your score ever-increases. Better still, if you set goals for yourself, you even get awesome virtual trophies and ribbons, resplendent in their vector beauty. Just like Pac-Man got to eat the occasional delicious (albeit high-sodium) pretzel treat in-between hundreds of dots, the Nike+ runner gets the occasional trophy treat in between the miles. As I understand it, a lot of people run for so-called "exercise", but let me tell you: points are way cooler.
And the coolest part about Nike+ running? Like any good online game, you can challenge your friends. First to 100 miles? Fastest 5-mile time? Your call. These challenges wind up being incredibly inspiring.
Inspiring enough to turn Cabel, a confessed hater of running, into an enthusiast. In other words, by making it easy and fun to track your own personal progress, Nike+iPod makes you feel like you're kicking ass. Specifically, kicking your friends' asses.
I learned the same running-specific lesson when I created my first web application in 1997, a free, interactive running log that let you track and graph your pace, mileage and other stats. The running log is still chugging along a decade later, though not as spiffy as the shiny, new Nike version.
The running log reminded you when it was time to get new running shoes and, the clincher, it let you share your stats with your friends, coaches, competitors. For lots of folks, including me, the running log became totally addictive, a graphical metric of my own growth as a runner. For a couple of years, I probably spent a good half hour per day poring over my graphs and stats.
After all, what's more motivating for your inner narcissist than your own stats? It's why so many website owners love scouring their web log numbers, or why even something as outwardly tedious as online banking can be strangely compelling.
Businesses and products that can help surface evidence of your own progress are inherently addictive. It's worth thinking about: How can you improve your product or service to let customers see (and share) how they're kicking ass?