Community Building: There’s an App for That

Around the holidays, when catching up with my extended relatives, I often get asked the question: “so…what’s the next big app?” I always secretly chuckle at this question because other than the fact that I’ve worked in and around technology for the lion-share of my career, I have no better likelihood of predicting America’s next big act of app brilliance than they do.

Once I get over my secret chuckle, I do however offer some insight. Whatever this next big app will be, it will be big because it gets right to the heart of basic human drivers.

So, here are some thoughts.

The more digital-media, social-media, new-media (or whatever you want to call it-media) proliferates, the more, it appears, we’re treating our innovations in technology like our innovations in medicine. A cure-all. We recognize a need: build online communities to engage citizens and solve problems, and assume if we apply a savvy technology platform to the need and measure the results, we’re good. Sometimes we even plunge into the technology aspect before even considering who/what we’re trying to engage and start measuring away. Like I often assume hair stylists are scissor-happy, sometimes we’re technology/measurement-happy.

Far from what a technology platform can ever deliver, what we really need to consider and study in our pursuit of better engaging our communities, citizens, etc, is basic human drivers. Stuff like motivation, trust, empathy, and responsibility. And as far as the measurement piece goes, we need to make sure what we’re measuring even makes sense to measure (sometimes we’re just collecting for the essence of collecting).

So, back to the “what’s the next hot app question?” My answer to this is: one that addresses rudimentary human behaviors. Whatever app at its core stirs motivation, trust, empathy, responsibility, etc is going to be a winner. The more we know about what’s shaping our interactions, etc, the better we can design interfaces, and usability, and get what we’re going for.

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Lauren Modeen

I see…

Per wikipedia:

In Angry Birds, players take control of a flock of birds that are attempting to retrieve eggs that have been stolen by a group of evil pigs. On each level, the pigs are sheltered by structures made of various materials such as wood, glass and stone, and the object of the game is to eliminate all the pigs in the level. Using a slingshot, players launch the birds with the intent of either hitting the pigs directly or damaging the structures, which would cause them to collapse and kill the pigs. In higher stages of the game, additional objects such as explosives and rocks are found in the levels, and may be used in conjunction with the birds to destroy hard-to-reach pigs.

There’s a lot going on in video games…fun, boredom, art, competition, escaping reality, etc…all that can be added to the list of basic human drivers…

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

@Lauren – I hope I didn’t give the impression that I was dismissing your great post. You are absolutely correct in that apps have to address human behaviors and you demonstrate this well with your analysis of “Angry Birds.” Now the tricky part is developing an app that appeals to human behaviors while helping the person complete a complicated and mundane task like filing their taxes. Do you feel that Turbo Tax accomplishes that and why? What could we adopt from Turbo Tax that we could use for governmental processes?