"Geek" Motivation.

We designers and developers are a special breed of person. Like artists, we’re creative, overly pensive, and our best work comes in spurts. On the other hand, we’re like factory workers, day in and day out, we have to work hard to generate a (semi-)constant output for long periods of time. It gets tiring, obviously. So when it comes to motivation outside of work, it’s a bit scarce, especially for somebody like me who has no life pours all of it into work1.

So what does this have to do with anything?

Well, let me give you an example. I’ve been “dieting” since November and for the first time in recent memory, I’ve been able to stay on it for more than two weeks. Like others with the same goal, I’ve tried so many different things. Colin Devroe had “The Diet”, his weekly weight loss blog that inspired people to do the same. I loved the idea, but un/fortunately, I’m not very comfortable with taking pictures of myself topless, especially my belly. Not that you had to do that… well, nevermind. Then there were the “web 2.0” services like Traineo. Traineo had pretty graphics, spots for exercise routines, even a motivator system. Apparently, I suck at being a fitness motivator since Traineo has been scolding me for not checking up on Anton lately.

Weightbot 2008

Then came Weightbot, the highly-lickable, super-awesome weight tracking iPhone application by Tapbots—programmed by Paul Haddad and lovingly designed by Mark Jardine. I could go on for hours about how beautiful the application is, and that’s exactly why it worked for me. Now, I’ve written about my success with GTD using Things in the past. Weightbot is an example of how I found the motivation to want to lose weight, just like Things gave me the motivation to get organized.

Here’s my point (and your mileage may vary).

In order for something like GTD or a diet to stick, it needs to require an action that’s not completely foreign to my daily routine. In other words, it needs to adapt to me and my personality. It’s pretty obvious when I say it like that, but the adaptation requirements get pretty specific.

Let’s take Traineo. Even though it had a nice interface and was feature-rich, it was simply another website I had to check. I have trouble remembering what sites I check on a daily basis as it is, which is why, for example, I’m really bad at staying active on forums. On the other hand, an iPhone application is easily spotted on the springboard, so it easily triggers my memory. With that said, I seem to quickly forget about programs I download for Leopard if I don’t launch them immediately after doing so.

In addition, since I wouldn’t be ashamed of calling myself an “app snob,” in order for me to start using an application constantly, it has to satisfy my eye. A program could cook my breakfast for me, but if its icon isn’t very tasty2 (and no replacement icons exist for it), I won’t use it. Likewise for the UI, I tend to prefer applications that sport native appearances and consistency to the overall UI. Hence “app snob.”

In Weightbot’s case, it touches an even deeper addiction of mine, stats. If I had to name one feature about Weightbot that completely sold me on it, it was the graph. I’ll wake up, grab my iPhone, check my email, weigh myself, input it into Weightbot, turn the phone to see the graph and then proceed to sigh or smile.

It’s another testament to the power that mobile applications have over me. But since I didn’t want to completely rehash my Things entry, I felt it was important to show that using an application that satisfies your design or general geek urges will more than likely lead to you using that application consistently for a longer period of time. Find applications that will adapt to you, not you to it.

Although, maybe this has been an obvious fact for a long time, I just tend to be a late bloomer. :)


  1. Or a good Call of Duty game. :D
  2. To my defense, I’m not the only one that refrained using it because of its icon either.