Curbing Violence with Social Reinforcement

Posted on Jun 30, 2014 by Michael Gugel.


Steven Kotler wrote a post that examined the effectiveness of using social positive & negative reinforcement to decrease violence.  A particularly interesting point is that social acceptance triggers key neural pathways in the brain that are almost equivalent to physical pleasure/pain.  No wonder social features are so engaging.

A bunch of new research shows that humans process the pain of social rejection in the same places they process physical pain.

…not only do we process peer rejection as physical pain, but we process the opposite—social acceptance—as intense pleasure.

Lean Canvas

Posted on Jun 25, 2014 by Michael Gugel.


5 Steps to a Great Landing Page

Posted on Jun 25, 2014 by Michael Gugel.


A great landing page has 5 main parts:

  1. Headline –  A good headline tell the user he reached the right place, conveys the unique value proposition, and draws the user in to make him read the rest of the copy.
  2. Visual – Supports the headline to build emotional resonance.
  3. Call to action – A user should instantly know his next steps.
  4. A secondary call to action – If the user is not ready to buy immediately, he’ll need an opportunity to educate himself.
  5. Sell the sizzle – Clearly and concisely explain how the product will help the user solve a relevant problem

Agile Principles

Posted on Jun 05, 2014 by Michael Gugel.


Welcome changing requirements, even late in development.  Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts it behavior accordingly.

Responding to change over following a plan.

Is Your Team Self Actualizing?

Posted on Jan 19, 2014 by Michael Gugel.


As a manager, your responsibility is to make your team as productive as possible.  To do that, you need to motivate them to maximize performance NOW and improve their skills over time.  To motivate your team, you need to first understand how motivation works. That’s where Maslow’s hierarchy of needs comes in. It provides an easy-to-understand framework that’s really relevant for managers.

In short, he divided motivation into 5 distinct parts:

Maslow's Hierachy of Needs

Maslow's Hierachy of Needs

You want your team members to be at the top of the pyramid to maximize their performance. To do that, you have to progress through each tier of the pyramid starting from the bottom:

  • Physiological – The basic needs of food, water, shelter and clothing have to be met. I don’t have much to say about this one since I’ve never had a direct report who was starving.
  • Safety – When an employee was under-performing at Zynga, the were put on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). Unfortunately, it was very rare for an employee to survive a PIP.  That’s not surprising. When faced with a high likelihood of losing their job, the most rational course of action is to hedge your risk and immediately start looking for a new job instead of improving your current performance (since you’re facing an uphill battle).
  • Belonging - Humans are social animals. You need to feel part of the team and share in their successes and failures.  Failure to do so makes you feel isolated and that your contributions don’t matter.
  • Esteem - Before you can really embrace feedback, you need to feel competent.
  • Self Actualization – This is where you want everyone to be! If you make it here, you’ll start to see your team really KILL IT! They will accept and internalize feedback and will constantly strive to improve.

Make your employees the best they can be!  Move each of your direct reports as far up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as possible!

* There are some exceptions to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (e.g. starving artists partially skip the physiological tier) and it’s not hard science.

Ask for the Sale

Posted on Sep 15, 2012 by Michael Gugel.


Does your website ask for the sale?  Are you saying “yes” because you have a pretty page that lists all your products?  That’s not enough.  You’re being too meek and timid.  You’re NOT asking for the sale — you’re relying on people to stumble their way to your sales page and you’re losing a ton of people along the way.

If you want an amazing ROI (revenue impact / dev cost) feature , then think about ways you can ASK FOR THE SALE.   Are your call to action buttons bright and vibrant?  Is there anyway you can show off or educate your customers about your products on your highly traffic’ed pages (not just your homepage)?

At Zynga, we frequently had a sales popup right when you entered the game.  Now that was REALLY asking for the sale.  It was in your face and aggressive, but the reason we did it is that it generated a sustained 5%-10% increase in revenue with NO IMPACT ON RETENTION.

A word of caution, however – there are diminishing returns so don’t go overboard.

Battle Pirates Deconstruct

Posted on Jul 30, 2012 by Michael Gugel.


Battle Pirates has one of the highest rev/DAU of any FB game.  I’ve been playing it obsessively over the last month to figure out why.

Key Metrics (as of 7/29 from

  • DAU: 230k
  • Month Over Month DAU Growth: 9.5%
  • Engagement: 19.2%

There are 3 main reasons why I think this game is success:

  1. An external threat to survival with an ability and incentive for users to band together
  2. Aspiration
  3. Egg-timer galore

Threats & Self-Organization

There’s nothing like a looming threat to bring people together.  Here’s how Battle Pirates did it:

At level 10, I attacked one of my neighbors.  Before I could congratulate myself on taking out his base, a level 30 annihilates me.

That level 30 user was an enforcer. He took it upon himself to make sure of that users in Sector 330 didn’t attack each other.  We were supposed to stick together and fight users in other Sectors.
Sector 330 self-organized (with only the help of chat) and built a community around a common goal: Sector security.

No infighting in Sector 330. It's enforced by elder users.



Having a persistent, multi-player game world  let’s you easily see other users bases and fleets.  That provides aspirataton:

George_R has a bunch of Hammerheads (the most powerful ship in the game). I'm jealous.


Speeding up Upgrades

FB’s Game Spotlight leaked some amazing info:

Speed-ups account for 85% of revenue across all of KIXEYE’s games, including War Commander.

There are egg-timers are on EVERYTHING in Battle Pirates!  And as you level up and get swankier gear, it takes long and longer to upgrade.

Upgrading units on an egg-timer.


At level 19, it takes me almost 24 hours to build a single ship, but I can get instant gratification for a mere 32 FB credits ($3.20):


How can you encourage self-organization, generate aspiration and put egg-timers in your game?

12 Questions from First, Break All the Rules

Posted on Jul 28, 2012 by Michael Gugel.

To create an awesome culture, we need employees to answer “yes” the following questions:
  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday?
  4. In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission / purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last 6 months, has someone talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had the opportunity at work to learn and grow?

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 by Michael Gugel.


Here’s a great quote from an article by Audran Guerard on Gamasutra:

“The best moment to plant a tree, unfortunately, was 20 years ago. Lucky us; the next best moment is now.”

The Endowment Effect

Posted on Jul 14, 2012 by Michael Gugel.


Maybe dog experience the endowment effect too?

The endowment effect increases your perceived value of a good when you own it. In other words, if you buy a t-shirt for $10 and I offer you $10 when you walk out, you’ll probably say “No way!”   It takes almost DOUBLE ($20) to get you to part with the t-shirt!

The classic example is a study by Kahneman, Knetsch & Thaler in 1990.  After they gave people a mug, the participants weren’t willing to give it up until they researchers gave them twice the market value.

League of Legends goes a great job it utilizing the endowment effect.   They “give” users 4 free champions to play every week.  That gives enough time for people to feel a sense of ownership and then…POOF!  A week later, it’s time to whip out your wallet and buy!

P.S. Thanks to david_shankbone for letting me use the pic!