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Video games have helped one email company succeed

(TECH NEWS) Considering video games are part of one of the largest industries on the planet, why haven’t more companies followed in Superhumans footsteps.

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video games improve jobs

What’s one way to make your software more appealing to customers? Well, as far as the email company Superhuman is concerned, you can make it work like a video game.

At first glance, this strategy seems a little counter intuitive – after all, video game doesn’t exactly scream professional. But as video games become more and more common (Candy Crush, anyone?) the stigma of gaming as ‘unemployed loser in their parents’ basement’ has started to slip away.

Of course, just because gaming has become mainstream, that doesn’t explain Superhuman’s strategy. Luckily, game designer and scholar Jane McGonigal can give us some insight. In her famous 2010 TED talk, McGonigal argued that in games, people are “more likely to stick with a problem as long as it takes, to get up after failure and try again.” Through a combination of collaboration, carefully set goals and a lack of finality with ‘fails,’ video games are able to encourage individuals to push through difficult scenarios.

Not to mention, they make work enjoyable.

It’s this feeling that Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra focused on when creating the software. According to Vohra, “Most companies worry about what users want or what they need. But we don’t worry about that at all. We obsess about how users feel.”

So how do they bring the fun of video games to email software? Through four main ideas. First, Superhuman sets clear goals with clients. Hitting goals can actually boost the dopamine receptors in our brains, which is one reason why gaming can be so addictive – and so effective. By implementing these sorts of benchmarks, Superhuman takes email from tedious to interesting.

Next, the software includes keyboard shortcuts in a similar fashion to video games. Not only does this make Superhuman more intuitive to many clients, but it helps speed up the operation as a whole.

There’s also “tutorials,” which in the case of Superhuman is actually training where new clients meet the Superhuman team and learn how to use the equipment. McGonigal discusses the importance of collaboration within games, pointing out that working together to reach a mutual goal can push players further.

Finally, the pace adjusts alongside the client, which is something games do well. After all, too hard too early and a player gives up, but too easy too late and a player is bored. By adjusting speed to match client abilities, the software never feels overwhelming or ineffective.

Good games put user experience front and center, which encourages users to come back again and again. Superhuman is just one of many businesses to start tapping into games’ successful formulas. How could drawing on video games’ successes improve your business?

Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

Tech News

Students say free coding school wildly fails to deliver

(TECH NEWS) There’s a serious barrier to entry into web development so a free coding school launches, but students say it isn’t delivering on their promises.

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Coding bootcamps

Technology changes quickly and so does the skillset requirement by companies. Many people are finding themselves in the stage of their career path where they may want to try something new – and not surprisingly, make a nice salary doing it. The launch of coding bootcamps (starting with Code Academy and 2011) has been touted as the solution to educate those on a missing skillset and setting them up for well-paying J-O-Bs.

Coding bootcamps, now up to 95 full-time coding academies in the United States, offer job seekers training in an area where they can move in to a new career and also meet to provide much needed talent to employers who need people who can code. This doesn’t usually come for free though. Average coding bootcamps (6 months) can cost up to $21K with the promise you will land a high paying salary at the end of it. There are also many universities providing coding boot camp classes.

What does it mean when a free coding school launches (with the intent to provide an educational opportunity to those who maybe don’t have the funding for a large investment and/or the ability to take out more student loans) and simply asks for a portion of your starting salary once you land that incredible new Developer gig?

Sounds like a great idea. This meets the market demand for interested people to learn a new skill set and be ready for a new career in software development. Shouldn’t we be asking how easy it is for these folks to get hired after the program? The challenge with the Lambda School is that their curriculum and UX for online learning is in development.

While they intended to meet people where they were with an online platform (offering flexibility to the students and teachers), it has left a little bit to desire by its participants. The learning opportunities are constantly changing. The teachers are also not always available and most likely have other full-time obligations or employment.

Many students were left disappointed that they didn’t feel the education matched expectations and didn’t see how they were going to be able to be hired in to roles that would allow them to pay back the tuition. So much so they sent requests to get out of their signed contracts and halt the program.
It goes without saying that anything new has its challenges and businesses can only move so fast.

No matter how fast technology changes, we are humans and have certain human behaviors. Employers want to see real-world experience so even if you’ve taken classes, the candidate must be willing to do things above and beyond the class (volunteer projects and networking for sure). While we root for Lambda School to be a legitimate solution for those how may not have the budget for a full-time coding school, it might be worth the time to let them sort out their curriculum challenges and consider building up your skill set in this area in other ways.

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Defense startups are getting beaucoup bucks from the DoD

(TECH NEWS) Some tech companies are getting large venture capital because the Department of Defense is looking for new defense startups.

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military looking defense startups

While private investors remain wary of funding defense startups, they are still keeping an eye on the possible venture opportunities. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is hoping domestic investors will increase spending into these startups in order to compete with China’s strategy of creating private equity firms to invest into foreign technologies.

A major reason for the growing interest by venture capitalists is the shift in focus from traditional weapons to tools for information warfare, meaning software and tech systems. Defense startups are creating products that may have multiple benefits outside the DoD.

Changes in the defense venture landscape are slow with all three parties learning how to benefit from one another. Startups realize working with the DoD is a “mission-driven objective” as stated by Ryan Tseng, founder of Shield AI. “We went into this eyes wide open, knowing full well that to the venture community, the math doesn’t make sense.”

However, there are several big investor players already in the game. Andreessen Horowitz, a top-tier venture fund is banking on the economic sustainability of defense startups in the future. They’ve already invested in Shield AI and defense tech company Anduril Industries. Additionally, the Founders Fund, another big name venture firm led by Silicon investors Peter Thiel, Brian Singerman, and Ken Howery is investing in Anduril and goTenna after successfully backing SpaceX and Palantir Technologies.

Defense companies’ emphasis on tech could be the answer to challenges usually associated with DoD investments like competing against dominate manufacturers with steady government contracts and long procurement cycles. U.S. Code 2377 stipulates that commercially available items be considered first in procurement efforts. If defense startups can enter the market, they will also stand a chance of winning government contracts over bigger, traditional companies, thus diversifying the playing field.

But until there is a greater guarantee of a payoff, investors are likely to remain skeptical. The possibilities for this new generation of defense companies is going to needs some more wins to prove the future is in their corner.

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Tech News

Goal-based project management tool simplifies your work life

(TECH NEWS) If you are struggling to keep tasks straight then this new tool Qoals allows for a simpler and more straightforward way to accomplish goals as a team.

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Qoals pitch

We all have goals – whether they be personal, professional, financial, etc. Anyone can set a goal, all it takes is having a thought and assigning it a certain level of importance. However, not everyone completes their goals due to the oft difficulties and confusions associated with execution.

Like anything else, if there’s a will, there’s a way. A new way has been found in the form of Qoals – a simple and straightforward tool that helps you to get aligned around business goals instead of an endless wall of tasks.

The ability to complete goals is done through: setting goals, adding tasks, collecting things, and tracking progress. With this, everyone on your team has access to this information to keep tabs on what’s happening.

With setting goals, you create and prioritize your goals, letting your team members know which ones are most important at that time. Goals can be prioritized with tabs such as: long term, short term, and urgent. By adding tasks, you can add and assign tasks to set a clear path in order to complete set goals.

In collecting things, you collect resources related to your goal and keep them in one safe place (again, this is accessible to your whole team). This doesn’t require uploading files, but simply including links to resources to keep everything easily accessible. Finally, by tracking progress, everyone on the team can see where you’re at with your goals – which saves time with the follow ups of “how’s Goal X going?”

Why did Qoals develop this goal-oriented approach? “It’s about time we simplify things,” according to the official website. “Get aligned around goals and let everyone know what’s important for the business. Add goals under various projects and start adding tasks and resources to make that goal happen.”

Additionally, Qoals boasts that this provides users with a birds-eye view of what’s happening with their team, allowing them to be more human-centric. You can create unlimited projects, set and track your goals, collected everything related to said goal, keep the discussion relevant, access your tasks with one click, stay connected to your team, and see what’s going on at a glance.
Qoals is currently in beta.

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