Behavioral product strategist and gamification designer. This is my public hypertext notebook, sharing my thinking in motion at various stages of development.


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Welcome to my hypertext notebook. I've found hypertext as a medium to be incredibly liberating, and come with unique affordances. See Writing in hypertextWriting in hypertext
Welcome. I don't know what to call this, exactly. A digital garden? A personal wiki? A nonlinear manifesto? Regardless, it's my public idea space. It is a deeply entangled web of ideas that I'm changing constantly. You'll take a different journey every time you're here, and pages that you've already read may take on new meaning when placed into new contexts.

Generally, I aim to express my ideas in a way that each idea is placed into its broader context whenever I add something new in. You sh...
for a primer on how to best consume this website. Currently, I'm writing a book on Continuous Onboarding that attempts to linearize it. You can follow my progress by subscribing to my newsletter.

The majority of this website was written while I was working as a behavioral product strategy and gamification consultant, and has seen minimal updates since then. It discusses topics such as:

  • My personal journey
    • Why I chose to consult rather than pursue a PhDWhy I chose to consult rather than pursue a PhD
      Behavioral science is a deep passion of mine. Upon graduation, I didn't want to stop studying it. Many asked (myself included), "Why not go get a PhD?" There were many reasons, but this thought experiment was the main one.

      As a disclaimer - I want to point out that the conclusions I came to during this thought experiment are as a result of the fact that I knew I eventually wanted to do applied work.

      Before I started consulting, I formed this thought experiment: fast forwarding the 6 years i...
    • Hyper learningHyper learning
      This likely won't be going to be the final version of this post.

      Hyper learning is a coinage for learning through portfolio effects and feedback loops. It's about interdisciplinary thinking, varied collaboration, and collaboration according to comparative advantage.

      Hyper learning is basically the thesis of my career path.

      The term is inspired by what Writing in hypertext has done for my thinking, allowing me to connect, separate, and compress ideas, as well as the intensity that comes fro...
    • BioBio
      I started out my career studying behavioral economics in college, graduated wanting to keep working in the space but figured that technology was the best place to apply behavioral science for high impact.

      I figured that I could continue to learn about behavioral science by reading papers on my own and working with products to apply the insights and see them in action.

      For three years, I worked as an independent consultant specializing in behavioral product strategy and gamification. Through...
    • PublicationsPublications

      Rob's Hypertext Notebook
      Scaling Synthesis
      Future of Text Volume II, "Programmable text interfaces are the future, not GUIs"
      Roamgames Onboarding Competition, Winning Submission


      Dodging the Crap - The Behavioral Science of Great Gamification
      Scaling Synthesis, Multiplayer TFT
      Also see my dozen interviews with knowledge management software users on my Youtube channel

      Podcast Appearances

      The Behaviorist: How Products Tell Us About Ourselves Episod...
  • How I tend to work with clients
    • How we can work togetherHow we can work together
      I'm flexible in the ways I work with clients. Below is not an exhaustive list of possibilities, though there are a few patterns that my engagements tend to follow. I generally work to improve adoption or retention through improving User Involvement. See: Designing for user involvement has positive effects on adoption, retention, and virality

      People who get to this point often like to see Testimonials. Here's one from Adam Taylor, CEO of Fabriq:

      "These days, it's all too easy to think you’re...
    • Use a badging system as a method of actionable user researchUse a badging system as a method of actionable user research
      If you have a high quality badging/achievements system, then that means you know what the user goals are, you can recognize when those goals are accomplished, and your app notices when the user behavior is bringing the user closer to accomplishing their goal.

      The three most important questions to ask of a badging system:

      What are the user's goals?
      What signals progress to the user/company?
      What signals failure along the process of goal achievement?
      What signals success to the user/c...
    • Designing for failure states in FabriqDesigning for failure states in Fabriq
      Fabriq is a personal relationship management tool that enables users to be intentional about how they prioritize, track, and invest in the people close to users. You can add contacts to your inner, middle, or outer circle, set connection frequencies, and note down important details. While working with them, our focus was on increasing retention. In order for users to gain value out of Fabriq, they must use the app as a means of personally scheduling who to talk to. In my behavioral audit, I t...
  • Behavioral Product StrategyBehavioral Product Strategy
    The way a product is designed shapes the way that people use it. Every app is designed for behavior change, intentionally or unintentionally, so the questions that drive behavioral product strategy must be addressed. User Involvement is a set of metrics whose success is defined by the combination of user behaviors that contribute towards creating a desirable outcome. Behavioral product strategy is making product decisions to influence user behavior and improve user involvement.

    It doesn't ma...
    • User InvolvementUser Involvement
      Imagine purchasing a gym membership in order to lose weight or grow more muscular. Having a gym membership is not enough on its own! In order to successfully accomplish that goal, you would need to work out regularly on the right muscle groups. You might have a higher likelihood of success if you participate in exercise classes or hire a personal trainer. Your outcomes are shaped by your own behavior in the gym.

      User involvement is defined by the set of user behaviors that lead to experienci...
    • A demo for a simple LLM-powered Tool for Thought that uses behavioral product strategy to facilitate goal accomplishment faster for less user involvement
    • Designing for user involvement has positive effects on adoption, retention, and viralityDesigning for user involvement has positive effects on adoption, retention, and virality

      The most successful app adoptions come from a project because that gives users the motivation to learn functionalities in the context of when they are useful and persist through failures. Adoption requires a baseline of user involvement in order to overcome inertia. Designing for user involvement allows you to Speak to the user with a shared vocabulary. People design their own experience in an app through their actions, so designing for User Involvement early on means that the user...
    • Continuous onboardingContinuous onboarding
      Horizontal products like Notion, Airtable, Excel, and Obsidian are all powerful/flexible and require learning and expansion of use cases over time to wrap your head around them. Given that, why do they only teach people how to use the app for the first few minutes?

      It's not just horizontal products though. Continuous Onboarding applies to most apps that aren't just "open, press a button, and close." Are you continuing to add features over time that would benefit users that are more than a mo...
  • Onboarding
    • The hard problem of onboarding horizontal productsThe hard problem of onboarding horizontal products
      In order to successfully onboard a Horizontal product, we need to deliver an experience that is initially meaningful to groups of people who understand and care about different things.

      There are individual differences between new users in their initial user goals and People start using an app with different prior skill levels. This makes it difficult to Speak to the user with a shared vocabulary because there is no single user group to speak to. The Upfront onboarding needs to teach the user...
    • GuidedTrackGuidedTrack
      GuidedTrack is a simple low-code application that allows you to make surveys, experiments, web applications, online courses, signup forms, and more. Spark Wave built GuidedTrack so that it could build advanced studies and rapidly prototype, and is making the software available more broadly.

      Alternative study platforms like Qualtrics and Typeform required so much clicking and dragging that they were tedious and took forever to build. Additionally, it was difficult to package the study itself ...
      (case study)
    • Feedback loops are a more efficient method of communicationFeedback loops are a more efficient method of communication
      I'm trying to train my dog not to jump on the bed while I sleep. Up until recently, we've had him sleep in the crate at night, but ideally we'd be able to give Bennie a bit more freedom. He's allowed to hang out with us on the bed during the day, so it's surely confusing that he can't at night. He also doesn't understand English, so we can't just explain to him the rules!

      To teach him the rules, we have to leave the crate door open at night, wait for him to jump on the bed, and then kick him...
  • Gamification
    • Intentionally design for failure statesIntentionally design for failure states
      A failure state is when users fail to reach their goal in some way. In goal striving, it is inevitable that the user will experience failure states, because a goal is by definition a discrepancy between your desired state of reality and your present state. If we didn't have failure states, the Intention-Behavior Gap There tends to be a gap between what people intend to do and what they actually do, Sheeran & Webb 2016::rmn would be a non-issue (rather than one of the hardest problems in t...
    • Difficulty MatchingDifficulty Matching
      The emotional experience of Flow

      A flow state is often characterized as optimal human experience. It’s an experience where you are fully focused and energized in what you’re doing, often experiencing a high level of creativity and losing track of time.

      The general emotional experience that is being described here is that when a task is too challenging for a user’s current level of ability, they’ll get frustrated and give up. Alternatively, when the task is far too easy, they are likely t...
    • Most gamification sucksMost gamification sucks
      Game designers have been designing for digital behavior change for longer than just about anyone. They design the environment that the users interact with and the rules through which all of the user's actions are interpreted. The goal of game design is to influence user behavior to create an intended experience. They understand Behavioral Product Strategy, even if they don't use the same words to describe it.

      Given game design's profound and intentional influence over player behavior, it ast...
  • End-user Programming
    • Domain-specific languages as end-user softwareDomain-specific languages as end-user software
      What I learned from GuidedTrack

      Working on GuidedTrack, I have become very interested in this concept of domain-specific languages as applications. GuidedTrack does this interesting thing where the functions are so high level that it's fairly plug and play to make a research study, form, or choose-your-own-adventure story.

      You can even write your code in a structured editor that lets you fill out a form to generate your code for you. As you get more familiar with the language, you don't n...
    • End-user scripting enables creative workaroundsEnd-user scripting enables creative workarounds
      User skill level increases over time, and people with high User Involvement understand your app’s core mechanisms so well that, when they face a new problem, they are able to come up with creative workarounds by rubber-banding multiple actions together. It's not uncommon for a new user to request a feature, and then have a more experienced user mention that their request is already possible if they do X, Y, and Z things together, but the best the experienced user can do is recommend that sequ...
    • A DSL for a discourse graph with information entry, visualization, and retrieval (on my other hypertext notebook, Scaling Synthesis)

If you are interested in my research on Tools for Thought, see Scaling Synthesis.