A streak counter counts the number of days in a row that you do an activity. If you miss a day, then your streak resets to 0.
As a concept, a streak counter is an intervention for encouraging users to do a bare minimum amount of a repetitive activity each day (time unit). It does this by defining first what the bare minimum requirement of action is per day, and then it motivates users to maintain that through loss aversion and the endowment effect, which just means that people place value on what they own and want to avoid losing it. When the user builds up a streak, they build up a sense of ownership over said streak, making a 5-day streak less psychologically valuable than a 15-day streak which is less valuable than a 45-day streak. The user then continues that streak because they want to avoid losing that streak. - These "work" based on: - endowment effect - The more days people have built into their streaks, the more of a sense of ownership they take over it, making the streak more valuable to maintain. - loss aversion - People really dislike losing something they value, so they'll work extra hard to maintain the streak.
Essentially, they're working to avoid some negative outcome, but once that negative outcome happens, what reason do you have to start again? They are only motivating while you have it, but when you lose it, people may be demotivated and fail to start again. All they had worked for was for nothing, and it may take them weeks to earn it back, making starting over feel tedious. This is a crappy failure state.
I'll just go ahead and leave this quote here:
Yesterday I fell asleep before I finished the session or I left the app open or something, and this morning the counter had zipped back to 1. I was unreasonably upset about it. I felt like the previous 380-something days had been for nothing. I was useless. I should have found time in the day to do it instead of falling asleep partway through. Why couldn’t I just have done better.