If you can't beat them …. change the rules, register a company, convince friends to join, ask them to work for free, spend an outrageous amount of time building an app, just so for once, I might be able to win something!!!
Have you ever tried to win an activity-based competition against Mr. and Ms. Joe public, using one of the many mobile apps available for download? Perhaps it was a competition to do the most steps or maybe cycling from point A to point B in the fastest time. How did you get on? Did you win? Did you even come close to winning? Let me tell you; I've tried, I've tried many times. Everyday cycling to work, I tried to beat Sarah, John, Rajeev, Seref, Barbara, Rina, or any other seemingly super-human person deciding to get on their bike that day. Needless to say, I never won. I never came close to winning.
On my cycle to work, there was a stretch of road that included a steep hill climb. The app I used had this as a timed segment. So, anyone else using the same app, who cycled the same 'segment,' would appear on a leader board.
I planned my strategy and set the date. The following Monday morning would be my time to shine. I would start my ride to work very slowly to conserve as much energy as possible for the hill climb. I would give it everything I had. I would get to the top of the hill and then leisurely cycle the rest of my route to work.
I decided to rest the Sunday before the big day. I did nothing other than clean my bike (that makes it go faster, right?). I pumped up the tyres and left out a banana ready to eat for the morning of my, sure to be, epic victory.
6 am Monday, and I'm wheeling my shiny clean bike out of the garage. I'm pumped; I've already eaten my banana, convinced it would have the same effect as spinach for Popeye. "Go easy," I tell myself as I jump on my bike, "you have 6 km to reach the hill."
I'm now 6 km into my morning ride, and when I turn right at the end of this road, the timed segment begins. I can see that the traffic lights are green at the end of the road and will likely turn red before reaching them. I need all the help I can get, and beginning the segment from a standing start is less than ideal. I wait, I wait for the lights to stay red just for a little longer.
I'm starting to peddle, I'm picking up speed, but the lights are still red. "Change, change to green!" I scream to myself as I get closer to the end of the road. I'm going fast now and starting to panic as the lights are still red. I must be only 10 metres away from the traffic lights that I now think are broken and stuck on red. I'm now going at what could only be considered by witnesses as an absurd speed. Shall I break? I don't know, shall I break?!
They're green. They've changed to green with only a couple of metres to spare. I turn the corner at great speed. Now it's on, what a great start. I'm at the bottom of the hill and starting to climb. I stand on the pedals, giving it everything. The bike is flailing left to right and creaking under the strain. I refuse to look to the top of the hill; I'm just concentrating on applying as much pressure to each rotation of the pedals. I'm going so fast I can hardly believe it.
I must be close to the top now, I'm starting to tire, but I'm still making up good ground. It can't be far to go now. Don't look up, "keep pedalling," I tell myself. A few more seconds pass, and my curiosity is starting to get the better of me. I lift my head to take a sneak peek. I'm nowhere near the top of the hill; I'm not even halfway there. Worst still, I'm starting to feel pretty bad. Both legs are beginning to hurt, I'm slowing down, but I'm still going faster than I would on any other given day.
I finally make it to the top. I've done it. What an achievement. I gave it everything I had, but I'm now a broken man. I can barely catch my breath. I look down at my legs expecting to see actual flames to explain the violent burning sensation. I feel like I'm close to needing medical attention. I throw my bike onto the pavement and wait for my heart to explode in my chest.
I had been telling myself that getting in the top 10 would be my target, but based on that last performance, I think I've won. I could not imagine anyone else putting in that amount of effort today. I have no choice but to crawl the rest of the 10 km to work as I have no energy to muster any respectable speed. I looked like a child who's just had their stabilisers removed, weaving from left to right, barely going fast enough to keep the bike upright. All I can think about is opening the app and seeing myself at the top of the leader board.
After taking a shower, I finally sit down at my desk. I'm like a kid in a sweet shop as I open the app on my phone. I navigate to the leader board as my confidence begins to soar at the thought of seeing my name right at the top in bright lights.
11th, only 11th!!! Are you serious?! You must be kidding me! I nearly killed myself, and all I get is 11th. Look at Jane at the top of the leader board. Does she have a bike or a motorbike? David 2nd, Rajeev 3rd, Kathryn 4th, all those names on the leader board are laughing at me.
So the problem with these activity-based competition apps is simple, It's just not fair competing with people who are better than you. And the solution, that's pretty simple too. Just change the rules, so it's not about the person who does the greatest number of steps or achieves the fastest time from point A to Point B. But instead, give points to users for beating their average.
Let's take a simple steps competition as an example. Two players enter into a 7-day competition. Player 1 typically does around 3000 steps a day. With Player 2 doing about 10,000 a day. If the competition was only looking at who does the most steps over the 7-day competition, it's very likely to be Player 2 that wins. But if each player is awarded 100 points for beating their average (Player 1 does 3001 steps, and Player 2 does 10,001), we are now starting to level the playing field.
We now have a simple solution to a simple problem, but I haven't yet mentioned the most significant issue. Three years ago, when I started looking, this app did not exist. So the obvious next step was to register a company, convince seven friends to join (who, unlike me, have the skills to make this app a reality), collectively spend thousands of hours working on the app. All of this, just so that I can join a competition and have a real chance of winning.
So come and join me for a 7-day steps competition, because I'm feeling pretty confident now. It doesn't matter if you're an athlete or someone who barely moves. Because all I need to do is beat my average to beat you. Download the first version of ileadit on both the Apple and Play Stores and try your luck beating me. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ileadit.android
Paul Mathews, Co-Founder of ileadit
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