SXSWi Panel: Sustaining Passionate Users

It’s been a week since South By Southwest Interactive ended, and now that I’m finally back into a routine, I wanted to share some of the amazing stuff I learned through the conference.  I’ll be posting a new one each day this week.

Today’s topic: Sustaining Passionate Users, presented by Stephen P. Anderson.

There was a lot of talk this year about gameification.  There are a number of people who believe that turning applications into games will motivate users to buy products or make lifestyle choices.  In this talk, Anderson posed the question — how do we get people to stay in love with our products/services?

Basically, the answer is by sustaining users through delightful challenges that foster intrinsic motivation before extrinsic.  That means — games are fine, but they end.  There has to be something else inside.

Anderson explained that play and challenges have to be at the core of whatever you develop, because learning challenges lead to mastery.  He used teacher attitudes as an example — that if a teacher presents material with the belief that it’s interesting (rather than sugar-coating it), students are more likely to want to learn it.  (This is the kind of stuff that’s innate at my son’s school — we’re so lucky!)

Once you have the challenge, you present another intrinsic motivation — choices and conflicts, such as limited duration and competition.  Then you build in feedback loops, which are the secret to changing human behavior.  Plus, attaching a measure to anything turns it into a game.

And finally, you introduce goals and rewards — the extrinsic motivation — like badges and points.  The sugar coating!

But it can’t just be a game.  You have to do more than delight.  It must:

  • Be reliable
  • Be easy to use
  • Be affordable

You have to provide a service that is trustworthy and of value.


  • Look for the game that’s already there
  • Focus on intrinsic motivators

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