Recap of the Apps UX Gamification Design Jam

I’m back from the latest leg on my US tour, the Applications UX Gamification Design Jam.

If you were following the #gamifyOracle hashtag, you might have seen some of what went on, but for completeness sake, here’s my recap.

This was an internal-only meeting held by the Applications UX team, bringing together the entire organization of about 130 people from around the World. In case you didn’t know, Apps UX supports all Applications product families, i.e. Fusion, PeopleSoft, EBS, Siebel, JD Edwards, etc. It’s quite possible that you’ve attended one of their usability labs at Oracle OpenWorld or another conference.

In addition to the entire Apps UX organization, about ten “honored guests” were also invited, including two ACE Directors, Basheer Khan (@bkhan) and Edward Roske (@eroske), and several Oracle people from outside Apps UX.

Unfortunately, Friends of the ‘Lab Bex Huff (@bex) and Floyd Teter (@fteter), weren’t able to make it. They were both missed.

The purpose of the event was to expose the UX team to gamification and get them thinking about design paradigms to support adding game mechanics into enterprise applications. After a brief introduction of concepts, the day was spent working in teams. Each team was assigned an application flow and had to build a game and experience around that flow; the goal was to create an engaging experience around a business task.

Each team presented its work in a three-minute pitch at the end of the day, and attendees voted for a winner by investing virual currency.

I was on the Chun-Li team. Yes, that Chun-Li, the one from Street Fighter II and considered by some to be “the first lady of fighting games.” And yes, all the teams were named after characters of major games. Our task was to integrate various game mechanics into the traditionally dull task of creating objectives for an annual performance appraisal.

We spent morning brainstorming ideas and the afternoon honing the pitch and building high fidelity mockups. The team of UX people did all the heavy-lifting, while I contributed ideas and chatted, adding very little value beyond banter.

I expect that Ultan (@ultan) will blog a more thorough retrospective on the day, so I’ll skip a lot of the details and move on to my own antics.

At checkpoints during the day, we reported our progress to the game admins, who awarded points and badges. A few members of the UX team in Guadalajara built a sweet app that we used to check-in to our teams at the start of the day and that tracked our team’s progress throughout the competition, detailing badges we earned, mechanics we had unlocked with our design, and showing our overall ranking with the other teams.

There was also a leaderboard ranking all the teams projected on the big screens in the conference center, which showed real-time movement as the teams gained points.

At the beginning of the day, Erika Webb (@erikanollwebb), the moderator and one of the brains behind the jam, conceded that like all games, this one could gamed. Personally, I’ve always seen this as success, not failure, given that it means the game has succeeded by engaging users.

That admission felt like a challenge, so in the afternoon, I decided to start poking around for entry points. First, I earned our team an expertise badge by selecting all the attributes available on my personal profile. Easy stuff. Then, I tackled the points problem.

Team points were not completely transparent, and teams rose on the leaderboard, without any real explanation of why.

Being toward the bottom, I decided to see if I could hack in to get Team Chun-Li some respect.

My first approach was a brute force attack on the Admin page, which I easily found. After trying some easy passwords in combination with the emails of the admins I knew and failing, I decided to sniff the JS files included on the page.

Among several files, I found an admin.js file, which looked promising. Using the JSView Firefox add-on, I scanned the file for information. The app used JSON in the open, which was promising, since I could test using the browser with no authentication. After a couple tests and some digging, I found the ID for our team and began constructing URLs.

I started out by granting us all the badges available, just to test. Everything went well, and no one complained. So, I found a function that granted points and started adding to our total, a little at first.

The game page showed a maximum of 200 points, so after a few more increments, I decided to push past that number.

No one outside our team had noticed that Chun-Li had shot to the top of the leaderboard and exceeded the 200 point maximum. So, I upped the ante to 1,000 for giggles.

That got us noticed. To their credit, Laurie Pattison (@lsptahoe), Erika and the whole team seemed to find this funny and were good sports about it.

In my defense, Laurie had essentially dared me to hack their app earlier in the day, right after I had given up on breaking into their admin app, and for the record, I never intended to cheat and win. It was fun for me, and I hope no one got too annoyed. I think I accidentally took down the app by passing it a negative value, but luckily, all this required was an easy restart.

Thinking back on the day, a ton of work went into producing this event, which had fun challenges, cool apps, videos and a whole host of production behind it.

So, shouts go to Laurie, Erika, Ultan, the team of developers from Guadalajara and everyone involved. A good time was had by all and thanks for inviting and subsequently tolerating me.

Final notes, Ultan attended and showed something at the Maker Faire over the weekend, and I’m really hoping he plans to blog about that. I’m very interested to read about it. Also, Erika will be showing something cool at the GSummit in June. Looking forward to that.

Find the comments.

Update: Ultan has posted both a recap of the Design Jam and tales of his day spent at Maker Faire. Good reads.




  1. I guess we’re gonna need a Hack the App badge next time. Will get around to blogging shortly. Thanks for contributing more insights. In the meantime, here’s a video:

  2. Bex’s First Law of Gamification: If your system is a game, then people will game the system 😉

    Looks like I missed a lot of fun this week! Dang…

  3. Jake- so glad you could participate! Our estimation of you went even higher when you showed us your hacker cred. Ou game is beta, so consider yourself a contributor to the next gen. I’ll second your comments on missing Bex and Floyd. We’ll try to do someing at the next Ace Directors meeting, guys.

  4. Sweet, will watch that soon. You and Noel should chat about the Sun SPOT we have. He hasn’t messed w it yet, but you might have a higher level of interest, given the context of Java+Maker Faire.

  5. Hadn’t seen that, impressive stuff. Missing the hundred rendering kick though, a.k.a. lighting kick 🙂

  6. I recall having a long debate about gaming vs. the impossible to game system w someone here at Oracle. He wanted to build an impregnable fortress none one could game. I said essentially, that’ll be a lonely fortress. No one wants to cheat at a boring game.

    Transparency of scoring is key too, i.e. driving people to understand how points and rewards are earned keeps many from figuring out on their own.

    Games evolve to curb cheating.

  7. Thanks again for having me. I have no hacker cred, so a positive number is a good thing. Like I said in my bio, I like breaking things.

  8. And blog on the Gamification event itself is here:

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