Join a Team

What’s missing from a SPOKED game? A few people have been lingering at the bottom of the happiness chart (our leader board). We’re missing their rides. Perhaps the real question is—How do we get the ‘zeros’ to ride their bikes?

Right now, contestants are competing for smiles. One mile equals one smile; Except on super-spoked days (the third consecutive day of riding) when one mile equals two smiles. The good news is that people are riding their bikes, taking advantage of their super-spoked days and pushing each other.

We were hoping that the super-spoked days would level the playing field for the people that aren’t as comfortable on the streets. However, if you aren’t an avid rider and you miss the first three days of riding, there’s no way you’ll catch up to compete. We need incentive for these people too!

So, instead of joining a game to battle on your own, contestants will join a team. Our hypothesis is that a shared goal among a team, will incentivize every contestant to do their part and ride! Contributing to a team effort is better than working to get yourself ahead in the game. It also helps to not alienate the not-so-comfortable riders from the avid riders.

Our goal is to get avid riders to get their friends with dusty bikes to ride. So, back to the main question: How do we get the ‘zeros’ to ride their bikes? I’ve played out a few story scenarios with and without teams in the post: How do we get Wang to ride his bike. Here’s one rather promising one:

It’s a sunny day perfect for riding. The sun beats down on the cobble stone streets of Dumbo. Will Wang ever ride? Mattias rides his bike everyday. Naturally, it makes Wang a little curious. Mattias finds SPOKED and decides to start a game. He invites, rather “summons” Wang into it so that he’ll have an excuse to get on his bike and ride. He can’t say no to helping Mattias beat his friends on the COGS team. Yay! Whoohoo!!

A Story to Tell

In a few short weeks, we will present our thesis project to a very large crowd of people! We need a story to tell that will compel them to listen to us, whether they love biking, or have no idea what it means to ride a bike. Here’s a second shot at our story:

kb: Do you see this hill?
Of course you understand why I left my bicyle at the bottom.
Hi, I’m Kristin. This was the hill I faced everyday in Oslo before getting home from work.

cs: Hi, I’m Carrie.
My pink bike arrived in New York nearly a year ago. And yes, even though New York is very bike-able, I was terrified when I rode it home from the bike shop in the East Village.

cs: Riding a bike in a city has it’s hurdles. I’m lucky because I’ve had Kristin to dare me to do things, that I once considered crazy… like commute 14 miles every day from brooklyn to manhattan.

kb: I will confess, I have the tendancy to try to get people in on things that I know I can’t do on my own.
cs: and I will naively say yes to any (almost any) challenge

cs: We began on our bikes, simply riding to the coffee shops in our neighborhood that were hard to get to with the subway. But before long, this minor habit became our lifestyle.

kb: Because regardless any hurdle, riding a bike sets me free and fills me with fresh air. It makes me happy.

cs: Being dared to go further, or even just getting a taste of riding a bike, will make you happy! I’ve seen it with my very own eyes, and felt it with my very own emotions.

cs: So, we’ve spent the last 9 months, trying to find ways to get people riding bicycles. Today, we’ll tell you about the service we’ve created to do this: SPOKED.

kb:SPOKED is your way to get your friends and co-workers to feel the happiness from riding a bike. (Because we’re only two people, and want to spread the happiness of biking far and wide.)

More ideas in Story Notes.

Let’s focus on what we know

We have come to a point of needing to clarify what we’re making and how it’s achieving our goal. After having spent months in developing the minimal features, we have an MVP that could be framed in multiple different ways.

From research and conversations with bikers, we know that most people start to get into the habit of biking under some kind of social pressure either from a friend, co-worker or culture of a place. For example:

Mark joined the taco tour as an excuse to get back on his bike again after falling out of habit.

Julie bought a bike when she moved to a neighborhood where a lot of people ride bikes.

Our goal is to help busy people get into the habit of riding for transportation. Why? Because we believe that biking brings joy to your life!

Our intention is to create a social event that gives people an excuse to ride and pushes them to dare to go further than usual. Competition, recognition and contribution to a communal goal will push people. Thus, SPOKED is a service for people to self-organize competitive spurts of biking so that they can push themselves and each other to ride more than usual for a constrained 2-week period of time. Our audience includes avid bikers, casual bikers, and dusty bike owners.

We believe that it’s not necessarily about miles, but the pure act of getting on a bike over and over that will get people into the habit. Practice makes perfect.

A look back at our from the fall helped bring clarity to what we’re making:

Goal: Our goal is to get people excited and curious about biking, and to provide a way for people to encourage each other to use their bike more for getting around the city.

Rationale: We will achieve this by giving the user voluntary challenges (initiated by self, friends or their workplace) to push themselves to bike more as well as recruit others to get on their bikes. We are providing consistent feedback on their progress, and enhancing the in-ride experience.

The Bike Pen

Our prototype is coming along, and we’ve showed it to a few people lately. Faculty members Paul Pangaro, Frank Chimero and Amit Pitaru along with our fellow classmates gave us a lot of valuable feedback. They made it clear to us that while it’s cool that we have this prototype, it needs to have a distinct world view. What do we want people to do with it? Bike more? Bike different? Discover new places? Bike together? Just draw patterns?

As our thesis advisor, Willy Wong, said: “So, you’ve made a bike pen…” He then suggested that we should just get it out there, see who uses it, how, and so on. We definitely want to get it out there, and we will! But we still felt there was this missing part, and had a longer brainstorm whiteboard session to find our world view:

The image displays our possible directions when we try to go from Bike Pen to something more:

- to get poster and/or become elite etc
- minimum 200 miles unlocks …
- visit all hoods unlocks …
- number of consecutive days riding unlocks …

- advocate biking
- recruiting

- nurture community
- nudge laxy people
- outsource to local experts
- reward/acknowledge

- poster
- share on facebook/twitter

- storytelling (photos, notes, places). Twitter/Facebook

- constrained time
- versus people
- currency: miles or hoods or number of recruits

- bike habit insights
(weather, frequency, night vs day, hoods)

- take new routes
- discover more of the city
(number of hoods, place suggestions by friends/SPOKED, info about hoods)

- group rides

- share data with city to inform

- air in tires
- tune-up
- change chain
- change tires
based on mileage, season, time

- bike personification
- “joymeter”

Prototype Roundtable Notes

This is what we told our critics:
Our aim is to motivate people to ride bikes.
Our hypothesis is that when you can see where you have been on a map, you will be inspired to go more places.

Our value for the individual is making a record of your life on a bike. If you have friends on the platform, the value added is to compete, be inspired, or collaborate on a map. We also shared with them our working prototype.

The feedback we received:

“It’s both a 1 person video game and a 2 person video game” – Cooper
If it’s about comparing, what choices are you making about how you are showing comparisons—what mechanisms are you using
Ex: velocity vs. acceleration (velocity is how fast you are going, but acceleration is the rate at which you are increasing)—If I’m beating Kristin, at what rate am I beating her; can I compare how well I’m beating her this week to last week?
We should be able to say “I chose this because…”

The overlap is interesting
Is it about documentation or being inspired?
How are we incentivizing people?
Typography on maps
Documenting vs. information
- how do you make the data information
- contextualize it
Tell a few stories of how it’s used

What makes people want to keep coming back to use it?
“See your snazzy patterns emerge on a map” is not enough —amit
Is it only about seeing?
- it’s telling you where you have been in your city and how often you ride; it says something about you
Your bike habits say something about you.
What we’re making: Uses the rides you take on a bike as a form of self expression.
- How do people react at a party?


Having physical activity worked into a busy day without carving out extra time

Being outside and experiencing the environment and nature

Freedom to act on my curiosity, explore and experience new places

I express my image in the things that I wear, the products I use, and I like to create and document my life

Sharing the things that make me happy with my friends and being connected to something bigger than myself

Making progress and getting better at the things I do

Having a bike-friendly city and the feeling that I am doing my part to make the world a healthier place

Good design and quality products. Care about

Independence and transparency

Thoughts in Progress: Values, Tech, Splash Page

Our thought progress after meeting with Willy on February 2, 2012:

1. Altruism & Social Good
selfless concern for the welfare of others

2. Naturally Active Lifestyle
healthy lifestyle, efficiency
“We bike, of course”

3. Adventure & New Experiences
openness to new places and things
love for a place, hunger for life
“Life’s too short for monotony”

4. Connecting with People
sharing life and lifestyle

5. Expressiveness & Creativity
having style
good design, quality products

6. Independence
free of systems and institution

- automate data transfer from email to server
- parse data for processing
- activate processing to render
- display various views: aggregated, groups, individual
- compile stats (ex: distance, time spent riding, neighborhoods covered)
- map views (Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens)
- twitter feed
- notifications for achieved milestones (ex: riding 100 miles, riding for consecutive days, tracking, coloring hoods) and needed encouragement (ex: not riding)

Short Description

1. Choose your color
2. Bike Persona
- Neighborhood Warrior
- Casual Commuter
- Committed Commuter
- Strictly for Pleasure (Leisure Rider)
3. Reserve username with Twitter (or leave email)

- Want 6-10 stories by May based on interviews with bikers
- Get a photo of bikers
- Choose meeting points for each biker
- Tie string on handlebars
Interview Questions:
- Tell us about the places you go on your bike (favorite, where you meet people, latest ride)
- What is your take on weather
- Do you try to get your friends to ride?
- Any strange encounters?
- Goals?

Thesis Advice, v.1

“Ambitious: (of a plan or piece of work) intended to satisfy high aspirations and therefore difficult to achieve.”

While ambitious describes us pretty well, Kristin and I have been both lucky and blessed to have a handful of advisors on our thesis project. Between five consultation meet-ups, we’ve been exposed to many different approaches for the next 3 months that could lead to very different ends (or milestones) in May. While our brains have flooded with the possibilities, below I’ve called out the sticking points.

Advice from Willy Wong
Two of the most important things we can do with our thesis project is to sell our idea, and to sell the lifestyle of biking. Manufacturers of lotion believe that if you just try the product once, you will love it so much that you will keep buying it. If we get people to bike once, is that enough to keep them biking?

Willy encouraged us to think about what the front page of the site looks like on day 1, versus day 2, versus day 4, versus one week later, and so on. What exactly does the service do from the initial sign-up to keep a rider engaged and motivated to ride? And how do we continue to keep people engaged once they’ve hit a plateau and are bored of tracking?

We’ve started to explore a 2-week challenge model, with the option to continue tracking and visualizing bike rides afterward. In this case, our primary user base would use the service like a ‘training program’ for two weeks to get in the habit of riding a bicycle for transportation. We suspect that a few advanced users, mostly data enthusiasts, quantified self fans, or committed storytellers, would use the service long-term.

But, the question remains: how do we get people to exclaim, ‘I can’t live without this’? How do we get people addicted to biking and addicted to telling their story by painting their city on two wheels? What do we tell them?

Willy has poked holes in our concept and given us tips and frameworks for getting started with branding and moving forward with user experience and concept development.

Advice from Amit Pitaru
Amit encouraged us to take a strong stance on our world view in regards to data—OPEN: our users have complete ownership over their data; or CLOSED: we sell the data to large companies for marketing. Both models are viable and are being used by businesses today. Though, we mainly discussed the possibility of having an open source model. Analogues include OpenPhoto ( and and WordPress ( and With both of these, there is a side to the model that offers a service, and a side that is open for developers to build their own service upon using their own data and coding skills.

We believe in data for good. Our users should own their own data. In addition, we see a lot of power in using the mapped riding data to advocate for biking and to show NYC DOT where to paint bike lanes. Regardless of how we set up our business model, we value data ownership with the option to share anonymously for the public good.

Advice from Robert Carlsen
We met with Robert Carlsen, the developer of Mobile Logger, a tracking app for bikers. He developed the app as a part of his thesis at ITP nearly two years ago. Needless to say, he understands the joys and decisions involved with graduate thesis projects.

We were (and still are) impressed with his work, and were excited about the possibility of building of top of his open-source tracking platform. It’s funny that his first recommendation was to ‘not use Mobile Logger’. Not because he didn’t want to share, but simply because it’s two years old and he believes there are much better ways for developing a tracking app now.

In short, we have options for development—some including the Mobile Logger and some excluding it. However, rather than building the entire platform (tracking app and web platform) right away, we’ll first focus on an initial prototype for testing the idea within our short 3-month time period. After meeting with Robert, we’ll look into how Google Fusion Tables can help us collect and store data as well as other iphone tracking apps.

Brand Landscape

Through using Gimmebar, we have collectively captured a bunch of brands that are either competitors, we want to be similar too, or that we believe influence current bikers, potential bikers and so on. We also added some pure visual inspiration. We went after keywords like fitness, tracking, environment, bikes, transportation, social, lifestyle, nostalgia. When laying the cut-outs out on a table, we tried several different axes for structuring. In the end we were happy with the lifestyle vs. fitness axis, but the other yellow stickies became more like their own little islands, than a continuum.

Either way, we agreed that we are definitely closer to the lifestyle than the fitness space, that our brand should be somewhat creative and “designy”. It should be a Vimeo rather than a YouTube. It will appeal to creatives, but not be over the top hipstery, as we do not want to alienate the masses.

Our brand should feel informational (Feltron-style), though our target audience will not be athletes with $10,000 bikes that care about all kinds of very accurate, detailed data about their rides from a fitness perspective (heart rate, cadence etc).

We believe our target audience could be riding quite a lot of different bike types (road bikes, fixies, cruisers), but think that our brand very well could adapt the clean style of the Abici or the Public bikes. We hope to attract even the people that care about the stylish, old-style Pashleys or Gazelles with fancy baskets, leather saddle and all that, but we don’t dare to go in a too romantic, nostalgic direction with the brand.

Finally, we are flirting with the idea of an open source platform, which in itself will inform how the brand is perceived and how it appeals to more “geeky” audiences. We have not reached a decision on this yet, as we’re still researching various ways to go about when building the platform.