Dear diary….just kidding. I’ve created a mobile app. Joined the club, I suppose. I think it is a unique offering in the app world – something that people will enjoy using for a number of reasons – and it’s something I’m passionate about. In my mind, it’s a novel attempt at combining healthy lifestyle, social networking, and real-world socialization - all through encouraging positive behaviors.
There are a number of apps that promote healthy lifestyle, for example Nike Fuel Band, Strava, Jawbone Up, etc. But for me, someone who is naturally resistant to “social networking” in a traditional sense, what they are lacking is the ability to bring like-minded people together in a real-world setting. I believe the desire / need for people to connect is core to our existence, and thus any app that “connects” people virtually, but fails to actually bring anyone together face to face to do things like talk, laugh, share food, share stories…falls short.
This writing is an attempt to do a few of things – first and foremost, explain Rooted based on an understanding of its basic goals. Without a framework of the stated goals, a user’s experience may be fogged. It will also briefly explain how the first “challenge” will work. And lastly, it’s an attempt for me to justify the little bit of skrilla I’ve put into the development of the thing.
The first Rooted Challenge will be run with Dun and Bradstreet Credibility, a damn near perfect partner. They are a progressive company with a strong employee wellness program, and are also very active (no pun intended) in the LA tech scene. Finding people to go out on a limb and support a nascent idea is not easy, so I am very happy that Alison, Catherine, and the whole Dun and Bradstreet crew is excited to participate.
The way the challenge will work:
1. Users enter into 30-day challenge in which a Rooted score is accumulated
2. There will be a kick-off talk explaining the app and how the challenge works
3. There will be 1-2 relevant educational sessions built into the 30 days, as well as a few group workouts
4. Top Rooted scorers will come to an invite only tasting / wine pairing dinner with badass restaurant
The Goals of the Rooted Challenge
Simply put to:
1. Encourage users to eat healthier foods and do more physical activity
2. Bring people with shared values together in a real world environment
Two tactics for achieving these goals:
1. Social encouragement (ok, pressure)
2. Individual recognition / incentivization
To say I’m not the first person to see the power of social encouragement (group pressure and / or competition) to enforce positive (or negative) behaviors is an understatement. Rooted allows users to keep track of their healthy meals and activities, name the dishes they create, take and share photos of their recipes and activities, and see the foods their friends create and activities they complete – all via Facebook or within the app itself. The thought here is that if people see the great foods their friends create and the cool, healthy activities they complete, they themselves will be inspired to do similar. In an ideal world this will happen because users are truly inspired by what their friends are doing. But in the real world, I think many of these behaviors will be driven by people’s competitive nature. Fine by me.
The need for strong social encouragement is the reason I’m running the first (or first few) Rooted challenges in pre-existing, tight knit communities (for example a work place, gym, etc). The success of the app is dependent upon all participants using it, and I believe this is much more likely amongst a group of people that know each other well. If a user does not have other people they care about involved in the “game,” their incentive to participate will be diminished. Once Rooted gains some credibility, the hope is that challenges will be able to be run in more open formats. It’s also possible that challenges will always be run within closed communities. I don’t know.
The second major way Rooted incentivizes users also compliments the second goal of the app – offering top performers a unique, exclusive experience that will inevitably bring people with shared lifestyle values together to socialize. At the end of 30 days, the users with the top Rooted scores will attend a special, invite only dinner. For the first Rooted challenge, the dinner will be held at Allumette restaurant in Echo Park and wines will be poured by 7 Angels Cellars. I could not be more excited that chef Miles Thompson has agreed to prepare a custom tasting menu for the first Rooted Challenge. Miles is a huge rising star in the LA food scene. He and I have a very similar approach to all things life, and his food values are certainly in line with Rooted values.
Moving forward, as Rooted expands and evolves, these dinners may take different forms with different groups of users – for example a BBQ or home cooked meal – potentially reserving a dinner like the one at Allumette for premier challenges. But for a first “proof of concept” running, having a partner like Miles and Allumette is an ideal case scenario and will provide users with a premier experience.
In order for Rooted to be successful, users must understand, and buy into, the points system. The app is not a “fitness” app meant to track miles covered. Nor is it a diet app meant to track calories. I believe that in many situations, the data these types of apps collect is of low value to users.
On the other hand, Rooted is a lifestyle app, and the points system we devised is meant to quantify lifestyle choices. The points system is based on a number of assumptions. We take a big picture approach, instead of getting into the minutia of calorie counting, we encourage users to mainly cook their own food versus eating out, and to choose ingredients that are seasonal, sustainably produced, locally sourced, organic, or even grown or hunted. The more foods with these characteristics a meal contains, the more points that meal will score. Users are also scored higher for eating and completing activities with friends (to encourage socialization).
We chose these characteristics to drive the points system under the assumption that if a user is preparing their own food and choosing ingredients that meet these criteria, dishes will be healthier than most alternatives that they might eat otherwise. Pretty simple, but I think a safe assumption. We hope to put people in touch with the foods they eat, and to make them more conscious of the dietary choices they make. I believe this consciousness is most important when it comes to eating healthy, not necessarily counting calories.
Admittedly Rooted is an experiment. I hope that after the first challenge with Dunn and Bradstreet Credibility, I will have collected some meaningful data that will help guide the progression of the app.
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