I have the Plague

This weekend I caught the Plague.

I’m not sick – just using an app of the name. It’s a simple and somewhat addictive app and anyone interested in the dissemination of information (journalists) should pay attention to it. There is always talk about “gamification” of news and 9 out of 10 times we think that means there should be a game with a journalist as the main character and we follow them along on their investigation.

WRONG (only journalists think this is a fun game concept)

The Plague gets it right: The “game” isn’t about how you get information – it’s how you spread it. The app takes the meme concept and uses a virus as an analogy. You share information and it goes to 4 people close by.

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They then choose to spread it further or not. Your meme can end up spreading all over the world, or just die in your backyard.

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Here are the elements of the app I find enjoyable.

Simple “Tinder-like” swipe.

  • A “passive” user of the app can swipe up to squash a meme or down to spread it. Super quick and easy. A tap brings you to a detailed view to see comments. The comments are rather good because it’s focused on a single idea/photo/etc.

Elements of Secret/Whisper – without anonymity 

  • Everyone is connected to everyone. What you share will go to ‘local’ users first and you don’t necessarily know them, but it’s not anonymous. While there are no profiles to “follow,” you can click into a user profile. As a person who shares – you don’t run the risk of annoying your “followers” – you don’t need to overthink. There is no social media performance. Worst case scenario 4 people you share with will squash your content. But because it’s not purely anonymous the app isn’t filled with the same kind of content Whisper/Secret are – sex confessions/gossip/etc.

Level up

  • In addition to a transparent view of how things get shared (percentage of people who re-share your content, where they are in the world and total numbers) you are given an “infection index” score. The higher it is – the more initial people you get to ‘infect’ with your information.

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Needs improvement on

  • Too much content is re-shared and the app isn’t smart enough to know whether I’ve already passed on(or not) information
  • Too many high-res photoshopped images from “top ten amazing things” blog lists are shared. There are only so many awesome mountain range photos I can stand in one sitting.
  • Minor UI/UX things – but overall the app is pretty sleek. I rather like the loading logo even though it reminds me how morbid the game concept is.

There is something here for journalists to ponder. 

  • What is ‘our’ role vs. the ‘amateur’ role of spreading information
  • The game mechanics of spreading information
  • What will/won’t work in The Plague or other future apps of the same nature
  • The simple intuitive force of the app. It’s not about news – it’s about information –  but each bit is quickly digested and passed on.