Saturday, June 14, 2008

A brief fantasy of a web application

that I might like to write as a hobby if my day was three times as long...

If your spouse thinks your child is poorly behaved, while you think your child's behavior is fairly good for her age, how do you decide where the truth lies? Is one of you too lax, or does the other has unrealistic expectations for a 3-year-old? The truth may lie in a large scale study that would let one compare their child's behavior against that of thousands of other children of the same age. Where would one easily come across such data? Why, that's where internet and social networks come into play.

There could be a web-based application that allowed a parent to record a child's daily tantrums, as well as episodes of good behavior. Then it could draw various statistical conclusions from those numbers. At the very least it would let a parent to discover where their child falls on the curve of his or her peers. This would, of course, require many parents' participation. They would need to track every instance of their offspring's good or bad behavior: every tantrum, every "please" and "thank you", and so on.

Mind-numbingly tedious? You bet. But, if the latest explosion of social web applications is any indication, people like to do mind-numbingly tedious things, as long as they get to do them on the internet. :-) Well, a certain category of people do. Witness the popularity of Twitter. If people don't get tired of posting what they ate for lunch, some of the same people might become just as obsessive about posting their child's behavioral microupdates. And of course they don't have to be at a computer for that. A text messaging-enabled cell phone is enough.

The internet indeed has a way of converting tedious chores into games. It's a quality that's already been leveraged by such applications as Chore Wars, where players get points for chores they do. Once you get stoked about beating fellow players, you don't even notice that you've finished cleaning your kitchen! Indeed humans (or a certain category of humans) are all about keeping scores. So an application that exploits this urge has a potential to do well.

And let's not forget that parenting is a competitive sport anyway -- so if anyone is inclined to keep scores, parents would be among those people! :-)

No comments: