33.1 Candy Crush, SnapChat, and Friends

Transitioning away the theoretical analysis of Software Engineering and complexity management, this last section of the Software Engineering series will discuss more on how software has and continue to reshape society in our lifetime.

A Case Study Series

Case Study 1: Candy Crush

The mobile game Candy Crush tracks the number of days you have played in a row. Specifically with the following features:

  • Every consecutive day gets you a reward.

  • Progress tracking features:

    • Progress indicator

    • Up to 2 hours worth of a special item for that day that makes the game more fun.

More importantly: if you miss a day, the counter resets.

Why does this feature exist in Candy Crush?

Specifically, establishing a progress tracker tied with a reward system that punishes you instantly a day is missed? Well, this feature clearly encourages you to engage with the app every day.

Case Study 2: Snapchat

Despite being a slightly outdated example (as people have collectively voted it to be "out of style", unlike Taylor Swift), Snapchat incorporates a very similar feature as Candy Crush to keep users constantly engaged, and stay engaged every day.

Specifically, its "streak" feature has kept many people hooked for a very long time, as seeing the number "509" just makes you can't help but send another random shot of at a random angle that is so blurry with nothing distinguishable but the thick, red "S" sliced across the screen, to a random person from your high school whom you never talk to (True story).


Case Study 3: Friends...?

What are some other engagement generating features? Big, social media tech companies definitely give solid answers.

Based on discussions in class, some of such features include:

  • LinkedIn: How many searches you appeared in.

  • Notifications in general.

  • Stories induce you to see them all.

  • Infinite scroll. (The most evil)

  • Recommendation algorithm on youtube and especially TikTok.

  • Playstation trophies.

Then, a natural question to ask here is, what are some of the positive and negative impacts of these technologies or features on our lives?

Impacts: Net Positive?

Every coin has a flip side, and so do the infamous, addictive technologies.

Going back to the social media case, for example. Some negative impacts of certain social media features that people have discussed include:

  • Addiction

  • Instead of having conversation with people, you fulfill your need to socialize with junk food socialization.

  • Less face to face interaction.

  • Toxic comparisons.

  • Opens you up to manipulation.

  • Fear of missing out (FOMO).

  • Disinformation spreads widely.

However, there are also some positive aspects of this unique, modern champagne problem:

  • Socialize, connection with humans in a way that overcome geographical and sometimes even cultural constraints.

  • Stay up to date with what’s going on.

  • Help you stay educated on important topics and issues.

  • See a wide range of diverse perspectives AND cute dogs.

Example: Is TikTok a net positive to the world?

According to a free, open discussion in lecture, here are some general thoughts:

  • Yes: Wholesome videos! (some)

  • No: Would have to run some numbers, but the time people spend on TikTok could be spent on something more useful.

  • Yes: People can create information, can spread information more easily that is counter to existing power structures.

  • No: People can spread misinformation / inaccurate information.

  • No: Attention spans are getting shorter.

  • No: Company collects massive amounts of information, bad privacy.

  • BIG YES: TikTok creates lot of jobs for people graduating from Berkeley with CS degrees (RIP Meta, FTX, Twitter…).

Whether or not these platforms or technology bring a net positive impact on the world is and will continue to be up for debate. The important message here is the importance to reflect on the social impacts of these technology, especially through a dichotomous lens.

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