Wordle Is Humane Technology

I listen to a podcast called “Your Undivided Attention” by a group called The Center For Humane Technology. Their core premise is that technologists should be using technology to help people achieve their own goals instead of hacking behavioral science to addict them to devices and programs.

It made me think of the game Wordle that is sweeping through our feeds. It’s an example, I think, of Humane Technology. By limiting its play to once a day (for 5-15 minutes, usually), it resists aiming for success metrics of constant engagement. It’s not about ads. The way you share your results isn’t even a direct means of promotion–there’s no link or tracker. (It’s telling that this was created by a software developer for his girlfriend.) It succeeds by being a short, daily delight.

It went viral on its own merits, and it isn’t greedy about getting engagement. It doesn’t (appear to) have any ulterior motive other than to delight. I’m sure there are boardrooms where executives are gnashing their teeth, trying to monetize this Thing People Enjoy. There are app developers who have tried to sell apps to replicate or even skin this game. Happily, the Apple App Store has, so far, taken them down.

In an Age of Surveillance Capitalism, this little web game feels downright subversive. Maybe that’s part of the delight. It’s a throwback to when the internet was a playground, filled with labors of love.

Wordle has refreshed my interest in little short-session, “taking a break” games that aren’t engineered to dominate your time and attention. Some of my go-tos:

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