IAmA cofounder of Fitocracy, the real-life fitness RPG that got its start on Reddit. AMAA
Hi Reddit, this is Brian, one of the founders behind Fitocracy. Fitocracy is a social network that helps you reach your fitness goals by turning working out into a real life RPG. We try to make fitness as addictive as leveling up or getting epic loot.
Fun fact, we got our start on Reddit when we brought the idea to Fittit. We're now closing in on reaching over 1 million users.
We're available on iPhone and just launched Fitocracy for Android.
If Fitocracy has been helpful to you in any way and you'd like to support us, consider becoming a Hero (equivalent to Reddit Gold).
(Yes, I do even lift.)
Thanks for the time, Reddit! Sorry that I couldn't reply to each and every question. If you ever want to get in touch, feel free to send me a message at [email protected]. Questions, comments, compliments, hate mail, and corn dogs are all welcome.
I was expecting this one!
The past 2 years have taught me a lot of hard lessons in product management, setting expectations, and how public you want to make certain promises. There's no doubt that we've fallen short on a lot of what we originally said to do. It's been a combination of hubris, naivete, and inexperience.
Related to your second question: it was a matter of observing user behavior and understanding what opportunities ahead of us existed. When we realized that there was a real, vibrant community emerging on Fitocracy, one with its own unique identity and personality, we decided to cultivate and nurture it as much as possible. And so far, it seems like this was the right decision... as our engagement numbers are unusually high for the category and to date, very few other fitness apps can claim the same dynamic that exists on Fitocracy.
As for the RPG features themselves, without divulging too much*, we are aiming to bring a bit of what was originally promised into the next big iterations. The major theme will be about guiding you along your journey, whatever that might be.
*Unfortunately can't provide as much detail as I would like because, well for one, I already noted how promises usually doesn't add value for anyone involved and secondly, as visibility has increased, our competitors have started to watch us more closely and in some cases have even copied parts of our roadmap.
And so far, it seems like this was the right decision
How are you evaluating this? I know quite a few people that were put off by some of the changes, and they were mostly alpha users. Are you basing "right decision" on what makes the most money?
Any change to a product is bound to upset a certain % of your users. I'm not saying that as a statement that we don't care about user opinion, especially early ones. It's simply a reality that needs to be accepted.
We are evaluating this based on our user engagement and growth metrics. From a 10,000 foot view, it was absolutely the right decision. Yes, individuals and groups were angry and left and that's unfortunate. But if you've ever built a product and dealt with a non-trivial number of users, then you know everything is a tradeoff.
Is putting off alpha users in favor of making Fitocracy appeal to, and therefore able to help, more people not the "right decision"? Should they make less money and be less accessible in order to placate alpha users?
Maybe I'm overanalyzing your last sentence.
It just seems like, if you initial userbase leaves in droves, one would say "man, this is a bad decision". So there has to be some other way their evaluating decisions. Usually this means "what is going to make us the most money?"
You're making an assumption that users left in droves. They didn't.
Translation: doing this instead made us more money and helped guarantee further investment.
At the time that this transition even started happening, we had 0 revenue and 0 investors. We hadn't had a single investor conversation that would hint that this would generate interest.
I appreciate your guess, though.
Do you even lift?
Shouldn't you be working?
How do you decide how many points exercises are worth? Maybe it's my build, but sometimes low point exercises are harder for me, than a lot of high point ones. Similarly, how do you determining the upper cap on weight/reps? I recently hit the cap on some things. Why even have a cap? Just for sanity checks, or do high numbers actually break your points algorithm?
I have asked him this many times over different channels and never get a reply. I think it's hardly balanced that a squat 300lbx1 gets 110 points and 300lbx3 gets 161. Each rep on a triple is much harder than doing three singles, so this makes absolutely no sense to me.
I've heard the "we want to encourage certain rep ranges" argument, but I think this approach makes the game very imbalanced and rather discouraging.
The short answer here is that the scoring system is "dumb." It doesn't take your workout history into account and thus cannot tell if a heavy single is your 1RM or simply you ramping up to heavier weights. As a result, there are bound to be dynamics that don't make sense in the grand scheme of things. We do aim to make the system more intelligent as soon as we can, but that requires more engineering resources, which we do not currently have.
What I've heard in the past is that, if you can do more than one rep, then the weight isn't the most challenging possible weight for you, and thus the incremental points decline with each rep. (This explanation probably makes more sense for a weight that you can bust out 6-10 reps of.) In any case, my workout decisions aren't driven by points. To me, the points are useful as a gauge of my personal progress over time, not against others. So I'd actually prefer if they didn't make radical changes to the scoring system.
Definitely agree that I'm not going to base my training on how many points I get, but I think the system should be more in tune with progress in general. For example, I swapped from SL to Madcow to 5/3/1. I was getting ~3-4K per workout on SL, then 2,5K, then I barely make it to 2K now. I am definitely much stronger than I used to, but I'm getting less points. This has driven me to not care about one of the core features of the site, which is really my point.
FWIW, I run in to the same exact issue as you do. The solution is to account for your progress over time, which our system currently does not handle.
Would you rather fight a Talens-sized dick or a Dick-sized talon?
The latter sound terrifying and sharp, so I'd have to go with the former.
srsly. do you lift?
sources and pls show your work
Jen, pls go
Any plans on adding some new achievement badges? 1 year member, 2 year member, beta user, Prop bomber (for giving our X number of props), Worked out x consecutive days,...
Yes, absolutely. Both social as well as fitness related. For starters, rowing certainly needs more love.
Launching a web/app startup is obviously the sort of thing that will completely take over a person's life. Sometimes I wonder, what sort of life and career did you EXPECT to have before fito came into being?
Do you think fitocracy will reach a point where it becomes more of a 9-5 for you? If so, how would you spend your free time when you're not lifting?
Thanks for asking!
Before Fitocracy, I expected to work in the management consulting industry for some time, perhaps go get an MBA, and then figure things out along the way. Pretty typical pattern for a UPenn grad. Fortunately, though it didn't seem so at the time, I never wound up at the consulting firms I wanted to. My dissatisfaction with the job I was working at the time likely had a factor in my decision to start Fitocracy.
Will Fitocracy reach a point where it's a regular 9-5? I'm not sure. It's hard to fathom not being "on" all day right now. It pretty much consumes my waking life (and sometimes during sleep as well). That's probably not healthy and at some point, I should probably tone it down. But we're a very young startup and so everything you do matters a lot. When you're not sure if the company will be around a year from now, you need to make sure you do everything you can to keep things going.
Hi Brian, thanks for doing this AMA and for Fitocracy. I'm a big supporter. In the old, old Fitocracy, there used to be a feed filter where I saw the chatter from my groups as well as the workouts from my friends in the same feed. Is there any plan to bring that back? Right now, I think most people keep it on "my groups" and never see their friends' workouts.
Yes, better, more intelligent filtering in the feed is planned.
When will sex be added?
Edit: Thanks for the Android app!!
I believe that's known as "other cardio" in Fito-land :)
Can you explain your technology stack?
CSS via LESS
Celery for tasks queuing
New Relic for server monitoring
Git/Github for version control
Fabric and custom scripts for deployment
First of all, congratulations on creating something that a bunch of people seem to like a lot. That's no small achievement!
That said, I stopped using Fitocracy some time ago and am unlikely to return for a number of reasons. I sent you guys an email at one point that made a few suggestions and never got a response, then got a spammy "Heyyy [insert name] you should come back to Fitocracy!" email a few months later. I responded to that email and again got no response.
As others are saying, it seems that your sole priority is creating a social networking site, while the graphs and charts are an afterthought. There are many easily implementable things you could do to drastically improve the data aggregation and visualization aspect of the site. While perhaps a small minority of your users care strongly about this aspect, some modest improvements would make the site infinitely more appealing to them.
It's your company, of course, and I'm sure you are primarily driven by what is likely to be a profitable product, but it seems disingenuous to brand yourself as kinda quirky and nerdy to appeal to the Reddit crowd.
Best of luck.
Thanks for the feedback!
Our CTO, Daniel, has been practically gnawing my ear off about focusing more on data visualization and aggregation for the past several months. Fortunately, this is something we're now finally moving toward.
What is your end goal with the site? IPO, be bought out by a fitness based website?
I'm not particularly concerned with the long-term financial outcome currently. Obviously I think about it, but I'm more interested in growing Fitocracy to be a company that can help improve as many lives around the world as it can. If we accomplish that, the money will follow.
What sort of thing do you look for when hiring a web developer? Portfolio, previous experience etc.
Thanks, and fitocracy is awesome!
If you have a word for Penis in your name you're hired.
A rarely mentioned, but important, criteria.
Portfolio is hugely important. We receive a lot of resumes but without a decent Github profile and/or examples of projects you've shipped, it's enormously hard to determine if you know what you're doing on paper.
How are you guys doing in the business sense? Are you guys pulling in more money than you thought you would at this point?
I've seen more and more talk/arguing over the use of potentially offensive language and slurs. Some people are able to laugh it off, some get really bent out of shape. All communities run into this issue once they get to a certain size. What is your take on the issue and how do you see fitocracy dealing with this in the future?
Wouldn't be prudent of me to talk about that.
Regarding offensive language, it's a pretty difficult problem to combat. In general we try to mediate as much as possible in comment threads - enormous shout out to Jen, who is an amazing community support person. At times we restrict certain language to individual groups (e.g. /fit/), and we are pretty quick to ban users who bring vitriol and unacceptable behavior outside of those groups.
In terms of a long term solution... hard to say. Still searching for it.
What platform did you use to develop the original website version of Fitocracy? Did you use Google App Engine, Amazon, or WordPress?
I'm pretty sure it was sticks and glue.
How much revenue are you guys generating and through which methods?
Sorry, can't answer that.
Are you profitable? How are you funded?
they deal creatine on the side. keep it on the dl though
One word: grapefruits.
Why did you guys make two separate fitness apps instead of building on your mobile site?
Also, why did you release the Android app when it was (and still is) terribly unstable?
If the Android app is still unstable for you, then contact [email protected]. The number of crashes we've been seeing on the latest version has plummeted in the past week.
As for separate fitness apps, a simple explanation:
- Native app experiences trump mobile web experiences in almost every way right now. Rare are the moments you find this isn't the case.
- Distribution (user acquisition) is far superior on the App Store and Google Play
So recently I got FitBit (last week), to help me get kick-started to losing some weight. It links with multiple apps and does a few bits and pieces that are pretty neat, but looking at your site, it feels like this would be perfect to keep me motivated about losing weight.
The question here is, are you thinking about integrating things like the FitBit into your site for some more granular information, maybe even adding things like calories burnt into you leveling up mechanic (?)
I hope this doesn't get lost in a sea of questions.
We do plan to offer FitBit integration eventually. It'd be unfair to offer a timeline at the current moment, however.
How do you see your team expanding in the near and distant future? I understand there's a lot of demand for changes (quests, scoring, new exercises, etc.) and new implementations (calendar, RPG elements, etc.) but not enough time to address them all in a reasonable fashion. Are there any barriers keeping you from expanding at the moment?
The primary resource constraint in any early stage tech startup lies in software development and design and we're no different. When we start to hire again, priorities will be to find more design resources (only one guy handles design and UX across all 3 products right now) as well as more engineers. After that, likely community management and data science.
Is related only to the site, or can I ask fitness questions? If I can... what is a good dietary way to gain weight to supplement protein shakes? This is SoldierPrince, BTW.
Eat food. Simple as that. If you're not gaining weight, then start upping your calories. Oatmeal, rice, steak, chicken, protein powder, weight gainers, cheeseburgers, whatever the hell will get you to start putting on mass.
Obviously you should be judicious here, but hey, if you're having trouble gaining weight, the only solution is to eat more.
My diet is mostly cheeseburgers, protein shakes and DFAC food (I'm Army). I have a fast metabolism, so it's hard to gain.
Are there any absolute no-go's for a gainer diet in your opinion (i.e. sodas and sugars)?
It depends on how your body reacts to mass quantities of sugar. Generally I wouldn't recommend using sugar as your primary carb source, but if you need to get more calories, you gotta do what you gotta do.
What do you have access to?
Are you considering updating the apps with new features? Right now, creating/changing workouts is cumbersome, particularly on the fly.
I like updating my fitocracy account, but hate using the app which means I have to copy data from a useful/flexible tracker (jefit) to the website.
Yes, a superior tracking interface and interactions are being prioritized on the roadmap.
Most of the questing system seems to benefit people who are going towards a gymnastic style of fitness vs a strong man type of fitness. Do you have any plans to expand the quests so that us heavy lifters can get in on the super high point categories as well?
Example: The Hercules
Quest 1000pts Perform 5 Deadlifts at 3x Bodyweight in one workout.
This would make more sense than hiking/backpacking quests this time of year considering it's pretty cold outside and those activities are pretty dangerous on ice.
Also, would you consider grouping variations of exercises under one aggregate root? The search system is currently very difficult to use.
Example: (Group) -> (Exercise) -> (Variation) -> (potential Sub-Variation)
Back -> Pull-Up -> L-up/Extended Leg -> Weighted
Yes, absolutely. Our Quest database needs a big refresh.
Do you have a job you work alongside Fitocracy? (I guess the unspoken question that goes hand-in-hand with that is, is Fitocracy making any money and/or enough to support you financially? I know you guys aren't rich fat cats or anything but you know what I mean.) Did you have one at the beginning and have to split your time?
Fitocracy is my full time job, along with the rest of the team. We are generating revenue, but we also have private investors behind the company. Extremely common scenario for technology companies.
How many users do you guys have now?
Where can I file bugs on the Android app? It's been crashing, alot, and not completing quests.
I just signed up for an account, and it already had the correct year for my birth date. Is that just a freaky coincidence?
Did you use Facebook to create an account?
What happened to the RPG features of Fitocracy that were originally a big selling point? Why has the site turned into a Fitness Facebook?
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