Creator Stories: Kenneth Schlenker
Gian Ferrer
November 15th, 2021

This article is a transcript of a live interview conducted by Jenil. If you want to attend our next Creator Stories episode, join our Discord and follow us on Twitter. We hope you’ll enjoy the conversation as much as we did! 😉

Make sure to follow Kenneth on Twitter, and check out his app, Opal!

Hey Kenneth! Thank you so much for joining us for Creator Stories! Can you give a quick background on what you are up to and what led you to making your $KENNETH token?

Just a little bit of history about this token, I'm sort of aware of the history of social tokens, and I had the chance to meet with Alex Masmej, who is the founder of a company called Showtime. He had created a social token, and that's sort of how I was first initiated to them. I'm, like many of us, just super interested in how Web3 is basically the future and how every piece of innovation is definitely going that way.

I thought about what is the best way for me and my community to learn at the same time about the potential of Web3. And so, it’s probably better to start a currency, than it is to just buy into other projects, because I'm going to learn more. That's really the initial starting point.

With the work I've been doing with Opal, it has really been about helping people change their behavior, specifically around screen time. It's about how do you change your habits for the better, in a world where we have so many distractions, and so many reasons not to take the most healthy decisions. And so, I think that crypto has just an incredible way to reward people in a way that wasn't even possible before.

I became really interested in thinking about how we reward people for positive health behavior. Generally speaking, if you run every day or decide to take a break from your phone every day, should you be rewarded for that with some currency? Apps like ours (Opal), but also many other health apps you can think of, have been interested in building mechanisms to reward people like point systems, and giving you stats in the app. But there's still no major project that rewards people with actual currency.

So anyway, that's sort of the general introduction, and that's really what $KENNETH is. I'm building a social token that's linked to me as an entrepreneur and as a person. I want to use that coin to experiment with ways to reward people for positive health behaviors.

It's really interesting to see this intersection between health and crypto, especially now that you can now program incentives into existing behaviors, and see how that could play out. I feel like, since that is the vision, maybe you can talk a little bit more about what are some of the goals that you see the token playing in the short and long term of how health and crypto could evolve together. How do you see this evolving?

Long-term, I think every app or piece of software that is about helping you change or improve your behavior should reward you with a token. I think it's an extraordinary way to help people change behavior, right? Like what if, instead of having points when you run on Strava, do meditation on Calm, or fill out your journal on an app, you get actual currency from that that has value? I think it would be a really powerful way for people to adopt positive behavior.

You can think of a lot of ways in which your people will be incentivized to actually buy into that, right? Like, you can even just think of governments trying to make sure their population stays and remains healthy as long as possible.

What if we would help assign value to a coin like this? Health insurance companies and many others could also help. People in the community who want to make sure that health has value could also become liquidity providers in a currency like that.

So long-term, I think a coin like that should be used to reward every person that has a positive health behavior.

It's a small experiment right now, and so for the short-term, what I want to do is just run a bunch of experiments around that, and see what works best. The first experiment is going to be around screen health — which I think is very important for our mental and physical health, — making sure we take breaks, and that we don't spend too much time in front of screens. We’ll run some competitions in the coming weeks on Twitter where we're going to compete for time off-screen, and give tokens to people who win these competitions. So I have these ideas around that, and I want to encourage other friends that have other health and fitness apps to do the same. I actually have a few already that are very interested in the fitness and mental health space.

I think if we can prove one or two good use cases, people will get really excited and start to compete in positive health behavior and really enjoy receiving tokens for that. I think we can build something really significant with many different apps, websites, and programs around the world.

Yeah, I totally agree. Like, especially now, a lot of people that are working in Web3 or are just on the internet, are just sitting in front of a screen, right?

I know there's this notion that to build long-term habits, you need to double up on these feedback loops, and I believe that what we're trying to achieve from these goals is to create these positive feedback loops that we stick on, rather than doing a one-off thing. Instead of working out for a period of three months and getting healthy, you develop a habit and work out every day, so that you're more consistent.

Talking more about some of the short-term experiments that you've mentioned, what does that look like for somebody that's interested? If it starts with something like aiming to reduce the screen time of people that are using Opal, how do people participate? What are some of the metrics that we go after to achieve these goals? And what are some of the benefits of manifesting those habits? How do you see those feedback loops building overtime?

Yeah, sure. A way of getting involved -- I think the simplest right now -- would be to follow me on Twitter and I will announce the upcoming challenges there. The way it would work is essentially with the mobile app. Currently, when you download the app, we give you a bunch of metrics. What we give you is, just your overall screen time, and you can set a goal.

By the way, the way we measure screen time is slightly different from how Apple or Google measures screen time, because we focus on the time you spend on apps that are most distracting. So we have Instagram, Twitter, Discord, Slack, and other apps. And we basically add up that time, and give you stats on how much time you spend on it every day. So that's one way.

Another interesting thing is that I think in today's world, it is increasingly hard to have a deep focused time where you're just not distracted, and you can do deep work, really focus, and create. For a lot of people, it's so important because it's the time we’re most creative or productive. Maybe we can use this as another metric.

Another metric that we can use also is the time you’re off your phone, so that you can actually do other things like work, or be outside. Through the app, they can block the internet or access to specific apps on your phone for a set time.

I'm thinking that the first competition is probably going to be on screen time. We’ll try to see if we can get people to stay (for example) an entire day, without checking their phone. Then, the proof of that would be through screenshots of the Opal app from the beginning of the challenge. So it's not like a proof that will be inscribed to the blockchain right away. It will just be like you posting on Twitter, and then we're gonna give tokens away to people who reached the goals.

Yeah, that's amazing. I really liked that because I think that if you enforce this via screenshots, maybe that's much more verifiable than just directly on the blockchain. People can just use the Opal app as a way to see who's tracking their screen time, making some progress.

I know you mentioned ideas around maintaining a leaderboard. Let's say people participating over the next few weeks are actively manifesting these positive habits, and they're making substantial progress. How do you see this leaderboard evolving over time and what are some ways that we can create incentives that continue to have these people follow these habits, rather than just doing short-term experiments?

We've been in this field for over a year now, building this up, and we're actually discussing internally a lot about competition, and whether to allow people to compete or not. Because on the other hand, we're very conscious about the fact that we don't want to make people feel bad, and sometimes, competition can make people feel that way. So we’re trying to reach that balance.

We've experimented with a bunch of things, but we haven't yet found exactly the right way to build something like a leaderboard. It's just about finding the right metrics. I'm hoping that these Twitter competitions will help us also get feedback from people.

I think screen time is probably the best metric to start, where you just try to beat your own score, and we can actually measure that quite well. Then, we can possibly allow people to compare their scores on that metric. That is how we're thinking about it now, but we’re also open to feedback because we're still experimenting.

I really liked this idea that you can just compare your scores, but you made an interesting point that if I was to put a screenshot, I wouldn't want to have it out there in public, or maybe even see other people’s, because that would maybe embarrass me that I'm doing too bad. People around me are possibly much more at a different level than I hoped it was going to be. It could make me feel like “Oh, I have a long way to go.” Almost like when you go to a gym and you see these people that are extremely fit.

If you find a balance where you’re like “Hey, everyone has their own journey”, and as long as you make progress in that journey, you're doing well. Maybe that's a good way to track success.

I think you're right. Like for sure, you have to start somewhere. Obviously one of the reasons why phones are addictive is that it releases dopamine, and one of the things that research shows about dopamine release addiction is how you can change it by gradually teaching your body and mind to live without it. And it's usually our thing, right? Like we try for a short period of time, and then you make it a little bit longer.

There’s actually a really interesting post that I saw on Twitter last night from Andrew Wilkinson, who is this designer and design studio owner. He openly shared his journey around phone addiction, and it's quite interesting just to see that this is something that everyone experiences, and I think there is also a little bit of shame. There are billions of people in the world, and there's just a small number of people that are conscious about it, and it's increasing every day.

What we're trying to do is to make it okay for people to accept and own it and make some changes.

Right. It's interesting because if you look at these really short dopamine releases, a lot of apps, and product management teams of these companies really target these metrics.

How do we create these habits where there's a short dopamine release, and you're almost stuck in that loop, where getting out of that is difficult? You can't just go ham and assume that your brain chemistry will just adapt to those changes. Maybe you need to do some amount of work, or it's a gradual process where you just decrease the amount of connection that you have with the thing that's causing that dopamine release. Then, overtime, your brain could adapt to that new change. And those receptors can almost reset, right?

Absolutely. Yeah, that's a really good way of describing how it works. That's why I really liked the idea of small steps and just being able to do an hour without checking whatever it is that you check most often. It could already be a great first step, and then do a little bit more every time. I think we can encourage people to take that first step, and then to essentially increase that step.

One interesting thing that I've seen is the feature where there is a set time when you're about to go to bed, and then there's this time where it almost shuts off for like an hour or two, where I can almost stay away from my phone before I go to bed. That was helpful to me because I'm in India, and a lot of my meetings are with people that are in the US or in Europe, which is why a lot of my meetings are at night.

I used to really find it difficult to sleep right away, just because I’m used to being on my laptop, doing meetings, or maybe being on my phone. But with that time, that conscious effort, I was able to just keep my phone and laptop away. I saw a genuine shift.

I go to bed really quickly now. And I could even go to bed a lot earlier. So maybe those are some habits that could really make you sleep better. If you sleep better, there's a lot more recovery.

I'm really glad to hear that it helps you in that way. I mean, same for me. In the end, it comes down to cutting off time, especially before bed. It's very important because there is a lot of research around that. There are blue lights that support melatonin release in your body. That's what you need to be able to sleep. But, also the mental load of what we do on screen makes it very hard to transition to sleep.

We all know how sleep is so important to function, be productive, and be able to be creative the next day. I was able to help in that way, and the same happens for me where, even if I'm deep in that headspace, I can't rely on my own willpower to do that thing. I need automation that just does it. iPhone settings are not enough because they can easily be bypassed. And so there's another layer to do that better.

Yep. The feature really helps. It almost puts another layer where it's a bit more difficult to bypass, and maybe go back to these things and it stops working.

This is one of the things that we ask everybody. If you had infinite resources, and the token could really unlock that, or if we give you a magic wand, what are some of the things that you'd like to achieve now or in the long-term?

Yeah, that's an amazing question. We talked about some of the negative aspects of screen time and all the things to watch out for, but actually I'm a real optimist about technology and its potential to improve the world and our lives.

There's so many amazing things. It's just that, it's been misused in many ways, especially the attention economy, has made it into addiction and distraction machines. But you know, one of the things I would do is I would invest in engineering.

For Opal, in particular, what I want to be able to create is a way to see how we use our phones and computers. It is an excellent way of understanding how we are, it is like the “weather” for our minds. Are we sad, happy, productive, sleepy? All of these things can be interpreted from how we use our phones and computers. What does that mean about your emotional state? We have so much data that it's possible to actually deduce these things, and create a, sort of, “weather” for your mind that can help you understand how you are, and use that to improve in a really incredible way.

So that's one thing I would really love to invest in. I think it is definitely achievable. Right now, unfortunately, the people that are doing this are building psychographic data, but to be able to serve advertising. I want to do this and give that back to people so they can actually understand themselves better, and improve themselves as human beings.

I love that because if there was some kind of app where you could really understand your psychology and neuroscience of how your brain reacts to these different circumstances that are like deeply ingrained in your routine, I think that could be something that is almost like the ultimate health chart that people would like to see, almost like a dashboard.

How can people get their hands on $KENNETH and what are some of the first things that they can do to get access, and how do you plan to kick this off?

Awesome. Yeah. So other than the challenges, another way that you can get involved is by purchasing $KENNETH by swapping on Uniswap. You can check it out on my Coinvise profile or on my website. Essentially, people who own over a thousand tokens will receive by email the details of the various challenges we're going to run.

Yeah. Awesome. I love that, Kenneth. I really appreciate you joining us in this call, but more also that you're using Coinvise in such a meaningful way that we didn't anticipate before.

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