Test Run on Apps: Being My Own Quinea Pig

Quantified self is the big hype now in behavioral science and design. Quantified self is self knowledge through numbers – often assisted by mobile technology. Several research agencies have started massive programmes on it. I spent January in California and the theme came up in all the designer and researcher meetings.

Quantified self challenges the idea that we would always know what we do, why we do it and what the consequences of those choices are. Basically the promise of the quantified self movement is that by understanding the actions we take, we would make better decisions in the future. The people I met in California were using apps for understanding how they eat, for organising their days, for starting small changes in for instance their physical health, for controlling their breathing and for valuing the small good things.

During the last weeks I tested a couple of apps. It´s clear that the field is new and these are just the first experiments. Although many of them seem somewhat pointless to me, I find the whole sphere of quantified self really exciting. I mean for years companies have been gathering information on us and used it for twiddling with our consumption. I think it is about time that we reclaim data.

1. Mood Panda

Asks me to rank my feeling from 1 to 10. Don´t really get the point of it to be honest. As I personally choose the time of the update, I don´t feel like it gives me any valuable information. I also have no inclination to share my feelings in social media.

Mood Panda

2. gottaFeeling

I can set the app to send me a reminder to update my feeling. Already after two days, the reminders seem like a nuisance. I feel the ready-made selection of moods is incredibly limited. I often feel like the app pushes me to exaggerate my good mood. By registering a negative mood, I basically would recognize that I have made some poor decisions.


3. MoodScape

In theory the idea that I can see how the rest of the world is feeling is pretty exciting. Again the set of feelings often does not fit my moods. And if one wants to use the peer review as a tool, I feel Jonathan Harris did it better in wefeelfine by registering feelings from the blogosphere.

But there is something intriguing in the map function. I saw that someone else in Helsinki was using the app as well. I actually noticed that I started following this person living close to me. Oh, he feels calm today. I wonder why?


4. Track Your Happiness

An academic study linking to the work of happiness guru Daniel Gilbert. You basically get a message 5 times a day asking you to register your feelings through simple questions like what are you doing, do you want to do what you are doing, are you with other people and where are you. After a sample of around 50 responses you get a report. You are also asked to join the research several times. The sense that me registering feelings might benefit academic, Harvard-level research is great. The reminders are easy to fill and actually pushed me a couple of times to for instance finish up a pointless meeting. The report made me more aware of the situations I enjoy (such as working intensely with 2–3 people). The questionnaire is done better than in the commercial apps.

This one I would recommend trying.

Track your happiness

5. SleepCycle

Just downloaded it but know from a couple of people that they really like it. It uses the accelerometer of the iPhone to sense the way you move in your sleep. You place the phone next to your pillow in bed.

I like the feature that you can set up a 30-minute time window for waking up so that the app attempts to wake you from light sleep. For someone like me suffering at times from insomnia, it really helps me understand the way I sleep. SleepCycle is also easy to use. I was first worried that it would not wake me up if I would accidentally drop it from the bed or something but it hasn´t failed me once.

I would recommend trying it.