This Emotional Year 2013

This was a project I worked on with Dan Merfeld of Theory Three (in Wisconson, USA).  I wanted to display ratings by sequential day and city on a global map.  If you clicked on one of the ratings, you would see the average rating for that city, along with some other information that we would pull from a few different APIs: weather, news from that day, etc.

I opted to change the background color to something darker from the iPhone version, frankly because I was growing tired of the canvas-style treatment we gave the app.  It was fun fooling around with the Google Maps API to determine the best set of colors, contrast, etc.

We ultimately didn't quite finish it - so close, yet so far - but I thought people might enjoy some of the screenshots.  It got closer to my vision of what Expereal might ultimately look like, and a key feature - composite ratings by city - that I thought would be interesting: a World Emotional Report that sat near other indices like stock markets, weather, etc.  Larger images can be found here.

Initial Thoughts on Data Export

For those interested in Expereal's data export feature, I wanted to offer some initial impressions of its value.  I think there's great potential, but I feel there are a bunch of things required to "make it work" and be more useful and interesting. 

1. Quantity of Data: I enter in multiple ratings every day, often at various times, with a range of tags.  This is quite important if you'd like to know when your high and low points (more likely, quintiles) are occurring.  I suspect most users aren't entering in data as frequently or as much; in other words, they might enter a rating once a day, but no other information like descriptive tags, location, etc.  So I need to determine how to encourage more frequent rating and make it easier to do so, including tag entry.  Without question, there's friction in its usability.

2. Quality and Consistency of Data: As I've tried to determine correlations, I've found that it's been somewhat difficult - if not impossible - for a range of reasons.  There is little normalization of tags: sometimes, I'll call work "work" and at other times the name of the company.  Then, sometimes I'll type in the name of the company; other times, I'll use Facebook places picker, which is a very messy data source.  As I describe my state of mind, I don't consistently use the same words, but whatever comes to mind.  The consequent challenge is: I don't use the same terms often enough to be able to draw any interesting conclusions from them in their analysis.  For example, if rather than simply using "content" and "ecstatic" as tags, I use twenty other very similar words, it's difficult to draw any correlations between a particular location or tag and a number "8".  There are simply too few instances and too many word variations.  The same challenge goes for people tags: if I call my wife "wife", "Britt" and "B", I don't benefit from the fact that they all refer to the same person.  

So, what's my solve? 

I hope to figure out a way to suggest and save tags within the App, so that when you enter a given rating, you can select from a table of previously used tags depending on whether it's a description, location or person.  I'm hoping that this might cut down the number of unique tags and actually give people some data that can be used to generate useful insights. 

Expereal is both a work-in-progress and an experiment.  I've written that I personally find it useful to "take stock" of one's life and review it.  It's unclear, as of yet, whether such data will show any correlations and, even further out, inform actionable, "life changing" insights - that is, will be predictive.  It's just too soon to tell.

I recently corresponded with a journalist who doubted the possibility.  He might be right, but I think Expereal needs to evolve and likely integrate with other measurement tools (physical self-trackers, etc.) to be declared useful, useless or somewhere in between.   Regardless, it's sure fun to think about and be part of a community interested in such matters.


Expereal 3.0 with data export submitted to App Store

We submitted Expereal 3.0, featuring iPhone 5 screen optimization and data export, for approval, which we hope to receive within next 2-3 weeks. 

Data export will be a menu item.  Upon tapping it, you will be able to enter in an email address to which a link to your data (a CSV file) will be sent.  As a precautionary security measure, you will be unable to download the data unless the system recognizes that you have logged into Facebook (via another browser window). 

The data included will be each individual entry, including:



-Local time



-Location (if entered) 

-Tags (if entered) 

-People (if entered) 

We are limiting the number of tags and people to 5 each (Tag1, Tag2, Tag3, etc.), so that users can easily import into other software for correlations.  As it happens, few people are entering in more than one tag.  In a future version, we hope to make tag entry more "frictionless."  

Thanks, everyone, for your patience.   

Limited Applicability of Kahneman's Experiencing and Remembering Selves Theory?

In addition to being Expereal's founder, I use the product, probably more actively than the typical user since I'm trying to "break it", to take it to the limit, etc. 

As users know, Expereal defaults with 5 push messages per day, which can be ratcheted down or turned off entirely via the menu.  I have it set to 5X, but admittedly don't respond to all of them.   Then, sometimes, I'll just open the app to enter a rating.


As simple as the app is, it's a bit too much work, and sometimes I'm doing something that precludes me from all the steps required to enter a rating.  I have some ideas about how to decrease this data entry friction, but it struck me that the less frequent I enter in data, the less accurate my averages are in representing my ratings, feelings, etc.

"No, duh.   You're some statistician, Jonathan."

Here's the challenge: the experiments Kahneman cites were time bound, continual and focused on pain measurement.  As such, they weren't necessarily measuring the full spectrum of feeling/experience, and the user presumably had his hand on the measuring tool the entire time.  Contrast that with Expereal, which tries to allow people to "capture" a wider spectrum of feelings (not just one dimension) and goes on indefinitely.  If even physical measurement tools - Fitbit, Jawbone Up, etc. - have trouble calibrating for accuracy, how can Expereal ever measure up, especially given the complexity and subtlety of experience?

Regrettably, I don't have any simple answers, though I hope to add features, including more passive measurement in the future.  Beyond the pure expense of development, I haven't been terribly impressed with natural language interpretation of sentiment.  First, sentiments expressed via social media might not represent one's true feelings.  Second, language is so complex that I've found the hunches miss as often as not.

That being said, I'm open to the possibility that some company might have cracked the code even of interpreting simplistic positive, neutral and negative sentiment through language interpretation not meant to directly express feelings.  Until that time, I ask that Expereal users try to rate as often as possible to get the most accurate data on their lives.  This will prove even more interesting and helpful as we roll out data export feature (very soon!) and later create an API that can integrate with other APIs.

Thank you. 

Pando Daily Article on Expereal

We really appreciate the write-up, but for clarity's sake, a few corrections for the record: there is no new email functionality, and the article used screenshots from v. 1.0.  Additionally, the app's name was spelled 'Experal' in the URL.

In any case, thanks to Erin Griffith for taking a look at the app (after getting an iPhone), and running to get an article up so quickly.  Remarkable!

Pando Daily article on Expereal

Pando Daily article on Expereal

Expereal 2.0 out now

Hopefully everyone enjoys the increased focus on photos in Expereal 2.0.  I'm having fun with it and have posted a bunch to Facebook as well, which is optional.

It's also been great using the Expereotype menu item to look back on photos with ratings, tags and locations embedded in them.

I look forward to hearing feedback.

Thank you,


Expereotype photo feature

Expereotype photo feature

Enhanced Photo Functionality and Profile Screen

We are working on 2 new additions to the app:

1. Enhanced Photo Functionality: Enables you to post a photo to Facebook with your rating, tags and location embedded in the photo.  Within app, in a Menu item called Expereotype, you can review past photos with the ratings and tags layered on top for quick review.

2. New Profile Screen: We are going to improve the Profile Screen by enabling you to see more interesting correlations that account for ratings, tags, locations, etc.  Essentially, you will be able to see an overview that will be more meaningful (hopefully), along with the ability to search tags, locations and people and see a dynamically created screen revolving around the queried term.

Thanks for everyone's patience, and my partners for making this come to pass.


Crop & Size screen for Expereotype, an enhanced photo feature.

Crop & Size screen for Expereotype, an enhanced photo feature.