May 8, 2012

Moodscope: Track your mood – social, but discreet

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:22 am by mariawolters

There are many low and high tech solutions for tracking one’s moods and feelings, from the humble notebook to the shiny app, from detailed, free-form diaries to ticking a couple of boxes on a form. Many people track their mood informally using social media, letting their online support network know how they feel through blog posts, tweets, and status updates.

Moodscope is a web application that allows users to log and share their mood. Users can rate how you are feeling using 20 mood and emotion adjectives, such as scared, guilty, ashamed, proud, or alert. For each adjective, users need to specify whether they feel like this very slightly or not at all (0), a little (1), quite a bit (2), and extremely (3). This can be done as often as the user wishes.

The interface design is &ldots; unique. For each adjective, the user sees a card. On one side, there are the numbers 3 and 2, on the other side 0 and 1. The user then turns and spins the card until the number that corresponds to the current intensity of that particular emotion is on the top. To log that number, users click on the verbal description. At the end, scores are converted into percentages, where a high percentage reflects good mood, and a low percentage bad mood. After the first three recorded values, a summary is added that describes trends verbally and comments on how frequently Moodscope is used. Daily emails with short, motivating texts serve as reminders. These emails are sent whether or not the user has already completed a mood log that day.

The social aspect is very discreet. Users can nominate buddies who will be sent their Moodscope scores. Buddies need to confirm that they are willing to receive the email updates. All the buddy sees is the current percentage, but there’s an opportunity to discuss scores privately on the Moodscope web site.

One User’s Experience

I started using Moodscope a few weeks ago; I have only used the free version, and my comments may not apply to the paid version.

What first struck me was the pared down functionality. You confirm today’s date, and then it’s straight onto rating the twenty adjectives. Operating the rating interface is slow and cumbersome. You need good eye sight to make out the letters against the background (cards are either reddish or blueish), and the writing can be difficult to read. You also need to plan the flips and turns required in order to get the number you need to enter. This is a strain, and it definitely deters me from logging my mood more than once a day. I am not sure how well a person would do who is easily discouraged, or whose mood makes focusing very difficult.

The summary is not very helpful. As I am logging, my mood shows large swings, but that mostly depends on variation in my mood throughout the day. Moodscope as it stands misses this zig-zag, because the summary only compares my scores to the all time maximum, all time minimum, and average. If there is a large dip, the summary suggests that specific events may have happened to change my mood, when this is nothing but my normal fluctuation.

Fortunately, Moodscope also has a great graphic display.
The graphical display of the change in mood over time is very useful – it allows you to zoom in and out, clearly shows the range of mood that has been registered over time, and can be adjusted to show shorter or longer time periods.

An important limitation is that Moodscope – for good reason – does not ask people whether they are thinking about suicide or self-harm. If it did, there would be unpleasant implications. First of all, it places unreasonable strain on the buddies who receive the reports. What if people indicate that they are ready to kill themselves, but this is not reported to the buddies? And if it is reported to the buddies, what if they discover the warning after the fact? However, this sensible limitation means that Moodscope can miss a significant improvement in cases where people feel still low, but no longer suicidal.

The main reason I would keep using Moodscope is the buddy function. It means that I can let others know how I am feeling through the relatively private medium of email. Otherwise, the interface would be too much of an annoyance, as registering one answer can mean up to three clicks, which needs to be done twenty times. There are thousands of applications diligently monitoring all public social media activity. Somehow, mood is a bit more private than that – it’s good that there’s an application which keeps it private.

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