Ça va

Ça va is a multiple choice based emotion logging application built on top of Blackbox. It focuses on asking and recording the answer to one simple question: “How are you feeling right now?” Here’s how it works:

The user downloads the Ça va app to their mobile phone. When they open the app they see a simple text header that asks, “How are you feeling right now?” Beneath this header are two buttons: one with a :) icon representing ‘happy’ and one with a :( icon representing ‘unhappy’. Clicking one of the buttons logs a change in emotional state to persistent data storage, and reveals a thank you message and a button to view a visualization of the aggregation of this data. Exiting the app without clicking the :) or :( button logs a :| representing an ‘in the middle’ state. Additionally, Ça va is configured to send notifications to the user three times a day prompting them to open the app and record how they are feeling. Swiping to remove the notification logs the :| state.

For now, that’s it for UI/UX. On the tech side, Ça va will use Blackbox as its persistent data storage, to store both emotion data points and metrics. It will use a standard web stack and port it to mobile using Phonegap. Theoretically it shouldn’t be a very difficult app to build, especially with Blackbox handling the brunt of the data work.

At this points you’re probably thinking, “Doesn’t this exist already?” You’re right, it does (I just looked it up). Much smarter people than me have already built this app here, here, and, oh yea, here. So why am I building it?

Ça va is being built for three reasons. In order of priority:

  1. to test the Blackbox interface
  2. to explore some UI/UX ideas for simple logging
  3. to bring a new product to the marketplace

Testing the Blackbox interface #

When dealing with something abstract, particularly something as abstract as Blackbox, I find it useful to integrate concrete examples. Thinking about how the abstract model will relate to specific examples keeps my brain focused on the problem that the model is trying to solve, and keeps me from overlooking obvious inconsistencies. In this case, Ça va is a concrete example of a product that could be built on Blackbox. Thinking about the specific requirements of Ça va will help me shape the more general Blackbox interface. This objective doesn’t involve any explicit measuring, but will measure success based on my subjective opinion.

Exploring UI/UX ideas for simple logging #

I imagine many products built on Blackbox will rely on some form of data acquisition that is based on users personally inputting the information. For this reason, it’s very important to validate the hypothesis that users will be willing to personally log information that can’t be collected programmatically. Once validating this hypothesis, it’s also important to optimize the process to provide the best possible experience for the user. I have several ideas that I’d like to experiment with to improve the logging process, for example:

Bringing a new product to the marketplace #

I think that emotional logging has huge untapped potential to improve people’s lives. The act of logging has been shown to increase positive behavior by reinforcing mindfulness. That means that just logging how you feel helps your brain make a stronger connection between what you do that makes you feel happy and feeling happy, which in turn helps you focus on doing things that make you happy. What I find even more interesting is considering emotional state as another dimension to overlay on top of other data that you might be tracking. As data tracking becomes more commonplace, being able to see how all that data correlates with your mood could provide incredibly valuable insights. For example, maybe you find that going for a jog in the morning is strongly correlated with you being in a good mood when you come home from work. With information like this you can make better educated decisions about how to allocate the scarce resources in your life.

As with other ‘startup’ ideas, this is also an opportunity to experiment more with The Lean Startup methodology. Although I don’t foresee myself having the time to focus on marketing or profitability, I’m very open to working with a partner to explore these opportunities. If so, we would evaluate success by measuring app installs, engagement, and virality.

Interested? Tweet me @jomrcr.


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