Tuesday, December 30, 2008

happiness: metrics in my hands

Over the past 2 weeks, I've been trying out Happy Factor on Facebook. One of the developers recommended it to me in response to some ideas I shared on arming users with metrics that can empower us to change behavior.

It's particularly interesting in light of the recent flurry of activity in response to Loic Le Meur's thoughts on adding Authority metrics to Twitter (even if the heart of that conversation was about improving search). The metrics I believe will empower us-- as users-- are of a completely different nature than things like Authority and Influence. It's less about attention, more about mindfulness. Listening, yes, and then as a result, behaving more efficiently, productively, and here, happily.

From Happy Factor:
"Happy Factor gives you the tools to learn what uniquely makes you happy. By keeping track of what you do and how happy you feel, you can have more happiness more often."
Happy Factor sends you text messages, at your desired frequency, asking "on a scale of 1-10 how happy are you?" You reply with a number and brief description of what you're doing. The more descriptive you are, the more it behooves you. When you log on to the site, you can graph your happiness over time and identify trends in your happiness-- days of week, times of day, and the best part-- identify the activities, people, or sources of most happiness and discontent.

I've blogged before about my dislike of self-reports, but Happy Factor overcomes a lot of the obstacles of accessing private feeling states by using a simple question, anchored to your own responses, and complemented by your behaviors. The methodology alone eliminates concern over measurement error and response bias: you bear the fruit of your responses. I'm also reminded of a review of studies by Eileen Idler showing a simple 1-question self-assessment of health is a better predictor of mortality than an extensive battery of objective health data...

Looking over my happiness history from the past 2 weeks, I'm reminded what cognitive misers we are-- we put aside so much information that, when made more salient, can help us improve. Similar to my fascination with Xobni, Happy Factor provides clear, accessible information that can immediately modify your behavior for the better.

This opens up a really interesting conversation about self-reports, the value of metrics, appraisal, subjectivity vs. objectivity, and more. Try it out and let me know what you learn. I'm really enjoying the mindfulness.

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