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CMU students builds “mood” site

By ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON

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Ian Li had no intention of creating yet another online dating service when he established… Ian Li had no intention of creating yet another online dating service when he established MoodJam.org in October of last year.

Li, a Ph.D. student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, created MoodJam to allow users to log their moods throughout the day with colors and commentary and to share their moods with coworkers, friends and family members.

A “gadget” version of MoodJam, which users can add to personal homepages, won in two categories of the 2006 Google Gadget Awards, a student competition sponsored by Google Inc. Gina Pell, CEO and founder of Splendora.com, pronounced MoodJam the “prettiest gadget,” and Rob Malda, aka “Commander Taco,” founder of Slashdot.com, claimed that it was the “gadget most likely to help you get a date.”

Li cannot guarantee that MoodJam will score dates for users, but he can guess why Malda chose MoodJam. “I believe the idea is that the more sensitive you are to your emotions, the more attractive you are to others.”

HCII research assistant Aubrey Shick and fellow Ph.D. students Karen Tang and Scott Davidoff collaborated with Li on the creation of MoodJam.

“We wanted to find a way to be more aware of each other’s moods,” Li said. “The intent was that if we were more aware of what others were feeling on a particular day or at a certain time of day, we would react better to each other.”

MoodJam is still a work in progress. Currently, after logging on, the user sees a series of color bars that, when scrolled over, display words describing feelings at a particular time of day. Registered users can click on a color or a color combination and record their moods.

“Anger: Bosses are morons,” read one red-themed post, dated at around 3:30 p.m. Monday. Another, orange and red-striped, read, “Content, tired and fulfilled.”

Li envisioned MoodJam as a “visual diary” that would use the computer as a tool for self-reflection, but now with more than 2,000 users registered, it is proving popular as a way to connect with others.

“The sharing aspect is the most appealing,” Li said. “You have to record your moods for at least a week to get insights into your own moods. But the social benefits from sharing moods are immediate.”

MoodJam is a product of a larger trend in computer research: the use of computers to provide personal feedback. Li’s main research area, for example, focuses on the use of computers to gather and analyze information about physical activity, health and diet.

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CMU students builds “mood” site