Quantified Self App Review: “Sliders”

The Quantified Self Movement increases awareness of our personal behavior and, in doing so, can help us to behave in a more appropriate, healthier manner.  By keeping track of our daily calorie intake, we can spot when we over-eat, and adapt accordingly.  By mapping out daily expenses and subtracting them from a monthly budget, we can be sure not to over-spend—or at least not to unknowingly over-spend.  App stores are full of software that helps us map ourselves.  There are passive data collectors (pedometer apps, apps that sync with Nike shoes to track workouts, etc), and active ones: budget apps in which you insert daily spending, calorie counters that justify what you ate with your daily calorie count, and even apps that track what you read and what music you listen to.  There is something addictive about these apps, a sense of both application of self-control and logging one’s life, a mini-memoir or diary that helps our activities feel more real because a record of what we do is digitized.  For all the folks out there who don’t feel that they’ve experienced something if they’ve not tweeted about it, or posted a photo of it on Facebook, this digital log-keeping is a way of remembering and sharing one’s life.  But despite this long-standing, popular trend, to date there have been very few apps that help log how one feels.  No numbers, no lists of products consumed.  Just emotion.

Having spotted this gap in the market, there is now a new, elegant app called Sliders: Track How You Feel that offers a way to map and quantify feelings.

Rather than track your heart-rate by workout, this app provides a simple and satisfying sliding bar that allows you to rate, for instance, how good you feel your workout went.

When you first open the app, it comes pre-loaded with some questions, like “How healthy is this meal?” and “How active have I been today?”  Each slider has a question associated with it.  You can add as many questions/sliders as you like, and change the ones that come pre-loaded.  My buddy’s ear had been hurting him for some time, so we tested the app by adding a slider with the question “How is my ear?”  You then insert two extremes, one for each end of your slider.  We placed “normal” on one end, and “agony” on the other.  As often you like, you can rate your feeling by sliding the slider and saving the data.  Once a day, once an hour, whatever you like.  The app then cleverly saves the data and allows you to chart it.  After a month of ear-aches, you can see that, for instance, the ache occurs only in the morning, information that might be useful to you.  Perhaps you’re tracking how happy you feel?  If you chart a month of happiness, and find that you are at your lowest on days when you lunch with the in-laws…well, you can see how this would be practical.

A few small quibbles with an otherwise fine app.  The name, sliders, at least for Americans will bring to mind miniature hamburgers.  This probably is not a big problem, but when I first heard the name of the app, I began salivating.  There are also all sorts of other smartphone-related tools called “sliders,” and this risks diffusing searches for the app.

The other side of this equation is that, while finding a niche, the developers have also come upon what might be a logical rupture.  The folks who really get into quantifying their life seem to like quantitative data—numbers: specific calorie counts (rather than “do I feel that I overate today”), money spent each day down to the penny (rather than “do I feel that I spent too much today”).  It’s possible that the quantified selfers will prefer data-crunching over the inexact science of feeling.  But the ability to quantify feeling, by charting the data entered, may balance this out.  And there is certainly a large-enough market in feelings that this app will find followers.  I imagine it as wonderfully helpful to psychologists and their patients (“How nervous do I feel?”), for polls (“How happy are you with President Obama?”), and for things like “How active was my baby today?”—questions for which it would be difficult to apply a specific number or percentage.

The app looks fantastic, and the sensation of sliding your slider satisfies.  The near-shoring developer, Pangaea, an international company based in Slovenia, does excellent work—their website is worth a look.  They act as project managers for software development, guaranteeing quality and organizational control, while employing subcontractors from central and eastern Europe, who work with top-drawer quality but at a fraction of the cost-per-project of western programmers and designers.

In my Slider on whether I like this app?  For those who do not need the number-crunching normally associated with the Quantified Self, this is a winner.  It fills a distinctive niche for charting feelings, as well as charting things that do not suit raw numbers.

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