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The goal is to take simple measurements of mood using Likert scale over an extended period of time (e.g. two months).

I know there is a large number of mobile apps for tracking mood on every possible platform and there is an extensive list of those tools on Quantify Self website. All those tools allow you to record your mood in a simple format, customize your tracking, and choose yourself time when you want to record you mood. And this is exactly the point where all of those tools are missing a critical feature. To get a more reliable sample of a behaviour or experience, you ought to sample the experience in a random time during the waking day, rather then give the person a choice of the time of sampling (Csikszentmihalyi et al., 1987). Csikszentmihalyi et al. (1977) did just that by giving people pagers and send them random beeps, after which they filled the questionnaire. It's a basic rule in any longitudinal experience sampling studies that I remember from the first year undergraduate classes. The need of this kind of approach rises from the inability of respondents to provide an accurate retrospective information on their daily behaviour and experience.

So I am looking for mobile mood tracking tool that meets those particular requirements:

  • it allows you to set up waking time within which you want to receive random reminders,
  • it allows you to set up number of reminders you want to receive during the waking hours,
  • during the day you receive a random reminder that directs you to a single question asking you to rate your mood at the moment, for example on 1-9 scale
  • your response is time-stamped and saved either on the mobile phone or send directly to the server if possible.

Now, it sounds simple enough, but the only app I found that matches some aspects of it is Mappiness. They DO send you random reminders, and their project, idea, and app execution are awesome. But the problem with Mappiness is that it collects a lot of extra information that I don't need, and I personally got very annoyed with the length of their questionnaire (check yourself if you got an iPhone). I want a random notice, single question, 5-seconds of your time to respond, and some data export option.

Am I missing something here or such app doesn't exist and I need to write it? I realise that this question might be more relevant for http://productivity.stackexchange.com but it's hard to say, it's kind of a middle-area.

References:

Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Larson, R. (1987). Validity and reliability of the experience-sampling method. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 175(9), 526.

Csikszentmihalyi, M., Larson, R., & Prescott, S. (1977). The ecology of adolescent activity and experience. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 6(3), 281–294.

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I personally have interest in using an iPhone for science, and scientific queries like the one you are describing. I wanted to create a mood tracking app using PMRI what-is-a-validated-single-item-measure-of-mood , as I was looking for a single tap mood metric. Would the PMRI scale work for an app like this ? Were you thinking of building an app yourself? If no, I can build it. –  Alex Stone Oct 9 '12 at 16:13
    
are you looking for iOS specifically, or just mobile? –  Krysta Jun 27 '13 at 14:04
    
@Krysta I would said iOS specific 9 months ago, but now I don't mined Android too. –  Geek On Acid Jun 27 '13 at 15:44
    
It seems like people are doing this sort of thing in a way already on CrossValidated. I can tell you right away marketers would pay for that information. I would. Of course getting someone to give away their moods...ehh you'd have to anonymize it and then convert it into averages for demographics and locations, etc. Which is still useful data. –  user3433 Aug 30 '13 at 11:08
    
It's not entirely true that respondents are unable to retrospect accurately on behavior or experience. Accuracy dies off rapidly, but losses may be negligible within the same day and manageable within longer time frames, depending on the level of detail and accuracy needed, and the quality of the question. A decent review of these issues is freely available (Schwarz, 1999). Anyway, your preferred method is plenty feasible; I'll cite another study myself. –  Nick Stauner Feb 19 at 10:24
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3 Answers

The best thing I can find is somebody's side project on experience sampling (the code is on github), so not sure if it's being maintained or anything, but it does appear to do exactly what you want.

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There is now a new app available for iOS - Reporter (from Nicholas Feltron) - that pretty much ticks all my boxes. It allows to design any experience sampling questionnaire with different type of answers (number, multiple choose, etc.), smart and intuitive interface, export options with JSON and CSV, as well as Dropbox synch of data. It also records background information such as weather, location, noise level which is simply an awesome addition. The notifications are send in random intervals and you can choose how many notifications you get. You can't set up specific waking/sleep times but you can notify app when you fog asleep - this one is not ideal but still works ok. Overall, definitely the best solution of this type on the market at the moment.

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A recent study of adolescent depression (Kauer et al., 2012) used a Java program written at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) called Mobile Tracking Young People's Experiences or mobiletype. The program in this study saves encrypted, time-stamped data on the host phone and also uploads it to a MCRI website. It tells users to log a response by sound notification, and reminds them five minutes later if necessary. Responses can be logged at any time, but notifications only occur between 8 AM and 10 PM and at randomized intervals within blocks of time – I assume this schedule can be modified straightforwardly enough.

I see other studies using it as well, but haven't been able to find a way to obtain the program. The best leads I have found so far are a ClinicalTrials.gov page, a research projects page on beyondblue.org.au, and a couple studies that are used as references for the program (Reid et al., 2009; Kauer, Reid, Sanci, & Patton, 2009).

Another method that seems quite flexible and amenable to your requirements is Mood 24/7, which contacts respondents with SMS messages, to which they respond (Foreman, Hall, Bone, Cheng, & Kaplin, 2011). However, I'm not sure if you can modify the program to suit your specific purposes, as opposed to those for which Kaplin has programmed it.

FWIW, another study developed Track Your Happiness, which also seems to do very much what you want, but may not be reprogrammable without some help or at least permission from the programmer. Its use led to the high-profile publication I had in mind when I first started writing this answer (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010).

References

- Foreman, A. C., Hall, C., Bone, K., Cheng, J., & Kaplin, A. (2011). Just text me: Using SMS technology for collaborative patient mood charting. Journal of Participatory Medicine, 3, e45. Retrieved from http://www.jopm.org/columns/innovations/2011/09/26/just-text-me-using-sms-technology-for-collaborative-patient-mood-charting/.
- Kauer, S. D., Reid, S. C., Crooke, A. H. D., Khor, A., Hearps, S. J. C., Jorm, A. F., ... & Patton, G. (2012). Self-monitoring using mobile phones in the early stages of adolescent depression: randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 14(3). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3414872/.
- Kauer, S. D., Reid, S. C., Sanci, L., & Patton, G. C. (2009). Investigating the utility of mobile phones for collecting data about adolescent alcohol use and related mood, stress and coping behaviours: Lessons and recommendations. Drug and Alcohol Review, 28(1), 25–30. Retrieved from ResearchGate.
- Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science, 330(6006), 932–932. Retrieved from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/application_uploads/KILLINGSWORTH-WanderingMind.pdf.
- Reid, S. C., Kauer, S. D., Dudgeon, P., Sanci, L. A., Shrier, L. A., & Patton, G. C. (2009). A mobile phone program to track young people’s experiences of mood, stress and coping. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 44(6), 501–507. Retrieved from ResearchGate.

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