Mainstream Acceptance of QS Practices?

Hi, I’m new to this forum but it is possible that some of you will have seen some of my work or even seen one of my talks over the years. Last year I decided to try running my own company full time and have been focusing on a mood tracking app.

I have been trying to target mood tracking towards people who are doing well in their jobs but are starting to question the meaning of their work - basically giving a tool to help people manage a mid-life crisis using data.

However, since I launched I have been worrying that quantified self practices might be just a little bit too “nerdy” or “scientific” for most people to embrace. Personally I think everybody should be tracking their happiness, and have thought so since 2008, but it still feels like a tough sell to the uninitiated.

I wanted to come here and ask what sorts of conversations you might have had with non-QS types about what you do. How do people react? Have you ever managed to persuade someone that it’s worthwhile? Fitbits and Apple Watches are very common now, but do you think mainstream acceptance of something like mood tracking would be possible?

I’ve put a lot of time into this project (I have the data to give you a very detailed breakdown!) but I’m starting to worry that it’s only sunk cost fallacy that’s keeping it alive. I could always try a different audience but my dream has always been to start displacing the Big Pharma and their various mood medications with a software tool. I’m not trying to solve chronic mental illness, I’m trying to give “normal” people a tool that helps them keep aware of their mood so it never gets that serious; prevention is better than cure.

It’s ambitious. It’s probably stupid. What do you think?


It sounds like a fantastic idea. I wonder what you might be able to gain from thinking of your audience first and then reverse engineering your way to the product?

I’ve been talking about nerdy shit a lot lately. All over my personal social medias I talk about building a second brain and other nerdy stuff, note taking systems, productivity etc. In my experience people in general are not interested in doing work.

This tracking stuff is fun for us because we’ve got something driving us. Some desire or experience or goal. But most people wont have that same internal mechanism for engaging in something that’s kind of considered a bit abnormal so I imagine the way to get them into it would be to find the undeniably powerful results and then package them in such a way that they could conveniently and easily engage.

I’m not sure how that might be done with little to no work on user side. But fitbit works because it takes the effort out (in my very uneducated opinion). Same with apple watch, same with all tech nowdays. Less effort for the user means less cost means the benefits pay off sooner.

So as far as getting your mood tracking app to be a success I guess I’d focus on the community you’re looking to find. It sounds much easier to target a specific group of tracking nerds than it does to target mainstream crowds when you’re essentially asking them to fight against the social and economic forces invested in keeping them distracted and unfocused (and unhappy and spending).

If I were you I’d try to go for the specific community, the people who improve their lives and have followings, see who you can get to endorse your app or use it or somehow benefit from it and share their benefits.

Hopefully something in these ramblings is of use to you lol.

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Maybe op should appeal to people with chronic diseases. They are well motivated and will very clearly inform you about where your app is going wrong. Something like or reddit. Ofc you will be providing and visualizing data to them and their doctors.

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This is just the sort of insight I was hoping for, thank you @Said_Bouziane ! Definitely helpful to my thinking.

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@rain8dome9 I’m have considered this path in the past but it’s not really something I feel qualified or motivated to pursue. I find regularly interacting with people who are suffering from depression or mental illness to be detrimental to my own mental health so I prefer to focus on a slightly more general audience, with a focus on prevention rather than cure.
Having seen multiple loved-ones succumb to serious mental illness - psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder - I am not sure that mood tracking would really help these situations.
I have had enough feedback from users of my previous apps to know that it definitely helps people under more conventional types of therapy so I might be more comfortable creating tools to help with those interactions.

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On person you might benefit from talking with is @JonCousins. (He may not be active on the forum these days, but this is him:

Jon is the author of books and software about mood tracking, so he has thought a lot about this. Here’s a post with a bunch of links to his work: Jon Cousins on Quantified Self.

I’ve always found Jon to be extremely knowledgeable and generous with advice.

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I don’t think “normal” people want a tool, they want a step-by-step solution for their problem. See e.g. Sleepio (which I’m sure has displaced a lot of sleep medication). Basically, a self-help book, but without all the tedious reading…

Have you talked to therapists or psychiatrists? Maybe some of them would like to be able to prescribe a bit of self-tracking for their patients?


Have you talked to therapists or psychiatrists? Maybe some of them would like to be able to prescribe a bit of self-tracking for their patients?

I think this is a good idea, finding a way to serve medical professionals well enough that they’d want to recommend your app could be a good direction.

What if the goal is self improvement?

Same issue: You need to provide a step-by-step program to help people reach their true potential, or whatever.

Medicine needs to be personalized. There is no avoiding a tool. Could you wrap the tool in easy to use interface that makes step by step instructions?

I came to a similar conclusion working with other QS organizers over the years: the step by step process needs to be presented in a way that makes each step explicit and offers a way to benefit from each step without requiring a project be finished in the sense that a scientific research project is finished; that is, with a clear conclusion that is generally legible. For instance, developing a topic that promises to be fruitful to explore with empirical data requires skill, and there are a series of questions that can be offered to people who would like to make their first discovery:

  1. What experiences are you curious about?
  2. How do you know these experiences are occurring. What do they feel like?
    (For something like gaining or losing weight, you can just look at a scale, but there are many things people want to know about, like pain, stress, sleep, digestion, work, creativity, etc. that do not have an obvious common metric that is meaningful to all individuals.)
  3. When do they occur. (It’s ok to estimate/guess.)
  4. What do you think may trigger/cause these experiences?
  5. What could you keep track of easily that would give you insight into these triggers/causes?
    (There is a lot of creativity here and sub-steps that can help people develop their skills.)

This is just the topic development step. I don’t think anybody has ever offered a program that helps people go from start to finish, though there are many, many different kinds of help at the actual tracking and data analysis stage. It’s very interesting to imagine what such a program of support would look like.


I don’t think anybody has ever offered a program that helps people go from start to finish

I wonder if this is sort of what the Open Humans community is trying to do? Build a social platform around figuring out the best way to lower the barrier of entry into self tracking. Perhaps a refined, easily consumable program or course might eventually arise between here and there.

I think it’s the next step for both QS and OH, but it’s a BIG next step.

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I still do not know which apps to use and devices to buy. Thorough directory would be a nice step too. I am working on this.