Thursday, April 24, 2008

Measuring Happiness

Here is an NPR On Point radio program on the measurement of happiness. Audio

The guests have written the following that seem interesting:
National Time Accounting: The Currency of Life
A. Krueger, D. Kahneman, D. Schkade, N. Schwarz, and A. Stone
This paper describes the main results discussed in the radio program, and also discusses the U-index measure they use, “a measure of the percentage of time that people spend in an unpleasant state defined as an instance in which the most intense emotion is a negative one.”

Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America -- and How We Can Get More of It
Arthur C. Brooks
Amazon link

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Volunteer web polling on PollingPoint

PollingPoint is a website where people take polls on various topics. The company that owns the site, Polimetrix, specializes in survey polling. This appears to be an all volunteer service.

In their FAQ, they write, "As you may know, many Internet polls are not scientific because they don't represent a random sample of the population as a whole. This means that their results are usually not a reliable measure of public opinion. PollingPoint uses advanced statistical techniques to correct for this kind of response bias. Because our only business is survey research, it is important for us to release poll results only when we can be completely confident that they have been scientifically corrected for bias." It would be interesting to know what they are doing here.

I know that some NIH researchers have used Polimetrix (not necessarily the website, though) to get 20k+ responses to questions in about six months(used to develop computer adaptive tests).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Patient-Controlled Health Records Could Change Research

This is an article on Yahoo (HealthDay News) suggesting that patient-controlled electronic health records could change the way research is done, possibly allowing much larger scale health studies based on patient contributed medical histories:
For what reasons will people want to share their records with researchers? Can we imagine what kind of interface would be needed to let people share their records with researchers in other parts of the country or the world?
Finally, how can EMA data be combined with health records for personal and research use?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Population based tracking of personal carbon footprint on phones

Here is a mobile phone application using manual data entry designed for tracking personal carbon footprint. It was developed by the European Commission with the goal of allowing people to compare personal carbon footprints with those of others. It is buggy on my mobile phone, making it impossible to use, and it probably requires way to much data entry for anyone but the most energy conscious to use for more than a few days, but it is still an interesting example of mobile phone behavior tracking.

Monday, April 14, 2008

FlyCatcher Internet Research

FlyCatcher ( is an internet research firm that allows researchers to send questionnaires to a sample of (mostly Dutch) respondents.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Quick voting on small issues

Here's an idea for allowing polling to be done with "quick votes" among groups of people interested in making small decisions. You can setup "elections" at This is a project of an MIT graduate student, Benjamin Mako Hill.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Citizen scientists making maps

Here’s a paper on the use of “citizen scientists” for mapping. If for mapping, why not for public health?

Citizens as sensors: the world of volunteered geography

Michael F. Goodchild



In recent months there has been an explosion of interest in using the Web to create, assemble, and disseminate geographic information provided voluntarily by individuals. Sites such as Wikimapia and OpenStreetMap are empowering citizens to create a global patchwork of geographic information, while Google Earth and other virtual globes are encouraging volunteers to develop interesting applications using their own data. I review this phenomenon, and examine associated issues: what drives people to do this, how accurate are the results, will they threaten individual privacy, and how can they augment more conventional sources? I compare this new phenomenon to more traditional citizen science and the role of the amateur in geographic observation.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

More EMA Devices?

It's not clear how these devices would compete with other devices that have Internet browsing and voice, but it is more evidence of the obvious press toward pocket computing that will enable experience sampling.

Intel Makes a Push Into Pocket-Size Internet Devices