Emoticons, beware: There's a new kid in town. Winner of two Google Gadget awards, "MoodJam" lets people express their emotions through colors and words displayed on an individual's homepage.
Developed by Carnegie Mellon's Ian Li, a Ph.D. student in the School of Computer Science's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), MoodJam was intended to be a diary for self-reflection. But the software has increased in popularity within workgroups, among circles of friends and between far-away family members, demonstrating a desire of the online community to emotionally connect.
"The sharing aspect does make it more attractive," said Li, who launched the MoodJam website in November 2006, along with HCII research associate Aubrey Shick and fellow Ph.D. students Karen Tang and Scott Davidoff. "To get insights into your own moods, you have to record for at least a week. But the social benefits from sharing are immediate."
The colors or combinations of colors used to express moods are not prescribed: each user chooses colors that feel appropriate. Likewise, the words used to describe moods — accessed by mousing over the color bars — are individualized, resulting in such eccentricities as "caffeinated," "just kinda eh" and "fantabulously magical."
The software has also proven useful to Shick's mother, who lives near Somerset, Pennsylvania. The MoodJam display allows her to see how her daughter is doing without interrupting her activities.
Professor Anind Dey, one of Li's HCII faculty advisors, said the software is "extremely exploratory" but poses interesting questions about how mood-sharing affects the dynamics of work groups. It also provides a tool for recording moods and emotions, which could be used to study how moods converge and diverge within work, family and friendship groups.