We Feel Fine

Ken AshfordScience & TechnologyLeave a Comment

This has to be one of the most interesting uses of the Internet I’ve seen in a long while!!

Maybe I’m attracted to it because of my social psychology background.  As well as my attraction to new art forms.

The website is called "We Feel Fine" and its a psychometric graphical representation of how we, as a human race, feel at this particular moment.

Or, as the website creators say, it is "an exploration of human emotion on a global scale".

How do they determine how we, the human race, feel right now?

Every few minutes, the system searches the world’s newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period…

Once saved, the sentence is scanned to see if it includes one of about 5,000 pre-identified "feelings". This list of valid feelings was constructed by hand, but basically consists of adjectives and some adverbs. The full list of valid feelings, along with the total count of each feeling, and the color assigned to each feeling, is here.

If a valid feeling is found, the sentence is said to represent one person who feels that way.

If an image is found in the post, the image is saved along with the sentence, and the image is said to represent one person who feels the feeling expressed in the sentence.

Because a high percentage of all blogs are hosted by one of several large blogging companies (Blogger, MySpace, MSN Spaces, LiveJournal, etc), the URL format of many blog posts can be used to extract the username of the post’s author. Given the author’s username, we can automatically traverse the given blogging site to find that user’s profile page. From the profile page, we can often extract the age, gender, country, state, and city of the blog’s owner. Given the country, state, and city, we can then retrieve the local weather conditions for that city at the time the post was written. We extract and save as much of this information as we can, along with the post.

This process is repeated automatically every ten minutes, generally identifying and saving between 15,000 and 20,000 feelings per day.

And here’s the coolest part…. the entries are searchable by feeling, date, weather, location, blogger’s age, and blogger’s gender to help you answer questions like:

Do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans?

What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s?

What do people feel like in Baghdad right now?

How many people have felt "obtuse" in Richmond, Virginia this year?

The presentation of the results is both informative and artful, and comes in a variety of forms.  Unfortunately, it is in the style of a graphic applet, so I can’t copy and paste an example.

But I ran the applet to find out how people in Greensboro North Carolina have felt in 2008 (to date).   It’s a bit slow to load and run, but it was worth it.

The overall impression result?

Bad.  15.4% reported feeling this way, which is 3.1 times the normal level.

Here are some random Greensboro "murmers" (lifted blog quotes about feelings) from my search:

I feel like Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa Smile — from July 6, 2008, a 24 year old in Gboro when it was sunny

I feel bad for my mom and dad as they’ve had horrible luck with transportation this year — from June 22, 2008, a 32 year old in Gboro when it was sunny

I feel like Charlie, holding on to the chocolate bar, admiring it, just waiting for the right time to open it up and enjoy. — from June 18, 2008, a 36 year old in Gboro when it was sunny

There are dozens more.

But like I said, getting the results is one thing.  The way the results are represented is… well… art.

UPDATE:  Ahh…. some screenshots I did of my search (click to enlarge)

"Murmers" — A screenshot of scrolling snippets from Greensboro bloggers describing how they "feel" (in 2008) [in the actual site, you can click on the quote and be taken to that person’s site]


"Mobs" — Breakdown of feelings from people in Greensboro (in 2008) by adjective


"Metrics" — The most representative feelings of people (worldwide) in the past few hours


Have fun playing with this!