I

see many interesting on projects on the web everyday — tonnes of new technology mediums which are launching or adding new features, or startups that are getting their product ready for launch. There are also countless other projects which are just impossible to see — merely because I have just never heard of them, the almighty Google hasn’t indexed them, they are not in English or simply because they remain undiscovered and not as yet “popular” by the masses. That changed today when I found a really cool project while just surfing around the web looking for peoples experiences in user interface design. I would say that I effectively just stumbled onto this site in my search (and no, not using stumbleupon).

The site I found is called we feel fine and it is a fascinating journey into the world of human expressionism. What is so unique about this project is that it deeply explores the web and the countless number of human emotions which are posted every single second online. Currently, the site just explores weblogs and extracts huge amounts of metadata from these sites which it then compiles into feelings in a structured manner. To quote from the site

We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. 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, and identifies the “feeling” expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.).

The site has a database of several million human feelings and it increases by around 15K to 20K of feelings per day. The interface of the applet requires Java to run (I am assuming because of the sheer size of the database) and the graphical interface is organised into a particle system which allows for a ‘scattered data layer’ approach to viewing and searching feelings from around the world. Each particle on the applet can be clicked and the feeling — including text and photos, or a combination of both — is displayed on the screen.

It really is an amazing use of technology and a great insight into how people are feeling at any one time. People often regard Twitter as one of the greatest sources of human expressionism in that it allows everyday people to communicate their thoughts in small passages of text commonly known as ‘status updates’. Thousands of other websites have since incorporated this small feature in someway or another (although I really think that the 140 restriction helps to keep status posts on point). Of course, feelings may be harder to decipher in the twitter system because people often just post status updates merely because they are bored or want to let people know what they are doing. While it’s possible to argue that real human emotions probably don’t feed into a twitter stream because people don’t want to let others really know how they are feeling (and because many followers on the twitter system are friends or business colleagues) — I would still contend that across the entire site feelings could be extracted.

In some respects this is what makes the twitter a fantastic, open and asynchronous system and on the other — what makes it really stop true human emotions from being published in a stream. My issue is that there is no way to select only a small group of people to see your posts without closing off the interface entirely — and this means that most people will limit posts relating to human feelings and focus on other points of interest in their lives such as interesting articles, reviews or opinion. Of course, you may be thinking at this very moment that if you want to publish your emotions on twitter you can easily — and you would be completely correct in thinking this — but I doubt you would actually post them to strangers you don’t know (or work mates that you do). Although it’s fair to say that the we feel fine system indexes blog posts and this is no better than twitter — I would argue that there is more text, you don’t have to compact your feelings with SMS style punctuation and you can publish it so just your friends can see.

But I digress, this is not a post on the twitter system (well, it sort of is :D) and rather a look into the we feel fine website. Check it out and you will begin to see what is in peoples blogs, hearts and minds around the world and perhaps understand that the feelings you have can often are felt by other people too.

Posted 
Mar 3, 2009
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