Web startup asks ‘How’s it going?’, seeks deeper meaning

Toronto-based entrepreneur Philip Powell always thought of himself as the last person in the world that would use a self-help tool, but now he’s created a Web-based service that will do just that.

His new startup, 8 Dots Inc., presents users with eight brightly-coloured small circles with labels: food, friends, finance, work, love, health, family and moment. Click on a circle and you’re given the option to record a thumbs-up comment, thumbs-down comment, or just a neutral comment. After categorizing thoughts into these dots over a couple of weeks, users can generate a statistical graph that answers the question “How’s it going?”

“The vision is to help people everywhere to understand the emotional quality of their lives. To understand what’s working, what’s not working, and to cherish what they have,” Powell says.

Powell was inspired to create 8 Dots when he had the epiphany that stress at work was also leading to change for the worse in his diet. When things got hectic, he’d overeat and stop making intelligent decisions at lunch time – but it hadn’t donned on him the link was there.

“Sometimes we let one aspect of our life drown out everything else,” he says. “We don’t understand and appreciate these other aspects that keep us afloat when other things are falling down.”

My 8 Dots users record their mood into these categories.

8 Dots sets out to serve as a simple way to keep a diary of life events, and then provide useful metrics on the history of events entered into it. Powell’s background includes interface design, and he wanted to create something easy and fun to use.

The product is freshly launched in beta and will be developed over the next six months, the founder says. Powell has the assistance of one other person, and has invested his own money into the project. An iPhone app for 8 Dots is about half-built and the duo are looking to raise angel investor money to build up infrastructure.

8 Dots comes at a time when some social media users might be looking for something different to cure their Web boredom, according to a recent Gartner Inc. survey. Early social media adopters are starting to feel fatigue, with 31 per cent of the younger, more mobile and brand-conscious consumers saying they are getting broed with their favourite social network. About one-quarter of respondents say they are using their favourite site less than when they first signed up. Gartner surveyed 6,295 respondents between the ages of 13 and 74 in 11 countries in December and January.



“If you look overall, social media has been growing,” explains Brian Blau, research director of consumer technology at Gartner. “But we’re noticing that some of the early adopters are starting to look at other forms of communication to get their fix.”

The social media market is maturing and the initial excitement of the technological trend may be fading, he adds. 8 Dots may be able to take advantage of that by providing something new.

“Providing a different type of experience can be refreshing for new users,” Blau says. “People are always trying out new apps.”

8 Dots is more about recording life details for one’s own reference, Powell says. Not about sharing every mood you happen to have with your entire social circle. It’s more about introspection than extroversion.

The site could also make money by selling the user data it collects in an aggregated and anonymized format. That data could be broken down into demographic groups.

“By aggregating that data and turning it into information, we will know by gender, by age, how people are feeling about certain things,” Powell says. Then there’s the advertising potential.

“We can target and deliver advertising based on how someone actually feels about something,” he says. “If food is bad, then show ads for WeightWatchers or Jenny Craig. If food is good, then maybe show ads for recipes.”

New Web-based startups need to adapt quickly to user preference if they hope to survive, Blau says. Even the largest social media firms of today have a much different business plan than they did five years ago.

“If users are showing signs that they don’t like it, they’ll have to adapt and iterate,” he says.

It will be some time before Powell will have a good sense of whether users are taking to 8 Dots. But until then, if his work is stressing him out, at least he will know about it.

Brian Jackson Brian Jackson is the Associate Editor at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.

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