Inspiration

Journaling is scientifically proven to have massive health benefits.

Journaling helps you: *clarify your thoughts and feelings *understand yourself better *solve your problems *process grief *reduce illness *cope with stress *improve your relationships *recover faster from negative events (e.g. those who journal find a job faster after being fired)

Journaling even helps with depression, emotional trauma, and thoughts of self-harm.

But journaling is a hard habit to build. It can be lonely and does not make use of analytics.

What it does

Journl makes journaling a social process. After writing an entry, the user is provided with an analysis of their emotions in easy to read bar charts. They are also provided with a custom message and suggestion.

In the event that the user has shown signs of trauma, our app comforts them and provides them with resources for support.

Journl also saves all of the user's past entries, and provides comprehensive personality analysis information. The user can seek to understand themselves and observe changes.

Journl assists with this process by providing a visualization of the last five entries, sortable by one of four emotions. In this way, the user can easily see the change in their emotions over the past entries. Any of these data-points can be clicked, bringing the user to the journal entry in question.

In summary: **journl provides customized support resources and emotional feedback, as well as comprehensive short-term and long-term analytics to provide the user with every opportunity to understand themselves.

Journl is also a safe space for all users, and provides support flows and resources to the victims of harassment and bullying, as well as those who are suffering from depression or thoughts of self-harm.**

How we built it

Journl is built on the IBM Bluemix platform. It makes use of two cognitive APIs--the Watson Personality Insights API and the Watson Tone Analyzer API. Journl stores entries in a database where they are processed by a Node.js server.

Journl makes use of supportive psychological techniques, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy and positive psychology. Journl is built as a single-page web app in order to provide a sleek and easy experience for the user.

Journl's UI and interactions are all custom-built in Javascript, JQuery, and HTML/CSS. Graphs are built to be minimalistic and visually pleasing, with interactive features that make them fun to explore. Journl makes use of extensive asynchronous operations, and seeks to minimize loading times with a clever flow.

Challenges we ran into

A primary challenge in this application was constructing appropriate messages for the user. Some of the users of Journl may be victims of harassment or otherwise suffering. It was important that we support them while providing actionable questions for exploring their feelings.

Another challenge was considering how best to use Watson's personality data. Ultimately, it was decided that a personal message would help the user make sense of the data, a retrospective graph of the last five entries would provide comparative analytics, and sorting was involved to eliminate insignificant pieces of data.

Because Journl's UI is built from scratch, there were also challenges involved in design and implementation. For example, the design of bar charts provided a challenge: how best to convey information while not cluttering the UI. Ultimately, the maximum value is always shown, while the user can scroll over any bar to gain more information. This required several overlays and dynamic operations, including changing z-ordering, which provided technical challenges.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

This is a feature-rich and impactful application that walks a challenging and mature emotional line. We are very proud of both the concept and the execution. We are also proud of the custom-made analytics offered to the user, built on the powerful Watson APIs, which we had not used before.

What we learned

We had never used Node.js or IBM Bluemix. We had never designed a single page application. We had never undertaken a project for which sensitivity was so important. We learned extensively about web-design, rapid prototyping, language specifics, API specifics, UX for psychological health, and how to make good design tradeoffs.

What's next for journl

Journl should be a free or crowdfunded platform. The next steps are to build out the web application and to build custom machine learning software for sentiment and tone analysis, then to use that library as the basis of the Journl platform.

Another thing we will implement is gamification. Users should be rewarded for their positive journaling activities with badges, custom UI elements, and other habit-building rewards.

Journl is built to help anyone. We believe that positive psychology and good design, coupled with powerful analytics, will help people to understand themselves better, to feel supported, and to always have a safe space.

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