I give you — an organisation, a funder, a policy maker, or a scientist — my data all the time. I seldom see it, let alone draw meaning out of it. Let me show you what I would do with my information, if I had it.

We are now in the seventh week of testing the data that would be useful to the group. For the first weeks, each was asked every day how they felt (on a scale from 1 to 10). Recently, another question was added, the amount of social contact outside of their household (the women suspect a pattern between how they feel and social connection). At the end of week, they get two summary graphs, individual and for the group. Every week the group comes together to reflect on the utility of questions and decide on any changes.

How are you feeling from 1 to 10 is not meaningful for a scientist. It is incomplete, not standardised, not enough to assess someone’s true emotional state. Scientists think more in long format (40 questions) and are suspicious of short one-question approaches.

It may not be meaningful for a scientist. But the data are meaningful to the women.

The feeling question made them reflect on how they compare to their group, and to realise that having a bad day is normal not atypical. With the end of week summary they were able to take a whole week in, and not just focus on how it ended or on one bad day.

Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman talks about this. He distinguishes between the experienced well-being (“How do you feel now?”) and remembered well-being, taping into our memories (“All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?”). He says that most measurement of well-being solely focuses on the latter, which is biased to how it ends. If you have been to an opera concert, which happens to end badly, the remembered well-being would say it was a bad experience. On the other hand, the experienced well-being would capture the beautiful music and how the whole play made you feel.

Most importantly, being asked about their feelings made women stop and pay attention, to themselves and to their group.

How many people — outside of your household — did you talk to today. This question had two effects on the group. First, it made each filter their social connections. Some chose to report those who mattered to them. Others counted all connections in a day, the postman included. The pandemic makes reporting a bit more confusing. How do we capture a Zoom with 110 people?

Second, much like the feeling question, the data on social contact made the group reflect on the gap in social contact, and prompted them to actively seek out others.

When the group meets, they decide on what needs changing. So far:

  • they asked for standardisation (yes, the members think like scientists)!. How do we know that my 3 is the same as her 3? Can we find a common way of responding to the question?
  • option to opt out for a couple of days. Can the digital object have the function where we turn off being asked one question, and maybe turn another on?
  • meaningful contact. Much like the feeling question, the group wanted the filtering of social contacts to be done similarly by each member. They landed on reporting on meaningful contact, which they defined as all interactions in a day that had an impact on how they thought or felt.

And yes…their hypothesis seems to be right, there is a pattern between how they feel and social contact.