Developer: App In The Air
iTunes: In Flow for iPhone
Life is complicated. Parts of our life bring us much joy while others induce stress. In fact, some of the very items that bring us the most joy and happiness, can also become our main stressor. So when it comes down to analyzing that which stresses us the most, we tend to have a difficult time doing so. Even determining what makes us happiest can be a difficult task to conquer. Our brain tends to associate being happy with things we like, and unhappy with non pleasurable experiences.Logically, that makes a great deal of sense. However,life is not always so easily dissected and things are not so easily categorized as being black or white for most individuals. In Flow for iPhone is an application focused on making light work of your lifestyle analytics.
How It Works
On its surface, superficially, In Flow appears to be yet another check-in application with some fun social media integration. However, if you pull back the curtain and look behind it, you will find some powerful tools focused on self awareness, relationships, self improvement and, ultimately, accountability. Using Foursquare to power its check-ins, In Flow also asks you to be detailed with each you make. Most importantly, it asks for your mood, which has been implemented in the form of an 'emotional tumblr' in which you swipe left or right to choose graphics that create an icon/emoticon of sorts that is indicative of how you feel. It's quite simple, fun, and allows for a great level of accuracy. The tumblr is made of two parts only; eyes, and mouth. The eyes represent your energy level ranging from dead tired to extremely wired, while the mouth represents your emotions. So with In Flow, it is entirely possible to be exhausted, yet still very happy. This is much closer to the way life is lived. We are not always, simply, happy or sad. In Flow understands these complexities and makes them easy to record. Each time you check-in and record your mood, In Flow links the location, your mood and a few other factors together in order to make some long term comparisons that become very telling, the more and more you use the app.
As mentioned above, In Flow asks for items other than location to perform some handy functions. One of those items is 'who is around you?' If you have connected the application with Facebook you can select from your list of contacts (avatars intact) regardless of whether or not they are using In Flow. If a contact is not on Facebook, you can create a contact manually. However, there is currently no way to assign a photograph/avatar to a contact created manually, which makes it a little more challenging to differentiate those contacts at a glance. When recording who you are with, you can mark multiple people as being present.
Once you have added your location and the people around you, you can add a context. That context comes in the form of 'what are you doing now?' Examples include 'working, watching TV, drinking coffee, relaxing, listening to music…' and the list goes on. I found that the default list included with In Flow served well for most occasions, only leaving me to manually create a few items such as 'cheerleading' or 'picking up the kiddos.' Select one or more contexts and return to the check-in screen for review of all selected items; mood, location, people and context.
The third and final step in the check-in process is composing your post; the actual check-in itself. In Flow uses the data you have input to generate a status that can be posted to Facebook and or Twitter. Both are optional just as making the post visible to the In Flow network is. An example status from In Flow would be 'I'm drinking coffee and writing at home.' This status can be deleted and customized by simply tapping in the text box to input your own text. Just as you can on Foursquare, you can add a photo to your check-in as well.
After completing the three step check-in process, you will be presented with a brief summary of your check-in, such as:
This is your best check-in for the day!
You feel better than your last check-in one day ago. Stay on course.
This is your first time writing.
At the bottom of that summary screen, you will be given a question intended to evoke a little self reflection. It is only one question and it is simple. Generally you will be given two locations you have recently checked into and asked which of them makes you feel best. Sometimes you will be asked which of two people or two locations makes you feel best. The answers to these questions are used to generate the Predictions feature of the application.
Speaking of Predictions
Initially, I was under the impression that predictions feature, located on the main screen, would inform you of what to expect when you are at certain activities or locations and I couldn’t figure out why it was not immediately available to me when launching the app the second or third time. However, I quickly learned that the Predictions feature is a means of showing you your actual check-ins and recorded data against the way you perceive yourself to feel while doing these things. Often times you will notice that the two do not align as you may have hoped. For me, I found the feature to be a way of ‘fine tuning’ my self awareness. This is key if I am ever going to truly recognize the things in life that bring me joy and attempt to eliminate the items that do not; at least the ones I can. As an example, I expected to be correct in assuming my work environment to be among the most stressful environments, going through my predictions. I was surprisingly incorrect in that assessment. My work, in fact, was causing much less stress than three other environments, one being my financial institution. Most times, when checking into my bank, I was tired and stressed. In Flow assessed me correctly, as I am a ‘worry-wart’ when it comes to all things financial, so it only makes sense that I am stressed when banking. This opened my eyes to the fact that perhaps I have been focusing my efforts in reducing stress on the wrong areas of life. It helped me to re-evaluate the situation. In the long run, it also helped me become more self aware, reflected in my increasingly accurate predictions about the venues I visit, the people I spend time with, activities I participate in and my corresponding moods to all of them.
While I find the check-in process to be the most fun and engaging, the Predictions feature to be the most telling and useful, In Flow has a few more features that are notable as well. There is a ‘Best & Worst’ list that ranks your people, venues and activities from best to worst. Initially, only the best 3 and the worst 3 are displayed for quick glance purposes, but you can certainly dive into the full list for a more detailed break-down with just one tap. My best? Home. My worst? Subway Sandwiches. Hmm… I thought I liked that place! Oh well. ‘Get a tip’ is another cool feature which changes with each check-in. They range from venue tips, left by other users who have checked-in, to suggestions from In Flow about people and activities that could help you have a better time. Maybe I am a little melancholy while sipping coffee at my local coffee shop. In Flow makes a note of it, and suggests that I call one of my favorite people, by their records, to make the experience a better one. Pretty awesome concept.
Once you have added some friends to your In Flow network, you can tap on the ‘Friends’ panel to view a feed of their activity. The feed includes only those check-ins the users have chosen to share with the network, which is a nice feature because it means the developers value privacy. If the check-in is a positive one, and your friend is feeling good, you can give them a high five to keep their spirits high. If they are in need of encouragement, forego the high five to give them a hug to give them a much needed pick-me-up.
Any pictures that have been attached to check-ins by your friends require only one tap to expand and view full screen. Locations included in the check-in are displayed with a map of the location, the average mood of people there, popular activities that take place at the venue and which of your friends have visited the venue. It’s quite informative and may help you to discover new places that you want to visit or activities you wish to try.
In Flow is a lot of fun as it puts unique spin on the check-in process, which can become quite addictive. There are many, and I mean many, check-in focused applications on the app store these days. To my knowledge, In Flow is the first of its kind to really take that check-in data and cultivate it into something entirely useful, productive and insightful. As easy as it is to use and understand, you almost forget that the application is performing double duty as a conduit to and from your favorite social networks and as a self-help application. In the past few weeks of use, I have learned things about myself that I never even thought to process on my own. I’ve been surprised by some results and completely shocked by others. I’ve used the app to discover new places, try new things and surround myself with good company. The app has a few very minor bugs that were rather inconsistent, but this is to be expected from an early release. At the end of the day, In Flow is a free application, that may change the way you view geolocation services forever, so why would you hesitate? Download it, give it a go. If nothing else, you’ll have fun using it, and hopefully learn something in the process.
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