Why Journaling?

Journaling is the primary activity of Maslo. It is the main feature we provide to users, it’s the main activity we have Maslo do on itself and it’s the activity all of us at Maslo do as frequently as we find useful.

Journaling, in the basic sense, is simply taking notes. Sometimes these are more formalized or more formally prompted notes, sometimes they are about a certain topic, context or event and sometimes they are just about whatever. We chose to center on this very simple activity because our research and experience indicates this is a universal activity of humans, is highly regarded in mental health research, and is a very low cost activity for anyone.

But there is another reason, perhaps more important than all the others, for what we are trying to accomplish with Maslo. Maslo has no other purpose than whatever purposes our users and community have.

We had to think hard about what an app and interface would be in the absence of a particular purpose. We looked at a variety of approaches deployed by humans over the eons to simply express their experiences in general terms from art making to oral storytelling to diaries to formal story writing to personal analytics and more. We had to rule out anything that was about producing artifacts or work product or analytics or anything that at all would tacitly enforce a use model and a purpose. Humans have managed to invent, use, and reinvent the very basic idea of personal notes countless times in their history. So it became quite clear that we should focus on that as well.

We then had to consider all the different ways people could note take and journal in today’s world. In a similar thread of thinking to the above we decided we had to pick the most universal instrumentation we could think of that could be used by anyone and not feel like a new skill. Thus we arrived at an audio, visual, and touch based journaling interface available on typical smartphones. There’s no need to write, draw, speak a particular language, tell coherent linguistic stories or anything. With Maslo you can simply express yourself with your hands, eyes, mouth, lungs, face. There’s no need for a specialty device other than a modern smartphone.

That’s right. The Maslo Journaling is blank space for anyone to just express themselves however it works for them. Maslo AI learns and grows in understanding along with the user. There is no underlying Maslo AI that only understands certain gestures or ways of journaling or forces a specific kind of user/device relationship. In order to provide this service Maslo AI has to work very similarly to a human and grow in similar ways at similar rates. See How to Grow an AI for more.

The other more deep science reason for such a generalized approach is that we believe that the best and most reliable approach to AI requires removing as many assumptions from the signal collection as possible. We’ve found many AI approaches have a lot of implied structure and rules that will very often confound itself in the face of actual human interaction. Sometimes this happens not because of the data collection itself but the interface in which the AI expresses itself. So we very much view the interaction interface of Maslo (how it journals back to you!) as a material part of the AI. It’s not enough to simply collect signal. An empathetic AI must also express back to you in ways that you can understand. Stay tuned for more details on how our Expression UI works and what’s coming next with it.

So far the reaction to the simplicity and utility of Maslo journaling has been very positive. Another wonderful effect of focusing on journaling is that it encourages our users to express how they feel about us to us! We very much are trying to be wholly consistent from UI to users to investors to ourselves that taking and sharing notes is a great way to grow together.

You might even consider this post a little journal to you about why we journal! :)

Further Reading


Maslo is currently in beta. Get it on the App Store.