People strive to obtain self-knowledge. A class of systems called personal informatics is appearing that help people collect and reflect on personal information. However, there is no comprehensive list of problems that users experience using these systems, and no guidance for making these systems more effective. To address this, we conducted surveys and interviews with people who collect and reflect on personal information. We derived a stage-based model of personal informatics systems composed of five stages (preparation, collection, integration, reflection, and action) and identified barriers in each of the stages. These stages have four essential properties: barriers cascade to later stages; they are iterative; they are user-driven and/or system-driven; and they are uni-faceted or multi-faceted. From these properties, we recommend that personal informatics systems should 1) be designed in a holistic manner across the stages; 2) allow iteration between stages; 3) apply an appropriate balance of automated technology and user control within each stage to facilitate the user experience; and 4) explore support for associating multiple facets of people’s lives to enrich the value of systems.
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