US20100235776A1 - Social network for affecting personal behavior - Google Patents

Social network for affecting personal behavior Download PDF

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US20100235776A1
US20100235776A1 US12800343 US80034310A US2010235776A1 US 20100235776 A1 US20100235776 A1 US 20100235776A1 US 12800343 US12800343 US 12800343 US 80034310 A US80034310 A US 80034310A US 2010235776 A1 US2010235776 A1 US 2010235776A1
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user
network
social
behavioral
device
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US12800343
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Stephen J. Brown
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INVENTLY LLC
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Brown Stephen J
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q10/00Administration; Management
    • G06Q10/10Office automation, e.g. computer aided management of electronic mail or groupware; Time management, e.g. calendars, reminders, meetings or time accounting

Abstract

A social network for affecting personal behavior is provided. The psychological and behavioral progress of a registered user of the social network is maintained. The social network provides the registered user with friends who can track the user's progress and encourage the user by communications with the user. The friends of the user can be anybody, including people who are not registered with the social network. A dynamic mechanism for grouping different users into support groups is also provided. The grouping is based on the user's progress, satisfaction with the user's supporters, and the user's traits and preferences. User-customized profiles are used to elucidate user traits instead of standard direct forms to to avoid incorrect or misleading responses to the forms. In addition, a wireless portable device in communication with the social network of friends and supporters is provided for constant access to sources of motivation.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • [0001]
    This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/983,126 filed Nov. 6, 2007, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,720,855, which claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/947,449, filed Jul. 2, 2007, both of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The invention relates generally to computer implemented social networks. More particularly, the present invention relates to social networking for affecting personal behavior.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0003]
    There is widespread desire to undergo personal behavioral modifications, though adopting lasting modifications can be extremely challenging. One common personal behavioral change sought by many is weight loss. Numerous traditional methods, such as books and videos, provide diet regimens and exercise routines to provide assistance for weight loss. However, such traditional methods are often ineffective due to the lack of emphasis on motivation and accountability. Other traditional methods for weight loss include joining exercise and nutrition classes or hiring a personal trainer. These methods can be expensive, time-consuming, and incompatible with a busy schedule.
  • [0004]
    Today, Internet-based services are widespread and ubiquitous, including weight loss services. Typically, Internet-based weight loss services are similar to traditional methods by merely disseminating diet and/or exercise guidance through expert advice, articles, and tips. The programs are largely impersonal and lack the key motivational ingredient to affect lasting personal behavioral changes. WeightWatchers.com and Traineo.com are websites dedicated to weight loss. Traineo.com allows its users to track their progress and send emails to others associated with the network to observe the users' progress.
  • [0005]
    Social networking websites, such as Facebook.com, MySpace.com, and Friendster.com, offer online communities where a user can find and maintain friendships. A user of an online social network is commonly able to post text, display pictures, send and receive messages from other members of the network, and join common interest groups. To become a member of an online social network community, the websites generally require registration. In other words, only registered or affiliated members of a social network can participate in the network.
  • [0006]
    Social networking websites require users to create descriptions of themselves by filling out many forms about the personality traits and interests of the users. The requirement of submitting tedious responses may turn off potential users. A user can use the descriptions to find other users with commonalities, though oftentimes this does not occur; a user description on a social networking site may inaccurately describe a user because the user can mistakenly or intentionally submit misleading information. A user often creates a description of an idealized person the user desires to be instead of a description representing the user's real traits and personalities. Methods to obtain accurate personality traits, preferences, motivations, and interests are desired.
  • [0007]
    Affecting lasting personal behavioral change requires persistence and motivation. A person seeking to undergo personal behavioral change generally requires accountability and motivation. For people with busy schedules or who travel frequently, the sources of motivation are difficult or impossible to access. These times of inaccessibility can be detrimental to the person's overall behavioral change goals.
  • [0008]
    The present invention addresses the difficult problem of affecting personal behavior and advances the art with a social network for affecting personal behavior.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0009]
    The present invention provides a computer implemented social network for affecting personal behavior. A registered user of the social network, who desires to undergo behavioral modifications, has his or her personal behavior affected by one or more friends. The friends affect the user's personal behavior by motivating the user and keeping the user accountable. Motivation and accountability exist in the present invention by the ability of friends of the user to send encouraging messages and to monitor the progress of the user, respectively. A friend of the user may be anyone, including other registered users of the social network and people not associated with the social network. A user may invite anyone to be a friend of the user and help the user achieve his or her goal. Not registered friends of a user can also be invited to register with the social network.
  • [0010]
    The present invention further provides the user the ability to update and maintain his or her progress in terms of the user's psychological state and behavioral actions related to the personal behavior the user wishes to change. For example, in an embodiment where the social network is for weight loss, behavioral actions can be water consumption, fruit and vegetable consumption, and physical activity. The progress of the user can be charted. The progress is viewed by the user and by friends of the user. The friends then send messages related to the viewed behavior. Optionally, an automatic message is sent to the user whenever a friend views the user's progress.
  • [0011]
    In the present invention, a user registers with the social network by creating a user profile. The profile displays the psychological state and behavioral actions. The user profile is easy to create and customize. Customization includes choosing themes and icons, representing the psychological state and behavioral actions of the user. The user-customized profile is used to reveal personal traits and preferences of the user. According to the present invention, support groups of registered users can be formed based on the revealed traits and interests. Members of a support group can affect each other's personal behavior in the same manner that friends of a user affect the behavior of the user. Members of a support group may also rate the support group. The support group ratings, progress of the users, and changes to user profiles can be used to regroup the registered users into different support groups. By this feedback grouping and regrouping mechanism, the present invention provides an ability to learn criteria for successful support groups.
  • [0012]
    An example system of the present invention includes an application server for running the online social network, a wireless gateway, and a portable device operated by a registered user of the social network. The wireless gateway enables two-way communication between the application server and the portable device. The portable device can be any wireless device that the user can carry or wear while traveling or performing activities. The portable device allows a user to view and log data on the psychological state and behavioral actions of the user onto the social network. Friends of the user can view the logged data and send encouraging messages to the user.
  • [0013]
    The present invention advances the art of affecting personal behavior by using a social network as a source of motivation and accountability. The present invention opens the possibility for anyone to be a friend to help a user of the social network and provides the user with compatible and helpful supporters. Also, the present invention provides a means for the user to access motivators by way of a portable device.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0014]
    The present invention together with its objectives and advantages will be understood by reading the following description in conjunction with the drawings, in which:
  • [0015]
    FIG. 1 shows an example of a social network for affecting personal change according to the present invention, where friends (F) of a user (R*), who are registered users (R) and not registered viewers (V) of the network, are motivating the user (R*).
  • [0016]
    FIG. 2 shows an example of a graphical user interface (GUI) for creating a user profile according to the present invention.
  • [0017]
    FIG. 3 shows an example of a GUI for displaying and updating user activity according to the present invention.
  • [0018]
    FIG. 4 shows examples of emoticons according to the present invention.
  • [0019]
    FIG. 5 shows an example of a GUI for interacting with friends of the user according to the present invention.
  • [0020]
    FIG. 6 is a flow chart showing an example of how a friend of a user sends motivational messages to the user according to the present invention.
  • [0021]
    FIG. 7 is a flow chart showing an example of how a person can be invited to become a friend of a user on the social network according to the present invention.
  • [0022]
    FIG. 8 shows a examples of distributions of support groups of registered users of the social network according to the present invention.
  • [0023]
    FIG. 9 is a flow chart showing an example of how a registered user is placed in a support group of registered users according to the present invention.
  • [0024]
    FIG. 10 shows an example of a network structure that includes a wirelessly connected portable device for affecting personal behavior according to the present invention.
  • [0025]
    FIG. 11 shows an example of a portable device for affecting personal behavior according to the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • [0026]
    Oftentimes the difficulty in modifying personal behavior is not the identification of the necessary changes, but the incorporation of the changes to a person's lifestyle. Support, motivation, and accountability with numerous friends would aid in the incorporation of these behavioral changes. Below is a detailed description of a computer implemented social network for affecting personal behavior.
  • [0027]
    FIG. 1 shows an example of a registered user R* whose personal behavior is being affected in a computer implemented social network 100 of registered users R to the network and not registered viewers V. The personal behavior of user R* is affected by friends of the user. A friend is a personal behavior affector within the social network who is linked with the user, can view data posted by the user, and communicate with the user through the social network.
  • [0028]
    It is important to note that the friends affecting the personal behavior of user R* are composed of registered user friends RF and viewer friends VF, who are not registered, affiliated, or associated with the social network. In FIG. 1, the friends of user R* are encouraging the user through motivational messages to affect the personal behavior of the user R*.
  • [0029]
    In addition to a user's friends, a professional coaching content provider, not shown in FIG. 1, may also be linked with the user to affect the personal behavior of the user. The coaching content provider may or may not be registered with the social network. The coaching content provider may be free or require payment.
  • [0030]
    To register with the social network, a user must create a customized personal user profile by using a profile creating graphical user interface (GUI) 200, an example of which is shown in FIG. 2. The customized user profile is used to determine personal traits and interests of the user in a simple and subtle manner without relying on tedious forms. For example, the user profile function allows the user to create a profile by selecting from a list of themes 210 for the user profile and selecting icons that represent behavioral actions and psychological states. The theme may include color schemes and layouts. A behavioral action is an activity undertaken by a user. The activity is related to the behavioral change the user wishes to undergo. A psychological state represents a user's emotional status, e.g. the mood of the user. Optionally, personal attributes, including a username, a password, email address, city, state, birthday, gender, and relationship status, may be entered.
  • [0031]
    For a social network for weight loss, behavioral actions and their representative icons may include servings of water consumed 230, servings of fruits and vegetables eaten 240, and amount of physical exercise 250. In one embodiment, the amount of physical exercise can be quantized into ten minutes of intentional physical activity. A mood icon 220 may also be selected. Optionally, a user can select a coach character. The coach character may be a dog, cat, another animal, or a fictitious character. The coach character can be an animated graphical image displayed on the user profile. An additional feature of the invention is a function for a user to enter payment information. The payment information can be used to facilitate purchases of services and goods, e.g. to pay for coaching content from a professional coaching content provider.
  • [0032]
    FIG. 3 shows an example of a user profile 300. The user profile 300 displays the username 310, a psychological state of the user 320, and behavioral actions 330, 340, and 350. The user can change his or her psychological state by moving a scroll bar 325 through a list of to predetermined emotional states such as bad, better, good, guilty, sick, sorry, well, down, alone, happy, great, sad, lost, tired, lonely, horrible, pretty, special, loved, depressed, fine, confident, big, important, complete, fat, proud, stressed, helpless, angry, ashamed, needed, scared, beautiful, hungry, satisfied, handsome, frustrated, insecure, calm, emotional, and motivated. Alternatively, the user can select from a list of emoticons, icons representing various emotions. Examples of a happy emoticon 410, a sad emoticon 420, and an angry emoticon 430 are displayed in FIG. 4.
  • [0033]
    The user may also update his or her behavioral actions. In a preferred embodiment, the behavioral actions include the amount of water consumed 330, the number of servings of fruits or vegetables consumed 340, and the amount of intentional exercise 350. The quantities are updatable. For instance, an exercise text field 355 can be changed to accurately reflect the amount of exercise undertaken by the user on a particular day. Alternatively, buttons are available to increase and decrease quantities of behavioral actions. The updated profile can be saved by clicking the save button 370.
  • [0034]
    The date can be displayed on the user profile 300 and the user can use a scroll bar 315 to see his or her activity on different days. In addition, a chart function 380 is available for a graphical view of the user's progress. The charts may show one or more behavioral actions or psychological states as a function of time. For instance, a chart may show the number of servings of water drank by the user per day over the past week.
  • [0035]
    The user profile 300 includes a text box 360 where messages from the user's friends are posted. Timestamps may be included in the text box 360. A scroll bar 365 may be used to scroll through different messages displayed in the text box 360 enabling the user to view messages from different dates and times. Furthermore, an animated coach character 305 may also be displayed on the user profile 300.
  • [0036]
    FIG. 5 shows an example of a user's friend list 500. A user is able to share 520 the information shown on the user profile by selecting a friend from the names displayed 510 and pressing the share button 520. A link to the user's profile or links to charts of the user's behavioral and psychological data will be sent to the selected friend. Information on the last time a friend viewed the user's profile 550 can also be displayed. A user can view 530 the profile of a friend if the friend has a user profile, i.e. if the friend is also registered with the social network.
  • [0037]
    A user can also send a message or a poke 540 a friend. A poke 540 is a communication that does not contain a lengthy message, instead, it indicates to the friend that the user was thinking about the friend and/or viewed the friend's profile. A poke can be simply sent by clicking one or more buttons. A custom message can be entered in the message text box 590 and sent by pressing the send button 580. Alternatively, a message can be selected from a set of predetermined messages.
  • [0038]
    FIG. 6 is a flow chart showing an example of how a friend of a user views the user's profile and sends a motivational message to the user. In one aspect of the present invention, an automatic poke is generated whenever a user's profile is viewed. The automatic poke notifies the user that one of the user's friends is observing the user's progress and further helps in motivating the user.
  • [0039]
    A user may also find 560 and invite 570 other people to become friends. FIG. 7 is a flow chart showing an example of how friends can be invited and added to a user's friend list. As shown in FIG. 7, friends can be found by importing the address book on a user's email account. The members listed on an imported address book can be viewed and selected by the user. An invitation can be sent to the selected members. Alternatively, a user can send invitations by manually entering email addresses. A user can invite people who are not registered members of the social network to become friends with the user. By allowing not registered viewers to become a part of the social network, a user has access to a greater number of potential motivators. An invitation to register with the social network can also be sent to non-registered viewers.
  • [0040]
    A function is also provided for grouping registered users into a plurality of support groups. FIG. 8A shows an example of how twelve registered users R are grouped into three subgroups. The grouping is based on the customization of the user profile instead of by questions directed to the user, since requiring a user to answer detailed questions is tedious to the user. Furthermore, answers to directed questions could fail to elucidate real personality traits of a user because the user's awareness that the questions are for matching the user with others or with appropriate services may affect the user's responses.
  • [0041]
    In the present invention, choices a user makes in selecting themes and icons for the user profile reveal personality traits and interests. Furthermore, the customization of the profile is a simple process. The personality traits and interests are then used to estimate compatibility with other users. For example, the water icon can be between choices of the “best place to drink water” or the “best ways to drink water,” which may reveal traits such as gregariousness or shyness. The vegetable and fruit icons may represent different types of vegetables and fruits and users can be grouped according to common selections. The exercise icon can be chosen from different sports or active hobbies, which indicates user interests. Similarly, the choice of a coach character could be used for grouping users. The theme of the user profile could also be indicative of personality types. The choice of colors and layout could reveal traits such as masculine, feminine, bright and positive, dark and foreboding, mechanical, industrial, natural, or outdoorsy. FIG. 9 is a flowchart of an example of how grouping registered users into support groups is accomplished.
  • [0042]
    The membership of the support groups can also change, based on changes to the user profiles, the satisfaction of the users with their support groups, and success of the registered users in changing behavior. To determine user satisfaction with a support group, users can rate the support group in which they belong. FIG. 8B shows the same registered users R as in FIG. 8A but with different group memberships based on the above criteria. An algorithm can be used to update the groupings. By using this feedback mechanism, a program can constantly adapt, refine, and learn how to better determine compatibility of users.
  • [0043]
    Because success in affecting personal behavior strongly depends on consistent motivation, access to the sources of motivation could be key to the success. For a user of the social network of the present invention who has a busy schedule or who travels often, portable access to the social network would be extremely beneficial. FIG. 10 shows an example of a network structure 1000 that enables a user to access the social network with a portable device 1090.
  • [0044]
    According to an example of the present invention, the computer implemented social network 1000 of registered users 1020 and not registered viewers 1030 is connected through the Internet 1010. An application server 1040 operates the social network. In addition, a wireless gateway 1050 is connected to the application server 1040. The wireless gateway wirelessly communicates to a portable device 1090 via an antenna 1060. The wireless gateway can be a Short Message System (SMS) gateway or any other wireless communication method including WIFI, Bluetooth, new emerging standards, as well as proprietary protocols. The communication can be encoded and transmitted in both directions.
  • [0045]
    FIG. 11 shows an example of a portable device 1100 for affecting personal behavior. A registered user of the network operates the portable device 1100. The device may include a display unit 1110 in which the user can view messages sent to the user. In other words, friends of the user can view the user's profile and send an encouraging message, a poke, or a stored message, to the user. The message is transmitted from the application server to the portable device via the wireless gateway. In addition to receiving messages, the user can also log data 1170 on the user's behavioral actions, emotional state, or both onto the portable device 1100. The behavioral actions of water consumption 1130, fruit and vegetable consumption 1140, and physical exercise 1150 are updated by buttons 1135, 1145, and 1155, respectively, on the portable device.
  • [0046]
    The portable device can be carried on the body of the user of the device and/or wearable by the user. The portable device 1100 may be a device made primarily for communicating with the social network or it may be a mobile phone, a wristwatch, a personal digital assistant, a portable music player, or any other portable device with wireless capabilities. The functionality of communicating with the behavior change social network can also be integrated with a portable medical device including an activity monitor, such as an to accelerometer or pedometer, a blood glucose meter and/or insulin delivery device, a blood pressure monitor, or any combination thereof. The signal of the portable medical device can also be used to determine an amount of behavioral actions undertaken by the user. The determination of behavioral actions can be done by user entry or automatically by a program. For example, ten minutes of excited activity signal measured by a accelerometer worn by a user would automatically send a communication from the pedometer to the application server to increase the amount of physical activity undertaken by the user.
  • [0047]
    In a preferred embodiment of the portable device, a user can log data with a simple code in which the user enters a number between 0 and 9 for each of the behavioral actions. The number corresponds to an amount of activity done by the user during the current day. The entered data would then be transmitted from the portable device to the application server via the wireless gateway Aside from ease of use, the simple code would allow straightforward integration of an existing portable device with the social network application. The portable device also allows a user to update activity and diet information at any time, thereby allowing the supporters of the user to view the progress of the user in real time.
  • [0048]
    As one of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate, various changes, substitutions, and alterations could be made or otherwise implemented without departing from the principles of the present invention, e.g. the Internet could be substituted by a local area network. Accordingly, the scope of the invention should be determined by the following claims and their legal equivalents.

Claims (28)

  1. 1. A method for supporting behavior modification using a computer-implemented social network, the method comprising:
    implementing on a computer server a social networking system for a social network comprising a user;
    implementing on the computer server an updating function allowing the user to update a quantity of behavioral action of the user;
    implementing on the computer server a monitoring function allowing the quantity of behavioral action to be shared with viewers, wherein the viewers include both registered and non-registered users of the social network, wherein the monitoring function allows the viewers to monitor progress of the user toward a behavior modification goal;
    implementing on the computer server a motivating function allowing friends of the user to send to the user messages, wherein the friends are a group selected by the user from among the viewers.
  2. 2. The method of claim 1 further comprising implementing on the computer server a grouping function that automatically selects, based on common profile information, a subset of the viewers as members of a support group composed of the user and other users of the social network.
  3. 3. The method of claim 2 wherein implementing on the computer server a motivating function comprises allowing the friends of the user and the subset of members of the support group to send to the user messages that, in response to the shared information, provide feedback related to the behavior modification goal.
  4. 4. The method of claim 2 further comprising implementing on the computer server a rating function to rate the support group.
  5. 5. The method of claim 1 further comprising implementing on the computer server a poke function that automatically notifies the user when a friend views personal profile information of the user.
  6. 6. The method of claim 2 further comprising implementing on the computer server a function that enables a professional coaching content provider to send to the user messages that provide feedback related to the behavior modification goal.
  7. 7. A method for supporting behavior modification using a computer-implemented social network, the method comprising:
    implementing on a computer server a social networking system for a social network comprising a user;
    implementing on the computer server an updating function allowing the user to update a quantity of behavioral action of the user;
    implementing on the computer server a monitoring function allowing the quantity of behavioral action to be shared with viewers, wherein the monitoring function allows the viewers to monitor progress of the user toward a behavior modification goal;
    implementing on the computer server a motivating function allowing friends of the user to send messages to the user, wherein the friends are a group selected by the user from among the viewers.
  8. 8. The method of claim 7 wherein the updating function receives the quantity of behavioral action of the user from a portable device and automatically updates personal profile information of the user with the received quantity.
  9. 9. The method of claim 8 wherein the portable device is integrated with an activity monitor, an accelerometer, a pedometer, a blood glucose meter, an insulin delivery device, or a blood pressure monitor.
  10. 10. The method of claim 7 wherein the quantity of behavioral action of the user comprises physical activity information or diet information.
  11. 11. The method of claim 10 wherein the physical activity information comprises an amount of physical exercise.
  12. 12. The method of claim 10 wherein the diet information comprises servings of water consumed, servings of fruits and vegetables eaten, or an amount of water consumed.
  13. 13. The method of claim 7 wherein the updating function allowing the user to update psychological state information of the user.
  14. 14. The method of claim 13 wherein the psychological state information comprises a state selected from a list of predetermined emotional states or a list of emoticons.
  15. 15. The method of claim 7 further comprising implementing on the computer server a chart function providing to the viewers a graphical view of a progress of the user toward the behavior modification goal.
  16. 16. The method of claim 15 wherein the graphical view shows behavioral actions or psychological states as a function of time.
  17. 17. A system for supporting behavior modification using a social network, the system comprising:
    an application server implementing a social network comprising a user, wherein the application server: i) implements an updating function allowing the user to update a quantity of behavioral action of the user; ii) implements a monitoring function allowing the quantity of behavioral action to be shared with viewers, wherein the monitoring function allows the viewers to monitor progress of the user toward a behavior modification goal; and iii) implementing on the computer server a motivating function allowing friends of the user to send messages to the user, wherein the friends are a group selected by the user from among the viewers, wherein the viewers comprise registered and non-registered users of the social network;
    a portable device used by one of said plurality of users to transmit the quantity of behavioral action to the application server; and
    a wireless gateway communicating with said portable device and said application server.
  18. 18. The system of claim 17 wherein the portable device is a mobile phone, a wristwatch, a personal digital assistant, a portable music player, or other portable device with wireless capabilities.
  19. 19. The system of claim 17 wherein the portable device is integrated with a portable medical device.
  20. 20. The system of claim 19 wherein the portable medical device is an activity monitor, an accelerometer, a pedometer, a blood glucose meter, an insulin delivery device, or a blood pressure monitor.
  21. 21. The system of claim 19 wherein the portable medical device generates a signal used to determine the quantity of behavioral action.
  22. 22. The system of claim 17 wherein the quantity of behavioral action of the user comprises physical activity information or diet information.
  23. 23. The system of claim 22 wherein the physical activity information comprises an amount of physical exercise.
  24. 24. The system of claim 22 wherein the diet information comprises servings of water consumed, servings of fruits and vegetables eaten, or an amount of water consumed.
  25. 25. The system of claim 17 wherein the updating function allowing the user to update psychological state information of the user.
  26. 26. The system of claim 25 wherein the psychological state information comprises a state selected from a list of predetermined emotional states or a list of emoticons.
  27. 27. The system of claim 17 wherein the application server further implements a chart function providing to the viewers a graphical view of a progress of the user toward the behavior modification goal.
  28. 28. The system of claim 27 wherein the graphical view shows behavioral actions or psychological states as a function of time.
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