Using Mycrocosm

Mycrocosm is a web site that makes it possible for people to use statistical graphs for expressive social communication. It allows you to define what you want to say (graphically) and provides convenient ways to enter data. Lets take a look at some examples to demonstrate how you can use the system.

Quick Help

If this is your first time using mycrocosm scroll down for more detailed help. This is a quick refresher on the syntax for more experienced users. Commands are shown in bold; words surrounded by <angle brackets> are placeholders and are replaced by your information.

Creating Datasets

+<name> creates a dataset titled <name>.

+<longer name> creates a dataset titled <longer name>.

Adding Data

<name label> inserts <label> into dataset entitled <name>. <label> can include spaces.

<longer name>. <label> inserts <label> into dataset entitled <longer name>, a period is required becasue of the space in <longer name>.

<name label> + <3> inserts <label> into previously created dataset entitled <name> with a value (count) of <3>.

+<name> time creates a new time dataset. Datasets created with time in their title are assumed to be time datasets. The title of the dataset is <name> time.

Tracking Time

<name time.> <1:34pm> or <name> time. <1:34pm> inserts <1:34pm> into the time dataset entitled <name time>. "time" may be included in the placeholder because time datasets can be renamed after their creation to not include the word "time" and still function properly as time datasets

<name time.> inserts the current time (EST) into the time dataset entitled <name time.>

<name time.> now does the same as above.

<name time.> start starts a timer in the <name time> dataset.

<name time.> stop stops the last timer started on the <name time> dataset and records the duration.

Basic Usage

When you first login to Mycrocosm and go to your stats page, you won't see much, we need to start by telling the system what we want to keep track of. All our actions in Mycrocosm are done through the 'Capture Data' text field near the top of your personal stats page, by inputting various commands into this text field we can begin to add data, as well as new things to track, to the system. We can create a new dataset using the following syntax


So for example, say I wanted to track what colour shirt I wear everyday. I might do the following.

+Shirt Colour.

This will create the 'Shirt Colour' dataset. After I get dressed in the morning I can enter new data into the system in the following manner

Shirt Colour. Blue

and maybe the next day

Shirt Colour. Black

Notice there is no '+'. This is because we are not creating a new dataset, merely updating one we have previously created. The above commands will enter blue and black into the Shirt Colour database. My stats page would also display a visualization summarizing this data.

Notice the use of the fullstop at the end of 'Shirt Colour.' because of the space in the name of the dataset we need to help the system separate the name from the data you want to enter.

Basic Usage 2

We can also easily directly associate numbers with entries, this can be helpful when we want to add multiple copies of the same entries all at once. We do this by using a plus symbol after the label we want to enter. Consider the following example where we create a dataset to indicate the amount of time it takes to walk from home to various places.

First we create the new dataset

+Minutes to

Then we can enter data as follows

Minutes to. grocery store + 12
Minutes to. laundromat + 7
Minutes to. Best Cuban Sandwich in cambridge + 20

Tracking Time

Another thing we may want to track in mycrocosm is time, when we do things or how long we spend doing them.

Mycrocosm makes special provision for tracking times, we simply need to create a dataset with the word 'time' in the name of the dataset

For example lets say I want to track when I take breaks from work during the day, I may start by typing in the following

+Break Time.

This will create a special dataset suited to tracking times. When I take a break I can record what time I did so in the following manner

Break Time.

Thats it! Mycrocosm will record the current time as the time of your event.

Lets say I already took my break and forgot to send a record it in mycrocosm, I can do so when I get back in the following manner.

Break Time. 3:47pm

It's that simple. Mycrocosm understands a variety of ways of writing time, if you dont want to use am and pm you can use the standard 24 hour time format

As mentioned before, mycrocosm can also help you keep track of how long you spend doing things, lets say I want to track how long my breaks are. When I go on break I can do the following

Break Time. Start

Mycrocosm will take the current time and record it as the start time for your event.

'Start' and 'Stop' are special keywords when using time related datasets. They work like starting and stopping a stopwatch.

When I return from break I would do the following

Break Time. Stop

This stops the timer for that entry. The duration of this event will be shown on the visualization for this dataset.

Making Friends and Sharing Graphs

Mycrocosm has features to support collaborative creation of datasets. The first step in collaborating with someone (or a group of people) over a dataset is letting mycrocosm know that you know each other.

When visiting another user's page there is a  'Follow'  button underneath the name of that user. Clicking this button adds that user to your list of "followees" and you to their list of "followers", if that user does the same for you (i.e. they reciprocate the "follow" action) then you can grant them full access to datasets you have created.

To do so, from your stats page click on the name of the dataset you want to grant access to, this will take you to the edit page for that dataset. The edit dataset page will show you who currently has full access to the dataset and whom you can grant full access to. By granting full access to a dataset you are allowing that user the ability to add, modify or delete entries do your dataset, think about this carefully because there is not way to control or undo the actions of those you grant access to (except of course by manually re-entering what was changed). Apart from the entries, the other dataset entries are unique to each user, thus each user with full access can group and display the data in anyway they choose (or assign short-codes) without affecting other users. However, the name of a shared dataset cannot be changed. You should also keep in mind that users you have granted full access to can in turn to the same with other users. However you will always be able to see who has access.


You can make comments on your own, as well as other peoples datasets. To do when logged in click on the "*<n>*" icon next to the name of any dataset to access its comments page. <n> is the number of comments that dataset has

Private Datasets

You can choose to make your mycrocosm datasets private (unless they are shared). A private dataset can be seen only by you. It is a great way to keep track of information you prefer not to share with the world; to try out mycrocosm privately; or to populate a dataset before making it public. To make a dataset private, go to the dataset options page for that dataset by clicking on its title on your user page.

Mobile data entry

Mycrocosm also allows for data entry from a mobile device. In order to use this feature you need to go to your profile page and add an email address, phone number or both. Once this is done messages from that email address or phone number sent to are used in the same way as the text you would regularly type into the mycrocosm input box. Thus all the types of commands described above can be done from your mobile device.

Tip: Most cellular phones can send SMSs (text messages) to email addresses at no additional charge (check with your provider or just try it!). To do so just type in the email address where you would usually type in a number.

Known Issues

This section includes issues/problems that we are already aware of.

Time datasets cannot render durations across multiple days, currently time graphs cannot properly render a duration that starts in one day and ends in another. We are currently working to correct this.

Time datasets only show up to the last 9 days worth of entries (days with no entries are skipped). Scrolling coming soon.

There is no support currently for user specific time zones. Whenever mycrocosm gets the "current time" it does so in EST.

The site looks best in Firefox, if possible use that browser. It also looks fine in Opera and Safari. If you are using Internet Explorer, you should use Internet Explorer 7 rather than internet Explorer 6 for a better experience (though not as good a one as if you used one of the other browsers mentioned).