Katherine Boehret

Recent Columns by Walt Mossberg

Making Lists of Everything in Your Life

Lists are often the core of daily planning, the directories of what needs to be done next. A typical list might call for a 45-minute bike ride, buying a shower curtain and picking up a friend from the airport — all before noon.

But what about making lists of things you’ve already done? Not summaries of the errands you ran in a day but broader catalogs of the things you’ve experienced throughout your life? This week, I tested a new Web site called Meosphere.com that encourages users to check off lists related to topics ranging from cars they owned to former hairstyles to countries they visited. When the answers from these lists are compiled, they create a meosphere (emphasis on “me”), or an overall glance at one’s life history.

Meosphere.com, by Meosphere LLC, was launched in March as a way to catalog details about yourself or someone else, like a Web-based memory book. It offers some 2,500 lists, and new lists are added daily by users and site managers. But its users soon wanted to share their meospheres with others, forcing the site to steer more toward social networking and connecting people by letting them share and compare meospheres.

Meosphere.com users fill in lists to create profiles of themselves that they can compare with others.

This free site is a lot of fun to use, not to mention addictive. Once you start checking off items in one list, you’ll want to complete other lists to beef up your meosphere. And when friends and family share their meosphere with you, you’ll learn things you never knew about them (apparently, my sister has been to Monaco). You’ll also be reminded of things you should add to your own meosphere. When you encounter a list item that you’ve not seen or done, you can add it to a separate To Do list, and community comments appear beside each list.

The site’s social-networking aspects leave room for improvement. But Meosphere has its own To Do list in the works. By the end of this month, users will contact one another through the site. And by next month, users will designate “friends” and view and compare multiple meospheres on one page, versus currently only being able to do so with two. A “meosphere match” feature will also be introduced in July; it will find and point you to meospheres similar to yours.

Web sites know how valuable lists can be; wish lists and automatically generated recommendation lists provide encouragement for online shoppers. Other sites exist specifically to promote list-making, such as the Amazon.com-owned 43things.com, which encourages users to set goals of 43 things they hope to do before they die.

On Monday, Meosphere extended its reach by announcing its presence on Facebook.com, letting users share their meosphere with others through Facebook’s profile page. On Meosphere.com, you can generate a Web link for your meosphere, making it easy to paste into a blog, personal Web site or an email.

Starting out with Meosphere is simple, though its navigation is a little rough. The site’s many lists are broken down into categories on the home page. These broader topics include Books, Places, Arts and Entertainment and Events. Selecting any of these topics lets you drill down into specific categories. The Books category, for example, led me to Fiction, which led me to Classics and then to Jane Austen Books You’ve Read. I check-marked four of the listed books and chose to add “Mansfield Park” to my To Do list by clicking on an icon beside this title. You can also rate items on a list; selecting a thumbs-up icon for a favorite Jane Austen title, for example, means that this rating will appear beside the title on your meosphere.

After finishing the list, I selected Update My Meosphere to add this list’s data to my profile. If you don’t have an account set up with Meosphere yet, you can quickly do it here. A nickname is designated in place of your real name, for privacy, and it’s also here where you opt whether to share your content with others.

Your Meosphere can be viewed in folio (list) format or in a graphical view, which looks cool but, unlike folio view, can’t be used to compare your meosphere side-by-side with someone else’s. In the future, users may be able to compare as many as four meospheres at a time in folio view; the company says that showing more than four starts to look confusing.

A link at the top right of the screen labeled “My Meosphere” takes you to an organized view of your data. It shows all of the lists that you’ve filled in, arranged from most recent to oldest, and compiles the comments that you’ve posted with each list. These comments can be shared with the community or kept private; either way they create a collection of remarks that the site calls My Journal.

Another icon at the top of the page labeled Meosphere Home jumps you back to the home page of lists. You can also search for lists by typing in a search box or by choosing lists related to specific locations. Ads appear on each page, but these are pushed to the far right of the screen, so they aren’t invasive. Plus, most ads are related to the list that you’re filling in.

Some of the lists that are geographically related use a map for checking off locations (like countries or U.S. states) by selecting them on the map. After comparing my meosphere with my sister’s, she was all too quick to remind me that I had been to Montana during a family trip that involved a multitude of national parks, a lot of car time and a stop in Billings. One of the funniest lists I filled in was titled Fads You’ve Done, Bought or Worn; it walked me down memory lane as I read the items and checked off Leg Warmers, Electric Slide Dance and Jelly Shoes. Another list that made me laugh out loud was Hairstyles You’ve Worn — ah, the ’80s.

When I filled in a list of Broadway musicals I’ve seen, I was reminded of a few I had forgotten. And every meosphere that was shared with me taught me something about the sender.

Chances are that almost everyone you meet has done something fascinating, but it’s not always easy for people to spit out these facts about themselves. Meosphere gives you a chance to do so, through the Web. But while it allows you to share your interesting personal stories, it just as easily lets you keep them to yourself for your own records. I hope that when this site implements improved social-networking features in the next couple of months, it will retain its simple interface and spirited purpose.

Edited by Walter S. Mossberg

The Little Robot Made to Clean the Icky Spots

April 05, 2011 at 1:24 pm PT

PC Downloads as Easy as an App

March 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm PT

Games to Flex Your Brain

March 22, 2011 at 3:14 pm PT

Nintendo’s 3DS Brings Dizzying Fun On the Go

March 15, 2011 at 3:35 pm PT

A Digital “Magazine” With One Subscriber

March 08, 2011 at 9:05 pm PT