Reporter app, for self-discovery through data

Posted to Self-surveillance  |  Tags: , ,  |  Nathan Yau

Nicholas Felton, Drew Breunig, and Friends of the Web released Reporter for iPhone. The app—$3.99 on the app store—prompts you with quizzes, such as who you're with or what you're doing, sparsely throughout the day to help you collect data about yourself and surroundings. You can also create your own survey questions to collect data on what interests you and use your phone's existing capabilities to record location, sound levels, weather, and photo counts automatically.

Those who are familiar with Felton's annual reports will recognize the design of the app, as it has a familiar look and feel, and it works almost how you'd expect an interactive version of his printed reports would. The charts are straightforward. They provide a quick summary of the data you collect.

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But back to the survey collection process. This is the part that interests me most, because as those who have collected data about themselves know, the collection is the hard part and the most important.

When collection is all automatic, it's easy to forget about and oftentimes we lose context, whereas when collection is all manual, you have to remember to log things and collection grows to be a chore. Reporter is a hybrid between automatic and manual. The automatic part serves as metadata, and the manual portion tries to be as quick and painless as possible (and it is for the most part).

I've been using the app for the past week, and it's actually kind of fun to collect. It takes about as much time as a check-in on Foursquare or a status update on Twitter or Facebook, and all the data stays on your phone or saves to Dropbox, if you like. Export your data as CSV or JSON.

From there, do what you want, because it's your data. Most people will probably stay inside the app, but the best part is what can be done outside.

Of course, this is still the honeymoon phase of personal data collection, where I want to log everything in the whole wide world. I'll let you know what it's like in a month. For now though, the Reporter app is nice.

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