• Track your sleep with Sense

    August 21, 2014  |  Self-surveillance

    Sense

    Entering the market of self-surveillance for sleep, via Kickstarter, Sense promises to be a smarter tracker that you don't have to wear.
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  • Feltron Annual Report 2013

    August 21, 2014  |  Self-surveillance

    Feltron annual report

    In his ninth edition of the personal report, Nicholas Felton looks at communication through his phone, email, Facebook, and physical mail.

    Also, don't miss the short video from the New York Times. Felton is half-jokingly asked if he's obsessive compulsive which always amuses me.

    It reminds me of when I asked someone about her pedometer, and she gladly talked about how she logged her steps every day for nearly a decade. Days with a lot of steps reminded her of trips or long walks. So naturally, I brought up my dissertation work on personal data collection. I thought she would be totally into it, but she was skeptical. She wondered why anyone would want to collect data on their location, computer usage, or sleep habits. And again, this was right after she told me about her decade of step logs.

    There's a disconnect.

    Actively looking at your data seems to cross you over to the obsessive side. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but the separation between the active and passive seems to be getting fuzzier. Maybe one day there'll be a guy in an interview who doesn't collect data about himself, and everyone is curious why.

  • You get a personal data site, and you get one, and you too

    July 21, 2014  |  Self-surveillance

    Aprilzero data collection

    Personal data collection keeps getting easier and more efficient. Much of what was manual or clunky a few years ago is now automatic, done via the phone we carry every day anyway. More recently, personal data is finding a way out of the closed networks and applications and on to our own computers and servers.

    Anand Sharma's personal site is the newest example of what an individual can do with his or her own data. On a whim a few months ago, Sharma downloaded the Moves app, which tracks your location, and was hooked. Then with some design inspiration from Tony Stark, Sharma put a site together to show a feed a several aspects of his life, mostly tracked with his phone.
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  • Jawbone UP24 Review

    June 19, 2014  |  Self-surveillance

    I tracked steps and sleep for the past month wearing the Jawbone UP24 wristband. It works. It's straightforward to use. It's not perfect. I'm gonna keep wearing it.

    Jawbone with SD card for scale
    Jawbone UP24 with SD card for scale
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  • Explore where you’ve been with Visits

    June 18, 2014  |  Self-surveillance

    Visits demo

    Visits, a research project by Alice Thudt, Dominikus Baur, and Sheelagh Carpendale from the University of Calgary, is an exploration of your personal location history.

    With visits you can browse your location histories and explore your trips and travels. Our unique map timeline visualization shows the places you have visited and how long you have stayed there. Add photos from Flickr to your visits and share your journey with your family and friends!

    Visits works with geo-tagged Flickr albums, data from Openpaths and Google Location Histories. It runs locally in your browser, so no sensitive data is uploaded to our servers. When you share your history, it is up to you how much detail visits reveals and what remains private.

    Simply plug your data in and explore short trips or even better, look at long-term location memories. The focus is less on analytics and numbers and more on helping you remember where you've been. [Thanks, Dominikus]

  • Personal smart garden system tracks soil and water conditions

    June 6, 2014  |  Self-surveillance

    Edyn garden system

    Edyn, a new project on Kickstarter, aims to make gardening easier by tracking water and soil conditions and automatically adjusting water schedules based on the data.

    Edyn is there to take the guesswork out of gardening. Inserted in the soil, the Edyn Garden Sensor gathers and analyzes data about changing weather and soil conditions. The Edyn App displays this data as a real-time snapshot of your garden, and pushes alerts and suggestions to maximize plant health. A separate component, the Edyn Water Valve, uses the data collected by the sensor to smartly control your existing watering system, watering your plants only when needed.

    I want this for lawns.

  • The United States of Metrics isn’t such a bad thing

    May 19, 2014  |  Self-surveillance

    Bruce Feiler for The New York Times describes his concern and distaste for data collection and analysis.

    In the last few years, there has been a revolution so profound that it's sometimes hard to miss its significance. We are awash in numbers. Data is everywhere. Old-fashioned things like words are in retreat; numbers are on the rise. Unquantifiable arenas like history, literature, religion and the arts are receding from public life, replaced by technology, statistics, science and math. Even the most elemental form of communication, the story, is being pushed aside by the list.

    The results are in: The nerds have won. Time to replace those arrows in the talons of the American eagle with pencils and slide rules. We've become the United States of Metrics.

    That's how the full article reads. Grouchy.

    Feiler jumps into a handful of examples that could've easily been used as positives, had they been in an article about the boom of data. For instance, he scoffs at a project from New York University and Hudson Yards that aims for a "smart community" that tracks pedestrian traffic, air quality, and energy consumption. Is it better to not know these things? Should we rely entirely on word of mouth for every problem in a city that can easily be fixed? That's a tough sell.

    He does suggest that we need balance between data-informed and data-only decisions, and yes to this absolutely, but he also suggests that we've already reached a maximum for the amount of data we want in our lives.

    The underlying premise is that if we observe, journal, and experiment our lives in data, we take away from the joy of living. Sports is less fun to watch and food doesn't taste as good. That's another tough sell.

    Here's how I see it: I strongly believe in going with your gut instincts. It's led me in the right direction more often than not. But, sometimes I move in the wrong direction, or I don't know enough about a subject and all I have is uncertainty. If there's data there to help then all the better.

  • Share your traces with a stranger

    May 14, 2014  |  Self-surveillance

    The MIT Media Lab Playful Systems group is working on an experiment in data sharing, on a personal level. It's called 20 Day Stranger. You install an app on your phone that tracks your location and what you're doing, and that information is anonymously shared with a stranger. You also see what that stranger is doing.

    I can't decide if this is creepy or touching, or somewhere in between. I put myself on the waiting list to find out, but I imagine the experience has a little bit to do with the app and much more to do with the stranger on the other side.

  • UP Coffee app helps you track and understand caffeine consumption

    March 10, 2014  |  Self-surveillance

    UP Coffee

    How much caffeine can you consume during the day and still fall asleep at night? For some, it's one cup and they're up all night, whereas others don't feel a thing. UP Coffee, an app from Jawbone Labs, helps you understand your own consumption and caffeine tolerance.

    Data entry is straightforward since it's only for caffeine-related beverages, such as coffee and soda. Enter your beverage, and the app tabulates caffeine amounts for you.

    The key though is that it doesn't just stop at milligrams. What's 100 milligrams of caffeine mean anyways? Instead, with a focus on sleep, it tells you how much caffeine you've consumed and how many hours you're expected to feel the effects.

    Pair it with your Jawbone UP band and account for an even wider out picture. Although you don't have to. I've been using the app with neither, and it's still fun the play with. And it kind of makes me want a band.

  • Reporter app, for self-discovery through data

    February 13, 2014  |  Self-surveillance

    Reporter app

    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.
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  • Weightless Project uses personal tracker data to abate hunger and obesity

    December 30, 2013  |  Self-surveillance

    The Weightless Project gives you another reason to use your Jawbone or Fitbit that you got for Christmas this year (or to dig out the one you used for a week and forgot about). For every 1,000 calories lost, a dollar is donated to food relief programs.

    Hopeful.

  • Quantified breakup

    December 2, 2013  |  Self-surveillance

    sleep breakup

    A recently divorced woman is using her personal data — phone logs, emails, chats, bank statements, and GPS traces — as her own way to cope with the new situation.

    Divorce is hard. Putting this process into numbers, images and data visualizations is helpful. It yanks me out of these all-consuming moments of sadness and helps me understand how, perhaps as time passes, things are going to be ok in the long run (looking for positive trends within the data!) I hope these web things can help you, too.

    Data and charts as a route to clarity. Sounds right.

    See also: What Love Looks Like.

  • Personal data for sale

    May 27, 2013  |  Self-surveillance

    Sites visited

    NYU ITP graduate student Federico Zannier collected data about himself — online browsing, location, and keystrokes — for his thesis. As he dug into personal data more and looked closer at company privacy policies, he wondered what it might be like if individuals profited from their own data. That is, companies make money using the data we passively generate while we browse and use applications and visit sites. What if individuals owned that data and were able to sell it?

    Enter Zannier's Kickstarter campaign to sell his own data for $2 per day of activity.

    I started looking at the terms of service for the websites I often use. In their privacy policies, I have found sentences like this: "You grant a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed)." I've basically agreed to give away a lifelong, international, sub-licensable right to use my personal data.

    Somebody told me that we live in the data age, that the silicon age is already over. "In this new economy," they said, "data is the oil."

    Well, this is me trying to do something about it.

    Clearly this is more of a statement and conversation starter, but what if?

    There's about a week left in the campaign, and it's well past the goal.

  • Monitor your surroundings with these sensors

    March 19, 2013  |  Self-surveillance

    cubesIt wasn't long ago that sensors and personal tracking seemed like pure nerdery. In the early stages of graduate school — before smartphones were popular or even widely available — I played around with sensors that had finicky battery life and Internet connectivity, the software was buggy, and the hardware looked clunky.

    New tracking devices pop up regularly these days. They're built and designed for a wider audience, and sometimes to my surprise, the devices are embraced by the target audience. It started with personal trackers that are fitness and health-related, but people are branching out now to monitoring their surroundings.

    Two showed up on my radar this past week: CubeSensors and Thermodo.
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  • Feltron 2012 Annual Report

    March 14, 2013  |  Self-surveillance

    Feltron report

    Today might be pi day, but yesterday was Feltron Report day. The theme this year is visual density — or maybe programmatic graphics. Either way, it looks mighty fine.

  • Amiigo: The exercise tracker that identifies exercises

    March 11, 2013  |  Self-surveillance

    Amiigo

    Self-tracking devices are all the rage these days. I went to the Apple store, and there was practically a whole wall of them. They were all uni-taskers though. There was one for cycling, another for running, and one for golfing. Amiigo, an Indiegogo campaign with four days left to contribute (but funded to completion five times over as of this writing), aims to track multiple exercises and figure out what you're exercise you're doing automatically.
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  • Over-the-top quantified self

    February 25, 2013  |  Self-surveillance

    Dancy calendar

    Chris Dancy likes to track facets of his life. A lot. Above is a bunch of automatically logged data to Google Calendar.

    At the moment, he tracks everything he can, even if he doesn't see an immediate benefit, so long as it's relatively easy to collect — and he can save the data into Evernote, Google Calendar, and Excel. You never know when something seemingly pointless will come in handy in the future.

    "If I'm on a call and my voice gets over 50 decibels, my phone notifies me," he says. "My heart rate after a conference call usually can give me better insight into the call and my feelings about the call."

    I'm all for personal data, but at some point it's just too much, and I'm pretty sure Dancy is close to that point, if he hasn't passed it already. Do you really need an alert that pops up when your voice sounds a certain way? Data can tell you a lot of things, but it doesn't have to tell you everything. [Thanks, Mat]

  • A fill-in-the-blank book to journal your life in graphs

    February 11, 2013  |  Self-surveillance

    My life in graphsMy friends just got this for me, and it's pretty much the perfect gift, especially since my dissertation is about journaling and personal data collection. My Life in Graphs: A Guided Journal is a book of blank charts and graphs, and you fill in the blanks. For example, there's a map to mark your travel destinations and an x-y plot to evaluate "bucket-list viability."

    I worked on mine a couple of days ago and showed it to my wife. She said I was like a kid showing off his homework. I think that's a good thing.

  • Man takes picture of himself every day for 12 years

    September 5, 2012  |  Self-surveillance

    Remember photographer Noah Kalina? He took a picture of himself every day for six years and made a time-lapse video with the photos. The Simpsons even did a spoof that showed Homer's life over a couple of minutes. Kalina's kept the picture-taking going, and it's been twelve and a half years now. He made a new video.

    Six years is a long time, but you didn't see that much change in the first video. In this one, you can start to see the age in his eyes. The forty-year update will be something to see.

    [via kottke]

  • Urban datasexual

    April 24, 2012  |  Self-surveillance

    Dominic Basulto parallels the urban metrosexual to those who collect personal data.

    The same cultural zeitgeist that gave us the metrosexual - the urban male obsessive about grooming and personal appearance - is also creating its digital equivalent: the datasexual. The datasexual looks a lot like you and me, but what’s different is their preoccupation with personal data. They are relentlessly digital, they obsessively record everything about their personal lives, and they think that data is sexy. In fact, the bigger the data, the sexier it becomes. Their lives — from a data perspective, at least — are perfectly groomed.

    The difference is that metrosexuals spend their time accentuating their best features and hiding their flaws, whereas personal data collectors spend their time at Quantified Self meetups telling others the weird and interesting things they found.

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