• Quantified Nerds

    June 22, 2010  |  Self-surveillance

    The quantified self sounds great on paper. The task: keep track of important facets of your daily life. The result: gain a better understanding of your day-to-day and make better educated decisions, based on the numbers instead of false assumptions and shots in the dark. What's not to like? Everyone wants to improve his or herself in some way.

    To outsiders looking in though, tracking your life in data is ridiculous.

    Who has the time to keep track of what you eat, when you sleep, and how many times you fart in the wind? To most people, data journaling (a.k.a. self-surveillance, lifetracking, lifestreaming, personal informatics) seems like a complete waste of time, and I don't blame them — for now.
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  • Instant electric bike and data collector

    May 26, 2010  |  Data Sharing, Self-surveillance

    When you ride your bicycle around, I bet you always wish for two things. First: "I wish this was electric so that I didn't have to pedal so much." Second: "I wish I could use my bicycle as a data collection device." Well guess what. Your dreams have come true. The Copenhagen Wheel, conceived by the MIT SENSEable City Lab, will do just that. With everything rolled up into one hub, a quick and simple installation turns your plain old bicycle into an electric data collection device.
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  • The (nerdy) data-driven life

    May 3, 2010  |  Self-surveillance

    Gary Wolf, of Wired and The Quantified Self, describes personal data collection and analysis in NYT magazine. Collect data about yourself, and you just might learn something.

    Humans make errors. We make errors of fact and errors of judgment. We have blind spots in our field of vision and gaps in our stream of attention. Sometimes we can’t even answer the simplest questions. Where was I last week at this time? How long have I had this pain in my knee? How much money do I typically spend in a day? These weaknesses put us at a disadvantage. We make decisions with partial information. We are forced to steer by guesswork. We go with our gut.

    That is, some of us do. Others use data.

    It all sounds great at first. But the story ends, as these types of stories almost always do, with a guy in a Google shirt walking around with one too many gadgets:

    Bo Adler, a young computer scientist at Fujitsu Laboratories of America, is one of the most committed self-trackers I’ve ever met: during his most active phase he wore a blood-pressure cuff, pulse oximeter and accelerometer all day long, along with a computer on a harness to collect the data. Adler has sleep apnea, and he is trying to figure it out. When he became too self-conscious going to the gym in his gear, he wore a Google T-shirt to throw people off. Maybe he was a freak, but at least people could mistake him for a millionaire freak.

    We data folk stick to our guns though:

    “My girlfriend thinks I’m the weird person when I wear all these devices,” Bo Adler says. “She sees me as an oddity, but I say no, soon everybody is going to be doing this, and you won’t even notice.”

    So proud. You tell 'em, Bo Adler. You tell 'em.

  • Clothing color palette

    April 20, 2010  |  Data Art, Self-surveillance

    Jacobo Zanella makes a color palette every day, based on the clothes he's wearing.

    I observe the colors of the shoes and clothes I wear that day, how much skin is exposed, etc., and reproduce that observation digitally, through RGB combinations. No software or programming is involved in the making of the graphs.

    String them all together, and you've got multi-colors on top (shirts), a lot of black and blue towards the bottom (pants), and whites and grays all the way on the bottom (shoes).

    Too bad he's not logging it programmatically. That could be an interesting view (well, for him).

  • Visualize your Last.fm listening patterns with LastHistory

    March 3, 2010  |  Self-surveillance, Software

    lasthistory

    Frederik Seiffert provides this nifty tool, LastHistory, to visualize your Last.fm listening history. Mouse over songs and find repeated track sequences. The visualization itself isn't all that useful, but it gets interesting when you hook your calendar and photos in with music. LastHistory lets you replay songs synched with your photos, and your slideshow suddenly gains a new dimension.
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  • Track Mouse Activity On Your Computer

    February 9, 2010  |  Network Visualization, Self-surveillance

    Anatoly Zenkov provides this nifty tool (Mac and PC) to track your mouse pointer. Really simple. Just start it, let it run, minimize the window, and carry on as usual. In the end, you get this image that looks something like a Pollock. Circles show areas where the pointer didn't move while the tracks show movement.
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  • Nebul.us Shows You Your Activity on the Web

    December 8, 2009  |  Online Applications, Self-surveillance

    Nebul.us is an online application, currently in private beta, that aggregates and visualizes your online activity. Enter your information for Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc and install a plugin in Firefox to record your browsing behavior. Get something that looks like the above, sort of a donut-polar area chart hybrid. Nebul.us calls it a cloud.
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  • One Life, One Stacked Area Chart

    October 15, 2009  |  Infographics, Self-surveillance

    life-chart

    Ben Fogarty uses a stacked area chart to represent his life. To us outsiders looking in it's not much more than that, but to Ben I am sure there is a story in every peak and valley. It's like a "this is your life" slideshow in data.

    This is the drive behind your.flowingdata. I don't think YFD is even remotely close yet to developing a personal narrative, but it's something to shoot for. I can imagine a lifetime of data replaying and watching it unfold like a movie. That'd be amazing. Then again, I might also end up like Jerry in Act 3 of Episode 88 in This American Life. Fingers crossed for the former.

    [via WeLoveDataVis]

  • Sneak Peek: New Version of your.flowingdata Coming Soon

    July 8, 2009  |  Projects, Self-surveillance

    The brand new version of your.flowingdata (YFD) is coming soon, and of course, as a FlowingData reader, you get the first peak. Newer readers might not know what I'm talking about. Well, it's an online application that lets you collect data about yourself via Twitter.

    Follow @yfd on Twitter to be the first to try it out when it's ready.
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  • A Perfect Personal Data Collection Application

    April 7, 2009  |  Self-surveillance

    The number of Web applications to collect data and information about yourself continues to grow; if you want to track something, most likely there's an online tool to do it. This is great - especially since a lot of the applications seem to have a lot of users, which means an interest in data. Whether it is deliberate or not is a different question, but you know, that doesn't really matter. What does matter is that people are taking notice. However, as users, developers, and designers, we shouldn't be satisfied too quickly with what we have. Want more. Demand more. It's interesting and oftentimes fun to log data about your life - whether it be when you go the bathroom, your sugar levels, or your mood. You get some nice graphs and charts, it looks cool, and maybe you learn something about yourself.

    But all the self-surveillance tools so far are mostly about a single dataset or two at most. You track your weight and what you eat, but it's more complex than that. Life is complicated and data is an abstraction of life after all. Do you eat when you're depressed or are you depressed when you eat? Do you feel better if you exercise? What about sleep? How much sleep and exercise is best for you? What days should you exericse and how many days in a row and for how long? What truly makes you happy? I want my self-surveillance application to not only give me the ability to find these answers but to give them to me with very little effort on my part.
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  • your.flowingdata: Collect Data About Yourself via Twitter

    March 10, 2009  |  Projects, Self-surveillance

    As many of you know, I've been working on a project that lets you collect data about yourself via direct messages on Twitter. It's called your.flowingdata (YFD). It started with just weight and sleep, but it's slowly growing. I recently added entertainment, potty time, smoking, mood, and something I call YFD pulse. You can now also download your data in CSV format.
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  • 2008 Feltron Annual Report Now Available

    January 13, 2009  |  Infographics, Self-surveillance

    Feltron Report

    After Nicholas Felton's ever popular 2005, 2006 and 2007 annual report on himself, you knew this was coming. The 2008 Feltron Annual Report is now up for your viewing pleasure. There's a lot more mapping, data, and pages this time around.
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  • Understand Your Behaviors with Twitter – Testers Needed

    December 3, 2008  |  Projects, Self-surveillance

    I started tracking what I eat and my weight using Twitter in an effort to shed 10 pounds and consume less. It's already been (a really fast) two months since I started this experiment — I've lost 7 pounds so far. While there are a number of factors that can contribute to weight loss (and gain), I think the simple act of tweeting raised my awareness just enough to make me feel guilty for eating that bag of chips in the middle of the afternoon.
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  • How to Make Your Own Twitter Bot – Python Implementation

    November 5, 2008  |  Coding, Self-surveillance, Tutorials

    Following up on my post last week about using Twitter to track eating and weight, some of you voiced some interest in creating your own Twitter bot. This post covers how you can do that.

    The Gist of It

    Creating my own Twitter bot was pretty straightforward (much more than I thought it'd be), mostly because Twitter provides an API and the resources to make it that way.

    I wanted something really simple that I could play around with. I just wanted to be able to send a direct message to my Twitter bot, and from there, it would store my data. OK, so here are the basic steps I took:

    1. Create Twitter account for bot
    2. Turn on email notification for direct messages only
    3. Check email periodically for new direct messages
    4. Parse direct messages and store in database

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  • Tracking Weight and What You Eat with Twitter

    October 30, 2008  |  Projects, Self-surveillance

    I'm sure this will come as no surprise to all of you, but personal data collection fascinates me. I love playing with data and when it's about me, all the better. Daytum and mycrocosm are two applications that let you do this; although each have somewhat different goals. Daytum is sort of like a financial report for your life (ala Feltron) while mycrocosm is more of an experiment in communication and social media. They do both, however, have an underlying goal, whether implicit or explicit, of understanding yourself better. Do Daytum and mycrocosm help you understand yourself better? At some level, yes, but both have room for improvement. Here is my attempt #1 to improve on these existing systems.
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  • Get a Good Night’s Sleep with SleepTracker Pro [Review]

    October 23, 2008  |  Reviews, Self-surveillance

    I've had sleep troubles for as long as I can remember. When I was in grade school, I used to stay up late (well past 10pm) listening to my Sony Walkman. I later got a 10-inch black and white television in my room from my mom's college years. My sleep schedule only got worse in high school when I made my first big purchase with money that I had earned cutting vegetables and washing dishes in a restaurant - a beautiful 19-inch color television, with a remote! Now that I have to jump across time zones quite a bit, my sleep patterns have a hit an all-time low, so I was of course excited to receive my SleepTracker Pro in the mail a couple of weeks ago. I've been using it ever since.

    Tracking Your Sleep Patterns

    The SleepTracker Pro is a watch that measures your movements while you sleep and wakes you up at an optimal time so that you wake up feeling refreshed instead of cranky and incapacitated. The premise is that the SleepTracker wakes you up when you're in an almost-awake state. When you're in deep sleep or in one of your REM cycles, your body is paralyzed, which explains why it's so hard to get up sometimes, so SleepTracker monitors your movements to wake you up when you're not in a state of complete floppiness. You can later transfer the data to your computer - which is of course a feature I love.

    Pros

    Within the first few days of using my SleepTracker, I noticed an immediate difference. I was waking up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. It felt weird getting out of bed right when my eyes opened. I was so used to laying there for an hour not wanting to get up.

    Also - and this is probably obvious - I enjoy transferring my nightly sleep data to my computer and looking at my sleep patterns. Sometimes my wife works nights, so I can see the almost-wake states when she comes in really early in the morning. I also see the times when my cat manages to open the bedroom door and jump on my face.

    Cons

    While advantageous, the SleepTracker could use a few improvements:

    • The SleepTracker looks like something from the 80s. It's a big watch.
    • It only stores one night's worth of data, so if I forget to transfer data to my computer on a day, I lose it.
    • The Windows-only user interface is somewhat limited as far as visualization and insight goes.
    • A few times the vibration/alarm wasn't enough to wake me up.

    Overall Sentiment

    I might never wear the watch during the day, but I will gladly put it on every night when I go to bed. The manual emphasizes changing your habits to get a good night's sleep, which is a good point - and can probably be said for all types of self-surveillance. It's not meant as a cure all. You can't sleep 4 hours or drink a gallon of coffee before going to bed and expect to feel refreshed the next morning. Trust me. I tried. Uh, not the gallon of coffee part. I definitely noticed a difference though when I went to sleep at a decent hour.

    The SleepTracker Pro retails at $179, which might be too much for some, but I guess it just comes down to how much you value a good night's sleep. Personally, I'm happy with it and the new source of personal data isn't too shabby either.

    Has anyone else had any experiences with the SleepTracker?

  • If You Could Track Anything, What Would You Track?

    September 29, 2008  |  Discussion, Self-surveillance

    It's about time we had a FlowingData open thread. We've seen that there are plenty of tools to monitor different aspects of our lives, but I'm wondering if they are tools people actually want or if they are tools that are just easy to make. So my question to all of you is:

    If you could track/monitor anything in your life, what would you track?

    Disregard whether or not the technology is there or any of those gross technical details. Assume anything is possible.

    I'll get things started. I want to know how I spend every minute of my life. Not just on the computer. I want to know how much time I spend watching TV, going out, exercising, walking, sitting, driving, waiting, and eating. Everything.

  • 23 Personal Tools to Learn More About Yourself

    September 12, 2008  |  Self-surveillance

    Like what you see here? Subscribe to the feed to stay updated on what's new in data visualization.

    In the not too distant past, the Web was all about sharing, broadcasting, and distribution. The tide is turning. The Web is moving towards the individual. Applications spring up every month that let people track, monitor, and analyze their habits and behaviors in hopes of gaining a better understanding about themselves and their surroundings.

    We saw what data can be recorded in the personal visualization project. Some data lend themselves to easy tracking while others are easier to monitor with the aid of an application. These 23 tools, to track the minutiae of everyday life, try to fill that niche.

    Is it information overflow or are we learning more about ourselves?
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  • Winner of the Personal Visualization Project is…

    September 9, 2008  |  Self-surveillance

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    Last week was the end of our FlowingData personal visualization project. I asked readers to collect data about themselves or their surroundings and then visualize it some way. Thank you to everyone who participated. It put a smile on my face every time I got an email with "summer project" in the subject line :).
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  • Nike+ Human Race 10K – Racing Around the World

    September 2, 2008  |  Self-surveillance

    Nike+ is a device you hook up to your shoe and iPod Nano to track your running patterns and receive feedback while you're running. Already a million people around the world have been training with the device, with the U.S. putting up 2.4 million global training miles. This past Sunday was "the day the world stopped to run" in the Nike+ Human Race 10K.
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