• 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

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

    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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  • Weekend Minis for Your Lazy Weekend – 7/19/08

    July 19, 2008  |  Self-surveillance, Visualization

    BedPost - I put this up earlier for the FlowingData personal visualization project, but for those who missed out, Kevin recently put up a sign up form so that you get a notification for when the grown up activities tracker is ready for public use.

    Bible Belt Got Back - We see fatness by state in this fun map by CalorieLab. The map title says percentage of obese adult population, but I think it really meant percentage of adult population that is obese. [Thanks, tarheelcoxn | via The Daily Dish]

    Movie Color Spectrum - I couldn't find more details for this, but from what I gather, we see the dominant colors of selected movies that range from rated G to NC-17. Notice a pattern as we start from happy go-lucky movies for children to the uh, more grown up movies? [Thanks, Tim]

    Pew Study on Religion - USA Today uses horizontal stacked bar charts to show results from the Pew Forum on Religion and Publilc Life. What do you think - easy or hard to read? Do all the charts make the data more clear?

  • Hacking the Coffee Maker – Caffeine Viewer

    June 30, 2008  |  Data Art, Self-surveillance

    The colmeia group recently installed their Caffeine Viewer project where they hacked their coffee maker to log their "insane coffee consumption" in real-time. Every time a person presses a button on the coffee maker data are logged, but there's a slight twist - the data are available to everyone via the caffeinated API. That's some serious self-surveillance. There are also a few visualizations, but mainly, they invite others to create their own.
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  • How Much Time Do You Waste on Your Computer?

    June 16, 2008  |  Self-surveillance

    A few months ago, I started monitoring how I spent time on my computer to procrastinate less. One month later, I found that the way I kept track of what I was doing wasn't detailed enough to be useful. I knew that I was spending a lot of time online, but I had no idea what I was doing that time. Was I working and researching or was I wasting a lot of time on YouTube and Facebook? So I switched to RescueTime to get the breakdown and my goal to stop procrastinating started over.

    It's been two months now, and here are the results.
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  • Citizen Science, Personal Sensing with GPS-Equipped iPhone (Among Others)

    June 10, 2008  |  Self-surveillance

    With the unveiling of the brand new iPhone 3G, Twitter has been buzzing with excitement. One of the more interesting new iPhone features is built-in GPS. Your iPhone will know when and where it is, opening up tons of possibilities for location-based applications - one of them being personal sensing, or rather, participatory sensing.

    Seeing the World in Data

    This is what I've been heavily involved with lately, working with the UCLA Center for Embedded Networked Sensing. Instead of iPhones, we use Nokia N80s. It's the idea that individuals can use existing mobile technologies to gather and analyze data about the world around them.

    On With the Show

    Here's our super cool, unbelievably awesome video taking a look at the near future of personal data collection with everyday mobile phones:

    A little corny, yes, but informative.

    How can non-experts make use of such huge amounts of data? I'm glad you asked! Visualization of course. More on this later.

  • Using Mobile Phones to Understand Ourselves and Motivate Change

    May 27, 2008  |  Self-surveillance

    Nokia N80Mobile technology has come a long way from those foot-long phones hooked up to a shoe box sized battery pack. With bluetooth, GPS, cameras, and Internet connections, mobile phones nowadays pack a lot of power. How can we put this functionality to use?

    Mobile Phones for Personal Data

    The technology to collect data about ourselves is available. We can record where we have been with GPS, and with cameras, we can keep track of what we have seen. We can then upload this data regularly with a persistent Internet connection, and what we end up with are travel patterns and live image streams.

    Putting Personal Data to Use

    Now things start to get super interesting. The challenge is to figure out what to do with all the data.

    • What do you do with a year's worth of location traces or a year's worth of pictures taken every few minutes?
    • What story can you tell and what inferences can you make?
    • Can you combine data from the phone with existing databases e.g. weather, environment, or traffic?
    • What type of visualization is more effective in making data available to non-expert users?

    In the coming weeks I will be investigating these questions on this subject of self-surveillance, and if you don't mind, will be bringing all of you along for the ride (towards completing my dissertation :).

    What would you do with location data or a continuous image stream from a year of your life?

  • How to Stop Procrastinating – One Month Report

    April 14, 2008  |  Self-surveillance

    Procrastination ClockAbout a month ago, I started my self-experiment to stop procrastinating. I tried these two strategies:

    1. Make a to-do list every night to lay out what will get done the next day
    2. Enable the Greasemonkey script - Invisibility Cloak - which will block all the sites that I waste too much time on except during lunch and on the weekend

    By mid-month, my browsing time was down only a dismal 3.5%. Here's my one month report.
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  • A Self-experiment – My Mid-month Report

    March 17, 2008  |  Self-surveillance

    Two weeks ago, I vowed to stop procrastinating using two strategies:

    1. Make a to-do list every night to lay out what will get done the next day
    2. Enable the Greasemonkey script - Invisibility Cloak - which will block all the sites that I waste too much time on except during lunch and on the weekend

    Down You, ProcrastinationSince I enabled the plugins and started to-do lists, my browsing time has gone down a whopping 3.5% - from 10.11 hours per day to 9.76 hours per day. Ok, it doesn't sound like much, but there's a bit more to the story.

    Growing More Productive

    Even though the time decrease isn't much, I've still been more productive than when I wasn't trying to improve. Since all of my favorite sites - Facebook, Google Reader, this blog - are blocked during the day, I spend more time reading papers and researching stuff I'm supposed to be looking for.

    Planning to Improve More

    Productivity has gone up, but there's still room for improvement. There have been days when I did not feel like working, so I cheated, and turned off the plugins and scratched the to-do list. As a result, I wasted a lot of time.

    On the days I feel blah, I'm going to avoid turning off the plugins and see where that takes me. I will also work on creating more specific to-do lists the night before, because when I put in vague tasks like "go over papers" it didn't really get done. However, if I put in, "read paper X, paper Y, and summarize each" then it usually got done.

    Failed Tactic

    I also tried hiding the dashboard (I have a Mac) so that I couldn't see that I had new emails, but that just (as embarrassed as I am to admit) let me wondering more. I would keep checking which seemed to waste more time.

    I'll put in my final report in two weeks.

    How's everyone else doing?

Unless otherwise noted, graphics and words by me are licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC. Contact original authors for everything else.