• 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.
    Continue Reading

  • 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?

  • How to Stop Procrastinating So that I Am Not a Bum – A Self-experiment

    March 3, 2008  |  Self-surveillance

    Clock by ToniVCI waste way too much time doing completely useless stuff when I should be working on my dissertation, reading papers, writing papers, and learning things that will bring me closer to my degree. I'm ready to stop procrastinating.

    How I Will Become More Productive

    In an attempt to work more efficiently, I am going to take up Seth's self-experimentation offer that I found via Andrew's post. I am going to self-experiment; I am going to collect data about myself; and I am going to find out if my two-pronged method to stop procrastination works. Here's my plan:

    1. I will make a to-do list every night to lay out what will get done the next day
    2. I will 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

    How I Will Judge Improvement

    To measure my progress, I will make use of two Firefox plugins - Browser Statistics and TimeTracker. The former keeps track of the amount I've downloaded (in megabytes) while the latter is a timer for time spent browsing the Web.

    Luckily I've had these two plugins enabled for a little over a month, so at the end of this month, there will be something to compare to. From January 27 to March 2, I downloaded 23,524.73 megabytes and spent a whopping 364 hours browsing. That's about 653 megabytes and a little over 10 hours per day. OK, that's embarrassing.

    Join Me In This Self-experiment

    I'll do this for one month with a midway report on March 17 and a final report on March 31. You can subscribe to the feed to stay updated, and if anyone wants to join me on this, all the better. Just leave a comment below so that we can keep track of results.

    Procrastination-free days start now.

  • Man Takes a Picture of Himself Every Day for 6 Years

    December 19, 2007  |  Data Art, Self-surveillance

    Noah Kalina took a picture of himself every day for six years (and still going); above is all of the pictures put together into a time lapse. Now that's diligence.

    When I was collecting my own step data with a pedometer, I would constantly forget, and eventually, I just got bored with it. I think my interest faded because collecting one number per day wasn't satisfying enough. This on the other hand, seems more personal, it takes a little less effort, and it only takes a second to take a picture, and like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. String them together and you get a story.
    Continue Reading

  • Sifting Through My Mobile Phone Logs

    October 9, 2007  |  Self-surveillance

    When I was in NYC and my wife was in Buffalo, New York we talked on the phone almost every day, usually around ten in the evening. I was at my friend's place one night, and at 10:05pm, my wife called.

    The first thing she said was, "Where are you?"

    I told her I was at my friend's.

    My wife quickly replied, "Ha! I knew it!"

    Confused, I asked, "How did you know?"

    "Because otherwise, you would have called me at exactly 9:58."

    Am I really that predictable? First it was the Chinese food, and now I had been accused of call time predictability. Of course there was only one way to put this dispute to rest -- look at the data.
    Continue Reading

  • Data Collection With USB Pedometer. Weight No More!

    September 18, 2007  |  Self-surveillance

    USB PedometerI'm thinking it might be time to revive my step count data collection with a nifty USB pedometer from Brando.

    This Pedometer can store 3 days of step data and upload the data to your PC via USB! Through your data, the software can chart your outcome, view the calories burned and details on your daily activies. You can get easily to control your weight by this Pedometer and no over weight anymore!

    If I had this, it wouldn't be such a big deal if I forgot to record a couple of days. As I noted in a previous post, one of the difficulties of getting good step data was simply getting it into the spreadsheet. This bad boy records 3 days worth of data. Plus the USB and software, I imagine, could make record-keeping a lot smoother. Plus no over weight anymore!

    Worth investigating, I think? The release date is somewhere November 2007. I'm about 1 percent positive that this could very well be as popular as the iPhone.

    [via Gizmodo]

  • Appeal of Visualizing My Life in Data

    July 30, 2007  |  Self-surveillance

    Admittedly, ever since the Spring quarter ended, I've either been preparing for my internship at The Times or have been occupied by the internship. I haven't given much thought to my dissertation topic, which in the most vaguest of terms will somehow encompass three things:

    • Social Data Visualization
    • Eco-Visualization
    • Visualization of my Life

    I have yet to figure out how to tie the three together in a worthwhile way or even whether I will include all three. Wrapped around the three will be data sharing. I got to thinking a little bit about visualizing my life in data today.

    My adviser forwarded me this info design piece, by Gregory Dizzia (which was apparently also featured on infosthetics):

    Greg’s Relationships

    First off, this is a cool piece. If you haven't seen it, go to the site and download the pdf. It's a simple idea. Document past relationships -- how they began, how they ended, what happened in between. The information is organized very well. At a glance, you can see how many relationships Greg has had in his life and all the one night stands he had after his mid-life, long-term relationship. The design is attractive and I could relate to the information, so I was drawn in to look more.

    Dig a little deeper, and you'll see that there's not just one engagement ring during that long-term relationship with Sarah. There's a second one during his very first girlfriend, Megan. Although, I'm a little wary of calling Megan a girlfriend since it was during Greg's tender years at age 9 to 11. Stuff like that makes me want to know more.

    Was he really engaged? Was it an arranged marriage or something? What do those breakup symbols really mean?

    Life Visualization Appeal

    Right off, Greg's piece drew me in, because (1) it was pretty, and (2) I could relate to the data, and (3) there was a very human factor. This could probably be generalized to all types of successful visualization, but (2) and (3) are, I think, synonymous with life viz. That's two out of three things that are automatic. Plus, as the visualizer I have a very strong emotional attachment to the data.

    NOW, what happens when we have 100 people's relationships to visualize? 1000? That's when it gets really interesting and social data visualization makes its way into the picture. Well, something to think about.

  • 10,000 (Literal) Steps to Healthier Living

    July 10, 2007  |  Self-surveillance

    PedometerIt's really easy to be lazy when you work from home. I can tell you this first-hand.

    Twenty-six steps from my bedroom to the kitchen; 6 steps from bedroom to study room; 29 steps from study room to kitchen; 24 steps from kitchen to bathroom. Do some back and forth, go through the rotation a few times, and that's my day. I can easily go a whole day walking (or dragging my feet) only 300 steps. That's sad.

    Just how sad is it? The Walking Site (um, yes, there really is a walking site :) recommends 10,000 steps per day. Wow, only 9,700 steps away! I'm pretty sure I'm slowly getting fatter due to my sloth-like behavior.

    In efforts to avoid the gut, I'll be wearing my trusty pedometer to shoot for 10,000 steps per day. Of course I'll be logging this data online, and we can all see how un-lazy I can become. Who knows?

    I can tell you this though. I used to wear this nifty step counter a few months back, and it certainly made me more aware of my laziness. I started walking more and took the long route, around campus, from my office to the car. Sometimes, we just need to see proof to change. As if a pot belly and excessive sweating wasn't enough.

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