If You Could Track Anything, What Would You Track?

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.


  • I’d like to see the impact of eating an hot dog or play with the kids or reading the news in a zillion of “body KPI”s: how is my endorphin level? where is this fat going? “Attention! Red flag! Low levels of Vitamin C!”.

  • I’d keep track of every since thought I’d ever had. Would be so nice to search that DB.

  • Margreet Tiwow September 29, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Wouldn’t it be fascinating if you could visualize how a virus travels and spreads and how long and where it remains dormant? And to visualize when it triggers again? (Not talking computer viruses here, just so you know.)

    Also, I would like to visualize my footprint as a consumer. We could use data on loyalty cards, customer cards etc to show everyone’s individual footprint in terms of transport, water usage, usage of land etc.

  • This is an easy one… I would track my blood sugar levels and how everything I eat affects the level. Not just a few times a day, but constant/continuous monitoring.

  • I like your idea, Nathan. I’d also want to track everything I eat & drink: calories, good & bad fats, nutritional info…etc…and detailed info about exercise to gain a picture of my overall health. I do track some exercise stats, but not very detailed. And I’m just too lazy to track everything I eat. Hmm…maybe lazy isn’t the right word there… ;)

    BTW, I’m relatively new around here, so let me say that you’ve got a great blog here.

  • disappointments. or my hydration level

  • I’d like to track errors made: forgetfulness, stupid mistakes, etc. and how they change over time.

  • Every person I talk to, their name, how I know them, a little picture for reference, some facts about them that I really should remember and ask about.

  • I would like to track my heart-rate throughout the day. It would be interesting to see how it varies during a sedentry day working frantically at a desk. Yes, I know I could easily buy a heart-rate monitor, but I’m not going to. I’m only going to dream about how much I’d like to.

  • I’d like to be able to track every person I’ve met, even if it was just someone passing by. Who they are, how they were dressed, and most importantly, where I met them and when.

    tracking my own health indicators would be nice to have too, since I’m bound to blood analysis every single week.

  • i’d like to be able to be able to pick anything that I consumed, and follow it’s path from raw materials to finished goods, seeing where all it’s parts came from, who was involved in making them and so one. A simple cup of coffee contains many stories.

  • I’d track how effectively I stick to my “To Do” lists – comparing the frequency of how often I carried out my proposed tasks to how often I didn’t.

  • Can I have these to start:

    1 – Emotions. What emotion? What level is it at? Is there an identifiable source to this emotion? I’d like to take this measurement every one or two minutes.

    2 – Pain. This is separate from the emotions I mentioned above. Pain would be more biologically based. Location of pain in body. Intensity of pain. Source, if can be identified.

    3 – Spirituality. This one would be awesome and really appreciated by priests and other religious heads. First we’d map out different data to track, such as sin/saint chart (-100 to 100), closeness to God measure, the body versus the spirit control of your life. Other data points to track: time spent inside church or temple, $$ donated, number of prayers said, minutes read from the religious book.

    4 – Relationships: how many hugs/kisses/smiles given and how many received and between whom? How many minutes of close interaction between me and top 10 people in my life?

    So, once we get all of this data, we can run it through the factory (ANOVA/MANOVA/SPSS) and really have some fun.

  • @Everyone who commented – i JUST got internet for the first time in two days and was greeted with all the interesting comments. thanks all :)

  • I’d like to track a couple of things:

    (1) If, in fact, all cells of a human body are replaced over a seven-year period, I’d like to track the proportion of my original corporeal self remaining. Optimally, I’d like to plot some measure of productivity or quality of decision, e.g., possibly index with each major decision and a composite of blood pressure and endorphin levels, etc. I’m changing, and I want to see how strongly that cellular change correlates to the quality of my life.

    (2) Like a project from one of the Norwegian countries a few years ago, I’d like to track my movements over the course of a year or two.

  • @Daniel – what norwegian project are you talking about? i’d be interested to see that one

  • It would be sort of neat to track the relationships between myself and all the people that I know, as well as the relationships between all of the people I know.

    To have a better idea of things like: who is related to who and how, who has done what with each other, how one person’s actions have affected others in the web, and to identify patterns in behavior to better understand each individual.

  • Kevin Carlson September 30, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Daily Carbon Footprint, including effects of consuming non-local foods (i.e. transportation distance impact), driving habits, etc.

  • Track ‘happiness’ over time folded into food / exercise / chemical balances and look for obvious trends and correlations. Allowing for prediction of results for behaviors: i.e., if I eat this and don’t exercise and sleep this many hours then I can expect to see this result in X mood change over the next 48 hours. Etc.

  • Collaborative – I’d like to track the ideas for new things I have that are the same ideas that other people have – – even if they don’t turn into anything substantial.

    I’d like to track recovery time starting from when I become aware of stress, impatience, anger or irritation from an input until I start listening and/or put the information in to context or perspective. Hopefully, I’d see progress in shortened recovery times over … the years….

  • I would like to track the effects of my interactions with others. Did me holding a door for somebody inspire them to be a volunteer somewhere? Did my flippant comment rob somebody of their self confidence for years? Did my laughing at a somebody’s poor joke cause them to tell it somewhere else, lowering their social stature and costing them a promotion? In essence, ‘the butterfly effect’ consumate from every one of my interactions and inactions.

    If following the “anything is possible” rule then it would be great if I could also track several generations out of how my interactions cause others to interact with others, etc.

    Also, I’d like a summary of the data to judge my impact on two axis: X. Quality of impact (positive or negative results) and Y. Depth of impact (neutral to strongly impactful). Then I can have a dashboard of how my live contributed positively or negatively in others in the aggregate.

    Finally, the ability to interpolate the data and attempt to forecast the net effects of a stupid comment might be very useful…

  • I’d like to track my ever expanding LinkedIn network. I’m sure, with the right visualisation tools, I’d be able to spot nodes of activity between contacts to pinpoint active sectors of the industry.

  • I’d like to track my desk and my workspace. The physical flow of papers onto the desk, their flow across it, and away from it. I guess I’ll expand this to a desire to track all of my activities in my office… I’d like to see the difference between “lean forward” experiences (design, coding, writing), and lean back work and play (youtube / vimeo / lecture breaks), chatting on the phone versus talking in person, printing activity, organizing, paying bills.

    I’m not driven by a desire to “optimize” my office life — I’d just like to find ways to visualize it.

  • The amount of time I waste on the internet.

  • I would like to track my brain activity, so later when brain science advances further, I have a recording of the subjective experiences of my life. Of course, I assume I can track all the activities in my life to go along with it.