Quantified email

Posted to Self-surveillance  |  Tags:  |  Nathan Yau

There were a couple of similar quantified self articles last week about email. They’re both joke-ish but kind of interesting with a this-is-kind-of-pointless undercurrent. In one, Paul Ford analyzes his email archive and deems it a failure after he finds nothing interesting. In the second, Emma Pierson analyzes her email in the context of a long-distance relationship.

From Ford:

This is the era of the quantified self and radical transformation. And I’ve made charts and counted and poked around. I can tell you the top 20 words for each of my years, the number of times I wrote about weight loss, the first time I started thinking about being a father. My basic self is just this single, continuous, thread — quantifiable, in the form of actuarial tables, bank account statements, square footage owned, number of children. But counting things doesn’t change them.

From Pierson:

The second lesson I learned is about the limits of statistics. My relationship is not fully captured by my emails: What I remember are the moments themselves, not their digital shadows. The entire email record of my relationship can itself be attached to an email. It is but a hundredth of a hundredth of a hard drive, a pinch of electron fairydust that cannot contain four years of tears and touches. And my emails are not fully captured by my algorithms, which would react the same way if I took every carefully crafted message and scrambled the words into random order.

My main takeaway was that word counting doesn’t get you very far.

Favorites

Who is Older and Younger than You

Here’s a chart to show you how long you have until you start to feel your age.

19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind and Change the Way You See the World. Top All-time. You Won’t Believe Your Eyes. Watch.

Many lists of maps promise to change the way you see the world, but this one actually does.

The Changing American Diet

See what we ate on an average day, for the past several decades.

The Best Data Visualization Projects of 2011

I almost didn’t make a best-of list this year, but as I clicked through the year’s post, it was hard …