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Ask Slashdot: Do You Find Self Tracking Useful Like Stephen Wolfram Does?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the impress-your-doctor-with-a-preemptive-stool-sample dept.

Businesses 139

New submitter Manzanita writes "The domain of personal analytics, or 'Quantified Self,' is rich with interesting things to measure and many hackers have started projects. But they will only take off if it is sufficiently easy to gather and use the data. Stephen Wolfram has collected and analyzed a lot of his personal data over the last 20 years, but that is far beyond what most of us have the time for. What do you find worth tracking? What is ripe for developing into a business?"

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No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368601)

Yes

There is one business ... actually, two ... (1)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368885)

Psychiatry/psychology, to help all the people who feel that this sort of thing actually makes their lives relevant somehow (generally the same types of people who measure their self-worth by the numbe of "friends" they have on facebook or other anti-social media.

The drug companies, to sell them drugs so that they won't feel so bad about being so into something so stupid in the first place.

Re:There is one business ... actually, two ... (2)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369147)

While not my cup of tea.. I'm of the attitude that one should do whatever makes them happy.

People get off on all kinds of weird stuff.

Look at collectors. I don't get that shit either. People will spend as much as I did on a used car to buy a lamp with the same functional value and in some cases asthetic appearance you'd get at walmart .. because it was made a long time ago and/or is rare. Oh but not everything rare/old is valuable! There isn't even a clear definition or reason why one old/rare thing is priceless, and another is literally priceless (as in, no one will buy it). And a lot of people buy this stuff at auctions so they can sell it to other people who sell it to other people.. with no one actually wanting the object! I think it might all be a sick inside joke.

Re:There is one business ... actually, two ... (1)

Iniamyen (2440798) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370403)

^ This is all that really needs to be said. /D'oh!

Re:There is one business ... actually, two ... (2)

Iniamyen (2440798) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370429)

Is Stephen Wolfram doing this because Stephen Wolfram thinks everyone forgot about Stephen Wolfram? I wonder if Stephen Wolfram refers to Stephen Wolfram in the third-person. Stephen Wolfram Stephen Wolfram Stephen Wolfram Stephen Wolfram.

Useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368643)

Lots of useless data is still useless...

Being able to forget who you were is important too.

Re:Useless (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370241)

Lots of useless data is still useless...

Being able to forget who you were is important too.

That statement was uselessly profound.

Been tracking real wages going down for 30 years (4, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368647)

Does that count?

Re:Been tracking real wages going down for 30 year (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368877)

Inflation is a bitch, ain't it? Tracking wages is like rubbing salt into an open wound.

Re:Been tracking real wages going down for 30 year (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369433)

Maybe for you. My real wages have definitely grown since becoming an adult, even considering inflation. But then, I started from pretty low down....

Re:Been tracking real wages going down for 30 year (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370333)

Unless median real wages are going down VERY fast, each individual's real wages are still rising even as the population median falls; the point is they're not rising as fast or as high as your parents experienced - on average, of course.

1. I track how much time... (3, Funny)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368659)

... I spend reading articles about tracking things that I track.

2. ???

3. Profit!

Re:1. I track how much time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368747)

Yo dawg, I heard you like tracking

Re:1. I track how much time... (1)

Tyrannosaur (2485772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370939)

Yo dawg, I heard you like tracking

so I put a tracker on your tracking so you can track while you track!

(come on dude, you have to finish it...)

Re:1. I track how much time... (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368879)

There was a good comic about people that run "efficiency blogs" that was along this same line.. but can't find it!

Re:1. I track how much time... (3, Informative)

Urban Garlic (447282) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369031)

Fortunately, I have lots of time [xkcd.com] for this sort of thing.

Re:1. I track how much time... (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369075)

That's it!

And it was xkcd too! I'm so damn embarrased right now .. :(

Traffic patterns (3, Interesting)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368661)

There are lots of ways to go for my daily commute. Just because one is faster one day doesn't mean that it always will be.

Yes, I have kept logs for my travel times. I figure that saving a minute a day definitely adds up over the course of a couple of years.

Re:Traffic patterns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368709)

...that sounds like spending dollars to save pennies, personally.

Re:Traffic patterns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368715)

This is the most interesting use case for me, currently. You can get "sport" style GPS loggers these days for about $50, throw it on your dash, drive, download. Some include bluetooth transmission. Battery life is of course a problem. The unit I have currently claims 8 hours (it's about the size of USB stick, but shorter, more cube-like). Of course, if you just leave it in the car always, you can power it directly from converter there.

Re:Traffic patterns (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368771)

So what have you done with those "saved" minutes? You can use time that has already passed.

Re:Traffic patterns (3, Insightful)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369449)

Noted things down in his log, of course!

Not tolerable for the average person (5, Insightful)

Dinghy (2233934) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368701)

If the average person is sat down and told how much of their life is spent in front of the TV or playing video games, I would expect them to have a breakdown. It's one thing to know "I watch TV for 2 hours a day" but it's completely different when you're told "In the last year you spent 732 hours (yay leap year) watching TV." It's bad enough when MMO's and Steam made it possible to see your playtime. :)

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368909)

If the average person is sat down and told how much of their life is spent in front of the TV or playing video games, I would expect them to have a breakdown. It's one thing to know "I watch TV for 2 hours a day" but it's completely different when you're told "In the last year you spent 732 hours (yay leap year) watching TV." It's bad enough when MMO's and Steam made it possible to see your playtime. :)

Just throw it at them as a percentage.
The average person spends between 25 and 40% of their life sleeping.

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369509)

That sounds good.

33.2% of a year sleeping
22.7% of a year working
8.3% of a year watching TV
0.1% of a year having sex

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (1)

korean.ian (1264578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371415)

That sounds good.

33.2% of a year sleeping
22.7% of a year working
8.3% of a year complaining about Apple/Google/OpenSource
0.0% of a year having sex

adjusted for /. demographic

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (5, Insightful)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368959)

But I enjoy my play time. A moment enjoyed is never a moment wasted.

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (3, Interesting)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369251)

Generally agree, but I'd throw out there that sometimes enjoyment turns into habit which turns into routine. I agree one shouldn't feel guilty about "wasting" a bunch of time on anything they enjoy.. but I do think it's a good idea to from time to time take a good look at what one spends their free time doing.

I know I've fallen into the whole daily routine hole .. and it's surprisingly hard to recognize / climb out of.

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368973)

I actually had one of these moments.

I wrote a quick perl script that scanned through my IRC logs and graphed how much time I spent on there. I did it mainly as a joke (was also graphing some other channel regulars) but the numbers actually led me to do serious thinking about how I was spending my free time. I still spend a lot of time on IRC (I recognize it as something I enjoy and have little guilt about it) but I've also got into other hobbies as a result.

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369007)

In the last year you spent 732 hours (yay leap year) watching TV.

Minor nitpick/personal view .. but I have a very hard time absorbing stuff when dealing with large numbers (how man hours are in a year.. I really don't have a clue). Percentages are much more shocking. Percentage of free time would probably be much more scary.

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369141)

Minor nitpick/personal view .. but I have a very hard time absorbing stuff when dealing with large numbers (how man hours are in a year.. I really don't have a clue).

Well, 2000 hours gives you 40 hours/week for 50 weeks.

So, 732 hours of TV is a part-time job. :-P

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369125)

I see no problem with watching TV. No different than reading a book (which for some reason is considered a higher form, but is still just entertainment).

And I try to erase my tracks from being recorded. Fake handles for example. I don't need some employer or voter (if I ran for office), googling my name and uncovering everything I did. It's bad enough there's a track ranging from 1988 to 2002 (when I stopped using my real name). I prefer to be hard to find.

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (1)

Wraithlyn (133796) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371721)

[Watching TV is] no different than reading a book

A book requires you to engage your imagination to visualize what is happening.

A good novel also contains far more depth than is possible to capture in a theatrical format.

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (5, Funny)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369917)

It's bad enough when MMO's and Steam made it possible to see your playtime. :)

It's worse when you treat it like a high score.

"Ha, 5,000 hours in Diablo II! Suck on that, friends I no longer have!"

-sobs quietly-

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (1)

traycerb (728174) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369969)

daytum.com (acquired by facebook) is personal tracking gone mainstream. they have iphone/android apps so you can easily track things throughout the day, and then can generate pretty reports of your activity. one of the co-founders has been putting out his "annual reports" for a number of years, see http://feltron.com/ar11_02.html [feltron.com] for an example. his report includes things like number of days spent in NYC, servings of coffee during the year, etc...

Re:Not tolerable for the average person (2)

Manzanita (167643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371021)

People may find it uncomfortable to be reminded, but that is why simple feedback like looking in the mirror or weighing yourself can be so helpful in improving oneself. Ideally, with regular feedback, not just once a year learning that you have wasted a lot of time, you can keep on track without too much pain.

Check out this company that has a product that gives continuous feedback about posture - http://www.lumoback.com./ [www.lumoback.com] I know I would do better with my back pain if I had their product. They will be demoing at the VLAB event on March 20th at Stanford - The Uploaded Life - http://www.vlab.org/article.html?aid=438 [vlab.org]

No (5, Interesting)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368741)

Not generally driven by efficiency, but happiness.

I guess theoretically the data could be used to increase happiness, but I'd rather use my tried and true method of:
- doing things that I know make me happy
- investigating things I suspect will make me happy
- avoiding things which will not make me happy
- maintaining balance in the necessary evils and mitigating negative aspects (career properly balanced between enough money to be happy and job that while I don't dance out of bed in the morning, I generally enjoy).

That said, different things make people happy. Some people are efficiency junkies. Some people are financial junkies (everyone knows at least one obsessive day trader who doesn't make much money, and knows it, but still spends every free moment playing in the stock market).

Re:No (3, Funny)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368767)

.. and I guess I enjoy abruptly ending posts mid paragraph with no final conclusion!

Re:No (4, Funny)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368845)

I wouldn't sweat the whole ending posts mid paragraph thing. Sometimes I

Re:No (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369307)

If you're patient

Re:No (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369323)

You can sometimes get more mod points

Re:No (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369343)

And project the feeling of Haiku

Re:No (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369357)

Burma Shave.

Re:No (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369497)

What is this I don't even

Re:No (2)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369443)

doing things that I know make me happy

Some people enjoy collecting data, calculating statistics and drawing graphs.

Re:No (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369515)

That was largely the intended point of my last paragraph. If you enjoy analyzing your life and getting a thrill from making statistically verifiable improvements .. by all means go for it! Pushing it on others as something everyone should be doing however is a little silly I think.

Butthole! (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368779)

i MEAN, no. LENIN!!!!!! awesome is for COMMUnistim! bugfart! Dogfart! Bugfrogdogfart!!!!!

Re:Butthole! (0)

rinoid (451982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368981)

Splunge?

Any studies yet that ... (3, Insightful)

quax (19371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368847)

... indicate at what point collecting and analyzing personal data becomes indicative of a narcissistic personality disorder?

Re:Any studies yet that ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368969)

It's only narcissistic if other people do it. If I do it. . . . IT IS AWESOME. JUST LIKE I AM.

Re:Any studies yet that ... (4, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369021)

Generally at the beginning, when one starts voluntarily aggregating it.

It's one thing to write a journal, it's another to maintain data when not required to. The stuff I keep organized are either all required (taxes and other mandated record keeping) or things that are part of collections that I don't want to buy in redundancy (movies, books, music), or things that need records to ensure reliability and functionality (auto and house maintenance).

Pictures we take are usually sorted just by date, and we occasionally browse through them, like a normal photo album. The only major exception to that is when we were house-hunting, and those pictures were functional records. Most of those house photos have been archived or deleted, unless we saw something cool that we'd want to do to our house.

Filtering and Analysis (2)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368859)

A vast amount of data is useless unless you can filter it and analyze it to pick out the important information.
Your brain already does this as you live your life.

Tracking other mundane shit is a pointless exercise in nerdsturbation.

Re:Filtering and Analysis (2)

Biff Stu (654099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369115)

We're talking about Stephen Wolfram here. His brain is capable of filtering and analyzing an infinite amount of information. For mere mortals, your mileage may vary.

Re:Filtering and Analysis (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369699)

On the other hand, often you can only recognize the importance of some piece of information when you actually need it.

Re:Filtering and Analysis (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371389)

On the other hand, often you can only recognize the importance of some piece of information when you actually need it.

Actually, "extremely rarely", not "often".
Important stuff you tend to remember: Fire hot, food tasty, poop smelly, etc.

Nothing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368897)

What do you find worth tracking? What is ripe for developing into a business?

Oh please, anything worth tracking is already done by this new business called Facebook.

Mileage (1)

whydavid (2593831) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368907)

Tracking how much gas you put into your tank, how many miles you drove on that gas, and when you put it in can be highly useful in a lot of ways: From a personal standpoint, this sort of historical data can reveal some interesting trends similar to what Wolfram saw in his data. For example, a large increase/decrease in mileage might indicate a move, marriage, or job change. From a financial standpoint, knowing exactly how much gas you are consuming can help you make a more intelligent decision when purchasing a car or considering other transportation alternatives. You can use information about your mileage to extrapolate what your mileage would be in a car you are considering purchasing, or you can use miles driven to determine whether or not you would be able to stick to a low-mileage lease without paying overage charges. Keeping track of insurance payments, car payments, and every repair you do to the car can also help in determining total cost of ownership, which can again help you make reasonable decisions when considering transportation alternatives. You can get a rough estimate of this data by looking over past credit card statements and figuring in changes in the cost of gas over time, but it won't be nearly as accurate as manual tracking.

Re:Mileage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369045)

... For example, a large increase/decrease in mileage might indicate a move, marriage, or job change. ...

You knew these things occurred, why do you need to discover them. Major life events are removed from analysis as they are non random events. they are specifically what you do not need to explain with random effects models.

Re:Mileage (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369429)

You can get a rough estimate of this data by looking over past credit card statements and figuring in changes in the cost of gas over time, but it won't be nearly as accurate as manual tracking.

True, but that level of precision isn't always needed. Do you need to know that you drove 12872 miles and use 92.8 gallons of fuel or will 15000 and 100 do when deciding whether or not to plunk down $30,000 on a new car? Some of the stuff he seems to be doing is like trying to get 5 digit precision on a Fermi Calculation [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Mileage (2)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369477)

Personally I just eat the cost.

I pay the going rate when my tank runs out. I buy a car based largely on how it feels from the driver seat.

Sure I'm missing out on some money savings, but I get to use that time/chunk of my brain for other things I enjoy

Memory pruning (4, Insightful)

DEFFENDER (469046) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368929)

Part of a healthy mind is the ability to forget unimportant or no longer relevant information in favor of more recent and accurate things. If i tracked myself I wouldn't be able to forget the unimportant or push aside the less desirable. I would be governed by old data and held to means and modes of things that may not reflect current realities.

This seems more like punishment than an aid.

Re:Memory pruning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369281)

Tell that to people in finance and they'd have a stroke or two.

Re:Memory pruning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369285)

Homer: Oh! And how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember that time I took a home wine making course and forgot how to drive?
Marge: That's because you were drunk!
Homer: And how!

Re:Memory pruning (1)

dangets (1488755) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369321)

what is the 42nd digit in pi? You don't maintain and memorize every thing that you write down. I would even see that writing things down may free your mind from having to remember them. We use Google to look up random trivia facts that we don't feel the need to store in our brain. The main benefit of this (IMHO) would be in being able to see trends and relationships between the data points that you log. You don't have to remember how many calories you eat everyday, but by logging them consistently you will gain a sense of what an average number is and you may change your habits based on how you feel about it. (and yes, I sure somebody will reply with an answer to the first question)

Dumb Question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368943)

see Confirmation Bias [wikipedia.org]

No, it's mostly pointless IMO (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368983)

The only thing I'd be interested in tracking (and I partly do) is exercise & health-related. These can help to show trends and improvement in fitness, and can help manage your life to live better/get stronger, etc.

How many emails I sent 10 years ago: Who the fuck cares? The time's gone, it doesn't affect me today or in the future. I've got a different job and spend my time in a much different manner.

Study Electricty and needed inventions (1)

Latent Heat (558884) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369491)

This kind of think was already addressed in "The Great Gatsby."

Dymaxion Chronofile (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368987)

Wolfram's self-tracking is nothing compared to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dymaxion_Chronofile

Nope (4, Insightful)

rinoid (451982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369023)

Here's the deal -- it's interesting as a sample. You might extrapolate a lot from his data. For a better sample tools just aren't there, except are they? A smartphone knows everything about your habits. I have been tracking any walk, jog, cycle, hike, or paddle I take with an app on my smartphone for about two years. Guess what I found out? I don't care enough to do anything with the data. I'm fit, I'm healthy and happy, I'm not an obsessed athlete. I get the idea and the nerdgasm of data, but I it doesn't help me enjoy life more.

Value Threshold (1)

Manzanita (167643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371555)

I agree that the effort you have to put in has to be pretty low and the value of the feedback you get has to be better. There are some things where this is already the case. And, if you add in a social aspect it can actually be fun and compelling. For tracking your bike rides and runs, check out Strava - http://www.strava.com./ [www.strava.com] It does really still appeal to those who are already pretty motivated to ride. But it does stoke up that motivation a little. It is sort of addictive to see how you are doing, and they really do provide enough value in their feedback. They will be on the panel at the VLAB event discussing personal analytics businesses at Stanford - http://www.vlab.org/article.html?aid=438 [vlab.org] .

No thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369155)

At some point the marketeers will hijack it anyway and turn it into something aweful.

Money & Food (2)

assertation (1255714) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369219)

"What do you find worth tracking? What is ripe for developing into a business?"

Money and food. I use less of each when I track each and avoid excess.

Re:Money & Food (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39370601)

I use less of [what I track] and avoid excess

I think this illuminates a good rule for answering the "Should I track X about myself?" question. Tracking provides introspection and self-monitoring. It is a good thing when you feel that you're doing something inefficiently, or wasting a resource. However there are some parts of your life that you don't want to self-monitor: doing so can make those things less fun. For example tracking your video game playing might be a good idea if you feel like your gaming is getting in the way of your job or family... but it would be a bad thing if you really enjoy your gaming and it's not causing any problems. The tracking might cause you to modify your behavior, even though there was nothing wrong with your behavior.

I admittedly have a tracking fetish. But I've learned when it's a good idea and a bad idea. My personal examples:
Good idea:
1. I track my financials closely. This is useful because finances are complicated and the only way to make sure you're doing it right is to pay attention.
2. I track my fuel consumption and distances driven, so that I can compute fuel efficiency. This makes me aware of my consumption (allows me to not waste gas), and lets me immediately identify if something is wrong with my car.

Bad idea:
1. I used to hang out very regularly with a group of people for gaming (tabletop RPG). For fun I started tracking who showed up (including when they arrived and left). I kept it secret at first, but eventually I told them about it. The problem was this immediately turned our gaming into a competition about who had "logged the most hours" or who was "the most consistent" or whatever. In other words, it turned a fun activity into a not-fun activity.
2. With a particular GF, I tracked every time we had sex (including a few variables, like approximate duration and whatnot). Yes, I seriously did this! I even plotted the results and fit the curve so that I could predict future frequency of sex. As one might expect, the curve had a clear trend of decreasing frequency of sex. This didn't really bother me, but I realized that I should stop tracking it or I would ruin the fun, intimacy, and spontaneity of those acts.

In both of those 'bad' cases, I realized my mistake and stopped the tracking. It taught me that self-tracking can qualitatively change the nature of interactions. It can be fun, in its own right, but it should be avoided for parts of your life that you don't want under the microscope.

Self tracking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369269)

Won't that make you go blind?

No (1)

wabrandsma (2551008) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369275)

Self Tracking could, and thus will be influenced by the observer. With targeted ads I guess.

Not that level of it (1)

Fencepost (107992) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369293)

But I've used Google Latitude's history to look back when I did a bad job of tracking which clients I was at and for exactly how long.

General health (5, Interesting)

mrjb (547783) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369295)

I find general health worth tracking. For a while, as part of my new year's resolution, I had a spreadsheet to track my body weight and blood pressure as well as to keep a log of everything I ate and drank and the amount I had exercised. I also had columns where I'd score my subjective well-being and stress levels, and one for general comments. Some interesting findings were that, unfortunately, exercise had a positive effect on my blood pressure. I also found that my stress levels strongly correlated with my alcohol intake the night before. Nothing like some first hand experience to learn something. Later on I found out that the hormone cortisol is responsible for those stress levels and yes, released when taking alcohol. I'd hardly call what I did solid science, but it is nice to find out when solid science confirms your own feeble efforts.

Re:General health (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369573)

If you were careful, you did real science. It certainly applies to your particular genetics and chemistry. Extrapolating from its effects on you to others is the hard part. "Real science" isn't some pie in the sky thing that "mere mortals" don't have access to; you can definitely do meaningful science on a low budget by yourself (it just happens to be that most of those experiments have already been done). You know, low hanging fruit and all.

Speaking of weight and blood pressure... (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370675)

Have you tried the WiThings scale and blood pressure cuff? I believe the later requires an iOS device, but the scale just requires wifi.

I have the scale and like it a lot. You just set up an account and weigh yourself, their website produces a graph for you automatically and can even export the data to other sites or your own spreadsheet. It takes a chunk of the work out of monitoring your health, which I appreciate.

Re:General health (1)

Manzanita (167643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39371325)

There is a group at Google called PACO - http://code.google.com/p/paco/ [google.com] PACO is a tool for building your own personal tracking experiments. This is very much at the project stage. They will be demoing at the VLAB event "The Uploaded Life: Personal Evolution through Self Tracking" at Stanford on March 20th - http://www.vlab.org/article.html?aid=438 [vlab.org]

Is this a type of thing that could develop into a business? Come to the event to hear a discussion on that question and more with Gary Wolf Co-Founder of the Quantified Self and Three-Time Tour de France Winner Greg LeMond. There will also be a presentation by the company Healthrageous, which is tackling the general health problem using biometric devices, machine learning and virtual digital coaching to help regular people achieve better health.

brilliant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369333)

imagine humans as more efficient like machines

alot of useful things could be learned from our inner workings, and if i could measure myself in these specific ways using proven scientific methods and devices, i say why not?

I did this 4 years before Wolfram (1)

thisisauniqueid (825395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369385)

Re:I did this 4 years before Wolfram (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369899)

Really? Because judging from the PDF linked on your article, you've been tracking email stats since 2007, whereas Wolfram's been tracking them since 1990. It seems like he did it about 17 years before you.

For important stuff ... (5, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369487)

... Slashdot does it for me.

Modded

  1. Off Topic: 57 times this month
  2. Troll: 23 times this month
  3. Flamebait: 86 times this month
  4. Informative: 3 times this month

Sorry about that last one, folks. I'll try to do better next time.

VehiCal on iPhone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369559)

Useful for recording all the vehicle's expenses and tracking all the trips you do.
That is about all the data I really keep up to date.

I use self tracking for fitness (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39369563)

I use Runkeeper on my Android phone to track my runs and my commute by bike. I would also use it for tracking weightlifting, but I can't find a good app or shake the feeling of being a douche bag while I sit on the bench, swiping at my phone.

What I really want is a way to more effectively integrate the phone's senses with the data collection apparatus , like if my phone knew I went on a run from data from the accelerometers and automatically used my gps data to send me an email with my average pace.

  If I could specify a weight and a lift and let the accelerometers count the reps, and have the phone give me my next set target, I would totally pay for that.

AI (1)

hollaburoo (1037752) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369609)

I wonder how hard it would be to train an AI to react like Stephen Wolfram based upon his emails.

Here is the event that motivated me to post (1)

Manzanita (167643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369641)

San Francisco Bay Area Event (March 20 @ 6 PM, Stanford GSB Cemex Auditorium) — The Uploaded Life: Personal evolution through self tracking

Description:

What happens when we add the power of Social/Mobile and always-on personal devices to the evolving health markets? What are the successful Quantified Self business models that entrepreneurs are now exploring? Join the conversation at the MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) event, The Uploaded Life: Personal evolution through self tracking, on Tuesday, March 20th at the Stanford School of Business Cemex Auditorium. 6:00 - 7:00 pm Demos, Networking and Refreshments; 7:00 - 8:30 pm Panel Discussion, moderated by Gary Wolf, Co-Founder of The Quantified Self and contributing editor to Wired. Panelists include three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond. Event website: http://bit.ly/yGBApV [bit.ly]

The MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) is the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the MIT Enterprise Forum, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the growth and success of high-tech entrepreneurial ventures by connecting ideas, technology and people.

How about... (2)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369665)

How about the number of times I visit and minutes I spend reading/posting to slash.dot each day/week/ :P Fourteen years ago, I worked for a company (which was long since partitioned and spun-off) that tracked personal web usage to the extent that each employee and his/her manager was sent an email detailing weekly web usage: url of each site visited, amount of data downloaded from each site, and the employee's over-all bandwidth usage for the week compared to everyone else in the company. The manager of my department didn't care and my neighbor usually ranked in the top 50 out of 2000 and was proud of it XD

Completely useless data (3, Insightful)

SilverJets (131916) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369681)

It's an exercise in gathering completely useless data.

How many people on Slashdot still have emails they sent in 1990? 1991? 1992? How many of those emails that you still have are actually relevant today? Worse still, how relevant to today is it to know how many emails you sent in 1990, 1991 or 1992?

Even more useless....number of keystrokes per day for the last 10 years.

This guy is going to die someday and his wife and kids are going to toss all this crap right into the dustbin.

That is not personal data... (2)

davevr (29843) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369707)

It is interesting and useful as a concept. You cannot really improve anything if you cannot measure it accurately, and so data gathering and analysis can certainly be extremely useful.

However, I don't see much value in just collecting these digital signals like typing and email. Contrary to the title of the post, it is very impersonal. It is just email, really, and even for a serious tech head like Wolfram, that is surely a tiny part of his life.

I also am one of those people with a huge email archive going back decades, and it is fun to play with. Certainly it is fun to find the first emails you sent to someone from ages ago. I also saved all of my old engineering notebooks, and it is great to go back and see things from the early days of QuickTime or notes from the very first time I saw a Mac Laptop - that sort of stuff.

But I think it would be great if I could keep a detailed record of the things that I really care about. For example - I would like to know how much exercise I am actually doing, so I can see if I am really taking the stairs more. I would like to know how much time I spent in the car, so I could make more accurate decisions about the cost of living far from work. I would like to know how many new people I am meeting every week, so I can see if I am becoming more or less social. I would like to know when new topics are trending for me, so I can make sure I am continuing to expand my interests. I would like to monitor how much time I am spending with friends and family as opposed to just work and workmates. I would like to know how many times I gave a sarcastic answer to a question to make sure I am not becoming a dick. Now that I have a Kindle, I can't tell if I am reading more or fewer books than I used to. Am I really watching less TV because I play more video games, or am I keeping that constant and stealing video game time from other non-screen activities? These are just a few examples. No doubt you have your own list.

The point is that if you care about acting a certain way, it is super useful to measure it. You can measure all of the things I mentioned right now, but many of them are a huge pain. If technology could somehow make this easier, I would be all for it.

I just don't want FaceBook or Google to do it without asking me. :-)

- davevr

If it's important to you, you should track it. (3, Insightful)

toddar (950823) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369723)

Personal analytics like anything else can become an obsession. I think tracking your caloric intake, weight, blood pressure, exercise and money spending are worthwhile for health and financial well being (I've lost 40 lbs this way). Writing down the names of people you meet (if you're bad at remembering names) is good for social happiness. Writing down yearly goals is probably good for achieving your definition of success. If you care about it, you should probably track it.

I can see the value (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#39369751)

Something I wouldn't mind having a record of: Video footage around my home, video footage of the area around me, gps coordinates of my location, audio from all of the video, and index of faces and text against timecode for all of the video footage.

Why? Lots of reasons. For one, I can submit video evidence regarding anything that happens that might concern a court (well, assuming you get rid of backwards laws, or maybe I wear a T-shirt and post signs informing all of what is going on). I also can spot any unusual activity - like unusual people around my house/etc. If somebody robs me, chances are that I not only have video of it, but video of the same person driving their car by my house two years prior and their license plate, or maybe their face in my kid's yearbook when I happened to thumb through it 10 years before that. When somebody walks by I don't have to guess where I know them from. If I'm shopping for cereal at one store, I can look up what the price was on the cereal when I happened to be in another store a week before. And so on...

There's a reason DHS is paying a lot of money to collect this kind of data on everybody. If you just retain data long enough, you can get quite a bit just from everything you happen to incidentally encounter.

The next step is to pool information with others. Do that with enough people and suddenly you know as much as anybody about everything going on.

Re:I can see the value (1)

doston (2372830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370339)

Yeah, the Gladys Kravitz of 2012 would see the value, too.

three logs I keep, and more (1)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370185)

I do self-track certain things that are very useful. I keep two logs: 1) concepts log 2) information flow log, and one moderate sized list.

The concepts log records interesting or useful concepts as I encounter then, so I do not have the situation of sitting there wondering where was that discussion of how to do XYZ I'd read six months ago.

The information flow log is a raw stream of ideas and information locations (sites, books, articles)

As a side matter, I keep a list of things I do not know but need to learn. Richard Feynman kept one and it helped him spot holes in his models or domain knowledge.

There's a fourth area where I keep things, and that is a series of 'Library' drives with a large number of directories, one for each area of learning I track, and I copy material into it when I run across it. Thus I can immediately find where I have information on, for example, certain topics in AI, physics, tax law, etc. There is one drive for science, one for technology, one for humanities and more. I use these daily to find things I might have run across years ago.

Tracking for Geek Cred? (1)

JeanCroix (99825) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370329)

I wouldn't find it useful; it would feel neurotic. So I don't self track. What gets me is other engineers who do self-track in some manner, and regard me as abnormal, insane, and/or less of a technical person because I don't.

perhaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39370399)

it depends on the ego.

I wouldn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39370457)

Unless there was some kind of tangible goal involved, and I'd like to see examples of this. What impact does it have to quantify how much I spend on facebook? I can pretty much intuitively guess whether I waste time doing this or that on the computer (or any other task in daily habits), or whether it is affecting my life in some way without looking to numbers to support that intuition. Important analytics are already measured (blood sugar, blood pressure, diet, exercise routine, etc.) on an as-needed basis so unless the world of psychology and psychiatry determine there is a life-impacting medical or mental hygeine reason I should record certain data about myself, I'm just going to leave life alterring decisions to my intuition rather than a data set.

Related event with Gary Wolf and Greg LeMond (2)

Manzanita (167643) | more than 2 years ago | (#39370877)

I really wanted to get the word out about this event coming up at Stanford. I feel like a bit of a fool for not putting the link in the submission!

There will be a panel discussing just this topic at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, put on by the MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB). VLAB puts on a great event. If you are in the area you should definitely join us!

The Uploaded Life: Personal evolution through self tracking
http://www.vlab.org/article.html?aid=438 [vlab.org]

When:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012
6:00 - 7:00pm Networking and Refreshments
7:00 - 8:30pm Panel Discussion and Q&A
Where:

Stanford Graduate School of Business
CEMEX Auditorium at the Knight Management Center

Moderator:
  Gary Wolf, Co-Founder, The Quantified Self & Editor, Wired Magazine

Panelists:

  Rick Lee, CEO of Healthrageous
  Mark S. Gainey, Co-Founder Strava, Inc
  Leslie Ziegler: Creative Director, Rock Health
  Greg LeMond, Three-Time Winner of the Tour de France

Event Description

Large companies, as well as, garage hackers are leveraging smaller,
cheaper sensors and powerful mobile devices are accelerating the
virtuous circle of goal setting, data collection, analysis and social
motivation necessary to stimulate lasting and steady gains in health,
sports performance or other areas of self evolution.

What happens when we add the power of Social/Mobile and always-on
personal devices to the evolving health markets. Peer pressure (social
reinforcement) and data tracking have significantly contributed to the
success of the $11B self improvement and $55B weight loss markets.
Legacy business such as Weight Watchers have relied on snippets of
painstakingly input data. How will the game be changed when personal
data goes from a drop in the bucket to an ocean?

What new perspectives do start ups provide using sensors and on-line
services, to disrupt and support the incumbents in self evolution and
health? And, what is needed for break-out success?
  What new opportunities will exist in widespread tracking?
  How do you keep users engaged long enough to make meaningful changes?
  Will a start-up create virality to accelerate growth, become
a category killer?
  What are the challenges of collecting and applying meaningful data?
  What incentives are effective to encourage adoption outside
of tracker enthusiasts and early adopters?
  Can a single offering service survive or will those
aggregating multiple data streams dominate?
  Can these services grow on an ad based model or is a
subscription necessary?
  How are companies using social motivation to encourage
consistent engagement and long term participation?

http://www.vlab.org/article.html?aid=438 [vlab.org]

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