Personal Analytics

My life is already complicated enough without having to stress over the minutia of tracking personal analytics — things like the time I woke up, heart rate, blood pressure, what I ate, the amount of caffeine consumed, etc.  And yet, the idea of tracking these things in a very OCD-like manner is appealing.  At least to understand my body in a thorough manner.

“Two years ago, my fellow Wired writer Kevin Kelly and I noticed that many of our acquaintances were beginning to do this terrible thing to themselves, finding clever ways to extract streams of numbers from ordinary human activities. A new culture of personal data was taking shape,” writes Gary Wolf.  “The immediate cause of this trend was obvious: New tools had made self-tracking easier. In the past, the methods of quantitative assessment were laborious and arcane. You had to take measurements manually and record them in a log; you had to enter data into spreadsheets and perform operations using unfriendly software; you had to build graphs to tease understanding out of the numbers. Now much of the data-gathering can be automated, and the record-keeping and analysis can be delegated to a host of simple Web apps. With new tracking systems popping up almost daily, we decided to create a Web site to track them. We called our project the Quantified Self. We don’t have a slogan, but if we did it would probably be ‘Self-knowledge through numbers.'”

It’s possible I may try this and write a weekly essay, if for nothing else than to share how it goes.  I’d be curious to break out my day in terms of large chunks: time slept, time eating, time working, time commuting, time caring for my dog, time spent on this website, time watching television, etc.  That might be an interesting place to start for these kinds of metrics, before you jump into more specific details.

Kevin Kelly has a massive roundup for various metric apps.   As does Personal Informatics, which filters the programs by app type (web, mobile phone, desktop, etc.) and by category.  That makes the site a bit more user-friendly that KK’s, but still.  It’s obvious there is almost too much information to make sense of.

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