On Nov 18, Monday, STEP Journal team attended Quantified Self Silicon Valley meetup at Evernote.
Meetup formula was: 1.5 hr for checking out the new solutions at demo tables and mingling with other attendees (in the background of delicious healthy snacks and drinks courtesy of Evernote) + 2 hrs devoted for 4 speakers sharing their interesting stories on efforts and learnings from quantifying selves + few minutes for the attendees to share what sexy projects they are working on or general news which could be of interest for the community + enough of time for further mingling and follow up questions (and a beer if one could still find it). All in all – almost 4 hours gone as one second.
We were told the videos of presentations will be available at meet up page soon (highly recommended to watch!), thus we won’t spend time summarising them. Instead we’ll share what dawned upon us (thoughts and observations) on a beautiful evening in Redwood City on November 18th, 2013.
Self quantifier = geek?
For some reason the image of a self quantifier is somewhat similar to a tech geek. You know, someone who can make sense of bits, find correlations on his/her own, code and even make sexy visualisations from own data. As our team had a table to show the newest version of STEP Journal iOS application and, thus, had a chance to talk to people about their needs, it appeared that many just want to know themselves better (and, thus, live a better life), but have no idea about coding or how to play with the data. It felt like quantified self movement is reaching an ordinary human being. Implications? Tools have to do more, interfaces have to be easier, look sexier, be more comprehensible, and use normal language.
Too many tools which don’t speak to each other
As the number of apps and web tools for life logging is constantly growing, it’s becoming difficult to find and choose the best one. Even when you think you have found THE ONE and diligently track yourself for a few months, a more suitable app comes out (it might have been out for a while, but your best friend Joe have just discovered it and shared the discovery with you). Yet if the tool you are using does not provide data export functionality, you are locked in (voila, nobody likes to feel locked in…) And even if it allows for data export, there’s no import in the other tool…
Where to start?
Say, I want to know myself better and improve my life. Now, where do I start? Writing a diary? If yes, what shall I focus on? And even if I’m able to specify more precisely what I want to learn about myself (for example, how exercising and sleep quality correlate for me?), what’s the best way to track that, analyse, change and get feedback? An open question since to our best knowledge, there’s no great “Beginners guide to self-tracking”… The closest match to the ideal has recently showed up in Wellocracy’s site covering activity and sleep trackers.
How to make sense of all this data?
We’ve talked to people wearing Jawbone UP and Fitbit bands, tracking cycling on one app and general fitness on another app. The natural question is how to aggregate all this data in one place and how to get insights? Some want insights to be presented to them, some, on the other hand, want to play with own data and DISCOVER themselves. Some tools provide insights, but they are very limited to the scope of what that particular tool tracks. No place where one could dump all the data, get it crunched / crunch himself and discover the insights. What a shame…
The value of quantifying
What are the drivers for self-tracking? One can be a pure curiosity on how I live. Maybe at first there are no far-reaching thoughts and they only appear once some data is seen and some patterns are discovered. Another driver can be fashion. No secret that wearables are becoming sleek and sexy fashion items, also communicating to the others that this person is a trend-setter gadget-lover from SF, London or Seoul. Finally, there’s a pure motivation to live better via changing own ways of doing things. It’s only possible to change something once you are aware of the current ways, can grasp the negative impact (or see the positive relations), do things differently, get feedback about change and over time of sustained behaviour turin it into a habit.
So, the whole path is: Intention – monitoring / tracking self – awareness – experiments – feedback – sustained behaviour – habit. And we would argue that the tool / solution / service which will cover all these points along the long journey, will end up as the winner in the ecosystem of quantified self.