Quantified Self

When I was living and working in San Francisco, I had the chance to do some fascinating research on life loggers, i.e., people who go to extremes tracking data on themselves. In the course of our research, we talked to one person who tracked all of her workouts and food intake on a notes file on her iPhone. We talked to another person who created elaborate excel spreadsheets for budgeting and goals tracking. Another woman we talked to kept ongoing scrapbooks of her life for 18 years, and had all of them together on a massive bookcase in her apartment. We learned that there is a whole movement, called Quantified Self, growing around this life-logging trend.

I’ve always been interested in documenting my experiences and the things I learn, so what these folks were doing totally resonated with me, albeit on a lesser scale.  I’m not necessarily interested in tracking everything about my life, but I have been experimenting with several tools, online and off, that aid with doing self-assessments of all kinds. So, behold, my quantified self.


First off, my working style sheet:
At Jump, every time we joined a new project team, we would create some variation of this mindmap. Basically, we told our teammates what our thinking styles and learning modes were, what strengths we had (from the Strengthfinder 2.0 test), what we were working on during the course of the project, and finally, what we had going on outside of work. We drew it up on sheets of paper so we could hang them in our project space as a visual reminder for each other. This is one of mine from several years ago (pre-Hinckley!).

My flower diagram:
I’ve just finished reading What Color Is Your Parachute?, a great book for helping people figure out what next steps to take in their careers and how to effectively job search. In chapter 13, you go through a rigorous self-assessment to identify what matters to you in a job, on seven different petals. Even though I’m not considering a big career switch at this stage, I found this exercise helpful in reminding me both what I’m best at and what I enjoy most.

My Klout.com score:
Klout.com is a free service that measures your influence by pulling in data from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networks. I like to think of it as Google Analytics, but for your personal brand. Klout creates a score between 1 and 100 based on how many people you influence, how much you influence them, and the influence of your network. It’s in beta right now, but seems to be gaining popularity.


Last Week’s Fitbit Stats:
I’ve talked about Fitbit already, but one of the neat features of Fitbit is that it’s not just a pedometer that you look at during the day to see how many more steps you need to take. Fitbit has an online dashboard that shows you step progress over days, weeks, or months, and also can track food intake, sleep habits, etc. It’s a lot like Mint.com but for health. Conveniently, it sends you weekly updates in email form in case you forget to go to the website.

My Nike+ Stats:
I have loved using nike+ for many years to track my running, and in my opinion, it’s still the easiest service out there for tracking, sharing, and feeling motivated. Another good site for exercise tracking is Daily Mile, which allows you to add all types of workouts, from yoga to running to swimming.


A Visual Bookcase:
A visual of what I’ve been reading lately. I’ve found that Goodreads is also a great place to track reading and share book recommendations with friends.

Blog Breakdown:
I follow about forty blogs in my Google Reader. Here’s how they breakdown.

Weekly TV Lineup:
Breakdown of what we watch – good thing we have Tivo!

Well there you have it. My quantified self. What are your favorite tools for life-logging?

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10 thoughts on “Quantified Self

  1. Cool data, Joanna! The one question we like to ask people at Quantified Self is, what did you learn from this tracking? So I’m curious what you learned? 🙂

    • Jo Writes says:

      Hi Alexandra,
      Thanks for the comment! Hmm, what have I learned?
      Well, with the working style sheets, I would say that I learned the value of letting your teammates explain how they see their strengths and weaknesses upfront, rather than making assumptions about how they think, what they like to do, and what they are good at. I often found that if I was experiencing a disconnect with a teammate, I could look back to the sheet and figure out, “Oh, it’s because he thinks very auditorily but I’m explaining this visually.” Or, I could refer to the sheet and say, “Well, her strength may not be in planning, but she’s a great big picture thinker, so maybe we should encourage her to think about what types of research would be most interesting rather than the logistics of the research.”

      With the flower diagram, I learned how important it is to rank your skills not just by what you’re good at, but also by what you like doing the most. As I was going through the process of rating skills and interests, I realized that there are a few subjects that I studied and excelled at (like math/physics/engineering) but don’t really excite me as a job. Obviously, I shouldn’t be looking for jobs that focus heavily on those subjects. Another good learning was to articulate what you didn’t like about a past job or geography, in order to turn it into what you would want in your ideal job or geography. It reminds me of an ideation technique where you come up with terrible ideas in order to turn them into good ideas – it’s a lot easier to think of the negatives, because the pressure is off!

      Finally, I think one learning I’m getting from my Fitbit stats is that the only way I’m going to reach 10,000 steps a day is if I make a concerted effort – either by going on a long walk, a jog, or going out to an event/destination that involves a lot of standing and walking. It’s a good reminder every day needs to have some sort of active segment, even if it’s not the same kind of activity each time.

      Thanks again for the question! I’ll keep thinking about it, especially to see if there are learnings I have based on the whole set of data.

  2. Great post–I like the Flower Diagram!

    Your Goodreads bookshelf and TV lineup timeline got me thinking. I’ve always thought that there’s something slight neurotic about the “Quantified Self.” Or, if not neurotic, then decidedly niche. Why would anyone write down every workout they’ve ever done (like Tim Ferriss does)? Would a normal person ever want that kind of data?

    But the media consumption history seems a bit different, as it conveys something about who you are and what you like. It’s an authentic, hard to fake way to show others how you’re spending your time. The “Quantified Self” seems to become less weird if it’s aim is to share the data with other people.

    That said, I think great summarization/visualization is key. When Facebook announced their new API recently (which lets third party apps plug into Facebook to publish things like “Jo just went on a run in the park” or “Jo’s watching Law & Order”), my first reaction was that it was weird and would only appeal to a niche. I don’t care about the raw data, about what you’re listening to on Spotify right now. But if they could generate a summary of the past month or year (sort of like what you’ve done in this post), that would be an interesting window into someone’s life.

    What do you think?

    • Jo Writes says:

      Hi Peter,

      Yeah, I’m totally with you. Though I’ve dabbled in recording my exercise and eating habits to do a self-review of my health, I’ve felt funny about sharing it with others because I get the sense that most people just don’t care – it’s too focused on me. But when it comes to media consumption, it’s interesting to know what other people are reading or watching because it gives you ideas and recommendations for what you should read or watch. And I think it’s much more interesting to see that kind of data in bulk, because you can draw out patterns and conclusions that you can’t get from a single status update. I’ve been seeing a lot of really neat infographics come out of the GOOD: Projects lately, and I wish someone would translate those static infographics into interactive apps that could be added to Facebook/LinkedIn/personal blogs.

  3. i just started with goodbooks based solely on the picture you have of the bookshelf separated into categories. it’s a nice way of being able to remind myself that i’ve brought “kissing architecture” on the last three trips i’ve taken, only to read stieg larsson instead…

    regarding the rest, i’ve been thinking more and more that having a twitter feed that consists mainly on foursquare check-ins is a little depressing. let’s face it, no one really cares that i’m going to c.v.s – or, if they do, that actually worries me. maybe i’m not breaking any new ground here, but it’s almost as though the quantified self you mentioned is a virtual way of keeping track of your real self, pushing reality closer to second life. or vice-versa. i suppose that quantifying things, for someone who has a notion of the person s/he wants to be, would be a good way to measure progress on goals. that said, i wouldn’t want to look at a pie chart one day and realize that i’d spent 2 hours reading, running, and cooking, and another 2 hours uploading photos of the food, recipes, highlighted favorite passages from the book, along with my running route, and number of calories burned.

    • Jo Writes says:

      I think that using quantified self tools is most useful when you look at the data and use it to learn things about yourself. So, it might be helpful to measure what you do all day if you’ve noticed you’re not being that productive, because you might learn why. It also can be helpful to keep yourself honest. But it’s definitely not that interesting for other people to see, unless a.) you share the part you learned or b.) you’re using it as a motivational tool, and other people are on board with that. I do this with Nike+ tweets. My followers may not love it, but it really does motivate me to run farther and faster.

      There are so many new tools out there that try to make the self-tracking easier – gadgets, iPhone apps, websites (I may do a post on this later) but at the end of the day measuring still adds a task that wasn’t there before. I stopped using my Fitbit for awhile when I was busy at work and consistent at running. Now that I’ve moved and have an entirely different schedule, I’m using it to get myself back into a routine that keeps me healthy. Make sense?

  4. […] you saw my Quantified Self post, you learned that one of my “key knowledges and interests” is food & cooking. One […]

  5. Ema Ekberg says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I really suppose this web site wants way more consideration. I’ll probably be once more to learn way more, thanks for that info.

  6. […] is an excellent example of a career flower from a blog called Quantified Self. Doing the flower is great even if you are not switching careers because it helps you clarify where […]

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