My Quantified Self Journey
Published by James Gallagher on .
This article takes approximately 5 minutes to read.
My journey into the world of quantified self continues. Now that I’ve started working on projects, I am finding that it is hard to stop. There is so much you can do with quantified self data.
Over the last few days, I’ve been asking myself the question “what should I track?” I’ve come to the realization that I want to track some health information, location information, and a couple of other data points. I have 11 or so services connected to my Exist.io account. I rely on Fitbit and my iPhone for most of my health data. I use Swarm to keep track of the places that I go.
These services are going to be the foundation of my quantified self work over the next few weeks. I’m conscious that I do not want to take on too much too soon. There are so many services out there I could use to track data. I’m happy with what I have chosen to work with for now.
Building a Quantified Self Dashboard
As I said in yesterday’s blog post, the data collection for these services is set up. Now comes the really fun part: experimenting with the data. To do this, I have been building a quantified self dashboard for this website.
The dashboard has gone through a couple of iterations since I first began working on it. Yes, it has only been a few days. My mind has been actively thinking about the best way to approach the new dashboard. Initially, the idea was to put all of my data on one page. Given how much data I am collecting, this proved to be nothing but a confusing approach. No matter how I pictured the data, I could not figure out how best to present it.
I have settled on dividing my data across a few separate pages on this site. There is now a page called Fitness which lists my fitness data. On that page, I track my step counts, the time I have spent asleep, among other key metrics. I am only showing a subset of the metrics that I collect because the page could quickly get very confusing. There’s no need for me to share every data point I gather. Some of them are probably not going to be useful for me but are collected just because I use a particular service and I have no control over each individual point on which I collect data.
I have created a separate page called Checkins which is where I list all of my checkins. This page uses data from the Foursquare Swarm API to see where I have been. It’s not going to be a complete record because Swarm only has a limited number of locations in my area. I’ll try to check in to places when I visit them so that the page gets more active. With that said, I’m still at home for most of the day.
Quantified self is definitely a big topic. There are so many different ways to approach data collection and analysis. I’ve barely even begun to look at other people’s sites. I have found a few interesting sites through the IndieWeb Slack community. It appears as if a number of their members are interested in quantified self like me.
Quantified self is important to me because I like collecting and analyzing data. Data analysis is interesting. I have tried to analyze datasets from platforms like Kaggle in the past but there has always been something missing. That “something” is there being a reason why I am looking through a data set. With quantified self data, I have a clear incentive to keep analyzing data and to look for new insights: I might learn something about myself.
I have not checked my Exist.io dashboard much since signing up. I have been successfully submitting daily updates for my mood tracker. I haven’t checked Exist.io much because I am still new to quantified self. I’m still gathering some initial data. As more data becomes available, I should be able to derive more insights from Exist.io. At that point, I’ll play around with it a bit more.
Most of my experience with Exist.io has been through their API. To collect the fitness data for this site, I use Exist.io. The process goes like this:
- I build a new version of this site
- A custom integration goes off that queries various endpoints on the Exist.io API
- The integration uses a Jekyll generator to create a static page with the data from Exist.io
This workflow is optimal for my needs. I still care deeply about bandwidth conservation. I feel like having a dynamic site that queries these endpoints would necessitate the unnecessary collection of data. Every time a page is rendered, I would have to query the APIs again. Yesterday I said that I don’t update most of my quantified self data more than once a day. That’s why I now have an automated script on my server that updates my site.
I do apologize for my site being malformed for a few hours earlier today. It turns out I made an error in the automated script that updates my site. That error caused me to upload the templates rather than the final copies of my static site.
My Next Steps
I am writing this blog post in part to review the progress I have made but also to help me figure out what is next. I have seen a few people who have created activity steams with various data points. I may give that a go. I can imagine a feed that reports on all of my purchases, the media I have watched, and the songs I have listened to. Having one place to show all this data sounds interesting.
I’m also curious to explore my financials a bit more. I’d like to start creating personal monthly reports that break down my finances based on the nature of a purchase (i.e. a coffee from a cafe, recurring bills). What I have learned very quickly is that quantified self is an ongoing process. I’ve already started to change the data that I collect. This is because there is no “boilerplate” setup. While Exist.io only lets me collect certain data, the way I analyze and present that data is up to me. As my needs change, my systems will need to evolve.