We’ve been talking about Lifelogging and the Quantified Self for quite some time now, and the concepts are indeed amazing. Their scope is not limited to sectors, and are applicable to tracking all kinds of data – quantifiable, obscure, even to dogs and babies! Lifelogging is truly a global activity, and the number of Quantified Self forums online justify this statement.
Talk about die-hard lifeloggers, and two names instantly come to mind: Chris Dancy, and Nicholas Felton. While Dancy is more renowned for his arsenal of tracking gadgets which are constantly on his person at all times of the day, Felton is more famous for his diverse and informative reports – which gives us a clear window into his life.
In this article, I’ll be talking a little about Felton’s latest – and last – report.
THE FELTRON REPORT: BRIEF HISTORY
It all started in 2005, where taking notes in an application made way for something more systematic and detailed for Nicholas Felton. The graphic designer recorded all kinds of information about his life within a year’s timeline, and published it at the end of the year as a twelve page report in 2006 – which was incidentally the second Feltron report.
Since then, there’s been no looking back. And for ten consecutive years, Felton has been taking notes on his life avidly – be it in the form of the music he’s listened to, places he’s been to or even the amount of time he spent watching movies and videos.
Felton has also worked at Facebook as well, and he was a key player in designing the Timeline – which, in a way, helps Facebook users track their significant moments over many years.
DEVICES HE USES
In an interview with Wired, Felton says that earlier, he had pedometers attached to his body, but since that is now an inbuilt feature within phones, he used data collected through commercially available apps and devices. A Basis watch is what he uses on his wrist to keep track of sleep and heart rate data, while for blood alcohol levels he used a Lapka monitor, and an Automatic tracker in his car to monitor his car activities. He also uses the Withings smart scale for his weight – which, incidentally, is the one Emberify’s founder uses, as he’s said here.
Felton has an interesting strategy pertaining to the data he collects. He doesn’t touch it till the beginning of the next year, and that really makes sense. If you keep looking at the data you generate, you would end up altering your natural state instinctively to better yourself. While that is indeed the ultimate goal of Lifelogging and the Quantified Self, it does take away the natural aspect of the data.
REGARDING THE INFORMATION GENERATED
Felton says that the data generated must be analysed by the concerned people, in order to better their own lives. An overwhelming amount of data is generated in this regard, and usually it is simply utilised by big corporations and big data analysts to sell them products or leverage their information.
THE CURRENT STATE OF PERSONAL DATA
This is where things got interesting, at least for us at team Emberify. Felton says that the data he records in his latest report also showcases a harmony between all the applications recording his data. And this harmony is arising from context.
Citing the example he stated in the Wired interview, Felton says that earlier, there used to be separate pages on his driving and drinking activities, but by contextually correlating the data received from both the sectors, he could make out in which quarter he worked more, travelled less or drank more. He also incorporated location in his graphs, which would give him – and us too! – a better insight into his life.
Personally, the need of the hour for developers designing applications for QS and Lifelogging is to enable their applications to communicate with other applications. There are a plethora of smartphone sensors at the developer’s disposal, and they can record multiple data simultaneously.
Correlating all this data, overlaying the information and data from multiple sources into one unified place and then generating graphs and data tables for a visualisation – that I believe is the forte of a true blue QS/Lifelogging application. Many applications – such as Instant – provide such platforms and features, but there’s a long way to go in this regard. I’m optimistic of the field of QS/Lifelogging getting all the software and hardware muscle it deserves, which will undoubtedly enable people to generate their own annual reports!
(View Felton’s latest Feltron Report here.)
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