Thursday, November 8, 2012

Your Life, By The Numbers




As we get closer to TMRE I've been thinking more and more about data.

-The data that we are gathering and analyzing during our research projects


-The data that flows through the estimated 75 million servers worldwide each day


-And what's most interesting to me lately - the data that we are all capturing every day about our daily lives. What we eat, how fast we run, what medicines we take, how many times we post to Twitter, and so on.


Life tracking, as it's now called, was called out in 2010 by Gary Wolf of WIRED in an article for the New York Times entitled The Data-Driven life. In his article, Wolf highlighted that what was once the playground of the "ultrageek" was becoming increasingly mainstream as social and mobile grew:

“People got used to sharing,” says David Lammers-Meis, who leads the design work on the fitness-tracking products at Garmin. “The more they want to share, the more they want to have something to share.” Personal data are ideally suited to a social life of sharing. You might not always have something to say, but you always have a number to report.

This is how the odd habits of the ultrageek who tracks everything have come to seem almost normal.


So yeah, there are "ultrageeks" like Tim Ferriss and Nicholas Felton who track their lives on a very deep, granular level. But us 'regular folks' are starting to pursue life tracking, whether we're aware of it or not. 

-Perhaps you're trying to lose weight so you're logging your meals with WeightWatchers or SparkPeople apps. 


-Perhaps you're trying to PR your next half marathon, so you're using your Garmin Forerunner to  calculate your time, distance and pace, and wirelessly send your data to your computer.


-You might even be using RescueTime to track how productive (or not) you're being at work so you can modify your habits appropriately. 


-If you're heavily into social media, you may even be using apps like Memento to take your social updates and put them into daily diary format. 


If you're doing any of the above, you're well on your way to life tracking.  There are an abundance of apps for your i-devices that allow you to track pretty much everything about your life. 


So, why do I find this so fascinating? Two reasons:

1) The more mainstream life tracking becomes, potentially the more willing research participants might be to share life tracking information.

2) Big data. The more folks get into life tracking, the more data is available about the research participants we may want to study.

I look forward to discussing market research, big ideas, big data, and even life tracking at TMRE - I'll see you there!
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