Ok, I Quantified Myself. Now What?

Cyborg Eddie (Iron Maiden)

The idea of the “Quantified Self” keeps on gaining more and more traction. First there was FitBits and step counters, then Nike Fuelbands and now Samsung has a fitness watch and Apple is planning on coming out with Health Book in their next iOS release.

I bought a Nike Fuelband when they first got released at SXSW a couple of years ago and I loved it. I wore it for about two years, but in November of last year I switched over to a FitBit Force. But, I’ve sort of been on this quantified self thing for a few years myself.

Why’d I switch? Ok, quick story:

I bought the Fuelband because I liked the idea of tracking how much I moved during the day (because I’m a lazy fat-ass that needed the motivation). I loved it for a long time. I set a goal for how many Nike Fuel Points (a strange number that somehow gets calculated by your movements during the day, but how exactly it’s calculated I have no idea and I’m pretty sure no one outside of Nike does either) I needed to get in a day to consider it a good day. I was hitting that goal most days (everyone needs a hangover day on the couch every once and a while) and even going way over it usually 4 out of 7 days. However, all the number was really was a motivational number. “Oh, I didn’t move enough to hit 3,000 points today? Maybe I’ll go for a walk just to hit that goal.” The problem with the numbers I was seeing though was that it was just simply an output number. I could be walking all day, but all the crap that I stopped to eat along the way was never taken into account. And i knew that.

Then, midway through last year I saw FitBit start to promote their next device, the Force. I pre-ordered it almost right away. What I liked about the Force was that it looked a bit more data about me, like how I sleep, how many flights of stairs I go up during a day (which I still haven’t figured out how it does that, but it does) and most importantly, it also takes into account the calories I’m putting into my body instead of just the ones I lose from moving. The Force does most of the work for me just by wearing it. All I need to do is press a button when I go to bed and wake up so it knows what I consider my sleep time and input my food intake, which I do through it’s integration with the MyFitnessPal app. I like this better because it tells me you moved this much, which means you burned X number of calories, but you also ate Y number of calories, so your net for the day is Z.

So, I’ve been tracking, or quantifying, myself to a level that I feel is appropriate for about six months now. And I’m mostly happy with it.

Or, at least, I was.

The other night I was catching up on back episodes of one of my favourite YouTube channels, PBS Idea Channel, and they did an episode on the quantified self. In it, they ask “How Much Can Data Improve Your Health?” Here watch the episode for yourself (just watch to the 7:20 minute mark, the rest of the video they talk about the previous episode):

Anyways, this got me thinking; “Ok, I have all this data about me. Now what?” And that’s about as far as I got.

I know that if I input less calories than I output I should lose weight (which is one of the reasons I started doing this in the first place). But aside from that one fact, I have no idea how else I can use all of this data I’m constantly recording to actually improve my health. Or my life. Or whatever.

So, I started doing a very brief research by Google. I started googling things like “what do I do with my FitBit data?” and “hacking myself with FitBit data.” Unfortunately I didn’t come up with anything really useful from that.

But I’m really curious, how can I use this data to improve my health? Do I need more data? Do I need to learn more about health and how the body works to be able to gain insights from the data I already have? I don’t know.

As someone who works with data all day (a completely different kind of data though) I’m a little annoyed that I don’t know what to do with this particular set of data.

SO, I want to ask the world; how can I use this data to improve myself? My health? My life?

Do you also use a tracking device like me (or any of the others out there)? What are you doing with that data other than just looking at it?

In the meantime, I’m not going to stop using my trackers. I do get great use out of being able to track my calorie input/output so I can try to lose weight. But I want to do more with it. At least I think I do.

Please, let me know your thoughts or if you know of anyone writing about or doing interesting things with their quantified self data. Please.


In order to become one with the data, and have the matrix open up, you need more data :-)

40deuce moderator

Like what kind of data?