Personal Analytics Are Coming – Are You Prepared To Learn More About Yourself?

We’re all self aware to the extent we want to be, in addition to being creatures of habit, as they say. Both of which are reasons are I’m interested in the progression of personal analytics, the gathering and analyzing of data about yourself, be it biometric or social/environment related.

I recognized a long time ago, I am a complete klutz in the morning and risk breaking coffee pots, burning down the kitchen, or creating other unintentional mayhem in my quest to produce a cup of coffee. The addition of a timer on coffee brewers was a brilliant feature in my mind, and with a little night-before organization, I could awaken to a hot cup and an intact kitchen.

The example above is just a small idea of the behavioral possibilities you could learn about yourself, as well as ways to resolve any issues around your actions. The question that comes with it is, how much do you want to know about all things you?

Stephen Wolfram, who coined the term, and is ostensibly “the father of Personal Analytics”, has been researching these theories for over twenty years. The advent and progression of the “internet of things”, he sees a wide opportunity for collecting and analyzing data about ourselves. The first public analysis he released about himself is how he deals with email.

I see quite a few upsides to collecting personal data, with concepts such as pollution tracking, health and longevity tracking and some modicum of behavioral tracking.  Any and all of these things could have a positive improvement on your lifestyle (should you want to improve).

People are already conducting tracking experiments as informal research projects, such as analyzing how their body metrics change with various diets and exercise routines.

For the short term, there are still challenges to collecting, aggregating and analyzing these types of data together. Hardware collection vs. software collection, reliability of user entered data and unification of how data is classified will all need to be addressed in order to create any useful outcome sets of analysis.

Where this data is useful and where it could become scary/Orwellian 1984-ish still is to be determined. With great data comes great responsibility. There’s been much backlash recently to the amount of data already being collected about people’s internet usage, buying habits and other obtainable preferences. Everywhere you turn it seems someone want to gather more about you.

On the lighter side, Wolfram developed a tool based on this research, allowing you to see metrics about your Facebook usage and friend connections – a social analytics tool. It seems that from the report generated, I make the most grammatical mistakes posting pre-7am, prior to much of the aforementioned coffee.

So, while I’m interested in discovering data about myself that could lead to readjusting behavioral patterns or perhaps insight leading to longer life, I’m not sure how much of it I’d be comfortable sharing. Anonymous data pools are one thing; being targeted by band-aid companies because I stub my toes often crosses into an area that goes beyond me just rearranging the furniture.

I generated the data, and it’s personal.

What do you think? What areas in your life would you be interested in analyzing?

2 thoughts on “Personal Analytics Are Coming – Are You Prepared To Learn More About Yourself?

  1. Kris, it’s an interesting and rapidly developing topic. This is where marketing becomes more science than art. That’s OK for the CFO but every piece of analysis I have seen so far that attempts to use personal analysis for very precise targeting misses the mark. So finding patterns in human behavior that improves our lives on an aggregated basis is good for all. But trying to target our needs using trends in our behavior on platforms like Facebook seem exposed to potential errors.

    The reason I think that is because us humans are both fickle and also have a habit of spotting deliberate attempts to be ‘clever’ – so we rebel. Facebook is certainly struggling with it’s advertising revenues in the UK, made worse by the the massive swing by users to mobile platforms – which don’t support the advertising particularly well.

    However, for every issue I can see right now, someone very cleaver is trying to fix these and the inevitability is that analytics will keep getting more precise. So I guess the options are then clear – if we fear the outcomes, we opt-out. At least until our brains can be scanned remotely for our thoughts!

    • It will be interesting to watch where the classification of things labeled “improvements” vs “targeting” fall. How often do you find yourself in current situations not wanting to share personal details? Data privacy seems to have some better controls on the EU side, and I keep hoping we’ll tighten ours down based on current consumer reactions to aggregation and targeting.

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