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The Data-Driven Life @ NYTimes.com explores a group of people that aren’t quite collectors, they’re trackers…

Humans make errors. We make errors of fact and errors of judgment. We have blind spots in our field of vision and gaps in our stream of attention. Sometimes we can’t even answer the simplest questions. Where was I last week at this time? How long have I had this pain in my knee? How much money do I typically spend in a day? These weaknesses put us at a disadvantage. We make decisions with partial information. We are forced to steer by guesswork. We go with our gut.

That is, some of us do. Others use data. A timer running on Robin Barooah’s computer tells him that he has been living in the United States for 8 years, 2 months and 10 days. At various times in his life, Barooah — a 38-year-old self-employed software designer from England who now lives in Oakland, Calif. — has also made careful records of his work, his sleep and his diet.

A few months ago, Barooah began to wean himself from coffee. His method was precise. He made a large cup of coffee and removed 20 milliliters weekly. This went on for more than four months, until barely a sip remained in the cup. He drank it and called himself cured. Unlike his previous attempts to quit, this time there were no headaches, no extreme cravings.

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Ok makers, what are you tracking? What tech or gadget do you use to log daily activities, etc. Right now I’m using Runkeeper and/or Nike+ shoe fob for running, testing out a Wi-Fi scale and for awhile keeping track of time with a text file. In the refrigerator there’s an Arduino keeping tracking of temperature and use (beta logger shield!).

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

  1. Echelon_Force says:

    I’ve tracked my gas mileage since purchasing my first car…2 years and counting:

    http://www.robotdialogs.com/2009/12/gas-mileage_07.html

    Kind cool to see your life in numbers…it’s pretty easy for anyone to do, just have to remember the receipt.

    1. alex.s.myopenid.com says:

      I do the same thing using my smartphone. It’s interesting to see the effect various maintenance items have on mileage.

  2. trialex says:

    A great website for this stuff is Quantified Self http://www.quantifiedself.com/ . You may have seen it already – it’s linked inside the article you’ve linked to.

    (Kevin Kelly is half of the team that runs it – he also does the Cool Tools blog which is also very interesting for Makers)

  3. JCS says:

    Since a few weeks I restarted sending data to pachube with an arduino and Ethernet shield.
    It’s interesting to see how your actions influence the “conditions” at home… put the clothes to dry humidity rises :-)
    We did it to check if humidity levels are proper for our 5 months baby or if temperature wouldn’t drop too low during the night.
    http://bitsnbikes.blogspot.com/2010/04/new-pachube-feed.html

  4. Donald Haas says:

    I’ve been tracking how many times I click my mouse at work in a day for 6+ years now. It’s all in a text file with a date and occasionally notes about if it was a half day or some other reason my count might be lower. Space delimited, it’s easy to bring into any spreadsheet and total it up or create charts. I work doing mainly CADD drafting, so an average day is 3500 clicks or so. A “bust your butt and work 13 hours straight” day I topped out at over 16000 clicks. That’s left click only.

  5. John T says:

    I’m just coming to the end of a research project which used Arduinos and XBees to remotely report and log temperature. I am aiming to develop it further to track more, and open source it at a later date

  6. volkemon says:

    Hmm…. Beta Logger shield? Tell us more…

  7. volkemon says:

    I just got back from the makershed just in case I had missed something… no data logger shield. And the SD card shield out of stock, as usual. Guess I will have to watch closely.

  8. volkemon says:

    YESSSS!!! Data logger shields (2) ordered and paid for.

    They are available at the Adafruit website.They have sold a few already, looking at the stock level.

    Thanks for the beta heads up! Had me alert and lookin’ :)

  9. Matthew Cornell says:

    I love the examples given above. Clearly anything that’s meaningful to us can be measured in some manner, even if qualitatively. I think that as more people instrument their lives, the role of data will move to its rightful place in the bigger perspective of life-as-experiment. To do that I hope it’s OK to point to my response to Wolf’s article: The Experiment-Driven Life (http://www.matthewcornell.org/2010/06/the-experiment-driven-life.html). It explains the motivation behind our first little experiment (of course!) to help people look at everything in life as an experiment. It’s early days yet, but you can see some really interesting work people are doing, including inserting magnets into fingers to add a sixth sense. http://edison.thinktrylearn.com/ Happy measuring!