Lately as I’ve been living my life I’ve been wanting various forms of personal analytics. Software that analyzes what I’m doing in my life to help me lead it better.
I have some software doing this already. Mint.com is personal analytics. I take some action in my life, namely earning and spending money, and this behavior can be analyzed. In the case of Mint there is a digital record of all of my earnings and most of my spending (excluding cash, unless I manually enter it), and the software takes this and presents it in such a way that I can figure out certain things. Am I’m earning more than I’m spending? What am I spending my money on? If I wanted to spend less money, what categories should I target? There are more questions I’d like answered, but these are a great start.
You could, by the way, figure out all of these things before Mint; it was just much harder. Personal analytics should make it possible to track something that was so difficult before that you didn’t take the time to do it. Or it should make something you’ve been doing way easier. Or perhaps it should make something possible that was totally impossible before.
I want, and expect to have in the future, a lot more software like this. There are a few examples I’ve been contemplating, and more come to me all the time.
To list but one simple example, I’d love to know when I’m making “too much” noise, where “too much” is enough to disturb my neighbor. I make noise all the time: I listen to music; I talk; I sing while I do the dishes; I watch TV; I play musical instruments. I’m willing to bet you make noise too.
The question is, am I being too loud? Well, it’s fair to say that if no one but those in my house can hear the noise, then it’s acceptable. It’s more complicated than that, and the software could handle that complexity, but let’s take this as a starting place. Well, it’s possible to measure the amount of noise here, and it’s possible to measure the amount of noise somewhere else, such as outside or in my neighbors place. From this data you could determine a relationship between the two and construct an alert system that could trigger when you’re being too loud. A system like this would give me much peace of mind, as I worry all the time about the noise I’m making, and I have little idea if any of it is going through to my neighbors. I honestly don’t know if I’m incredibly polite or a total jerk.
There are a million examples like this. Am I walking my dog enough? Am I exercising enough? How is my diet? What do I spend my time doing, and are there ways I could save time? This list goes on. All of these questions, and more, could be answered in part or in full by personal analytics software.