Personal metrics

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Here’s some more fun with data: The Economist reported recently on a trend known as “self-tracking,” or using data about your everyday activities to improve your health and quality of life.

Robin Barooah, a software designer, said he had lost 20kg by monitoring his after-lunch mood using flashcards, which heightened his awareness of how different foods made him feel. Sara Riggare, an engineer from Sweden, described how she used an iPhone app to determine the best drug combination to control her Parkinson’s Disease, and a Nintendo Wii game to monitor and improve her balance.

Unsurprisingly, start-ups and larger companies have begun to support self-trackers with gadgets and apps that facilitate the collection and analysis of personal data.

It’s a promising approach, though I’m reminded of a thought I had, years ago, while working at I was on a tour of the MIT Media Lab and listening to one of the grad students talk about how mobile phones could help you track what you ate and let you know, for example, if you needed to eat more veggies or lay off the red wine. And, you know, nutrition is great, but will nobody stand up for our capacity for self-deception? There are things I’d like to understand about myself, and things that are important to know. But gosh, I’m not sure I could take that level of clarity in every last aspect of my life!

Do you use any self-tracking tools?

One thought on “Personal metrics

  1. I’m using a program called “Calorie Count” along with its matching phone app. Not so much for the calories, tho’ I need to monitor those during my recovery from surgery and an extended illness, but mostly for the analysis screen. It lets me monitor the nutrients in my foods and the all important [for me] iron intake in my diet. Each day’s meals get a grade, as do the foods, so I slowly learn which are healthier choices and what combinations bring in the required elements by the end of the day.

    I’m finally off the prescription iron, so it helps to see how low in iron many common food choices really are.

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