Google Glass, Moodies, and the Future of Social Interaction Tracking

One of the metrics I have enjoyed tracking on and off in the past is social interactions. Who I met with today, how long did we meet for, and what we discussed are just a few of the data points I would track. Sometimes I would even go as far as categorizing how the individual interactions made me feel, to get a better understand of which relationships were healthy and which were not.

But tracking social interactions is very difficult. You have to manually log all of your interactions and code them appropriately. It is not a passive tracking task at all, which makes it all the more difficult because of how many individuals I interact with each day.

Earlier this year, I was accepted into the Google Glass Explorers program.  I have been wearing Glass quite a bit and playing around with the various applications currently available for the device.  I am 50/50 on whether or not Glass will replace the mobile smartphone, but there is no question that wearable devices are gaining market share on total use of discretionary spending.  But of all the wearables out there right now, Glass does have one advantage in the Quantified Self space... it takes into account your direct line of sight.  From a tracking point of view (pun intended!), Glass is the perfect device for tracking and measuring social interactions.  With the right application, if you are wearing Glass, the device could log each individual you interact with - measuring a wide variety of variables: length of conversation, tone, mood, environment (how many individuals do you interact with at the office versus at a coffee shop), among various other things. All passive, all stored in the cloud, all ready for analysis.  Google Glass (and future product like it) could change the relationship tracking game.

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That said, given that there are already concerns about privacy and Google Glass, this new level of tracking would only fuel that fire.  In theory, using something like Google Glass to take pictures or video of every individual interaction with another person would cause great concern on the other end of your view.  Think about how many conversations you have that would be considered "off the record"...  Discussing staff issues with the HR representative, water cooler conversation about other co-workers, an argument with a spouse, etc.  These are conversations that you conduct frequently would be treated differently if the person you were talking to knew it was being recorded.  I would argue that these are the conversations that are most worth tracking!  But there is no way you would get sign-off from any parties who know that their words and actions could be replayed at any given time.  I recall a scene in the movie RoboCop, where there is a reference made about RoboCop being able to record everything around him, and how that was used against the bad guys in the movie.  People act differently when they know they are being watched, as science has proven.

Besides playing around with Google Glass, I am also experimenting with an application I recently downloaded on my Android device called "Moodies". Moodies is an app that records your conversations with others and measures your tone and pitch to try and determine your mood.  The jury is still out on whether the app works or not (I still have some more tests I need to run), but this goes to show that tools like Moodies, and potentially other wearables like Glass, will begin to quantify social interactions and communications passively, sometimes unbeknownst to others.  Whether this is ethical or not is still being debated.

When that debate reaches a conclusion however, I do believe, in time, Glass-like technology will be what smartphones have become, and ultimately will become a standard of communications and interactions.  When that happens, it sure will make social interaction tracking easier, especially for self quantifiers.

Quantified Self Resources I Recommend

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Since I started writing more about my experience with the Quantified Self movement, I have received several emails from friends interested in learning more.  I thought I would simply put together a list of all the resources I have found useful in learning about self tracking and self quantification.  I will add to this list over time as I find more great stuff.  If you know of any resources I have missed, please let me know so I can add them in!

Online Communities

Quantified Self on Google+

Quantified Self on LinkedIn

Quantified Self on Facebook

Quantified Self on Reddit

Quantified Self on Quora

Books

Your Life, Uploaded by Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell

The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss

The Human Face of Big Data by Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt

Videos

Quantified Self on Vimeo

Blogs

Quantified Self - http://quantifiedself.com/

Measured Me - http://measuredme.com/

Biohack Yourself - http://biohackyourself.com/

Life By Experientation - http://lifebyexperimentation.com/

Life Stream Blog - http://lifestreamblog.com/

Personal Informatics - http://blog.personalinformatics.org/

Personal Metrics - http://www.personalmetrics.us/

Chris Dancy - http://www.chrisdancy.com/

Bionic.ly - http://bionic.ly/

Body Data - http://bodydata.co.uk/

Digital Life Diaries - http://digitallifediaries.com/

Quantified Bob - http://www.quantifiedbob.com/

Follow The Data - http://followthedata.wordpress.com/

Tools

Zenobase - http://zenobase.com

 

Devices, Apps, and Services I Use for Quantified Self Tracking

I track a lot of different metrics as part of my Quantified Self practice.  From time to movement to diet to exercise to media consumption... the list goes on and on.  Most people ask me how I track all of these different data points and experiences, and how much time it takes.  For the most part, I try and subscribe to the "low friction data collection" methodology, letting tools, devices and services track the minute-by-minute activities so I can just keep on living life.

Since I have received quite a few inquiries about the tools I use, I thought I would drop a quick post and share my current setup. (NOTE: I try, test, add, and drop tools, devices, and services all the time, so this list is current as of September 2014).

I tried to break the tools and services down by category of what I track, but some tools and devices overlap depending on their functionality.

SLEEP TRACKING

Fitbit - For several months, I tried tracking my sleep using SleepBot, and after the Samsung Tizen OS update, toyed around with the native sleep tracking app on the Samsung Gear.  SleepBot was okay, and the Gear tracking was horrible, so I still feel I get the most accurate reading of my sleep from the Fitbit Flex.  I have three solid years of sleep data from my Fitbit devices, dating back to 2011 with my original Fitbit and Fitbit One.

MOVEMENT TRACKING

My Tracks - Whether by car, bus, light rail, or other form of transportation, I use My Tracks to record route, distance, speed, elevation changes, etc.  My Tracks was buggy a year ago and now is much better, so if you dumped it in the past I would recommend giving it another look.

Vezma GPS Tracker - If you are specifically interested in your driving habits, Vezma GPS Tracker might be worth looking at. I am playing around with it right now, so I don't have a comprehensive review done yet, but it is solid from the first week of use I have given it.

Automatic - The Automatic device is currently on my Amazon Wish List, and at $99 I foresee it being used in the near future.

LOCATION TRACKING

Swarm - I check in at every location I go to, but not for most reasons others do.  Nothing against being "social" but my use for Swarm (previously Foursquare) is to log my location accurately, and Swarm does that well.  To get the location data out, I use Swarm's personalized RSS feed service to drop the check-ins into my Google Calendar.

Moves - I do recommend Moves to individuals who are looking to track location, but want a really hands-off, simplified approach. I like Moves a lot, but it doesn't give me quite everything I need, plus it is owned by Facebook now, which raises a bunch of questions for me personally.

OpenPaths - If you are going to do location tracking, no matter what you use, download and activate OpenPaths. An app developed by the Research and Development Lab at the New York Times, it is meant to gather location data for research purposes, and I support that.  It is kind of cool because it lets you choose which research studies you want your data contributed too.

APPLICATION USE TRACKING

Rescue Time - For all my desktop and laptop activities, I use Rescue Time. I don't really care about the "productivity score" Rescue Time gives, since I believe that while Facebook might be a distraction according to Rescue Time, I may be in there for work reasons, therefore that time was productive. I care more about the time recorded within each application or website. Rescue Time does this the best.

Trackerfy - Rescue Time does have a mobile version to track mobile activities, but I actually prefer Trackerfy. A clean, easy-to-use interface makes Trackerfy my go-to for tracking all smart phone activities.

FOOD & DRINK TRACKING

Fitbit - In the past, I used SparkPeople for diet tracking, but the Fitbit ecosphere is so good around being able to tell me how my eating, exercising, and sleep all correlate, so I use Fitbit's web and mobile app to track food and drink.

EXERCISE TRACKING

My Tracks - I use My Tracks for all intentional running and walking workouts, since it can give me route and distance more accurately than the Fitbit, but I do overlap the data from both.  I did use Nike+ Running for awhile and do think that is a good option as well.

HEART RATE TRACKING

Instant Heart Rate - If I need a really quick view of my heart rate, there are plenty on the app stores to grab, but I have found Instant Heart Rate to be the best and most easy to use.

CUSTOMIZED TRACKING

Track & Stats - This is a "create your own" tool for tracking anything you want.  I currently use it to track mood.  Very simple to setup and use, and gives great statistics back.

KeepTrack - This is another customizable app that allows you to track anything you want with just a few taps of the finger.

PROJECT & TASK TRACKING

Evernote - I capture all my projects and tasks in Evernote, so through a use of notebooks and tags, I can tell exactly how much I get done and when.

Chaos Control - A good project management mobile application that I have used in the past, and might be a good solution for others.

TIME TRACKING

Google Calendar - Every minute of my day is recorded in my Google Calendar.  There are other tools out there, but Google Calendar is good at coloring coding and searching.

MEDIA CONSUMPTION TRACKING

Microsoft Excel - There are some tools out there that track song listening habits, but I primarily just listen to podcasts, watch TV, movies, and play video games.  No good app out there that I have found, so it is just good ole Excel for media habit tracking.

AUTOMATION & REPORTING

IFTTT, Zapier, Tasker, and Microsoft Excel - Through a series of different recipes and "zaps", I move data from all the different sources I listed above and everything gets dumped into Excel files, which is where all of the number crunching and reporting comes from - usually on a weekly basis.  On a monthly basis, the data gets cleaned and formatted where necessary, and then is basically "data warehoused" for future reporting needs.

WHAT'S NEXT

There are several devices and apps that are currently on my wish list and I hopefully will be purchasing in the near future, like the Automatic car device, the Nest, and several other home automation tools.  As always, when I find something cool, I will share it with my readers.  Just to make sure you don't miss something, make sure to subscribe to my newsletter!

How My Interest in Quantified Self Started

During my time at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, between 1997-2000, I learned many valuable lessons about business, technology, marketing and communications.  The core classes I took in my MIS major truly prepared me for the career journey I have been on so far.  But it was one class, and more specifically a professor, that opened my eyes to the power of self-tracking.

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What I was not expecting when I sat down in my "Introduction to Visual Basic" class in the Fall of 1999, was for Professor Vance Wilson to give the class a week-long assignment that did not involve writing code.  Professor Wilson simply wanted us to track our time.  For one week, he wanted us to document our time, categorize our activities, and tally it all up at the end of the week.  Some classmates seemed disinterested in assignment, while others like myself took full advantage of the exercise.  For a week, I walked around with a folded piece of graph paper, jotting down each activity I did and for how long I did it.  From sleeping and eating to studying and "social activities", I tracked it all.

While my classmates and I wondered why we were doing this assignment and what it had to do with computer programming, it ended up being one of the most amazing and insightful projects I did during my time at UWEC.  And actually, it was a project that has never ended.

The results from that Fall of 1999 experiment opened my eyes to the concept of where our time goes, and more importantly, the power of self tracking.  After I landed my first full-time job after graduation, I learned the skill of tracking time for billable hours.  The firm I worked for made money based on how much time each employee worked on different client projects.  Time tracking, while sometimes dreaded, was important because it paid the bills.  I was at that job for five years, and each position I have had since leaving that job, none have required time tracking... but I still do it anyways.

Now a days, I track a wide variety of variables in my life.  I still track my time (because in the big scheme of life, your time is billable!), my sleep patterns, what I eat, places I go, miles I drive, TV shows I watch, who I interact with... among many other things.  Some see this as crazy, and I am sure some of my OCD tendencies come into play, but this tracking has really helped me understand what I do, how I do and how it makes an impact on other aspects of my life.

Enter: the Quantified Self movement.

Since 2010, I have been following the Quantified Self organization, watching their videos, and reading their blog.  Now I have the ability to learn from other self-trackers, and try tracking new things.

I believe everyone should track at least one metric of their life, even if it is incredibly simple and passive.  The tools are there, and many are really easy to use.  And you might be amazed by what you find through quantifying yourself.

Reset, Refocus, Restart

I took the entire month of August off.  I did absolutely nothing.  No, I did not burn through four weeks of vacation time from my duties with the Minnesota Timberwolves, after all, there was way to many exciting things happening there to miss out on.  However, besides my professional day job responsibilities, I shut everything else down during the month of August.

  • I put all personal projects and side hustles on hold
  • I stopped all Quantified Self tracking projects (tracking time, nutrition, exercise, etc.)
  • I stopped all normal routines
  • I rarely spent time meeting with others for breakfast, coffee, or drinks
  • I stopped blogging

Don't get me wrong, I still kept busy outside of work, just really slowed the tempo down considerably. I did travel some, read several books, watched some movies, went on long walks almost daily, and tried to catch up on sleep.  I lived a fairly simple life, at least simple compared to what I was use to.

Being an individual who is tracking-obsessed, and always has to have three dozen projects to juggle in my free time, August was a hard month, not gonna lie.  But coming back from vacation in July, I knew I had to do a little resetting of my life.  So given that I use September as my yearly starting point, August was the logical choice to do some re-evaluating.

So I spent the month of August refocusing on what happened the last 12 months, where I am today, and what the next year looks like.  On top of all of that, what the next five, ten, twenty-five years look like.  While I am not reaching any sort of "milestone" birthday this month (on September 6th I will turn 36 years old), time is ticking and I still feel like I have a lot I want to accomplish. So knowing that my process was going to need some dedicated time, I figured the best solution was to strip everything else down for one month so I could focus on my goals for the year(s) to come.

It felt awkward to let so many things go by without attempting to grab them and do something with them. I am sure some of what I chose not to do resulted in lost opportunities, and surely some that would have resulted in profit to my bottom line.  I know I pushed some people off and delayed get-togethers that would have been beneficial to me, but alone time was more important.  I know I consumed more than I created during the month, something that I try to normally keep more balanced.  But all of this was worth it.

Coming into this September, I feel better aligned with my goals and objectives.  I feel refocused and ready to restart the projects I temporarily put on hold, while at the same time, killing the ones that no longer make sense within my personal strategic plan.  I feel confident that moving forward I will only take on commitments that align with my vision and are true to the path that will get me where I want to be years from now.

August was one of the most productive months I have had in years, and not because I did a lot.  The difference was I spent my time on the one thing that was most important... getting realigned. It doesn't have to be a month, maybe not even a week, but no matter what, do yourself a favor and step back for a moment.  Reset your plans, refocus your goals, and restart.