Tracking and visualizing your own data has probably been a hobby since humans invented our basic counting systems. With digital technologies available today, we are able to track our own daily habits (with a variety of applications on mobile devices) without too much inconvenience. Tracking digital habits is even easier.

[caption id="attachment_904" align="alignright" width="254" caption="A person's set of data displays via Zeus Jones"][/caption]

Via Nathan Yau, the rise of these sorts of people (termed urban datasexuals) who now obsess about tracking their personal lives parallels the urban metrosexuals that obsess about how they look. The difference being that most people who do obsess about tracking their personal lives are far more open about all their data instead of trimming and presenting a more cohesive, yet less-dimensioned story. One of my best friends has kept a fairly accurate account of each day since freshman year of college (semi-accurate during senior year of high school--  he recorded on a PDA-- remember those?). Anyways, he hasn't been able to visualize this data in the form that it is-- in Outlook or Google calendar-- to recognize trends, where he really does spend his time, and how the work has really evolved since then. Right now, I suppose it's for nostalgic reasons more than anything else. Data collecting enthusiasts really thrive on digging into these insights in a really gorgeous form.

[caption id="attachment_900" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Using Daytum to visualize my interactions with people."][/caption]

A few months ago, prior to joining Riparian Data, I tracked my own human interactions as well as consumption of caffeine and alcohol (and mood to some degree)-- mostly to see any weird correlations and just so I didn't have to remember how long ago was it that I had some coffee or what my favorite drink really was. I tried using Streaks to keep myself on track of writing at least a few hours a day. The idea being that you wouldn't want to break your streak (motivational); however, once you do, it's actually a bit demotivating to start again. How I tracked my human interactions was through Daytum, which I have deleted pretty much all the data for, though I did keep a display of my human interactions while I ran this experiment of tracking. The day of zero interaction whatsoever, I believe, was when I was sick. I considered email a form of human interaction, albeit through words on a screen. What really enabled me was a mobile phone, which I could use anywhere to type in my information (though it is a little weird to pull out your phone and say you're recording that you spoke to a human being today). It would have been nice to auto-count my emails and all that stuff, but Daytum hasn't really been developed upon since I've heard the guys working on it are working full-time elsewhere.

In the end, I didn't quite feel like cobbling together tools to track just my personal data that I was interested in-- there were other projects I wanted to undertake instead of creating another platform at the time. But I did love being able to reflect upon this data and take action (including the action to decide not to take action) that was backed by some data. I believe that this feeling is sort of universal; it's why Mint has been so useful (although I have to say, graphing financial data is far more actionable than human interaction). These things were all countable pieces, and perhaps the really interesting challenges ahead is pulling insights away from the data that isn't countable.