Mr Data

Nicholas Felton has been publishing annual reports since 2012, typically based on his life for that year. It was from here I became interested in the idea of the quantified self.

Mobile devices allow us to have technology and sensors to record quite detailed information about our daily lives on our person at all times. All that had been missing for me was a piece of software to bridge the gap between me and my device. Daytum was Felton’s first foray into producing that bridge. And while it was extremely good at what it did, it just didn’t capture my imagination enough or have the ease of use that I felt I needed to create the habit of daily recording.

Reporter app icon

In February 2014 Nicholas Felton and Drew Breunig launched Reporter ”a new application for understanding the things you care about.” Reporter takes all the pain out of the daily recording of your life. It prompts you to report a set number of random times a day (default is 6) and reporting usually takes about 10-20 seconds. The default question set is a great starting point and records where you are, who you are with, what you are doing etc. But for me, the first real strength of Reporter is the ability to add your own custom questions. There appears to be no limit to the amount of questions you can have and the ability to set question so that they only get asked when you are going to sleep or waking up is a lovely feature. You can ask yourself how you slept every morning and start to get a real indication of how you are sleeping after a short period of time. To help those of us who can’t think of pertinent questions to ask there is of course an unofficial Tumblr with recommended/suggested questions.

My self

I have been quantifying my self using Reporter since February 2014—sporadically I must admit, but all in I have 647 reports to work from. This initial phase of my use of Reporter has really been a two pronged experiment; to see if I could glean anything interesting from the data and to challenge myself to disseminate that data into a meaningful and digestible format.

Reporter app icon

This is where the second real strength of Reporter raises its head. As much as the in-app visualisations of your data are excellent for getting a snapshot of the trends that you are recording, it is the ability to export a CSV file and import this into the program of your choice—excel, google docs etc.—that really opens up the ability to dive into the data.

Admittedly pivot tables were an entirely new concept to me, but after a brief bit of experimentation I was able to cross reference different elements of the data. For example, the majority of photographs taken with my phone were when I was feeling hopeful, with a sharp decline as my mood declined. Hardly surprising, but quantifiable nonetheless. Once I had data sets created in Excel I brought into Illustrator and from there gave the graphs a little bit of spit and polish. As this is a purely experimental project any similarity to the display of some of the data in Nicholas Felton’s annual reports is not coincidental. As I get more familiar with the data and how I represent it I will steal less, but for now I am purely looking to self-improve and learn from the best.

Reporter app icon

I thoroughly enjoyed the quantification of all of my reports since 2014 and am reporting with refreshed gusto at present. My intention is to do more and report more as time goes on, but for now here is a link to the PDF of the outcome of version 1.

22 Jun 2016