Personal Analytics

I wrote a few months back about how I was using a GPS logger to keep a record of my movements. Some people think I’m a little eccentric – I think that’s the word – for doing so.

But my data-gathering is nothing compared to Stephen Wolfram’s. In a splendid Wired article called The Personal Analytics of My Life, he discusses some of the insights he’s been able to glean from his own historical records. One inspired idea, which I confess had never occurred to me, is to run a keystroke logger; he’s captured everything he’s typed for many years. (Now, that’s data you wouldn’t want to fall into the wrong hands!)

I once thought seriously about capturing, say, once or twice a minute, the image of my screen, which I could then later OCR, search, use to recreate lost documents, etc. But other than helping Sheng Feng Li with a system that did some of this for VNC, I never took it any further. Worth reconsidering, perhaps…

Anyway, many thanks to Richard for pointing me at the Wolfram article, which is worth a read.

I suppose that another way to analyse data about your life is to do the analysis on the fly and record the results there and then. That’s called a blog.


I read the artlicle you linked to right after watching the latest Big Bang Theory episode, and I found that article amazingly Sheldon-like… The geekification of society proceeds apace. Nothing wrong with that!

I recently came across an amazing example of gathering personal data. His name is Larry Smarr, and he’s been obsessively tracking his personal health for over a decade. I’m not just talking about watching his weight, either. He gets quarterly blood and stool tests to track things like hormones, HDL/LDL lipids, and trace elements. Interestingly, he was able to predict something was wrong several weeks before showing symptoms of some intestinal problems, but doctors don’t really know how to interpret such detailed data.

MIT Tech review article:

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