Starting the Analysis

Starting the analysis

Quantified self tracking tools have become increasingly mainstream and available. Most people on the street have at least a passing familiarity with FitBit and their wearable trackers, and if not then they probably know about the existence of Apple Watch and Android Wear. These devices can gather data on certain aspects of your activity, including pedometer information like step counts and the number of stairs you’ve climbed in addition to more complex analyses such as an estimate of how well you sleep at night or your heart rate.

I have a FitBit wristband which tracks all of that data, and several other systems I use to fill in areas that it doesn’t capture. Recently I’ve been trying to get it all into one place and start analyzing it for clues as to how to improve my sleep, focus, and general well-being.

Unfortunately the tools that are provided out of the box aren’t particularly useful. FitBit can try to tell you whether you slept poorly last night, but it can’t tell you why. To do that you need more information, and analysis tools that support it. One of the simplest ways to do so is to just toss everything in a spreadsheet and try to analyze it there, but in my experience it quickly becomes hard to maintain and is difficult to extend.

Enter ZenoBase. ZenoBase is an online system designed for analyzing quantified self data. It integrates with a variety of services for automatic data import, and provides mechanisms for filtering, viewing, and correlating that data to look for trends.

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This graph shows how my sleep quality rating from my FitBit correlates with the duration of computer use measured by RescueTime during the 3 hours before bedtime. As you can see, there’s a mild correlation between increased computer use and poorer sleep. This is not a particularly surprising finding, but this example demonstrates the kinds of insights one can gain from looking at the data using these tools.

Of course, the analysis that ZenoBase can provide is limited to the data that you feed into it. I’m adding more of my tracking systems each day, including ones that measure sun exposure, my weight, and a general-purpose tracking app called Nomie. Hopefully this will yield even more interesting insights in the future.

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