The Metrics Driven Life
Everyday I further piecing together the elements for a “metrics driven life”.
Roughly, you can break down your life into three wellness-spheres: Health, Wealth, and Happiness.
Happiness though simple to understand, is the hardest to measure, so I’m deferring tracking it (for now). For wealth, there are loads of tools available (though my favorite is Mint.com)
Capturing health metrics, a tour:
Here is where things get really interesting! I’m a RunKeeper super-fan: what’s not to love about tracking your outdoor activities using your iPhone’s GPS and then sharing your maps & progress socially? It’s a real winner, and the RK team consistently produces quality features.
For gym-workout progress & nutrition tracking, I have been using DailyBurn.com. DailyBurn allows you to plan workouts and meals and then track your progress. All-in-all it works reasonably well, though there are minor inconsistencies that prevent it from shining (ie, you can only plan 5 meals but can track 6, and the iPhone app for entering in weightlifting progress doesn’t show you last session’s numbers so you have a target to beat). However, I am extremely excited that DailyBurn announced integration with Internet-enabled weight scales (and, of course, I ordered one). (As they say, the best metrics are simple, automatic, and actionable)
Another device that will be arriving on my doorstep in the near future: the WakeMate. The WakeMate is a wrist-band that tracks the quality and duration of your sleep, and transmits the data to your iPhone. Additionally, it wakes you during the right part of your sleep cycle, nearest an alarm time you set.
What’s next for Health apps?
Here are some of the hard problems remaining: Automating nutrition information capture (DailyBurn’s bar code scanning app is a great step in that direction). Automating gym-workout capture (as much a technical problem as it is a business/standards problem… incredibly gnarly)
But, here’s the problem MOST worth solving, easily within a developer’s power, but difficult to get right: Assuming you’ve got all this data, how do you surface meaningful suggestions & motivate users to follow-through on self-improvement? What makes this particularly difficult is that the more successful your “intelligent” product becomes, the broader your user base becomes, and the more diluted the power users become. In effect, you attract people who are less driven towards success, and less likely to follow your app’s suggestions.
How do you help them acheive success? What failure rate do you have to get comfortable with? How do you balance selling the idea of success against your ability to enable it?
(Two quick other tools I use: Facebook Habits app, and YourFlowingData, a generic data capture tool that uses Twitter as an interface. Disclosure: I wrote the Habits app w/ a friend on a bit of a lark)