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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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What I'm Tracking in 2016

Chris Campbell

Time for an update on what parts of myself get quantified and recorded this year. Last year I went through what I was tracking, so this year it’s similar and a bit simpler. There are a lot of things recorded[1], and for some reason I find it comforting to have the data and the ability to go back and see what is happening and if there is progress.

The biggest change in the universe of quantifying my data was buying a Withings Smart Body Analyzer. It was something that I wanted to have for a while and when I saw I could get one on sale I took the plunge. It’s a beautifully designed device that is subtle and simplifies the morning routine. Last year I recorded weight using the scale function of my Wii Fit, which involved setting up the balance board, starting the Wii, and running Wii Fit which took a bit of time. Now I just hop on the scale and get weighed (as well as having my heart rate and fat mass recorded).

My Fitbit One is still the way to capture steps and sleep. It’s with me all the time and it’s a good way to track calories burned throughout the day. The Fitbit app on my phone collects the data, but I’m doing stuff with the data using other apps and sites. Each day when going for a walk I record the workout, but I may switch to doing that with another app. I do like getting the updates and prompts from Fitbit as well as the badges when reaching certain milestones.

When it is bike riding season I’ll continue to use my Polar H7 Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Sensor to track my heart rate while biking[2]. I’ve used it a bit when exercising inside on the elliptical and will probably keep doing that to more accurately track the calories burned. But I haven’t settled on an app for collecting that data, but I may use my favourite biking app, Cyclemeter for all my workouts whether they are on a bike or not. On my bike I have a Wahoo Blue SC Speed and Cadence Sensor that collects riding data.

Aside for the automatic recording of data, there is a lot of stuff that gets entered manually and the Reporter app is the first thing I check in to in the morning and the last thing I do at night. It randomly prompts me to answer questions (there are now 11). The app also collects data about the ambient levels of sound, location, weather, steps, and photos taken.

On my MacBook Pro and iPhone the Audioscrobbler app keeps track of things I’ve listened to by sending the data to Last.fm. The music data is sometimes incomplete as I’ve been using Apple Music and unless I add something to my library, it isn’t scrobbled.

RescueTime keeps track of what I do on my MacBook Pro to monitor when I’m productive and not. It’s a good way to see how you’ve been spending time on different sites and within different apps.

The Exist app ties in with the excellent site from Hello Code that assembles a lot of the data collected to keep me on track for steps (with a wonderful way of setting goals based on average steps) and with mood (along with some notes I write for each day). The wonderful thing about Exist on my phone is that I check the steps goal throughout the day and while on my FitBit I keep my goal set at 10,000 steps, the changing step goal every day pushes me to walk and move more.

I check in to places I’ve been using Foursquare’s Swarm app. It’s a good way to remind me where I’ve been and like many of the things that I use, it’s become a habit that almost disappears.

Lifesum keeps me on track with diet and exercise so I will record the food that I eat and it automatically pulls in my weight from Withings and steps from Fitbit. In addition to the food and drink that gets recorded there, I also use Cortado to record the coffee that I drink and Untappd to record the beer that I drink.

To create a daily summary as a diary entry in Day One, I use the Sifttter script from Craig Eley to create the entry by combining information from a variety of sources. To make this possible there are a number of IFTTT recipes set up that grab information from sites to create entries in a Dropbox folder. Now I bring in stuff from Twitter, Foursquare, Withings, Fitbit, Untappd, Letterboxd, Last.fm, Pinboard, and Goodreads so I can remember what I’ve tweeted, where I’ve been, what I weigh, what I drank, what I watched, what I’ve read, and what I’ve listened to.

While I’m on a Learning Leave[3] I have more time each morning, so I’ve been able to reestablish my routine of writing every morning and the best way to get that done is through the site 750 Words. The discipline of needing to meet the goal and to maintain streaks is great, so every day starts with writing my short film reviews as well as the first drafts of blog posts or any other writing that I need to do. They start in 750 Words and then move over to Byword for blog posts or to NVAlt for notes or Day One for diary entries.

For recording the films that I watch I’ve committed to Letterboxd now. It’s the definitive place where I track every film and it’s manual, so each film is found, recorded, and rated. Last year I made an effort to at least write a short review of every film watched to help me remember them. This grew out of rediscovering the reviews I wrote on the now defunct site All Consuming[4] and reposting them to Letterboxd. I added hundreds of older reviews to Letterboxd which also created data on the films that I watched back to 2007.

As a bit of a backup I am still using Your Flowing Data to keep track of films [5] and beer [6]. With Your Flowing Data I just send a tweet (sent from the excellent iOS app Drafts) to record the film or beer. In the past I was recording oatmeal and coffee, but I’ve stopped that since I pretty much have oatmeal every day and that data isn’t interesting.

One more human and positive analytical tools that I use is ThinkUp which analyzes Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts for insight. The great thing about ThinkUp is that it is built with positivity in mind and gently pushes you to interact with people in healthier ways. Instead of focussing on increasing the number of followers it shifts your attention to the quality of the interactions you have on social media which can form deeper connections with the people out there on the other side of your screen.

Keeping track of so many things helps me see trends and to remember things. The great thing is that it keeps me focussed on staying active and doing things every day. It’s good to have a routine and little reminders that keep you healthy. It’s also nice to look back and reflect on how things change over time.


  1. probably way too much  ↩

  2. Which I also use on my exercise bike  ↩

  3. What the Nova Scotia Community College calls a sabbatical.  ↩

  4. A great site that allowed you to record and review films, books, and music that you were consuming.  ↩

  5. what screens and which theatre I viewed them on  ↩

  6. which specific beers I consume  ↩