Self-tracking device? Got it. Tried it. Ditched it.

It took a while to improve upon the humble pedometer. This tiny wearable device, typically attached on or near one’s waist, has been tracking how many steps and how much distance we travel each day ever since its invention by Abraham-Louis Perrelet back in 1780.

But with the relatively recent explosion of wearable digital activity trackers on the market, I’m now waiting for the randomized control trial that compares Fitbit or any other similar device head to head with that simple old-fashioned pedometer. In other words:

Q:  Just because you make it digital, does it make it better? 
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The Quantified Selfer’s Christmas form letter

Yes, indeedy, it is that time of year when you create the impersonal yet one-size-fits-all Christmas form letter to send off to all your friends, faux friends, wannabe friends, or Real Life Relatives that you just can’t seem to keep in touch with throughout the rest of the year.  Although there’s likely an app for this, I thought I’d offer you Quantified Selfers out there a simple Christmas letter template you can use to communicate with those people you otherwise don’t bother with.

Like all Christmas form letters, the tone here is important. A humble-brag approach is best. Quantified Selfers do not want to come across as self-absorbed data dorks, even though – as Donna Cusano of Telecare Aware once described you – there may be just a wee whiff of “stark raving narcissism” about all that obsessive self-tracking and sharing going on among the worried well.

Let’s see if this handy Christmas form letter template might work for you:   Continue reading

Revisiting data porn: your digital footprint in real life

Ever notice how, ever since you ordered that discount kitty litter online,  you’ve been seeing cat food ads popping up on other unrelated sites you visit? That’s happening because you’re being stalked by marketers. In fact, just reading this post here on The Ethical Nag tells me that you are leaving your digital footprint, right now, at this very moment. That’s the warning from Evan Dashevsky, writing in PC World:

“Your personal information is considered a very hot commodity among people you have never even met.”  

Others, like software entrepreneur Dave Sifry, have called this phenomenon data porn. Continue reading

Why 74% of smartphone apps are dropped by the 10th use

“If you build it, they will come.”  That seems to be the mantra of the tech startups that are churning out health tracking apps for our phones. But aside from the worried well of the Quantified Self movement, will Real Live Patients actually use these apps to improve health outcomes? That’s what Consumer Health Information Corporation (CHIC) wanted to find out when they surveyed about 400 smartphone owners to evaluate the likelihood of patient adherence.*

What we know so far is that we tend to exhibit a bit of a kid-in-a-candy-store initial infatuation with new and sparkly things.  Continue reading

“Fewer numbers, more life experiences”

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“I’ve been putting in the effort not to be absorbed by things that don’t improve my daily happiness.”

Kate’s attitude may not make any sense to the self-absorbed who genuinely believe in “self-knowledge through numbers”, as the folks in the Quantified Self movement do.

But after spending two years tracking every single daily calorie and another year weighing herself every day, the author of This Is Not A Diet, It’s my Life wrote in her blog post called Life After Numbers:

“It’s no secret I have changed my mind about some things.  I have moved away from numbers and data and onto a more holistic, experience-based approach.  Continue reading

An open letter to mobile health app developers and their funders

UPDATE:  This guest post by the late Dr. Jessie Gruman was originally published on the Center for Advancing Health’s Prepared Patient blog in February, 2013. CFAH was founded by Jessie, the author of AfterShock, a book that helps patients navigate their way through the health care system following a serious or life-threatening diagnosis.

As a patient, writer and respected advocate, she sent this open letter to the tech hypemeisters of Silicon Valley.

I hope they’re paying attention.

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