I am clueless about many things. As in the definition: “Lacking understanding or knowledge.” As in the sentence: “I have no clue!” As in the 20+ years I spent living with a research scientist and enduring mind-numbingly torturous dinner conversations on zinc and copper sediment in the Fraser River estuary.
That kind of clueless.
Oh, sure, there are some things about which I do have a clue, as is true with even the most profoundly clueless among us. For instance, with decades of experience working in public relations behind me, I know quite a bit about organizing news conferences, writing speeches, doing media interviews, teaching classes in things like Crisis Communications or Reputation Management, or whipping up a communications plan. And as a Mayo Clinic-trained survivor of a widow maker heart attack, I know a wee bit about cardiology in general, and quite a bit more about my particular obsession: women’s heart disease. As such, I do have a clue about what it’s like to live with a chronic and progressive illness.
So I can’t help but notice that the difference between me and a surprising number of other people out there seems to be that I am exquisitely aware of both what I do have a clue about, and what I have no clue whatsoever about on any given subject. So I usually try to keep my mouth shut as much as possible whenever encountering the latter.
The same cannot be said, alas, of some tech-types working in the digital health field of self-tracking – and here’s why I dare to make that observation. Continue reading →
There’s a pervasive haze of “If you build it, they will come!” in tech circles these days. Technology, as Evgeny Morozov proposes, can be a force for improving life – but only if we keep “solutionism” in check.
This statistic, borrowed from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project’s report, referred to the 69 per cent of people who say they keep track of things like their weight, exercise, heart rate, food, stress or other health indicators. It also, however, includes almost half of self-reporting trackers who, according to Pew’s Susannah Fox, track these health indicators for themselves or others – but only in their heads.
Surprisingly, very few headlines ran the real news from the report:
I use a low-tech/high-sparkle method for motivating myself to exercise every day. It’s a small calendar hanging inside the bathroom cabinet door on which I post shiny kids’ stickers (the sparklier, the better) on each date that has included at least one hour of exercise.
I find that this self-tracking method is highly effective, particularly since I discovered individual little stickers with peel-off backings, not just the easy-peasey kind you lift off from a whole sheet of stickers. In the direct mail marketing business, my stickers would be called involvement devices (like tokens, peel-offs, stamps and tear-offs) that require a time commitment from potential customers. Marketers know that the more time we spend peeling, tearing or inserting these involvement devices, the more likely we’ll actually be to follow through to subscribe to their magazines or enter their sweepstakes contests.
But I digress. I love seeing an entire calendar page crammed with those shiny sparkles! Rewarding myself with a little sticker for my efforts is positive reinforcement.
Consider, however, these three self-tracking technology helpers that are designed to alter your behaviour not through rewarding you for your efforts, but through shame, humiliation and embarrassment when you screw up: Continue reading →
“Skate to where the puck is going.” That’s a common expression here in Canada, largely attributed to hockey great Wayne Gretsky. It basically says if you want to accomplish something, go directly to where it will really count. Or, as I like to translate that advice for the benefit of all you Silicon Valley start-ups working away on developing yet another new self-tracking health app: “For Pete’s sake, go find some Real Live Patients to talk (and listen) to first before you decide where you’re going!”
And as one sage pondered on Twitter:
“Why do we think self-tracking devices will work when mirrors and bathroom scales have so far failed?”
Speaking of Real Live Patients, here’s one who contacted me in response to a recent blog post I wrote about health apps for smartphones: Continue reading →