“Hi, my name is Joe. I run 4.1 miles a day at a 7:52 mile clip and I sleep 6.6 hours a night at 55.4% deep sleep. I have 435 friends, 1359 followers, and 1267 connections. I went to 136 places in 24 cities last year, and I drove an average of 32.6 miles a day to get there (at 42.2 miles per hour). In the last 30 days, I answered 28 questions, read 121 articles, and wrote another 12. I currently rank #7 in cool points, but also #3 in douchebaggery.”
OK, so most of that is fake. Except that last one.
But frankly, I’m so excited about the opportunities springing up around the quantified self, brought about by the Hardware Revolution and the Internet of Things, that I don’t want to get too specific with my examples just for a lame opening joke. There’s data in them there hills, and the resulting gold rush is going to make Web 2.0 look like the dot-com boom.
Most of the last ten-or-so years of the Internets has been marked by a movement to find out exactly what it is we like. Our preferences are requested, cajoled, bartered, and begged out of us in order to produce timely, effective ads that can be shoved back at us.
That worked and it didn’t. It worked in the sense that thousands of companies were formed and some, like Google for instance, rocketed to great success on the promise of a better advertisement. It hasn’t in the sense that the ads still aren’t that targeted, aren’t that effective, and the Internet has got to be about more than pushing flavored vodka at me on every page I visit.
The beauty of quantification is that we can finally start using the web to discover and better ourselves instead of telling it what we think we want. Quantification doesn’t lie, nor is it susceptible to moods or bias.
It’s almost like our own personal suite of business software. When Mint first reached out and got data from all of my financial accounts, it opened up the opportunity to quantify and even qualify my financial self, including suggesting ways for me to better my financial self.
Who wouldn’t pay a hefty sum for the return of an even heftier sum?
Alas, Mint sucks at that last part. For everything it knows about me, and let’s face it, after Target and Neiman, this is definitely the most coveted and intimate information about who I am, all they offer me is misguided ads for credit cards, insurance, banking, and investment. And most of it, while purported to be based on my quantified financial self, is neither accurate nor relevant.
Example: A credit card with a lower interest rate does nothing for someone who never, ever carries a credit card balance.
In fact, the most relevant insight Mint pulled out this month was “You spend a lot on gas.” True! So how do I save money on that? Apparently by getting more cash back with a different credit card that has a short-term offer for 5% back on gas.
Look, the insight thing is what I do. That gas spending, paired with some info about where I live and where I work should, I don’t know, maybe point me to the lowest-priced gas stations on my route.
Boom. Better financial me, even if it is a very small increment. It’s not that hard. And if you do that often enough, Mint, I will pay you myself, and you won’t have to bargain with Chase to get your money.
Let me take another small example all the way to the end to make my point. I didn’t realize a lot about my running habits until I started wearing an activity-tracking device.
Stay with me. I know not everyone is a runner and I know, in fact, no one else cares about how much, how often, and how fast I run. That’s actually part of my point.
So why is social media the only app that most device makers attach to the data?
To sell more devices. I know this.
However, a ton of self-bettering, money-saving correlations between my activity, my sleep, and the resulting quality of both has all come from me, when it should be coming from whoever sold me the device.
I’ve figured out, after a long time and totally due to my own analysis:
- How to stay motivated to run based on trends and self-set, reachable goals for my distance and time.
- When the best times are for me to go to bed, set my alarm, and get out of bed, based on my activity and sleep history.
- How often I need to change my shoes and what kind I should be wearing based on where and how often I run.
- When and in what conditions I should be running and how to prepare for the weather and where my body is.
- Different kinds of workouts I can sneak in when I don’t have time, and the best way to maximize that time when I do have it.
The device maker isn’t doing this. But someone should, because I would have paid good money to have those suggestions made for me from my information in a shorter amount of time and without all the math and trial and error.
The money I would have saved in shoes alone would have paid for the right suggestion several times over.
This is where you guys come in.
2014 started with an explosion in hardware that tracks the activity of everything from you to your house to your car to your dog. We have an opportunity to shift the paradigm from using that data to sell you shit, to using that data to make you better at those things you want to be better at.
This is the Internet, paid for by the direct value it provides to the consumer, not propped up by ad money.
And isn’t that what we all wanted in the first place?