Sometimes when I tell people I work in data and analytics, I can actually see them stop listening. While I rapture on about how exciting it is to enable tracking of views, to the clicks and downloads of our client’s product or event pages, their eyes glaze over and their shoulders begin to droop. I get it. I really do. Data often seems big and foreign and too complicated to warrant our attention. It isn’t something most people feel a connection to.
It’s for this reason that I’ve been so interested in the emergence of a fresh type of data: personal analytics. Scientist Stephen Wolfram recently posted a blog that details the extensive records of his life he’s kept since 1989. The data is rich and tells a much deeper story than one might expect of a coordinate or bar graph. In these graphs, you see his life: his habit of staying up until 3:00A.M., the trip he took to Europe in the summer of 2009, and the break he takes for dinner with his family each evening.
Dan Meyer has collected similar data, compiled yearly into his “Annual Report” and animated into a video clip that I highly recommend watching (see below). His report, which at first glance is not much more than a collection of lists of the beer he drinks and friends he texts, shares a quality with Wolfram’s data—although narrow in scope, they are expansive in terms of insight. There is much to gather and derive from the information presented, even if at face value it seems mundane or trivial.