Your Online Identity is as Permanent as a Tattoo

The digital age is here and technology is increasingly finding new ways to improve, measure, and interact with our lives.  Can you remember what it was like to organize an event without Facebook?  Can you remember what it was like to mail real photos to your grandmother in the mail instead of online?  It gets harder and harder everyday.

The digital world is keeping track of us.  Facebook has admitted to tracking your browser history even when you are not logged into Facebook.  Google indexes every tweet, every public Facebook post and every photo it can find of you.  Yahoo!, AOL, and your ISP are all joining in.

Have you ever thought about what it take to delete that awkward photo of you taken at a party one night which a friend put on Facebook?  How about that not so nice tweet you accidentally said your mind in about your boss?  What we post online is as permanent as a tattoo.  Check out the TED Talk below for more:

An Example of the Quantified Self: Steps

Wearable trackers are all the latest rage!  From a FitBit to a Microsoft Band to old school pedometers, the latest health craze is about steps.   Whether you joined the office fitness challenge or just want to get moving a bit more, the concept of tracking steps is the most popular metric of the quantified self in 2015.   What a perfect metric to start a series of posts showing examples of the quantified self.  The objective is to show the wide variety of metrics an individual can use to make their life healthier, more productive, and happier.

Tracking Activity: Steps

The graphic below is my steps history as recorded using an app called Argus on my iPhone 5S.  The app is simple, turn it on, and it does the rest.  It records steps as you move through the motion sensor.  Of course, the drawback is, it only records steps if the phone is with you and on your body.  For example, if I was on an elliptical, the phone would have to be in my pocket to record the steps, placing it on the machine doesn’t work.

Creating a Custom Quantified Data Visualization

To create the dashboard below, I entered my step data into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, added a few formulas for day of week and location and picked a data visualization platform. While I could have created a few charts from a pivot table in Excel, I decided to give Qlik Sense a test drive.  Qlik Sense is a lighter, consumer oriented version of the powerful Qlikview data discovery and reporting platform.  Qlik Sense is easy to use, just select your data source (Excel in my case), select your dimensions and measures and you are off to the races.

quantified self data visualization

Using Qlik Sense to visualize steps data from Argus

Raw Data: Steps by Day

The top graph shows raw steps by calendar date.  While there isn’t too much to see here at first glance, you can see clear dips in the pattern which maybe the weekend.  You can also see the data at the right tend to be a slightly higher than the data to the left side.

Steps by Day of Week

By adding a dimension called “DayName”, we can average steps by day of week.  In the orange chart to the right, the most active day is Monday, followed by Thursday and Sunday.  The lowest is Wednesday.  Fitness improvements come with consistency.  Being the difference between highest and lowest is fairly great, we can focus on being more active on Wednesday’s.  Tracking the change over time will help us be more consistent with our activity.

Steps by Geography

I also added a dimension called “location” by tagging each day with where I was.  I often split time between Washington state and Santa Barbara with days in between flying. The green chart to the left shows a pretty interesting pattern, I am far more active when in Washington state compared to Santa Barbara, This is probably due to the recreational abundance in Washington, such as the hiking trails around Mt. Baker and the walking we do while downtown.  Santa Barbara is also a much more isolated location by comparison.  Perhaps, if I want to be more active, I should stay in Washington state.

The Fundamental, Visual Flaw

You might be asking, what flaw is there is there in the above dashboard?  It is hard to see because it is not there. One of the best CEO’s I ever had the honor of working for said, “if it is important enough to put on a chart, you better damn well have a goal indicator with it.”  I agree.

Throughout this post, I mentioned goals such as covering 10,000 steps in a day, and increasing Wednesday activity.  The charts above should include an indication of these numbers.  The charts are essentially naked without the indicators and the user viewing them loses the context of the rest of the data.

Always include a goal indicator when creating data visuals, the context is essential.

Conclusion

This is one example of using data visualization to improve personal life.  Activity is one of the primary factors in achieving and maintaining good health.  Using a fitness tracker and visualization tool like Qlik Sense can be effective.  Just understand the privacy policy and how the wearable tech company may use your private data.

The DIY Employment Economy Is Here

The DIY Employment Economy Is Here

We are in a new era of America’s economy and it will take your breathe away.  Jobs are a thing of the past.  Earning money is now up to you.  You must find a way to offer a service on the open market in exchange for money to survive.  Corporate America, technological innovation, and global immigration have scalped the American workforce.

The Economic Shift

With the economic decline of 2009, Wall Street and the corporate world sent the citizens of America a clear message: jobs are a privilege, not a right. No longer was the massive corporate engine driving America going to give Americans jobs for the sake of employment. Profits are number one, not national employment rates. While I was lucky to stay employed throughout the economic decline, I watched many of my friends lose their jobs, their homes, and the alleged “American Dream”. America was changed forever.

At the same time, corporations started the conversation of revising the immigration policy to make it easier for American based companies to employ “talented” foreigners. Add in the tech sector’s quest for automation and America’s unemployment situation seems irreversible. Jobs filled by human beings are being replaced by software programs. Jobs which require specialization are filled with foreigners and corporate profits are now at record labels. Either you are a have (job) or you are a have not (unemployed).

Solution

The solution? The solution is DIY employment, create your own job! With sites like Freelancer.com, PeoplePerHour, and Fivrr, access to paid projects is very good, albeit competitive. In addition, solutions like vTiger, FounderSuite, and even KickStarter enable anyone with a decent business idea to take control of their lives and create their employment/business.

How do you know what business to start? Pursue your passions. Books like the Lifestyle Entrepreneur have a great set of tools to help you identify the intersection of your passions, hobbies, and interests. For me, I love data, finding the patterns in the data and producing visualizations to communicate findings. I also love measuring businesses (I develop KPIs for executive teams). I also have a soft spot for fitness and helping people become healthier. The intersection of all of these is the quantified self and creating a business around self data. TrainingMetrix is my first company and focuses on analytics for triathletes.

You also have to decide which type of business to create and how involved you want to be. A restaurant will likely be a 24/7 “job” until it is established, profitable, and you are able to hire managers to run it for you. On the other end of the spectrum, potentially a much more hands off type of business, is a tech company where you can outsource development, customer service, and marketing. With just an hour per day, you can run a successful and profitable online tech business.

Empowering Yourself

DIY employment is not as scary as it may seem. Today, it is easier than ever to start earning money for no one but yourself. Every action you take when you create your own business is all about you. Empower yourself today, embrace the DIY employment economy and create a business to change the world, or just your part of the world.