This post makes me happy! One of the most fun things about QS so far has been the sense of optimism and possibility emanating from the frontiers of self-tracking. There is something so obvious about applying basic methods of rational data gathering and analysis to daily life that each little experiment, however simple, hints at bigger themes.
At the last QS Show&Tell, Alex Rossi showed his Twitter apps Tweet What You Eat and Tweet What You Spend. Since then, Nathan Yau of Flowing Data has posted about this attempt to track his eating through Twitter. Nathan wrote a little bot to collect Twitter messages about what he’s eating and how much he weighs and stick them in a database, which he can then use to chart his progress. He asked on his blog whether, if he made this public, people would be interested in using it.
Alex Rossi’s experience suggests that, yes, people would be interested. Tweet What You Eat and Tweet What You Spend are free apps Rossi wrote that do similar work: take SMS messages and post them to a database. Rossi has added some good tricks, such as crowd-sourcing the calorie count, so that suggested values are quickly available. But what I enjoyed most of Alex’s presentation was how clearly he outlined the power of this simple tool. I had just come from the Health 2.0 conference, where there was discussion of all kinds of complex mechanisms for gathering and presenting patient data. Devices, networks, payment systems, regulations – who was going to solve the puzzle? And then down to the QS Show&Tell, where one intelligent person, using a pared down protocol and an extremely simple social networking platform, hinted at a solution that is just around the corner, and that can’t be seen from the perspective of “health care.”
Anyway, here’s the video. My favorite quote: “I noticed people would debit exercise from their food diary. I was like, I didn’t even know I supported negative values!”