Questions for a Self-Tracking Service

Question mark sign

When I want to start tracking a metric in my life, most of the time I use an app or service that enables me to do it more easily or provide options like statistics or sharing. I’ve tracked a lot of different things, some better and more easily than others. Sometimes my data would be locked-in, or sometimes I had to do the statistics on my own. During the last few weeks I’ve built a list of questions I ask myself before choosing a service for tracking. And I wanted to share my list with the community and service developers. This list is not definitive by all means, it’s a work in progress and questions may be added, removed or changed at all times.

Let’s get started! Before even looking at services you can use, it is wise to have a somewhat clear vision of where you want to go:

  • What is my goal?
  • What question do I want to answer with this?
  • How often do I want to measure?
  • In what ways can the metric be sampled?
  • Do I need help from other people for tracking?
  • How does it affect my social life?
  • How much time should I need?
  • How long do I want to keep track of it?
  • Is it useful to share my data with other people?

When I’ve got these questions answered I start looking for services that fit my vision. When I have a list of services I could use, I go through another list of questions that allows me to make my choice more easily:

  • How easy is it to enter data?
  • What type of data do I need to put in?
  • Is the data easy to export (e.g. Data-portability)
  • Does the service provide analytics?
  • Do I own the data or does the service, and how secure is it?
  • What are the experiences of other people using the service?
  • Does gamification help or not, and how is it implemented?
  • What are the costs of the service in comparison to what I should get out of it?
  • Is there an API (application programming interface)?

When I stop using the service or have been using it for a certain amount of time, these are the things I ask myself:

So this is my own list of questions and things I want to answer when using a service or application for self-tracking. It’s a work in progress so feel free to put any more questions you would ask to yourself in the comments.

Image: Question mark sign by Colin_K

About Joost Plattel

Joost is the co-founder of the Quantified Self Meetup in Amsterdam, he's been tracking metrics about his life for more then 2 years and combines QS with lifehacking to improve his life. You can follow him on Twitter
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One Response to Questions for a Self-Tracking Service

  1. Great list of qualities to look for. For my site textWeight, I’ll have to think about how we stand up against some of these attributes.

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