Discuss: How Has Data Surprised You?

September 14, 2010

Thanks to a flurry of wonderful comments on last week’s discussion about what people are tracking, these discussion posts will become more regular. Feel free to also comment if you have an idea for future discussions! This week’s topic:

How has data surprised you? Did you learn something new from self-tracking that you weren’t expecting? Did you not find what you were looking for? What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing you’ve experienced through your data?
For me, self-tracking has become a test of my daily random hypotheses. A recent example is that I was convinced my kids whine much more when I sit down to eat than at other times. So I went about testing this: Do my kids whine more at meals, or do I just notice their whining more when I’m trying to eat?

I started recording every whining episode, and whether or not I was eating at the time. After a week of this tracking, I discovered, to my kids’ great pleasure, that my hypothesis was wrong. They actually whined much more outside of mealtimes! 
I learned: 
  • my patience must be less when I’m trying to enjoy a quiet meal
  • don’t make blanket statements without data to back them up
  • instead of chiding my kids for always whining during meals, I can instead give them a lesson in testing their own hypotheses in the world, and show them that Mom is not always right
So that’s how data surprised me. What about you?

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