Life Logging: Using Spreadsheets
social life & social media
Phil von Stade
Phil von Stade has been life logging for most of his life using spreadsheet. In this talk, he shares how a calendar as a search tool as a way to leverage your accomplishments and as an index to 150,000+ photos! A simple spreadsheet can be your friend.
Excel | Photos
Life Logging Using Spreadsheets
I’m from Berkeley, but I grew up on the island here. Lived around the world in a lot of different places and developed software for many years. My wife and I sold our company in 2006 and lived on this for four years. I recommend it.
We moved to Berkeley a couple of years ago and got involved with Quantified Self when Gary Wolf was looking for somebody to help run the Berkeley smaller group and I foolishly offered.
A lot of Quantified Self is biotech and it’s measuring various parts of the body or in this last case anyway, surfboards and skateboards. I’m interested in mind and memory specifically, so how does the brain work. And I’ve been doing a lot of research out of Stanford on that but we’ll come back to that.
Meantime why a spreadsheet? I’ve been life logging for most of my life probably, but for the last 10 years using a spreadsheet and there’s one really really good reason using a spreadsheet to do this and that’s because I’ve been doing technology for over 30 years. I don’t know if there’s anybody here who remembers VisiCalc. VisiCalc, Lotus I use them all over the years, and I developed all sorts of databases. That’s how I made my living, so naturally I’m going to use a spreadsheet.
The beautiful thing about a spreadsheet is it’s both very simple and yet unbelievably complex or allows us to be complex with rows representing time, columns as category and we can use different colors as well.
Another great thing about spreadsheets in today’s world any way and for a longtime now you’ve got different categories. You can have multiple spreadsheets within a book. You can have multiple books within a folder. This allows a great deal of flexibility with a tool which you all have easy access to.
Backup these days is not as bad as it used to be, but I highly highly recommend to all of you if you haven’t backed up in the last week do so tonight. Because a files going to crash or something I can guarantee it, it’s happened to me, it’s happens to everybody. Then the great thing about spreadsheets they’re easy to backup.
I use my spreadsheet first and foremost as a daily planner and that means that I’m using it to look at the future as well as the past. And the nice thing as well about looking at the past now is that I have this very rich source of information.
Yes, the rows represent time; 365 times 10 years. I’ve got a lot of rows. Location, I track various family members where they are around the world and then events, and searchable text.
The great thing about searchable text is I can find out you know when did I last meet with Gary Wolf, who is the founder of Quantified Self with Kevin Kelly years ago. Or perhaps I want to find out where I last met with Raj Mehta, who’s another organizer out in the West Coast, and again it’s very easy to do this in a spreadsheet and the flexibility is just unbeatable.
Again you can also color and you know change everything around here as we like, but we then break things down into categories, so there’s certain other things that I track. I like to track books, movies, theater, restaurant, health, and interestingly concepts. And I know we’re going to be talking about concepts after this presentation here in a totally different way.
Categories, books for example, I’m sure everyone here reads hopefully something but how often do you remember the book or forget the book. I just take a little quick note of the book. I write up a little synopsis, a little book report if you will and give it some kind of a grade.
I also do that for movies and that way I can avoid on Netflix you know, downloading that movie that we hated you know a year ago and hate again. When we go to the theatre It’s nice to member the people that we went with and what really really felt about that particular play. And of course you’re in the food capital of the world here in New York City, so restaurants. I can make recommendations by the way in Cape Town South Africa, Chile, Berkeley California and a number of other places no problem.
It’s just a very simple way to keep a track of a lot of basic information, and concepts, which again we’re going to be hearing more in the next presentation, it’s very flexible on a spreadsheet. You can organize things in different ways; it’s a matrix. And it allows you to take a look at concepts projects you’ve worked on, projects you’re working on and a lot of other things and this is one of the greatest benefits. You know, what do you get out of this?
I get a sense of accomplishment, so often I wake up and go ‘God I didn’t get anything done yesterday’, the red day before or whatever. But I can go back to my spreadsheet and I keep a track of just once a month or two I go back and I just write down certain accomplishments and by god over the last year or two I got a few things done.
And some of those things were of course community based, some of them were career based, some of them were travel. You know if nothing else just go travel, you’ll feel like you got something done.
Music, write, do things, other family. You know helping a family member even you know putting things like that in there.
Another thing that’s in this is is a timeline, a simple timeline now; much fewer lines here. But going back to when I was born, so that when somebody says where did you first meet so-and-so I can go back and say that’s right, I met my best friend back then. I travelled to this part of the world then, I lived in this place. And this is an index then to the worst problem that I have, which is a gigantic photo collection and that 300 gig of video is just the stuff that’s been digitized. But with the index and by location and by time I can go back almost immediately and find any photograph on my laptop or on my collection very quickly. And that way when somebody asks me for something I can immediately email them back and say here’s those photos you wanted. It’s kind of fun and of course our favorite photographs are where we spent the last four years or at least previously the four years living down in the Caribbean on Calypso.
So that’s the end of the talk if you would like to reach me afterwards you can talk to me here and also in addition to being involved with the Quantified Self out in the West, I’m also a cofounder of Memory Glass, which is a company developing software to help people with Alzheimer’s, memory loss and helping to preserve stories by putting photographs and actually allowing people to record multiple stories on that and organize that in a cool way. Actually, a couple of people already came up to me about that earlier which was surprising; they even knew I was going to be here or talk about that. So memory, life logging, Quantified Self, questions.