social life & social media
In this talk, Ben Blench shares his experience tracking his infant, including a discussion of the different tools he has used. He shares what was used to measure his infant and the shortcomings and advantages and how they can improve. He makes an interesting comparison between digital and analog, noticing that digital tools often have too many features and lack flexibility.
pen and paper | phone
Now, I knew a couple of things what babies do before people doubt. What I didn’t realize was quite how much you have to measure when they’re born. There is a huge amount of stuff that goes on. You measure their height, you measure their weight, you measure the amount of stuff that goes into them; which type of milk, which side it came from if it’s a bottle so all that stuff.
You measure what comes out of them for the first week you have to actually keep the nappies and show the woman who comes around and sit’s with your baby so they can tell everything is beginning to work properly. And there are some really gruesome things that occur during that week, which again I won’t go into but there are lots of things to measure.
Really what you need to know is this, it’s all all right because actually for what you’re doing for most of that first week month it’s oh my god, what is this thing we’ve created and is it all going to work out. But he can’t talk and he can’t tell you anything, so the only way you can find out is to measure, write it down, observe and overtime you become used to what’s usual and begin to be able to recognize patterns in what is and isn’t good and what’s happening, and how things are changing and how he’s growing.
It’s also good to record things because as a new parent you don’t get a lot of sleep and your memory really doesn’t count for very much at all, so it’s nice to have all these records. The other thing you sometimes need to know is his temperature if he’s ill or not and I’ll come to that later on.
So, what I’m going to talk about briefly is the ways that we used to measure him and the shortcomings and advantages of those things, and maybe for some ideas in how they can improve.
Number one and this is the easiest one is pen and paper, writing things down. Here you can see the breast feeding sheets and the nappy information there. And this over here this is is for our lady who came around and who was measuring all sorts of how many feedings he had per day, nappy details, breast pumping all that sort of exciting stuff.
All very good, whenever it happens you grab the sheet, write it down, you’ve got it and then it’s there and then you can review it at the end of the day. It’s easy to do but after two months you have a stack of paper this big and no way of easily to go okay, how has he progressed from one stage to the next, or shit where was that bit of paper with all that important information that the medical profession gave us about what we should do when – oh it’s in that book downstairs, no it’s in that book we’ve lost; you get static data and you can’t do anything with it. So it’s easy to use, but there are a lot of things that could be done better.
So on the other side of the coin you have websites like this where you can measure pretty much everything that you want and produce little graphy things like this that show you the patterns as an overview. You can even see I’ve given him some medicine, so you can measure how much stuff you’re doing and they’re ver useful. There’s absolutely a huge amount of them and I won’t show you them all now because we would be here all night.
The other thing there are is apps. This is one I personally worked on excitingly, and here there’s also a lot of stuff to do. Trackers is the only bit I use and you can measure stuff like weight and height, and over time you get nice little things that show how he’s progressing.
But the trouble with these is that they all are a total fiddle to input, especially on the iPhone you’re pissing around with little dials and entering data, and this, that and the other. While at the same time in the case of my wife trying to breastfeed or change a nappy or this, that, or the other, if you don’t do it then you forget and you’ve lost it.
So it’s great but it’s a bit fraught. You also have the problem of babies emitting liquids next to expensive machines which you would really rather not get wet.
In summery then by comparison analog stuff is good, it’s easy to use and it’s funny that the other thing I forgot to mention earlier because you can say, okay rather than he had a wet nappy or a dirty nappy as the way we say it you could say it was a little bit wet or a little bit dirty, whereas most of the apps don’t tend to get that granular. They either say either/or, you can be a bit more fluffy in your level of info that you put in, but it’s static and you lose it.
Digital stuff, much more exciting, much more you can put in but it’s totally fiddly to do, a bit dangerous and there’s just a huge amount of wasted feature in the software that you never get around to use, and it makes you feel a bit like you’re not quite doing enough. You get a bit sensitive when you’re losing sleep as I said.
So where to go from here. This augmented child would perhaps not be the right thing to do but in a way it kind of is. What I would like would be something which has no interface as such, but simply logs and broadcasts relevant data at relevant moments.
This would be a good example you know what it is, you stick a little thing in your shoe and you run and it tracks stuff. You don’t actually have to do anything once you set it up, and it’s just pumping out data which you can then analyze later on.
That’s coming at it from that side of things. From the other side of things there are products coming out like this called Note Slate, which is quite exciting I think. It’s an analog - it’s a digital piece of paper where you write, draw whatever, and theoretically it can OCR your data, recognize what you’ve written and then log that to something else. There is talk of apps and putting things on this as well. So you can imagine, you can just grab it, scribble on it, dump it, and then come back later on. That would be very nice.
So that’s it really, removing interfaces entirely would be the ideal thing and we might eventually reach something like the ideal perfected by the work that we do now.