Sacha Chua discusses why it's worth it to build your own personal dashboard. She shares how simple it is and how it lets you track so many more things that companies might never get around to doing. In this video, she talks about her personal dashboard, www.quantifiedawesome.com and all the things she has been tracking; clothes, time, etc.. She built it using Ruby on Rails.
Sacha Chua - Quantified Awesome
So I’m Sacha Chua and I want to convince all of you whether or not you have a programming background that it’s worth totally build your own personal dashboard. It’s really simple and it lets you track so many more things that companies might never get around to doing.
This is my personal dashboard. It’s atwww.quantifiedawesome.com and here you can see I’ve been tracking all sorts of things; clothes, time, stuff, and it’s something simple that I just started building in Ruby on Rails just because I was curious and it’s helped me to do so much.
Here you can see that I’ve been tracking my clothes. Everyday sometimes in the morning I look at this and say okay, what do I want to wear today? And because every day we put on some kind of clothing and it becomes another little data point that you can track.
I first started doing this on paper. I figured out early on that I failed because I had too many pairs of black slacks, so I didn’t know which ones. So I started writing numbers on my clothes to try and tell them apart. I used a Sharpie laundry marker that claims to be permanent but it actually gets a little bit blurry in the wash.
So I started building this system, and first again it was plain text and okay too many black slacks and that way you can tell the difference between that and something else. And it was great because then the computer could remember the data for me which is actually very difficult at seven in the morning, and this pushed me to take more records, because since I had a system now and if I had no records I was compelled to put something on and then track it, so it’s a great way that if you build a dashboard you’re forced to do this but you learn also sorts of things when you start building.
Here I learned that I started off by sorting all sorts of things by hues. So I could use the color to say, okay this goes with that. It turns out that this is great for deciding I don’t need to buy another black shirt. But if you sort it by the last worn instead, o the last time you wore something, you can load balance your clothes.
So as you work with your dashboard you come up with all these different ideas that you can do if you can access the source code, if you can ask questions and tinker you know.
So okay I’ve got this great dashboard, what else can I put into it? Since I’m looking at this page every day what else do I want to track, have something that’s very customized and fit to the way that I work.
I’ve been tracking my time using these free applications for the android smartphone and totally awesome. I started off with time recording because it does time tracking extra well and has export and all that stuff. But that log record also lets you put in other information. But since I had my own dashboard and I was getting the hang of building my own code for this, I said you know what? I’m going to write myself a very very simple time tracker that doesn’t have all those features. But you know what? It works and it’s part of my dashboard.
So then I said okay, I’m just going to type in a very very brief description of what I’m doing and have categories. And now it’s there and what I can do with that I can say, all right sleep wise, how did I do, and I can have those graphs on my dashboard focusing on the kinds of things that I want. So when you start building your dashboard you can build these visualization to help keep on track.
A brief diversion; there’s so many more graphs that you can get in Microsoft Excel or Open Office. So you definitely want to research the kinds of things that are out there.
This is a board graph and it’s great for showing you performance, your target, you know your range of things. So there are a whole lot of graph opportunities out there.
This is a time-base graph that shows me the kind of how chunky my schedule is, whether I can actually focus on doing one thing or a long period of time, or whether my evenings are all broken up with other interruptions and activities.
So you can start playing around in different ways to start looking at your own data, and because you’re making that data part of the way you’re doing things, not just something where you’re looking back at the past but something that you’re using to make new decisions.
This one for example has got my library information and it’s got my time information and every week I get to look at that, and I have all these reasons that comeback into my dashboard and look at the kind of data formatted in a way that I want to see it to help me make decisions about the week ahead.
So when you’ve got this dashboard you can start building all these little things into it. and it’s not that hard. Yu can think about the kinds of meters or gauges that you want to have. you can add all sorts of things you want to track. And again it’s super easy to get started with doing that.
For example my husband and I are huge fans of the Toronto Public Library; huge, we’ve got a fifty item limit. I regularly hit that, so I check things out on his cards as well. With three library card users in the household, we have to keep track of when the next due date is.
And since I’m scraping all of that data from the library website anyway, why not add that in and build a reading history. And let me tell you, knowing that we checked out more than 500 items in the last year, made med feel so much better about paying taxes.
So, things like companies would never get around to doing, we signed up for the community support in agricultural program, because we said we want to eat more healthily, have more local vegetables, support the local farmers. Well it turns out that in a season of community supported agricultural program, it goes through a lot of this somethings that you eat and somethings that you don’t.
And again I added a little feature to my dashboard to let me track that. every week we got the box of random vegetables. I weighed them and put them in, I kept track of how we used them and what we didn’t use. I discovered that we have in the cupboard of six and a half kilo of cabbage. That is a lot of cabbage. This season we decided to not sign up for a box of random vegetables and just buy them ourselves because there was a lot of cabbage there.
But you know, you get all these things, so you start asking yourself what else in your life do you want to add to this dashboard.
And again you start with something super simple. You don’t have to build this entire thing right off the bat. But you start with the one question and you say that’s fantastic, let me add some more. And you get carried away, and you add all these reasons that keep coming back into your dashboard. Because again, it’s not just a retrospective, it’s not just, ‘look you know like let’s see what the graphs look like’. But this is something you use to help make decisions every day; your data is front and center.
And you use it to make those decisions, like every morning when I look at my dashboard I say, okay, based on my last worn data, what should I wear to load balance more evenly, what should I do, what have I been spending more time on and less time on. And this stuff, I figured there is no particular reason why I should hide any of it, I’ve actually put this stuff on the web, and ever since I did so I realised I have no pajama days. I always wanted to have clothing data up there right.
So if you do decide to make a decision to make your data public then it opens up all sorts of other interesting effects; you procrastinate less apparently when it’s in public. So play around with that idea.
You can actually use my dashboard it’s at quantifiedawesome.com, you can login with Facebook, Google or sign up yourself. But really because dashboards are so very personal, you have to make something work the way that you work. You know, sure go ahead and take ideas from this, but you can get the source code from it as well. so open this up in the MIT open source license, it uses Ruby on Rails. You can export data in CSV and XML and Json and all these other formats. But play around with the source code, and if you need any help what so ever getting your own dashboard up and running or you’re building your own system and you want to explore more get in touch with me. because it’s so much more fun when you have your own dashboard to pull together the kind of things you’re passionate about, you’re interested in then you can ask more questions. So quantifiedawesome.com and my blog is living an awesome life and happy to answer questions.