For me doing is a form of knowing: triggering my actions with data
Denis Harscoat is a co-founder of Did This, an action logging tool. In this video, he talks about his interest in wanting to write a book and what he learned tracking his actions.
Hello, my name is Denis, I’m the co-founder of Did This; action logging. So we allow you to log to share your actions and to compare them. so I want to tell you about not of my company but of my journey, what I learned, what did I do, and how I did it, and what did I learn from it. So I wanted to write a book. That first experiment started in 2005/6, so for that I understood I had to write every day because it’s a big book. So what I did it’s very simple, I started to use a spreadsheet and every time I could see the word documents I can calculate how many words I did and then put them in a spreadsheet.
What I learned through that simple experiment was that I was alone, and I understood I was no genius. It took me a really long time and it was a lot of pain, because in fact I discovered I was alone doing this people didn’t matter and since it was part time and just a hobby I didn’t want to reply to anything so I was not part of a community anywhere so it was tough.
So then afterwards, like a couple of years later I saw someone in my company. That said, basically, there is the 10,000 hour rule, but if you do 10,000 hours of practice, you’re going to be able to reach mastery. So I said why not, I should do 10,000 hours and I just have to quantify and and going to be a great writer.
So I wanted to experiment in not feeling alone, so I had a friend of mine who was trying to do a Ph.D., and he had to do research and he had to write every morning a little bit of the summary of the research. I said why don’t we set up this method, every morning we send each other and email to how many hours or minutes of writing we did, plus what was the output and characters.
What did I learn? It really worked, knowing that he cared for my output and I said okay, I should work on that. I went another hundred thousand characters in a much quicker timeframe.
Then I discovered in that experience I would like to have seen his own spreadsheet, so sometimes he would send it to me, because otherwise I couldn’t see that. When he was not available like on a trip can I said okay, maybe I could relax.
Finally, I realise that maybe I’m more an entrepreneur than a writer. I practiced business before and I started to think maybe I could do a project with this so that is something. Also, what was important was not the amount, and sure enough, every day. It was just the regularity, the regularity to produce a book in the end.
So the third experiment, and this is really my trip into doing the experiment and learning and I said okay, let’s start building a self-tracking tool. So the self-tracking tool. We had we called it Quan#er. Quan#er was based on Twitter, you do a hashtag, and then you quantify it, we collected and then you add a dashboard and you could see what was there.
We had 1000 users using that tool, but it was a very widespread community, not everybody was doing writing, and I discovered something. I discovered at the same time, the Quantified Self.
There by going at the conference I understood that my self-tracking experience was not about health knowledge, it was about action. So here, it’s Greek they say, it’s up to you and what is not up to you. What is not up to you is raise my blood pressure. I cannot influence my blood pressure directly, I need to influence it by my diet, my running, but action, this is something I can influenced right now which is walking. And I discovered that this is what interested me, not health, but Regiment lifestyle.
And really what I’ve learned with that experience with Quan#er is that I saw that it really works, and if I find a little community of like-minded people who have the same effort, goal, or hobby we can really encourage ourselves. I understood it was the regularity of practice, and I understood for me that I didn’t want to quantify to know myself in terms of my health.
I wanted to be able to quantify fruitfulness, which means if I do something, I quantify how inspiring it is for others. To give you an example, if you are teacher may be a teacher is going to teach somebody that’s going to become Einstein and because he motivated Einstein when he was a kid to learn physics. He had a great fruitfulness. That’s what I was interested in.
So based on the feedback of Twitter, and Quan#er and this, we started a new app, which is now available Did This, it’s an iPhone app, so it’s really what you did, you share it and you can compare yourself.
To finalize my journey I did lessons into quantifying myself. I understood the numbers was away for me to objectivize which method were successful more than others. For instance, if somebody wants to run a marathon you use one app or another, what is the success rate in getting in the marathon. If I can get that number and that Ranking, I can copy and paste that method.
Secondly, what I understood in terms of quantifying myself. I was not trying to get knowledge, thanks to the numbers, I wanted to communicate something to people. I’ll give you an example, some people they may decide one year to show their love for somebody to bring them every day a cup of coffee at the bed. So it’s the sheer quantity of something very simple that shows I care. Or it could be to inspire somebody to write every day.
This is the type of Quantified Self experience I’m interested in. It’s about communicating through numbers. This is my experience and I hope you liked it, and you can find people like-minded on Did This, thanks.