From April Zero to Gyroscope
heart rate / cardiovascular | sports & fitness
Last year, Anand Sharma launched a site called April Zero, in which he tracks everything and exposes the details on the internet for everyone else to see. In this talk, he shares what he has learned along the way and what inspired him to start the website. He also shares a startup he's working on with some of his friends, called Gyroscope, which enables individuals to use his visualization and aggregation system to create similar web sites like April Zero.
Garmin GPS | phone
Thanks! So yeah, I’m Anand Sharma, and last year I launched a site called April Zero, where I basically tracked everything about myself and put it on the internet for everyone else to go checkout. So I want to share some of the things I learnt along the way and what my inspiration was for building this site.
So some of you might be familiar with things like New Relic or Google Analytics or Pingdom, and these are basically tools you use to keep your website up and running, and have constant monitoring and all kinds of other really helpful features that kind of prevent things from miserably failing. But I couldn’t find anything for the human body for myself so I started building that. And one of my things was okay, there’s all this data and all these different platforms but I want to see it all on the same page so I can make decisions about it, figure out how I’m doing.
So I had a few objectives, and one of them was I had really low vitamin D, so I wanted to fix that. I wanted to run faster, I want to lower my heart rate. I wanted to be more productive, basically just become superman.
And so one of the things, you have no idea like mentally like what your blood levels are, it’s not a very intuitive thing so the only way you can figure that out is by taking blood tests, which unfortunately requires needles and blood and all these other things. But the data that comes out of it is really interesting, so I started getting obsessed with tracking that, and I found out my vitamin D was really low.
And you know, you’re supposed to check it once a year, but I did all the things like you’re supposed to do like get more sunshine and eat salmon and it kept even going down more. So that was like a really counter-intuitive thing and I’m like still monitoring that and like working on and slowly getting it up. But that’s like an example of actually tracking this stuff is really really important and the numbers are like what it tells you what to do.
Another thing I want to do is like run faster.so I used to do running a little bit, but I’d basically go a mile and then I’d get tired and go back home. And so one day like I really got into it and I got like all the watches and all the apps and started playing them all and kept on getting better and better. And this is a readout from a Garment running watch which I thought was kind of cool. It has like a heart rate monitor and tells you all these stats, but after like three or four times it wasn’t actually helping me a better runner.
But what I was using a lot was just my iPhone and every run it kept track of it. So this is my runs for the last year. And one interesting thing I noticed like just recently is I would do these really long runs and they’re fun and I’d go exploring and have like a cool map. But then I’ be messed up for like a week and my knees wouldn’t work, and my feet were messed up. So like that was actually bad and stopped doing that.
So another obsession of mine is I found this heart rate app like you can check your pulse just with your phone. And that was really fun, so every like 10 minutes I’ll go what’s my heart rate now and it kept changing which was fun. But I think the Apple watch is going to be really exciting for that.
But one thing I realized I got sick a few times and I looked back on my logs and my heart rate was way higher like in the hundreds, and my productivity was like zero for that day. So that was an interesting benchmark of figuring out okay, I’m sick and just from the numbers.
The opposite was also true when I was healthy, so whenever I did a big run it took about a day to kick in but my resting heart rate was way lower the next day like in the 50’s and then it would slowly drift and then it would go back down.
But you know, running isn’t my job, like most of that time I’m spent on my computer. So that was like the really big thing I really wanted to optimize, and understand and try to figure out. So one thing I used for that is this thing called rescue time, which just runs in the background of your computer.
And so here you can kind of see a graph, it’s a little washed out. But when I was working on launching my site, blue stands for coding, so I was just working on that non-stop. And then when it launches you can see it switches over to orange, where I was just emailing people and talking to them. And there there’s like these big week periods where it’s like okay little bursts.
And so now one thing I have set up is a weekly report that tells me every week what I’ve been up to, and I can figure out you know, I haven’t been productive enough, or last week was good and what I need to do differently and that kind of keeps you on track.
So all these things are number and things to kind of optimize, and that’s been really helpful to me, but there’s another aspect to it that I think is equally important, which is kind of a little more fuzzy like what you’ve done in your life, and your emotions and your ideas. So I use this app called Moves, some of you might have heard of it. And they have an API, so what I’ve been doing is taking a lot of that data and combining with a bunch of other things to make a timeline of my whole life.
And that’s like an interesting challenge because it’s kind of places you’ve been but you’ve also got photos and all this different data, and so how do you put it together to tell a story. And so the past year of my life is online for anyone to see. You can go to any single day, drill down like by the minute. It’s kind of like Dumbledore’s Pancy, where I can just pick a day and go back there and like relive that memory which is really cool for me.
And so this is like a day where you can see I was like coding and I was up all night and I decided to go for a run in just (in Sausalito? 05:09) because I don’t know what I was thinking. But apparently I did okay, so I guess that sleep thing you guys were talking about seems to be true.
And then this was another day I was in New York and I was running and I went to get pizza again which I guess seems to be a common pattern. But like I can do this for pretty much any day over the last year which has been really cool, and it’s not like I have the numbers or here’s like how many miles I walked. But the more exciting things is just like looking at it and I’ll be like oh yeah, I remember when I was at that place or otherwise I would have pretty much totally forgotten like all of my favorite things that happened over the last year, and definitely not being able to share them with other people. But it’s been really cool to just have that automatically happen from all these different things I’m using.
This is another view of that where it’s like a one week where I was diving in Thailand last summer and like that was like the favorite my favorite thing that I did last year and now I can like whenever I’m stuck at home and like really bored I can go there and like pretend I’m there again which is really exciting.
So one kind of controversial thing I decided to do I built this just for myself as like my own tool, but I decided to put it up on the internet and everyone who wanted could check it out. There’s no privacy, like nothing is secrete, like everything I do is out there. And I thought you know, like 50 Quantified Self people would check it out that would be cool.
I tweeted about it and I went to sleep one Friday night, and the next morning I woke up and there was 100,000 people on the site and the servers were going down. All those aforementioned the tracking tools were freaking out anyways so that was cool.
And it changed my behavior actually a lot and I can look back at all this stuff and see like exactly when I launched. One thing I realized that I started showing off and running like way longer. You see it’s like all green at first and then people also started emailing me tell me like I’m a wuss and I should run more, which is really motivating. And like I met a lot of really cool people through making it public, so just the idea of like sharing everything turned out to be really positive experience at least for me.
And so kind of based on that stuff so now I’m working on a startup with some friends of mine called Gyroscope and you get similar tools that I was building for myself, just by connecting all the services to your priority you’re using, and kind of put it together and doing all the hard work of figuring out, okay what’s interesting about this, what do you want to share, and we have weekly reports and things like that.
But yeah, that’s what I’m working on, it’s been a really interesting experience and really excited for a new generation of data to figure even more insights about myself. You can follow me on Twitter, April Zero.