*Total Recall*

by on September 22, 2009 at 11:18 am in Web/Tech | Permalink

[since 2001] Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell…has been compulsively scanning, capturing, and logging each and every bit of personal data he generates in his daily life.

This trove includes Web sites he's visited (221,173), photos taken (56,282), emails sent and received (156,041), docs written and read (18,883), phone conversations had (2,000), photos snapped by the SenseCam hanging around his neck (66,000), songs listened to (7,139), and videos taken by him (2,164). To collect all this information, he uses a staggering assortment of hardware: desktop scanner, digicam, heart rate monitor, voice recorder, GPS logger, pedometer, smartphone, e-reader.

Here is more and that is all from the interesting new book Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything, by Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell.  You may recall that I mention Bell in Create Your Own Economy.  I don't personally have the ability to operate all that technology.  So if I could measure only five things from my daily life, what should they be?  What would yours be and why? 

Lately I've developed a new theory as to when I sleep especially well (in general I sleep well so the variance is not so large).  I believe that I sleep especially well when I end up going to bed at exactly the same time I expect to be going to bed.  On the unusual occasions when I don't sleep well, it is because I have been winding down my body and mind before I actually have the opportunity to fall asleep.  Somehow when the later chance to sleep comes, it is too late for that sleep to be deep.  Or so it seems to my mental econometrics; it would be interesting to measure it.

1 Pavel Kohout September 22, 2009 at 11:27 am

This may partly explain why Windows is such a piece of crap. Developed by genuine nuts.

2 babar September 22, 2009 at 11:58 am

i would measure vagal tone

3 Michael B. September 22, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Time spent in meetings.

4 sd September 22, 2009 at 12:38 pm

I find that I tend to sleep very well when I get more sleep than the night before. 6 hours of sleep after getting 8 hours the last 3 nights = misery. 6 hours of sleep after getting 4 hours the last 3 nights – energy and happiness.

5 Josh September 22, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I have listened to 30,000-odd songs since January 4, 2007, courtesy of last.fm’s “scrobbling.” It’s an interesting way to track my listening habits. Never thought to track e-mails or documents or web page visits, tho. I wonder if he has metadata that tracks his tracking.

6 The Other Eric September 22, 2009 at 3:15 pm

I remember hearing about Bell in Create Your Own Economy and what struck me then, as now, is how he doesn’t have to do this anymore. For the last few years the expansion of data gathering across media and information systems has made this kind of manual effort redundant.

Given a few hundred dollars for the fees and a week’s effort by a few grad students and I could reconstruct a 24 hour period for any one of you reading this (assuming you weren’t stranded on a desert island). The very act of you reading this page is traceable. Some of you may think that’s Orwellian and others may not care, but it is feasible and a whole lot easier than hand gathering your life’s events.

The fidelity of our chronology is improving. Whether that will improve historical or other work is another question.

7 Jacqueline September 22, 2009 at 4:43 pm

If you really want to boil all that down into only 5 *measurements* (instead of 5 general areas to measure), then for every good, service, experience, or activity you spend time or money on (over some threshold of materiality), record the following:
1. Time spent
2. Money spent
3. Rate how much you enjoyed it (or disliked it) in the moment, -5 to 5
4. Rate how much it contributed to (or detracted from) your long-term goals, -5 to 5
5. Rate how aligned (or opposed) it was to your personal values, -5 to 5

Review and analyze periodically for a more accurate assessment of how you’re spending your life energy. If anything seems out of whack, change your life accordingly.

No, I don’t actually do any of this myself, but I may have just talked myself into starting. 🙂

8 Ryan Biddulph September 22, 2009 at 9:37 pm

1.) Miles run.

2.) Pounds lifted.

3.) Meals consumed.

4.) Stairs climbed

5.) Thoughts generated – It’s estimated we have 40,000 thoughts a day. No effective tool to measure these, but it’d be fun to keep track for one day.

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