When data gets dark: Why one cyclist quit the quantified self
Jul30

When data gets dark: Why one cyclist quit the quantified self

Shortly after my flesh recently met pavement, I had an epiphany about today’s notion of the quantified self. I’ve been a believer in self-quantifying, or what is largely employing technology’s ever-expanding ability to help us track our states of being, for nearly a quarter-century. In the name of realizing greater personal potential, I’ve enthusiastically tracked my sleep and diet, and my time spent crouched over a laptop as well as while meditating. But in the days, weeks, and months last spring after my left hip hit the road during a bike race at 29.3 miles per hour — one of multiple metrics logged on my bike computer just before it sensed no movement whatsoever — I had a different sort of revelation. I came to the conclusion that the quantified self, which in today’s booming wearables era means more and more to a rapidly growing audience, has become bloated. Ravenous for more metrics Up until my crash (the good news: hip bruised, not broken), and like many other people, the desire to gather metrics about my own state of being has, over the last five years, approached insatiable. There’s so much information available to mine, via accelerometers on our wrists (fitness trackers), GPS-technology in our pockets (smartphones), and databases in the thin air (the Cloud). We can consistently review the quality of our sleep, the calories in our diets coming from fat, carbs, or protein, and the regularity with which we turn away from our work in exchange for some fresh air. The quantified self, a term reportedly popularized by a Wired writer in 2007 but arguably as old as the ancient Olympic Games or any phenomenon that might drive humans to explore their capabilities, is nowadays a commanding biological dashboard available to just about anyone willing to invest a few hundred dollars into personal electronics. In deeply measuring our states of activity, being, and behavior, the argument goes, all of this self-quantification allows us to know ourselves better. Or does it? Trust yourself, not your smartwatch In terms of quantifying myself, I’d come a long way since the days of using a kitchen timer to lengthen meditation sessions, and a Univac-style heart-rate monitor to log running performance. In the last couple years I’ve tracked every watt generated while riding my bicycle, and via app come face to face with the nutritional blunder that is late-night chocolate bingeing. (That candy bar was six hundred calories?!?) When I’d get only four hours of sleep ahead of a scheduled morning workout or a big day at the desk, the dismal figure and lousy sleep quality would, courtesy of my on-wrist technology, stare...

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The Average Joe’s poor opinion of the Apple Watch should guide the entire industry
Jun10

The Average Joe’s poor opinion of the Apple Watch should guide the entire industry

My friend Laurie isn’t attached to technology. She drives a new SUV, but chose against the far pricier hybrid version. She loves to watch movies — in a movie theater, as opposed to always catching them via Hulu online. She finds her iPhone indispensable, except when she doesn’t want to tote it. So what happens when you mate arguably the biggest innovation in wearable technology with someone who isn’t wedded to electronics? As a curious journalist with access to the latest “it” device — an Apple Watch — I wanted to know. The recently introduced Apple Watch might be highly anticipated, lusted after, and discussed by those in tech-dom. But what about… everyone else? Is the Apple Watch destined to match the success and acceptance of the iPhone? Or will it suffer the ignominious fate of the Newton, or Microsoft’s Zune? I wanted a glimpse into the Apple Watch’s mass-market future, so I gave Laurie a call. “How do you wake up this thing?” she says to me from across the table after opening the signature white Apple packaging. It’s a Wednesday morning and Laurie, who’s blonde-haired, compact, and eternally spunky, starts moving the timepiece up and down and side to side. Her tester is the smaller of two Apple Watch models: the 38-millimeter case, anchored to a blue Sport Band. Laurie soon went home with the watch, and we speak 48 hours later. “My first impression is how physically pleasurable it is to handle,” she says. “I love the feel of the wheel, and the haptic response. It’s luxurious.” Laurie is obviously enthusiastic. She’s already played with the watch’s haptic response, or its ability to vibrate and thus “tap” a wearer’s wrist. She also says that the Apple Watch is comfortable and unobtrusive. I’m in step with Laurie, and not just because I like technology but don’t necessarily obsess over it. I agree with plenty of her Apple Watch first impressions. I have considerable experience with the Garmin Fenix 3, and I immediately like that the Apple smartwatch is far smaller, streamlined, and more elegant. I love how the display comes to life with a natural flick of the wrist, and how quickly I can pick up usable data that I easily programmed the watch to display: time, date, outside temperature, battery charge remaining — all at a glance. Laurie also mentions something that hadn’t occurred to me. “I haven’t worn a watch for 16 years — initially because I didn’t want to scratch my daughter when she was a baby,” she says. “I’m kind of amazed that I don’t find the watch annoying. I got right back into the...

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