Sunday, May 02, 2010

Just the Facts, Ma'am


In The Data Driven Life in today's New York Times Magazine, Gary Wolf writes about people who track their activities in fine detail. Coffee or alcohol consumption, calories, menstrual cycles, ideas, time spent cleaning up after roommates---you name it, it can be tracked, and the online life makes it oh-so-easy. If you've got obsessive compulsive tendencies, this may be heaven, or it may drive you over the edge. And of course, there are some practical applications for psychiatry. Wolf writes:

Jon Cousins is a 54-year-old software entrepreneur and former advertising executive who was given a diagnosis in 2007 of bipolar affective disorder. Cousins built a self-tracking system to help manage his feelings, which he called Moodscope; now used by about 1,000 others, Moodscope automatically sends e-mail with mood-tracking scores to a few select friends. “My life was changed radically,” Cousins told me recently in an e-mail message. “If I got the odd dip, my friends wanted to know why.” Sometimes, after he records a low score, a friend might simply e-mail: “?” Cousins replies, and that act alone makes him feel better. Moodscope is a blended system in which measurement is supplemented by human sympathy. Self-tracking can sometimes appear narcissistic, but it also allows people to connect with one another in new ways. We leave traces of ourselves with our numbers, like insects putting down a trail of pheromones, and in times of crisis, these signals can lead us to others who share our concerns and care enough to help.

The point of the article? Other than a long-winded way of saying, Hey, look what folks are doing! I'm not so sure there was one. And while you're keeping track, Victor took second place in the salsa contest (the dip, not the dance).