Jan 31 2009

Entering Data

I weigh 209.4 this morning.  That’s down from 220 when I Declared A Jihad on My Weight on 10/27/08 although it doesn’t look like I’ll make my Anti-Charity goal of 200 by 1/31/09 (more on that in a post on 2/1/09).

I was thinking about my weight this morning as I entered it into the online system at GoWear.  I thought about it again when I entered it into Gyminee.  And then into Daytum. I’m going for a run in a little while so I’ll enter it again into TrainingPeaks

Here’s what I’m doing:

  1. Go to the appropriate web site.
  2. Choose the appropriate place to enter the data.
  3. Type 209.4 and press return.

Four times.  Every day.  Pretty ridiculous.  If you reduce the data to its core elements, they are:

  1. Web site id [GoWear, Gyminee, Daytum, TrainingPeaks]
  2. User Id (almost always bfeld)
  3. Timestamp (or two fields – date, time) – automatically generated by my computer
  4. Weight

The only actual piece of data that I need to measure is weight.  I measure this by standing on a scale each morning.  The scale is a fancy one – it cost about $100, looks pretty, and has a bunch of extra things I don’t look at such as BMI.  I have an identical scale in my house in Keystone (although the battery is dead and needs to be replaced.)

Some day, in the future, I’ll be able to step on the scale.  And that will be it.  My weight will automatically go into whatever online systems I want it to.  I won’t have to do anything else. 

Of course, one of the assumptions is that my scale(s) are “network compatible”.  While you may joke that this is the age old “connect my refrigerator to the Internet problem” (and it is), I think it’s finally time for this to happen.  As broadband and wifi become increasing ubiquitous and inexpensive, there is no reason that any electronic devices shouldn’t be IP connected, in the same way that microprocessors are now everywhere and pretty much everything has a clock in it (even if some of them still blink 12:00.)

So, accept this assumption.  Then, I’m really only taking about a “Brad-centric” data payload.  While I’ll have a lot more data than simply weight that I might want in my payload, let’s start with the simple case (weight).  Right now, we are living in a system-centric world where data is linked first to a system and then a user.  Specifically, you have to operate in the context of the system to create data for a user.

Why not flip this?  Make things user-centric.  I enter my data (or a machine / device collects my data.)  I can configure my data inputs to feed data into “my data store” (which should live on the web / in the cloud).  Then, systems can grab data from my data store automatically.  All I have to do is “wire them up” which is a UI problem that – if someone is forward thinking enough – could also be solved with a single horizontal system that everyone adopts.

Right now there is a huge amount of activity around the inverse of this problem – taking widely diffuse data and re-aggregating it around a single user id.  This deals with today’s current reality of how data is generated (system-centric) but doesn’t feel sustainable to me as user-generated data continues to proliferate geometrically.

Enough.  As I said in my tweet earlier today, “thinking about data.  thinking about running.  thinking about thinking.”  Time to go run and generate some more data.