Unless you live in a Montana shack, you’ve heard concerns about governments and corporations mining your personal data for various purposes, not all of which you may like. Surveillance and marketing probably top that list. But, like in most other cases, we can use the basic approach and technology for good instead of evil.
If a pervasive culture of data gathering and access has already started to exist, what insights could we glean from collecting and mining our own personal data? Some obvious answers include health, social connections, news, purchases, locations, and more. So as a first pass, I’d like to look at doing something like the following:
- Social media (Twitter, Google+, Delicious, blogging): What am I reading? What am I missing that might be more relevant than some things I read now? Who do I talk to? Where can my expertise be more useful?
- Email: Am I handling it efficiently? What slips through the cracks? How can I process it more effectively?
- Browser: Where is that article I read last week? Have there been any follow-ups to that story? Have I missed some relevant data sources? Do I waste too much time on some sites without getting enough value in return?
- Transactions: Where do I spend my money? Which vendors get most of my money? Where should I cut expenses? Can I make my expense reporting for work more efficient?
- Location: How much time do I spend in my commute? Would alternate routes be more effective? Could I improve my gas mileage?
- Productivity: What sorts of tasks in my personal kanban get the most attention? Am I estimating task size properly? What keeps getting left behind? What have I not tracked but should?
- Health data: Besides the obvious things like vital signs (weight, BP, etc.), how do my various choices correlate with my mental state? What times of the day work best for exercise and increased activity? What affects the quality of my sleep?
The really big value comes when you correlate this stuff. At least two dimensions make immediate sense here: time (maybe via an annotated, filtered timeline) and location (plotting social activity, purchases, etc. on a map). We could find more, of course, but those make good starting points.
Of course, the core idea itself has been around for a while, but we’d want to approach it with security in mind. After all, if you gather all that information in one place, it needs good protection, both at rest and while processing it. This gets even more important when you consider financial data, location over time, and perhaps reading material. Privacy matters, and this entire project focuses on getting the benefits of our own data for ourselves rather than for others.
I have a few ideas of things I want to test over the long weekend, so I should report back next week on early results.