Making Personal Analytics Fun

January 17 2014 08:02:42 AM Add/Read Comments [2]
These days when people talk about "big data", the most common scenarios involve things like shopping statistics for national holidays, global weather patterns, or perhaps the participation in online communities. While these topics are important, in my research I'm more focused on what I call Personal Analytics, or "small data."  The goal of personal analytics is to provide a look at the statistics and patterns of a single person's work or activity, and help them determine ways to improve what they are doing. The challenge with looking at statistics however is not the validity of the data itself, but rather learning to interpret it.

To explain, let's take a look at two newsletters that I received this week which do a good job of taking statistics and putting them into terms that make them fun to comprehend. The first was from SlideShare, which told me:

Congratulations, Alan! Your content was among the top 2% of most viewed on SlideShare in 2013! You received 18129 views in 2013. It would take seven Titanics to hold that many people!

Rather than just providing the boring "where you rank" statistic, the SlideShare report provided an additional quantification (seven Titanics) that made me take a moment and really think about the information.

The second was my year end summary from FitBit. This one was even more fun than the SlideShare one. FitBit ranked people in terms of how far certain animals travelled per year in fun fictional scenarios; from pandas playing golf to squids shooting themselves out of canons. You can see their scale here.

In 2013 you travelled 280 miles. That's more than the distance from London to Paris. You went 224 times further than Lenny the pig's historic, yet unfortunate, jetpack flight of 1969. Unbelievable!


While these are both consumer products, they provide a example of the type of reports I'm hoping to see enterprise software vendors provide employees related to their work.
In collaboration software reports could show things like:
- Which of your blog posts reached the most people
- Which of your files had the most downloads
- Which of your social network posts had the most replies, favourites and reshares

It's statistics like these that can help people figure out which areas/topics they should be spending more or less time on. Similar to SlideShare and FitBit, I hope enterprise software vendors don't just provide boring statistics, graphs and charts but find fun ways to display the information that enables employees to both understand it as well as enjoy viewing it.  

What type of statistics about your work would you like to see?

Stay tuned, you'll be hearing a lot more about Personal Analytics from me this year.