Thursday, April 7, 2011

Forget about genius - just think about numbers

Today, I had the pleasure to host Denis Harscoat from Quantter talking about the quantified self [1] in my seminar. Denis illustrated nicely the power of numbers when describing challenges, quality and goals. I could well follow his argument of numbers yielding "serenity, peace, and happiness". You easily can state you want to be "good", "better", "excellent" - however, numbers are still better to describe performance or goals. Thus, the underlying idea of the quantified self is to collect, visualize [3], make sense of data and ultimately, change behavior [4].
Denis gave nice historical examples from Benjamin Franklin, Da Vinci and others showing the power self-inspection and changing behavior. Technological evoluation, he argues, finally allows to overcome the media breaks and collect data more smoothly, one example is the mood scope:

Quantter aims at going even a step further by establishing a platform, a market place of self-reported data: collected either manually by quants (tweets following a syntax, e.g. #swim: 15min) or automatically using one these logger devices (e.g. Fitbit, Zeo, DirectLife). Denis used the metaphore of "connecting the dots". Instead of having single dots of data, Quantter aims at drawing the complete picture of oneself. Denis emphasized the importance and business of values of connectors and interface: while technology may change for services to live on connectors are key. Quantter's default is public, private is the premium service. Establishing a maket for linking between achievers and coaches is the long-term goal. Finally, history is the best predictor for the future. Thus, quantifying routines could for keeping memories, improving in certain disciplines, or just for recording and prediciting success.

I was really fascinated about the brave vision of Quantter deliberately not solving a business or pain, but to rather bet on the emerging trend of self-tracking, social tracking and crowd counting.
In the following discussion Denis referred to the 10.000 hour rule stating if you just work enough you can do it. Whether or not this holds, I don't know, but justifies to keep on trying. Denis also defined the role of entrepreneurs to bridge between today's disbelief and what's going to be happen in the future.
If we only look for need, I'm once more understood, we may loose many innovations: who was waiting for facebook, iphone, google maps ten years ago?

[1] Kevin Kelly's Quantified Self
[2] Wolf, G.: Know Thyself: Tracking Every Facet of Life. Wired Magazine, June 22, 2009.
[3] Gary Wolf on the quantified self (
[4] Brennan Moore, Max Van Kleek, David R. Karger, Mc Schraefel: Assisted Self Reflection: Combining Lifetracking, Sensemaking, & Personal Information Management, In CHI 2010 Workshop - Know Thyself: Monitoring and Reflecting on Facets of One's Life, April 2010


gift said...

Funny to think where we were without Facebook ten years ago.. What did everyone do without FB, Texting, iphones... LOL

gift said...

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