Week 4: Client & Server Side Interactions

This week I experimented with using and building client and server side interactions.  First I used this workshop as a guide to setup and build my own API and connect it to a frontend interface.  This process taught me how to build a backend API and how to use the CRUD (create, read, update, delete) protocol to change and update that API.  I really enjoyed walking though this workshop and am excited to implement API’s into my future projects. 

Next, I downloaded this project from GitHub and practiced using a simple API interface using this data selfie app.  Each day this past week I opened this project and logged an image of myself.  Despite it being an unusually hectic week, I did not find this type of routine to be challenging to sustain.  I decided to add a reminder into the reminders app that I already use.  This reminder went off once a day in the morning to remind me to log an image of myself.  When the reminder went off and I was not able to access my computer I would usually snooze the reminder for an hour or so.  Since this is something that I do with other to dos, it was easy for me to implement.  I did find it a bit frustrating that I would need to take my computer out to do this task.  Had it been an app on my phone I would have stopped what I was doing to quickly take a photo so that I would not have to snooze the reminder. Overall, implementing small routines like this one is quite easy with the reminder and organization systems I currently have setup.  

Week 3: Work Productivity Data/Visualization

This week I worked through this guide to build a database and website to record and visualize my work session productivity.  I am interested in what factors contribute to how much I get done and how I feel about the work session afterwards.  This project seemed like a great opportunity to begin thinking about this data and how I would collect/display the information.  In the end, this week I spent more time working through the technical side of this project than the visuals/the questions.  The visuals are definitely something I would like to think more about in the future.  The following description explains the simple visual encodings that I used….

The top of each canvas has the date and the subject (what the user was working on during that work session).  Then the background color changes on a scale from green to red based on the users stress level (red for high stress, green for low stress).  The main circle is supposed to represent a focus point.  The position of the circle changes based on where the user is working (top left - other, top right - coffee shop, bottom left - ITP, bottom right - home).  The radius of that inner circle changes based on the productivity level.  If the user was really focused with a high productivity the radius would be small (representing a narrow focus), if the user was not focused with a low productivity the radius would be large (representing a more fluid focus).  If the goal of the work session was completed this circle would be solid black, if the goal was not fully completed the circle would have some alpha.  Lastly, if the user had company while working a halo behind the main circle would appear, representing potential distraction.  The halo would not appear if there was no one with them. 

Of course the most pressing changes that need to be made to this are the visuals.  I like the idea of representing focus and productivity with blurred and clear circles, but I would need to think more on how to better plan this visual.

The website can be found here. The code repo can be found here

Week 2: Dear Data

This week for my assignment I tracked all of the drinks I consumed from Tuesday through Sunday.  I made sure to note the beverage, the size, the time and any other notable additions.  In the end I drew a postcard inspired by the dear data project which visualized the data I collected (Figure 1).  The legend on the back of the card explains how the data is visualized.

I really enjoyed this exercise.  Throughout the week I kept an excel document on the home screen of my phone to easily add data points to it an any time throughout the day.  It is interesting to see how much coffee I have in comparison to my water intake.  I also really enjoyed the analog form of this assignment.  It forced me to really sit down and take my time to think about how I would organize the data I collected in a meaningful way that would encompass the complete data set.  It was interesting how quickly tracking something can become habit.  Even though I am done collecting data, I keep reaching for my phone every time I grab a drink in order to log it.  

Week 1: Tracking Reflection

Overall, I am a very organized person and so tracking projects have popped up here and there as I have modified my workflow. I follow a podcast called Cortex which has introduced me to many productivity applications.  I try to be aware of my habits and how I can increase productivity and minimize distraction.  Thus, I am open to changes in my workflow to integrate tracking methods.  That being said, I have always had a little hesitation to living a life of over tracking.  I see how tracking can help you to stay focused and organized, but I am also scared to let tracking get so involved that it takes over.  I would like to integrate tracking in my life to optimize aspects that need help while finding a balance with my non-tracked life.  I recognize that storing and viewing data in itself will make you aware of areas in your life that need improvement and may even motivate you to make those changes.  This is where I see the usefulness of tracking.  

In the past I have attempted to adopt some self tracking methods.  Some have stuck while others have not.  In a way I feel like I have dipped my toes in the quantified self world here and there, but have never quite found my place.  I know that I would and do enjoy some tracking methods, I just haven't determined an organized method to the ways I adopt tracking.  Throughout this course, I hope to discover my place in this world of self tracking.  I hope to find applications that provide insightful data or optimize my workflow and health.  More importantly thought, I hope to learn what type of tracking I do not care to adopt.  In the end, I would like a tracking system that works for me that is relatively consistent but does not take over my life. 

I am still very much thinking through the type of data I would like to focus on tracking this semester.  The following are some of the areas that I have been thinking about but I am sure more will come to mind in these beginning weeks of the semester…

I have begun to track my sleep with my Apple Watch App called Pillow.  I want to use this data to look into how sleep changes my mood and how I feel throughout the day.  Consistently tracking my sleep will likely act as a nice correlation to other things I choose to track.  I would like to see what aspects of my day to day performance correlate to the time I go to sleep, my sleep quality, the hours of sleep I get, etc. 

With my watch I am also tracking my activity such as my workouts, my movement, and standing, etc. These will all also provide a good baseline to correlate to other things I track this semester. 

I am interested in noting my mood and general feelings day to day.  While I am a little worried about doing this in a consistent way, I am excited to use these results to compare to other factors.  Generally, I feel like a mood scale (1 sad - 5 happy) is not the best way to measure mood and seems like it could be somewhat arbitrary.  I would love to find an alternative method to cataloging how I am feeling that might provide more insight. 

I have always been a person that is specific about my work environment.  Most of the time I need to be alone and in silence to work productively.  In certain instances though I find I am able to work in a busy coffee shop.  Somehow, the way I set up my planner and my work station also seems to have an effect on my focus.  I would like to look into this and track my work habits. Perhaps I could note where I am working, what type of work I am doing, who I am working with, how fast it goes, how productive I feel the session went, if the work session had any distractions, if I completed the desired goal in the work session, etc.  Recording this information will allow me to better understand the requirements I need to work productively.  

Lastly, I would like to look into my phone use in some way.  I would not consider myself someone who is on their phone that often however I am very aware of this.  I would like to track what I do choose to spend phone time on and why.  I would like to track to discover if there are tools like app organization or coloring that change my phone behavior. 

Week 1: Self Tracking Projects Review

Project 1: Water Fasting; My 72-Hour (3-Day) Water Fasting Results


Fasting methods of various lengths are sometimes used as a metabolic reset for your body.  In this project, Quantified Bob completed a three day water fasting project to see its effect on his general health.  For three days, Bob only consumed pure water and consistently measured his blood glucose, ketone, and blood pressure levels.  The results of this experiment (Figure 1) initially showed Bob’s glucose slowly decreasing and his ketone levels slowly increasing.  Around hour 36, the glucose levels evenly stabilized while the ketone levels sharply increased.  Over the fast Bob’s blood pressure lowered significantly.

Figure 1 : Results of the Fast (https://www.quantifiedbob.com/water-fast-72-hours/)

Figure 1: Results of the Fast (https://www.quantifiedbob.com/water-fast-72-hours/)

Broader Significance:

This project is one short example of how one can track their health.  Through Bob’s comments/experiments we can all learn how our bodies respond to fasting and how the food we consume can effect so much more. 

Why it is interesting to me:

While the concept of a three day fast appears to me unhealthy in itself, I do appreciate the ultimate goal of this project.   By making himself the test subject, Bob is experimenting as a way of building awareness.  In the past I have tracked my food.  The act of tracking your food intake in itself makes you more aware and careful about the food you consume.  In a similar way, Bob is using these periodic fasts as a check on his body.  One aspect that I like about this project is that it exemplifies that no one is perfect.  The very reason one might want to do a fast is because they may feel that their eating habits have gone off track.  Since Bob is fasting periodically, he is recognizing that his eating habits may get away from him (and this is okay) but eventually a fast will get him back on track.

Project 2: Quantified Homescreens


A few years ago Betaworks collected information about the apps that appeared on 40,000 iPhone homescreens.  Ernesto Ramirez used this data to research information about the frequency and use of self tracking apps among these users.  Ultimately, this research found that iHealth and Day One had the most appearances among quantified self/self tracking applications.  The most popular dietary tracking application was MyFitnessPal while the most popular activity tracker was the Fitbit.  One surprise that Ramirez notes is the frequency of sleep tracking apps among these users. 

Broader Significance:

This research uses a huge dataset to determine trends in self tracking.  This project is a good example of a larger group contributing to a larger, more meaningful set of data.  From this data, Ramirez was able to observe trends in the quantified self community and identify where in our lives we decide to track and where we don’t.

Why it is interesting to me:

I appreciate the use of a collective data set for the benefit of the entire community.  I am also interested in how people organize their homescreens.  The way you organize your homescreen can facilitate or impede distraction and productivity.  I personally re-organize my homescreen periodically to made sure valuable space on my screen is not populated by unused or unwanted apps.  I try to keep social media apps off of my main homescreen and productivity apps at the forefront in order to guide my focus and how I use my phone.  

Project 3: Self-Care and Bullet Journaling


In this article, Tracy Halliday talks about her experience with bullet journaling as a form of self tracking.  Originally, Halliday used her bullet journal to organize her to dos and her appointments.  She noticed that this journal quickly became about her kids and not about her.  Thus she decided to begin a new journal which focus on her only.  In this project, Halliday focused on eight aspects of her own self care: personal care, psychological care, physical care, emotional care, professional care, spiritual care, environmental care, social care.  She explains how this system helps her lead a more balanced life. 

Broader Significance:

This example shows that bullet journaling is an analog form of tracking that can have a huge effect on a persons life.  Bullet journals do not only have to be for the artistic or the organized. A bullet journal should be a place to collect data and instigate action in your life. 

Why it is interesting to me:

I briefly used a bullet journal in the past and am interested in this analog form of tracking.  Writing something down seems to make you accountable.  Writing something down in a bullet journal somehow makes someone more aware.  I find this idea fascinating.  The fact that someone can hold themselves accountable to performing an action as a result of writing that action down in notebook that is unrelated to that action is extremely interesting.