Archive for April, 2012


Monday, April 30th, 2012

Inspired by Grace’s running post, there are a couple of running-related things worth mentioning today.

My run at lunchtime today means that I ran over 59 miles in April.

To put this in context, it’s kinda a big deal for me. I’m pretty rubbish at running. If you need proof… that’s what the pictures above are for. Do I look like someone who enjoys running? 🙂

If you prefer context in numerical form, (ignoring whatever running I couldn’t avoid in school P.E. lessons) I’ve only ever run 330 miles.

I ran 152 miles in 2010.
I ran 62 miles in 2011.
I’ve run 115 miles so far this year, 59 of which this month.

So I’m starting to get more into running – running more often and for longer distances.

With that in mind, before I can come to my senses and change my mind, I’ve entered the Great South Run 2012. Want to come and run 10 miles with me?

Has today been a good day?

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Last week, I came up with a quick hack, explained quite neatly by @crouchingbadger:

It was a bit of fun, even if it did seem to convince a group of commenters on engadget that I was a rage-fuelled XBox gamer. 🙂

There’s one big limitation with the hack, though: I don’t spend that much of my day in front of the TV.

It’s interesting to use it to measure my reactions to specific TV programmes or games. But thinking bigger, it’d be cool to try a hack that monitors me throughout the day to measure what kind of day I’m having.

I don’t spend much time in front of the TV, but I do spend a *lot* of time in front of my Macbook. And it has a camera, too!

What if my MacBook could look out for my face, and whenever it can see it, monitor what facial expression I have and whether I’m smiling? And while I’m at it, as I’ve been playing with sentiment analysis recently, add in whether the tweets I post sound positive or neutral.

Add that together, and could I make a reasonable automated estimate as to whether I’m having a good day?


fitbit – a source of personal data

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

A month ago I got a Fitbit Ultra. It’s a small gadget that you carry around with you all the time to monitor your activity. How many steps you take, how many flights of stairs you go up, how far you walk, how much sleep you get and how restful it is, and much more. It also comes with apps and tools for monitoring stuff like diet and weight. And it makes all of this information available to you, both through a website and through an API.

This isn’t really a review – there are plenty of those about already if you’re interested (Of all the reviews I’ve read, The Verge’s review is the closest to what I would write if I was gonna write one). Instead, I want to talk about the fitbit from the perspective of a data-geek.

Before I start, it’s worth putting this in context. I am loving the fitbit, but I don’t pretend that it’s necessarily something you have to get. Put it this way – I used CurrentCosts to monitor my home energy usage on the web and on my mobile, I wrote code to find out which keyboard keys I press most often, I made a whole website to visualise patterns in what I watch on TV, I wrote code to make map visualisations of where I go with my mobile, I wrote code to use a webcam and face recognition software to measure how my mood changes as I watch different TV programmes or play different console games… I could go on (no, really), but you probably get the point.

I find this sort of personal data stuff fascinating. I’m not the only geek in the world like this – Stephen Wolfram wrote a great blog post last month about some of the stuff that he collects that really puts me to shame.

But when I say that I think the fitbit is awesome, just bear in mind where I’m coming from, okay? 🙂

In this post, I want to give examples of the data that it makes available, and what sort of things you can do with it.


Something good today

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

screenshot of my logOne of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to keep a sort of daily log.

I said that once a day I would make a note of something good that happened that day.

Nothing detailed or lengthy. Just a one-line note.

It could be something good that I did at work. Not the usual day job stuff, but something that I did that was different, impressive or notable.

It could be something that I did at home – something with my family that I was pleased with, or that I enjoyed.

I wasn’t sure how I’d approach it when I started.

“Today wasn’t a waste because I…”? Or… “Today was a good day because I…”? Or… “Today was different because I…”? Or… “Today I made a difference by…”?

But I thought I’d start, and see what happened.

A few months later, and not only am I still doing it, but I’m finding it surprisingly rewarding.



Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

The visualisations on this page need Flash and Javascript. Apologies if that means most of this page doesn’t work for you!

This is my mood (as identified from my facial expressions) over time while watching Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

The green areas are times where I looked happy.

This shows my mood while playing XBox Live. Badly.

The red areas are times where I looked cross.

I smile more while watching comedies than when getting shot in the head. Shocker, eh?