Dashboard For Your Life

One of the emerging themes of FOO Camp 08 dealt with people’s relationship with the data they create in their life. It began with the first session Saturday morning, where Esther Dyson lead a discussion on “user-generated metadata.” With services like Dopplr, Tripit, 23andMe, Mint, Wesabe, etc. etc, capturing all this information about our lives, what does this enable? I was disappointed at how quickly the talked turned negative, dwelling on privacy and policy concerns, and essentially fearful of tracking.

I believe that there’s immense opportunity in helping people make sense of such information about themselves. Actually, not only make sense, but use it as a kind of mirror that can serve as a form of feedback that allows you to understand the consequences of your actions. In the past, I’ve ruminated on the idea of a personal dashboard that presented data from seemingly disparate aspects of your life, and that could help you understand correlations between them.

As such, I was intrigued by the session Tom Coates lead on “Instrumenting Your Life.” Tom’s work on Fire Eagle has inspired him to think about how geodata can interact with other data about your life. Tom started the session with a brief presentation largely drawn from a talk he and Matt Jones gave at Web 2.0 Expo, titled “Polite, Pertinent, and Pretty.” It’s a must-read presentation for anyone interested in personal informatics. Tom’s session was the hopeful invert of Esther’s — as we throw off data in a variety of forms, what would it be like to align them?

Tom even spoke of the idea of a personal dashboard, making me believe that there’s something there. When I think of a personal dashboard, it quickly gets overwhelming because there’s the potential to track so much personal data. The blog The Quantified Self showcases a number of tools and technologies for tracking aspects of your life, and any interface that attempted to present all of them would overwhelm most users.

I guess this post is something a Lazyweb request for someone to start building that personal dashboard. Let me align my movements in space, Flickr activity, blog posts, heart rate, and financial status!