Tracking myself

Partly inspired by Julian Lehr's quantified self, I'm planning on trying to track myself. I don't expect that I'll actually start on this for a while, as there are a number of tools I have to figure out before I can properly get into the swing of things, but I figured that it'd be worth writing down my reasons why I want to do this. In future weeks, I'll cover how I'm building the tools to let me track myself.

I'm generally a pretty privacy-focused person. Any applications that I use always have telemetry turned off, my social media is basically whisper quiet unless its via private messages, and I even borrowed a laptop from the university so I wouldn't have to use exam software that required root privileges on my own hardware.
Tracking myself - and posting it on this blog like Julian Lehr does - seems to run pretty contrary to all sorts of privacy principles. So why on earth would I want to do it?

I've always sort of considered myself a numbers guy. In primary school (in Australia, that's ages 4-12), I was the "math guy" in the class, and had by far the best marks in maths in my school (although I don't think I even made the top quartile in high school), and have always found maths that I can apply to be fun and interesting. It's part of the reason that I got into programming in the first place.

I'm also generally well convinced by numbers that are put before me in order to inspire some continued positive action. Watching the numbers on the weights at the gym go up, how good I felt as I ran 5km slightly faster than before, and my weight go down (even if only a bit) has encouraged me to regularly exercise far more than the nebulas "it's good for you" that my parents always told me throughout my teenage years.

As such, I am somewhat convinced that tracking myself - and watching trends for various metrics of how my time is spent - will help me be able to narrow down and improve things that in my life. Perhaps I can see if I've spent too long on a particular weight at the gym, and should go to the next weight up. Maybe I can spot transport routes that would be slightly more efficient than what I currently have. I could even find that I spend half my time doing nothing useful at all, and thus need to come up with strategies to improve productivity.

There's an extent to which doing this is good for my privacy as well. By tracking myself, I will be able to get a better understanding of what sort of data companies have on me. My smart-watch (a Garmin VivoActive 4) will probably be used for most of the data, and frankly the amount of data that it can/does have on me is slightly terrifying - especially now that I've gone through what I can get from Garmin's API. I'll be able to go digging to see what Amazon has on me (Kindle/Audible), what Google has figured out (Android/Google Assistant), and how Spotify could figure me out. In the process of tracking myself, I'll become more aware of how others can track me too.

In addition, as long as my data isn't too fine-grained, privacy shouldn't be too much of an issue. I don't plan on writing detailed logs of exactly where I've been - if my house shows up anywhere, then you know that my data collection has gone too far. I don't even plan on sharing any GPS-type metrics at all, save what city I'm in.

I imagine that it might take me some time to be able to even get the right sort of data for any useful analysis, and whilst I don't really know what I might find out, but I'm excited to see!