Monday, May 23, 2011

Quantifying my data

In a recent On The Media their topic was "data" and when using that term in a sentence the host did employ grammatical consistency by saying "the data are…" rather than "the data is…" (as, of course, data is the plural of datum). However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't struck by the thought, Oh yeah, that is plural. Even with the knowledge, in the depths of my brain, of what the word means, the casual usage (where the word is a singular, collective noun) has been so pervasive that even I need a reminder.


In the first segment the host interviewed the journalist who started the blog, The Quantified Self, which apparently is devoted to tracking personal statistics for the purpose of gaining better personal understanding. The point of collecting this data (bits of datum) is to establish a "feedback loop" where one can see in quantitative terms the results of one's choices.

I have done this to a very modest extent with the way I denote certain activities on a calendar; the mornings when I work out I write "exercise" in the square for that day, for example. I can glance at the calendar and see how often I did so.

Generally, there's another noted event that precedes a period where there's a lot of such "exercise" notations: my annual physical. Nothing is quite as inspiring as going to the doctor, having him state something that is otherwise easily noticed: I'm not as thin as I used to be.

Sure, I could step on a scale at home every day, but I don't. Sure, I am well aware that the pants I wore on my wedding day (not even two years ago yet) are now too snug to button. Sure, I know that I had to buy new slacks in a larger waist size for my daily wardrobe. But having a medical professional say it out loud inspires a level of motivation to exercise that all those others factors do not.

And because I go only once a year for that physical, the effect does diminish over time; that regularity seen in the calendar month right after the doctor visit is rarely seen in notations on the calendar of the month preceding the next year's physical.

The data suggest (not suggests) I should see my doctor more often if I want to get in better shape.


The blahg here is not something that can be quantitatively dissected; there's no data here to mine. However, there is an obvious conclusion that can be drawn (which I don't need to even bother noting; we all know what it is).

1 comment:

So, what do you think?