For the past few weeks, I’ve been running an experiment with a software provider, RescueTime. It tracks how you use your time on a computer. I know that I spend about 8h 34min a day on the computer, of which 2 hours is in email, 2 hours is reading blogs and 2 hours in Excel and the remainder in various other application.

I also know that I’m in the top 4% of people in terms of efficiency – meaning, I waste less time viewing photos on Facebook than the norm.

I’m not sure there’s data in the analysis that RescueTime provides that would make me dramatically change the way that I work but I’m certain there will be value in the data over time.

Mountain of data

Much in the way that Quicken or Mint allow you to understand what’s going on with your finances, new services providing additional data on your life are cropping up all the time.


TripIt tells you how many miles you travel. RunKeeper, an iPhone app, tells you how far you ran and how many calories you consume – with Apple opening up the serial port on the iPhone, it won’t be long till you can plug your heart rate meter and get second by second health stats. Google Health is looking to keep all your electronic health records online including your prescriptions, doctor visits and illnesses.

There’s gold in them thar hills

Much more than ever before, we’re using computers and mobile phones to generate data heretofore uncollected and unanalyzed. The end result will be better individual analyses of individual user patterns, like my understanding of time allocation across computer programs.

More importantly, the value in analyzing consumer patterns across large populations, particularly in health experiments will be unbounded. Imagine being able to analyze EKGs for everyone working out in a gym normalized by demographic who is taking a prescription medicine.