Self Analytics

So I have been tracking the books I read or listened to this year.  This simple tracking effort proved not wasted, because when I did a quick review of my log recently, there were a few interesting revelations immediately about me and my book reading (habits, interests, etc.), which I could also use to correlate with my year’s other events and consequently a fuller reflection over my year and myself.  As a starter,

  • So far I’ve finished 11 books in the last 10 months, that’s about one book a month.
  • Out of the 11 books, 7 were audible books, 4 were kindle.  I listened more than I read.

When I plotted them out in a TimeStory view, some other interesting patterns came out.  For example,

  • I finished more books in the 1st quarter of this year than the total sum of the rest of the year;
  • I definitely lost interest in one of the books (the 1st long blue bar crossing the today line); and,
  • there are too many books (4) in progress right now, although it seems I never start another audible book before I finish the one already in-progress, but it doesn’t bother me to start on another kindle book when there are already several in progress.
alt text
Timeline of Books Read (Blue: Kindle Books; Yellow: Audible Books)

When I showed this to my husband, his immediate question was: how did you know when you started reading each book?

Well, I’ve been logging the start and finish date of each book since the end of last year, for the purpose of understanding how I’m doing in my reading objective.

There’s a lot more I’m curious to know about myself – what’re my reading patterns?  For example, how long do I tend to read each time?  Does it vary based on the type of book or topic?

Then I started thinking.  As someone who’s been in the business of mobile app development for a good variety of consumer-facing brands, I know all too well how apps collect usage data on just about every impression, touch, events.

Kindle and Audible must have all the information I’m looking for already, and much more!  Moreover, because Audible and Kindle are my go-to apps for books (yes, I almost never read paper books any more), I ought to be able to get all of my own usage data back from these 2 apps, to learn about my own book habits.  It would give me a lot more insights than what I can manually track for myself.

Checking into both apps in the areas I don’t normally look, this is what I found:

Audible

  • Audible has a “me” profile area, where it provides some “gamification” experience to incentivize more reading.  But I could care less about them.
  • I found some high level stats that are somewhat interesting to me, i.e. the total listening time by month for the last 5 months, and the daily listening time for the last 5 days.

Kindle

  • Kindle provides a “Your Reading Insights” feature, which tracks and reports how many days in a week and month you have read (on Kindle). kindle-insights

While some of these “insights” about me may be mildly interesting to me, they are designed to bring more engagement between me and the app.

As businesses are racing to paint a full picture of each customer, assigning attributes to each of us (e.g. which product affinity), and trying to be better at predicting (therefore influencing) our next decision or action, we are at a point where everyone else (who’s trying to selling us something or to profit from our activities online, e.g. searches or social media interactions) know us better than we know ourselves.  If they don’t, they have the mechanisms to collect detailed information on our behaviors through first-party channel interactions as well as obtaining through 2nd and 3rd parties.

What I know about myself is what each business chooses to tell me about me:

  • Amazon.com tells me what products I like to browse and what movies I like to watch
  • Audible tells me I’m a “Weekend Warrior” along with other badges awarded to me
  • Headspace tells me what my average meditation duration is
  • LinkedIn tells me what jobs I’m a good match for

Not counting any predictive aspects of the analysis each business is trying to perform about me, I know that there’re still plenty of the basic “facts” data (such as events recording) collected about me (e.g. every touch in an app and every dwell second on a screen, location, etc.) by each business, compared to the highly curated data points that have been provided back to me.  It’s understandable that no one is in the business to invest in my learning about myself, rather, what’s been provided about me to me is what’s relevant of me for me to know with respect to that business.

BUT, if I have intentionally or unintentionally allowed my behavior (my data) to be collected and studied, I want to have the same ability to access that data as any internal consumer or business partner, in real time, for example via APIs or meaningful data exports. This is much more than the right of access to personal data, which companies can satisfy with batch downloads of unprocessable files that take days to prepare.

The right of access to personal data generally is focused on my ability to discover what data collecting businesses know to find errors, to understand the scope of their data collection, etc. But not to be a participant in the data exchange platform, and not to have the real-time, detailed, raw access to my own data.

Whether we like it or not, we are all digital citizens of today’s digital society. Data, in real-time consumable form, or API integration capabilities, should no longer be only a business-to-business interest.  Personal Data, must be facilitated between businesses and users bi-directionally, in a modern, digitally interoperable manner, for us to be equal and full participants of the digital society, rather than a one-sided business-to-consumer exploitation.

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