As I wrote up yesterday, my new Jawbone Up bracelet died on me. I was bummed, but customer service did a great job, and got me a replacement in about a day.

But I was surprised about the feeling I had yesterday, which is the first day I hadn’t worn the Up in about 3 weeks: I felt like I was wasting data, since I didn’t have the bracelet on to collect it. Let me say that again: I felt kind of weird, because I was going to all this trouble (you know, by walking around, sleeping, etc) and none of the data I was generating was getting logged. I was just blasting it into the ether.

This is not totally how I expected to feel. So naturally I tweeted about it, and Chris Hogg, founder of 100plus, replied in a surprising way:

And when you think about it, of course this is correct, but my first reaction was: “This is kind of messed up — we need to get credit for living now?” Obviously not a perfect state of being for humans.

But I thought about it some more on my drive in this morning, and it seems to me that a couple of different things are happening. On “getting credit,” we’re talking about taking an intrinsic motivation (living well) and replacing it with an extrinsic motivation (someone giving you credit or status). Now, that happens all the time — it’s a lot of what happens in schools, weight loss programs, sports, etc. But I think it’s not the most durable kind of behavior change mechanism.

And, honestly, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what was happening with me. Because while I like to think that everyone cares about everything about me, it’s really tough to imagine that anyone reading this (except for maybe my mom – hi mom!) gives a damn about how much I walked yesterday. And it’s even tougher to imagine that I would care much about what you thought about how much I walked.

So for me in this particular case, I think it was my OCD nature kicking in. I didn’t really like imagining the graph (of whatever data it is that I may, some day in the future, create a graph from) having a void spot in it. I want things to be smooth lines, no drop outs. I think that can be a motivator for folks, too — completeness of the data report, but I think it’ll motivate a far smaller set of folks.

I think where you get to in the end is that there is something very important about tracking data, because it changes your relationship to the activities you’re measuring pretty fundamentally. (some ways good, others not good.)

And that collecting data about how you live, in particular, will always have holes in it — for lots of reasons.

Anyhow, was an interesting set of thoughts — some important things going on here.

Photo by Luis Llerena

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