Quantified Us

Let’s Turn Navel-Gazing into Community Actualization

Nearly ten years ago Brooklyn-based designer Nicholas Felton created his first personal annual report. Felton documented the data of his own past year using text and infographics to document modes of travel taken, cities and countries visited, music listened to, number of images recorded and the various other activities he engaged in across the preceding twelve months. The so-called Quantified Self (QS) movement was born.

Page from @feltron’s 2012 Personal Annual Report

Since then, the concept of collecting ever increasing amounts of personal data has evolved into an industry unto itself, one which cleverly plays to our never-ending desire to know more about our personal uniqueness. Feeding on a longing to feel noble about what we do, QS provides the potential to share with others every accomplishment, regardless of actual significance. QS has become a perfect storm of self-congratulatory reflection, joined with a confluence of data collection and reporting opportunities which support the dawning twenty-first century egotism of believing everyone wants to know what *you* are doing with your life.

Every week it becomes easier to document who we know, where we go, what we eat, how much we exercise, how good we are in bed, how clean we are and even what kind of pet owners we are. Design schools are now offering classes in creating beautiful infographics from QS-based data sets so our personal metrics can be brought together into one seamless representation of *me* for everyone to admire and enjoy. The end game of these myriad products is mainly to reassure users that they are just as awesome as they think they are—the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone, continuously reinventing itself in increasingly infinite loops of self absorption.

Would it be possible to reframe the Quantified Self worldview to support development of design and tech that helps the many, rather than the individual?
I have feelings. Presumably, I do not know how to deal with them.

I am often taken aback by the devout efforts of the design industry to continually find new ways to feed the pure self-interest of its users. Microsoft has devoted untold hours developing a smart bra that alerts wearers (presumably women) when they are stress eating. Just recently, a Japanese company brought to market a bra that only unhooks when the wearer is feeling “true love.” It beggars belief that the Gates Foundation isn’t actively funding the application of these same types of wearable technology to develop a device that notifies teachers when an at-risk student is nodding off in class because she hasn’t eaten a nutritious meal for over twelve hours, which causes me to wonder—would it be possible to reframe the Quantified Self worldview to support development of design and tech that helps the many, rather than the individual?

Recently, I ran across a blog post listing seven UX Design Principles for Quantified Self and it got me thinking about how these same rules for developers might become a guide for shifting perspectives away from the self as individual, and more to the communities we live in, a Quantified Us (QU) approach, if you will, for utilizing all this data. Shouldn’t we be encouraging businesses and developers to produce products and apps that might benefit the community as much as the individual? Is it viable to turn hearts and minds outward, and encourage those interested in personal data collection to actually do something, (optimally, with a minimum of effort) that is contributory and valuable to the wider community, while still giving those individuals an opportunity to feel self-fulfilled and positive about their input?

Quantified Self aficionados are never truly happy unless others know of their accomplishments. What better way to feel superior than to guarantee the ability to broadcast exceptional behavior for the world to applaud? Quantified Us is simply a QS business case, with a slight twist, just waiting to happen. Using the seven rules, I offer below a few fictional concept pitches for promoting the Quantified Us lifestyle.

Quantified Self plays heavily to people who feel proud and superior in their level of accomplishment. This is especially true for metrics based in body image and athleticism and there are myriad programs, apps and devices that support and reward users for accomplishing goals based in the pursuit of physical excellence through exercise and nutrition. Is it possible to rethink the No Excuses mentality in a way that reaches out to those most in need of encouragement and support to become more active and healthy?

Imagine a social network for QS enthusiasts that encourages fitness masters to support and coach others to succeed in daily commitments to healthful living.

The Team uses the power of networks to bring together individuals seeking guidance and inspiration in their quest for healthy living.

The Team

The Newest Social Network for Personal Fitness Enthusiasts

Launching in January 2015, The Team is a new social network that allows personal trainers, group fitness instructors, athletes and other inspirational fitness leaders to create team-based networks that compete by building communities of like-minded players in the fight against obesity, poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyles.

The Team uses the power of networks to bring together individuals seeking guidance and inspiration in their quest for healthy living, with outstanding Coaches who lead and share their personal regimens. Participants choose their Coach based on nutritional plans, workouts and training calendars. Most importantly, all coaches are the source for an holistic approach to achieving individual fitness goals with the support of a like-minded community. Team members are supported through group communication and direct one-on-one messaging from Coaches.

The Team aggregates multiple levels of data to determine both individual and team achievement, and participants can compete in as many or as few arenas as they choose. By bringing gamification to the fitness lifestyle, teams may compete in many areas, such as overall fat percentage lost, most favorited recipes, miles run, cycled, or swum, total number of crunches, push-ups, burpees or plyometrics performed, in an endless combination of team stats and rankings.

Individuals are awarded badges and premiums for achieving their goals. Coaches are ranked for their success in guiding team members to those stated goals. Team members who achieve and maintain their goals can be recruited as Assistant Coaches and promoted to coach their own teams. The network is ripe for advertising and promotional revenue generation, and both coaches and team members are permitted to provide endorsements for products they have found to bolster successful team strategies.

The Team brings a new energy to the hard work of keeping fit and supports personal achievement through networked engagement in a gamified atmosphere of competition.

Let’s face it, it feels good to have access to the best of everything. What if there were a way to alleviate that niggling guilt about your sense of entitlement by offering others a chance to experience a little luxury in their lives with little to no effort on your part?

Imagine a car service which offers high net worth clients the opportunity to provide a once-in-a-lifetime chance for deserving applicants to experience their specialty service, for free.

Travis Kalanick, CEO and co-founder of Uber announces
Uber-Luxe, the next level of service for Uber’s most preeminent clients.

Press Release, dated 07/01/2014 and posted at the Uber Blog

We believe that WonderKind recipients will become the next generation of Ubers.

Beginning September 2014 Uber on-demand car service will begin offering Uber-Luxe, an exclusive, premium service, which allows preferred clients to accrue Point-Luxe (using the French pronunciation, natch) which accumulate, not to secure gratis transportation for Uber-Luxe clients themselves, but which are instead designed to be donated to deserving riders in need of transportation to important meetings and events, such as job or university interviews, reuniting with a returned military spouse, or bringing a newborn child home from the hospital.

Uber will take applications for donated rides through their newly launched WonderKind website. The complimentary car service will be offered to applicants on a first-come, first-served basis and recipients are notified of selection at least 48 hours in advance, to receive service to and from their chosen destination. We believe that WonderKind recipients will become the next generation of Ubers.

Uber-Luxe clients will be notified and recognized for their generous donations and may be allowed a charitable tax deduction for a portion of their fees. Our amazing Uber drivers will transport WonderKind recipients in the same manner as their Uber clients and receive standard payment for their services.

Uber remains committed to providing the ultimate in luxury transportation experiences to all of its clients around the world. If you are interested in becoming an Uber-Luxe subscriber and want to begin accruing Point-Luxe today, contact Team Uber at UberLuxe@uber.com or login to the Uber app on your Smartphone for more information.

Much #Uberlove

Team Uber | Team WonderKind

Augmented Reality (AR) provides instant information overlay to your screen or eyes. Google’s Glass grants users quick and easy access to information that will potentially make life easier and better, as well as being able to record events in which the wearer is participating. Developers often forget that there are multiple perspectives for every data capture.

Imagine AR apps and devices created specifically for women to help them avoid creepers, sketchy bars and restaurants and dangerous walking and driving routes.

Augmented Reality Apps for Women

Lifestyle apps are huge business and that’s no surprise. An unusually large chunk of these apps seem to be primarily advertised as a means to help guys seem more attractive to women. These days you can not get away from promotional videos aimed at men who envision themselves as smooth operators whom all attractive women are dying to get to know better. It’s nice to try out new ways to feel good about one’s self and lord knows some men need all the help they can get, but this promotional video for Infinity AR which develops multi-platform Augmented Reality programs might just make your skin crawl.

Let’s examine the thrust of this video a little more closely, shall we? It’s totally fine that our (ridiculously wealth privileged) brogrammer is hitting on the woman behind the bar, I guess. He seems nice enough. Apparently he’s able to learn a lot about “Melissa,” from what I assume derives from some simple facial recognition software and a good wifi connection. But what if “Melissa” also had methods at her disposal to help discern the intentions of her admirer? What would it tell her about this bro-dude who needs a voice analyzer to tell him she’s “intrigued?”

Let’s reframe the visuals a bit shall we?

“A 9.3, quite a catch.”

If “Melissa” had access to similar AR apps, she could pick up some important information too. Using facial recognition she might find out if this guy’s ever been arrested, and what for. She could search for and see mug shots and court documents, such as arrest records, divorce decrees or paternity suits. Would he pass muster? By quickly scanning his social media she can learn how he communicates with other people. She might be able to find videos of him with other women (or you know, whoever). With a deeper dive she can probably find out where he works, where he lives, what kind of car he drives and potentially, how much money he makes (if she cares about that kind of thing). If she had some time and access to genetic material, she could get a DNA scan.

From his speech patterns she might be able to analyze if he leans towards a “no really means yes,” approach or, if he’s genuinely respectful of women. Most importantly, she’ll probably want to know if he can just maintain eye contact and a conversation and not stare at her chest, his Glass device or his smartphone all night. That sounds almost too good to be true, but it is absolutely as viable and possible as what Infinity AR is selling.

Once “Melissa” had decided against hooking up with the Wolf of Silicon Alley, wouldn’t it be great if she had an app created with Layar, utilizing crowdsourced data, to guide her through the safest routes when traveling home alone? So many possibilities here, and yet I don’t get the impression anyone is designing from this perspective. Go on guys, if you want to get in good with the ladies, this is how you need to start thinking (and worrying) about frictionless, automatic data capture.

Comparative data is an excellent motivator for QU aficionados, as it provides them with benchmarks which are tagged to their personal metrics and demographics and offers data that is specific, and relevant to them in relation to users of similar interests. Politics has become an ever-deepening swamp of misleading information. Could personal demographics be combined with real data about candidates and legislative affairs to help clear the air and promote informed voter decisions?

Imagine an app which allows users to see aggregated data, finely tuned to their political sensibilities, full of relevant candidate data and legislative information, all in an effort to keep the public informed and knowledgeable about government and its workings, locally, regionally and nationally.

Political Party Time

Politics Interactive, June 2014

Hitler or Gandhi?

Political Party Time (PPT) allows users to input their personal demographics, then answer a series of questions to gauge political inclinations across a broad spectrum of issues. From this data, PPT provides unbiased feedback on which political philosophy most closely meets the user’s beliefs.

• Personalized political compass to illustrate the user’s personal political philosophy relative to well-known political figures

• Finely-grained data, from state, regional, and even down to district level, to help users determine where their vote would best influence the issues important to them

• Statistics on which districts tend to elect candidates most closely aligned with personal ideology

• Comparative data in easy to digest infographics

• Follow favorite candidates with complete poll data, statistics, donors and legislative agendas

• Continually updated, unbiased, aggregated data assessments across a wide spectrum of topics

• Voting records, campaign contributions (individual and PAC, as available), lobbyist affiliations, and favored causes for followed candidates

• Social media integration for sharing

We believe widespread use of this app could strengthen the call for more in-depth vetting of candidates and support better informed voting coalitions in the future, a win/win in the pervasive and disruptive miasma of US national politics today.

Updated: October 16, 2014
Size: 32M
Installs: 10,000 — 50,000
Current Version: 3.0.6
Requires: iPhone, Android
Content Rating: All ages
Reviews: 235
Average Rating: 3.8 ★ ★ ★ ★

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Committing to do good is much easier if the pledge is broadcast amongst one’s peers. Using QU to document charitable donations, good works and community support efforts is an excellent way to encourage both individuals and corporations to find ways to contribute to the Public Good. Using innovation to provide better services to more people makes sense for QU.

Imagine a service provider that innovates a new service in a way that leverages the network to expand opportunities and investment in previously underserved areas.

Amazon poised to introduce new, Amazon Fresh4All service, a better way to deliver more healthful nutrition to urban food deserts.

Amazon Press Release via LinkedIn

Daily stock will be aggregated into easy to distribute, set cost, Amazon Fresh4All boxes, available for purchase at easily accessible locations in designated neighborhoods of need.

Since the introduction of Amazon Fresh in 2013, Jeff Bezos has persevered in bringing his latest delivery innovations to communities in need of better, fresher foods. Beginning in 2015 Amazon Fresh4All will build on the good will and support of the more affluent users of the Amazon Fresh service to support and contribute to the distribution of much needed, healthful bakery, produce and dairy products to lower-income communities in Los Angeles, San Francisco (Oakland) and Seattle. The service is expected to be expanded to Atlanta and Baltimore within six months of the launch of the Amazon Fresh service in those cities over the next two years.

Amazon Fresh4All will build on the buying power of the Amazon network to procure bakery, dairy and produce (fruit and vegetable) items from local suppliers in each city, many of whom already provide groceries for the Amazon Fresh service. These suppliers will donate, or sell at lower cost, those items which might otherwise be discarded, but are still within product-specific freshness guidelines. Daily stock will be aggregated into easy to distribute, set cost, Amazon Fresh4All boxes, available for purchase at easily accessible locations in designated neighborhoods of need.

Amazon plans to dispatch their Amazon Fresh service delivery vehicles to areas commonly known as urban food deserts where Amazon Fresh4All boxes will be sold at reduced cost to customers. The box price will be subsidized by Amazon Fresh subscribers who will be allowed to take a tax deduction for a portion of their subscription fee paid each year for the service.

Amazon is working with local districts to secure the necessary permits to establish a rotating series of locations from which the trucks may distribute to Amazon Fresh4All customers. Amazon is also developing a Smartphone app and text notification service which will inform registered Amazon Fresh4All customers of its truck locations and number of boxes available each day. Customers will not be required to pay the AmazonPrime subscription fee currently required of Amazon Fresh customers. Amazon Fresh4All customers may chose to register at Amazon.com and pay a nominal, one-time, $1.00(US) fee, to purchase the Amazon Fresh4All smartphone app or, they may opt-in to receive text notifications at their mobile service’s standard rate.

Amazon is committed to bringing the best range of services to all its customers and hopes that both Amazon Fresh and Amazon Fresh4All will continue to expand their services to additional cities.

#Amazon Fresh4All Service: Release date September 15, 2014

What other product and service ideas could you imagine for a Quantified Us community?

All Quantified Us products and services described in this article are fictional and represent only the considered imaginings of the author.