The "Quantified Self" movement is something you've probably heard of over the last few years -- the idea that you can quantify previously mundane activities that you've otherwise ignored to attach a number to the things that you do. There's plenty of reading about it on Wikipedia if you'd like to dig deeper.
In real life, the movement has manifested itself in successful consumer products in/around the fitness industry, such as the FitBit, numberous nutrition apps on the iPad, Garmin products, and the Nike+ line of products.
In fact, Nike is releasing a product specifically for basketball so you can quantify your vital stats on the basketball court. Allow me to let the expert, LeBron James, explain it.
Sidebar -- but as a 38 year old, aging weekend warrior, I just don't want to know how bad my numbers are and especially as they compare to friends... but I digress.
Others have added a social element to tap into how we respond to peer pressure and/or social humiliation -- such as Strava and the Withings Scale that tweets out your weight. Yikes!
Why do people quantify themselves?
- People quantify themselves when something is wrong and they want to fix it.
- People quantify themselves when they're doing something right, and want to make sure they continue to do things right.
- People quantify themselves when they want discipline to do the right thing, even though their natural inclination is to not do the right thing.
- People quantify themselves when they want an objective measurement of how they are performing at something, relative to peers or competitors.
- People quantify others when they want to use data & milestones to understand things they cannot understand, or as a proxy for heavy-handed, micro-management.
Numbers have a way of cutting through the clutter and capturing only what really matters... outcomes. Combining numbers from different sources can give you a quick, objective look at everything that really matters to you.
If you take numbers the next step to analysis, you can begin to draw conclusions based on the data but also including human judgment where it's appropriate. Leave analysis to others, and you're getting their interpretation of the data.
We found it interesting that Jeff Ma, formerly of the famed MIT Blackjack team, recently ventured into this space to quantify what people are doing in the workplace with his new startup, TenXer. Right place, right time -- like Facebook, this would've never flown even a decade ago. But times change and now it's a brilliant idea.
We're seeing it in social marketing and we're seeing it move into other areas of marketing that were thought to be a "black hole" previously.
We're at the beginning of a bigger trend where the "Quantified Self" moves into areas beyond personal improvement, fitness, etc. People are learning the value of numbers, metrics, and how to apply them to make better decisions. We're happy to be here at this critical time.