Everyone and their dog will be hard at work, evaluating the previous 12 months and plotting the year ahead, but before you start to jot down the list of resolutions and habits for the year ahead like the good digitally productive elf you are, take a moment out to see where it all may be leading before you embark on the journey of endless data collection. (read more....)
I’m never convinced of the utility of new year assessments as they tend to lean towards uncritical self-congratulation, but I do believe in glancing back every now as a useful tool to see what patterns and cycles life has been throwing our way. As 2013 unfolded I became aware that it would be another year of data assimilation, stats and impersonal information gathering. But this year, I said to myself - I want it to be different. This year, data should be personal.
Take Health for example. Last year I learnt to record some of my symptoms alongside dates in a small phone app and I discovered something rather interesting: That what I had been told was just a frequent, but random occurrence, unveiled itself as a regular - if still inexplicable - pattern. Personal data collection had revealed something that professional opinion had overlooked.
So if we extend that notion of looking back in order to find our own patterns - to walk with bolder steps into our deliciously unknown future - we may just learn something abut such cycles, and even learn to interpret their behaviour, their arrival and their manifestation.
This is of course nothing new, the Tao Te Ching is based on similar observations of cyclical events and perceptible patterns of behaviour. However, last year I began a a digital journal in DayOne - http://dayoneapp.com - using tags, location data and images to help catalog the information. My aim was to see - away from the specifics of health and ailments - if any other observations had recognisible or even predictable outcomes.
I began by looking at my output of creative work over the year. I wanted to list the most popular activities, the time consuming ones and the ones that gave the greatest satisfaction.
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Top 10 Blog Posts About Spain
* If it works: Phonetic Spanish for Dummies
* Shadows and Silhouettes: Free photo ebook on Spain
* See all of Spain in under a weekend
* New Times: A post Thatcher/Sampedro World
* Has Orwell Got Something to Tell Us about Spain?
* Living the Dream: Gerald's Jungle (Part 1)
* What if Laurie Lied? Part 1 of an Investigation into the * Spanish Novels of Laurie Lee.
* Spain on the Big Screen: Picasso, Dalí and Hemingway
* Five Things You Don't Want to Know About Picasso
* What Makes Britain Still Great? 5 Afterthoughts From A Confused Traveller
From this data I extracted dates, lengths and locations to find my most creative writing moments, the best months, the best titles, keywords and promotional follow up activities. Whether the posts were videos, podcasts or simply text based. I then compared that to my other web site:
Top 5 Posts on Bean Curd Boxer
* 40 Years On: The Authenticity of Enter the Dragon
* What to do if the Tai Chi Form Gets a Bit Boring
* A Discussion with Alan Watts: 40 Years after his death the Teapotmonk investigates a voice that still haunts the world
* A Lack of Uniform-ity: Suits and Sanity in the Study of Tai Chi
* One Last Thing: The Untold History of the Martial Arts Philosophy
Yup, it was repeated here too. Spring to early Summer was the best time to post. Content that could leverage history and the big names from cultural movements, were unsurprisingly there, as too were the anniversaries and sudden news items that arose unexpectedly during the year.
Make Your Data Personal
What began to appear was patterns, some from within but others from without. Where I had stumbled blindly - coincidently - into this relationship, then things had worked well. Where, however, I had stumbled blindly against those forces at work, there were few benefits other than confusion and exasperation.