personal data visualisation: dopplr, dailybooth, flickr and trixietracker
Did you see the US Government have posted an “Interactive Travel Map” of Hillary Clinton’s travel? It’s nothing like as pretty as the personal reports Dopplr generates for you if you tell it about all your travel – here’s Clinton’s travel map next to the the report Dopplr made for Barack Obama’s 2008 travels.
I’ve been using Dopplr sort of half-heartedly for a while, entering most of my trips and carefully not making my profile public because I’m a little paranoid about the entire world knowing exactly where I am at any given time. Did you read that article in Wired about location tracking websites and privacy? The guy saw a woman taking a photo on her (GPS-enabled) iPhone in the park, went home, searched Flickr photos by location, found the photo, looked at the rest of her photos, and through the GPS location stamped on her photos of “home” figured out exactly where she lived. Mind you, I was talking with NRKbeta‘s ÿyvind Solstad last week – he loves these kind of services, and pointed out that a simpler way to find out where the woman lived would have been to simply follow her home. You don’t necessarily need technology to be creepy.
But my Dopplr profile is still private and I only let friends see it. And on Dopplr I only have 21 friends, which obviously limits its functionality – a main point of it is to be able to see which people you know who are in the same city as you when you’re travelling.
And then I saw my annual report for 2008. Oh, how I love it! It’s not entirely accurate – it thought I lived in Bergen, New Jersey (5734 km from Bergen to Barcelona?) and there’s 20 days in Chicago last July that I guess I hadn’t entered into Dopplr, so they’re not there – but it’s pretty awesome anyway. The minute I saw it I printed it out and hung it up on my office wall.
Years ago I was out on the balcony at a party and noticed a girl fiddling with a GPS, setting her coordinates. She told me that most people didn’t get why she liked to do that. But her grandmother did: “Oh, I see, love,” the grandmother had said, “it’s like a diary!” And that’s exactly how this girl (whose name I can’t remember) used her GPS – as another way of documenting her life, of keeping memories.
With the annual reports, Dopplr turns my raw data into a visual diary, and it does it beautifully. It lets me see connections and trends that I hadn’t even thought about before – I hadn’t realised I was away from home for 97 days last year, for instance. That’s a lot!
There are lots of other kinds of data-collecting sites that visualise your data in different ways. I thought Dailybooth and Dailymugshot were pretty weird when I first saw them – social network sites built around taking your own photo every day? But Dailybooth generates YouTube videos from the photos, even using the same music as Noah takes a photo of himself every day for six years, which I think was the first of this kind of video to hit YouTube fame. Dailymugshot.com generates animations that are pretty similar. I love Flickr’s calendar view in the archives, where you see a photo for every day of the month (if you uploaded every day). And I’ve already written about the baby sleep visualisation at Trixietracker.