Sunday, April 12, 2009

Make the most of your information (Part 1)

Today, we have an unprecedented accessibility to information relevant to how we live our lives. However, sometimes this information is not available to us in the most user-friendly way. Sometimes we need help capturing it, sifting through it, or understanding it.

Here are some tools that tap into your data in just these ways and make it more meaningful to you by creating visualizations of what's important.


Over at TheCarrot, you can "Track your life" by accessing their "free, easy, and anonymous tools for tracking your health". It tracks some of the most "common health questions including diet, weight, exercise, and medicines ... and allows you to track vital statistics such as temperature, heart rate and blood pressure." It also tracks less common things like job satisfaction, mood, time spent watching TV, and various symptoms. Click here for a full list of all of the trackers offered.

After you track what you want, TheCarrot can instantly provide you with clear, comprehensive reports. The reports can come in two forms:
  • Self-designed reports can be tailored as you "choose what factors you want to see more clearly—one or several. Then select the type of report you want—choose a journal view, a bar graph or a line graph—and choose the time frame."
  • Pre-designed reports are also very useful, particularly when tracking medical conditions that require monitoring of multiple factors. These reports can then be shared with your physician.


Use Skydeck,"your phone, on the web" to tap into information about your mobile usage and utilize tools.

TechCrunch says that "Skydeck turns your cell phone bill into something useful. You give Skydeck the login for your mobile phone account. It scrapes the page and matches the calls with your address book, turning each phone number into a name so that you can sort your phone bill like e-mail."

“All of your cell phone calls, text messages, voicemails, and contacts are mirrored on, and you can search, read, and reply to those messages online as if you were calling or texting from your cell phone.” For more on Skydeck's features, click here.


Use Mint to get a more meaningful picture of where your money goes. Touting itself as "the best free way to manage your money", its features include easy setup and budgeting, mobile access (including an iPhone app), and helping you find ways to save, reduce your debt, and see where you are spending.

It also provides timely alerts and helpful graphs, uncovers hidden fees, and helps you track your investments.

Mint says it is safe and secure with 24/7 protection. If you need a little more convincing before you hand over your account and credit card numbers, watch this video by Mint founder and CEO on "How Mint keeps you safe".


Finally, why stop there? "Ever wonder how often you get busy?", Bedpost beta will help you figure it out. The tool has no social networking features (other than a soon-to-be-launched 'partner login' feature), so it's not a dating site and is free.

You can log things like the date, time, duration, rating (out of 5 stars), who it was with, and input "descriptive tags". Bedpost will then provide you with charts and reports on all the data you provide.

Worried about the privacy of this data? Bedpost makes sure that your 'business time' stays your business. They realize that many people may be more comfortable handing over bank account numbers than the details of their sex lives. "We understand that this is potentially the most personal of data-sets you will ever keep outside of financial records," they say, so they have a very strict privacy policy: "The records you save here will never be viewed by us nor will it ever be sold or provided to a third party. This information is permanently delete-able by you, should you deem it necessary."

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