David Rowan

David Rowan tried to build a compelling case for gathering and sharing data about yourself, because it can benefit both yourself and society.

One example: Patients like me. It’s a site where people are sharing response to treatments for 500 different conditions. In particular, for one condition called ALS, there was a belief that lithium could delay the onset of some symptoms. So some of them took lithium treatments, and some didn’t. And they found that it didn’t work – not even a placebo effect. Pushed science forward.

Lots of people have depression. There are lots of different ways of coping. The community tracked 5000 people to see what worked and what didn’t. Most popular and effective was exercise, followed by more sleep. But there were some interesting results in the middle around various art-type therapies.

Self-tracking and self-reporting is moving forward our knowledge, he suggested.

Some other tools:

  • mycrocosym – allows you to visualise anything
  • runkeeper – tracks you using GPS – maps, graphs and share with other people. Got an e-mail congratulating him on April being the best month yet. Drove him to do better this month.
  • Daytum – allows you to track all sorts of everyday facts about your life.
  • 23 and me (although I know a PhD geneticist who is sceptical about this)

Price of storage is trending towards zero.1TB is £50 from Amazon.So why shouldn’t we collect this data? We might not know what we’ll use it for now, we might not spot the trends straight away, but over time, we will. And we’ll regret not storing more once we do.

A lot more of our devices are going to be linked to the network –  so we need to take control. Companies are collecting data about us. Why shouldn’t we? It’s opening up our own API.