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llkats

Are personal tracking gadgets helpful or ultimately distracting?

I read this thoughtful article from the Morning News: (www.themorningnews.org­/article­/paris­-and­-the­-data­-...) about the author's experience with a FitBit and the behavior changes that occur when one quantifies an aspect of one's life (like steps taken, calories consumed, etc.) The end of the article mentions disappointment that comes from an experience that, for whatever reason, doesn't end up getting tracked. It reminded me of a very long bike ride that I took that I forgot to track with the Strava app on my phone -- my disappointment at forgetting to track that 15 mile ride almost overrode the enjoyment I had that day. That experience alone makes me really reluctant to get a device like a Fitbit, because I'm afraid it'd take my attention away from more important things.

Do you use a Fitbit or similar device to quantify an aspect of your life? Do you find gamification or quantifying strategies to be useful in establishing new habits? Do you ever find that thinking about quantifying yourself distracts you or is a negative experience?

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8 replies
connorg

I've been using a FitBit for a bit over a year now and I think it's great. I also started using a Withings scale a few months ago which has been really helpful. I'm a big fan of the theory that the feedback loop of just seeing weight and activity level in a meaningful way is a huge motivator to stay active and healthy, and for me it's definitely true.

I definitely feel disappointed if I realize, for instance, that I left my FitBit at home on a given day, or if I check Weightbot (an iOS app that links to Withings) and realize I forgot to weigh myself that morning, but it's not such a big deal that it bothers me. What I love about the FitBit in particular is how 'inoffensive' it is--it's tiny and requires basically no interaction other charging it about once a week. At this point putting it in my pocket every morning is basically force of habit so I almost never forget it, and even if I don't really 'use' it that much it's nice knowing that it's there collecting data without bothering me or interfering with anything.
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nitehawk

I'm interested in the Fitbit One, how does the waking up in the best possible point in your sleep cycle work? I am not a morning person and feel groggy for at least 20 minutes each morning so any improvement in my morning schedule could be a big deal.
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falleninsea

I will need to try that and see how it works.
I got the fitbit one and love the smaller size and that they got rid of split device design it had before. I am also not a morning person and who know this may help but not sure how much since its strapped to your wrist. I am not sure i would even notice it vibrating.
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frankspin

I forgot about Withings. I think that has played a larger role for me than anything else. The data visualization it provides is really helpful. I just wish I could some how get FitBit, Withings and Strava to all play nicely; I know Runkeeper does this but the design is really pad IMO. Good tip on Weightbot too! It looks 300x better than the Withings app (I'm not a fan of new redesigned one either).
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falleninsea

you do know that you can have your Withings data sent to your fitbit account also?

I don't know anything about the Strava so not sure what you can and cant do with it.
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frankspin

I think it varies greatly on the use case scenario and the person. I originally bought the FitBit when i was still needing to move between buildings and classrooms so tracking my steps was more fun and enjoyable to see how much I was moving. Since moving to a home office I'm not walking nearly as much so getting something like an Up or FuelBand would suit me better since they work more on actual activity versus just walking. So right now while I enjoy the FitBit for what it does and the website it's become nothing more than a 'oh this is fun' kind of thing when I'm out of the house. I honestly rarely log into the site so I can just gleam in the info from the device.

Now with something like Strava, that is what I'm more concerned with (as would other cyclist or runners). Having that info logged is important to me because it provides a detailed log of distances, heart rates, cadence, etc. I can look at that info and see where I had the most power output or if I'm noticing a more steady speed while keeping a higher heart rate. I also think Strava's Segment feature is a lot more enjoyable because it's a leaderboard with everyone, not just friends. Plus they can be anywhere so it can be fun motivation to push yourself at certain points.

tl;dr - If I forget my FitBit it's not the end of the world, but if I don't get a workout logged in Strava I get mad.
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baileylo

I have a GPS watch(gdgt.com­/garmin­/forerunner­/110/) that I use for running which tracks my heart rate, location and distance. If the watch isn't charged; I might not go running that day. It's kind of sad because I really do need to run, but I like to have the stats from each run.
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frankspin

Feel the same with my MotoActv. One day it didn't charge and I had to completely alter my workout.
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