I’ve had my Jawbone UP wristband for over 3 months, during which I wore it every day. It’s a $130 lifetracking wristband that logs your steps by time of day as well as your sleep patterns. You can see charts and graphs of your UP data in an iPhone or Android app.
Band: The band, size small, fits my pathetically thin wrist well. The unconnected ends and bendiness allow for quick on/off. I don’t mind having it on my wrist all the time unless I’m typing. The zigzag pattern is very modern-looking, and I like the color, mint green. I’ve actually never been concerned that the band ‘didn’t go with my outfit.’ It’s eyecatching, too — I get asked about it probably once a week.
Activity: As has been said before by others, it’s really gratifying to see how many steps and miles I walked at the end of a long day scuttling all over NYC. It turns transit into a creative activity. The feel of sore muscles fades, but you have data points in your pocket and a high point on your graph. I think more about my activity during the day: increasing my goal from 10,000 steps to 11,500 has pushed me to walk/run more.
Sleep: The sleep tracking function is also excellent and accurate. This feature convinced me to buy UP rather than a Nike Fuelband or a FitBit (although the recently released FitBit Flex now tracks sleep too — and looks gorgeous… and is cheaper…). One of the best features is the alarm clock. To all of my former roommates’ and neighbors’ chagrin, I am a slow waker who used to set at least 5 alarms on 2 devices to get up on time. Now I just rely on UP, which vibrates gently during light sleep at preset alarm times (e.g., up to 20 minutes before 7:40am). It is a more gradual and less irritating way to awaken — like a friendly bumblebee is nudging my hand. The sleep graph isn’t particularly useful to me, as I’ve never had sleep problems, but I did recently notice that switching pillows was correlated to fewer instances of me waking up in the middle of the night.
App: It’s simple to use and looks nice. For viewing your activity/sleep for one day at a time, it’s great. The graphs are easy to read and scrub through (to see the exact time a bar on the graph occurred). I like that you can add moods, on a scale of 1-8 with happy/sad faces and caption of your choice. I always read the daily tips. I was prepared to deride them, as all daily tips offered by other software are lame — but UP’s are very useful! Typical tips compare my stats to other users’ in aggregate, bring up general healthy living advice, and encourage me to beat last week’s step count or catch up on sleep to meet my goal, etc. I was also happy to see an UP channel recently opened on IFTTT. Some of my data can be freed! UP recently hooked its API up with some other apps, too, including RunKeeper, which I appreciate since I already have years of data on the site.
Note: I have only used the food logger a few times in the first week I had the wristband. If I were more concerned about my diet, this would be a nice feature. It’s always a pain to manually log anything, so the app tries to make it less painful by tapping into a nutrition database populated with general foods like ‘Ham & cheese sandwich’ and ‘Fried appetizer’, plus a barcode scanner for packaged foods. But it’s a hassle to log something more complex or unusual, like ‘chicken on couscous with mint and tomatoes’, especially for a constant snacker of diverse foods like myself. Still, if I figured out how to quantify the amounts of those ingredients, it would be saved in the Food Library for the next time I had that meal.
Band: The ribbed, grippy material coating the wristband attracts dirt like whoa. UP provides some cleaning tips (online, not with the product), including using isopropyl alcohol, which works great. The LED indicators (just sun and moon, to indicate whether it’s in wake or sleep mode) work infrequently on my band after 3 months. The mode change button, the smaller silver endcap, sometimes doesn’t work when I want to turn off the alarm clock buzzing or change modes (I must plug it into my iPhone to reset it). Because the ends don’t connect, the band sometimes gets caught on clothing. The battery life is supposed to be around 10 days, but it’s actually 7 days for me.
Activity: Steps do indicate activity, but the band can’t tell if I’m running hard or strolling slowly. Theoretically, after a workout, you’d have more steps on your bar graph for that 15-minute interval, but the data produced by me running at the gym and walking home afterward all blends together. It’s silly, but I feel cheated out of seeing data representing me sweating hard on the treadmill. You can manually log workout activities, adding data about the type of exercise, how long it lasted, and effort level (no distance, which is annoying) — but you can’t see this data in aggregate and it’s not automated. So, I’m relying on hooking UP in with RunKeeper, but the data still isn’t that precise. Ideally, the sensors should be able to tell when I’m taking quicker steps (running) or doing particular repetitive motions (like doing bicep curls or using the rowing machine). I wouldn’t mind false positives for non-workout exercise, anyway. Shelving books can be a strenuous activity!
Sleep: You must manually switch between wake and sleep modes by pressing on the endcap button. I’m not sure why this must be, since the sensor can clearly differentiate between wakeful idleness and light sleep. I guess if I climb into bed at 11pm and don’t fall asleep until 1am, I’d want the data logging my sleeplessness, but as a person who has no problem falling asleep, I wish that switching wake/sleep modes were optional.
App: For viewing aggregate data, it’s pretty bad. The only data aggregation or mashup you can get is by comparing two bar charts with the data of your choice (total steps, deep sleep time, etc.) by given time intervals (days, weeks, months). I need more control over my data visualization — for one thing, bar graphs aren’t the only useful graph! I would also appreciate a simple textual summary: March 2013: 178.9 miles on foot. In addition, the app itself doesn’t feed me the great data mashups I expected — something in the vein of You’ve been getting around 15% less deep sleep than last week, have logged 40% shorter workouts, and have logged bad moods 25% more often would be welcome. I mean, it’s obvious that I’d feel better physically after training for a marathon than sitting through a Game of Thrones marathon, but I want that data! For now, I’d have to IFTTT the data to a Google or Evernote doc and transform them into something workable. Lastly, it’s odd that it doesn’t sync wirelessly like competing products — I have to plug one end of the wristband into my iPhone’s headphone jack.
Overall, I like it. I’ll give it a B. My only real gripes are the dirt and hardware issues. Since it’s a relatively new product being promoted heavily, I’m assuming that the app will improve its data analysis in the near future. I will continue wearing it on a daily basis. I get questions about it all the time and am always happy to share about my experience. I’ve dabbled in Quantified Self practices before, so this was a natural purchase for me. The price was a little high, but it’s an amazing piece of wearable technology, and I like the diversity of data it logs.
I’m looking forward to seeing more people track life activity. As preemptive healthcare becomes the norm, it only makes sense that we should collect bodily data rather than doing guesswork or catching problems too late. How cool would it be to have a giant database of aggregated lifetracking information? Then we could really get a good picture of our nation’s (world’s!) health and lifestyles.
Photos and screenshots
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I took advantage of the lovely spring light today to photograph the Providence map quilt I made for Willem. I have accordingly updated the blog post I wrote about it in 2011.
I expect that the next update to the map quilt post will be when I purchase an iron! Yikes.
The photos I took are also on Flickr.
Yikes, it’s been a while since I posted anything. My blog prolificacy has gone way down, or perhaps has been replaced by microblogging on Twitter. So let me give you an update longer than 140 characters. What have I been up to lately?
- Attending gatherings with like-minded folk
- Exploring more of my adopted homecity, NYC
- Settling in at my job and launching the new John Jay library website with panache
Now that the library site has been built and launched, I can turn more attention to other parts of my job, like drumming up campus support for data management services, figuring out how the library will serve only-online students, updating old signage, and sussing out what cool new tech the library can adopt. This last part wasn’t something I was terribly interested in when I was getting my MLIS, to be honest, but I’ve been reading up on it and have gotten really excited about the prospect of introducing new and (at least slightly) relevant technology to our library — things that will give students and faculty alike that moment of delight when you discover or create something. So, stay tuned.
Speaking of moments of creative delight, I’ve been writing/editing more and more on Wikipedia, mostly on Art Nouveau-era movers and shakers. I know I’m way behind the times on this, but those Wikipedians are right — it can be addictive! It’s hard to get going at first, since new editors must learn the etiquette and tone, but I’ve noticed a definite change in my Wiki-reading perspective. Instead of purely consuming an article, I have a healthy “what’s missing?” reflex now, too. If you’re not an editor (and especially if you’re a woman, too), I highly recommend you dive into editing Wikipedia.
I read 24 books this year, slightly more than 2011 (18) and 2010 (21) but not as many as 2009 (59, in my last full year of Brown’s English program). Here they are below, listed in the order I read them. The six titles with asterisks next to them are ones I read in ebook form, and the bold titles are ones I highly recommend.
- The Hunger Games* (Suzanna Collins)
- Swamplandia! (Karen Russel)
- American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis)
- Catching Fire* (Suzanne Collins)
- Mockingjay* (Suzanne Collins)
- Mobile First (Luke Wroblewski)
- A Visit from the Goon Squad (Jennifer Egan)
- The Sisters Brothers (Patrick DeWitt)
- Over To You (Roald Dahl)
- Jerusalem: Chronicle of the Holy City (Guy Delisle)
- City of Glass (Paul Auster)
- Ghosts (Paul Auster)
- The Locked Room (Paul Auster)
- I Was Told There’d Be Cake (Sloane Crosley)
- A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle; a reread)
- NW* (Zadie Smith)
- Half Empty (David Rakoff)
- The Casual Vacancy* (J.K. Rowling)
- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (Robin Sloan)
- The Virgin Suicides (Jeffrey Eugenides)
- Are You My Mother? (Alison Bechdel)
- Pastoralia (George Saunders)
- The Name of the Rose* (Umberto Eco)
- The Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde; ed. Nicholas Frankel)
There were some high-profile books that disappointed me (NW, Casual Vacancy, and Mr. Penumbra), and there were some pleasant surprises (absolutely loved The Sisters Brothers, a sort of literary western). By chance, I read The Name of the Rose right before The Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray, which turned out to be a great choice — the first touches on the history of heretical texts, and the second effectively was one in 1890 England. It was also good to revisit A Wrinkle in Time — I adored L’Engle as an adolescent, but I’d forgotten how totally weird and great that book is.
Best book I read this year? Hands down it was Pastoralia, by George Saunders. The collection of short stories was published back in 2001, but I had never actually read Saunders before and picked up this book from the John Jay Library at random. Some of the best things I’ve read have been serendipitous finds in the stacks.