I’m fascinated by the Quantified Self movement where people collect masses of data about themselves and aggregate it to show some meaning. For example you might every day record your weight, steps taken and the weather and map them out to see if there is any correlation between them. This is exactly what both Gyroscope and Exist do to one extent or another.
Both work in the same way by linking your account with the feeds of other providers such as FitBit, Runkeeper, MyFitnessPal, Forecast and others and bringing it together in a graphical form. Exist has been around for over a year now while Gyroscope has launched only this month but is based on the original site of the creator.
The first thing to say about Gyroscope is that it is beautiful, it looks like something out of a science fiction movie. The graphics are fluid and your information is presented in a really engaging way.
Information is grouped into three areas: Sport (such as FitBit, RunKeeper etc), Explorer (Foursquare checkins) and Digital (Twitter). A slight oddity on sport is that it has me down for one trip to a gym in Wales when in reality this was a business presentation. Still a workout where I was made to sweat I guess but not quite what most would expect to see here. Also this section for me is weighted towards cycling when, in fact, my most recent activities have been walks which aren’t really shown.
The other problem with Gyroscope is that it seems to have stopped updating which is a shame as that limits its usefulness but given that it is early days for them I’m sure these sorts of kinks will be ironed out.
You get a pretty full featured account for free with Gyroscope and there is a paid plan (currently $7 a month) that adds themes, your own domain and early access to features but for most the regular plan is going to be sufficient.
Exist has been around longer and it shows in that the sources you can import are greater and the site feels more rounded. They also take a much more analytical approach to the data than Gyroscope.
The main dashboard covers all your stats in one place and can be pretty overwhelming with the amount of the data that is presented. However, what you also get is an eight and 30 day overview of your data too making it easy to see progress and any trends.
Don’t want to work out trends for yourself? Exist has got you covered with trends, correlations and averages. So, for example, it is able to look at steps and productivity and say “You are moderately less likely (53%) to be productive when you walk more”. It is here that Exist scores over Gyroscope which feels like a slick way of presenting your data whereas Exist allows you to make something of it. And this is what quantified self should be about – analysing the data that you collect so that you can act upon it otherwise it is just a pretty way of collecting data.
One thing that I would like to see from Exist is the ability to go back in time. At present the dashboard shows you data for today after which the data is consigned to bar charts and then after 30 days disappears altogether. I would love to be able to go to a specific day and see all the data for it.
Exist also offers two things that Gyroscope doesn’t – the ability to record your mood on a five point scale with a short text description and an api that allows you to get some of the data out for other uses – I use this to send a formatted summary to Evernote for example.
In some ways it is a bit unfair to be comparing two products that are at different stages of their development but Gyroscope has been around a while albeit not open to all.
The bottom line is that if you want to simply be able to visualise your stats in a slick fashion then Gyroscope is for you. If you want more from your data to help you understand and to make changes then Exist is the one.