Category Archives: Personalisation

Gyroscope vs. Exist – Quantified Self Aggregator Review

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.


I am an inveterate list keeper and over the years have kept lists of various things that have had some significance or importance in my life. As you can see from the image above my lists used to be paper based running to pages upon pages at the back of my day books, neatly written out and regularly perused.

I still keep a traditional to-do list but these days that has transferred to an electronic service, Remember the milk in my case, and that suits me well. However, I also keep other lists that are more a record of what I have done than what I need to do. For a number of years I have published here on this blog a list of all the gigs which stretches right back to the first gig I had attended in 1982.

Additionally I have also kept lists for books read and films watched, which I am publishing here for the first time. The books read goes back a reasonably long way, to 1999 in fact, long enough to be able to say with some certainty that I am not an avid book reader (on average one a month) but that the number I read each year is increasing. It is also clear that I like a certain type of book: Iain Banks, Nick Hornby, Martin Cruz-Smith and Robert Harris are favourites.

Recording low volume items such as books read is all very well but it would be a pain for things such as music tracks listened to which is where third party services such as really come into their own. This automatically records everything I listen to pretty much anywhere and so over the last ten years of using has confirmed that, yes, I really do like Genesis!


All this recording of your life in minute detail is in vogue these days, it even has it’s own grandiose title: quantified self. Now there are some that take this recording to the nth degree including their bowel movements. For me that is a step too far but I do like to think that there might be some correlation between the number of times I tweet a day and whether it is raining outside – there are a number of services that allow you to monitor just such stats.

Statistics are the key difference between my paper lists of old and the hi-tech solutions now becoming available and being able to store and process vast quantities of data. Whether the insights prove valuable is another matter.

Star of Stage, Screen and Google Street View

I have starred on Google Street View before but now I have featured in a whole series of images as I walked down the road from the office where I was working.

In what isn’t the most flattering sequence of images you can see me walking away, making a call on my mobile and looking across the road to find a safe time to cross.

The odd thing is that I didn’t notice the Street View car come past me (obviously too occupied on the phone).

*hat tip to Chris Whiteway for spotting this

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O2 the spammer

Online Stock TradingFor years I have been using the bit before the @ in my email address to generate unique email address for company signups to help monitor spam. So, for example, I might use [email protected] for Apple, [email protected] for Samsung and so on. In addition to this I would also always ensure that I ticked the box that said I didn’t want any contact from third parties.

The reason for this approach is that I could then monitor whether a company passed on my email address to a third party and I would know who had.

As I say I have been doing this for years and until recently I hadn’t found anyone that had abused my email address. But now I have found a large number of third party, spam, emails all to the same email address: [email protected] O2 being one of the mobile telephone operators that I had an account with a few years ago when I gor my first iPhone.

So the question is what I do now? I could contact O2 directly but I don’t think that they will give a shit or maybe I should just go directly to the ICO and register a complaint with them.

Either way it is interesting that in all the years of taking this approach this is the first time I have found anyone that has abused my personal details so I guess that I should be grateful for that.


moon_google_adwords10Something that I have been interested in for a while is personalisation in marketing, i.e the ability to target your marketing message on a 1:1 basis. This is something that I have written about in the past and shown some great examples of what could be achieved. Today Google took that to a whole new level.

AdWords, the Google programme that allows you to put your advert on Google search results, is ten years old today and Google wanted to find a way to say thank-you and so they have sent everyone who has used the service a link to a video. But it is not any old video it is a video that has been personalised with the domain name of the customer, in our case and it is pretty impressive.

I was impressed when people were doing this on printed material but to do it all within a video is just amazing. You can see the full video at the following link…


imageI have spoken about the increasing levels of personalisation in life on a number of occasions before (here and here) and today I found another neat opportunity to make your credit card your own. Mint are offering the card holders the chance to upload any picture they want and have that on their card. So this could be your favourite family shot, the cat, or in my case, the cool picture below. Downside? It cost £10 each time you want to change the picture so it could be one more cost to keep in mind if you divorce.



It seems the T&Cs won’t allow the picture I want as it contains trademarked logos so will have to be some piece of original work. Helen has chosen the following. I think Mat has got the better deal!

Boys on Credit Card


I spoke about personalisation earlier in the year and then remembered that I also had these examples done for me at AppSwing when we were considering a mail-out. They were all done by Lorien Unique a local company specialising in this sort of work. They are all eye catching and show off the capability of modern digital printing techniques really well. In a couple of them the personalisation is obvious but cleverly done. The other two are more subtle but perhaps work better – particularly the flight departures board.

Click on any image for the bigger picture. pers1 pers2 pers4 pers3


It looks like that 2008 is going to be the year that personalisation really takes off. The picture on the left is the cover of a magazine sent to me by a software reseller and the cover has my name printed on to the front as one of the lead stories. It is very eye catching and has a real “wow” factor the first time you see it. I have seen examples of this sort of thing over the past year when companies have approached me to use the services in a targeted ad campaign but this is the first time that I think I have been targeted by a campaign myself. Advances in digital printing technology are going to make this sort of thing more and more economical for businesses of all sizes and so is soon going to become common place. Of course once that happens it will quickly lose its impact and its appeal and become, I predict, intrusive. So, I guess, you should try and enjoy it while you can.