We are All Baby Shark (in Data Tracking)

It’s what you get if swimming and golf have a baby.

To think how far these devices have come in such a brief period is amazing.

I imagine they learned many of their algorithmic tricks from the classic use of telemetry in other fields of biology.

Tracking all of this data is at first amazing to a data geek such as myself.

However, after a few months of inspecting and analyzing the data, I came to understand two painful realizations.

First, I’m No HealthierGathering data is not the same as having an answer or an action plan.

The reality is that data is helpful but it must be interpreted and turned into action by individuals.

As it turns out, my findings personally are not that dissimilar to others, in that fitness tracking doesn’t have a drastic difference in the outcome.

The reams and reams of data available from Garmin are impressive but what I realized is that I would analyze that data for a pretty decent amount of time each week.

At the end of each workout and at least a few times a week, I’d review the data for anywhere from 5 minutes to 10 minutes.

Add that up, and I could have actually used that time to work out, resulting in roughly one additional 45-minute workout a week.

Doesn’t sound like much, but to give credit to the Timex stopwatch, finding the most important data points and focusing on those is sometimes more important than tracking everything.

Second, I’m Producing a Ton of Personal DataBeing the geek that I am, I took the output from Garmin from one 8-mile run while visiting the Jersey Shore and began to analyze it.

Garmin provides these beautiful dashboard views of the data it gathers workout by workout.

You can view some combination of screens on your phone or desktop through their App.

Do you even run, Bro?Not only am I not any healthier (point 1), but the amount of data I am producing and sharing back to Garmin is astounding.

Additionally, Garmin reminds me regularly that, if I want to, I can link Garmin to my Apple Health App and other platforms to get the most out of all of this data.

So I decided to export all of the underlying data from this one workout into a CSV file, where I then converted the data to plain text.

I wanted to see, in more human terms, just how much data am I providing back on a single workout.

Naturally, I was expecting a few pages of content, but what I found was that this single workout, when imported into a Google document was 396 pages long (single-spaced text.

)396 Pages!Look, this is disturbing.

One jog at the shore sent more pages of personal data to a third-party (and probably others) than all the pages in my first book, Data Leverage, Unlocking the Surprising Growth Potential of Data Partnerships.

In fact, it was almost double the length of our book which is wholly depressing.

Thank goodness I didn’t go for a stroll along the beach this time.

Between fitness and writing lies depression.

I love my watch.

I am fascinated at the capabilities to track all of this data, but at this point, I am literally no different from any animal being tracked in the wild.

And while the general understanding of tracking baby shark is to learn and help protect these creatures, the data we are all sharing with companies is used for little more than to target us with additional marketing and sales.

Again, I am not saying there isn’t value here.

There is for sure.

But at some point, you need to question whether we need all of this data.

Ask yourself:Am I really better off because of this data?Am I making better decisions with this data?Would far less data be just as useful to me in my decision making?Who else is getting all of this data, and what are they using it for?After a couple of decades in the data business, all I can say is that more data doesn’t always equate to better decisions.

I’ve seen it time and time again.

Sure, it can, but most of the time storing massive quantities of data ends up in piles of unused database records with little to no purpose for existence.

In the old days, we were taught “Save everything!, Data storage is cheap!” but in this new age of data minimization and GDPR-like regulations, it is time that you evaluated all of the data you are creating and sharing as a baby shark.

It’s in your head.

Originally published at wardpllc.

com on March 30, 2019.

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