Quantified interviews

interview

Narrative photo while being interviewed

After my talk at the QSEU15 conference last September, I was asked to give several interviews (unfortunately the videos from that conference have not been posted yet on the quantifiedself.com web page). It’s been nice to see that people, or at least reporters, are interested in life-logging. Each interview was a bit different though, and in an effort to learn more about the whole process, I decided to quantify the interviews.

I’ve had five interviews in the past months. On the same day I gave the talk I was approached by Akshat Rathi, a reporter from Quartz. I had never heard of that on-line publication, but he seemed like a nice guy, so we met up later that day. We talked for about 30 min, or to make that more exact (if I look at my narrative photos of the interview), from exactly 16h56 to 17h38, or 42 minutes. He recorded the conversation and took a few photos. He started off asking me about my childhood, and then about my life in Spain and finally about my project with the log book and narrative camera. After we said we would be in touch and I wrote him an email on September 22nd, with a link to about 1000 photos from one of my days with the narrative camera (the day before I left for the QS conference, September 16th), as well as the slides and text from my talk. I had no news from him for a while after that so I sent him another email on September 29th, asking whether it was possible to see a draft of the interview before publication since I suddenly felt I was exposing a bit too much, with all the photos and data. It’s always hard to share a bunch of photos, but I understand that people want to see them. In any case, I did not see any drafts or photos he had chosen and Akshat’s piece came out on October 10th. It would have been nice to have seen it before, but I guess that’s the way it works. On the same day, the article was translated into French in Slate, also mentioning my QS video, which raised hits quite a bit (Figure 1).

interview_hits

Ten days after coming out in Quartz, on October 20th, I got a tweet message from Scott Stump, a reporter from the Today show (Today.com) that he was interested in doing a piece similar to the Quartz one, but from a more personal point of view. We connected via email and it all went really quickly. He sent me some questions which I answered (no phone conversations) and the article came out on the Today.com web page on October 25th. He included a link to the QS video as well, which had about 400 visits since April 2014, that weekend got about 1100 more hits (Figure 1).

On October 29th, I got another tweet message from Richard Hooper a reporter for the Outlook radio program of the BBC. As opposed to Scott, he wanted to talk to me on the phone first, which we did on November 3rd, and then I had a recording session with the main program guy (Matthew Bannister) on November 12th. They also asked me for some photos for their facebook page. The interview came out on November 18th.

Overlapping with this, on November 2nd, I got an email from Cristina Sanchez, also to have a conversation/interview for a Spanish on-line newspaper called El Diario. They have a special section on Internet and Technology called “Hoja de Router”. We spoke on November 3rd, the same day I later spoke with Richard (I did not remember that, but my log book does not lie). She took a bit longer since she wanted to speak with other quantified selfers in Madrid, but there are not that many. On November 17th I sent her an email asking how it was going (could I see a draft?) and she said that she was finishing up. Her piece came out on December 10th (no, I did not see a previous draft).

It was not really an interview, but on November 17th I got mentioned in the Financial Times, see quote below. The article by Jonathan Margolis is about the demise of the Autograph camera and the rise of Narrative. I’ve only used the Narrative, and recently bought the new Clip2 but it has yet to arrive.

Quote from the Financial Times: “It (the Narrative camera) was adopted by the very god of life-logging, Morris Villarroel, professor of animal behaviour at Madrid’s Polytechnic University. Prof Villarroel has kept a microscopically detailed diary of his daily life since 2010, but has reportedly been using a Narrative camera to add 700,000-plus photos to his voluminous handwritten notes.”

Finally, on December 11th I got an email from Eduardo Ordóñez, who writes for a new online news paper in Spanish called Eslang (the way a typical Spaniard would pronounce slang) and he said he wanted to do a piece. We talked over the phone the same day and I also sent him some photos. He told me he had a deadline for the 21st, and after a bit of a wait, the article came out on January 15th, 2016.

tabl1_interview

Assessment

After all these interviews, I wrote to all the reporters to ask them two things, had they life-logged or done stuff recently related to quantified self (did the interview spark any personal interest to quantify?) and did they receive much feedback about the article from other people.

I got a reply from all the reporters except one, which is a pretty good reply rate, I think. I guess that means they are still interested in the topic. Regarding my question of whether they had adopted any life-logging or journaling practices, three of them said that they have actively kept journals during their lives (I guess this makes sense since they are “journalists”), but off and on. I think the main problem with continuity, as mentioned by one of them, was that they would get on a roll, write every day, but then suffer an interruption of some sort, and then felt guilty about not keeping it up, which gave some negative connotations to the activity and they stopped, until the next time.

Regarding other people’s reactions to their news piece, it seemed that most of the feedback came in two areas, on the one hand surprise that someone would take the time to life-log, and on the other, some kind of worry over how much time it takes and how it may affect “real living”.

I guess the big question for the general public is whether all this life-logging and quantified self stuff is worthwhile? If I am going to spend time on this or pay money for technology, what are the advantages? I would say that there is room here for at least two different lines of thought, one more inside the “marketing-input-output box” and another from an “emotional-philosophical” box. You can track yourself to try to be more efficient, to create a lean machine out of your mind and body, or you can track just to learn more about yourself in general. The first mind set implies that you are not in a good place now and must improve, must persevere against all odds. The second assumes that most things are fine but curiosity still lives within, you want to know more, indeed, you may even want to slow down, maybe even be easier on yourself.

If I had to specify, I think that life-logging has helped me discover more things about my memory and how my brain works, in general. My ideas from there usually center around establishing certain routines or habits, to notice cycles of thought and to reflect on them to either potentiate or avoid things and then establish new ones. But isn’t that what we all do anyway? Maybe mine is just a bit more documented.

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2 thoughts on “Quantified interviews

    1. Not sure about turning in your favour, but more control on written result seems difficult. In some cases I expressly said to some reporters that I preferred not to have some things mentioned, and it did. Rule 1 I guess is only talk about what you want them to write. Next maybe converse with them to ask when their deadline is (that may be a stress and decrease quality), or whether they would like you to send text to clarfy things (they just have to copy paste). But it depends a lot on the person…

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