Dabbling in personal analytics for customized search

In today’s technology driven and Web-oriented world, all of us are bound to accumulate a vast load of data about ourselves and our lives – including searches, e-mails, quick posts, and other forms of communications – both offline and online.  Can all this information – public and personal – be organized into a database and analyzed to tell us something more meaningful about our own selves?

Maybe it could inform us when we are the most productive or creative, how we respond to different situations, and so on. Similar data can be gathered for businesses as how they react to challenging circumstances.

Stepping into realm of ‘personal analytics’

Computers are good enough at spotting and tracing patterns. A persevering scientist-entrepreneur believed that a systematic analysis of personal data might reveal peculiar patterns in his life – for instance, when he was most likely to throw up new innovative ideas. Although he had been doing so for many years, he never really thought of analyzing it until recently.

Dr. Stephen Wolfram had accumulated all possible data sets for several decades – whether for all his outgoing e-mails dating back to 1989 as well as for almost 100 million of his keystrokes for the last decade. He scanned almost 230,000 pages of physical documents, feeding them, when possible, through an optical character reader. And he was keen to utilize this detailed analysis for discovering patterns in his personal and professional activity, which might be aligned with periodic bursts of creativity.

To check the ensuing possibilities, he tried a new module named ‘Wolfram Alpha Pro’. He employed his own data collection for a foray into an arena, termed ‘personal analytics’ by him. His Wolfram Alpha, a holistic computational search engine, provides many logical answers for Apple’s iPhone 4S personal assistant, Siri.

Going a step ahead, Wolfram Alpha Pro, can do more than simply searching through data. You pose a query to it, and if the information sought is stored in the right format, the system can produce a short report – a sort of summary and figures. Sensing that it could well serve as an adjunct to his key recollections memories of the circumstances times when he had been at his creative best, he did further experiments. The analysis suggested certain key insights. Graphs of the system the system identified can be viewed on his blog ‘The Personal Analytics of My Life’.

Algorithms as prototypes for future analysis

Similar algorithms can act as prototypes for what can be done for each and every individual for future analysis. There is indeed so much of information that one can track. And the cost of measuring as well as analyzing it will only keeps on decreasing, though not necessarily complexities of the process.

The system may emerge at some point of time as a powerful personal historian plus a coach to greatly improve workforce habits and productivity for businesses.