Exist.io is a web service that connects different quantified self data and helps make sense of it. It tracks different attributes of daily life and visually represents them. From inputs like nutrition and sleep to custom attributes like reading or meditation, I use it to visualize trends and behaviors over time.
Before I started using Exist.io, I tried a number of things from workbooks to BI services like Zoho and Google Data Studios. Each worked in a way, but generally failed to be insightful, automated, or practical to use consistently without spending more time than I was willing to expend.
The premise of Exist.io is part of an ever growing field of services that are billed as life dashboards. These systems absorb and analyze huge amounts of personal behaviors and inputs tracked through a broad ecosystem of services across an equally varied number of domains. Ultimately, these services leverage AI, ML, or other compute architecture to extract value from diverse attributes.
At this point, you’re probably skeptical, curious, or some healthy blend of both. I don’t intend to persuade or inform you about the fundamentals of self-quantification in this post. If you don’t know what QS is all about or are on the fence, you can learn more here. The rest of this article will assume you’re reading because you’re considering paying for Exist.io or looking for some visualization dashboard service to make sense of whatever you’re tracking.
I say, make sense of whatever you’re tracking, because the problem I had for some time was getting all the inputs I tracked to a format that was actually helpful.
I knew I was spending $8.42 per 1k calories during 1Q’16, but had no context to help understand if that was too much or even a useful metric at all. The issue I kept bumping up against wasn’t one of constraints around what attributes I could track, it was knowing what to track. Without the context of knowing how other behavioral domains like health or money were impacted, it was difficult to make sense of it all.
Exist.io Insights Gone Wild
Exist.io isn’t perfect. Some of the recommendations are goofy, unhelpful, and sometimes just don’t make sense. Some of this is probably an opportunity for the service to improve it’s ML over time naturally. More data comes in, the system becomes more helpful over time and a positive feedback loop continues until such a level of optimization is achieved that further improvements aren’t obvious.
But imperfection doesn’t mean unhelpful. I find Exist.io to be very helpful.
A Complementary Pair: Mobile + Web Dashboard
It’s easy to check in using the mobile app to tag some custom attributes, leave a note for the day for context, make a subjective rating for the day overall. This is the tactical side of the service and takes me less than 60 seconds each night when a notification pops up to enter the day’s key highlights.
For a deeper dive into your data, the website is organized into 2 high level sections: a dashboard which summarizes data by attribute and range, and an insights section which highlight trends, correlations, ways to optimize domains, and averages over time.
One example after the 30 day mark confirmed that I feel better when I’m more active. Certainly not a mind blowing insight but the data proved it. Other insights were more valuable. I found over time, that among several activities – meditation, walking after work, or playing bass – that playing bass beat out the former resulting in higher rated days, lower blood pressure, and overall increased daily satisfaction more often than not.
A/B Testing For Dummies
The ability to track custom attributes is huge and really simplifies layering in whatever you want to track with other quantified self services like Apple Health/Google Fit. This makes A/B testing a breeze and is where the service really shines.
Want to know if journaling or meditation will make you more satisfied with life? No problem. Just add two custom attributes and run them separately for a set period of time. The longer experiments run, the more correlations are suggested.
It goes without saying that correlation doesn’t equal causation. I’m always skeptical when taking in correlations without context or deeper analysis. This is especially important for important domains like health or money, maybe less so for less important areas of focus. All things considered, I think Exist.io does a reasonable job of applying analysis to shape insights, with the occasionally goofy recommendation (I feel better when I’m not sick? thanks…).
I tried a few other comparable services like Zenobase and Gyroscope and while they’re both great services, I keep coming back to Exist.io for its ease of use, ability to track custom attributes, and control over my data.
Exist is run by 2 developers, so it’s a smaller project but has great emphasis on privacy and protection. Even better, there’s an API and personal data can be exported in its entirety at anytime giving you complete control over your data.
If you’re looking for an easy A/B tracker to connect with other services for $5 a month, check out Exist.io.