Nicholas Felton‘s work has been an inspiration to many people in the field of information visualisation, not only when he helped Facebook create their timeline to “unlock people’s personal stories”, but most prominently with his series of Annual Reports which present well-chosen and beautifully designed statistics from Felton’s daily life. With these he has inspired much of what is going on within the Quantified-Self-Movement these days (you know, those people who track their meals, heart-rate or miles run).
Nicholas started tracking his daily habits back in 2005, when smart phones were not a standard device across large parts of the world and when he needed to come up with a lot of customized solutions for tracking his every move. Now “the world of personal data has considerably changed”, as he puts it – there are lots of tracking devices and apps readily available, and with our smartphones we carry tiny computers and several sensors with us at all times.
After having published ten reports about his daily life (only one of them was devoted to a person other than himself, namely the life of his father), and having explored several paths of tracking, assembling and interpreting his personal data, Nick has now released his tenth and final report about the year 2014.
My recent article for Sueddeutsche Zeitung presents a short history of the series. I have to admit that once I started looking into the reports more intensly, I was surprised about how much the reports create a personal narrative about Nicholas (and his father in that 2010 report). Even though they feature nothing but simple facts and numbers, they create a very vivid impression of the life and mindset of the portrayed people.
There are loads of interesting aspects about them which are worth discussing, so hopefully Nicholas will have the chance to create a book about them at some point, but for now let me say I consider the Feltron Annual Reports one of the most captivating data vis projects of that past decade.