Faster Than 20

experiment platform

Spire

April 27, 2017 – May 3, 2017

How might we...

How might we track stress?

Hypothesis

Spire is unobtrusive, easy-to-use, and provides useful, timely stress data.

Design

I'll wear a Spire during business hours (more or less) for six days (in theory, one charge and also covers the weekend trip I'm about to take), and I'll capture what I learn here.

Metrics

I'll do a qualitative analysis based on my answers to the following questions:
  • How obtrusive was it?
  • How easy was it to use?
  • What did you learn?

Learnings

How obtrusive was it? Surprisingly unobtrusive. For the most part, I forgot about it. I forgot it going through security at the airport, I forgot to take it off my pants. Apparently, it's washing machine proof, which is good, because I could easily see me mistakenly putting it in the wash. For some reason, it was a bit obtrusive with one particular pair of shorts, but not overly so, and I'm sure I could have adjusted it. How easy was it to use? Very. Didn't have any connection issues, battery life is great, charging is easy, app is more or less straightforward. What did you learn?
  • When I'm talking to folks, my breathing tends to be tense
  • When I'm on my computer or phone, my breathing tends to be focused
  • I am incredibly sedentary in my day-to-day
  • The vibrating feature is great, because I have greater self-awareness about my tense breathing, which enables me to make adjustments
  • I can definitely see myself using this for self-care experiments. I'd like to do some longer-term tracking to see if I can detect / validate patterns, then start setting some targets based on that.
  • I'm not sure yet whether or not this might be useful for my original intention, which is to provide real-time data for meeting facilitation, but it's still worth experimenting

Decisions

Do a followup experiment where I track more data and analyze for patterns. Potentially build a dashboard as part of this. Do a followup experiment with one other person where we compare our data and analyze for patterns. Eventually do a followup experiment where we start using these more intentionally for meetings.

Questions

Hashtag #spire
Accountable Eugene
Team Eugene
Documents
Modified May 3, 2017

Updates

Another cool feature of #spire: Sending weekly reports that compares your aggregates to others similar to you. Here’s mine from last week:

spire-2017-05-04-weekly_report1
spire-2017-05-04-weekly_report2

My first #spire experiment is complete. Here’s the data:

Thu, Apr 27 Fri, Apr 28 Sat, Apr 29 Sun, Apr 30 Mon, May 1 Tue, May 2
Calm 80 / 21% 58 / 16% 65 / 33% 4 / 3% 100 / 42% 42 / 16%
Focus 169 / 45% 268 / 76% 99 / 50% 91 / 76% 78 / 33% 184 / 70%
Tense 130 / 34% 27 / 8% 33 / 17% 24 / 20% 60 / 25% 38 / 14%
Active 78 / 15% 28 / 5% 29 / 6% 12 / 15% 34 / 8% 44 / 9%
Sedentary 448 / 85% 567 / 95% 425 / 94% 67 / 85% 413 / 92% 442 / 91%

spire-2017-04-27
spire-2017-04-28
spire-2017-04-29
spire-2017-04-30
spire-2017-05-01
spire-2017-05-02

My first day of the Spire was overall a surprisingly great experience. I didn’t feel it at all, and the data was interesting.

Overall, I averaged 16 breaths / minute, right at average for an adult male. Spire tracks five different kinds of activity / breathing:

  • Calm (green)
  • Focus (blue)
  • Tense (orange)
  • Active (yellow)
  • Sedentary (gray)

My breakdown for the day is below:

spire-dashboard-2017-04-27

You can see that I had large swaths of tense breathing today. Those correspond to one-on-one conversations — a combination of meetings, phone calls, and dinner with my sister. I enjoyed every one of those interactions, so what it tells me is that, when I’m talking, I’m taking short, tense breaths. I can understand how, after a day of meetings, I’m totally exhausted as a result. It’s a good indication that I need to be more conscious of how I breathe when I’m in conversation with others. This isn’t totally surprising to me, as I often get animated and intense when I talk, but seeing the actual data is always a completely different experience.

From the standpoint of my desired use of this tracker — as a way of tracking participant stress — if this pattern holds true for people in general, it pollutes the data, because it will always show tension when people are talking. That’s interesting data, but I’m interested in when folks are feeling stress versus other emotions. If I could isolate when people are not talking and see if folks are ever tense then, that would be useful, but it would require an additional data source. Maybe none of this matters for the purposes of facilitation. Still, something to note.

Otherwise, I was a calm, focused breather throughout the day as I worked — good news!

The notifications were definitely too noisy for me. If I have a streak of calm breathing, getting buzzed is counter-productive. I turned off notifications for calm and focused breathing, and left everything on. I do find it valuable to get buzzed if I’ve got a streak of tense breathing, as it’s a great reminder to pay attention and breathe.

When I have a large enough baseline, I’d definitely like to do some meditation experiments to see if it affects my overall ratio of calm versus tense breathing.

#spire

Got my Spire yesterday, charged it and started wearing it this morning. It feels totally unobtrusive, which surprised me, although I’m worried that it will slip off my pants. (I know a lot of folks who have lost Fitbits this way.)

Neither the iOS nor Android apps are highly rated. Configuring the app was relatively painless, but it took a while to detect the device. Will continue to monitor this.

Otherwise, it’s pretty easy to use. I have all the default notifications on right now, so it’s buzzed when I’ve had a good “calm” streak, for example. I will likely want to turn most, if not all of those notifications off, but I’m going to leave them on for the time being.

#spire

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