An Online Tool for Personal Data Collection and Exploration

Nathan Chun-Yin Yau
Ph.D., 2013
Advisor: Mark Hansen
Advancements in technology and the changes in how people interact with data in recent years have given rise to online applications that allow people to collect data about themselves. For most applications, such as Twitter and Facebook, the collection is indirect. The primary purpose of the services is to share information with others. However, this regularly-updating online culture also provides a medium for personal data collection where people actively log data about them- selves and their surroundings. This dissertation describes the development of your.flowingdata (YFD), an application that allows people to collect data via Twitter and to explore their data with a set of online visualization tools. Usage of the collection mechanism and visualizations is then described. Whereas most related work describes usage over a period of a week or less for in-lab users, YFD is a publicly available application and usage was studied over several months and for thousands of users. This provides a wider view into how general users, who are not necessarily “data professionals,” collect and interact with their data. Study of YFD usage also provides insights for presentation of data to a wide audience and how to help them understand data.