Personal Metrics Will Increase Your Performance

Some of you might know that some guys and I are building a watch to count laps for swimmers ( Our small team at Lapview spends lots of time thinking about ways to measure information so athletes can improve performance.

Personal metrics makes me think of the android character “Data” from Star Trek (pictured above). Data could sense a person’s blood flow and breathing rate and determine if they were friend or foe. How cool would it be if we knew our bodies that well! For instance, we could provide warnings to ourselves if we were about to ‘make a decision under duress’ or if we showed the vital signs of ‘love at first sight’. Maybe I’m reaching, and maybe I’m not reaching.

Now more than ever before, we have the technology to track many facets of human action:

  • laps swum per day (
  • resting heart rate
  • maximum heart rate
  • ejection fraction
  • anaerobic threshold
  • VO2 max
  • lung capacity
  • respiratory rate
  • body temperatures
  • blood pressure
  • visual acuity
  • auditory acuity
  • glucose level
  • blood-alcohol level
  • hemoglobin level
  • HDL level
  • LDL level
  • liver enzyme level
  • body mass index
  • lean body mass
  • body fat percentage
  • basal metabolic rate
  • glycemic index
  • estrogen levels
  • testosterone levels
  • sperm count
  • menstrual cycle
  • caloric intake
  • hours slept (Sleeptracker)
  • calories burned per day (Bodybugg)
  • exercise duration
  • exercise intensity
  • lactate threshold
  • steps taken in day (pedometer)
  • miles run per day (Nike+)
  • hours sat per day
  • mood and stress
  • medication taken
  • hours worked
  • cigarettes smokes

Notice how many personal metrics we can measure, and how few products there are to measure these metrics. The marketplace is shockingly empty, even though we know that measurement improves performance. We know this because of the so-called Hawthorne Effect.

According to the Hawthorn Effect (or Observer Effect) people change their behavior often for the better when they are being observed. Personal metrics improve performance. YMCA found that their retention rate increased 10% when they recorded their members’ workout data. That is a huge difference in churn.

In summary, the tracking of personal metrics is revectoring technology innovation away from artificial reality and to physiological reality. Reality is more actionable and useful than artificial reality. I am personally very excited to be involved in this marketplace with Lapview.

Planning Ama Dablam Climb

I am planning a trip to Ama Dablam, 22,349 feet. The year is unclear as I’m still in planning mode.

Ama Dablam dominates the eastern sky for anyone trekking to Mount Everest basecamp, that’s when I first saw it and was captivated. It’s a gorgeous peak.

The most popular route by far is the Southwest Ridge (right skyline in the photo). Climbers typically set up three camps along the ridge with camp 3 just below and to the right of the hanging glacier, the Dablam.

As with Mt. Everest, the best climbing months are April-May (before the monsoon) and September-October.

I have the gear. I need the team and 1 month vacation.

My Prediction for 2010: Rise of “Micro Mapping”


I was a judge again this year at SJSU’s Neat Ideas Fair. It’s a student innovation contest that is open to the public. Two companies this year addressed a rising trend that I call micro mapping. “Kart Buddy” helps grocery shoppers create a route in the store matching their shopping list and “Airport Buddy” helps travelers navigate airports. I predict this will be huge in 2010.

Micro mapping is like Google maps for indoor or off-road locations.

Eventually you could be guided everywhere we go. As my friend and fellow Neat Ideas Fair judge Paul Fazzone said, ‘these ideas can help customers find stores faster’. This makes these tools highly monetizable, which is good for the entrepreneurs. This is a mobile trend.

Some pioneering micro mapping applications are already available:

I think there is lots of space for further innovation. Here are use cases I can think of:

  • Grocery: How can I do my work grocery shopping in the fewest steps possible?
  • Airport: I’m running late, how do I get to terminal 4 gate 6 the fastest, and do I have time for a Starbucks?
  • Downtown: I’m downtown, where is the nearest restroom?
  • Lane Assist: I’m pulling a trailer and needs to ensure I get in the correct lane at this upcoming highway junction (Garmin is working on this)?
  • Campus Mapping: Where is building 2 at the Googleplex?

What micro mapping use cases can you think of that would improve your day-to-day?

Everest Summit Day HD

HD footage from “ivegivenallican” (I’ve given all I can). Shows the the three most memorable parts of summit day, those being Hillary Step, South Summit and Everest Summit. I wish it showed the balcony — I have a pretty foggy memory of this spot and it would have been nice to see it again with a fully oxygenated mind.

Everest is a different climb than any other mountain climb. As the video shows, it is a climb on army-like scale. Larger in duration (73 days in my case) and in the size of the average team (my team was 25 people). Most people on my team were support crew who stayed lower on the mountain. More than half never left base camp. 5 of us were from North America, the rest were Sherpa. Only 6 of us ever intended to reach the summit, 3 North Americans and 3 Sherpa. The altitude is what makes Everest take so long, require such a huge army-life support organization, and it’s why Everest has captured the imagination of so many. I have climbed many mountains that are more technically challenging than Everest, but there is no mountain higher than Everest and that is exactly why Everest is such a formidable goal. The air is 25% as thick at the summit as it is at sea level. Even with oxygen the body is coping with a fraction of the oxygen it needs to perform. Each step requires multiple breaths. Each step is an opportunity to quit. Each misstep off the ridgeline carries enormous consequences.

Watch this full screen.

My Email Usage

Shockingly, I write email on average from 6AM to midnight from Monday-Friday. The frequency is highest in the early morning when I am responding to customers and teammates. It dwindles in the afternoons when I take most of my meetings.

This dataset is from my corporate email over the last 12 months. I created this report using an Outlook plugin called Xobni (a Cisco investment).

This dataset excludes my private email account, which might extend the hours even wider, gasp.

Seems a bit excessive actually.


About Project Graph: At Wharton we’re taught that everything can be graphed. This is my attempt to graph my goings-on.

How I Came To Get Mauled By A Dog

jaxon-023On Sunday at 9AM I walked past my front window and noticed that my cat was staring at a gorgeous Amber German Shepard standing in the street outside my house. What I did not know was that 5 minutes later this gorgeous animal would maul me and send me bleeding to the Hospital Emergency Room.

Here’s how it happened.

I walked outside and heard the dog was whining anxiously and prancing around a street gutter. His ball was down there and he wanted it back, badly.

No good deed goes unpunished.

John, the owner, came by and asked me to help him move the heavy grate so we could get this sweet dog’s his ball back. He told the dog’s name was Jaxon. I bent over and began to move the grate. Jaxon mouthed my foot and left teeth marks.

At that point I should have run away.

For some reason I wasn’t at all concerned that the dog had just bit me, probably because my skin hadn’t broke and I was uninjured. I asked the John to curb his dog so it didn’t get hurt by the grate or knock me over. John curbed his dog a little but the Jaxon was so anxious that he was uncontrollable.

I bent over again to lift the heavy grate. Like a dart, Jaxon opened his mouth and latched onto a large chunk of my tricep. His left top canine tore through my skin and dug deep through skin and flesh. It happened lightning fast, in less than a second it was done.

I looked down and saw a 1″ x 1/2″ hole in my right arm. The puncture had deep tissue protruding and was oozing blood.  I screamed in pain and Jaxon scooted away.

Then it got quiet except for the drip of my bloody arm.

Jaxon curbed himself and was far enough away for me to calmly stand at a distance. John and I spoke. He gave me his business card. He is a Mercedes auto mechanic. He was a nice guy and was visibly surprised.

At that point it could have gone one of two ways. Neal = cranky, or Neal = reasonable human being. I chose to…

Turn the other cheek.

I told him that I would neither be suing him nor demanding his dog be punished — provided he agreed to train his dog to prevent this from happening again. He agreed and told me Jaxon had all his shots — that was a relief!

photo (7)I spent the next 2 hours in the ER getting 5 stitches. On the way home from the ER I updated John on the phone and repeated my intentions to let this thing go. He was effusively appreciative and his appreciation felt good to me.

It’s really strange but my arm never hurt during this entire thing. It began to ache a lot as soon as I pulled into the ER parking lot which I attribute to psychosomatic response associated with my knowledge that it was about to be stitched. The doctor prescribed me pain relievers and antibiotics, neither of which I filled. The human body is an amazing machine.

Get back on the horse.

The first thing I did when I got home is play with my two neighbor dogs Mango and Max. I knew I had to “get back on the horse” and spend time with dogs in a positive environment or my love of dogs might be ruined by one anxious Shepherds mistake.

I spoke to John again recently, and he told me that he’d already talked to his trainer about ways to socialize Jaxon in a way that prevented his anxious biting response. It was good thing this happened to me and not some young kid with a smaller arm.

Should I Raise Ducks In The Backyard?

[Update] It is not illegal to raise chickens in San Mateo, California. No word on ducks.

[Update] My current preferred duck species is the Khaki Campbell (pictured below). They are good in the water, are hardy and lay more eggs than a chicken. I do not know how loyal they are.

Khaki Campbell in hand

I want to raise a flock of 5 ducks and keep them in my backyard. This is a surprisingly common suburban practice, although more people do it with chickens than with ducks. There is even a Yahoo group called Silicon Valley Chickens for people doing this same sort of thing in my community. If I raise ducks from chicks I’m told they will fly and swim in my lagoon, and return home at night.

Why I want to do this:

  • I miss having animals around. I grew up in rural Minnesota and worked on a sheep farm in Switzerland
  • Fresh eggs are yummy
  • Being disconnected from our food sources is not healthy
  • My backyard is too perfect for ducks not to take advantage of it
  • How cool would it be if they swam alongside me at Aquatic Park (file this idea under “amazing pipedreams”)


Things I’ve figured out:

  • I want ducks, not chickens. Ducks are quieter, and like to fly and swim
  • I want a coop with an enclosed run to keep them safe when I’m not able to watch them

Things I am still working on:

  • What species duck? My criteria are #1 loyalty, #2 egg laying ability
  • Who will sell me 5-6 duck chicks? Hatcheries sell ducks in 25 chick lots
  • If I let them out for a fly/swim how do I “call” them back home?
  • My landlord and local ordinances

Stay tuned.

Great White Sharks In The San Francisco Bay


The Graphic: The colors lines represent actual sharks from 2000-2008. The gray area represents the extrapolated ranging of all great whites in the area. There is no blow-up of the bay, but supposedly they roamed inside the Golden Gate.

The Study: According to a Stanford University-led study released Tuesday, great white sharks occasionally stray from their Northern California feeding grounds for jaunts under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay, apparently in search of snacks. The sharks lived in the deep ocean near Hawaii between January and July and in Northern California between August and December. The scientists tracked the snaggly toothed predators between 2000 and 2008 from the Bay Area to San Diego, Hawaii and back as the sharks followed a surprisingly precise route in a strict time frame.

My take: There are thousands of seals in the Bay. However, the water is comparatively cloudy and noisy. This relative different probably ruined the hunting efforts of the sharks while they were in the Bay. That said, it’s only a matter of time until there is a great white attack in the Bay — shiver.

Read more: San Francisco Chronicle