Friday, November 7, 2014

Small data

I started keeping track of my hikes in mid-2002. This quick chart shows how many hikes I did per year every year since 2003, the first full year of tracking. A couple of things stand out.

First, in 2005 and 2012, I was dealing with injuries (undiagnosed IT band problems and a bone spur, respectively), that limited my time on the trail.

Second, 2014 will be the hikiest year yet for me since moving to New York, even if I do nothing in the next two months.

Third, the mean is about 28 hikes a year, or a little more than twice a month. (And 26 is the median and 30 is the mode!)

Fourth, I am the kind of person who should probably own a Fitbit or something, but I would probably get annoyed because it wouldn't track data exactly the way I want.

Fifth (and now we're way beyond "a couple of things"), hard data is interesting. If you had asked me how many times in a year I typically hiked, I'm not sure I could have given you an accurate answer. In general, humans are pretty bad at estimating how often we do things, or how many calories we eat, or how much time we spend doing any particular activity. My department has been trying to estimate how work we assign in our classes, and I considered polling my students. But - aside from the likely problem of deliberately misleading reporting - I'm not sure how accurate students would be able to be.

No comments: