Daytum I love you but please join the web

I’ve been lucky enough to have been a beta testers for daytum.com, a service for collecting and communicating personal data, and I love it. As you might expect from Ryan Case and Nicholas Feltron it’s a lovely piece of interaction and graphic design. You can record and visualise all sorts of qualitative and quantitative data – personally I’m recording information about what I eat, drink, how much I sleep and communicate (emails, blog posts, talks, tweets etc.) but others record the music they listen to, how far they run, gigs they’ve been to, books they’ve read. All sorts of things.

OK I probably drink too much coffee

OK I probably drink too much coffee

And now you too can record and visualise whatever you want because this weekend the service came out of beta. Now here’s the thing, as much as I love the service I wish it were more, well born of the web. You see I have a few problems with daytum.

My main problem is that I can’t point to the stuff I’m recording. That graphic at the top of this post doesn’t have a URL so I can’t link to it or the underlying data; and because I can’t point to it it limits what can be done with it. If I can’t link to to, I can’t embed it elsewhere, I can’t link it to other data sources and mash it up. And that’s a problem because the only possible URI for this sort of information about me is locked away in the daytum interface. Why isn’t there a nice RESTful URL for each ‘display’. Something like:

daytum.com/:user/:statement

Once everything has a URL then I want each of those resources to be made available in a variety of different representations – as JSON, RDF and ATOM for starters – that way the data can be used, not just visualised.

And finally I want to be able to use URIs to describe what I’m measuring, not just strings. I want to be able to point to stuff out there on the web and say “at this time I consumed another one of those”. I’m not suggesting that everything should have to be described like this, but if there’s a URI to represent something I want to be able to point to it so everyone knows what I’m talking about.

In other words I want daytum.com to be following the Linked Data principles rather than an ajax only interface.

If you have a look at Felton’s own annual reports you will see that they group and aggregate all sorts of information but to achieve something similar (conceptually if not visually) then you will need a lot more from daytum than currently being offered.

Felton Annual Report 2008

Felton Annual Report 2008

The other big gap is the lack of an API to update information. Keeping daytum.com up to date is actually quite hard work and certainly to be able to collect the sort of data Nicholas Felton does to put together his annual reports would be onerous to say the least, but it needn’t be.

If daytum.com provided an API that allowed me to post information from other services that would be a great start, but actually it’s not always necessary, nor even that desirable. The Web already knows quite a lot about us, for example Fire Eagle and Dopplr know where I am/ been, delicious knows what I think is interesting on the web, and how I describe those things, Twitter and this blog what I doing and thinking about; for others Last.fm knows what music they are listening to. Daytum doesn’t need to replicate all of that data, indeed it shouldn’t, it could simply request that data when needed — to visualise it. (it shouldn’t store it because it makes it harder to manage access to it).

The one thing I don’t want, however, is yet another social networking site, I don’t want social features to be part of daytum. I don’t want them because I don’t need them – there are already loads of places integrated into my social graph, whether that be Twitter, Flickr, Facebook or this blog. I really don’t want to have to import and then maintain another social graph. I do however want to be able to squirt the data I’m collecting or aggregating here at daytum into my existing social graph; much as Fire Eagle adds location brokerage to existing services so I want a service that adds personal data to existing social networking sites.

Comments

6 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Nicholas,

    Tom – Thank you, this is a really thoughtful and well written post, that holds the site to the same standards we aspire to. I hope that we can move things along and get some of these features out there more quickly – we do have an API underway and hope to speak to that a bit more on our blog in the coming weeks.

    All the best, Nicholas@daytum.

    • axzm,

      I truly hope this is available soon. I would love to import my foursquare and / or gowalla check-ins. Going in manually and entering in all that stuff is tedious. Also, being able to display the data within my own website would definitely be cool.

  2. Panels do have individual links: for example, the “how many books has Paul read this year” panel is at http://daytum.com/panels/36353 (which isn’t exactly the URL you want; that would have /blech/ instead of, or before, /panels/). Unfortunately, like a lot of the Daytum interface, it’s not very discoverable: only the owner of a panel can find the URL, by looking at “options”.

    I did note that one of the features launched with the release from beta is an export-to-CSV URL, and as Nicholas has responded above, both an API and an iPhone app are apparently forthcoming. (An API is key for me; it might let me connect things to Daytum the way Tower Bridge and ISS are connected to Twitter.) Being able to get data both in and out of a service is vital these days.

  3. @Nicholas yes I had seen that you plan to release an API, which is great news; I’m hoping it will be a nice RESTful, webby one. One that both lets me update daytum databases and one that lets me pull data in from elsewhere to be visualised (but not stored). :)

    @Paul Hadn’t clocked how to grab the URL, thanks for pointing it out. But they aren’t quite what I’m hoping for, both because the URLs aren’t hackable (as you point out) but also because they aren’t discoverable from the webpage.

    Likewise the export as CSV is good – but it’s not very webby. Why can’t I get this data ‘dynamically’ at a variety of URLs. For example I would like to see URLs like:

    daytum.com/:user/:statement/by/2009.json
    daytum.com/:user/:statement/by/2009/03.csv
    daytum.com/:user/:statement/by/2009/04/06.rdf
    daytum.com/:user/:statement/by/latest.atom
    daytum.com/:user/{:statement}/apml/from/2009/02/05/to/2009/04/06

  4. I finally decided to give Daytum a go, and quickly hit upon the same limitations. When I gave the site my Twitter info I imagined I would then be able to create panels for ‘tweets per day’ and such. But no.

    As a very webby user, but not an API techy, I would love at least the option to bring in the data I already have in so many places.

    It’s been a few months since this post, and the last real developments on their official blog – I wonder if we’ll be seeing any updates soon?

  5. Chris,

    I’m in the same boat, have signed up for Daytum and like the look and idea of it… but until it has an API that can allow me to start adding data to it automatically from various sources, and get that data back out as easily, its no use to me.

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