I believe every day is significant

I recently lost three months of detailed self-tracking data.

It sucks. A lot.


I’m a future junkie, and somewhat of a bleeding-edge / early adopter type. So naturally last week was good for me, with Apple introducing a radically redesigned iOS 7. For a few years running my friend has facilitated a User Group of sorts centered on installing and experiencing the pre-release versions of iOS following WWDC before the majority of the world. This year I was particularly looking forward to giving the newer, more colorful, arguably “flatter” iOS 7 a spin on my aging iPhone 4.

As I’ve probably mentioned a couple of times, self-tracking is important to me. My favorite self-tracking tools are the set-it-and-forget-it kind, like my FuelBand, or the Sleep Cycle app. ProtoGeo’s Moves app, however, has been my very favorite. Launching earlier this year, Moves received acclaim not only for its beautiful design, but also for its ability to supplant the $99 Fitbit for free. I loved Moves for its underemphasized ability to essentially map out my day, Google Latitude style, without more than a 20% drop in battery life. I referred to my Moves maps daily when writing my Day One entries. Down to the minute, Moves helped me remember where I was. All I had to do was write about why.

A fine mess in the fine print

Before installing iOS 7 I made sure to run one last iCloud backup. Feeling secure, I installed the new iOS and restored from iCloud. I didn’t think to check Moves until the next day. When I did, all my Moves data was gone. Three months of detailed information about my life and activities had simply vanished. Confused, I started searching.

There’s a little part of the Moves FAQ that escaped me prior to the iOS 7 transition:

How can I backup / transfer my data to another iPhone?

Currently you need to take a backup of your phone to your computer with encryption turned on (a setting in iTunes) and then restore that backup to the (new) phone. We know that this is not optimal and we’re planning to provide a better way.

Moves stores tracking information only on your phone, apparently. To maintain data privacy they don’t make this information available to iCloud during the backup process. While I appreciate the developers’ concern for user data protection, this esoteric requirement (which is never mentioned beyond the FAQ) is a lot worse than “not optimal.” It is a serious flaw in the app’s design. I consider myself a technologist, a future junkie, an early adopter, and this tool had still managed to hurt me. Not. Cool.

Taking a step back

Ironically, Moves recently opened up access to their API. I had been reading through their sparse documentation with the intention of maybe putting together a Ruby gem that would allow me to write a web app to export my Moves data for munging in another medium. Following the loss of my data and the poor tracking performance of Moves under iOS 7 (something I don’t fault them for, of course), my plans are on hold for at least a couple of months. I’m slightly saddened by this, but it’s largely unavoidable.

In the meantime, I’m being more diligent with my Foursquare checkins and keeping a closer eye on my Nike FuelBand activity graphs to help me reconstruct my days if I get too far behind. However, these are noticeably more cumbersome than the automatic, always-on tracking Moves afforded me before this whole debacle.

#FirstWorldProblems as this all may be to many of y’all, self-trackers like myself take our own data seriously. Incidents like this are akin to episodes of digital Alzheimer’s, though without the tragic comfort of forgetting what one has forgotten.

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