A screenshot of how Taylor Hodge data labels his sleep.
The other day I posted about the trend away from five-star reviews to emoji reviews, and on Twitter reader Taylor Hodge shared his unique method of using emoji to data label his sleeping patterns: “Recently I’ve been using emoji as data labels in @sleepcycle,” he tweeted. Interested in learning more, I interviewed Taylor via email about how he tracks his personal data with emoji.
How old are you, what do you do for a living, and where do you live?
My name is Taylor Hodge, I’m 25 years old, and currently I live in Myrtle Beach, SC (although my plan is to change that in 2016). I’ve spent the past ~5 years working in restaurants and serving tables to support myself, but I harbor a deep, wholehearted fascination with data science and machine learning that I am in the process of pursuing.
What’s Sleep Cycle and why do you use it?
Sleep Cycle is an alarm clock for iOS and Android that tracks your sleep cycles during rest by monitoring your movement and behavior during sleep via sound analysis. This information is then used to optimize your waking time, ensuring that you wake up in your desired time window between the light and REM sleep cycles.
I use Sleep Cycle because it wakes me up more effectively than any other alarm I’ve ever used. (Admittedly, I’ve never tried any “sunrise” alarms like this one, but I’m very interested in doing so.) In my experience, its combination of sleep tracking and alarm windows (with steadily increasing alarm volumes) leaves me energized and rejuvenated after being gently woken, as opposed to being groggy and sleep drunk when being woken up by harsh, shrill, traditional alarm clocks. Sleep Cycle also allows you to use “sleep notes” to label activities and learn how they effect the quality of your sleep. This feedback is incredibly useful and has allowed for actionable changes in my behavior that have drastically improved the quality of my sleep.
Where did you come up with the idea of using emoji for data labeling?
The idea for using emoji for data labeling arose out of my own laziness. After training myself and practicing to become a morning person over the past ~6 months, I wanted a clean slate with Sleep Cycle, so I erased all of my past data, not realizing that all of my previous data labels would be erased as well. When I realized this was the case, I decided that I didn’t want to take the time to type the meticulous labels I was using before, so I thought it’d be neat and efficient to label them using the smallest number of characters possible, so I decided to try emoji.
Can you explain what a couple of the labels in your screen grab mean?
Of course! In the screenshot I tweeted, a few of the labels are as follows:
emoji —> meaning
beer —> Did I drink alcohol today?
coffee/tea —> Did I consume caffeine today?
rosary + 20 —> Did I meditate for ~20 minutes?
valley + 30 —> Did I spend ~30 minutes outside today?
OFF + 60 —> Did I turn off/avoid electronic screens ~60 minutes before bed?
book + 60 —> Did I read for ~60 minutes before bed?
Do you think emoji are a more effective way of labeling data?
Subjectively, for personal data or pet projects, I think emoji for data labeling can be very effective. In this way, you’re able to use a minimal amount of characters in a robust fashion that allows for an unambiguous meaning. However, I think it would be difficult to pass this data on to someone else and have them objectively understand it without explicit explanations of the emoji’s meaning in the label.
What do you think of the trend away from five-star reviews to emoji reviews?
I think using emoji in place of five-star reviews could be effective, depending on the context, constraints, and clarity of how they are used.
For example, a “sick” emoji next to a restaurant review tells about that person’s specific experience in a clear way, one that is arguably more effective than “1 star” with an accompanying paragraph, and definitely more effective than just a lone “1 star” review. But, on the other hand, if I see a review for a dentist that’s labeled with an “Easter Island head” emoji, then I’m even more lost than when I started.
There’s no point in sticking with the old school system of reviewing restaurants and rides with stars when emoji can offer other users more nuanced and specific feedback. Facebook and Uber are trying to figure how to make emoji reviews work.
Kristen V. Brown and Cara Rose DeFabio share their take on how and how not to enable emoji reviews.
Just in time for the holidays, Kim Kardashian, queen of the selfie, is releasing her own line of emoji. They are called Kimoji. The emoji include a butt, a doughnut, Kim’s censored boobs, Kim ugly crying, a word cloud featuring Kim calling someone “basic,” a solo cup, Kim taking a selfie, and a hairdryer.
YouTube user darman212 used iOS coding app Hopscotch and Final Cut Pro X to make a version of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer entirely out of emoji. BB-8 is a soccer ball with a bowl of ramen on his head!
Jesse Hill made a music video for Beyonce’s Drunk in Love entirely out of emoji. Fantastic work.
Fist Eggplant! Poo! Surfbort! Oh man, that was fun.
Using pictures to represent words dates back to Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese pictographs. But in the 1500s in France, a particular format of picture writing called the rebus was invented. A rebus is a word puzzle which uses pictures to represent words (or parts of words). The rebus became very popular in Europe and elsewhere. Here’s a French rebus from 1592:
Alice in Wonderland’s author, Lewis Carroll, was fond of rebuses…here’s the first page of a letter he wrote in 1869:
Compare the rebus with the use of emoji on mobile devices and social media, like this emoji version of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song:
It’s OK to like Vanilla Ice.
It’s OK to eat bologna.
It’s OK to acknowledge your past.
It’s OK to use Microsoft products.
I went a’dancin’ last night. Beat Radio is going off the air so they threw a little party at First Ave last night called “Beatoff”. It was fun…for the most part…it was a little annoying because of the nature of the crowd. Usually, a techno show at First Ave means a techno crowd; a crowd that comes to dance and experience the event instead of scoping for that night’s lay or getting drunk. Instead, last night’s crowd was very much the typical bar crowd. Sigh. Don’t get me wrong, the music was good (most of the time) and I had fun dancing, but it just wasn’t the most ideal atmosphere to deal with when all I really wanted to do was dance.
Usually when the hype machine is up and running on a film, I tend to be a little sceptical about it, even when I’ve seen it and enjoyed it. A lot of “yeah, I liked it, but….” I love to ride the backlash.
Saving Private Ryan is the hyped movie of the moment. I liked it. That’s it. I liked it. It was a good movie. I don’t care if it’s not the best war picture ever made. Or the bloodiest. Or the most shell shocking. Or if Tom Hanks’ character was too Mr. Goody Two Shoes. It was just good. I went twice and it was good both times. And I’d recommend it to friends.