Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hacking H(app)iness: Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking it Can Change the World

Title: Hacking H(app)iness:  Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking it Can Change the World
Author:  John C. Havens
Publication Information:  Tarcher/Penguin, Penguin Group, a Penguin Random House Company. 2014. 256 pages.
ISBN:  0399165312 / 978-0399165313

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "I sync, therefore I am."

Like it or not, we leave bits and pieces of data about ourselves everywhere we go - whether physically or out in the cyber world. Some data, we willingly track - everything from sharing an email address signing up for a newsletter to writing a blog to inputting what we eat for lunch on some food site. Some traces, we leave behind unknowingly - outlined in the fine print about data tracked by websites we click on or join.

The question arises - If all the data out there about any one individual was accumulated, what picture would it draw? Would we recognize that picture of ourselves?

Right now, we freely give that data to companies who in turn use it to further their own profitability. What if, we, as individuals, took complete charge and ownership of our data and used it to further our own goals?

That is the premise and those are the questions this book addresses. The book discusses ideas such as:
  • Happiness economy - economic satisfaction that is not based strictly on income on profit but other measures of satisfaction.
  • Internet of things - devices that have an identity in the Internet infrastructure and that communicate and convey data (think a smart phone automatically syncing with your computer without intervention after the initial set up)
  • Virtual currencies - digital "money" used in a specific community (think donations for clicks, coins in video games, etc.)
  • Gross national happiness - an attempt to measure the status of nation in more qualitative terms than traditional economic indicators.
John C. Havens, the author, is a writer for Mashable, an online news source for the "Connected Generation". This book grew out of the work he did and articles he wrote for Mashable. The references to that work come up throughout that book. Therein lies the problem for me. I feel like I missed something in not reading the original work. The book includes some of the articles along with the reference back. For me, the book would be more successful and more cohesive without the direct references in the text. If this book is the culmination of all the research, then I would rather read about the research and the finding not where it was first published. An appendix, an index, or such may better deal with that information.

That being said, I learned a lot from this book. It introduced me to new ideas. It presents a lot of research and references to back up the ideas. It presents concrete tools (such as technology and apps) to use in starting to manage our individual data. It presents a different perspective than some of the other books I have read on happiness research (for example, Less Doing, More Living which is mentioned in this book and Happier at Home). I look forward to exploring some of the tools identified in the book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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