2014: Caffeine counting resumption!

Happy 2014! I hope this coming year will bring as many exciting changes and opportunities as the last year did, and that the Backtrack / TandemLaunch partnership will continue to flourish.

2012-2013 coffee count

This year, as one of my new year’s resolutions, I’m resuming my coffee-counting experiment that I stopped last March; you can read my post about some of the results here. The tl;dr version is: for one year (March 2012 to March 2013) I recorded the number of times each day that I consumed a ‘unit’ of coffee (defined loosely- I was more interested in the number of times I felt compelled to drink a coffee than the actual amount of caffeine that entered my bloodstream). I didn’t count tea or energy drinks because, generally speaking, I don’t drink them- I stick to coffee or espresso.

I have two main motivations for resuming this study:

1) As we develop Backtrack, I’m trying to engage in more quantified-self activities, in order to get a feel for now different apps can effectively engage users and what value the user gets out of this activity in return. Hopefully I’ll be able to give some informal reviews and recommendations on the blog as I discover particularly good (or bad) apps. Resuming my coffee-counting experiment seemed like a good idea in this circumstance, as I’ll be able to a) try out a sampling of apps intended for approximately this purpose, and b) get back in the habit of recording personalized metrics, which can’t hurt with Backtrack development.

2) I’m personally curious about whether my caffeine consumption has changed since grad school. Not only would I like to know whether or not I’m consuming more coffee since starting Backtrack, but it might make a good (if slightly non-serious) follow-up to my post about the similarities and differences between startups and grad school on the TandemLaunch blog.

A screenshot from Caffeine Tracker. Looks good so far.
A screenshot from Caffeine Tracker. Looks good so far.

The last time I counted coffee for a year, I was still in the technological dark ages and was not yet completely dependent on my Nexus phone for survival, so I kept track of my coffee consumption using a relatively low-tech method: writing on Post-It notes on the side of my desk in the lab. This time around, I have some help: I’m using the Caffeine Tracker app from Rogan ($0.99 for the full version), which in addition to providing a convenient way to input your drinks, gives a continually updated graph approximating the amount of caffeine in your bloodstream. (I’m currently at 339 mg. I guess that’s an absolute figure, and not a per volume measure? The app doesn’t say. I’m also not sure how they decide what’s in your bloodstream versus in your various intra or extracellular compartments; the app doesn’t look like someone who ever took Physiology 209.) I may stick with Caffeine Tracker, or move to another app if I find a better one.

In addition to all of the fancy real-time caffeine level information I’m getting from my phone, I’ll also be writing down the number of coffee ‘units’ that I consume on a daily basis, using the exact same methodology as last year, so I’ll be able to compare the two data sets effectively.  Formally, I’ll be testing the null hypothesis that there is no difference between my caffeine consumption in grad school and with Backtrack. Of course, like a good scientist, I’ll be doing a few hundred post-hoc tests with this data set whenever feel like it, because why not?  I’m looking forward to sharing the results- we’ll see what comes out.


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