In my version of heaven, the pearly gates greet me with a giant infographic. I’ll see an entire numerical breakdown of my accomplishments. Millions of dollars earned. Truckloads of popcorn eaten. Miles of toenails clipped.
Nicholas Felton’s version of heaven must be pretty similar. He’s the infographic guru behind Facebook’s Timeline. He’s also the self-publisher of the annual Feltron Report, which are staggering visual representations of his own life.
He just released a new, 2010/11 version, spanning the entirety of his last two years spent around the globe. (It’s a biannual this time—expect another take on that time period in a few months.) It’s a portrait of our digital future of daunting scope, tracking where he’s been, who he’s been with and what he’s been doing for over 700 days.
His breakdown of time spent across New York, which stacks his time spent in each location as a towering skyscraper, is remarkable. But that’s just one page in the report. Look deeper, and you can see a further breakdown of this idea—time spent in NYC just with friends like “Olga” (who I assume is his girlfriend). You learn that he saw Olga approximately 72% of the days he was in town, and he even charts their paths, ping ponging across the city between parties, dinners, and other events.
It’s meticulously calculated and mapped information, but Felton always keeps a quirky human context running alongside the data dumps. You learn, for instance, that Bloody Marys are his favorite drink (with 22 servings consumed in NYC) and that he saved an octopus in Alaska (which represented his sole check mark in the Animals Saved column).
Assuming Felton stays at Facebook, it’s not hard to imagine his penchant for personal data mining permeating into more products. Especially with check-in services, photo facial recognition and the sheer amount we like to share what we eat, Facebook would have little problem piecing together a few fun social metrics for us all without a fraction of the manhours Felton put into his latest report.
The question is: Would anyone want that? If you hadn’t spent time with Felton’s annual reports, you might poo-poo the idea. Sure, they might serve as nice art, but what’s the point of all of this, when you break it down? But if you let those infographics wash over you, you get the overwhelming sense of life’s everyday richness—they’re filled with moments, from a stray concert to a gift to mom, which might ordinarily be washed away by fading memories. These infographics are really time capsules of moments you’d never think to photograph, and they make you appreciate the value of every day lived. That’s pretty useful, no?