How to lose an audience: or when I learned that I should not have updated that app

Metrics seem to be everywhere these days. From the well-known details tracking of Amazon’s internal systems to Fitbits and Apple Watches, it seems like the quantified self movement has come to the forefront everywhere. So after hearing a recommendation from Kevin Rose a few years ago, I gave Tally a try.

For several years, it seemed perfect. The interface was minimal and it fulfilled the most basic criteria: I used it.

The premise is simple. Set boxes for thing you want to track. Then tap the box when you do the thing. If you want each tap to count for more than one (say, a certain number of pushups), alter it accordingly. Then, optionally, you can set goals for each in the number of times you want to do (or want to limit) the events. After setting up boxes for pushups, meditation, journaling, number of alcohol drinks, etc., I used it every day for almost two years.

And then one day, it just sucked. I had updated the app, which I periodically do in bulk, and all of a sudden, everything was misaligned. The app ran incredibly slowly, even though the features were still simple. And the auto-backup and data export features that had been there before were nowhere to be found.

I’m not sure if the company was struggling for money and wanted to force people into a subscription setup, (I believe I paid for the app initially, but just a small, up-front fee) but from what I saw, I wasn’t about to shell out more cash. Maybe it was sold and the new owners had crappy servers. But in the end, I gave up.

I still wanted my years of data, though, and despite many requests, I never found a good way to get access to it. So, I ended up manually re-entering more than a year of metrics into a Google Sheet. Though time-consuming, I have far more confidence in Google’s servers remaining intact than the app at this point.

But the system is still clunkier now. While there are a million habit/metrics trackers out there, I haven’t found a good replacement that is as seamless as Tally used to be. If anyone has any recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

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