THE QUANTIFIED EXPAT

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When I switched over to this blog from my previous one, I promised to tell you about my 2014 “quantified life” project. Finally I am getting round to doing just that.

Before I do I just want to note that following my last post the views of my blog increased significantly for a couple of days. Having thought about it I suspect it was because I mentioned “Game of Thrones” which attracted lots of fans expecting something of interest to them. So maybe its a good idea to mention Game of Thrones again to see if I can keep the numbers up. Did I say that in a minute I am going to watch another episode of Game of Thrones? There, that should do it.

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BOOK REVIEWS: JUNE 2014

I’ve always loved reading. I remember getting certificates for being a “book worm” at Padiham library from an early age, and the passion has stuck with me ever since. I find it a fantastic way to escape from reality for a while and to unwind before going to sleep. As part of my “quantified self” project for 2014 I decided to start tracking how many books I am reading. This is partly to help me remember where I am up to with the various series I am reading, but also just to see how much I am reading. I am using the “goodreads” website and iPad app to track how I am doing, and have set myself a target of 50 books for the year. As you will see from the picture below I am ahead of schedule halfway through the year.

Reading Challenge I’ve decided that on a monthly basis I will post short reviews of each of the books I have read. I’ve been using reviews on goodreads and various blogs to identify books to add to my “to read” list so I figure its the least I can do to try and help others find books they may not normally read. So please find below my reviews for June 2014. The books listed demonstrate that I am not a “high brow” reader, I read for pure pleasure. They also illustrate how the books I am reading at the moment tend to fall into three main categories:

  • CAN DO NO WRONG AUTHORS. The best example of this category is Stephen King. I will normally read any new book by one of these authors as soon as it is published because I have liked them for so many years. Their books aren’t always perfect, but I know I am almost certain to enjoy them greatly.
  • TICK THREE BOXES BOOKS. If a book ticks the following three requirements I will almost certainly give it a go: (1) It is the first of a series of crime novels. (2) The series is based in the UK (bonus points if it is the NW). (3) The first book is on offer for Kindle at less that £2. I’ve discovered numerous excellent series in this category over the last couple of years, which either illustrates there are many good authors out there, or I am an undiscerning reader. You can decide which.
  • YOU HAVE MY SUPPORT BOOKS. These tend to be new books from authors of the series in the “tick three boxes” category, but they are standalone books, or the first books in a new series from the same author. Because I’ve enjoyed the series I will almost certainly demonstrate loyalty to the author by trying their new works.

This approach means that for the foreseeable future I am unlikely to run out of reading material. The main challenge is keeping track of new books that fall into these categories. Amazon is scarily good at recommending books for me based on my previous purchases. The goodreads website provides further assistance, as does registering for updates from authors’ websites, or following their twitter feeds. Of course I then have an excuse to compile everything into my own lists, with colour coding and everything, to get an overall picture. Anyway, before I get too carried away with telling you about my lists I present to you my reviews for June 2014. Continue reading

WHY “THE QUANTIFIED EXPAT”?

Having “relaunched” (perhaps too grand a description for a blog with a small number of readers) my blog last week I guess I should explain my change of name from “An Arabian Adventure” to “The Quantified Expat”.

Firstly, why bother changing? “An Arabian Adventure” felt as though it described well the purpose of the blog when we first moved to the UAE, and given that its primary purpose is to keep family and friends up to date with our news I’ve been pleased with the number of people who do read it. Most posts get more than 50 views and almost 1,800 people from around the world have viewed at least one post (the map below shows the location of viewers for the last month).

Despite this, like many bloggers I am sure, I would like to build up an even bigger readership. It seems that many expats over here start blogs when they first arrive. Many become inactive within a few weeks, others tail off over the first year, but some build up a large following and are still going years later.

I’m sure there are plenty of understandable reasons why people stop blogging, many will become too busy working and enjoying life, some will run out of things to talk about, and I’m sure some become discouraged by the lack of interaction they provoke. All of these apply to me to a greater or lesser extent at different times.

Interaction is an important factor. I love getting comments on my posts, either on the posts themselves or via Facebook. It’s great if they are from members of the family, it’s even better if they are from friends, and it’s fantastic if they are from people I’ve never met (although I’ve not yet got desperate enough to be pleased with the regular comments I get offering to sell me dubious tablets and other paraphernalia).

The doesn’t seem to be a foolproof recipe for what works and what doesn’t, but one thing I have noticed is that a common theme for many successful blogs is that they have a clear “brand” (too grand a description again). It may be that they focus on one topic (restaurant reviews seem to work well), or use the same identity on several social media channels to drum up readers from different sources, or post on the same day / time each week. This is something I’ve been conscious of but not focused enough on.

One aspect of “brand” is that all the successful blogs I have come across reflect their blog name in their URL. I wasn’t able to do this as most versions of http://www.arabianadventure (.com, .co.uk, etc) were already taken, which was another indicator that maybe my blog was too similar to others out there.

Having decided that a change was necessary the next decision was what to change to. I wanted to reflect that the main reason for me doing the blog is the fact we have become expats, so that bit was easy. But what to go with it? That bit was fairly easy too, because at the time I was thinking about this I was also becoming more interested in the “quantified self” movement.

For those you not familiar with it, the “quantified self movement” is defined as “a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood), and performance (mental and physical)”. Source: Quantified Self. (2014, May 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:43, May 24, 2014, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Quantified_Self&oldid=609593895

In short it is self knowledge through self tracking with technology. It is a movement which is gaining in popularity, not least due to the increase in wearable technology (wristbands that track the steps you take, sleep you get, etc) and smartphone apps (record what you eat, what you read, etc) that can do the tracking for you. Given the number of gadgets flooding onto the market it seems that 2014 is going to be the year the movement really takes off.

The movement plays to my love of gadgets and the fact that I have always enjoyed playing with numbers (I have mentioned my obsession with spreadsheets previously I think). It would appear that I am indeed a geek.

Given the above it wasn’t too much of a jump to “The Quantified Expat”, bringing together our new life overseas and the quantified self movement. The URL http://www.quantifiedexpat.com was available (who else would want it!?), so the decision was made, and here I am, new logo and everything.

My intention is to blog about the following in future:

  • Diary posts chronicling our life here, hopefully of interest to friends and family, and others who may be moving / considering moving over here.
  • Posts about different aspects of life here in the UAE that interest me, usually with a sprinkling of numbers, to provide a somewhat dubious link to the quantified part of the blog name.
  • Brief reviews of the places we go, and things we do, hopefully of interest to family and friends, and people new to the UAE.
  • Posts focused on “the quantified self”, reflecting on what I am measuring, and what (if anything) I am learning about myself.
  • Reviews of the apps and gadgets I am using for my tracking, hopefully of interest to other quantified self people.

Hopefully there will be so something in there for everyone, but let me know if you would like to hear about anything else. And remember, I love getting comments.

In my next post I will share with you some of the things I am tracking in 2014, and why (I’ll have to think about this part of it!).

Having revealed that I am a numbers obsessed geek longing to be liked, I will end the self therapy lesson there. Thank you as always for reading.

If any fellow bloggers are reading, please let me know what you think. What works well for your blog? How do you increase engagement? What other tips do you have for me?