Interrogating your Data with Storica!

AIRS records a large variety of data for logging your life. Storica provides various view to understand your data better, including a monthly view that allows for looking back to the tracks you moved, the pictures you took and some more detailed visualisations in the form of timelines and tag clouds.

Since V1.5, however, Storica provides a way to interrogate your recordings by letting you define simple search queries. In this post, we discuss this new form of interrogation to help you better understand how they work and ultimately how you can understand your data better with them.

Asking the Questions

The entry point for the search is the monthly view selector, which you can see by hitting on the search button in the calendar view:

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While the top row of the selector allows for showing your maps, pictures and timelines/tag clouds, the large lower button opens the query dialog. The selector in the first row allows for changing the question type:

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Storica currently support three question types:

  • How often: Examples for questions are How often was my mood ‘happy’? How often did the temperature rise above 25C?
  • When: Examples for questions are When did I annotate that I’m happy? When did I move faster than 80mph? When did I annotate that I am having a coffee?
  • Where: Examples for questions are Where did I annotate that I’m happy? Where did I move faster than 80mph? 

The second row of the dialog determines the data and the condition to be checked:

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We currently limit the types of information supported to those we have found useful to look back to (we are obviously open to suggestions what else to add – just drop us an email with your suggestion or comment to this blog). As for the conditions, we support the usual comparators like <,<=,>=,>,=,!= but also support string comparators like was/was not as well as had/had not. The latter searches for a sub-string in, e.g., your event annotation. Example usages could be to search for anything coffee-related (with annotations being ‘having a coffee’, ‘enjoying a coffee’).

The last row of the dialog defines the values to compare your information to:

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The value box is an edit field that defines the actual value being used (all string values are compared as lower case only!). In order to simplify the query definition for you, Storica also supports pre-defined values for different information. In the mood example above, the selector on the left shows all defined mood values of AIRS. In case, you annotated your own mood value, you can simply type this own definition directly in the value field on the right. Storica supports other pre-defined values for, e.g., pressure (with high, normal and low values). Simply select these pre-defined values and Storica will insert them into the value field. You can always adjust the actual value to your liking!

Once you defined the question to be asked, simply hit the button at the bottom to interrogate Storica. For a brief help, you can also hit the question mark on the right bottom.

If you define a place-related question (e.g., When was I in Colchester?), Storica will need to geocode the place name into a coordinate. For this, you will need to be connected to the Internet! After hitting the execute button, this geocoding will take place and Storica will ask you if you meant the particular geocoded location it found:

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If you agree with the choice, simply select the shown location (here Colchester UK). In case you want to see what location Storica found, hit the Show on Map button to see a map with the results:

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At this stage, hit the marker that defines the location you want and press the OK menu at the top right. Storica will execute the place-related query with this location.

Enjoying the Answers

With Storica supporting three different question types, there are also three different ways to show the relevant reply to your query.

In the case of a How Often question, Storica will deliver a simple number as an answer:

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Simply go back from the reply and ask another question if you like!

In the case of a When question, Storica will initially deliver a similar reply as above with the number of days when the query returns positively:

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You can simply go back and ask another query or, alternatively, you can exit the monthly query entirely (hit the BACK key until you return to the calendar view) and you will see all of the days where the query returned a positive reply:

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Storica uses a separate colour to mark the search results in the current month. You can select any of the marked days to view the usual day views, e.g., the digital stories or maps. The marked search results will disappear once you change the month, hit the today button or issue another query.

Finally, in the case of a Where question, Storica will show you a simplified map view with the search results:

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You can move between the locations of each search result by hitting the marked buttons at the top. Storica will zoom into the location, where you can now click on the marker, view the context panel with the relevant information around and the ability to further investigate your data (according to the diary mode that you selected):

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Some Notes about the Search Results

It is worthwhile noting that searching an entire month with queries that can define might require some time, usually a few seconds. All of the queries are executed right on your device, no data is offloaded to any servers! Keep that in mind when you define conditions to be tested, in particular for values that might exist in large number (for instance, the air pressure is usually measured every about 10 seconds, so crawling through all pressure measurements might need a bit longer!).

In addition, we also limit the search results in Where questions to those occurring within the interval used for displaying the context panel (10 mins by default – a value you can change in the Settings of Storica). This is because it is likely that during that interval, similar occurrences might have happened (e.g., the speed might be above the requested value throughout that interval). This will lead to less markers on your map, which makes them better readable while you can still explore the values around found search results through the context panel after clicking on the marker.

 

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