The Saga of your life

The Saga (@GetSaga) lifelogging app brings RunKeeper (@runkeeper) activities into a user’s location-based view of their life’s activities. Jeremy Bensley (@jbensley) walks us through how A.R.O., Inc. (@arodotcom), makers of Saga, use the Health Graph platform (@healthgraphapi) to show the saga of your life.

Bill Day: Please tell us about yourself and your work.

Jeremy Bensley

Jeremy Bensley: I’m the Director of Server Development at A.R.O., Inc. Running the platform development team means I’m involved with many tasks on a daily basis, but at my core I’m a data guy, and specifically I love tracking my movements, my activities, and my habits. My background is in machine learning, natural language processing, and making sense of lots and lots of (often noisy) output from sensors. Aside from managerial duties my primary tasks for Saga are the time segmentation of the LifeLog and integration with external APIs such as RunKeeper’s Health Graph API.

A.R.O. is a great place to work. We think the sensors in your smartphone can be used to power a wide range of awesome app experiences. Everything from contextually-aware systems like Google Now to virtual personal assistants like Siri, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface on this potential.

BD: What is the “elevator pitch” for why someone should use Saga?

JB: Saga is a location lifelog. It creates a diary of your life based on where you go. The beauty of Saga is that it does this without requiring much attention from the user. Different people will like different aspects of Saga: Perhaps you will use it to figure out how to optimize your commute to work, or how you run your errands. Or as a beautiful way to tell the story of your amazing weekend.

BD: How did you get started using the Health Graph API?

JB: We wanted to include health details as part of the Saga lifelog. A first step is including information such as the details of your run from RunKeeper. For many runners, running is a part of your life, more than just the numbers of the run (distance, time, pace, etc). It’s about getting out to a unique location, having an amazing run or race, meeting up with fellow runners at the pub afterward, and basically just having a wonderful weekend.

And Health Graph users aren’t tracking just runs or other forms of exercise. Right now we’re focusing on run information, but soon we will incorporate other measurements available in Health Graph platform such as body measurements and food intake.

BD: How will the Health Graph platform benefit your business?

JB: People who use the Health Graph through a number of tools have already established a form of lifelogging practice, just very focused. We think they will be familiar with lifelogging in general, and appreciate the additional context that Saga will provide to their existing logging practice.

BD: Which portions of the Health Graph API do you use, and why?

JB: For our initial integration we are pulling the FitnessActivityFeed and associated FitnessActivities to display a summary of a user’s workout in their lifelog. We have plans in our roadmap for expanding upon this to include other activity feeds and eventually allow people to post into some of these feeds using data from Saga.

Saga screenshot

BD: What do you like about the Health Graph API? What would you like to see changed?

JB: It’s an amazingly comprehensive platform for tracking all of the health-related aspects of your life, and it’s fantastic that RunKeeper places such a strong emphasis and dedication to making this the best API for health tracking. My only complaint as a developer would be the lack of API versioning, or if it exists documentation on its usage. [Editor’s note: Please monitor “revisions” via this blog for updates and modifications to the Health Graph API and platform.]

BD: If you could request any new feature from the Health Graph platform, what would it be? How would you use it?

JB: I believe the Health Graph platform provides an amazingly comprehensive health tracking API. Nonetheless I’d like to see extra data to allow for timestamp normalization, by including either a UTC timestamp or the user’s timezone in the activity data.

BD: Can you share any future plans for Saga? What’s coming next that people will be excited about? Does the Health Graph platform play a role in that, and if so, how?

JB: In the future, Saga will incorporate more logging services (for example, a service to track mood, menstrual cycle, music listening) to include in the lifelog. The Health Graph platform will certainly be a part of that, as right now we have a very small subset of it included.

Bill Day (@billday) is Platform Evangelist & PM for RunKeeper where he helps developers learn about and use the Health Graph platform.

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Lose weight faster with DietBet and your friends

DietBet (@dietbet) enables runners and other RunKeeper (@runkeeper) users to lose weight socially by challenging their friends to a fun weight loss competition. Below we discuss how DietBet uses the Health Graph API & platform (@healthgraphapi) to help motivate people and keep their weight loss journeys fun.

Bill Day: Please tell us about yourself and your work.

Adam McClean of DietBet

Adam McClean: I’ve been a product manager for almost eight years with a primary focus in e-commerce and consumer brands. I’m also training for a mini marathon later this year.

BD: What is the “elevator pitch” for why someone should use DietBet?

AM: DietBet is the best way to jumpstart your weight loss and access the support necessary for success. It’s a great mix of behavioral economics (loss aversion and financial incentives), community, and accountability. Players put money on the line and commit to losing 4% of their starting weight in 4 weeks. During the game players make friends, talk smack, and track their progress as they approach their goal. Everyone who reaches the 4% goal ends up splitting the pot — and making some extra money!

BD: How did you get started using the Health Graph API?

AM: I’ve been using RunKeeper and saving my personal data to the Health Graph for a long time. After I participated in my first DietBet, it was clear the two should integrate.

BD: How will the Health Graph platform benefit your business?

AM: Running and weight loss have a symbiotic relationship: Losing weight helps you improve your running time and running helps you burn calories and lose weight. Players who connect with RunKeeper will be able to send weight updates and running activities directly into their DietBet game. Also, any weight updates made on DietBet will be saved back to the player’s Health Graph account.

BD: Which portions of the Health Graph API do you use, and why?

AM: Since DietBet players are required to submit their weight in order to play the game, we wanted to allow them to do this from both DietBet and RunKeeper. We are using Weight Measurements to get/post all of the weight data. We are also grabbing running details from Fitness Activities, so other players can see the hard work being done to help a player make their 4% goal.

DietBet screenshot

BD: What do you like about the Health Graph API?

AM: We love the simple approach to tracking changes using Root Resource and Change Log. This lowers the overhead on our end and lets us post activities and weight updates within minutes.

BD: If you could request any new feature from the Health Graph platform, what would it be? How would you use it?

AM: Most weight data is inputted manually using the honor code. Because we have a team of referees and a photo-based verification solution, we’d like to be able to indicate when weight entries are “verified” vs “manual” the same way you can specify a “tracked” vs “manual” fitness entry.

BD: Can you share any future plans for DietBet? What’s coming next that people will be excited about?

AM: We’re hoping to expand beyond the current game (4% in 4 weeks) and allow users to play games with longer timelines and larger weight loss goals. We also want to reward players for maintaining their weight or establishing healthy habits.

BD: Is there anything else we should know about you or DietBet?

AM: Organize a game today and use promo code HEALTHGRAPH. If you get 8+ other players into the game, we’ll refund your bet!

Bill Day (@billday) is Platform Evangelist & PM for RunKeeper where he helps developers learn about and use the Health Graph platform.


Ruby fans, meet the Health Graph

This week we are featuring one of the developers building libraries and wrappers on top of the Health Graph (@healthgraphapi), Kenny Ma (@kennyma). Kenny has made his Health Graph Ruby gem available via GitHub for anyone and everyone to use. Click here to give it a try yourself and read on for more on why and how he built it.

Bill Day: Please tell us about yourself and your interest in the Health Graph API.

Kenny Ma: I’m an entrepreneur and software engineer in San Francisco. Prior to my venture in a new health start-up, I was a lead engineer at IGN Entertainment where I worked on IGN’s social network for gamers and IGN’s mobile apps. My co-founder and I are working on improving workplace wellness by creating fitness challenges for groups within companies. The Health Graph API provides a great way to track each individual’s progress.

BD: Why did you develop your own Ruby gem for accessing the Health Graph API?

KM: There are quite a few good Ruby gems for the Health Graph API now but there weren’t any when we started.

BD: Which portions of the Health Graph API does your gem support? Do you use all of them in your own application?

KM: The gem currently supports authentication, fitness activities, sleep, weight, profile, and users. We are currently using all of these in our application and will also be adding more API support soon.

BD: Which additional portions of the Health Graph API do you plan to add in the future?

KM: We are planning to add support for strength training activities very soon. Nutrition and background activities are also on our to do list.

BD: What do you like about the Health Graph? What would you like to see changed?

KM: I love the idea of making this data available so that developers like myself can quickly build health applications on top of it. I think end users will benefit tremendously from the innovations that will come out of this. I don’t see a need to change anything at this time. Keep up the good work.

BD: If you could request any new feature from the Health Graph, what would it be? How would you use it?

KM: None. The Health Graph works very well for us and we haven’t had any problems with it for our application.

BD: Can you share any future plans for your gem? What’s coming next that Health Graph developers may be excited about?

KM: There will definitely be more API support and more test coverage. We will be releasing more updates very soon so make sure you watch the repository if you are using the gem.

BD: Is there anything else we should know about you or your gem?

KM: I’m excited to be able to share the gem with the community and any suggestions for improvement are always welcome.

Bill Day (@billday) is Platform Evangelist for RunKeeper where he helps developers learn about and use the Health Graph.