A Personal Dashboard

A few months ago Brad Feld posted about his Quest For A Personal Dashboard. It was a post that stuck with me for several reasons. With a background in Business Intelligence and analytics I love this kind of stuff. The main reason the post stuck with me is because I really want the same thing.

On some levels, my needs are not very different from Brad’s. I have been working on refining my daily routine that involves checking a variety of numbers (watched numbers grow), checking to make sure some processes are running properly, checking my todo list and appointments, etc. I also have social needs that are part of my daily process which mostly consists of checking the social media of people I am in close relationships with.

A few weeks ago this post about the Panic Status Board made the rounds (followed by this similar and less expensive example). It is a beautiful example of a dashboard, for a company. I want a dashboard for me (which includes companies, but isn’t all company focused). I want a truly personal dashboard.

I have experimented with a few attempts at a personal dashboard. I have tried creating special widgets for the OSX Dashboard. I have created a local HTML5 page that pulls in data from a few sources and serves as my start page. The problem is that these take a lot of effort to create and the process changes too frequently. I also realized that most of the information I want on my personal dashboard isn’t really related; there isn’t any reason I need to see my schedule appointments with the previous days’ sales numbers from our stores.

Over the past few weeks something interesting has happened. Most of my daily routine for checking data has moved to my iPhone. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but much of it takes place before I even get out of bed in the morning. The main problem with this method is that the screen is a little too small.

If only I could have something like my phone with a bigger screen.

You know, like the iPad.

The iPad very well might be a personal dashboard. Not a dashboard in the traditional BI sense (like the Panic dashboard), but a dashboard that has dedicated modules that clearly display just the information that I want. The iPad will have great access to my spreadsheets with updated data (Google Docs), social insights (Facebook), scheduled tasks (Remember the Milk & iCal), personal finances (Mint), review my productivity (RescueTime), etc. Unlike my laptop (but more like my phone with a bigger screen), it should be easy for me to grab it before I get out of bed and take it with me as I go downstairs to make a morning smoothie.

I think that we will quickly start to see iPad apps tailored toward personal dashboard kind of uses. Some examples might include:

  • App Store Developer Dashboard – pull sales figures from iTunes connect
  • Facebook app updated to include groups to easily see updates from only the most important relationships
  • Traffic updates for morning and evening commutes
  • Web and attention analytics
  • Fitness tracking for Nike+ and other workout trackers
  • A million different ways to curate important content from the web
  • Travel tracking for road warriors
  • Personal portfolio tracking (in addition to the stocks app that will probably ship with the iPad)

These kind of apps will be focused on displaying important information succinctly and they will all be available in one place. Just a simple tap away.

Of course, I could be wrong. Browsing this list of 100 iPad apps that will be available at launch, none of them appear to fit my personal dashboard vision.

Maybe my personal dashboard will look something like this…

HAL iPad Dashboard
Next up: iPad as a dynamic cheat sheet


  1. I think you're on the right track here. Be careful of the tendency to think of the iPad as a "larger iPhone," though. I suspect it will ultimately prove to be something very different from anything that frames our thinking presently. Like the iPod turned into more than an MP3 player — it unleashed a whole eco-system of purposes unimagined when it was introduced (think "podcasting"). The same will happen with the iPad (remember, "it's the chair, stupid"). That is not to say that this first iteration will be any more perfect than the first iPod or the first iPhone. But I suspect it's gonna be a hell of a lotta fun.

  2. So, Jackson, how goes that quest for a “personal dashboard”?

    I hope this comment gets you to revisit the topic, because I’ve been thinking about it some lately.

    I still like my iPad a LOT, but I am realizing in the past couple of days that it is having a rather unintended consequence: rather than an embellishment of my daily routine, it is proving to be a disruptor.

    I mean, suddenly I have all these new ways of organizing things. Like myriad new “task managers” to chose from, all in various stages of development but none optimal (i.e. none that manage tasks and projects well AND sync easily across multiple devices…).

    And I’ve also discovered two programs that make manual note-taking – i.e. WRITING – on the tablet very easy. At least, until the stylus I bought broke down (so I bought another…)

    So suddenly I find myself in this lurch, where instead of being MORE organized, I’m actually LESS organized, and spending my time trying to figure out my organizational routines, rather than executing things. It’s weird.

    I’ve got my own blog post in the works, I think I’ll call it “iPad = imDisrupted” or something like that… in the meantime I wonder how it’s going with you…??

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