DIY Growth Charts

Today I’ll discuss do-it-yourself charts I use to track growth for my daughters.

First, a brief summary for new visitors. A few years ago I started tracking key aspects of my family’s day-to-day well-being.[1] You can browse the full list of variables I am tracking here.  I use this data to conduct casual exploration and N-of-1 experimentation to address issues and opportunities affecting my family’s growth, health and happiness.

I use Microsoft’s excellent PowerBI data visualization tool to mine through the data and create visualizations that make sense to me and my family.

For example, see these growth charts comparing height and weight for my three daughters to CDC growth standards (see figure 1 and 2.)

figure 1: comparing daughter’s weight to CDC Growth Chart averages

Visual Design

I’ve added a few elements to make these charts easier to understand. First, I needed to plot the CDC Growth Chart averages as a reference point. These datasets contain the percentile averages for height, weight and other growth variables, for each month of growth, across a diverse sample of the population. In his data visualization book, Now You See It, Stephen Few talks about the role of pre-attentive attributes in preparing the user’s focus during the visualization. For these growth charts, I used color and shape (dotted lines) to highlight the range of percentile groupings and gently ‘push’ them to the background. In plotting the actual values for my daughters’ height and weight, I emphasized this line (solid red), allowing it to ‘call’ for our attention while also comparing values to the CDC averages. PowerBI supports the features to configure pre-attentive attributes this way. In addition, it allows me to easily create, publish and access these charts from the web, on my mobile phone and in a secure way.

figure 2: comparing daughters height to CDC Growth Chart averages

And this is quite helpful when providing context in general discussions with our pediatrician.

[1] My self-tracking projects are powered by ostlog – an open-source Personal Well-being Library

Is it time for household algorithms? 

Welcome to  In this first post I explore the role of software algorithms to help us better manage our day-to-day household.  You are probably wondering what do algorithms and households have in common?

Since 2013, i’ve been experimenting with family data science – or the process of drawing deeper understanding and insights to help my wife and daughters grow, stay healthy and be happy.  I am not (yet) one of those obsessed quantified-self data geeks nor do I buy into the fitness tracker fads either.  I also have no intentions of replacing intuition and the good ol’ role of parenting with smart bots to guide your loved ones towards doing the right thing.  Rather, I am just a curious dad who is convinced that a little 21st century IT along with a stream of the right data and analytics can help reinstate a healthy dose of household conscientiousness in between the joy, pressures and chaos of everyday family life.

You are probably still wondering what the heck algorithms and households have to do with one another.   Aren’t algorithms those sophisticated software bots used by Wall Street and insurance companies to make money and manage risk?   Yes they are, but if algorithms can help busy moms and dads grow and improve their families, why shouldn’t they have place in the day-to-day household too?

I invite you to join me on this new journey where we explore opportunities, challenges and real solutions that can help you succeed with family data science in your household too.