Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tracking Hobby Data


My first real professional software development gig was as a research assistant with the Texas Coastal Ocean Observation Network, a system of meteorological tracking stations up and down the Texas Gulf Coast that's been collecting data since, in some places, 1989.  The system's literally tracked how much water is under the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge, every six minutes, for 20 years.  That's a lot of detailed data.

TCOON's done some really interesting stuff with that data.  They've got some incredibly accurate forecasting tools, for example.  The system's greatest strength is its volume.

This is definitely a lesson that's stuck with me over the years: heaps of information can tell you things.  Of course, the only way you get heaps of data is to start collecting it.

Tracking My Hobby Data

At the beginning of the year, I said that I'd be using the Lone Pilgrim Points Tracker to track my painting progress through the year... and I have.  However, rather than just keeping a running number in a sidebar that I increment occasionally, I dump all of that stuff in a spreadsheet.  There's a link to it in the sidebar, but it's certainly easy to miss.  So, allow me to direct your attention to:


The spreadsheet was negligibly easy to set up, and takes little to no effort to keep up to date.  (Zealot had suggested that the maintenance would be onerous.  So far, it has not been.)  If anything, I've found that logging work in the spreadsheet really communicates an immediate sense of accomplishment.  This was especially true with the way I tracked progress on my Daemon army.  I could literally see progress bars filling up.

It also helps me keep things in persepective.  I brought this up just about a month ago, when I had the same sort of moment Bill just had: "I feel like I've accomplished nothing.  Oh, wait... I've gotten a lot done!"

(I'm going to post some charts.  These are all driven by the Google Spreadsheet!)

Of course, even though I painted a ton of Skaven in July and August, it's obvious that 2010 has been the Year of Khorne:

I've done a bit more than track my painting progress, though.  Since it was easy, I started tracking my performance in games.  Given my W/L/D record... I'd probably have a higher opinion of my ability if I hadn't!
Ouch!

It also gives me some perspective on what I'm really playing:

I'm sure to revisit / repost these charts at the end of the year: I've only been tracking this stuff for about 10.5 months.

Room for Improvement

It's not perfect, though.

One thing my Skaven have definitely shown me is that I like to convert some models. This system doesn't account for any of that effort. If I convert a model and fail to get around to painting it (which is usually the case with me), it's as if it never happened... never mind how much hobby time it actually consumed.

Assembling things isn't a small undertaking, either. Sure, snapping together a Black Reach marine isn't hard: but 30 of them add up. A more complete hobby system would reflect this sort of thing, as well.

Next year, I'll have to account for this sort of thing.

Exactly how, though, I'm not sure: building a Stompa is somewhat more involved than building a Guardsman, though, and scratch-building a Khornate Daemonette (Khornette?) would be more involved than doing a weapon-swap on a Deathwing Terminator.  These differences are something I should track.

The Lone Pilgrim system only measures painting, and it does so in terms of size: a tank is more points than a marine.  The axis is different with conversion and assembly.  Maybe it makes sense to track conversion separate from assembly.  Maybe it doesn't.  This is something I need to noodle on a bit.

Also, Lone Pilgrim isn't perfect: it attaches the same value to dudes I paint in batches of 10 as it does to a single character who's a centerpiece to my army.  Maybe that's okay, maybe it isn't.

Finally, I'll need to add a field to scope hobby records to year.  Gaming records already include the date, but it'd be nice to see what months are my hobby-fertile ones and what months are dry.

Sharing is Caring

Once I've settled these things, I'm going to create an updated Hobby Tracker spreadsheet.  Clearly, I'm doing this for myself... but there's no reason y'all can't benefit from it, too.  I'll post a blank copy of it and make it available for any and all to copy to their Google Docs accounts.

What do y'all think?  Do I fetishize information a little too much, or is this a healthy way to gain perspective about how I spent most of my leisure time?
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