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Re/code's Not-So-Quantified CES, Including Critical Jerky Data

Call us activity-slackers.

Quantify this.

That’s what my colleague Peter Kafka, he of the perpetually raised eyebrow, said when I asked him to wear an activity-tracker at CES and report back daily with his findings.

In other words, he would not be a data guinea pig, even for a gimmick great idea we thought up to attach a different device to each staffer during the annual consumer electronics tech moshpit. We figured everyone would want to read about how many steps Ina Fried took, how many glasses of water Peter drank, if Kara Swisher ever slept. You know, truly fascinating stuff like that.

But it didn’t exactly turn out that way. The idea that we could be healthy was completely a canard — this is Vegas, people, and what happens there, stays there, ya know. Most of us forgot to sync our bands throughout the week or enter in our food intake. One Re/porter (we love that slash!) had trouble syncing the data from her wristband. Another forgot to wear it during key walks.

Let’s be clear, this is not unlike many people’s experiences with these sensor-laden encouragement bands, which typically cost about $150. A whole lot of prep for little insight.

Still, there were some takeaways from the week.

First, a note about our very unscientific methodology: I wore the Nike+ FuelBand, Ina wore Jawbone’s Up24, Bonnie Cha wore the Misfit Shine, Kara wore the Fitbit Force and Liz Gannes used the Moves app on her Apple iPhone. When I emailed Peter to ask him which one he was going to use, he responded: “Hah. Hah.”

We also agreed to track three things: Steps, beverages consumed and … we couldn’t decide on the third category. No one wanted to count calories, since they don’t count in Vegas. Sleep? Not an ideal category, either, since everyone at CES turns into a sparkly vampire like Kara.

Here’s what we ended up quantifying anyway:

Bonnie Cha: Sunday was a light day, with 4,146 steps walked. Number of times she wanted to throw the Shine out the window: At least six. “How do you work this thing?!?” she asked over and over about the mysterious lights that glow on the slick watch face.

On Monday, Bonnie counted 10,868 steps, two hours of sleep and 87 hours and 40 minutes until she got to go home. Tuesday’s three caffeine drinks helped power 8,856 steps, but when she heard Liz was at 10,000 steps and counting, she started pacing back and forth in her hotel room to catch up. No dice. On Wednesday she hit 10,784 steps, logged three attempts at slot machines and went to exactly one CES party featuring Bands We Used to Love in High School (Jane’s Addiction).

Kara Swisher: Complaints to Lauren about how fat the Fitbit Force is: Several. Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer sightings: One, but it was a very flashy appearance onstage at the Las Vegas Theater. Celebrities elbows rubbed: One (see picture of Jennifer Beals below). Twitter pins stolen: One (see picture of Jennifer Beals below).

Tech CEOs frightened: All of them. Tech CEOs who gave her scoops anyway: All of them. Steps taken to shake down scared, leaky tech CEOs to get them to cough up info: 10,437 (Monday); Tuesday (13,665); Wednesday (4,521); Thursday (8,418).

Liz Gannes: Liz was pretty much the poster child this week for activity-tracking wristbands. On Sunday, when we were all on a flight, she somehow hit 12,523 steps (#overachiever). The bulk of it came from walking from the Cosmopolitan to the Mandalay Bay, like a true CES n00b. Or as the driver of the cab that took us back called Liz, a “Vegas virgin.”

On Monday, she hit a low of 8,364 steps, but that’s because Liz didn’t carry her phone while she worked out, to keep the data clear of non-CES efforts. Laps around the Las Vegas Convention center resulted in consistent 10K+ days for Liz, according to the Moves app.

Ina Fried: Ina had a tough time quantifying her steps. Not that she took that many; she just had trouble getting Jawbone’s Up24 to sync with her phone. The new Up app kept telling her to plug in the band (which is not how the new Up is supposed to work). On the last day, it finally occurred to us that Ina should try deleting the app entirely and re-installing it. Yes, we are a crack team of tech reporters.

It turned out Monday was Ina’s best day, with 15,233 steps. Wednesday was her weakest, but she still clocked in at 9,597 steps. Quantifying sleep didn’t work much better due to battery-life issues. For one period on Monday, the app said she slept for five minutes. Actually, that sounds about right.

Peter Kafka: On Sunday and Monday, Peter was snowed in back home in New York and moved not an inch from his couch. On Tuesday, he flew out to Las Vegas. He reported in: “I just bought some jerky. So, you can track that,” sending a photo of himself at the airport with artisanal chili-lime beef jerky.

On Wednesday, he wrote me that he “ate a steak.” I also saw him Wednesday at a poker table, and when I asked him if he was tracking anything he laughed at me — not with me — and went back to playing poker.

Lauren Goode (me): On Sunday I had just 2,526 steps, so I tried to game the system on Monday. Which means I went to the dark, club-like gym in the hotel and pounded the treadmill, hoping to get my step count up. Liz still beat me. On Tuesday, I forgot which day it was and didn’t sync the band with the mobile app.

The nice thing about the Nike+ FuelBand is you can see your step count right on the band; the annoying thing is it also shows you your “fuel” count, a made-up and essentially meaningless Nike metric. Wednesday was my best day, with over 11,500 steps. But, by this point, I had stopped keeping track of my beverages. Back on Monday I was tracking bottles of water and soy lattes and by Wednesday of CES I was all, “Give me a real drink.”

Winner: It’s a close tie between Liz and Kara. Actually, I don’t think we ever established this was a competition, but Liz decided it was. Also, Kara is the boss and she says she won, so that’s how that works.

But Peter probably wins at life, if you can quantify such a thing.

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