Interview with Ben MacNeill creator of The Trixie Tracker

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DashboardThe Trixie Tracker, invention of father Ben MacNeill, is a parenting tool in the form of an online service that lets you track, review, and share a huge amount of information about your infant including sleep, diapers, bottles, solids, nursing, pumping, and medicine. Ben agreed to do a quick interview with me to talk about his blog, his new service, and how it can be a valuable parenting tool. Questions are in bold and Ben's responses are marked BM.

Where did you get the idea to start recording Trixie's baby telemetry? Why did you keep it up after the initial few weeks?


BM: When we got back from the hospital we were nervous as all first time parents are. We were keeping track of diapers on a little pad of paper, and I got interested in the accumulation of data. I wrote a quick app to record diapers and it turned out to be fun to use. Once I started doing it, it took so little effort to record diapers that I continued tracking. The trends were interesting.

There was a period there when you and Trixie were all over the news including a piece on MSNBC. I'm sure public reactions ran the gamut. What has been the general reaction to the the site and data gathering? What does your family think about it all?

BM: The general reaction has been positive. But there are a number of folks who have incorrectly argued that baby tracking equals not caring about your child. I have pretty thick skin so I've not been bothered at all. Life is too short and there's too many fun things to do -- especially when you have a toddler. Our families are definitely happy to see new photos of Trixie up every weekday.

What was the most surprising thing you learned from recording Trixie telemetry for so many months?

BM: In some regards she was actually predictable! Total ounces a day and total daily sleep time were extremely reliable averages. That type of information can help out at the end of the day.

Who is the Trixie Tracker for? Is there a typical Trixie Tracker parent?


BM: Initially I thought it would be first time parents with newborns. However, there's been a strong reaction from parents who are expecting their 2nd or 3rd child and want to Trixie Track this time around.

What are the benefits of recording such detailed baby telemetry? Is it just for fun or can using Trixie Tracker actually help parents care for their children? In what ways?

BM: Staying home to take care of a child is a lot of work. It's nice to have a record of it. It can help your spouse understand what goes on during the day, as well as let the spouse feel more connected to the child's schedule. That was definitely the case with Jen and me. I posted Trixie's Telemetry on the Trixie Update primarily so Jen could stay in touch with what Trix was doing when she had to go back to work.

The patterns and averages that show up after a few days of collecting data can be very helpful. Especially Sleep. You can use sleep charting to help manage nap and bedtimes. Many of our users rely on Bottle Telemetry to know if their child is eating enough during the day. And, needless to say, it's useful to have a record of medicine doses and first food exposures too.

Does the data have any long-term application beyond the day-to-day logistics of caring for infants? For example, could data from the Trixie Tracker point to potential health problems down the road?

BM: It's possible, but I would leave the interpretation of the data to parents and pediatricians on a case by case basis.

Are there any social aspects implemented or planned for the site? For example, comparing baby stats with friends?

BM: Trixie Tracker currently offers several different types of sharing which allow users to share their site with family and friends. There are also built-in features which allow users to compare data across all Trixie Tracker children. In particular, we've collected aggregate sleep which lets parents know what they might anticipate at certain ages.

Do you think applications like Trixie Tracker are going to become more common in the future as families inevitably use the internet more to connect with each other?

BM: Without a doubt.

Has anyone used Trixie Tracker in a way you hadn't anticipated?

BM: Not to my knowledge. Although I did come across one blog where someone proposed tracking a cat.

Have any daycare providers expressed an interest in using the software as a way to keep working moms and dads updated?

BM: That's coming later the year. We will be offering a childcare version which will seamlessly integrate with a user's own Trixie Tracker.

Anything else you'd like to add?

BM: I would just recommend that folks give it a try for two weeks and see how they like it. It will pay for itself once your mother-in-law checks Trixie Tracker before she calls and wakes up the baby from a nap :)

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Thank you, Ben. Subscriptions to Trixie Tracker range from $5-$8 per month and can track three children. Trixie Tracker offers a free 2-week trial.

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