Strava and FitBit Surge Together / Review of Fitbit Surge

I’m training for the Copenhagen Marathon in May of this year (2015), and have been using Strava and a new Fitbit Surge device to track my runs.  Unfortunately the two systems are not compatible (yet), and I can’t use the heart-rate readings from the Fitbit Surge as health data inside the surge app.  I just completed a 15m training run and I thought I would post the side by side data that the two apps gathered in hopes this might be of use to other runners considering using either of these two systems.

Strava Report

Fitbit ReportSome immediate observations about the differences in the data that was gathered:

  1. The GPS tracking of the Strava, which is running on my iPhone 6, is much more accurate than the location readings on the Fitbit Surge.  The Strava/iPhone readings are really precise and show small variations in my 4 laps around the lake.  The Fitbit Surge GPS is almost comically “loose”, suggesting a meandering variation on each lap, sometimes straying into the lake itself or across non-existent streets.
  2. The splits/pace information is pretty consistent.  I tried to start both devices tracking at the same time, but the differences in the splits and the total distance and time of the run may be as a result of slight differences in start time, and, when I paused for a 40 second water break mid-way i manually paused the fitbit clock, but the Strava was on auto-pause and may have taken a different sense of that timeframe.  That would account for the 2:05:08 (fitbit) v 2:05:34 (strava).
  3. No idea how to rationalize the 15.01m Fitbit distance vrs. the 15.3m for Strava, which results in the pace discrepancy:  Ftibit says i had a 8:20 overall pace, Strava 8:13 pace.

My sincere desire is that Strava and Fitbit will get their systems connected, not sure who has the burden to do what work, but certainly can’t be very far from core to their missions to support as many devices/APIs as possible in this connected health tracking wearable category?  Strava is focussed on community, Fitbit on devices–let’s go guys!

Later update (March 10 2015): I’ve continued to run 4-5 times per week using both Fitbit Surge and Strava and can add some new data:

  1. The Fitbit Surge is VERY inaccurate in terms of distance travelled on a run, whether that be a 3 mile or a 21 mile course, on road/path or on a treadmill.  I’ve seen a consistent 15-20% under-report of distance run in both free-run (GPS tracking on) mode and “treadmill” run mode.  In Treadmill mode the distance travelled is under-reported almost comically–the device is just pretty much worthless in accuracy on a treadmill.  I would think that the device’s software could compare my GPS enabled and not-enabled runs and correct itself to a better estimate of my gait/pace based on the other data its sensors are gathering.  Alas, the software is clearly NOT doing that kind of comparison of the data and optimization to individual user performance.
  2. The Fitbit Surge is VERY inaccurate in terms of geo-location in GPS mode, and as a result, the pace readings during a run are absurd as well.  While running at a 8:15 minutes per mile pace the surge will report anything in a range of 7:45 to 9:30–ostensibly because it has no idea where i am physically on a map.  The readings that come back from my runs are hilarious–showing me running through buildings, into lakes, etc.–yes, it is approximately correct, but nowhere near accurate enough to track distance and therefore useless for pace and overall splits.
  3. While i have no second heart rate monitor tool to compare the readings to, i’m also confident that the hear rate readings are wildly inaccurate, as during a long run where i’m in a steady state zone of pace/energy/effort, the heart rate readings will ramp up and down by 10% range which is attributable to inaccuracy of the device’s readings, not variations in my heart rate load.

Here is a recent run that Strava reported as 21.1 miles, side by side with Fitbit.  Notice the accuracy of tracking on Fitbit Surge leaves much to be desired–which makes the device pretty useless as a serious fitness device:

Side by side Strava and Fitibit Surge

Give my first 2 months of experience with the Fitbit Surge, i would not recommend as a health tracker–way too inaccurate.  I’m actually now very curious about the Apple Watch which is shipping soon, given that it will rely on the phone for measurements which i’ve found to be much more accurate (via Strava).

I’ll add to this post if I learn more.

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buuteeq’s new name?

So a lot of folks have emailed me this week asking me “what happened to buuteeq”, so i thought i’d write a quick informal post to document for the seo bots.  As of first week of January 2015 we’ve changed the name of the buuteeq hotel marketing platform, it is now part of Booking.com’s BookingSuite family.  You can now find us at http://suite.booking.com

BookingSuite

I remember very fondly the day/time that Brian Adam and I named buuteeq, while in a hotel room in Beijing in January of 2010.  The company was originally called Hanbao Software (“hamburger” in Chinese), and it felt like that placeholder name (while undeniably cute/funny to native mandarin speakers), was not going to work for us as we got ready to start offering the product to hotels (at least with a straight face).  We spent a good 2+ hrs brainstorming, and thought ourselves brilliant when we opted for the kabal of letters that was b-u-u-t-e-e-q.  I was smitten with the visual balance of the double “u” and double “e” framed by inverse symmetrical b and q letters.  At the time (2010), what self-respecting tech startup didn’t want an impossibly silly misspelling of a common word, as their mark?  Alas, if we could have estimated the spelling-bee tax that buuteeq would become: over the years we probably spent a collective multi-hundred-thousand minutes (as a team) spelling the word on the phone to baffled listeners: “b, u, u, t, e, e, q… yes, like “buuh-teeek”, or “boutique”, the french word”.  Would have been so much simpler if the boutique dot com word was not parked by a domain squatter (and impossible for non french or english native speakers to spell without help!) Despite the spelling challenges and sarah lacey hating it, buuteeq as a mark served us well.  It captured the aspirational brand ambitions of our hotelier customers… all of whom have a unique product and a unique vision, and need technical help telling that story to prospective guests through digital channels.  We continue that journey as BookingSuite, a much easier to spell mark! and one that has instant recognition as part of planet earth’s #1 accommodation site, booking.com!  Booking Yeah!

I’ll also include a 1 paragraph description of buuteeq for the SEO bots looking for “what is buuteeq”.  buuteeq was a software company founded by Forest Key, Adam Brownstein and Brian Saab in January 2010 that build the world’s first digital marketing system for hotels, the buuteeq Cloud DMS.  The company grew to have thousands of hotel customers and 100s of employees before being acquired by the Priceline Group in June of 2014.  Forest, Adam, Brian and the entire product team continue at the company as part of Booking.com’s BookingSuite offering, with many more details yet to come about the innovation roadmap i’m beyond excited and thrilled about–more so than when this journey began nearly 5 years ago!  We’re having a blast and the party is still in its early days!

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Recommendations for visit to Madrid, Spain

I  lived in Spain during a study abroad year in college back in early 1990s, and have returned several times since for business and pleasure.  I’ve found myself writing up some of my recommendations for “what should i do if I visit Madrid” for many friends, and after completing this recent email (below) i figured i’d throw it on my blog as I’ve noticed that my “Things to do if you visit Chile” blog post has gotten quite a few visitors in the last year and has been nominally useful to others.  So in that spirit, here are my recommendations for things not to miss in Madrid and immediate vicinity (eg: within 90 minute train ride).  Note that this was written for a friend of mine from China, so i was stressing cultural elements that she would find particularly interesting!

These are the “towns near madrid to get out of the city to see some smaller towns:

  • Toledo: small cute town with lots of nice walking things to see, museums, churches, and need small streets on a hill.  Town with lots of history.  it is 40 minute train ride SOUTH of Madrid.  Plan a day trip there and back with a nice lunch.  You may want to join a tour with a chinese speaking guide?  it is easy to just go on your own, but, you might enjoy a guide as there is a lot of history?
  • Salamanca and Segovia.  Salamanca is a bigger small city about 90 minutes North-West from Madrid which is really great and has a lot to see, it is also a nice drive to get there.  on the way there right on the freeway is Segovia, lovely small town.  Both are worth seeing, you can do them together in 1 long day eg: start early, drive in car or train, to Salamanca–walk salamanca and see the Plaza (central square), the Catedral (church), and the university campus (very old university, where Chrisopher Columbus did some planning to go to america).  Then, go back to madrid via Segovia, have a lunch in Segovia (lunch inSpain is between 2pm and 4pm, so you could have lunch at 3pm at a nice restaurant) then walk Segovia–Roman ruins from an Aqueduct that is 2000 years old, and great little small town with lovely streets).  This is a BIG day, but it can be done.  Other option is to break this up into 2 trips.  Both are worth seeing.  If you only have time to do 1 of these, Segovia is closer and thus easier so do that.  Salamanca is really neet, but maybe too far.  I did in car and really liked the drive, but you may find that stressful?  I don’t know?  Trains are very good in spain so that’s always a easier way!

In Madrid be sure to see:

  • Go to a Flamenco Show.  Usually they start at 12am or even 1am (very late).  There is a great place called Cafe Chinitas that i have always liked.  you buy tickets/reservation, then go and have drinks and watch dancing and singing.  MUST DO, super cool, very very unique/different style of music.  All of these are good places:  http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g187514-c84779/Madrid:Spain:Flamenco.Guide.Madrid.html
  • If there are any Bull Fights in season i would go, very interesting and old fashioned–sad to see bulls killed, but i recommend.  I don’t think they have them in January, however, here is the bull ring website just in case:  http://www.las-ventas.com/
  • If you can, go see a professional soccer match for Real Madrid or Atletico Madridspanish LOVE soccer, amazing experience.  You can find tickets always, might be expensive, but seeing Real Madrid play (one of best teams in the world) is a real experience!

Then there are the traditional tourist sights:

  • Plaza Mayor &  Puerta del Sol walking area (public squares)
  • Jardin del Buen Retiro (big park, go in daytime, at night not so safe, daytime no problem)
  • El Prado (huge museum full of amazing OLD art collections, get a guide of some sort or recording in chinese, without a guide it is pointless as there is too much to see!)
  • The Palace (king and queens) where there is a lot of stuff to see
  • dozens of other museums…
  • and dozens of fun neighborhoods to just walk around in and look at people and windows of stores etc.  your hotel can help you with that…

Food (lunch is 2-4pm, dinner is 10-12pm–they really really really do eat at that time, you won’t find the best restaurants open before then!  make reservations for the popular places!)

  • Must try = Botin.  A bit touristy, but really good and REALLY old, in continuous service since 1700s.  eat the suckling pig and the lamb, both are incredible!  http://www.botin.es/?q=en  It is near the Plaza Mayor so nice walking area.
  • Go to dinner one night on Calle Huertas (that means “Huertas Street”), it is a street filled with neat restaurants and bars that you can walk up and down in about 40 minutes round trip.  Lots of people out and about walking in this area at night, fun to people watch.  Plaza Santa Ana is a nice square surrounded by restaurants right by this street, so maybe walk the street, then eat at the restaurants on the Plaza.
  • Tapas” is a style of food where you stand at a bar (usually, although you can also have them at a table) and order small plates of different types that they will give you while you have a small beer.  you can go to a bar, have a small beer and a “tapas”, then go to another bar and do the same, and in this way walk between many bars/restaurants eating “tapas” along the way.  it is a style of “moving restaurant experience”.  very fun.  You can go to many neighborhoods where there are lots of “tapas” bars near each other.  There are also some new “markets” that have nice organic produce and lots of little stands for tapas”–one such market is this one: Mercado de San Miguel Pza. San Miguel, S/N 28013 Madrid, Spain Be sure to try: Tortilla Espanola (eggs and potato pie), Jamon Serrano (spanish cured ham), Queso Manchego (spanish cheese that is amazing), Gambas al Ajilo (shrimp in garlic), and anything else you see that looks tasty!
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CEO Forest Key On buuteeq Joining The Priceline Group

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the blog of the hospitality digital marketing company, buuteeq, prior to its acquisition by Booking.com in June 2014.  The opinions expressed here are specific to buuteeq, though many of the technology insights remain relevant to customers and admirers of our new business, BookingSuite, a unit of Booking.com. Visit suite.booking.com for our latest thought leadership in the hospitality digital marketing space.

Things are about to get a lot more awesome. fkey_orange Med_2

On June 10, buuteeq joined forces with The Priceline Group, one of the world’s leading Internet companies and the global leader in online accommodations.

This new strategic direction now vaults us into the best possible position for transforming the digital marketing experience for hotels worldwide.

The Priceline Group currently works with over 480,000 accommodations partners globally and is rapidly expanding the suite of products and services they offer to these hotel and accommodations partners.

With The Priceline Group’s global reach and buuteeq’s best-in-class hotel marketing platform, we’re uniquely poised to help many more properties perform their absolute best digitally.

I want to personally thank our customers who have believed in us and accompanied us on our journey leading up to this point. We remain devoted to our commitments to you.

Everything you love about buuteeq will either stay the same, or increase in awesomeness tenfold.

We will continue to be an independently managed brand building our product and services the way only buuteeq can.

The only thing that changes is our rate of innovation and ability to hire the sharpest minds in our field to provide you with the best-in-class hotel marketing platform available on the planet.

You can count on:

  •  The same service, prices, and support
  •  The same team and founders in place
  •  The same buuteeq customer promise
  •  The same data privacy.
  •  The same rights to your website and assets (your content is YOURS)

This is an exciting time and an immensely important milestone in buuteeq’s history!

We celebrated on June 10, as you can see here in our montage of photo booth pics, but were back to getting stuff done the next morning just as we’ve always done and will continue to do—just more awesomely.

Cheers,

Forest

Photo booth montage from June 10th celebration.

Photo booth montage from June 10th celebration.

Back to getting stuff done bright and early on June 11th!

Back to getting stuff done bright and early on June 11th!

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Trotamundo wins Perk of the Year 2014

I’m incredibly proud and happy to have won the Geekwire Awards Perk of the Year 2014 for buuteeq’s employee travel stipend program, “Trotamundo”.  I started buuteeq because of my deep passion for travel and seeing the world.  We created the Trotamundo program because we wanted our company culture to embrace and amplify the experience of travel.  Travel exposes us to diversity of human experience, inspires us, and ultimately transforms our world view in a way that also makes our company stronger and more nimble in our quest to revolutionize the hotel industry.

Here’s the award ceremony on youtube:

And some photos:

Geekwire Awards 2014 4 Perk of the Year Geekwire Forest Geekwire Wide Shot 2 Geekwire Wide Shot

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Small Talks event in Seattle re: Millennials in the Workplace

I spoke at a Small Talks event last week on the subject of Millennials in the Workplace (millennial are the generation born in the 80s and early 90s, that came after my generation “gen x”).  buuteeq has a lot of team members from this age group/generation.   A few multimedia and related pieces from the event:

Video of the event:

Thanks to Turnstone for putting together the event and providing snacky snacks!

A cool infographic that someone made that listened/watched the event over the web, love how they captured so much of the content in this graphical/summary form:

SmallTalk 10_30_13 2K rev1

And, when i got home that evening and was doing some googling on the subject, I came across this hillarious (if snarky/harsh) summary that makes for a great comedy piece and interesting adjunct (i do not endorse or subscribe, necessarily, to the position it takes–but it did make me laugh!).  Why Generation Why Yuppies are Unhappy

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Virtuous Employee Feedback Loop

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My company buuteeq has grown to over 110 employees in 5 offices around the world, so a huge component of my time/role as ceo has been focused on “culture”–how do we create a consistent best-practice culture in multiple offices (while growing rapidly), how do we gather feedback and input from everyone on the team, and how do we communicate and implement changes based on the feedback we receive…

We’ve been using an amazing tool called TinyPulse for over a year now, and while it is not the only mechanism to manage the “pulse” of our culture (a lot of 1:1 coffees at TopPot Donuts down the street is part of my weekly routine to spend quality time focused on listening and responding to team member questions in person), TinyPulse is the systematic breadth process by which we receive regular employee feedback and drive a “virtuous cycle” that repeats itself regularly.  TinyPulse asks a weekly question by email (automatically), gathers the feedback anonymously (usually between 50-80% of employees respond on any given week), and presents dashboards that I and our VP of Talent review periodically throughout the week as data is being gathered.

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Each week’s question generates a summary of yes/no, 1-10 scale, or open response questions, AND a subjective detail commentary (if respondent provides) which I can then respond to via a private message while maintaining anonymity.  This leads to very different feedback loops than what we hear in person or over email.

I thought it would be valuable, and transparent (one on my most cherished values!), to share some of the data we’ve gathered in the last 6 months.  This data represents “feedback”, not judgement, so there is absolutely no shame in sharing what at times looks like mediocre scores/responses.  I’ve written a brief summary of “what we took from the feedback” and “what we did to respond” to illustrate how the data drove our management team behavior.

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Takeaway: we can do better!  Some of the atomic comments suggested some of the managers were sensitive to receiving constructive feedback; we had a discussion with all managers about best practices and how to engage in discussions that would surface constructive feedback from their team.

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Takeaway: Totally unacceptably low!  Even though the “benchmark” (53%) (what other companies that use TinyPulse received on average response) was even farther below our score (71%), we aspire to more transparency in this (and most) areas.  As we dug through the data we realized we hadn’t developed “career stage models” and communicated those to team members.  As a young company we had done a good job recruiting people to join the team but hadn’t yet matured into providing a roadmap for careers.  This was really great feedback it led to a kick-off of many projects which we are now rolling out (took about 3 months to put in place).

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Takeaway: The comments were valuable as they pointed to specific growth opportunities that were being recognized, and others that were being asked to be opportunities.

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Takeaway: This question felt like a reflection on how well we were sharing the TinyPulse data itself!  When we first started using TinyPulse we would share the feedback each week and discuss comments and then open for public discussion during our weekly friday wrap meeting (held 4-5pm to end the week).  This made the visibility of the feedback 100% transparent.  We gradually started to do the open discussions less frequently and moved the sharing of the data to our Google+ community and email threads, which i sense was less visible.  There are 2 key elements to the feedback loop, (1) to share what is being said so everyone has visibility into how their feedback compares to that of the broader team, and (2) for everyone to see what is done in response to the feedback.  This creates a “feedback tax” that I think would scare off a lot of management teams, but i really want to rise to the challenge, even as the data grows in volume and complexity.  Blogging about the data here is in part motivated by this very feedback–trying to find multiple ways to drive the transparency!

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Takeaway:  We’re doing pretty well, but there’s always room for improvement.  We used the opportunity to revisit all of our benefits and our VP of HR gave examples of comparable benefits of companies in our industry/size/market, so really we “re-pitched” ourselves in hopes of getting more visibility to just how good our benefits actually are!

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Takeaway:  This is a perpetual rich channel of feedback, eg: the TinyPulse gathers lots of insights from the teams about office furniture, seating configurations, meals that we bring in for catered lunches, the kitchen/snacks, morale events, etc. etc.  So rather than look at the score here, the really interesting takeaways are the comments that highlight what is top of mind “next on the list” of things to work on to make the office environment better.Image

Takeaway:  Sometimes you just have to declare victory.  This is one of those.  It turns out that on just about any “scale of 1-10″ survey, the results tend to come in at an average of about 8.x.  We talked with the team about the different perspectives of “what does a 8 mean”, and in many cases 8 is “excellent” and in others “10” is the equivalent.  So when the team as a whole is coming in at 8.5, we felt that this is an area we were performing ahead of the curve.  Again, not declaring victory outright, but since we are getting this type of feedback WEEKLY, sometimes the pulse feedback insights less urgency/reaction from the management team.

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Takeaway:  Great reflection of our core value of “never stop growing”, always want to see team members thinking of ways they can do better, and the comments overwhelming reflected specific areas for personal growth.

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Takeaway:  Similar to the feedback about work environment, this question had very specific recommendations for different processes, training, tools, etc.–super actionable.

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Takeaway:  Probably the most important feedback of all–this is exactly the entire point of using TinyPulse, to drive transparency, virtuous feedback loop, and to establish a really great culture in close collaboration across the team.  Thankfully, this score (8.7) is the highest score we’ve ever received in the tool.  Lots more work to do on all these subjects every day of the week for years to come…  Several more examples below, i’m out of gas to comment on them atomically, but the graphics speak for themselves and i’m happy to answer any questions in the comments or at my email, twitter, facebook, linkedin, or google + pages!

Team 29agosto13

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Team ROWise Guys

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