Livestream of the 2016 Quantified Self Public Health Symposium

**Update: The event is over, but you can watch the whole thing in the video below.**

Since 2014, Quantified Self Labs has put on a one day symposium in San Diego where we bring together toolmakers and public health researchers to support new discoveries about our health and the health of our communities that are grounded in accurate self-observation.

The stream starts at 9:00 AM and the schedule can be viewed here. I hope you’ll join us. Contribute to the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #qsph16.

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Abe Gong: Changing Sleep Habits with Unforgettable Reminders

Abe had an issue with staying up too late. The early morning hours often found him on his couch, working on his laptop.

The problem is that he simply lost track of time. To help make his bedtime unforgettable, Abe built a reminder he could not ignore. He wrote a simple app that uses colors to gently prod him to get ready for bed and installed it on an old android phone that he mounted on the wall in his living room. When the screen first lights up in the evening, the colors are blue (“bedtime is coming.”) and increasingly become red (“bedtime is here.”). When he long-presses the screen, it means that he is ready to sleep, and the phone responds by lighting up with a celebratory array of colors.

It was a simple intervention, but did it work? Abe thought so. But the skepticism of friends spurred him to dig into the data to make sure. The problem was that his simple app didn’t record any data. He had an idea, though. For the past year, a webcam connected to a Raspberry Pi had been recording his living room. Abe used the light levels of the video stream as a proxy for his bedtime. When the light levels dropped, it meant that he had gone to bed. This proved to be a reliable indicator because, as Abe says, “I’m always the last one to sleep, and the last light I turn off is always the living room light.”

Would this work for you? Possibly not, but that’s not the point. It is an excellent example of a person building a solution that is specifically designed for his personality, and also how meaning can be found in the unlikeliest of datasets. In the video, you will find out how much sleep Abe saved and learn more about how he set up his device and ran the analysis.

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What We Are Reading

Articles

The Anecdote is the Antidote for What Ails Modern Medical Science by John R. Adler, Jr. M.D. It’s hard to imagine anybody being more of a medical insider than Dr. John R. Adler, the founding editor of Cureus. Adler has a Harvard medical degree, served his residency at Massachusetts General hospital, and is a Stanford professor of neurosurgery, as well as founding CEO of a leading radiation oncology company, Accuray.  This makes it especially heartening that Dr. Adler is now focused on opening up medical research literature to important kinds of evidence that have often been ignored: the anecdote and the case report.  Quote: “The altruism that is supposed to drive the publication of scientific research has been almost entirely co-opted by the peculiar needs of academic promotion and tenure, as well as the pecuniary demands of the scholarly publishing industry; the public good of medical knowledge has been reduced to a mere after-thought by both academia and the publishing industry.” -Gary

You can train your body into thinking it’s had medicine by Jo Marchant. There is an experimental treatment where the patients always drink from a uniquely flavored beverage every time they take their medicine. After a while, the drug is taken away, but the drink is still consumed. Amazingly, the body continues to act like it received the drug. Considering that many of these drugs have terrible side effects, these findings can impact how medication is administered. -Steven

Fleming’s discovery of penicillin couldn’t get published today. That’s a huge problem by Julia Belluz. John Adler’s reflections on the value of anecdote, linked above, were inspired by this essay by Julia Belluz celebrating the creation of another new journal, called Matters, devoted to publishing reports of small scale experiments and observations. As the publishers write on their web site: “Observations, not stories, are the pillars of good science. Today’s journals however, favor story-telling over observations, and congruency over complexity. As a consequence, there is a pressure to tell only good stories. Moreover, incentives associated with publishing in high-impact journals lead to loss of scientifically and ethically sound observations that do not fit the storyline, and in some unfortunate cases also to fraudulence. The resulting non-communication of data and irreproducibility not only delays scientific progress, but also negatively affects society as a whole.” -Gary

Machine Learning for Easier Dieting by Samuel K. Moore.

“I had a half-cup of oatmeal, with two-tablesoons of maple syrup and a cup of coffee. Oh, I put a handful of blueberries in the oatmeal, and there was milk in the coffee. It was skim milk.”

It would be wonderful to log one’s food by speaking to your tracker in this natural manner. Machine learning may make it possible, but this article reviews some of the obstacles that need to be overcome when it comes to parsing speech. -Steven

A Case of Complete and Durable Molecular Remission of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Following Treatment with Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, an Extract of Green Tea by Dawn Lemanne, Keith I. Block, Bruce R. Kressel, Vikas P. Sukhatme, Jeffrey D. White. This paper from Cureus about a notable clinical outcome offers an excellent example of the kind of research that might never come to light without the work of pioneering science publishers. -Gary

This Dude’s Fitness Tracker May Have Just Saved His Life by George Dvorsky. When a 42-year-old man recently went to the emergency room following a seizure, the doctors had to make a decision in how to proceed that depended on whether the man’s arrhythmia was caused by the seizure or was chronic. The answer was found in the man’s Fitbit data. -Steven

Show&Tell

How Can I Stop Feeling Cold by Justin Timmer. A few years ago, I spent a winter wearing only a t-shirt when I went out. I was interested in how my body adapted to the cold over time. I am happy to see Justin attempt a similar thing but with more rigor. -Steven

Letter of Recommendation: Segmented Sleep by Jesse Barron. I’ve been long fascinated by the concept of segmented sleep, where people have a first and second sleep period during the night. I’ve read historical references of this phenomenon, but not many experiences from now. -Steven

Leave that Thermostat Alone! by Michael VanDaniker. Taking advantage of the ability to export his data from his electric provider, Michael compared his electricity usage against the outside temperature to get a better understanding of his electricity use (and created some nice visualizations in the process). -Steven

Resource: Home Hacking Blood Glucose by Jenny Horner. Jenny heard about a study in Israel that showed that post-meal blood sugar spikes differ highly according to the individual. For example, ice cream is fine for some, but sushi is not. Jenny decided to apply the findings to her life. She shares the method she is using to construct her own personal glycemic index. ‑Steven

Personal Information Manager by Fabian Benetou. Fabian’s site is a fascinating mind dump of many aspects of his life. Open to all, but comprehensible only to him, there is a voyeuristic pleasure in traipsing around and seeing a glimpse into someone else’s head (another fun example is Jerry Michalski’s “Brain”). In particular, I love seeing the notes that he keeps from the books he reads, which dovetails with my interest in commonplace books‑Steven

Data Visualizations

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Arbor Ludi“Un proyecto de visualización de datos compuesto por una serie de representaciones gráficas que reconstruyen el árbol de juego de ocho de los mejores ajedrecistas de la historia.” Each image in this beautiful and fascinating series of data visualizations represent the playing life of a chess master. Created by the design and architecture firm Ootro Estudio, the portraits are made out of data from every move from hundreds or thousands of published games (the number varies significantly between masters). The coral-like shape emerges from the fact that in chess the first moves are common and well known, while later moves inhabit a vast possibility space. For more on the technique, see this informative post on The Zugzwang Blog: Arbor Ludi: arquitectura mental de un genio del ajedrez. (In Spanish.) -Gary

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All Those New Dinosaurs May Not Be New — Or Dinosaurs by Maggie Koerth-Baker. My first experience of the messiness of paleontology is when I learned that my mug with a green brontosaurus depicted an animal that never existed (though that may no longer be true). This chart shows how often a dinosaur genus is later declared to be invalid. The error rate for dinosaurs named between 1850 and 1980 is 48 percent! -Steven

 

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Changing river path seen through satellite images by Zoltan Sylvester. Using Landsat images, this is a time lapse that shows, over a thirty year period, the oxbow section of the Ucayali river in Peru get pinched and then cut off from the main flow of the river. You can view thirty year timelapses like this for any location on earth at the Google Earth Engine. The Las Vegas one is an incredible example of urban expansion. -Steven

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Mark Leavitt: Daily HRV As a Measure of Health and Willpower

“The heartbeat is a treasure chest of information…”

Mark Leavitt has a unique perspective in that he is both an engineer and a physician. In his retirement, he is applying his wealth of knowledge to keeping himself healthy.

In this talk, Mark looks at how heart rate variability relates to his willpower. Does he lift more weight when his HRV is high? What happens to his eating habits when his HRV is low? And if the term “heart rate variability” is new to you, Mark gives a lucid explanation.

Also, you will get a glimpse of his amazing customized workstation with pedals to keep him active, a split keyboard on the armrests to keep his knees free and built-in copper strips for measuring HRV. Cue envy.

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Akhsar Kharebov: A Smart Scale for Healthy Weight Loss

Historically, the most prevalent self-tracking tool in the home was the scale and the relationship between people and weight is complicated. Akhsar found healthy weight loss to be an emotionally difficult process. His breakthrough came with the Withings smart scale with which he lost 65 pounds in the first year and has kept it off for the last three. In this talk he discusses how the data helped him gain the self control to overcome temptations.

Weight has been a popular topic for Show&Tell talks:
Julie Price on the effect of running and family events.
Nan Shellabarger on seeing her life story in 26 years of weight data.
Kouris Kalligas on the relationship between his weight and sleep.
Jan Szelagiewicz on being motivated by family history.
Lisa Betts-LaCroix on using spreadsheets, forms and wireless scales changes the tracking experience.
Rob Portil on how he and his partner experience weight tracking differently.
Amelia Greenhall on using a 10-day moving average.

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An Agenda for QS Public Health by Lori Melichar & Bryan Sivak

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From the Quantified Self Public Health Symposium

In this final talk from the QS Public Health Symposium, we asked two leading advocates for a culture of health to help set an agenda for our movement over the next year. Bryan Sivak is the former CTO of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and Lori Melichar is a director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Bryan took the opportunity to specifically address a challenge to the industry. “The hardware manufacturers have to become more open with their algorithms and tools,” he said. “We’re never going to get to the right place in this universe unless we work together in certain ways, in a competition mode.”

And take note all of you with a data access project: Lori specifically invited you to apply to the foundation for support, saying: “We have an open application process and we want to hear your ideas.”

Please get in touch with us if you’d like to participate in 2016. Space is limited.

Watch Bryan and Lori’s talk on Medium.

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Supporting User Innovation by Nate Heinztman

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From the Quantified Self Public Health Symposium 

“We don’t regard our lead users as hackers or adversaries. Diabetes is our common enemy.”

Nate Heintzman is a member of the research and development team at Dexcom, makers of the leading continuous glucose monitor for people with diabetes. The Nightscout project of DIY liberation of CGM data specifically targets the Dexcom CGM. This could be perceived as a threat. But in this talk, Nate explains why Dexcom has decided to treat its lead users as collaborators, even when their ingenuity, advocacy and inspiring impatience leads them to step beyond regulatory and business frontiers.

Watch Nate’s talk on Medium.

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Patients are the Real Scientists by Joyce Lee

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From the Quantified Self Public Health Symposium

“Patients are doing experimentation every day just to live with their disease.”

Joyce Lee is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Michigan and a leader in developing methods of collaborative clinical research with patient communities. Her current focus is on learning from the participants in CGM in the Cloud, an online group that supports participants in a remarkable DIY data project called Nightscout. Nightscout and CGM in the Cloud help people flow their blood glucose data out of their monitors so they can do new things with it, such as set special alarms or share the data remotely with caregivers.
Here, Joyce describes why patients, and patient communities are leading the way in the development of new kinds of science, experimentation, and models of communicating knowledge.

Watch Joyce’s talk on Medium.

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Giving You a Choice by Howard Look

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From the Quantified Self Public Health Symposium

“Advocate for yourself. You should get to choose who you share your data with, who gets to see it, and if you want to donate it to research.”

Howard Look is the founder and CEO of Tidepool.org, a non-profit open source effort to build better software for diabetes. He became a leading advocate for access after his daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2011. Like many parents of children with diabetes, Howard went from knowing almost nothing about the disease to having to help manage it every day. Diabetes, he came to realize, had a serious data problem. Most of this crucial, life-saving data was locked on devices that wouldn’t let patients effectively use it. In this talk, Howard describes the role of Tidepool and the larger challenge of opening up diabetes data.

Watch Howard’s talk on Medium.

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#WeAreNotWaiting by Dana Lewis

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From the Quantified Self Public Health Symposium

“I didn’t want to wait. I don’t want to die in my sleep. We are patients who are not waiting.”

Dana Lewis became a reluctant self-tracker at the age of 14 when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Dana and her partner Scott Leibrand have been developing a DIY artificial pancreas that is built on top of the data flows from Dana’s continuous glucose monitor. In this talk, she describes the role that access to data plays in the DIY pancreas, with immediate and profoundly positive effects on her life.

Watch Dana’s talk on Medium.

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