We Have Posted The Conference Program for QS18!

Please join us at QS18 for over 60 first person talks, tool demos, and expert-lead workshops about self-tracking, N-of-1, and everyday science. Our focus this year is on “QS&Learning.” Along with a special plenary talk and discussion by pioneering teacher, scholar and self-experimenter Alan Neuringer, we are bringing together Quantified Self experts from all over the world to share knowledge about what we are learning about ourselves with our own data, and how we can share this knowledge with our children, students, and peers.

QS18 Conference Program

We’ll also have a special focus on open tools. One of the most powerful forces driving QS in the last two years has been the energy of DIY and open hardware makers. Many uses of data for learning don’t match well with the business models of commercial device companies, who tend to be greedy about data they collect, focused on mainstream use cases, and enthralled by the (potential) money available from traditional health care. Where does this leave individuals and communities who want to learn right now, using tools that match our needs? When you jon us at this year’s conference, you’ll meet the people creating the next generation of open tools, and using them to rapidly accelerate learning about health, sports, environment, and education – among many other topics.

All the sessions listed on our QS18 Conference Program Page have been developed in collaboration with conference registrants. We’ll keep adding and changing up until the moment the conference starts. So please be in touch and tell us what you’re working on. You can share your ideas for sessions when you register.

For a preview, here are some of the QS Show&Tell Talks we’ve announced:

Tracking Across Generations – From Journals To Life-Logging Glasses
Aaron Yih
Since the day Aaron Yih was born, his grandfather documented his life in large picture collages he hung on the walls. Now that he’s 24 and his grandfather is 84, Aaron is using digital archiving and modern lifelogging tools to make a record of his grandfather’s extensive experiences.

What I’m Learning From My Meditation App
Alec Rogers
Alec Rogers wanted to see if there was a way to measure mindfulness after meditation. He’ll talk about this and other lessons he learned using data from a simple, open source meditation tracker that he wrote himself.

Using My Training Data To Inform My Fashion
Anna Franziska Michel
Anna Franziska Michel will describe her use of her own running and cycling data as material for her startling and beautiful work in fashion design.

Blood Values Beyond Ketones – The Effect Of Exercise, Fasting, And Bathing
Benjamin Best
Benjamin Best has decades of experience with self-collected data. He’ll be talking about the analytical and graphical methods he uses to see the effects of exercise, fasting, bathing, and other common activities on his blood test values.

When Do I Do What I Say And How Does It Make Me Feel About Life
Eli Ricker
Eli Ricker tracks what he says he’s going to do and how often he does it. He’ll talk about he’s learned by connecting this data about his actions to his “life satisfaction” score.

3 Different Sleep Trackers Don’t Agree…. But What Can I Learn Anyway
Esther Dyson
Esther Dyson is obsessed with time and circadian rhythms. Wanting to understand how she slept, she started with the Zeo long ago, but now uses the Oura, Whoop, and ResMed/Sleepscore simultaneously. But what happens when this data disagrees?

Using Step And Sleep Data To Monitor Recovery
Jacqueline Wheelwright
Fitness and sleep trackers often contain built in assumptions about what’s optimal. Jacqueline Wheelwright describes how these data can be used for less common and more personal reasons.

My Headaches From Tracking Headaches
Jakob Eg Larsen
Jakob Eg Larsen predicted tracking headaches would be an easy task. But the very first question turned out to be less straightforward than it seemed: What counts as a headache? He’ll show his data and talk about his learning process over 2.5 years.

Exercising Without Glucose Which Is Supposedly Impossible
Jessica Ching
Bay Area QS Show&Tell participants may remember Jessica Ching’s wonderful talk about training dogs to detect low blood sugars. This year she’ll show data about a different project: learning how exercise without glucose.

I Made Polyphasic Sleep Work For Me
Jonathan Berent
You’d have to be a crazy to think you could get by on 2.5 hours of sleep. Jonathan Berent is that kind of crazy. He’ll show data from his polyphasic sleeping, the effects this had on his life, and what he still hopes to discover.

Can Tracking Devices Detect And Help Me With Having Low Energy For An Extended Period?
Justin Lawler
Justin Lawler has been dealing with low energy for the past 6 months. An avid self-tracker, he wanted to see how well the currently available tools capture this feeling and help him along a path of improvement.

An N-of-2 Study with My Best Friend About How to Lower Blood Pressure
Karl Heilbron, Fah Sathirapongsasuti
With a family history of stroke and early warning signs of hypertension, Fah Sathirapongsasuti recruited friend and fellow scientist, Karl Heilbron, for a two person self-study of how lifestyle influences their blood pressure.

What InsideTracker Taught Me About My Five-Day Fast
Kyrill Potapov
Kyrill Potapov tested theory that a fast can clear out the digestive tract and repopulate it differently. He shares his results from a 5 day fast, using InsideTracker panels to test his before and after states.

A Self-Study Of My Child’s Risk Of Intellectual Disability From A Rare Genetic Variant Carried By My Family
Mad Ball
Mad Ball is a carrier for a rare genetic disease which entailed risk of having a child with a serious intellectual disability. But how much risk? Through careful self-investigation based on consumer genomics, a reasonable estimate turned out to be possible.

The Cost of Interruption
Madison Lukaczyk
Madison Lukaczyk tracked her time to see the impact that interruptions had on her productivity; the data and analysis changed how she uses her communication tools.

Learning From 5000 Pomodoros
Maggie Delano
Maggie Delano used the Pomodoro method – 25 minutes of work followed by 5 minutes of anything else – to complete her Ph.D. Her 5 years of Pomodoro data challenges the assumption that working all the time is the key to accomplishing things.

5 Years Of Tracking And Visualizing Posture Data
Esther Gokhale, Mark Leavitt
How can a sensor accurately detect whether your back is aligned? Mark Leavitt and Esther Gokhale have been working on this problem for years and they share how they used their data to improve their posture.

Running Three Marathons On Zero Calories
Mikey Sklar
Mikey Sklar ran three marathons in one day. He consumed liquids for hydration and metabolites but no calories. He’ll show how he used personal data to understand how this seemingly impossible feat could be accomplished.

Which Grasses Aggravate My Allergies
Thomas Blomseth Christiansen
Thomas Christiansen’s allergies are aggravated when running during grass pollen season. For this extremely clever project he used a GoPro to document passing vegetation and a device to record his sneezes in order to pinpoint what plants activated his nose.

Learning From My Whinges
Valerie Lanard
Valerie Lanard keeps a detailed workout spreadsheet. In her “notes” section, she wrote out whatever excuse she had for not working out. Over time, she realized that this was a rich dataset on it’s own, detailing what’s happening when she’s not exercising.

Cholesterol Levels While Nursing
Whitney Erin Boesel
After giving birth, Whitney Erin Boesel learned that her cholesterol was very high. Given her family history, it seemed that an intervention was in order. But what if she did nothing and simply made observations?

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Erica Forzani: Understanding My Pregnancy

Following closely behind Whitney’s pregnancy project, it is fitting to share Erica Forzani’s pregnancy tracking project that can inspire any human who has carried a human in her belly. In addition to just being pregnant and dealing with the work involved with growing a human, Erica tracked her blood glucose levels, physical dimensions, weight, resting metabolic rate, activity, blood pressure and diet throughout her pregnancy to argue many pregnancy and breastfeeding myths. There are a lot of them and her diligent work proves many false.

I’m not quite sure what it is, but for some reason, people love to give pregnant women and women with babies/kids feedback about whatever they are doing. Be it positive or negative, some people just can’t help offering some bit of information they are observing. Perhaps it is because, procreating is somehow instinctively shared among humankind, so people somehow feel they have a piece-in-the-game with the raising of any little being…whatever it is, Erica’s project politely and factually stomps out many of the myths people often hear while carrying a human.

We hope you can join us to share your learnings from a project, or simply be inspired at this year’s 2018 Quantified Self Conference in Portland on September 22-23. Register here.



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Whitney E. Boesel: Cholesterol Variability: Hours, Days, And My Ovulatory Cycle (Part II)

After conceiving a beautiful baby girl, Whitney E. Boesel participated in the Bloodtester’s Project - a group of self-trackers conducting their own experiments to better understand their cholesterol together. After having her baby, Whitney learned that her cholesterol was unusually high and she became curious to understand what the cause was. She presented her findings, Cholesterol Variability: Hours, Days, And My Ovulatory Cycle, at the QS CVD Symposium earlier this year. 

Given that one side of Whitney’s family genetics has very high cholesterol, she wondered if it was finally time she had to stop eating so much cheese, or if rather, it was simply high due to having a baby. Using an at home cholesterol testing device (Cardiochek), she decided to test a fairly unusual hypothesis: if she does absolutely nothing, will her cholesterol get better all by itself? After getting more cholesterol data points ever recorded of a woman post-birth, she happily discovers that her cholesterol did just get better as her body’s hormones shifted back to her own. She continues to track her cholesterol among other things and we look forward to hear what she learns next.

We hope you can join us to share your learnings from a project, or simply be inspired at this year’s Quantified Self 2018 Conference in Portland on September 22-23. Register here.

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Whitney E. Boesel: My Numbers Sucked, But I Made This Baby Anyway (Part 1)

Despite the fact that our human existence relies on pregnant women and birth, there is surprisingly very little understood when a woman doesn’t fall within the “averages” and the “knowns.” We are all so different, and any woman knows that her body at some point will most likely not fall within the “average” range and when that happens, we must investigate. For humankind depends on this investigation.

Whitney E. Boesel, a scientist by trade and QS’er by life fortunately has been tracking her own magical body both pre and post pregnancy and sharing her results with Quantified Self along the way. So, this is a two part post: pre-pregnancy and the next one will share a post-pregnancy discovery.

Whitney wanted to have a baby and learned that she was “too late” to have children. However, by disregarding the average, she started tracking her AMH (and other hormones) as a result, but the most important things she learned had nothing to do with endocrinology. In her project, My Numbers Sucked, But I Made This Baby Anyway, Whitney discusses the abnormally low numbers and how she managed to conceive and give birth to a very healthy baby despite all of the odds against her.

Whitney shares her project My Numbers Sucked, But I Made This Baby Anyway at QS17 in Amsterdam

Whitney shares her project My Numbers Sucked, But I Made This Baby Anyway at QS17 in Amsterdam


We hope you can join us to share your learnings from a project, or simply be inspired at this year’s Quantified Self 2018 Conference in Portland on September 22-23. Register here.

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Vivienne Ming: Tracking My Son’s Diabetes

Vivienne Ming is an accomplished neuroscientist and an entrepreneur, however this project is not about her kick-ass professional work, instead, it’s deeply personal about how she manages her son’s diabetes. Vivienne presented her project, Tracking My Son’s Diabetes at the 2013 QS Global Conference.

When Vivienne’s not conducting research or working on new ideas she’s busy taking care of her son, Felix. Two years prior Felix was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Vivienne and her partner tackled his diagnosis head on and started tracking everything they could. In this talk, Vivienne learns through tracking her son’s heart rate and blood sugar constantly that stress is a factor of his blood sugar level peaks. She explains what they’re learning together about tracking her son’s diabetes.

Vivienne Ming presents her talk at the 2013 QS Global Conference

Vivienne Ming presents her talk at the 2013 QS Global Conference

We hope you can join us to share your learnings from a project, or simply be inspired at this year’s Quantified Self 2018 Conference in Portland on September 22-23. Register here.

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Ilyse Magy: Know Thy Cycle, Know Thyself

Women are increasingly (albeit slowly) taking more control in work, politics, life and society. However, unfortunately, being a woman means one has to consistently work extra hard to understand and know her own body to stay in control, because, unfortunately according to the laws of many governments and society-at-large, her body isn’t truly hers.  At 2015 Quantified Self Conference & EXPO, Ilyse Magy presented a fabulous talk, Know Thy Cycle, Know Thyself, that focuses on her recent learnings of her body and menstrual cycle, inspired by a MUST READ book for every female: Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.

Ilyse Magy talks about how the author, Toni Weschler took the mystery out of the menstrual cycle with her book. By tracking certain metrics daily, Ilyse learned why her body is doing what it’s doing and can then conduct her sexual and emotional activity accordingly.

Ilyse Magy presents Know Thy Cycle, Know Thyself at the 2015 Quantified Self Conference. @ilyseiris

Ilyse Magy presents Know Thy Cycle, Know Thyself at the 2015 Quantified Self Conference. @ilyseiris

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Tracking Our Senses: Elliot Hedman

Another thoughtful project that studies the human’s physiological response to music is one by Elliott Hedman who studied himself and others’ physiological measurements during a classical concert.

In addition to tracking himself and others with EDA sensors, Elliott also videotaped the sensors to track where in the music, people’s sensors were triggered and shifted. He learned that the transitions from loud to quiet or the reverse triggered everyone’s sympathetic nervous system. He learned that people may have a different reaction to familiar sounds, because when a xylophone was played, Hedman was the only one triggered. He assumes he was moved because he used to play the xylophone when he was a kid.

Elliot speaks to the benefits of being less quantitative and more qualitative when collecting data, and less “self-centric” and more “community-centric” when analyzing.

We hope you can join us to share your learnings from a project, or simply be inspired at this year’s Quantified Self 2018 Conference in Portland on September 22-23. We have only  a handful of discount tickets left. Register here.

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Using Freestyle Libre To See How Stress Effects My Blood Glucose Levels

Justin Lawler, the organizer of Quantified Self Dublin, has been doing some interesting self-studies about how various changes in his life affect his blood glucose levels. Blood glucose is typically tracked as part of diabetes care, and there are some excellent emerging tools for convenient tracking without doing finger stick tests. (Although these systems are not yet accessible everywhere without a doctor’s prescription, we’ve seen them more and more often in Quantified Self projects over the last few years.)

In a recent post, Justin outlined some of his latest projects and discoveries. Among the most interesting findings was the clear relation between psychological stress and blood glucose spikes. For instance, this chart that covers the time he was giving a talk at last year’s Quantified Self conference in Amsterdam.

“My worst data point by far,” Justin writes, is when I’ve been most stressed—giving a talk at the Quantified Self Europe Conference.” You can see his graph below, which shows his blood glucose spanning the time of his talk.


For Justin’s full account, see his excellent Medium post: Continuous Glucose Monitoring — The First Four Weeks.

You can hear Justin talk about his work and learn more about how to track your own blood glucose levels at QS18: The Quantified Self Conference, which will be held on September 22/23 in Portland, Oregon. There are currently 10 tickets left at the early registration price ($325), so please sign up soon if you want to come.

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Most Young People In The United States Have Used A Health App

The recent report by Victoria Rideout and Susannah Fox, “Digital Health Practices,Social Media Use,and Mental Well-Being Among Teens and Young Adults in the U.S.” deserves sustained attention for its exploration of the relationship between social media and mental health in teens and young adults. While the study is designed to contribute some realism to the question of whether social media is associated with depression, it contains some important basic data about what’s going on with the use of technology generally. Based on a national survey fielded by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, the study is the only one I know of that has carefully examined into how often young people use apps to track their health and wellbeing. Key results include:

  • 64% of young people have used health apps
  • 26% report having used a nutrition related app
  • 20% have used an app to track menstrual cycles
  • 11% have used apps related to meditation or mindfulness

These are large numbers. And yet, as many QS toolmakers have already found out the hard way, the survey data shows that the use of these apps is episodic.

As Rideout and Fox put it:

“While 64% of young people say they have “ever” used health apps, 25% say they “currently” do. It appears that many young people are using health-related apps for just a short time – to reach a goal, for example.”

We’ve recently been in a lot of conversations with toolmakers about how difficult it is to sustain a business offering apps and devices for self-tracking. If a quarter of all young people are currently using apps for things like nutrition, menstrual cycles, and mindfulness, and nearly two thirds of all young people have given these kinds of apps a try, why have toolmakers found that creating a business to support this practice is so hard to sustain?

An obvious guess is that the problem lies with business models that require customers to pay monthly fees, or consistently upgrade devices. Where people are tracking in order to learn – and stopping once they’ve learned something or otherwise lost interest – these kinds of businesses will get in trouble.

There’s a lot to think about in this report, but what sticks with me most after reading through a couple of times is the strong force impelling young people to try to find out more about the health topics that concern them. In survey of around 1300 young people, nearly 500 people shared a favorite health app in the open ended response section. Six percent of the respondents wrote about a mental health topic they had researched that wasn’t listed on the survey, and an equal number mentioned a physical health issue that wasn’t listed. We often talk about the value of self-tracking and self-experiment for people who are thinking about something that that doesn’t match the common pattern. The challenge of understand something that doesn’t seem to “fit” is strongly felt in the many touching quotes from the open ended response sections with which the report ends.

I won’t steal them for this post: go find them at the link above.

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Tracking and The Brain: Joost Plattel

Joost Plattel studies chemistry and loves experiments. He discovered while running experiments on himself that the simple act of tracking had a profound affect on how his brain functions. In this talk, Fitting Mental ModelsJoost shares some of those discoveries.

During the last three years of tracking his food, activity, and productivity, Joost noticed his brain functioning differently. For example, when he is actively tracking his food, his brain retains what he ate all week. When he isn’t tracking, he doesn’t have the same recall.

Do you notice the same mental adaptation when tracking? Come share your experience with us at QS18 in Portland on September 22-23! Register here.

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