Visualizing Blood Glucose


For people who take insulin, self-measurement is a matter of life and death. No wonder, then, that people with diabetes who track their blood glucose have been so important in advancing techniques of visualization,and understanding data. At the Quantified Self Europe conference in Amsterdam this year, we were honored to host a panel discussion on Data Visualization and Meaning with Joel Goldsmith (Abbott Diabetes Care), Jana Beck (Tidepool), Doug Kanter (Databetes), and Stefanie Rondags (diabetes coach and blogger).

This discussion strikes me as widely important for self-trackers whether or not we have diabetes. Many  of us will be tracking blood glucose in the near future. And the issues of data access, understanding, and clinical relevance that people with diabetes are working on resemble challenges commonly faced by anybody who is tracking for health.

For instance, Jana Beck was asked during the Q&A about her health care providers. How receptive are they to the important experiments she’s done to improve her health based on the data she’s collected? ”None of my endocrinologists have been very receptive to this approach,” she answered. “My A1C tends to fall within the range of what’s considered the gold range for people with Type 1. But I’m interested in optimizing that further. Often, I don’t even see them more than twice a year.”

Jana, Stefanie, and Doug all showed their own data in the context of discussing experiments and decisions that have had a major impact on their wellbeing. All were clear that the domain of these experiments and decisions is not healthcare as traditionally understood; but nor is it a matter of general fitness or lifestyle. The domain of these experiments is different and perhaps still unnamed. Self-collected data can and should essential health decisions, but the most advanced techniques of understanding this data are still being developed in an ad-hoc, grassroots way, by knowledgeable and open minded individuals who have a strong interest in learning for themselves.

At the end of the session I asked Joel Goldsmith, of Abbott Diabetes care, about the future prospects of the Freestyle Libre, a minimally invasive wearable blood glucose monitor that is not yet available in the US. (Disclosure: Abbott Diabetes Care was one of the sponsors of the QS Europe Conference.) The Freestyle Libre has a sensor in the form of a patch worn on the arm, and a touchscreen reader device that you lift close to the sensor to get a reading. There is no finger prick involved. While this and competing minimally invasive or non-invasive glucose monitors will almost certainly continue to be regulated as medical devices and understood as part of the health care system, many other people will also use them, and the flood of data and the questions that go with it will challenge our understanding of where this type of information should live.

The video above contains the full session, including the Q&A.

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What We Are Reading

A plate from "Food-Data" by artist Tobias Zimmer

A plate from “Food-Data” by artist Tobias Zimmer


Tobias Zimmer tracked what he ate and, in particular, what he didn’t eat. The image above comes from a series of ceramic plates that were created using generated graphics based on the crumbs he left. For more, see his Tumblr: Food-Data:

»Food Data« elevates an everyday occurrence to the realms of art. Minimalistic crumb compositions that emerge while eating every day, are enhanced by generated graphics, which refer to the topic of computerized data tracking of human behavior. The final plates encourage to contemplate on everyday life and to find beauty in daily routines, but at the same time remind of technological advancement and practices of (self-)surveillance, that doesn‘t even stop before the private ritual of eating.


Haunted By Data by Maciej Cegłowski. A keen sense of how things can go wrong is needed if we are to have any hope of – well, if we are to have any hope! This essay by Maciej Ceglowski about the highly toxic nature of large scale data aggregation is highly recommended.

How Your Device Knows Your Life through Images by Graham Templeton.  This research demonstrating that an artificial neural network was able to train itself to correctly identify 83% of the time the activity that a person was engaged, just based on the images collected from that person’s lifelogging camera is especially interesting in light of Ceglowski’s talk.


Life Stress by Marco Altini. Marco reviews an exhilarating but stressful 15 months of his life through the lens of heart rate variability.

Body Metrics Under Stress by Justin Lawler. Another stress-related piece. Justin shows through data how his body responded to the stress of giving a talk about his lifelogging experiences at QSEU15.


Pathways Project by Mimi Onuoha. This project looked at what story could be told from a month’s worth of mobile phone data from four groups of people, each with a different type of relationship: co-workers, a couple, a family, and roommates. The charts are interactive and fascinating. As Onuoha writes:

…data visualizations add a level of abstraction over real world events; they gather the messiness of human life and render it in objective simplicity. In life, goodbyes can be heartbreaking affairs, painful for all involved. But on a map, a goodbye is as simple as one dot moving out of view.

The project’s data is available in this Github repository.

My Hamster’s Activity Index by /u/snootsboots
This reddit user used a motion sensor connected to a raspberry pi to make sure that his hamster is ok when he’s away. Here’s a picture of the hamster, if you’re curious. His name is Timmy

Internet Pings

My internet’s median ping over time by /u/asecretsin. This a very simple chart, and a simple idea. What I like about it though is that it illustrates how just a little bit of logging and data visualization can reveal a pattern in one’s environment. It clearly shows that the response times slow down from 6pm to 10pm. I have a home office and it often felt like the internet slowed down around the time people starting getting off work.

From the Forum
Activity trackers without online requirement
My review of the H2O-Pal – A Hydration Tracker
Consumer genome raw data comparison – Which has the most health information?
Benefits of 24/7 heart rate monitoring
Can You Quantify Inner Peace?
How to find all major volunteer bioscience projects I can partake in?

As someone who still is not satisfied with any sleep tracking device or app that I have tried, I related to this dialogue from a tumblr called Zen.Sen.Life:

  • Sleep Tracking App: I see you’re not violently throwing yourself around your bed, you must be in a deep sleep. Sweet dreams, buddy!
  • Me: I’m actually still awake.
  • Sleep Tracking App: But you’re lying still…
  • Me: Because I’m trying to get to sleep.
  • Sleep Tracking App: You mean you ARE asleep.
  • Me: I really don’t.
  • Sleep Tracking App: You’re going to have to trust me, I do this professionally and I know sleep when I see it, and I’m pretty sure you’re asleep right now.
  • Me: I couldn’t be more awake.
  • Sleep Tracking App: This is all a dream…
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Upcoming Quantified Self Meetups #50

Eight Quantified Self meetups are coming up in the next two weeks. To see when the next meetup in your area is, check the full list of the over 100 QS meetup groups in the right sidebar. Don’t see one near you? Why not start your own! If you are a QS Organizer and want some ideas for your next meetup, check out the myriad of meetup formats that other QS organizers are using here.

Monday, October 26
Copenhagen, Denmark
London, England

Monday, November 2
Oxford, England

Tuesday, November 3
Reno, Nevada

Saturday, November 7
Denton, Texas

Tuesday, November 10
East Lansing, Michigan
Denver, Colorado
Zürich, Switzerland




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QS Symposium on Pain and Innovation Challenge

Do you have a Quantified Self idea that can help ease the burden of pain?

On November 5th, 2015, we’re convening the first QS Symposium on Pain and Innovation Challenge on the campus of Singularity University at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. For this meeting, we’re trying  a new kind of innovation challenge, designed to advance your ideas for helping people who are dealing with acute and chronic pain. If you have an idea that can help people in pain, please join us for an intense and inspiring one day workshop with some of the world’s leading experts to advance your idea and connect with collaborators who can support its development, from prototyping to reaching the market.

At the end of the day, we’ll award a $10,000 cash prize to the idea that has most challenged and inspired us to look beyond what is already known about reducing the burden of pain.

We’re looking for ideas based on deep insight into the practical challenges faced by people dealing with acute and/or chronic pain, with a particular focus on tools that enhance self-awareness, self-efficacy, and empower people of all types to better understand themselves and live joyful lives. We welcome participation from all innovators interested in sensing, devices, apps, services, and social innovations.

This is a unique challenge, designed to unfold from start to finish over the course of a single day. Instead of competition, co-operation. Instead of obscure judgments made behind closed doors, an open conversation about what we are learning. Instead of long lead times and uncompensated design work, a short, intense, inspiring immersion among the makers of the most innovative tools of tracking and learning emerging from the Quantified Self movement today.

We are toolmakers, pain sufferers and clinical experts, united by a common intention to make a difference in the lives of people who suffer from pain every day.

Request an invitation by emailing

Include some details about your idea and reference links, and we will follow up with you.

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What We Are Reading



A man who tracked five years of sneezes might have a fix for your pollen allergy by Akshat Rathi. Thomas Blomseth Christiansen has spoken about tracking his sneezes at QS conferences. This article is a good telling of Thomas’s story.

Good tool with too small market can get a second chance – a hardware hack saves Zeo by Portabla Media. A short article on how Philipp Kalwies responded to the demise of Zeo. Since the sensors in the headband need to be replaced every three months and official supplies were dwindling on the secondary market, Philipp began to make his own and hopes to have this resource available to the small group of users who continue to get value from their Zeo devices.

The Right to Repair Ourselves by Kim Bellard. A common question in the QS community is “who owns your data?” Another question that should be given more time and is explored here, is “who owns the knowledge of how to ‘fix’ yourself?”


The Habits of Tracking My Diet and Exercise Data by Shannon Connors. Shannon has some of the most impressive personal data sets that I have ever seen. In this post, she gives an overview of the tools that she uses, what about the data she finds useful, and how she integrates the data collection into her day.

What you can learn from 2 years of habit tracking + Machine Learning by Bryan Dickens. Applying association analysis to his data, Bryan was able to see which of his habits tended to occur together. There are some intriguing insights in here.

Visualizing Data in My Sleep with Tableau by Robert Rouse. Robert shows how his sleep patterns changed after the birth of his child.

From the Forum
What Keeps You Tracking?
My Phone and Me
Zeo iOs / Android application

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QS Access: See Your HealthKit Data in a Table


A year ago we released QS Access, a simple app that allows you to see your healthkit data in a table. Our idea was to make it easier for people to explore their data using familiar tools, such as Numbers, Excel, or any  spreadsheet program that can open a .csv file. We’ve really enjoyed hearing its been useful, and we’ve received lots of good feedback. This week we released a new version of the QS Access App that contains some commonly requested features. You can now:

  • QS-Access-ScreenSee raw data from individual elements, such as running.
  • Store the query details, so you don’t start from scratch each time.
  • Choose units for many quantities.
  • Get a table of your sleep data.

We’re still listening, so if you are using QS Access and have feedback for us please let us know by emailing

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Meetups This Week

Six QS meetups are occurring this week. London will mark an incredible five years of meetups! Congratulations to Adriana Lukas and her team. St. Louis will have a special data hack session, focusing on getting the raw data from their devices. Jamie Williams will show the iPython scripts that he uses for pulling data from various API’s. In Boston, the theme of the night will be recovery.

The biggest meetup this week will be the Quantified Self Europe Conference occurring on Friday and Saturday in Amsterdam. We just put the finishing touches on the program, and I’m incredibly excited about it. This one is going to be special.

Monday, September 14
London, England

Tuesday, September 15
St. Louis, Missouri
QSXX – Boston, Massachusetts

Thursday, September 17
Auckland, New Zealand

Friday and Saturday, September 18-19
QSEU15 – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Saturday, September 19
Denton, Texas

Meetups Last Week
Last week, Lille had their fourth meetup, with an ever-growing community in the north of France. If you organize a QS meetup, please post pictures of your event to the Meetup website. We love seeing them.

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What We Are Reading

On with the links!


Get your electronic health record: It’s your right by Lisa Zamosky. Make sure to know your rights when you ask for your medical records. A good overview of the regulations and some good links to have in your arsenal.

Open Data Rockstar: Jennifer Pahlka by Maria Renninger. We’re big fans of what Code for America is doing to make open data useful for people in communities around the United States. Great to hear a bit from Executive Director.

Awash in Data, Thirsting for Truth by Margaret Sullivan. The public editor for the New York Times goes deep on how data can be used, and sometimes abused, in the new era of data-driven journalism.

Meet the Hackers Who Are Decrypting Your Brainwaves by Sean Captain. I’m fascinated by the growing presence of brain tracking devices out there. Great to see some grassroots groups looking to make sense of all that data.

When Discrimination Is Baked Into Algorithms by Lauren Kirchner. The code that governs our machines are written by people. Fallible people who have their own opinions and biases. Who make mistakes. But what kind of legal protections are needed when discrimination is the result of the computers that run that code?

589aef6f-86b9-4a43-8919-551427cbaa7a-620x313 Why your bathroom scales are lying to you and how to find your true weight by Martin Robbins. Brilliant and fascinating post by Martin Robbins, who weighed himself every hour over a three-day period.

Soylent: What Happened When I Went 30 Days Without Food by Josh Helton. Say what you will about the techno-utopian food replacement product, but this is a great write-up on a month-long experiment to live off the stuff even while running nearly 70 miles per week. (Don’t forget to check out the data!)


open_jamierubin_net_v8_heatmap_html A Heatmap of Over 900 Days of Writing Data from My Google Docs Writing Tracker by Jamie Todd Rubin. Jamie shows us the data from the last two and a half years of tracking his writing.

From the Forum
Can You Quantify Inner Peace?
Psych Graduate Student Interested in QS Research

This Week on
Announcing the 2015 Quantified Self Europe Conference Program
Track HRV, Make a Dashboard, and Have Fun with Fitbit at QSEU15

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Track HRV, Make a Dashboard, and Have Fun with Fitbit at QSEU15


We just published a preview of our program for the upcoming 2015 Quantified Self Europe Conference. This year we’re experimenting with some new “how-to” sessions to help everybody learn something new and apply right away in their self-tracking practice.

We’re thrilled to have ten how-to  sessions on the program. From spaced repetition, to heart rate variability, and tracking sneezing (really!), these sessions also give you a chance to learn directly from some of the most pioneering and experienced participants in the global Quantified Self community. You can see the full schedule in our just-posted preliminary program.

Tickets are almost sold out, so if you want to come this is the last week to register!

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Announcing the 2015 Quantified Self Europe Conference Program


Eleven days and counting!

On September 18th and 19th the Quantified Europe conference returns to the beautiful and affordable Casa 400 hotel in Amsterdam. If you’ve been before you know how special this conference is. The dozens of high-handled guest bikes waiting just outside the hotel door suggest it’s going to be hard to stay inside, but we have a lot of experience programming both “with” and “against” the lure of the city and we expect that nobody will be riding away until the last session ends. With over 70 different talks and sessions scheduled between social breaks with excellent food, our “carefully curated unconference” is the fruition of nearly a year’s work getting to know what’s going on the QS community. We’ve been deeply inspired by what you’re thinking about. It’s time for everybody to get in on what we’ve been learning.

Especially notable themes this year include novel ways of measuring sleep; widening interest in blood glucose sensors; popularization of genome and microbiome tests, and, as always, an amazing range of handcrafted and deeply personal tracking stories about health, sports, emotion, and more.

You can read a preliminary program here. [PDF]

As you’ll see, we’re opening the conference with 10 special “how to” sessions covering topics from heart rate variability to accelerated learning. Our goal with these sessions is to give everybody a chance to learn practical tips from experienced trackers. The heart of the program will be our Quantified Self Show&Tell talks, first person stories on topics like home EEG measurements to improve reading skill, self-collected data on distracted driving, and measuring the effect of music on concentration.

Lively informal breakouts will help set the agenda for the Quantified Self movement in the coming year, and we’ll be joined by dozens of Quantified Self toolmakers bringing their ideas and demos, with special thanks owed to the generous sponsors and Friends of QS who make this meeting possible, including Bayer, Abbott Labs, Intel, Scanadu, Oura, Emfit, and Beddit.

Tickets are almost sold out so register today.

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