Spotlight: Steven Dean of QS New York

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Here’s a new Friday experiment. We thought it would be fun to hear from QS thought leaders and spotlight innovative people. 
Today we’re talking to Steve Dean, organizer of the Quantified Self Show&Tell meetups in New York City. Thanks, Steve!
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How did you first hear about the Quantified Self?

In August, 2008 I learned about QS on Seth Roberts’ blog after reading one of his many fascinating posts on self-experimentation. 

I live in NYC but at the time was traveling to the Bay Area to work on a new project that had lots to do with logging and tracking health behaviors. So, I was naturally very curious to see what Gary and Kevin were up to.


How long have you been tracking yourself? 

I had been racing short course triathlons since 2004 and kept a log of all my workouts including distances, speeds and things like that. But in ’06 I started training for the Ironman distance and self-tracking took on a whole new meaning for me. 

Besides logging workouts, speed, nutrition, meters swam and miles biked & ran, the 10-month training program required that I wake up every morning and measure my resting heart rate with my Polar HR monitor. The number helped me adjust my workouts for the day where even two beats higher than normal would indicate that I could be fighting an infection. Although Ironman training beat up my immune system, I’m happy to report I had a great race in Lake Placid.

What do you currently track about yourself, what have you stopped tracking, and what do you wish you could track?

To better understand my spending patterns, I’m tracking all my cash transactions using the Spending Expense Tracker iPhone app. Mint takes care of aggregating and visualizing all the rest. I also track my bike routes, distances and speed using the RunKeeper iPhone app and log my weight with a Withings scale (the scale of choice for QSers).

Using a Google docs form that I would launch from my iPhone, I used to track 13 different thoughts, behaviors and attitudes that I had during the day ranging from gratitude to anxiety on a 1-5 scale. I did this for about three months and got a lot of benefit from taking a moment each day to be conscious of what I was thinking and how I was feeling. This was during an intense and stressful time for me and as soon as things improved and got better, I abandoned the daily check-ins.

My dream tracking system is a tool that I could easily track and store in one place everything that I read (print and digital) along with any highlights and comments that I make so that it’s easily searchable. Something like a Kindle + Evernote + Catch + Wiki. 

What have you learned from your tracking? Has anything been surprising, either positively or negatively?

A lot of the tracking that I’ve done helps improve my athletic performance. Athletes have been at the forefront of the self-tracking movement especially when it comes to real-time feedback where I can adjust my speed and effort based on the data my heart and legs report back to me. 

I think feedback and “what to do next” are features that are missing from a lot of the self-tracking tools and applications out there. Designing for these feedback loops in ambient and self-tracking systems is the area of focus in my own projects and with the companies I advise.

Any inspiring links or other thoughts you’d like to share with the global QS community?

I really love how curious and passionate this co
mmunity is. At every QS Show&Tell I get to watch and listen to people talk with great sincerity about their efforts to figure something out and to make a little more sense of things with numbers. 
Working in the health and wellness industry for so many years, I’m really excited to see all the creative ideas that are emerging in this arena. 

The notion that we can use numbers generated from sensors to know ourselves better and to ask new questions is a natural fit in health but I believe it also provides an opportunity to expand our ideas of the notion of health which many of us in the QS community see as going way beyond the absence of disease and extending into relationships, finances, learning, happiness and beyond.

If you liked this post, or had an insight from reading it, or know of a self-tracking innovator to recommend for a future post, please let us know in the comments below!

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2 Responses to Spotlight: Steven Dean of QS New York

  1. Wyman Brantley says:

    Interesting interview; thanks for posting it.
    I am a little surprised he would abandon the thoughts forms that he used to fill out–at least some of them–unless he has some other avenues for getting that increase in consciousness that he describes. Once I found ways to connect with that higher level of awareness, I never wanted to go back. The benefits of tapping into such modes of thinking are trackable, too.
    Speaking of dream systems: for me the dream system would involve reminders that are connected to cognitive status, location, etc.. You could set up projects, tasks, and recurring activities and tag them by location and the best mental states to be in to do them. Mental states are regularly updated by something akin to the “mood updates” on social sites like Myspace. The system then sends a reminder to do only the “due” items that are tagged for that mental state. Feeling creative? Do some brainstorming on this upcoming project. Feeling awake but scattered? Maybe this is a good time for something mindless like laundry.

  2. Pingback: Self-Tracking and the Quantified Self Movement | Greatist

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