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Mark Drangsholt has been dealing with an issue with his heart since he was a young man. Since his early twenties, when he as diagnosed with paroxysmal atrial tachycardia he’s had to deal with irregular heart rhythms. In this talk Mark explains how the transition into adulthood negatively impacted his health and then how he used self-tracking and a focused athletic program to help him reduce his weight and improve his health. Most show&tell talks would end there, but Mark still had the irregular rhythm issue to deal with. After what he describes as an episode that made him think, “This is it. I’m going to die.” he decided it was time to apply his self-tracking process in order to understand his heart rhythm disorder and possible triggers. Mark also decided to go one step further and apply the principles of case-crossover design to his tracking methodology. Watch his talk below and keep reading to learn a bit more about why you might want to consider using case-crossover design in your self-tracking projects and experiments.
The following excerpt from the QS Primer: Case-Crossover Design by Gary Wolf provides a great background for his method:
Mark’s self-tracking data didn’t naturally fit with any of these approaches. To understand whether these triggers actually had an effect on his arrhythmias, he used a special technique originally proposed by the epidemiologists Murray Mittleman and K. Malcolm Maclure. A case-crossover design is a scientific way to answer the question: “Was the patient doing anything unusual just before the onset of the disease?” It is a design that compares the exposure to a certain agent during the interval when the event does not occur to the exposure during the interval when the event occurs.
Using this method, Mark discovered that events linked to his attacks included high intensity exercise, afternoon caffeine, public speaking to large groups, and inadequate sleep on the previous night. While these were not surprising discoveries, it was interesting to him to be able to rigorously analyze them, and see his intuition supported by evidence. “A citizen scientist isn’t even on the conventional evidence pyramid,” Mark notes. “But you can structure a single subject design to raise the level of evidence and it will be more convincing.”
Science. Someone makes an observation, creates a hypothesis, tests it, then analyzes the results against the hypothesis. Hopefully once a conclusion is reached it is tested again and again for validity and reproducibility. With self-tracking, the world of personal science and experimentation is opening up real-world personal laboratories to test the findings, claims, and promises available through the popular and scientific literature.
Nick Alexander is one of these self-experimenters. When he started to hear about thermodynamics and the effect of temperature on exercise and energy expenditure he decided to set up his own experiment:
I had been introduced to thermodynamics exercise research by former NASA scientistRay Cronise via Wired and the Four Hour Body. Ray makes an extraordinary claim (i.e. that exercising in a cold environment, especially in cold water, causes a large increase in calorie burn), and I was curious to see if it would work for me.
In this talk, given at the 2013 Quantified Self Global Conference, Nick explains his experimental setup and what he found after tracking over 30 runs and crunching the numbers. For a more in-depth discussion about his methodology and his findings I recommend reading his recaps.
This video is from our 2013 Global Conference, a unique gathering of toolmakers, users, inventors, and entrepreneurs. If you’d like see talks like this in person we invite you to join us in Amsterdam for our 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference on May 10 and 11th.
At Quantified Self Labs, we create and host events that bring together our community of trackers, toolmakers, researchers, and other individuals interested in how self-tracking is shaping our culture. We focus mainly on meetups and conferences. With the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference coming up in May, we thought we’d let you know what makes it a unique and rewarding experience for us and our growing community.
When and Where
Since our first European Conference in 2011, we’ve been lucky to present at the Casa 400 Hotel in beautiful Amsterdam. This year’s conference will take place on May 10th and 11th to take advantage of the spring weather. Casa 400 is just a short bike ride from central Amsterdam and is conveniently located within waking distance of a public train station.
Our conferences are unique community-driven events that we like to refer to as “carefully curated unconferences”. All of our sessions and talks come from our conference attendees, which requires more hands-on work from our program staff. The end result is dynamic program that reflects the interest, insights, and experiences of our community. Our program is divided into four different types of sessions and presentations held concurrently throughout both days of the conference.
Show & Tell Talks: These talks are personal first-person self-tracking stories. We ask speakers to present their tracking experiments with an emphasis on what they’ve learned. At previous conferences we’ve heard talks on tracking Parkinson’s disease, computer use, continuous heart rate, and other fascinating subjects.
Breakout Discussions: Held concurrently with Show & Tell talks, the breakouts are group discussions about a specific topic related to Quantified Self. Each discussion topic is proposed and led by a conference attendee. Previous breakouts have touched on issues related to privacy, the “missing trackers”, DIY tracking, visualization design, the role of open data in the QS community, and many others.
Lunchtime Ignite Talks: After a healthy and delicious meal (lunch is provided) we encourage attendees to listen to six or eight rapid-fire Ignite talks from other participants. These talks are similar to our Show & Tell talks, but are typically more light-weight and entertaining. A great example is this talk given by Mark Moschel on tracking rejection.
Office Hours: We encourage participants to bring current projects, tools, or applications they’re working on. We provide office hour space during program sessions for people to present their project and interact with attendees in one-on-one conversations. We’ve been delighted to see a wide range of concepts exposed during office hours such as art projects, new visualization methods, meet and greets with luminaries in the field, and new tool prototypes.
Take a peak at our 2012 European Conference program for more examples of how we put together a collaborative program packed with learning and sharing opportunities.
Sponsors and Friends
We couldn’t create our conferences without the support of our generous sponsors. We’d like to thank our current annual sponsors, Autodesk and Intel, for their continued support. We are grateful for the support from this year’s conference sponsors: Gero Lab, Aro (Saga), Scanadu, Withings, and Zensorium. If you’re interested in sponsoring our work in general, or the upcoming European Conference, please get in touch.
We also want to thank our Friends of QS. These toolmakers, inventors, and entrepreneurs directly support our work and community. If you’d like to learn more about our Friends of QS program just let us know.
If you are an advanced user, designer, inventor, entrepreneur, journalist, scientist, or health professional, please join us in beautiful Amsterdam for two days of collaboration and inspiration!
We expect to sell out, so if you plan to attend please register today!
Enjoy the information, ideas, and other bits of interestingness we’ve found compelling this week.
Articles and Posts
Medicine gets up close and personal by W. Wyatt Gibbs. At Quantified Self Labs we are big fans of Leroy Hood and his work at the Seattle based Institute for Systems Biology. In an effort to better understand longitudinal health he is spearheading a new pilot research project to track 100 people (genome, sleep, activity, etc.) and eventually hopes to enroll 100,000 people and follow them for 25 years. You can learn more about Dr. Hood’s ideas and this research in this short video.
The Couple That Pays Each Other to Put Kids to Bed by Ben Popken. It is not often that we get to peek into the lives of our Quantified Self community members. In this profile we learn how Bethany Soule and Daniel Reeves use game theory and behavioral economics to divvy up daily tasks in their household. You may also know Daniel and Bethany as the great team behind one of our Friends of QS, Beeminder.
How Science Turned a Struggling Pro Skier Into an Olympic Medal Contender by Jeffrey Marlow. With the 2014 Winter Olympics in full swing we’ve started seeing a number of articles detailing the role technology and self-tracking has played during the lead up to competition. This piece is a great look into the different methods the US Ski Team is using to gain and edge on their competition.
The pedagogy of disgust: the ethical, moral and political implications of using disgust in public health [PDF] by Deborah Lupton. For decades many public health campaigns have used emotional imagery in an attempt to reduce negative health behaviors. This research article, by one of our favorite sociologists, explores the history of using disgust in public health campaigns and the implications this practice has on different communities.
How Can We Help People Get More Sleep? by Lori Melchar. Lori is a program director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and recently took part in a panel discussion on sleep. Due to the foundation’s involvement in numerous health research projects Lori was able to provide some insight into the current challenges and possible solutions for combating sleep loss.
The Weight of the Rain by Jonathan Corum. Jonathan is a senior graphics editor at the New York Times and he gave a talk at the recent Visualized Conference in New York. It’s by far one of my favorite pieces on designing and creating data visualizations that I’ve read this year.
Baseline Cherrypicker by Ben Schmidt. If you’re interested in data visualization and have a soft spot for baseball statistics you can’t do better than this great tool. (The Yankees are clearly the most dominate team in history.)
Where People Run by Nathan Yau. I’m a big fan of Nathan’s work over at Flowing Data. In this post he uses publicly available data from Runkeeper to plot routes for 22 major cities around the world. Apparently people love running near bodies of water.
Ranking Data Dashboards on Pinterest by Mike McDearmon. Mike is a member of the QS New York meetup group and he’s been actively keeping examples of data dashboards on Pinterest. In this short post he examines the number of re-pins to see what dashboards are most popular.
From the Forum
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Katrina Rodzon thought she was a relatively healthy person until she realized that seemingly disconnected symptoms pointed towards something real, a gluten intolerance. She took this hunch and decided to test it out using a simple elimination diet along with tracking her weight and subjective bloating and mood ratings. Watch her great talk from our 2013 Global Conference to find out what she learned.
Even in a world of connected devices, wearable technology, and near ubiquitous data connections self-tracking and personal data collection can be difficult endeavor. Aaron Parecki has been tracking various aspects of this life for years – specifically location, weight, and sleep. We’ve covered some of Aaron’s work and his amazing geolocation visualizations here before and we were excited to have him speaking about his experiences at our 2013 Global Conference. Watch this fantastic talk to hear about Aaron’s tracking practices and his thoughts on why a personal data server is an important tool.
Update: Aaron let us know that his slides from this talk are also available and can be viewed here.
We’ll be posting videos from our 2013 Global Conference during the next few months. If you’d like see talks like this in person we invite you to join us in Amsterdam for our 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference on May 10 and 11th.
I gained a lot of insights from this heat map. The most obvious weight gain was no surprise — that’s when I periodically don’t track. In any case, the big picture patterns are easily identified with a heat map.
Realized looking at this heat map that the point of no return was mid-April 2012 — my data shows that was when I switched protein shakes with an egg based breakfast. I have since experimented and seen that protein shake in the morning seems to keep my blood sugar more stable and as a result my weight under control!
We invite you to take part in this project as we share our favorite personal data visualizations.If you’ve learned something that you are willing to share from seeing your own data in a chart or a graph, please send it along.
It seems that food tracking can have an enormous impact on weight loss and weight control, but counting calories can be difficult. David Sweet was looking to lose weight and wanted to use a system that kept him engaged for a long period of time. He devised a unique system to track his food – the Fist-Sized Volume. Watch this interesting talk, filmed at the New York QS Meetup, to learn how he did it and what he learned (stick around for the great Q&A).
In this video from the Boston Quantified Self Show&Tell, Matthew Ames describes the self-tracking project that dramatically changed his weight and fitness. Beginning with simply measuring his weight daily using a Withings scale, he added together a number of common QS tools, including Weight Watchers, Runkeeper, MyFitnessPal, Garmin Forerunner watch, and the Nike+ system, to support his self-transformation.