Search Results for: weight

Dispatch from QS Dublin: Results from a QS Community Survey

Today, we have a guest post from Justin Lawler, an organizer for the active and excellent Quantified Self group in Dublin, about a recent meetup. If you are a QS organizer, feel free to contact me about writing a recap of one of your events. -Steven

Recently, the Dublin Quantified Self meetup group gathered at the Dublin Science Gallery where Jenn Ryan presented the results from a recent survey on people’s motivations for tracking. We had an engaged group of people with health and wellness backgrounds, students, and the merely curious to discuss the current state of Quantified Self and how it’s impacting health.

Quantified Survey & The Potential of Personal Data in Healthcare

Jenn carried out the survey as part of her MSc thesis at University College Galway, trying to understand the motivations of those that track. A fitness instructor, Jenn is very conscious of public health and is always looking for new tools she can use with clients.

Some key insights from the survey:

  • A wide range of tools being used – from fitness trackers to phone apps to pen & paper.
  • Motivations for self-tracking included fitness goals, to tackling chronic diseases to self-knowledge & curiosity.
  • People found that the process of self-tracking was very useful for motivating behaviour change.
  • People found that once they started tracking biometrics, they didn’t stop once it became a habit.
  • People are not too concerned about the confidentiality of the data.
  • Overall people are happy with the tools we have.

Some charts from the survey:

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ToolsUsed

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“It is like when you are driving a car and you see the fuel gauge. If you couldn’t see the fuel gauge you would just drive on, but because you see it, you say ‘oh I am running low on fuel’ so I suppose if you see your weight going up or down, you can take action” -Survey Participant

Since survey responders were from the QS community, it wasn’t a diverse/cross-population sample. The respondents were high socio-economic status, educated, self-driven & curious. In other words, early adopters. There is still plenty of room for deeper analysis into self-tracking in wider population groups [See this Pew Research study for a view of the general public in the U.S. -Steven]

Jenn notes that there is huge room for growth as wearable trackers move to the early majority stage, as tools become more passive, easier to use and give more useful actionable insights. The Quantified Self movement will play a big part in the future of healthcare, as well as, efforts like the Institute of Medicine’s Learning Healthcare System which help healthcare iterate to provide better care.

Here is Jenn’s full presentation from the event:

You can follow the QS Dublin on their blog. If you live near Dublin, you can find out when their next meetup will be.

QS17 Tickets

You can meet Justin and other QS Dubliners at our next conference on June 17-18 in lovely Amsterdam. It’s a perfect event for seeing the latest self-experiments, debating the most interesting topics in personal data, and meeting the most fascinating people in the Quantified Self community. There are only a few discounted tickets left. We can’t wait to see you there.

 

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Laila Zemrani: Training for Strength or Endurance?

While it is clear that exercise is beneficial, how does one decide what to do to get and stay fit? When Laila Zemrani surveyed people at the gym, she found that a majority don’t decide at all. Sixty percent didn’t know why they were doing a particular exercise. And of those, 50% admitted to merely copying whatever their neighbor was doing.

Laila spoke recently at a QS meetup in Boston about how she tried to be more intentional in her choice in exercise. In reviewing the number of available exercises, she was able to put them into two buckets: strength and endurance. She decided to track the effectiveness of each training regimen by focusing on a single metric and watching its progress. For strength, she focused on body fat ratio. For endurance, she looked out how long it took her to run the same distance. She then alternated her training every three months or so, focusing on one or the other.

Laila Zemrani speaking at QS Boston

Laila Zemrani speaking at QS Boston

Here’s what she found. When she focused on strength training, her body fat ratio improved. For instance, in one three month period it went from 29% to 25%. This type of improvement repeated itself a number of times. However, when she focused on endurance, she did not see improvements in the time it took her to run a certain distance.

Using a Fitbit Aria, Laila tracked body fat while alternating training regimens.

Laila tracked body fat with a Fitbit Aria scale.

It’s hard to know what conclusion to draw from these results. Are these the right metrics for assessing performance? What does it mean to respond more to strength than endurance exercise? However, the question of why Laila seemingly responds better to strength-based exercises may be found in her genetics. She used a DNA test from 23andMe and the results suggested that she shows a propensity toward building fast-twitch fibers which allow for better performance at explosive activities, such as sprinting or weight-lifting. On the flip side, people who are more proficient at building slow-twitch fibers tend to do better at endurance-type activities such as running long distance. Everyone has a combination of the two types of muscle fiber, but the ratio seems to be correlated with performance, depending on the type of activity.

Screenshot from Laila's 23andMe account.

Screenshot from Laila’s 23andMe account.

With these results, Laila decided it made sense for her to focus on strength-building exercises, since it seems that her body was built for that type of activity. Laila feels that having this information is allowing her to personalize her regimen and be more intentional about how she exercises, rather than be too influenced by the latest fads in fitness.

It can be debated whether it makes sense to focus on strength as opposed to endurance, depending on which one you see progress in. For Laila, the appearance of progress is important psychologically, in that it is easier to motivate herself if she sees improvement. There could be a downside to appearance of quick improvement, though. Ralph Pethica also uses genetic data to inform his training. He is the opposite of Laila in that his body is better suited for endurance exercise. What he finds, though, is that he improves and adapts too quickly and sees his performance plateau. To overcome this, he found that switching between steady-state training sessions and high-intensity intervals minimized the time he spent plateaued.

Training with knowledge of your genetic background is still a nascent practice. It’s still unclear how this information can and should be used. Useful ways to take advantage of this genetic information is still being tested and developed, but progress could be hastened if more people knew if they had more slow-twitch or fast-twitch muscle fiber. If this awareness is increased, it could lead to better strategies to get more out of exercise and reduce frustration and, hopefully, abandonment of the gym.

You can watch Laila’s entire Show&Tell presentation that she gave at a QS Boston meetup. You can follow up with Ralph’s Show&Tell from the QS Europe conference.

Tools used:
Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale

23andMe DNA Test – Health + Ancestry

QS17 Tickets are Available

Our next conference is June 17-18 in lovely Amsterdam. It’s a perfect event for seeing the latest self-experiments, debating the most interesting topics in personal data, and meeting the most fascinating people in the Quantified Self community. There are only a few early-bird discount tickets left. We can’t wait to see you there.

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QS Access App

app_store

FAQ - Privacy Policy

Access your data from HealthKit in a table so you can explore it using Numbers, Excel, R, or any other CSV compatible tool. Download it here.

QS Access is designed to give you a simply-formatted table so that you can make health, fitness, and other discoveries by exploring your own data. When you open QS Access you will see a list of all the types of data potentially collected by HealthKit. You can choose as many items as you like from this list.

IMG_9857Select “Create Table” from the bottom right corner of your screen.

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The first time you select any data type for review using QS Access, you will be asked by iOS to give permission for QS Access to read your data. After you grant permission, QS Access will produce a table:

QSaccessTableGWYou can view the table directly on your iOS device, print it, send it to yourself via email or text message.

Hourly/Daily

Each time you create a table, you can chose to work with either hourly or daily values. QS Access does some processing to HealthKit data so that it can be accessed in convenient “chunks” for analysis. These won’t be appropriate for all uses, but many interesting questions can be asked of data that is presented as a time series using hourly and/or daily values.

QS Labs

The mission of QS Labs is to inspire meaningful discoveries about ourselves and our communities, grounded in accurate observation, and enlivened by a spirit of friendship.

Since 2008, we’ve been organizing “QS Show&Tell” events where people share their self-tracking projects, working with a loosely affiliated network of over 100 independent Quantified Self groups around the world, and maintaing a Quantified Self website and QS forum.

If you use QS Access to learn something about yourself, we hope you’ll consider sharing your discoveries by coming to a QS event. Some ways to participate include:

Join a QS Meetup (scroll down the linked page to find your city)
Start a QS Meetup
Come to the QS15 Global Conference and Exposition

Examples

When your data is in tabular format, there are lots of things you can try. Some are simple, and some are quite complex. For inspiration, here are a few examples from talks given at Quantified Self events of self-tracking projects featuring the analysis of tabular data using common tools.

Kouris Kalligas: Analyzing My Weight and Sleep

“You’ll find it surprising that to decrease my weight I had to slightly increase my calories during the day.”

http://quantifiedself.com/2014/09/kouris-kalligas-analyzing-weight-sleep/

Adrienne Andrew Slaughter on Tracking Carbs and Exercise

“I recently experienced extreme fatigue while riding my bike in downtown Seattle. A few days before I had changed my diet, eating all vegetables, lean chicken, seafood, and nuts, on the guidance of my doctor. Three days into this I was feeling terrible.”

http://quantifiedself.com/2014/06/adrienne-andrew-slaughter-going-carbless-seattle/

Paul La Fontaine: ‘We Never Fight On Wednesdays’

“In 1991 I was a soldier in combat, and I was very alert but felt quite calm. In 2006 I was in Istanbul in a negotiation; one comment was made and I felt physical panic. So I was interested in how I reacted to situations because there didn’t seem to be any logic to it at all. So I devised a study to see how I reacted… What I found was the the vast amount of my stress came from me anticipating a disaster scenario in my future, which was not at all what I expected.”

Feedback and Support

You can download the QS Access App on iTunes.

Please share your feedback with us by emailing qsaccess@quantifiedself.com.

We’ve created a QS Access Questions thread on the QS Forum. We’ll keep an eye out for your questions there.

Leave a comment

What We Are Reading

Even though our work at Quantified Self is not ostensibly political, we have been thinking lately about its relevance to the tumultuous times in U.S. politics. Although there is uncertainty and fear, we, like many others, feel activated to make a difference as individuals, more than we did before.

One of my fundamental beliefs about Quantified Self practices is that it leads people to be better versions of themselves. I don’t mean this in the bigger, stronger, or faster sense. It helps people become active agents in their lives. To be more curious and challenge certainty in themselves and others. In navigating this uncertain time and figuring out how to make a personal contribution, communities will play a larger role in people’s lives. It’s important to me, at least, that we are a community that encourages thoughtfulness and thoroughness in reasoning and perspective. I don’t know exactly what our role will be, but we stand in solidarity with those who fight for a better world and defend against capriciousness, avarice, and false confidence. In that spirit, my colleague Erica has put together a beautiful, short video of her experience at the Women’s March on D.C.

I hope you enjoy these articles. Some are a welcome respite. Others may help with understanding the current situation. If you have any suggestions for what we can do to help or if you read anything that we should include in a future WWAR, send it my way at steven@quantifiedself.com.

-Steven

Articles

Algorithmic Life by Massimo Mazzotti. Trendy words become objects of derision. When a word with a range of meanings is overused, it becomes ever more ambiguous, as each discrepant situation through which it passes rubs away some of its precision, until the sound of the word does nothing more than evoke vague memories of where it’s been. Words that have been with us through many struggles, like “justice” or “pride,” acquire the opacity of nearly universal significance. But new minted words, without historical weight— people may just start to laugh them. The word algorithm has begun to suffer this fate. This sensitive essay by historian of science Massimo Mazzotti argues that the semantic confusion of “algorithm” is an invitation to revise our assumptions about people and machines. -Gary

Why Medical Advice Seems to Change So Frequently by Aaron E. Carroll. Nutritional recommendations are a tricky business. Some wonder why scientists can’t get their story straight. Sometimes the issue is that a perceived effect disappears when a more rigorous experiment is done. Another issue is that some people will benefit from an intervention, but it is then proclaimed that all people will benefit. There’s also the problem of studies with negative results being hidden from view. -Steven

Tracking Physiomes and Activity Using Wearable Biosensors Reveals Useful Health-Related Information, by Xiao Li, Jessilyn Dunn, and Denis Salins. This article from PLOS-Bio is a top contender for “QS Paper of the Year.” True, this award was just invented, and the year has barely started. Still, I invite you to download it and see if you can find reasons to disagree. Based on nearly two years of extremely detailed self-tracking by one 58-year old participant, and strengthened by additional group research, the paper makes substantive new discoveries and demonstrates the power of accessible tools for self-measurement. The participant is Mike Snyder, principle investigator in the Stanford lab where the authors work. (Aside from many other interesting things about the paper, it’s an important example of participatory research methods.) Back in 2011, an individual self-experimenter, John de Souza, gave a talk at our QS conference showing that he could predict sickness – before symptoms were felt – by looking at elevation of peak heart rate during exercise over a well established baseline average. Li, Dunn, and Salins’ paper contains a similar result based on elevation of resting heart rate. The data supporting this conclusion is very rich, including both self-reported symptoms and elevated hs-CRP, a marker of inflamation. There is much too much additional interesting material to quickly summarize; thankfully, PLOS-Bio is open access, so have at it. -Gary

Most People Are Bad at Arguing. These 2 Techniques Will Make You Better by Brian Resnick. Something that I see play out on Facebook currently is the futility of arguing with those that we disagree with. It’s not often the case that this does anything to change minds. This article looks at how empathy and listening can make a difference. -Steven

Cortisol and Politics: Variance in Voting Behavior is Predicted by Baseline Cortisol Levels, by Jeffrey A. French, et al. While I don’t have super high confidence the conclusions from this paper published in 2014 are going to hold up, the connection between variations in stress tolerance and participation in politics is very interesting, and more accessible measurement tools are going to allow a much closer look than we’ve ever had before. An intuitive understanding of how to induce and relieve stress has been part of politician’s toolkit forever, but now more than ever we need some kind of self-understanding of our own physiological patterns of response, in order to be able to reflect better on what’s happening around us. -Gary

The FDA Is Cracking Down On Rogue Genetic Engineers. Up until this point DIY biohacking has largely operated without government oversight. As this technology moves out of niche communities and becomes commercialized, there are concerns over whether the FDA will include DIY biology enthusiasts in the rulemaking process. -Steven

Show & Tell

The Year 2016 by Lillian Karabaic. Lillian releases her 9th annual report, with entertaining visualizations, whimsical metrics (e.g., tacos consumed), and a light-hearted, but not to be taken lightly, study of burnout from a new job. -Steven

Introducing BobAPI — A Personal API to Collect and Share All of My Life Data by Bob Troia. I missed this when he originally released it, but Bob created a unified data store that allows him to have control and ownership of his data and better equip himself to contribute to citizen science. I hope this proves to be a model that others follow. – Steven

A College Student’s Individual Analysis of Productivity of Four Years by Tiffany Qi. Tiffany recently graduated from UC Berkeley. During her four years of undergrad study, she tracked her time and productivity. In this analysis, she looks at how how her time spent affected her grades. -Steven

Data Visualizations

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One Angry Bird: Emotional Arcs of the past Ten U.S. Presidential Inaugural Addresses. This analysis looks at facial expressions used by the last ten presidents as they give their inaugural addresses. Both the visualizations and method of analysis are novel. -Steven

 

ezgif.com-video-to-gifHow Often Do I Look at the Time? by Ravi Mistry. This is a of a visualization of a novel metric: “how often one looks at the time.” I’m impressed by the discipline required to pull this off. -Steven

 

AccidentalArt (1)Accidental aRt. This is a twitter feed for R visualizations that go “beautifully wrong.” My personal title for this beautiful work of accidental art is: “Causation is not correlation.” -Gary

QS17 Conference

QS17SidebarLogoOur next conference is June 17-18 in lovely Amsterdam. It’s a perfect event for seeing the latest self-experiments, debating the most interesting topics in personal data, and meeting the most fascinating people in the Quantified Self community. There are only a few early-bird discount tickets left. We can’t wait to see you there.

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What We Are Reading

It’s a new year, and we are starting it off with a collection of articles that we’ve been collecting for the last couple of months. I hope you find them as interesting as we did. -Steven

Articles

Making Statistics Matter: Using Self-data to Improve Statistics Learning by Jeffrey L. Thayne. Can Quantified Self projects solve an ongoing problem in teaching statistics? This doctoral dissertation supervised by Victor Lee, a long time participant in our Quantified Self Public Health symposia, argues that it can. The reason QS can help is simple: in QS practices, statistics become personally relevant. As Thayne writes:

[A]n essential feature of effective statistics instruction [is] a relevant, immediately available context of application, wherein learners feel that they are taking part in an ongoing inquiry process in which statistics is being used as a tool for illuminating something new and important about their world.

What I found especially interesting about this research, which used qualitative methods to explore student’s interest and involvement in their statistics learning, was that the use of self-collected data was not powerful because it appealed to the student’s vanity, but because it was familiar and had contextual meaning. Just as professionals who use statistical methods benefit from understanding where the data comes from and what it is for, students who can situate their practice in a rich context find it easier to master new methods. -Gary

On Progress and Historical Change by Ada Palmer. Historian and science fiction author Ada Palmer’s lucid essay on the idea of historical progress is great to read in light of the never-dying hope among the makers of self-tracking tools that there can be a formula for positive change. I sometimes tire out my colleagues opposing this idea, and I know it seems odd that here at Quantified Self we spend every day supporting people trying to figure out how to use technology for change while at the same time not believing that definite techniques for inducing such change can exist. Isn’t that a contradiction? In contrast to my usual philosophical abstractions and pedantic references to the history of behavioral psychology, Palmer tells the story of where our idea of progress comes from, and offers a fascinating account of how events can be simultaneously free and determined, based on the DIY historical simulation machine she builds every year with her students. -Gary

How a Guy From A Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology by Ed Yong. One of my favorite stories in citizen science is how Beatrix Potter (of Peter Rabbit fame) was an early and ridiculed proponent of the idea that lichen was a symbiotic fusion of a fungi and an algae. The need for the term “symbiosis” arose from this discovery (credited to Swiss botanist Simon Schwendener). This article follows the humble beginnings of Toby Spribille and the process for how he determined that the theory that lichen is composed of two organisms is wrong. It’s actually three. -Steven

How To Do What You Want: Akrasia and Self-Binding by Daniel Reeves. I’ve been going back and reading some of Daniel Reeves’ excellent posts on the Beeminder Blog about the cluster of concepts and techniques associated with self-control, including also Smoking Sticks and Carrots and What is Willpower? -Gary

How Language Helps Erase the Tragedy of Millions of Road Deaths by Julie Sedivy. What is the difference between the words “accident” and “collision”? The word “accident” implies a lack of blame. This article explores the effects that these connotations have on our subconscious interpretation of the world. -Steven

Faster, Not Smarter: Does Caffeine Really Make You More Productive? by Alex Senemar. Alex surveys what is known about the effects of caffeine on productivity. How do you keep caffeine a boon and not a crutch. What I love about this article is that Alex finishes it with suggestions on how to run your own experiment to see caffeine’s effect on your productivity. -Steven

In Defense of Tracking Our Poop by Adam Butler. Adam makes the argument that one of the best ways to understand the health of the microbiome is to track and pay attention to your poop. How do you turn that into data? Luckily, there is a time-tested classification system that your physician should recognize called the Bristol Stool Scale. Which will help the next time you need to talk to your doctor. -Steven (courtesy of Ernesto Ramirez)

Childhood trauma leads to lifelong chronic illness — so why isn’t the medical community helping patients? by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. “Were there any childhood traumas or stressors that might have contributed to the extreme level of inflammation you’re experiencing as an adult?” Nakazawa says that this was the most important question posed to her in her adult life. From the question, she was able to untangle how her present day health issues have ties to the traumatic death of her father when she was twelve. The article shows that childhood trauma leads to a great likelihood of autoimmune disease. However, knowing about these links, one can help reduce the number of doctor visits. -Steven

Early Modern Bookkeeping and Life-Writing Revisited: Accounting for Richard Stonley, by Jason Scott-Warren. The use of numbers as an element in personal record keeping is ancient, but the account books of early modern elites hold particular interest for historians, since they seem to hold clues to the origin of today’s autobiographical habits. The great 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys kept his entries in a ledger book, and the carefully folded pages and ruled lines of the account books of bourgeois merchants and lawyers provide a dense cultural background for more famous documents (such as Benjamin Franklin’s memoirs) commonly imagined to to lie at the root of the Quantified Self. This essay from The Social History of the Archive (a special volume of the journal Past & Present) takes a close look at the account book of an obscure functionary named Richard Stonley, and shows how mistakes, repetitions, and elisions challenge the idea of the ledger book as a crucible for the modern sense of self. -Gary

Show&Tell

How Software, Data, and a Hell of a Lot of Work Helped Me Lose 110 pounds in 25 Months by Timothy Chambers. Although he doesn’t show his data, it was interesting to read how Timothy integrated various tools into his effort to lose weight. Each tool had a role and each needed certain features to qualify. It’s a complex interaction of data sets and feedback mechanisms. I appreciated one of his points on data portability:

It was critical that my apps could speak to each other and to the cloud, not just to what companies each toolmaker had deals with. My web-based trend tools needed to talk with my scale which needed to speak to my phone. We work so hard for the health data about steps, weight, fat percentage, etc, that should be our data open to use with whatever tools we wish. Not all vendors treat it as such.

-Steven

My to-do list is now public, and it’s the most useful thing I’ve done in years by Joe Reddington. For years, Joe has kept track his number of open to-do’s. In May, he experimented with making his to-do list publicly available. Now that he knows that he’s being “watched”, he is more conscientious about making his items comprehensible, and is  more motivated. As Joe puts it: “When it was [just] a list for me, it looked great; when I decided to make it public, it instantly looked very poor.” -Steven

Analysis of a Personal Public Talk by Alex Martinelli. Alex analyzes a recent talk he gave at a QS Dublin meetup, by looking at his heart rate and speaking speed. The piece has an appropriately casual tone, but he finishes each section of the analysis with a definitive statement based on the data. After looking at how fast he was talking, Alex writes as if he was consulting someone else:

Your average speech rate is 152 Words Per Minute (WPM), but an approximately constant and significant decrease can be observed, bringing you from an initial WPM of 166 to a final value of 142. The primary cause of this is the usage of increasingly longer pauses between words, secondarily reinforced by a combination of using longer words, as well as a tendency to slow down the pronunciation of words, while the talk unfolds.”

As an engineer at IBM, he’s clearly used to this at his job, but I like the idea of bringing this structure and formality to personal data analysis. -Steven

The Somniloquist by Adam Rosenberg. Adam was told by others that he talks in his sleep, so he set up a recorder to capture his “midnight monologues”. The recordings are transcribed, and in addition to being hilarious, they are an interesting insight into what the brain is doing during sleep. -Steven

My Quantified Wardrobe 2017 by Matt Manhattan. Matt analyzes his wardrobe in an effort to define his relationship with his clothes. He looks at how much of each article of clothing he has and their associated cost. But it’s the pictures of his clothes that makes this post delightful. -Steven

Data Visualizations

History Lesson by Clive Thompson. Not a visualization, but an article about the history of data visualizations. -Steven

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The London Wind Map. A whimsical of visualization of where you would go if “you were pushed by the wind each day” in 2015. -Steven

 

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Shannon Conners: A Lifetime of Personal Data

ConnersJournal

One of Shannon’s journals.

The emergence of self-tracking tools that came with the advent of the smartphone was a boon for people like Shannon Conners, who have long been recording their personal data with pen and paper. Her workout and food journals date back to her high school years.

Not content to let her data be incomplete, she has used novel sources for filling out her data sets, like going through her baby books for weight check-ins. Having a picture of her data that is comprehensive gives her a unique view. By adding annotations of major life events, she can see the vicissitudes of life reflected in her data.

 

ConnersLifetimeWeight

Looking at her data side by side in JMP, her tool of choice, she sees how one affects the other. She determined that her cholesterol levels moved in the same direction as her weight, demonstrating to her that managing weight can be a good “surrogate variable” for keeping other biomarkers in check.

Her story may inspire you to increase your self-tracking diligence (it has for me). It has already inspired people around her. Her mother and sisters, after seeing her results with managing her weight, asked for Shannon’s coaching on how they can use self-tracking to help themselves. This is the value of sharing one’s methods: it can inspire others to change their ways of living and being.

The charts in this talk are fantastic, but they go by so quickly that I wanted to share them here so you can take them in. It should be no surprise that Shannon was featured in our QS Visualization Gallery and interviewed for the QS Radio podcast. You can keep up with Shannon on her blog, where she writes about her methods and what she’s learning.

ConnersTreeMap

ConnersComparison

ConnersHDL

ConnorsWorkout

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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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What We Are Reading

Articles

The Beacon Experiments: Low-Energy Bluetooth Devices in Action by Chaise Hocking. There is a lot of interest in using micro-location to support QS projects, with much excitement focused on Bluetooth beacons as a possible solution. If you’ve been curious about how well the fairly well known Estimote and Kontakt beacons work for estimating proximity, this post is for you. ‑Gary

Do-It-Yourself Medical Devices — Technology and Empowerment in American Health Care by Jeremy A. Greene. DIY healthcare technology has existed a lot longer than the devices designed to pair with your smartphone, but the “it” in DIY, as well as whom “yourself” is directed towards, has changed significantly over time. ‑Steven

Boundary Negotiating Artifacts in Personal Informatics: Patient-Provider Collaboration with Patient-Generated Data by Chia-Fang Chung et al. This sensitive research paper explores how self-collected data can be used to support collaboration between people seeking health care and their care providers. Based on surveys and interviews, Chung and her co-authors offer a detailed analytical framework for understanding common tensions and misunderstandings, and give extremely thoughtful suggestions for designers. ‑Gary

‘Superman Memory Crystal’ Could Store Data for 13.8 Billion Years by Stephanie Pappas. It’s probably foolish to get excited by a technology that may never escape the research facility, but I’m excited by the idea anyhow. The challenge of keeping data from degrading is a big one. Libraries burn down. Magnetic tapes disintegrate. Hard drives die suddenly. The idea of storing your data on a glass disc is poetically appealing, but I am surprised to learn of it’s practicality in terms of stability and capacity.‑Steven

The Most Famous Mice in the World Right Now by Steve Hamley. I’ve been following the slow transformation of nutritional science from anti-fat to anti-carb since reading Gary Taubes cover story for the New York Times: “What If It’s All Been A Big Fat Lie?” This week there was a minor chapter in which many media reports used some work by a New Zealand scientist purporting to show that high fat, low carb diets could be bad for your glycemic control after all. The above story by Steve Hamley is the best debunking. ‑Gary

Ann Douglas Details Her Hi-tech Weight Loss Journey by Lauren Pelley. Ann Douglas, an author of books on parenting and pregnancy, lost 135 pounds over two years. She didn’t have one killer device or app, but used a suite of tools that contributed in one way or another. “I had given up all hope of ever losing all this weight,” she says. “If you’re sitting there despairing, wondering how you’re ever going to do anything about your weight problem — I was there too.” ‑Steven

Show&Tell

Using Heart Rate Variability to Analyze Stress in Conversation by Paul LaFontaine. “Vapor lock” is Paul’s term for that feeling when you are trying to retrieve something from memory in conversation, but because of the stress of the situation (especially if it is with a boss), you lock up and your recall fails. To better understand this phenomenon and learn how to prevent it, Paul measured his heart rate variability during 154 conversations with bosses and co-workers and discovered that the biggest cause of his “vapor lock” was not what he expected at all. ‑Steven

17 Years of Location Tracking by Stephen Cartwright. Steven has been tracking his latitude, longitude and elevation every hour since 1999. In this talk, Stephen shows how seventeen years of location tracking has given him a wealth of data to explore in the form of three-dimensional data visualization sculptures. He has even brought some of these to QS conferences. They are amazing to behold in person. ‑Steven 

Data Visualizations

Marrying_Age___FlowingData

Marrying Age: This is when Americans get married by Nathan Yau. This interactive visualization looks at the average marrying age for different demographics. You can’t see the trends over time, but it is interesting, though not wholly surprising, to see smoother distributions for demographics that tend to have more stabile economic situations, like college graduates. (Though I’m not sure if that has more to do with the relative number of people in each group.) ‑Steven

Forget_me_nots

Forget me nots by Lam Thuy Vo. This explores the relationship between a woman and her archive of email exchanges with exes. This visualization above is fairly standard, but the others in the piece are more like tone poems. Appropriate, considering that dives into your archive can leave you swirling in unleashed emotion (Speaking from personal experience here. You would be surprised by how much you can relive your life by looking at old bank statements). ‑Steven

Projects

Danielle by Anthony Cerniello. This is a video of a computer generated face that ages over the course of four minutes. The length is interesting in that you can tell that change is occurring, yet it is happening slow enough that it’s hard to see exactly what is changing moment to moment. ‑Steven

Thanks to Ernesto for sending a link our way. If you find an interesting article you’d like to recommend, email labs@quantifiedself.com. If you want to get these automatically in your inbox, you can subscribe here.

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What We Are Reading

WWAR

Articles

The DIY Scientist, the Olympian, and the Mutated Gene by David Epstein. There are several surprising twists in this story of a non-professional scientist named Jill Viles, who made an important discovery about her own rare genetic disorder. What inspired me mostwas Viles’ tenacious reliance on her own capacity to reason, even in the face of skepticism from professionals who had less knowledge (though more confidence) than she did. Eventually, she connects with highly technical scientists whose research direction she influences with her ideas. Epstein got a fantasic quote from one of them when he asked the scientist if this has ever happened before. “In my life, no,” he says. “People from outside coming and giving me hope? New ideas? I have no other example of this kind of thing. You know, maybe it happens once in a scientific life.” I found myself wondering if this kind of thing will be less rare in the future. -Gary

A Drug to Cure Fear by Richard A. Friedman. This article intersects two of my interests that stem from my own self-experimentation. From my stress tracking I realized that many of my reactions in my day-to-day life are influenced by traumatic memories. From my spaced repetition practice I learned how memories can change over time through retrieval and consolidation. A study done in the Netherlands suggests that a memory can be decoupled from an associated fear response by using propranolol which blocks the effects of norepinephrine, a  chemical  that strengthens connections in the brain. The study has yet to be replicated, but hopefully it will increase our understanding of trauma.  -Steven

Internet of Things security is so bad, there’s a search engine for sleeping kids by J.M. Porup. Ever since doing a research project on data flows for our first Quantified Self symposium we’ve had what you might describe as a below average level of confidence in the security and reliability of information traveling outside the immediate context of its collection, now that APIs connect to APIs connecting to yet other APIs. Still, even I was surprised by the recklessness and potential harm described in J.M. Porup’s brief account of a search engine that displays random pictures from internet connected consumer cameras around the world. -Gary

Algae bloom toxin linked to Alzheimer’s, other diseases by Amy Kraft. One consequence of the climate change and the depletion of fish stocks in ocean’s is the increase occurrence of algae blooms. Ethnobotanists found a correlation between algal blooms and neurodegenerative diseases among remote populations in the Pacific. New research suggests that cyanobacteria, the microorganism in these blooms, has a neurotoxin that can cause neurodegenerative precursors that develop. This neurotoxin enters the human food chain as it bioaccumulates in fish and shellfish. -Steven

Show&Tell

Glass Half Full Succeeds in Unwinding Upsets by Paul LaFontaine. Most people have moments of irritation or worry throughout the day. Paul wanted to find out what worked better as a response to these moments. Option A was to step back and observe his emotions in a manner similar to that taught by some schools of meditation. Option B was to figure out the source of irritation or concern and think of a positive angle to the situation. What is great about this post is the very simple but illuminating experiment that he devised to explore this question. -Steven

Finding My Optimum Reading Speed by Kyrill Potapov
As an English teacher Kyrill Potapov spends a lot of time working with 12 year old kids who are trying to improve their reading, writing, comprehension, and analytical skills. In this talk, he explores a remarkable method of speed reading, called Spritz, that promises to let you “read Harry Potter in three hours” with full understanding and recall. Could such a promise possibly be true? -Gary

Heart Rate Variability, Body Metrics, and Cognitive Function by Justin Lawler. This is a great examination of how Justin’s HRV measurements correlate to all other personal data he has collected. -Steven

Using Spectrograms to Visualize Heart Rate Variability by Randy Sargent
Randy’s idea about using spectrograms, normally used for audio signals, to create a portrait of your own time series data, is completely novel as far as I know. -Gary

Visualizations

spuriouscorrefations

Spurious Correlations by Tyler Vigen. An entertaining collection of unrelated facts that can be correlated with a high degree of confidence. -Steven

FireCalcWeight

Hackers Diet, FIRECalc and weight loss by u/Thebut_. This chart is a mess, but the idea behind it is fascinating. This reddit user was inspired by FIRECalc, a financial tool that “projects your future assets based on historical market data” and tried to apply it to his weight data. Instead of giving a single projection, the tool shows a range of possibilities. This is similar to how Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA system uses a weighted range of possibilities (probability distribution) rather than a single guess (point estimate) for forecasting a prospect’s future performance. I would like to see more of this kind of thinking applied to personal data. -Steven

Projects

Darwin Tunes by Bob MacCallum, Armand Leroi, Matthias Mauch, Steve Welburn, and Carl Bussey. A fascinating project that treats pieces of music like organisms that can mate and reproduce based on listeners’ votes. These audio loops started off as random noise, but as the generations moved into the thousands, the presence of chords and higher order melodies emerged. At this point, there have been over 8700 generations. You can take part yourself! -Steven

On the QS Blog
Quantified Self Public Health Symposium
Explaining Nightscout by Lane Desborough

From the Forum
Central repository for QS data
Best Pulse Oximeter of all-night logging
Open Source wearable bio-sensor: TrueSense Kit
How about quantifying and tracking your blood alcohol?

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