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QS17 Preview: Externalizing Health Rewards

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Kyrill Potapov: “I’ve been hacking Rescue Time, which tracks how I use my computer, to make it a tool for personal growth rather than work optimization.”

Feeling unpleasantly like he was “moving from one pressing issue to the next like a pinball”, Kyrill decided that he needed a way to track not just productivity, but satisfaction and growth. The standard approach would be to simply divide and assess how he spent his time: (some tasks are productive and satisfying; others are productive but menial). Instead, he decided to appeal to his altruism and devise a clever system to incentivize productive and satisfying behavior.

At QS17, Kyrill’s talk will explain how he uses the productivity output of Rescue Time to turn on a light bulb which is the primary energy source for “Pip”, his houseplant. This isn’t just cute – tying the health of another to one’s own behavior can be an extremely motivating force. My mom has told me that her pregnancy flipped a switch for her self-care, making her more aware of her own health behaviors and more able to adjust them. Obviously, having a baby isn’t a feasible strategy for inspiring behavioral change in general, but tying the life of a living *plant* to your behavior is a similar, (albeit low stakes) motivator. A healthy sense of pun-humor let’s Kyrill see his ‘personal growth’ and consistency over time.

Speaking of time for self care and growth, I’m about to take off backpacking for a few weeks. See you in Amsterdam!

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QS17 Preview: Mental & Metabolic Dashboard

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Dr. Tara Thiagarajan: “I’ve created a dashboard to illustrate the inter-relatedness of my mental and metabolic machinery .”

While the terms ”dashboard” and ”machinery” may bring to mind the tidy and separable systems operating within a car, it’s the crossed wires of human neurophysiology that will be the subject of this conference preview. Though western medicine tends to treat physiological systems (cognition, digestion, hormonal axes) as disparate, centuries of wisdom and mounting scientific data suggest a great depth of inter-relatedness across physiological systems. Ancient thinkers like Plutarch, Ptolemy and Boethius have gone as far as to describe the interactions between human systems as musical chords – harmonious when healthy, dissonant when ill:

“Whoever penetrates into his own self perceives human music. For what unites the incorporeal nature of reason with the body if not a certain harmony and, as it were, a careful tuning of low and high pitches as though producing one consonance” – Boethius, Fundamentals of Music

At QS17, only a few weeks away, Tara will bring her background in math and neuroscience to show us how she has captured her ‘human music‘ by looking at interactions between her sleep, diet, water intake, and brain activity. Tara is the founder of Sapien Labs, which seeks to use EEG technology in a broad and more accessible context to generate massive data sets of human brain activity. She’s one of many excellent speakers presenting novel connections in personal data – check out our other participants and join us there!

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QS17 Preview: Counting Scars

image (1)Ellis Bartholomeus: “I’ll share my quantified body as tracked by my physical scars.”

Ellis has a dream job: she is a ‘game alchemist’ who studies the value of play. With Quantified Self, Ellis has drawn a face a day and shared photos to track her mood and food. At the 2017 Quantified Self Global Conference, she’ll share her quantification of one of the inevitable and unpredictable outcomes of play: scars. She has recorded her date of injury, scar size, healing time and other metrics. While most ‘quantified scar’ studies and articles on the web focus on how to get rid of scars as effectively as possible, this talk will focus more on the narrative scars tell us about our bodies and our activities- from fun childhood games to recovery from car accidents. We’re looking forward to hearing Ellis’ wisdom on how we can “In the context of our scars… learn to deal with life more playfully and appreciate it more.”

All of our conference speakers are members of the community. Check out our program to get a flavor for the wide variety of projects we’ll be showcasing this June 17-18 in Amsterdam. We hope to see you there!

 

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QS17 Preview: Managing Parkinsons 8,765 Hours a Year

Selfcare-infographic-English-278x300Sara Riggare: “I will share how I work to keep up with my progressive neurological illness by tweaking and re-tweaking my medications, including what I’ve learned from the most recent changes to my Parkinson’s medication.”

I love this clear illustration of the value of health-tracking between visits to the doctor – especially for disease management. At QS17, Sara will share the insights health tracking has allowed her to glean from decades of experience with Parkinson’s.

Managing Parkinson’s disease requires constant tuning. The symptoms result from decreased dopaminergic signaling from a brain region that helps set the tone for our movements. Without enough dopamine, movement is slow or impossible. Too much and movement is fidgety or ballistic. To add to the complication, the natural levels of dopamine in the brain fluctuate throughout the day – meaning that the same medication  affects a patient differently depending on when it is taken. This makes Parkinson’s management a careful balancing act – not something that can be calibrated in just one doctor appointment per year.

Sara makes great use of the 8,765 hours she’s not in the doctor’s office to keep a record of how exercise, sleep, and shifts in the complicated dosing of her medications influence her symptoms. She has put her self-tracking to scientific use by conducting graduate research at the Karolinska Institute, and has been called “a thought leader in Parkinson’s in the new age of social media.” We’re excited to hear at QS17 how she re-calibrated her doses after adding a new medication to her drug regiment.

Just a few more weeks until the 2017 Quantified Self Global Conference! We can’t wait.

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QS17 Preview: Taking on My Osteoporosis

 Image from National Osteoporosis Foundation

Image from National Osteoporosis Foundation

Justin Lawler: “At the age of 38, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis. After exhausting the usual route of blood tests & scans from the doctors, I took things into my own hands and uncovered deeper health issues underlying the initial diagnosis.”

We normally think of osteoporosis as a condition of the elderly, but bone density loss can begin much earlier in life. It’s more prevalent in people who work desk jobs (moderate activity normally provides physical stress necessary to bone growth and maintenance), and in those who take corticosteroids, and can be influenced by diet. At QS17, Justin will share how he uses several biomarkers, including his microbiome and liver metabolites, to manage factors contributing to his osteoporosis. The data has helped him target specific changes in diet and exercise that have improved his symptoms- and he’ll have brand new data on bone density changes to share with us this summer.

Not enough data exist to explain the links between osteoporosis and metabolism on an individual basis, making data like Justin’s important to our awareness of the cross-system nature of the disease.  He’s one of the many who has acknowledged that “If I saw in real time what my lifestyle was doing to my health ten years ago, I would have changed then”. Justin is a developer and organizer of the active and excellent QS group in Dublin. To see the amazing talks we haven’t had a chance to preview yet, check out our Conference Program. See you in Amsterdam!

Register for QS17

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QS17 Preview: Overthinking Everything I Own

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Matt Manhattan:  I’ll show how my obsession with keeping a visual and textual diary of everything I own changed the way I think. 

Matt Manhattan takes inventory of every item he owns: shirts, ice cream tubs, paper towels, you name it.

Why in the world would someone do this? Is this like Marie Kondo trying to convince you to get rid of half your wardrobe? For Matt, what started as an effort to keep track of his electronics turned into a practice spanning all of his material life. This changed the way he thought about his possessions, and, as a side effect, ended up saving him a substantial amount of money. At QS17, Matt will share what he learned from putting the decision to make a new purchase in the context of his past purchases – purchases whose reasons and costs tend to disappear from our minds unless we have a way to track them and reflect on them.

QS17 – as we never tire of repeating – will be in Amsterdam on June 17/18, 2017. We hope to see you there!

Register for QS17

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QS17 Preview: My AMH Numbers Sucked, But I Made This Baby Anyway

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Whitney Erin Boesel: “In my case, AMH may not be as important as fertility clinics and egg-banking startups want people to believe.”

Women are understudied in most disciplines. Reproductive health is the general exception, but even then research on male reproductive problems often outnumbers that concerning women. One result among many is that our understanding female fertility isn’t as complete as it could be. For example,  anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) levels have been used to estimate a woman’s ‘reserve pool’ of eggs. Though AMH may become the “Gold Standard” of fertility, it still isn’t clear what levels are ideal for each woman. If you’re looking to get pregnant, there is a certain range (high but not too high) that is considered favorable for conception. At QS17 Amsterdam, Whitney is going to share her experience tracking her AMH, attempting to increase it, and finally having a successful pregnancy despite low-ish levels of the hormone. She’ll also hold a breakout session on tracking hormones, menstruation and fertility.

Aside being a new mum, Whitney is a writer, scholar, and active member of the QS community who, among her other work, has written about the incorporation of technology into medicine, Biomedicalization 2.0, and the nature of QS movement, “What Is The Quantified Self Now?

QS17 Amsterdam is coming up in just over a month on June 17-18.
We hope to see you there!

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QS17 Preview: Dashboard of My Life

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David de Souza: I’ve been recording 35 of the most important areas of my life – and using Google Spreadsheets to create a personal dashboard that tracks my progress.

Tracking 35 metrics might seem like a daunting task. Everything from quantum theory to tracking-based anxiety shows that the mere act of observing affects the observed. Automating personal data collection might help us stress less, collect more, and (hopefully) be more accurate.

David has managed to create a streamlined workflow allowing him to record everything from sleep, weight and food intake to productivity, yoga and meditation. At QS17, David is going to share this dashboard and the correlations he’s drawn between diverse aspects of his behavior. He says his dashboard has done ”wonders to keep me accountable, and more importantly, to help me notice when I have fallen off the horse, allowing me to keep on track with my goals.” For those of us (all of us) looking to optimize our workflows and understand our habits, this is definitely a talk to see.

Join us at QS Amsterdam June 17-18, and if you haven’t already, check out our latest program. See you there!

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QS17 Preview: My Life as a Comic Strip

andreascartoon1Andreas Schreiber: I’ll share my automatically generated comics strips of personal tracking.

Could a personalized comic strip change the way you see your data? At QS17, Andreas Schreiber will share what may be the first Quantified Self comic strips. Well, maybe the first actually based on personal data. Andreas is excited to share this project because techniques like this could make self-tracking easier and more fun. Andreas is a founder of PyData Cologne and the Cologne QS Meetup, and an advocate of open source code to help ensure the reproducibility of scientific research. He has previously given a Show&Tell talk on recovering from a stroke and has since founded a company which creates apps to help others do the same.

QS conferences are an amazing place to share ideas shaping the future of wearable devices, precision medicine, and personal understanding. Join us at QS17, June 17-18, in Amsterdam.

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QS17 Preview: Quantifying your Constant Companion

Obsessive_PhoneJoost Plattel: I’ll share my phone usage data, and how changes to my apps have influenced my habits. 

In a little over a month, the global QS community will come together in Amsterdam for the 2017 Global Quantified Self Conference to share what they’ve been learning with personal data. If you’re like me, your phone might as well be attached to your body. As my near-constant companion, my smartphone can a be powerful source of information on everything from my exercise to my communication habits, but can also be a bit of a time sink for mindless procrastination.

Over the past couple of years, QS Amsterdam meetup co-organizer Joost Plattel has been analyzing when he picks up his phone, and for how long. More recently, he’s been looking at how app changes (ahem, deleting Facebook) influence these habits. This summer at QS17, Joost will share the insights gathered from this project. It’s a classic case of how small and often unconscious decisions add up, and that slight behavioral changes can be useful in the long run. Thankfully, Joost is taking the time to do the math. Joost is a data strategist and public speaker interested in creating open source analytics for quantified-selfers. Joost has previously given talks on analyzing his public transit data and what he learned about tracking teams as a part of his startup Qount.us.

QS conferences are organized to support the exchange of ideas, and we’re always inspired by what we learn. The next one is coming up June 17-18 in Amsterdam. We’ll see you there. (Thanks to xkcd for the injection of absurdity).

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