Eri Gentry

Eri Gentry
Bay Area, United States

#QS2011 insights from Day 2

  • @ethomaz Day two of #QS2011 getting started.
  • @qDot It’s time for kurzweil supplement levels of coffee. #QS2011
  • @matttrent More @quantifiedself #qs2011 photos on flickr:
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 For a great blog on the Quantified Self 2011 conference here at the Computer History Museum – Ethan Zuckerman at
  • @beaugunderson There are 8 slide decks linked on the QS Wiki slides page: We can do better! #qs2011
  • @quantifiedself Dare to ask!
  • @Bytemarks Got a favorite QS gear. List or review it here:
  • @andrewhessel Eric Boyd — Hacker – made heart spark — pendant that flashes each time your heart beats #QS2011
  • @uxgreg Inventor of North Paw, a cyborg method of embedding a directional sense for where north is, is speaking at #QS2011! Very cool.
  • @PrjHealthDesign Eric Boyd asks “How many people are actually using existing sensors?” – more than half of the #qs2011 audience!
  • @quantifiedself The future of self tracking with Eric Boyd. Check out his great QS talks here:
  • @sgdean Eric Boyd highlights @Ideabling Amy Drill’s smart shorts from NY QS#QS2011 feedback on muscle contractions for athletes.
  • @sgdean Yes! @agaricus says next QS Conference we will do experiments on entrainment #QS2011
  • @quantifiedself Check out the eXciting $10M Tricorder XPrize sponsored by @Xprize and @Qualcomm
  • @annievaldes “DIY QS is redundant.” It shouldn’t have to be! Where is passive tracking and pattern spotting? QS could be more DVR, and less DOS. #qs2011
  • @HealthMatt#qs2011 Enjoying listening in on conversations this morning – so many interesting people and ideas. Randomly pick 10 people = great company.
  • @pattifbrennan SlideShare presentation #qs2011 Integrating QS data into clinical care : Quantified self no movie
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 people pay attention to different things – tension at family dinner – lead to blood sugar spiking 12 hrs
  • @YBRtweets Check out this SlideShare presentation : Cognition, Learning, and Self-Tracking – Qua…
  • @IStanb4u Heard at #qs2011 “no one has heard of us who isn’t one of us”
  • @florianbailey Networks at #qs2011
  • @uxgreg Loving how many Vibram Five Fingers I’m seeing at #qs2011!
  • @florianbailey 23andme session with Esther Dyson #qs2011
  • @agaricus Tracking media diet by @EthanZ: Kevin Kelly ask, is there an optimal media diet? #qs2011
  • @LisaBL Hearing about Bulletproof Coffee from @bulletproofexec at #qs2011
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 Open is a priority – so Sensor.Network allows people to upload to a sensor based network – and say what can be done with it after
  • @joshuakauffman “Everything in QS is a one-off; we need reusable parts.” says Dave Marvit. #qs2011
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 epiphanies from QS’ing – exposes truth to ourselves that we might not have realized till we QS’d
  • @JulieSammons The gadgetry at the Quantified Self Conference helped confirm that I am, in fact, alive. #QS2011#thanksquantifiedself
  • @BodyMedia Data behind the scenes #qs2011 with YogaYoga – How we can become even better in Yoga tracking through research
  • @tectonic “Quant Friendly Doctors” results in Quantified Doctors mailing list and on-going discussion about empowering patients. Interesting! #qs2011
  • @IStanb4u Apparently the color of hungry is a rust-brown #qs2011
  • @phenatypical “mine tracks my wife, in terms of her ovulation cycles. turns out i don’t have one – yes!!” -b. evans on tracking pers. data w/PACO #qs2011
  • @billschuller If active tracking changes behavior, how do you baseline? #qs2011
  • @SlimStranger Everyone is talking about need to aggregate data. They should get together! #qs2011
  • @PaulTarini Ian Eslick-how do we minimize the time to discovery? Library of experiments and experimental models. #qs2011
  • @phenatypical “I work in Silicon Valley; I had never worked with a group of women for 28 weeks. Very new & difficult!” -@meilinfung weight trackng #qs2011
  • @tectonic .@ieslick can we combine many N of 1 data points with questionable quality into a global metric that is statistically significant? #qs2011
  • @LisaBL “Social component to losing weight is essential” Lightning talk at #qs2011Weight loss and maintenance research via self-tracking (Fung)
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 in 2011 100k patients are self-tracking – it works to have long term follow up – and see patterns to get more impact
  • @pattifbrennan#qs2011 Edison Thomaz extracting meaningful health #odls from @jonfroehlich ‘s #Hydrosense – water use tells all!
  • @mrhungry Reverse engineering devices like pace makers so that patients can access their own data.
  • @beaugunderson The Quantified Coder: Most exciting project for me personally at#qs2011
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 Quantter – looking for 100 iphone beta testers –
  • @phenatypical “When you want to have it private, you pay. Trust us, we are Swiss.” -@harscoat #qs2011
  • @sbb Track brainstate vs writing good code and bad (buggy) code. And then brainstate when ppl use that code base.
  • @mrhungry Don’t say lets exercise more, say let’s move more = Not discrete, continuous. Treadmill desk = #qs2011
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 went to craigs list, bought a $100 treadmill and a $149 desk from IKEA and made my treadmill desk – in 2.5 years, walked 600 miles
  • @TechPolicy Here’s a PDF with info on @e_ramirez’s Active Desk if you want to build one too (or just learn about benefits) #qs2011
  • @mrhungry QS didnt choose speakers until they had a list of attendees to pick from.
  • @redindhi This is not a toilet, it’s a scale. #qs2011 @ Computer History Museum
  • @quantifiedself Adreno stress index test – get a baseline now. Recommended lab by Christine Peterson:
  • @ddaannddrree#qs2011#quantifiedself personal speech analytics talk is at
  • @SlimStranger dude wrote down every thought since 1983 then wrote search engine for his thoughts. #qs2011
  • @fredtrotter#qs2011 I am releasing my experiments and my gamification tools at under #openglaze project
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 backstrokes – takes your data and shows all the cities you have visited – a real life doppler
  • @bigs Foursquare friends model = bankrupt. Just grab my graph from elsewhere (twiter, fb, etc). I’m done accepting Foursquare friends. #qs2011
  • @edyson At #qs2011 What is the best visualization of your genome? Yourself
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 diff betw deep breathing vs heart math device? device tells when you are doing it, it turns green. no feedback with deep breathing
  • @maybanks ernesto: we need to make angry birds for behavior change. no matter how badly you do, you want to do it again. #qs2011#qs2011
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 almost like Chronic Fatigue – decided to quit coffee to help recover – made measured cup of coffee and reduce amount by 20 ml. Slow
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 Robin looked at his data, and saw that quitting coffee had not interfered with his recovery in his ability to concentrate
  • @florianbailey Tools for extreme quantifying #qs2011
  • @freshenx What was missing were people of color and environmental justice. Many ppl track their health b/c of enviro toxicity. #qs2011
  • @fahdoo Kevin Kelly giving the closing keynote at #QS2011 @ Computer History Museum
  • @sarahnovotny metadata – information about information is growing even faster than moore’s law – Kevin Kelly #QS2011
  • @andrewhessel Life streaming is what we’re doing now… #QS2011
  • @redindhi Embedded data in everything is creating the Internet of things — the database of things. KK #qs2011
  • @LisaBL “In order to be treated like an individual we must reveal ourselves” -Kevin Kelly @kevin2kelly #QS2011
  • @pmurgia#qs2011, Kevin Kelly, we are now extending ourselves making us more quantifiable, Quantifiable Self
  • @bigs Science is about how we know. Technology modifies how we know. -Kevin Kelly #qs2011
  • @sgdean Triple blind studies. You don’t even know you’re doing the experiment. Sounds like QS #QS2011
  • @pmurgia#qs2011, Kevin Kelly, personalized medicine clinical trial of 1. Participatory medicine, collaborative research…
  • @bigs As #qs2011 conf wraps, everyone mulling around, reminiscing, exhanging contact info. Feels like the end of summer camp.
  • @ericblue Need at least a week of reflection to soak up and process all the great info this weekend! #QS2011

Until #QS2012…

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Day 2: QS Guide, Conference Wiki, and Sensor Technology from Eric Boyd

Welcome to Day 2! Quick couple of notes to add from Day 1, then on to highlights from our keynote speaker, Eric Boyd.

A common problem for QS-ers is knowing which tools, products and methods to use in their self-tracking. Finding the answers would requires hours to months of online research and/or testing. Recognizing the need for good data on the review side, Quantified Self partnered with the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and Institute for the Future to create the Complete QS Guide to Self-Tracking.

The guide – now populated with over 400 tools – was announced during yesterday’s closing session. The guide will continue to grow with help from the review team and input from the community.  Do you have experience with a QS-relevant tool? Definitely check out the guide and add your thoughts!

A conference wiki has been set up by Beau Gunderson. All attendees can use it to record notes from their sessions


Gary kicked off Day 2 with a big thank you to QS Cofounder, Kevin Kelly, and Director, Alexandra Carmichael.

Kevin’s guiding question for Quantified Self for the last 3.5 years has been: What does it want to become? (big, scattered, concentrated,…?)

Whereas, Alex has asked: How can I help?

Their guidance and inspiration have resulted in a global, rapidly growing community of self-trackers, as well as this weekend’s conference. Thank you Kevin and Alex!

Starting today, Gary suggests we tax our brains and think about the following two questions:

What do you wonder? For example, does chicken soup work for colds? Add those questions to Dare to ask!

What tools do you use? Share with us on!

Now, for today’s keynote: Eric Boyd on New Sensors and the Frontiers of Self Tracking

Eric is a self-described hacker. He finds interesting technologies and does what he wants with them.

Sensors can change the way we look at ourselves and others. Take, for example, the Heart Spark – a heart-shaped circuitboard pendant, which receives feedback from a chest strap and blinks every time the wearer’s heart beats. What happens in an interaction when others see an external display of “you”? Or, the North Paw, a compass worn on the ankle that tells the user when they’re pointing north. It can change the wearer’s internal sense of direction.

Much is possible today with sensors because related technologies have been developed, such as low power wireless and high energy batteries. These things combine to allow for tic-tac sized, sticker-like, sensors, such as the ones we see from Green Goose, which are essentially accelerometers that can be used on anything from a pill bottle, to determine when medication was taken, to inhaler monitors, to measure how frequently asthmatics needed help breathing.

New Sensor Technology

EMG – electromyography (measurement of muscle activity). Sensors, like those used in Emotiv and Neurosky, detect when muscles are used (Neurosky also measures brain waves). These technologies are moving into clothing, helping to improve sports performance.

Galvanic Skin Response – measures sweat or skin resistance (how much electricity flows across the gap in skin). Measures exertion, but can also be a metric for excitement, nervousness, and arousal. It can be a mood thing.

Glucometer – tests blood sugar levels. Current models are too costly for too little data. Continuous monitors are better. The ultimate would be microneedles, which are minimally invasive and can be extremely small (again, tic-tac sized), applied to a fingertip like a sticker.

Cameras – Is a picture also worth 1,000 data points? Cameras are being used to capture live data points, like when you hit a deer or when you propose to your significant other (one guy snapped a live action shot after proposing and uploaded her reaction to the web). Mealsnap, a mobile app, analyzes photos of your meals but has humans on the backend analyzing the data.

Microphones – With a $2 microphone and analysis software, one man measured his sleeping patters and even heartrate after slipping a mic into his airbed and filtering through the data.

Quantified World – automobile, electricity, gas/pollution. Sensors that tell electricity usage, force of impact, substances in the air, both outside and inside.

Tricorder X Prize – New prize offered for the ultimate all-in-one self tracking device. Not likely that it will be a mobile (cell-phone like device); needs to be worn.

In closing, in the Quantified World, there is a lot of opportunity. Get out there and experiment! It’s worth emphasizing that Quantified Self is “DIY.” You‘ve got to do it.

Additions by Gary: Re: the Heart Spark and external displays of emotion – is it possible to synchronize feedback loops (“entrainment”)? Might there be entrainment for heartrate?

Recent article in Pediatrics, looking at TV, families and language acquisition, shows that kids learn language by their parents reacting to what they say. When the TV is on, parents don’t react. We can quantify what TV does to language.

Thomaz gave a great talk about sensing water pressure yesterday. A simple meter on a faucet can identify everything that happens in the system, whether you ate out that night or stayed home and did the dishes.

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#QS2011 insights from Day 1

What an incredible day! So many familiar faces, so many apps I use! The first QS conference was an absolute hit, judging from my own experience as well as the stream of consciousness I obtained from Twitter.

Today, it was my job to blog and tweet the general goings-on of the conference. But it quickly dawned on me that I couldn’t make it to even 15% of the talks, let alone all of them! So, in lieu of ramblings from my incomplete experience, what follows is a timeline of events I pieced together by filtering through #QS2011-tagged tweets (there were over 1100! Thanks @karenherzog for the data!).

For more insights, check out TwapperKeeper. If I missed anything, tweet/email/comment and I’ll add it!

See you tomorrow! – Eri

  • @sgdean #qs2011 open! Blood bouncer Ivo herding Scanadu folks. QSers arrive.
  • @jpmarcum Excited to be here for Quantified Self Conf – tweets might get a little nerdy for a while.. #qs2011
  • @pmurgia #qs2011, Gary Wolf, opening session at quantified self conference. Using “personal computing” to discover what PC tools can do for us
  • @MorningCoach Serendipity plays a huge role in discovery #QS2011 Gary Wolf
  • @nagle5000 Paraphrasing @agaricus — as computation has turned into “personal computing”, so will the technologies of the self. #QS2011
  • @sarahnovotny what did you do? how did you do it? and WHAT DID YOU LEARN? #qs2011
  • @QuantifiedSelf “The purpose of the weekend is thinking” by @agaricus#QS2011#QuantifiedSelf
  • @pattifbrennan Seth Roberts -why does personal science matter? #QuantifiedSelf -learn things that can’t be learned otherwise! Get the big picture #qs2011
  • @hugooc#qs2011 Seth Roberts on science: Personal vs. Professional. Covered words say “maximum”
  • @ieslick Random double-blind placebo-controlled trials. Have led to lImited progress, but at least they’re done right! A rain dance? Roberts #QS2011
  • @smocelyn Have trouble sleeping? Bob up and down on one leg until exhaustion – six times a day. Seth Roberts says you sleep like a baby. #qs2011#fb
  • @hugooc Seth Roberts on QS’ers: In a battle, the 1st wave of soldiers get slaughtered—but they also get all the glory. #qs2011
  • @LisaBL Lesson learned: “Try something!” – Seth Roberts #QS2011
  • @krash63 Dont sell technology, sell a solution. Zeo isnt a sleep monitor, its a sleep management solution. #QS2011
  • @PaulTarini Fred Trotter QS data, Physican data and EHRs. What happens when they bump into each? #qs201
  • @dalelarson [Live in beta!] “Life is a prototype.” -@Matthewcornell, who is telling me about #QS2011
  • @YBRtweets QS business model options: subscription, hardware, services, advertising, licensing, data mining, renewable products, others? #qs2011
  • @jsonin This year’s cow bell = mood apps at #qs2011 … every other poster/app is a mood tracker.
  • @coreyhaines Look for the @Mercury_app cards to help keep track of how the conference is going. #QS2011 See @fablednet tell stories at ignite talks
  • @pattifbrennan Fred Trotter providing a nice intro to #NIHN, #ONC Direct, and the differences between health data & all the rest! #qs2011
  • @BodyMedia#qs2011 data data data and the potential benefits from combinations..
  • @coreyhaines Watch out how much detail you track. Too many numbers can be detrimental. Sometimes tracking feeling is enough. #QS2011
  • @uxgreg Speaker tracked his heart rate & run pace, found lower pace/higher HR day before getting sick. Extra sleep shortened sickness. #QS2011
  • @ieslick Here are the microsoft slides for the #nhindirect#quantifiedselfpresentation
  • @YBRtweets Consumer wellness quicker, more efficient and easier to get to market in qs vs. Medical system #qs2011
  • @rcalo Ian Li at #qs2011: Don’t necessarily automate self-tracking. Tracking the data yourself is part of the behavior-changing process.
  • @PaulTarini Trotter-direct network lets you send anything you want to your doc via e-mail attachment #qs2011
  • @joshuakauffman Deborah Rozman: Optimal state for positive change is relaxation and being energised. #qs2011
  • @hormetic emWave2, either earclip or thumbpress, collects “coherence” heat rate variability. CEO demos live heart calming #qs2011.
  • @geerlinger We can measure your appreciation! And (not so shockingly) it makes you well! #emwave#heartmath#qs2011
  • @raymondmccauley Not all sharing is good. So, the Foursquare of bathroom visits, probably a non-starter. #QS2011
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 the Quantified Challenges are collection, synchronization, organization, noise, quantification, consistency and correctness
  • @hormetic Attention training breakout discussion – anecdote on curing jet lag with melatonin for sleep, modefanil for concentration #QS2011
  • @JamesRKean Breakout session at #qs2011 how QS disrupts electronic health record. Slides posted at
  • @JulieSammons Would you swallow medication w/ embedded digestible sensors, activated by stomach fluid? Proteus Biomedical makes pills personal #QS2011
  • @sarahnovotny#QS2011 there’s a wiki! — thanks to @beaugunderson
  • @dotpeople#health Quick Coherence: Deborah Rozman on high-speed meditation :)
  • @JulieSammons Rick Smolan pitches Reflections in a Digital Mirror project: 24 hrs, 10 million human sensors, 1,000 journalists in 50 countries #QS2011
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 Scanadu – building the Tricorder – from Star Trek – device to help you understand the world around you
  • @SyType It all started with a boy…..add some sad pandas, and voila, reliable info…and happiness! @mercuryapp #qs2011
  • @bigs Provocative thoughts from participants in ‘Quantified Us’ breakout. “Personal epistemologies.” #qs2011
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 Agile Lean Self development – can agile techniques be applied to self development to understand how to improve self
  • @florianbailey Smiling predicts longevity
  • @hormetic Children smile ~400X a day, whereas 30% of adults smile only 15X.#QS2011 Is there something u care about that u can measure each day?
  • @pattifbrennan #qs2011 Sean Aherns & #prjhealthdesign‘s Nikolai taking worms for health–self experiments help figure out what may really work for health
  • @jpmarcum cool viz of teens’ texting patterns
  • @nagle5000 This poster is my favorite here: “A Good Pig Is Hard To Find” — on the sex life of a gay man, by @freshenx – #qs2011
  • @PaulTarini Privacy Session-legal controls haven’t caught up with speed with which we can publish, spread information. #qs2011
  • @JulieSammons Was only one in Personal Genomics session who wouldn’t voluntarily obtain my full genomic sequence, even at no cost. Old fashioned?#QS2011
  • @Bytemarks Mindful quotes for mindful tech #qs2011
  • @scanadude Lot of talk about tradeoffs of full automation vs. manual#emergingtheme#qs2011
  • @IStanb4u Learning waaaaay more at #qs2011 than I did at #tcdisrupt
  • @EthanZ Notes on Ignite Talks at Quantified Self:
  • @bulletproofexec It has since 1940…see IBM & Nazi Germany. RT @PaulTarini: The fear is that data in public can produce discrimination #qs2011
  • @McGrubbin .@foursquare “we’re trying to use games & game theory to see if we can apply that to the real world & motivate people to do better” #QS2011
  • @frankc Mindful Tech session Done! @ #qs2011#quantifiedself
  • @pioneerrwjf Esther Dyson asks how do we translate the qs movement to population-level health?#qs2011
  • @TechPolicy Location session at #qs2011 has sparked conversation about whether or not you’d share your location data with your partner/spouse.
  • @francis_dierick “There are 3 markets: the market for healthcare, the market for bad health (chocolate) & the market for health (welness)”~ E. Dyson #QS2011
  • @dandv @scanadude Thanks, here are the wiki pages I put up about it: ,
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted – Einstein
  • @scanadude Fascinating talk about sensors in plumbing. #qs2011#thequantifiedhome
  • @meilinfung#qs2011 people want to have control over design of their avatar – they inherently want to share them with others, and compare with others
  • @paulabramsonMD Mark Carranza on social memex.. Wow, tracked avg 232 thoughts a day for 20 years! #qs2011
  • @tblomseth#QS2011 The word “health” creates a stress response with people. Unlike e.g. “performance” or “games”.
  • @pingDeb Individualistic #qs2011 offers a refreshing contrast to the meta @HealthDataGov world I spend most of my day thinking about.
  • @zakholdsworth I just fell asleep during the ‘Sleep Experiments’ breakout at the#qs2011 conference.
  • @walter_smith You’re hacking your own implanted defibrillator to open the data stream? Respect. #qs2011
  • @JulieSammons @matthewcornell wins my vote for favorite poster title: “How do we make 10^8 Personal Scientists?”
  • @francis_dierick “We all have a serious health problem, I call it death” ~ Bruno Aziza #QS2011 @brunoaziza
  • @pingDeb “I don’t know whats more painful,the fact that my Dr.doesn’t get me (& my personal data tracking) or the surgery he gives me”-Aziza #qs2011
  • @JulieSammons Curious about latest tools, apps, hacks in personal data collection? Browse Quantified Self guide w/ 400+ links
  • @quantifiedself Personal Quest to QS startup with @bsrubin of @Zeo, @jjacobs22 of @GAINfittness & Brian Krejcarek of @greengoose mod by @agaricus #QS2011
  • @SlimStranger#qs2011 people using tracker apps typically give up after 3 months
  • @hormetic Self-selector bias? RT @scanadude: 70% of users use zeo at least once a week, even 6 months after puchase. #qs2011
  • @paulabramsonMD Some of us are really interested and supportive.. RT @phenatypical: how do drs feel about QS patient initiative? #qs2011
  • @maisybones #qs2011 500k nights of sleep stage in zeo’s dozer database
  • @dandv Summary/notes of Quantified Self Conference 2011, Day 1 -


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Keynote: Seth Roberts and the rise of personal science

Seth Roberts describes the single experience in grad school that sparked the decades long self tracking/experimentation that led him to be one of the faces of Quantified Self and today’s keynote speaker.

It started with acne. Personal experimentation proved more effective at getting rid of it than a doctor’s protocol. Eureka!

Seth goes on to tell us about the rise of personal science, with several instances of his own experimentation.

The rise of personal science:

The power of personal science is growing. Today, we can much more easily gather data, from the web and from ourselves.

Three flavors of personal science:

1. Engineering (e.g. development of a home glucose monitor)

2. Scholarship (e.g. woman treats Restless Leg Syndrome with high dose of niacin, which her son read about online. Woman tries it and a day later, her RLS disappears)

3. Basic Science (e.g. the development of The Shangri-La Diet and successful weight loss through self experimentation, seeing faces early in the morning sets up a circadian oscillation in mood, standing on one leg to exhaustion several times improves sleep, butter consumption improves arithmetic)

Why is personal science innovating while professional science is stagnating?

Requirements for useful discovery:

The probability of useful discovery is a function of

(material resources)




(desire to be useful)

Professional scientists, while rich in resources and knowledge, lack freedom and the desire to be useful, and have limited time to work on projects. Personal scientists have increasing resources and knowledge, unlimited time, and high freedom and desire to be useful.

Q. Why does personal science matter?

A. Personal scientists are more likely to make useful discoveries than professional scientists.

We are the first wave of personal scientists. We are lucky to be there. Usually, the first wave in an army gets slaughtered. Thankfully, it’s the opposite for us. We get all the glory.

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The First Quantified Self Conference (and the first live post about it!)

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA is abuzz with life. For the first time, self-trackers from around the world are gathering in one spot to share insights, tips, and to simply meet each other.

First impression of the conference:
31 posters
17 exhibition tables
400+ attendees

And the schedule:
45 talks
26 break-out sessions
400+ products being demoed

All in one weekend. Which kicks off with Gary Wolf, cofounder of Quantified Self.

Gary defines the conference in three simple terms: connections, conversations, and discoveries. Adding that knowledge transfer is inefficient. We’re all working on this but, for now, expect rawness.

This weekend, we will be thinking together. This conference is designed to support your thinking.

Occasionally, take a moment to and ask yourself:

What do you do?
How did you do it?
What did you learn?

and share.

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So, you think you can science? The search for the next CitSci study!

Fat-rich Thanksgiving preparations have got me thinking an awful lot about my first citizen science study, Butter Mind, in which participants ate half a stick of butter, the equivalent in coconut oil, or nothing, and then performed a simple math test.

Butter Mind ran from October 23rd to November 12th. Unfortunately, we were unable to determine in this three week period whether butter or coconut oil improved math performance – the “practice effect” was too large.  However, I did find that butter helped me wake up feeling more refreshed!  Now, I’m looking for something to try next… pork belly, perhaps?

For me, Butter Mind was worth it simply to interact with other fun, curious folks. A total of 42 participants and 2 study organizers signed up. We did math, ate butter together (so to speak), and chatted about topics such as Seth Robert’s Shangri-la Diet, food allergies, and what our favorite butter/coconut oil recipes were.  I feel there is a lot more room for people to benefit from sharing lifelogging details.

In that vein, I’ve created a forum on Genomera for ex-Butter Mind participants to share their thoughts and experience self-tracking.  [Genomera is still in beta; if you would like to access the forum, email] I will also be holding a tweet-up in the Bay Area (date tbd) to meet and chat with our local participants.

Now, for the big announcement! Genomera is holding a competition for “Next Citizen Science Study.” (Details after the jump.)  The lucky winner will have their study hosted on the Genomera platform and will receive a 23andMe Complete Edition ($499 value).*

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Will Butter Make You Smarter? Introducing Butter Mind…and Coconut Mind

stick of butter.jpgUpdate: 10/19/10 – Study is now open to users at

Will eating one of these fats improve your math performance?  Based on Seth Roberts’ butter and math
study, recently presented at a Bay Area Quantified
Self Show & Tell
, during which Seth ate half a stick of butter each day and performed better in math, we expect the answer to be yes.

Seth was able to reduce his time by 30 milliseconds.  Will others who try a similar experiment experience the same change? 


In the Butter Mind study, to be run from October 23 – November 12, I will test the hypothesis that butter improves math performance. (note: there has been a slight shift in the dates.)

This study is meant to
mimic Seth Robert’s study, with the addition of a coconut oil group. 
Many thanks to Seth for his advice and help getting this started!

Why the addition coconut oil?  I have a pet theory that the cognitive enhancement Seth received may be from the high concentration of Medium Chain Triglycerides in butter, also present in coconut oil, which has been linked to positive effects on those with Alzheimer’s Syndrome.  Seth has not tried coconut oil, so cannot report on its effects on his math scores.

Obviously, no study is perfect – and this one is no exception!  It’s a test I was interested in trying myself after seeing Seth’s presentation — but I realized it would be far more fun and interesting to include others!  This will be fun for me, and I hope for you, too. At the very least, will get data from a group over a 21-day period, but we may even get a few curious surprises. 

I am currently looking for Butter Mind participants, who will perform a math test daily for 21 days and be in one of the following groups: butter eaters, coconut oil eaters, and controls, who will eat no additional fat but will perform the same math test as the fat-eaters.

To qualify for the study, you must be willing to eat 4TBS of butter or coconut oil (sticking to the same one) – or nothing extra – for 7 days and do a 32 problem simple math test for 21 days.  You must have access to the internet to submit your scores.

Study details:


-       Participants
will be randomly selected to be in the Butter, Coconut Oil, or Control group

-    Participants will be responsible for purchasing butter or coconut oil, if in either of those groups

-       The study
will take place for 21 days: from Oct 23 – Nov 12

-       The
study will be divided into 3 sets of 7 days

o   Part I. Oct 23 – 29: Perform simple
math quiz daily  + No additional

o   Part II. Oct 30 – Nov 5: “Fat.” Perform simple
math quiz daily  + Butter OR
Coconut Oil. For Controls, just the quiz.

o   Part III. Nov 6 – 12: Perform simple
math quiz daily  + No additional

-       Non-control participants
will ingest 4 Tablespoons of either
Butter or Coconut Oil during the “Fat” portion of the study

-       Participants
will be asked to share lifestyle information before the study and asked to join an online group to track their data.  Extra sharing (thoughts, epiphanies) is encouraged but optional.

Additional details:


-       Results
will statistically analyzed, hacked and visualized (and new studies brainstormed) during Science
Hack Day
, November 13-14, Institute
for the Future.  You can join for the Science Hack Day portion only by registering here.

-       New
results will be posted to the QS blog throughout the study

-    Interested participants will receive a form requesting data on lifestyle factors several days before the study begins.  I will update this post with a link to the form when it is ready.


For more information
or to join, send an email with “Butter Mind” in the subject line to:


cat eating butter.jpg

Eri Gentry:

Twitter: @erigentry

Eri is co-founder of BioCurious, Citizen Science guest author at the Make mag blog, and is happiest when she gets to be a guinea pig.  Eri hasn’t eaten butter in 8 years but will try it (or anything) for a better mind.

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