Joost Plattel

Joost Plattel
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Joost is the co-founder of the Quantified Self Meetup in Amsterdam, he's been tracking metrics about his life for more then 2 years and combines QS with lifehacking to improve his life. You can follow him on Twitter
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QS Amsterdam Recap #3

It’s been almost 2 months, but on the sixteenth of May we held our third meetup of QS Amsterdam. We moved our venue again to the Waag which kindly offered us their space.

Joost Plattel at QS Amsterdam

Our first speaker was Remko Siemerink who discovered a strange pattern during his summer according to Last.fm. It turns out he stopped listening to music and this could be related to his ‘summer depression’.

Up next was Ted Punt from TNO who talked about a wireless sensor for monitoring body functions such as breathing, heart-rate or movement during sleep. The technology presented users radar accurate up to 1 millimeter, which for a wireless sensor is quite awesome!

Withings presented their new blood-pressure monitor while announcing a new product which focuses on the lives of babies.

Then I gave a short talk about our public transportation system, using a card much like the Oyster-card used in London. I made a small tool that allows people to upload their data and make a heatmap and provide a feedback-loop about their usage. I gave a short insight into the development process and the things I had to do with the data to make it understandable.

Frog Design and Novartis showed a wireless pill used for monitoring speciifc metabolic processes in your stomach related to organ transplantion. The crowd was amazed by the size of the pill and the system used for accessing data. (a simple patch you can stick just under your ribs).

And lastly Victor van Doorn presented his iPhone app, with a really nice design that delivers a diary, but not by writing but GPS signals, twitter updates or photo’s that you upload. The design looked really nice and the app is about to be released into the App Store!

The videos will be released individually on this blog, but you can see them all at http://vimeo.com/qsams/videos

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Questions for a Self-Tracking Service

Question mark sign

When I want to start tracking a metric in my life, most of the time I use an app or service that enables me to do it more easily or provide options like statistics or sharing. I’ve tracked a lot of different things, some better and more easily than others. Sometimes my data would be locked-in, or sometimes I had to do the statistics on my own. During the last few weeks I’ve built a list of questions I ask myself before choosing a service for tracking. And I wanted to share my list with the community and service developers. This list is not definitive by all means, it’s a work in progress and questions may be added, removed or changed at all times.

Let’s get started! Before even looking at services you can use, it is wise to have a somewhat clear vision of where you want to go:

  • What is my goal?
  • What question do I want to answer with this?
  • How often do I want to measure?
  • In what ways can the metric be sampled?
  • Do I need help from other people for tracking?
  • How does it affect my social life?
  • How much time should I need?
  • How long do I want to keep track of it?
  • Is it useful to share my data with other people?

When I’ve got these questions answered I start looking for services that fit my vision. When I have a list of services I could use, I go through another list of questions that allows me to make my choice more easily:

  • How easy is it to enter data?
  • What type of data do I need to put in?
  • Is the data easy to export (e.g. Data-portability)
  • Does the service provide analytics?
  • Do I own the data or does the service, and how secure is it?
  • What are the experiences of other people using the service?
  • Does gamification help or not, and how is it implemented?
  • What are the costs of the service in comparison to what I should get out of it?
  • Is there an API (application programming interface)?

When I stop using the service or have been using it for a certain amount of time, these are the things I ask myself:

So this is my own list of questions and things I want to answer when using a service or application for self-tracking. It’s a work in progress so feel free to put any more questions you would ask to yourself in the comments.

Image: Question mark sign by Colin_K

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Quantified Self Brussels Meetup #1: Recap

Last week the first Quantified Self Meetup took place in Brussels, there were some earlier events, but those didn’t include as much speakers as it did now. So this is the first official one with a recap!

I also had the honor to start as the first speaker and my talk was about data-portability and my own small experiments. I showed several experiments and my own system for collecting data. It’s was my first talk ever related to QS and I got some great feedback!

Then Matthew Cornell gave a talk about his system Edison trough Skype. The system looks nice for people who want to get started with self-tracking. And he offered some prizes for the most creative use of Edison. I managed to tape the last two presentations from Candide Kemmler and Ben Senior and embedded them below:

Candide Kemmler – Fluxtream from Joost Plattel on Vimeo.

Ben Senior – Data Protection Legislation from Joost Plattel on Vimeo.

Shortly after the talks, discussion moved to the drinks! Thanks ICAB for the venue and the the organisers for making this possible! The meetup group in Brussels is great!

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Quantified Self Amsterdam #2: Recap

After about 5 months from the first meetup in Amsterdam, we organized the second meetup. The venue changed from het Volkskrant gebouw to Mediamatic which also sponsored us the venue! I have to add that Mediamatic is a awesome location for QS Meetups. They had an exhibition about early computers and consoles which perfectly fits to the QS mood. Ten minutes before the start, people started to arrive and just before we started we could count more then eighty people!

Quantified Self Amsterdam #2 Glenn Wolters & Jeroen Bos

Glenn Wolters & Jeroen Bos - Lifelapse

After a short introduction by Maarten den Braber; Glenn Wolters and Jeroen Bos from Lifelapse took the stage. They started with a short movie about their project which was created as an invention during their semesters at school. They’ve build an iPhone app which let’s you take a picture every 30 seconds and publish it as a movie. I’ve beta tested their app and find it awesome for capturing events like these meetups!

Second to take the stage was Tim van den Dool who talked about his ongoing project Livind(Asssisted Daily Living). The system monitors elderly people in a non-invasive way to watch for accidents or other irregular things. If something happens, parents or caretakers are remotely notified trough SMS or a beeper. He also talked about the growth of the project and how much expectations tend to be different from reality.

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Tim van den Dool - Assisted Daily Living

Just before the break Denis Harscoat, founder of Quantter and co-organizer of QS London talked about his start-up and showed how it works by letting people quantt trough Twitter. An interesting discussion started about public/private tracking and there was lots of good feedback!

After a 10 minute break we are being shown the fun side of the Quantified Self when Leonieke and Willempje talk about figurerunning. With apps like Runkeeper they try to draw figures on maps, both succesfull drawings as well as hilarious failures are being shown and there is lots of laughing in the audience! Try it out yourself, and realize it is not as easy as it sounds, if you succeed you may even end up in the half of fame!

James Burke gave a short talk about his ongoing project about memories and coins the sentence: Life as a software CVS. He ponders about a system that could be used as a memory and provides food for thought in a more philosophical way.

The last speaker Ben Blench talked about tracking his infant and more specifically the tools he used. He made in interesting comparison between digital and analog and noticed that most digital things have too much functions and lack flexibility. Meanwhile, paper supports fuzziness of data but has less methods of quantification. His talk in combination with some funny pictures completes the session and we take the discussion to the bar!

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Ben Blench - Tracking infants, useful iPhone apps

The second Quantified Self meetup in Amsterdam was awesome! We hope to organize another meetup just before the QS Conference! Again thanks to Sebastiaan ter Burg, who happily provided us with photos.  And the videos will be online this weekend! We hope to see you next time!

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Data Portability

I started self-tracking a long time ago, but I recently came across an interesting thing I would like to share. I wanted to change one of the services I use, but I could not find a way to export or get my data. I searched Google for a way to access my data for the specific service but didn’t find a way out.

My data was stuck on the platform I didn’t want to use anymore… This brings me to my important point: data-portability. In the case of self-tracking, all data you generate essentially belongs to you, but services often make it hard for you to own your data. There are several reasons for this, including the strategy to keep you locked in as a customer.

If you are stuck with a service, there are several things you can do to get your own data back:

Continue reading

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Amsterdam QS Meetup Recap #1

Our first Quantified Self Show and Tell in Amsterdam took place on September 20 at Het Volkskrantgebouw. More than sixty people showed up to attend and some even came from Germany and France! Sebastiaan ter Burg kindly provided us help with the video and photos. All the videos can be found on Vimeo and all photos on Flickr.

After a short welcome and introduction to QS by Maarten Den Braber, our sponsor Ben van Laarhoven from Digigadgets started off with a show and tell about devices used for health-tracking. He showcased several gadgets like a heart monitor and a system for tracking cadence and speed on a bike. Lastly he spoke about the Wahoo connector which aggregrates data streams from several devices to your iPhone. 
Peter Robinett from Bubble Foundry presented his own spreadsheets for productivity tracking in which he used his own color-coding. He would predict his productivity per week according to his calendar and as the week passed would compare and reflect on the difference between his prediction and reality.
Co-organizer James Burke gave a short talk about adding analytics to his relationship. He and his partner would award or subtract points per event for a period of 3 months towards the start of their relationship.
Martijn Aslander presented the possibilties with personalstats.nl, a system used for general self-tracking built from modules containing questions. Currently development is quite slow, but in the near future iPad and iPhone apps are planned for production.

Concentration and meditation van be measured with electrodes. Beer van Geer gave a presentation on how he designed an application based on the Neurosky platform, a portable brain interface controllable by meditation.

Sheryl Cababa and Marie Perez from Philips talked about the development cycle of the Philips DirectLife, from a concept in 2006 to a full product in 2009. The DirectLife is built on top of several models used to motivate people to get up and move. (We reached our Vimeo limit, so this video will be online later) Co-founder of Withings, Cedric Hutchings showed the Withings scale. And he donated a scale to a lucky visitor, who guessed the nearest weight of our host, Maarten.
Matt Cottam from Tellart explained how he used open-source and self-made electronics to produce sensors used in training for health care and to motivate children at different schools into activity and sports via some clever persuasive behaviors tied together with some game design priniciples. Our last speaker Yuri van Geest from Singularity University explained and discussed technologies to be encountered along our way to continual technological acceleration. 
Discussion continued in the bar following the event as we had to leave our location at 10:00pm. Next time we will try to improve the sound quality for the Q&A. So to conclude, our first QS Amsterdam Meetup was simply amazing!
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