“That’s insane! I want to try it.”
Bethany Soule is the co-found of Beeminder, a commitment tool which she characterizes as “goal-tracking with teeth.” Her and Daniel Reeves, the other founder, have spoken on how they tracked the development of the tool and integrating it with other QS tools.
In this talk from QS15, Bethany tells of how she was inspired by Nick Winter’s “Maniac Week“, to focus solely on working for an entire week. She shares what she learned from doing this multiple times, from tools for reducing distractions to tracking accomplishments and ensuring accountability. You’ll also find out how many hours she was actually able to work.
Here is the time-lapse of Bethany’s Maniac Week, as well as, her blog post on the experience:
“I don’t have a concrete goal. I don’t have a concrete aim to advance myself. It’s a way to explore different aspects of my life through data.”
Since 2009 Jacek Smolicki has experimented with using personal data as a mode for artistic exploration. In this talk, he presents some of his practices:
To learn more about Jacek’s practices, explore his website. Check out other examples of self-tracking as artistic expression with talks from Laurie Frick and Alberto Frigo, and pieces from the art exhibition at the 2015 QS Conference in San Francisco.
“When I see someone driving towards me with their face buried in their phone, I get gloriously indignant about it.”
Robby Macdonell has given great talks on transportation logging and time-tracking. Here, he combined those two data streams, using Automatic and RescueTime, to prove that he does not use his phone while driving nearly as often as other drivers.
Only the data didn’t agree.
Watch how Robby confronts the realization that he is more distracted than he thought and the changes he made because of it.
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
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
Spurious Correlations by Tyler Vigen. An entertaining collection of unrelated facts that can be correlated with a high degree of confidence. -Steven
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
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
Tobias Zimmer tracked what he ate and, in particular, what he didn’t eat. The image above comes from a series of ceramic plates that were created using generated graphics based on the crumbs he left. For more, see his Tumblr: Food-Data:
»Food Data« elevates an everyday occurrence to the realms of art. Minimalistic crumb compositions that emerge while eating every day, are enhanced by generated graphics, which refer to the topic of computerized data tracking of human behavior. The final plates encourage to contemplate on everyday life and to find beauty in daily routines, but at the same time remind of technological advancement and practices of (self-)surveillance, that doesn‘t even stop before the private ritual of eating.
Haunted By Data by Maciej Cegłowski. A keen sense of how things can go wrong is needed if we are to have any hope of – well, if we are to have any hope! This essay by Maciej Ceglowski about the highly toxic nature of large scale data aggregation is highly recommended.
How Your Device Knows Your Life through Images by Graham Templeton. This research demonstrating that an artificial neural network was able to train itself to correctly identify 83% of the time the activity that a person was engaged, just based on the images collected from that person’s lifelogging camera is especially interesting in light of Ceglowski’s talk.
Life Stress by Marco Altini. Marco reviews an exhilarating but stressful 15 months of his life through the lens of heart rate variability.
Body Metrics Under Stress by Justin Lawler. Another stress-related piece. Justin shows through data how his body responded to the stress of giving a talk about his lifelogging experiences at QSEU15.
Pathways Project by Mimi Onuoha. This project looked at what story could be told from a month’s worth of mobile phone data from four groups of people, each with a different type of relationship: co-workers, a couple, a family, and roommates. The charts are interactive and fascinating. As Onuoha writes:
…data visualizations add a level of abstraction over real world events; they gather the messiness of human life and render it in objective simplicity. In life, goodbyes can be heartbreaking affairs, painful for all involved. But on a map, a goodbye is as simple as one dot moving out of view.
The project’s data is available in this Github repository.
My Hamster’s Activity Index by /u/snootsboots
This reddit user used a motion sensor connected to a raspberry pi to make sure that his hamster is ok when he’s away. Here’s a picture of the hamster, if you’re curious. His name is Timmy
My internet’s median ping over time by /u/asecretsin. This a very simple chart, and a simple idea. What I like about it though is that it illustrates how just a little bit of logging and data visualization can reveal a pattern in one’s environment. It clearly shows that the response times slow down from 6pm to 10pm. I have a home office and it often felt like the internet slowed down around the time people starting getting off work.
From the Forum
Activity trackers without online requirement
My review of the H2O-Pal – A Hydration Tracker
Consumer genome raw data comparison – Which has the most health information?
Benefits of 24/7 heart rate monitoring
Can You Quantify Inner Peace?
How to find all major volunteer bioscience projects I can partake in?
As someone who still is not satisfied with any sleep tracking device or app that I have tried, I related to this dialogue from a tumblr called Zen.Sen.Life:
- Sleep Tracking App: I see you’re not violently throwing yourself around your bed, you must be in a deep sleep. Sweet dreams, buddy!
- Me: I’m actually still awake.
- Sleep Tracking App: But you’re lying still…
- Me: Because I’m trying to get to sleep.
- Sleep Tracking App: You mean you ARE asleep.
- Me: I really don’t.
- Sleep Tracking App: You’re going to have to trust me, I do this professionally and I know sleep when I see it, and I’m pretty sure you’re asleep right now.
- Me: I couldn’t be more awake.
- Sleep Tracking App: This is all a dream…
A man who tracked five years of sneezes might have a fix for your pollen allergy by Akshat Rathi. Thomas Blomseth Christiansen has spoken about tracking his sneezes at QS conferences. This article is a good telling of Thomas’s story.
Good tool with too small market can get a second chance – a hardware hack saves Zeo by Portabla Media. A short article on how Philipp Kalwies responded to the demise of Zeo. Since the sensors in the headband need to be replaced every three months and official supplies were dwindling on the secondary market, Philipp began to make his own and hopes to have this resource available to the small group of users who continue to get value from their Zeo devices.
The Right to Repair Ourselves by Kim Bellard. A common question in the QS community is “who owns your data?” Another question that should be given more time and is explored here, is “who owns the knowledge of how to ‘fix’ yourself?”
The Habits of Tracking My Diet and Exercise Data by Shannon Connors. Shannon has some of the most impressive personal data sets that I have ever seen. In this post, she gives an overview of the tools that she uses, what about the data she finds useful, and how she integrates the data collection into her day.
What you can learn from 2 years of Coach.me habit tracking + Machine Learning by Bryan Dickens. Applying association analysis to his coach.me data, Bryan was able to see which of his habits tended to occur together. There are some intriguing insights in here.
Visualizing Data in My Sleep with Tableau by Robert Rouse. Robert shows how his sleep patterns changed after the birth of his child.
Six QS meetups are occurring this week. London will mark an incredible five years of meetups! Congratulations to Adriana Lukas and her team. St. Louis will have a special data hack session, focusing on getting the raw data from their devices. Jamie Williams will show the iPython scripts that he uses for pulling data from various API’s. In Boston, the theme of the night will be recovery.
The biggest meetup this week will be the Quantified Self Europe Conference occurring on Friday and Saturday in Amsterdam. We just put the finishing touches on the program, and I’m incredibly excited about it. This one is going to be special.
Monday, September 14
Thursday, September 17
Auckland, New Zealand
Friday and Saturday, September 18-19
QSEU15 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Saturday, September 19
Meetups Last Week
Last week, Lille had their fourth meetup, with an ever-growing community in the north of France. If you organize a QS meetup, please post pictures of your event to the Meetup website. We love seeing them.
A great group of QS meetups are occurring this week. At the QSXX meetup in San Francisco, they will have a talk on tracking a hormone-related chronic illness. In Lille, the session will start with device demos, including O.Zen, a heart-rate variability game. Olivier Janin will give a talk reflecting on what he’s learned from 8 years of working with wearables.
To see when the next meetup in your area is, check the full list of the over 100 QS meetup groups in the right sidebar. Don’t see one near you? Why not start your own! If you are a QS Organizer and want some ideas for your next meetup, check out the myriad of meetup formats that other QS organizers are using here.
Wednesday, September 9
QSXX – San Francisco, CA
Thursday, September 10
Time is the finite resource that we all share. We share, too, the befuddlement in how it’s spent. It seems that we are equally terrible at remembering what happened in the past and estimating how long something will take in the future.
Having worked in project management for years, Emmanuel Pont knows full well everything hinges on time: how you use it, where it goes, why you never have enough. Emmanuel will be contributing two sessions at QS Europe related to the topic. He will facilitate a breakout discussion exploring productivity. What does it mean to be productive? How do you know if you are being productive? Emmanuel will also give a 5 minute ignite talk on his tool that helped him get a comprehensive sense of how his time was spent: from the websites he visited, to the rooms that he spent time in.
We program our QS conferences to support the exchange of ideas, and we’re always inspired by what we learn. Our next one is coming soon. QS Europe, September 18th and 19th in Amsterdam. We’ll see you there.
Media artist Danielle Roberts ( check out her Reverse Calendar), found her curiosity piqued by a scientific paper claiming that the well-known calming benefits of being in nature can be achieved by merely looking at pictures of natural landscapes.
At QS Europe 15, Danielle will present “Virtual View” project, which combines image and sound for immersion in a constructed natural environment – with a twist. Virtual View feeds your physiological signal back into the system, subtly altering based on your response.
Join us in Amsterdam for QS Europe on September 18th & 19th, 2015. It will be an incredible two full days of talks, breakout discussions, and working sessions. We look forward to seeing you there!