Steven Jonas

Steven Jonas

What We Are Reading

A plate from "Food-Data" by artist Tobias Zimmer

A plate from “Food-Data” by artist Tobias Zimmer


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

Internet Pings

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…
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What We Are Reading



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 habit tracking + Machine Learning by Bryan Dickens. Applying association analysis to his 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.

From the Forum
What Keeps You Tracking?
My Phone and Me
Zeo iOs / Android application

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Meetups This Week

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
London, England

Tuesday, September 15
St. Louis, Missouri
QSXX – Boston, Massachusetts

Thursday, September 17
Auckland, New Zealand

Friday and Saturday, September 18-19
QSEU15 – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Saturday, September 19
Denton, Texas

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.

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Meetups This Week

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.

Monday, September 7
Oxford, England
Manchester, England

Tuesday, September 8
Lansing, Michigan
Zürich, Switzerland

Wednesday, September 9
QSXX – San Francisco, CA

Thursday, September 10
Lille, France

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QS Europe Preview: Where does your time go?


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.

EmmanuelPontHaving 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.

Register for QS Europe

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QSEU15 Preview: Putting Physiological Signals into Pictures

Virtual View - early version

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.

DanielleRobertsAt 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! 

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Meetups This Week

As the summer ends in the northern hemisphere, the number of QS meetups is picking up and there are some great groups getting together this week.

Amsterdam will have a combined meetup with Behavior Design AMS. They will have toolmaker talks from Kenkodo (tracking metabolism) and (fitness), as well as, a researcher talk from Marleen Onwezen on whether apps can be designed to help people make better decisions.

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.

Monday, August 31
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tuesday, September 1
Toronto, Canada
Reno, Nevada
Chicago, Illinois

Thursday, September 3
Auckland, New Zealand
Denver, Colorado

Saturday, September 5
Denton, Texas

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Maggie Delano: Building Myself Back Up

Maggie Delano hit her head while helping a friend move. She was diagnosed with a concussion and, later, post-concussion syndrome. In order for her to heal, she had to give her brain a break from cognitively stimulating activities. In this show&tell talk, presented at the 2015 Quantified Self Conference, Maggie discusses how she tracked her progress toward recovery with Habit RPG (recently renamed Habitica) and improved her sleep with Sleepio.

To see great presentations like Maggie’s in person and get the chance to talk with the speakers, come to our Quantified Self Europe Conference on September 18 & 19. Our early-bird tickets (€149) expire in less than 24 hours, so get yours now!

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Meetups This Week

We have a trio of tremendous QS meetups occurring this week. In Portland, I will be giving a presentation on the best of the Quantified Self Global Conference in June. Los Angeles will feature toolmaker talks. And in Atlanta, they will be discussing their experiences with the Apple Watch, as well as, reviewing the recent QS Public Health Symposium.

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.

Tuesday, August 25
Los Angeles, California

Thursday, August 27
Portland, Oregon
Atlanta, Georgia

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QSEU15 Preview: Morris Villarroel on Slowing Time with a Lifelog

Morris Villarroel at QS14

The 2015 Quantified Self Europe Conference will commence in less than four weeks, bringing together the QS community to share what they’ve been learning with personal data.

Anyone who engages in any sort of self-tracking discovers that the data collected is not a mere recording of some aspect of your life. Rather, engaging with and reflecting on that data can change the way that you relate to an aspect of yourself. Something as simple as getting on a scale each morning can change the way you think about weight. Morris Villarroel has discovered a novel way that this relationship can develop. At this year’s conference, Morris will talk about how using a Narrative camera to keep a visual record of his days, along with detailed notes, has changed his subjective experience of time, “bringing it closer to the present.”

I experienced something similar when I used a spaced repetition system to memorize entries from my daybook. Frequently recalling recent events kept the past distinct and novel. When a month passed, it no longer seemed like a blur, but a container filled with distinct experiences that differentiated itself from any other month.

You can find out more about how Morris gleans value from his lifelog at the 2015 QS Europe Conference. In addition to his show&tell talk, Morris will be leading a breakout discussion on how we can learn more from our lifelogs. We invite you to join us in Amsterdam on September 18th & 19th for two full days of talks, breakout discussions, and working sessions! Early bird tickets are still on sale. Register today for only €149!

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