Tag Archives: newyork
Shawn Dimantha is always looking for easier ways to track his health. He uses a variety of self-tracking tools, but a few months ago he became interested in exploring what he could do given his engineering and health IT background. He was inspired by immersion, an MIT-developed email analysis tool, which helped him understand who he was communicating with, and by Wolfram Alpha’s Facebook analysis tool. Focusing on Facebook and the wealth of image-based data in his profile he asked himself if images could be a window into his health. After reading a research paper on the use of images to predict body mass index he decided to see what he could learn my implementing a similar procedure on his own images.
What Did Shawn Do?
I used photos from my Facebook account to track my health, the reason I did this because I wanted to see how a simple heuristic I used for tracking my health daily could be implemented in the online world given the huge amount of photos that are and have been shared on a daily basis. I notice when I gain or lose weight, am stressed or relaxed from my seeing my face in my mirror. I was partly inspired by the self-photo collages presented on YouTube.
How Did He Do it?
I selected photos of my face from my Facebook account, cropped out my face and used some software and manual tagging to measure the ratio of different fiducial points on my face (eye-eye length, and cheek to cheek length) over time to help serve as a proxy for my health.
What Did He Learn
Facial image data needs to be cleaned and carefully selected. Face shapes are unique and need to be treated as such. Data that is not present is often more telling than what is present. Life events effect my weight and should be put into context; however causation is harder to determine than correlation. By being more conscious of my score and I can change my behavior before things get off track.
Right now I’m turning this into a product at Enfluence.io where I’m focused on using it to help with preventive health.
Facebook (my own images)
Python / OpenCV
Slides from Shawn’s talk are available here.
Cliff Atkinson is a consultant who helps people tell their stories and showcase their data in clear and understandable ways. It’s no surprise that when he became interested in understanding himself he turned to his experiences with visual storytelling. In 2012, at a New York QS meetup, Cliff spoke about how he’s embarked on a project to “quantify the “unconscious.”
What Did He Do?
Cliff began this project because he was noticed that there were “recurring patterns of procrastination and motivation” going on in his life. He began trying to understand them by turning to the large body of literature on human psychology. Then he asked himself, “Would it be possible to use some quantitative methods to track what was happening.” Using what he’d learned in his research and his experiences he decided to track his body, emotions, and mind.
How Did He Do It?
Cliff used his expertise and knowledge around visual storytelling to create an interesting system of visual diaries with which he could record information in his three areas of interest: the body, emotions, and the mind. Using Penultimate, and iPad app for sketching and notation, along with some clip art, he tracked physical, emotional, and cognitive events.
What Did He Learn?
The process of creating a space to reflect and record how he’s feeling across these three chosen domains has created a space for Cliff to better understand himself and how his mind works. This is still a work in progress and it sounds like Cliff is still exploring how to better understand the data he’s capturing over a longer period of time and even correlating it with other information such as his work and speaking engagements.
“One of the models for therapy is that somebody else helps you. I think with the quantified self and the things we’re doing we can take some of that power into our own hand and start to come to some personal understanding of what’s going on in our own lives.”
This guest post comes to us from Konstantin Augemberg who covers many interesting Quantified Self topics and his personal tracking experience on the wonderful MeasuredMe blog.
On Monday, September 30, Quantified NYC group has held its 23th meetup. The event was graciously hosted by Projective Space which offers collaborative community space to over 60 startups. With over a hundred people in attendance, interesting demos and inspiring presentations (quantifying Starcraft gaming skills, predicting choice of clothes based on weather forecast, and other self-quantified awesomeness!), it turned out to be a great evening. Here is my brief report on what I saw and loved:
We started with our Demos session during which QS entrepreneurs showcased their products and services:
- David Joerg (@dsjoerg) presented his GGTracker, web service that uses advanced analytics to help Starcraft players to track their stats and quantify and improve gaming skills
- Paula Murgia presented Personal Beasties app that helps people to cope with anxiety, fatigue and stress by using simple breathing exercises
- Stefan Heeke (@Stefan_Heeke) showcased My Online Habits, a webapp that uses Gmail and Google data to help analyze your productivity and communications habits
- Mike McDearmon (@Mike_McDearmon) demoed an awesome online dashboard that he built to visualize his outdoors activities.
The Show & Tell session was opened by Mette Dyhrberg (@mettedyhrberg) and her “The Pomodoro Recovery” presentation. Following the bouncing castle accident, Mette has been diagnosed with concussion and was recommended to rest and avoid using electronic devices in order to recover. She started tracking her symptoms, diet, and resting and working habits using Pomodoro method and Mymee app. The lack of progress has prompted her to look at her tracking data, after which she realized that she may have been misdiagnosed. The visit to another doctor has revealed that she sustained a neck injury, which luckily, could be fixed right on the spot. The treatment procedure helped her to feel better almost immediately. You can watch Mette’s presentation here.
In “Quantifying What to Wear”, Andrew Paulus (@andrewcpaulus) shared how he used self-tracking to measure impact of weather on his choice of clothes. It started when Andrew noticed that one of his morning habits included checking weather on his phone in order to decide what to wear on that day. That led to an idea to measure efficiency of this process, by tracking his choice of clothes and then assessing at the end of the day, if the choice was correct. His first attempt at quantifying weather and wardrobe was unsuccessful, due to some flaws in methodology and measurement (e.g., the weather data was collected at different times of the day; the clothes data was not very well structured). Andrew then has revised the methodology, by subscribing to more reliable and comprehensive weather data from Farmer’s Almanac, and logging wardrobe data in a more consistent manner. His girlfriend kindly agreed to co-participate in this experiment. After six months of tracking, Andrew looked at their data. He found that the overall, he tended to be slightly more accurate in choosing what to wear, compared to his girlfriend: his accuracy rate was 78%, vs. her rate of 74%. Another interesting finding was that his choices were more weather appropriate. The correlation between the clothes and weather was nearly 0.7 for him, and nearly 0 .1 for his girlfriend, which suggests that her choices are often influenced by many other factors, not just weather. You can see the full presentation here.
Amy Merrill (@amyjmerrill) shared her experiences with “Sleep Tracking with Jawbone Up”. Since April 2013, she has been tracking her sleep (deep sleep phase, in particular) using Jawbone Up, as well as social and work related activities using Google Calendar. By analyzing the patterns in her data, she was able to see how certain activities affect her deep sleep. In particular, she learned that more physical activity and sleep deprivation led to more deep sleep, where as restful days tend to result in more light sleep. Certain social activities like attending wedding and taking trips on tour bus have also had a considerable impact on quality of her sleep. For the next phase, she plans to include some aspects of the diet, including consumption of alcohol, caffeine and over-the-counter drugs. You can watch Amy’s presentation here.
The session was concluded by Andrew Tarvin’s (@HumorThatWorks) funny and inspiring presentation “The Perfect Day”, in which he discussed the tracking system that he used to build some new habits. Andre has been rating each day based on the number of goals that he achieved (e.g., waking up without snoozing the alarm, do something active for 20+ minutes, eat at least 4 fruites a day, etc.) The days with at least 3 goals met were defined as “quality days”, and the days with all 5 goals accomplished were rated as “perfect”. Andre learned that the strive for perfection was the most demotivating factor: missing one goal earlier in the day often resulted in giving up on all other habits as well. Waking up without snoozing was the most influential habit in that regard. He also learned that the “streaks” of quality and perfect days was the most motivational factor; once he had several consecutive successful days in a row, it was much easier to continue meeting the goals. Andre has been using this system for three years, and plans to continue using it to acquire new habits. You can read more about his system on his site. You can watch video of the presentation here.
As always, before and after the sessions, I had a chance to mingle and meet a lot of interesting people. Special shout out to Stefan Heeke, Mike McDearmon, Sylvia Heisel, Michael Moore and Dave Comeau.
It seems that food tracking can have an enormous impact on weight loss and weight control, but counting calories can be difficult. David Sweet was looking to lose weight and wanted to use a system that kept him engaged for a long period of time. He devised a unique system to track his food – the Fist-Sized Volume. Watch this interesting talk, filmed at the New York QS Meetup, to learn how he did it and what he learned (stick around for the great Q&A).
“I was starting to feel a little bit out of control.”
Robert Carlsen used to be an amateur bike racer. When he moved to New York and stopped racing he found that his weight was slowly creeping up. He was still leading an active lifestyle, but he soon realized that most of daily food choices were the result of guess work. In this video, filmed at the New York City QS Meetup, Robert explains how he used different apps and tools to track his caloric inputs and outputs in order to move towards his goal weight.
Doug Kanter has been a Type 1 diabetic for 26 years. Through this time he’s come to learn more about his disease by using many data-gathering tools and his own work in visual analysis at the NYU ITP program. We’ve featured Doug’s compelling work here on the blog before and we were excited to hear him talk at the NY QS Meetup about his new project to understand how marathon training and running effect his blood sugar and insulin treatment.
Typically when we think about Quantified Self and the associated collection and visualization of personal data we’re left struggling in the world of charts, graphs, and other well-worn visualizations. That’s not to disparage those of you who love spending some time tinkering in Excel. Those are valuable tools for understanding and there is a good reason we rely on them to tell us the stories of our data. It’s important to realize that those stories rooted in data aren’t always just about finding trends, searching for correlations, or teasing out significant changes. Sometimes data can represent something more visceral and organic – the expression of a unique experience.
Vincent Boyce is a an artist and designer who spends his free time riding on asphalt and water. Those experiences on his longboard and surfboard led him to starting thinking about how his rides, his performances, could be used as inputs for generating art and “exposing the hidden narrative.” After some tinkering with hardware and software Rideware Labs was born. Vincent has designed and built a prototype sensor pack and custom interface that ingests data from his riding and outputs unique visual representations. As you can see above, these aren’t your typical bar charts.
In his great talk filmed at the New York QS Meetup Vincent describes his motivation behind building his prototype system and his goals for future versions.
This is a great first step in turning data rooted in performance into artistic representations of self-expression. What do you think? What kind of data would you like to see hanging on your wall as works of art? Let us know in the comments!
We had a great turnout at our last meetup in New York hosted at startup accelerator program Blueprint Health in Soho. Thank you to my co-organizers, Patrick Whitaker and Andrew Paulus , who helped pull together this recap. And thank you to the rest of my co-organizers Brian Gallegos, Mark Brooks and Konstantin Augemberg for helping out with another fascinating evening of demo and show&tell talks.
Our latest demo hour included five presenters with concepts ranging from behavior change to respiratory training. QS attendees mingled around tables and engaged in interactive discussions with five demonstrators, who had come to present some interesting and diverse initiatives.
Susan Alexander from app4Mind presented a mental model she created for behavior modification. Susan was inspired by her own experience, those of others, and the world’s wealth of research on change, growth, and how to change behavior. The model distills all of this down to four memorable principles, each word beginning with the letter M. Together, they serve as a “mind app” which she presented in illustrated form. Susan is planning to launch a new website by year’s end to serve as a platform for app4Mind.
Matt Stanfield demonstrated BagIQ, a platform he is developing to give people product-level purchase data and insight into spending habits. BagIQ renders detailed product-by-product, dollar-by-dollar analysis, and presents them in simple, digestible ways. The power is in taking that product level data and connecting it to personally relevant 3rd party data specific to each user’s health, diet, ethics, shopping. Matt’s demo culminated with sweeping discussions about potential applications and insights that could be derived from the data and it will be interesting to see how BagIQ develops.
Melody Wilding presented eCaring, a care management system that seeks to generate comprehensive, real-time behavioral & clinical data from a patient’s home. eCaring was developed to enable hospitals, healthcare providers & families to track & respond to conditions, making early intervention possible, reducing hospital readmissions, lowering care costs, & improving care quality for seniors & people with chronic conditions. eCaring currently has several programs underway with hospitals & for long term care management.
Anthony Ina demonstrated a prototype of HealthBoard, which was developed to allow active duty military personnel the ability to interact with their own personal health information and electronic medical records, and to offer healthcare providers better access to patients and their decisions. By integrating information design principles, HealthBoard seeks provides users with enhanced and streamlined access to information, making it less intimidating and easier to understand the impacts of decisions on health outcomes.
Bez Arkush demonstrated a device that can measure inspiratory and expiratory breathing. Different resistance levels support breathing measurements and exercises to be used in respiratory therapy and respiratory sport training. The device connects with iPads and creates a game-like environment while keeping track of your activity.
Following demo hour, we had six show&tell talks on guitar playing, lucid dreaming, salt sensitivity, exercise, headaches and the unconscious.
Exploring the Sleep Frontier – Lucid Dreaming with the Zeo
The evening started with Dave Comeau, a lucid dreaming enthusiast who described his experiments hacking the Zeo to help trigger lucid dreams. Although Dave had been experimenting with lucid dreaming for many years, the launch of the Zeo Sleep Manager gave him fresh insight into his sleeping patterns, specifically about when he entered the REM sleep states most conducive to lucid dreaming. Dave introduced resources like Zeoscope and Sleep Stream Online and told of his experiments using the Zeo extensions to trigger visual and auditory cues with hopes of inducing lucid dreaming, although they often backfired by waking him up. Following the presentation, there was an interactive Q&A in which the potential of other sensory cues was discussed (e.g. olfactory or gustatory cues like using X10 to trigger a Glade PlugIn). When asked what drew him to lucid dreaming, Dave said “I don’t know what the benefits of those are — except being awesome!”
Exercise and Consumption
The next talk was by Emily Chambliss, who had completed several months of tracking her consumption and exercise in a comprehensive, color-coded spreadsheet. When asked about the motivation behind this effort, Emily noted that she didn’t trust her own perceptions, which is why she needed to start tracking. Informed by her nutrition and activity tracking, Emily was able to strategize, set goals, and implement greater levels of self discipline into her daily life. Over time she learned that her behavior was surprisingly predictable, and clear insights emerged about her self-described “lack of discipline on weekends.” In response to audience questions about the scope and challenges of her tracking project, Emily clarified that she tracked “everything — including booze, which was painful” and was quick to note that “a shot of whiskey has 64 Calories, according to most sources.”
Midway through the evening, we heard from Greg Pomerantz on a self experiment he had conducted on salt sensitivity. Greg noted that health authorities generally recommend salt restriction, which is controversial since people have varying levels of sensitivity to salt that cannot be addressed by blanket advice. Greg raised one of the challenges that “you need IRB approval when you do experiments on humans — except, you know, when you do it on yourself.” Thus empowered with the administrative freedom of n=1 self-experimentation, Greg weighed himself every morning and deliberately varied his salt intake through three phases over a period of several weeks. Although Greg had conceived this experiment since his blood pressure was at the higher end of the normal range, he was surprised by his findings that he was not particularly sensitive to salt, and moreover that the only adverse consequences he experienced (e.g., impair thermoregulation) seemed to be caused by insufficient salt consumption. Since his experiment, Greg has made a point to add more salt to his meals to ensure sufficient levels of consumption. When asked if he had talked to his primary care physician about this, Greg smiled and said, “not yet, but I’m sure he would be interested.”
200 Hours of Guitar Practice in a Year
Jake Jenkins had always wanted to play the guitar, and he told an impressive story of pursuing this goal with the help of commitment devices and Beeminder. Based on his prior experiences learning kite surfing, indoor rock climbing, and downhill skiing, Jake estimated he would need to spend 400 hours deliberately practicing the guitar to be “good enough” and set a goal of practicing for 35 minutes every day for two years. After mixed results and missed practice sessions at the beginning, Jake grew interested in commitment devices and discovered the website Beeminder.com, which helped hold him accountable on a daily basis and achieve remarkable consistency with his guitar practice. Although Jake said at the outset that “[he] would classify[himself] as without rhythm,” he has been continuously improving through one year and 200 hours of guitar practice, which is evident by the videos he posts on YouTube every few months to show himself playing. Although Jake found self-tracking to be a powerful motivator, he learned that it isn’t always enough and can sometimes use the assistance of external commitment devices to stay on track. Jake’s talk was a compelling example of using QS concepts to motivate and manage his efforts to develop a challenging new skill.
Figuring out a Headache’s Source
The next presenter was Michael Wenger, who implemented a series of lifestyle experiments in response to some startlingly vague advice from a doctor. Prompted by chronic headaches, Michael had undergone an MRI which revealed a benign brain tumor. Extreme risks ruled out surgery as a viable option, so a physical simply recommended that Michael “make some lifestyle changes” to try to reduce the frequency and intensity of his headaches. With this sudden burst of motivation, Michael made some critical lifestyle changes including easing the pressure of academic overachieving by electing some pass/fail courses, improving his sleeping habits and eliminating all consumption of alcohol. Michael used various mobile apps to track relevant activities, and over the short term, Michael learned that the best remedy for an excruciating headache was “driving a car with the windows down while having a milkshake.” More importantly, Michael learned that “you can fix things” over the long term by tracking relevant measure to increase awareness of lifestyle choices and making changes to improve your condition.
Storyboarding the Psyche
The final talk of the night was delivered by Cliff Atkinson, who started with the question of “how do you quantify the unconscious?” Interested in exploring such tendencies as procrastination in the context of knowledge about the unconscious developed by the early psychoanalysts, Cliff took a remarkably visual approach to his self tracking by tracking his body, emotions, and thinking through the creative use of iPhone apps, including Insight Timer and Penultimate. By importing clip art in the shape of a body and a head, Cliff created a template where he would visually annotate his feelings and observations each day, and he could zoom out in Penultimate to see many days at once and reflect on the visual storyboard of his tracking activities over time.
Cristian Monterroza felt like his life was slipping in a direction that he didn’t like, and was inspired to start tracking by the amazing lifelogging project of artist On Kawara. Cristian started out using several different apps, then created his own app to passively record his daily activities, called wrkstrm. In the video below, Cristian shares the insights he gained from six months of building a self-tracking autobiography, and asks us to consider if we are recording the right things. (Filmed by the New York QS meetup group.)