What We’re Reading

It’s a long one today, so buckle in and get ready for some great stuff!

Articles
The Quantified Self: Bringing Science into Everyday Life, One Measurement at a Time by Jessica Wilson. This piece, from the Science in Society Office at Northwestern University, explores the Quantified Self movement, with a particular focus on the local Chicago QS meetup. Always interesting to see how individuals draw distinctions between self-tracking projects and “real science.”

Diversity of Various Tech Companies By the Numbers by Nick Heer. Recently Apple released data about the diversity of their employee workforce. This marked the last major tech company to publish data about diversity. In this short post Nick takes that data and shows how it compares to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Interested in more than just the big six listed here? Check out this great site for more tech company diversity data (Hat tip to Mark Allen for finding that link!)

Intel Explores Wearables for Parkinson’s Research by Christina Farr, Reuters. Intel is in the news lately based on their interest in developing and using their technological prowess for qs-related activities. In this post/press release, they describe how they’re partnering with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to explore how they can use wearable devices to track and better understand patients with Parkinson’s Disease. It appears they’re also working to get their headphone heart rate tracking technology out to market.

Spying on Myself by Richard J. Anderson. I’m always interested in how people talk to themselves about self-tracking. This short essay describes the tools that Richard uses and why he continues or discontinues using them. His follow up is also a must read.

Dexcom Mac Dance by Kerri Sparling. You know we’re fascinated by the techniques and tools developed and refined by the the diabetes community. In this short post, Kerri highlights the work of Brian Bosh, who developed a Chrome extension to access and download data from Dexcom continuous glucose monitors on a Mac. (Bonus link: Listen to Chris Snider’s great podcast episode where he talks to John Costik, one of the originators of the CGM in the Cloud/Nightscout project.)

Show&Tell
The Three-Year Long Time Tracking Experiment by Lighton Phiri. Lighton is a graduate student at the University of Capetown. In 2011 he became curious about how he was spending his time. After installing a time-tracking tool on his various computers, he started gathering data. Recently, after 3 years of tracking, he downloaded and analyzed his data. Read this excellent post to find out what he learned.

Experimenting with Sleep by Gwern. One of our favorite self-experimenters is back with some more detailed analysis of his various sleep tracking experiments. Read on to see what he learned about how caffeine pills, alcohol, bedtime, and wake uptime affects his sleep.

QS Bits and Bobs by Adam Johnson. Adam gave talk at a recent QS Oxford Meetup about his lifelogging and self-tracking, his custom tools for importing data to his calendar, and what he’s learned from his experiences. Make sure to also check out the neat tool he’s developed to log events to Google Calendar.

Visualizations

NikeFibers
FuelBand Fibers by Variable. A design team was given Nike FuelBand data from seven different runners and created this interesting visualization of their daily activity.

SleepWork
I don’t Sleep That Well: A Year of Logging When I Sleep and When I’m at Work by Reddit user mvuljlst. Posting on the r/dataisbeautiful subreddit, this user tracked a year of their sleep and location data using Sleepbot and Moves. If you have similar data and are interested in exploring your own visualization the code is also available.

JawboneCity
In the City that We Love by Brian Wilt/Jawbone. The data science team at Jawbone continues to impress with their production of meaningful and interesting data visualizations based on data from UP users. In this post and corresponding visualizations they explore the daily patterns of people from around the world. Make sure to read the technical notes!

From the Forum
Export Moves Data to Day One
Understanding Patents – All your transmission data belong to us
Quantified Self, It’s Benefits
Sun Exposure and Vitamin D Levels Wearable Tracker

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Philip Thomas on Building a Personal Dashboard

Philip Thomas is a software engineer at OpenDNS. He’s been collecting a lot of personal data since college, first starting with his custom built beer tracking system. He then moved on to slightly more sophisticated personal data. As the data started to pile up in services and systems he started to explore what it would take to create his own custom personal dashboard. In this talk, presented at the Bay Area QS meetup group, Philip explains how he built his dashboard and why it’s so valuable to him as he tracks his life.

Continue reading

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Natalie Melchiorre: My Pushups Plateau

Natalie Melchiorre wanted to work on her upper body strength so she decided to start a 100-pushup challenge. Using a popular iOS app she followed a plan and tracked her progress as she increased her strength. Along the way she encountered some hurdles, but continued on. In this talk, presented at the Phoenix Quantified Self meetup group, Natalie describes her experience with setting this ambitious goal and what she ultimately learned when she failed to complete it. Make sure to stick around to hear Natalie talk about the intersection of goals, performance, and identity.

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Amaan Penang: Making Data-Driven Financial Decisions

Amaan Penang was faced with a life change when he moved from Texas to California to start a new job. While preparing for the move he started to examine his financial health and was surprised by what he didn’t understand about his spending and income. Using the popular financial tracking software, Mint, he started to examine his historical spending. In this talk, presented at the Silicon Valley Quantified Self meetup group, Amaaan explains how he tracks his data, crunches the numbers, and finds “interesting patterns” in his data.

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Tidings: QS Melbourne Show&Tell

QSMelbourne_1

The first QS Melbourne meetup. Photo by Bernd Ploderer

Today’s Tidings dispatch comes to us from Phil Goebel, organizer of the QS Melbourne meetup group. Recently, they held their sixth Show&Tell meetup, which focussed on discussing new self-tracking tools. They also announced a new project – The QS Device Library. Read below to learn more about this exciting idea and what transpired at the meetup.

QS Melbourne Show&Tell #6 Recap
by Phil Goebel

Greetings from down under! The Quantified Self community in Melbourne has been active since late 2012 and since then the community has shown enthusiasm for the potential impact that self-tracking technology can have. Earlier this month the Melbourne QS meetup hosted our first set of toolmakers – individuals who are involved in building self-tracking tools. Melbourne has a rich medical and health technology industry and the QS community here is developing into a key contributor to opening the dialogue about the role that self-tracking behaviour, the technology which facilitates it, and the data it generates has within a larger health informatics context.

Our first speaker was Rob Crowder from Smash Wearables. Rob shared his journey from a desire to improve his tennis game to launching a kickstarter campaign. Smash is a wrist worn device packing accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and microcontroller all into a small and aesthetically pleasing form factor. Rob comes from a physics background and the Smash project begun with strapping hacked together hardware onto his wrist and collecting and analysing a whole heap of data. Although Rob has always been and continues to be the driving force behind Smash he stressed the importance of the community which has grown around and is contributing to Smash and has been taken aback by the willingness and generosity of people to lend a hand. Even though Smash did not meet its Kickstarter goals, the Kickstarter campaign did accomplish other objectives which will hopefully lead to Smash being worn by some of Australia’s top tennis player in time for the next Melbourne Open.

Kayla Heffernan a Masters of Information Systems student at Melbourne University discussed and presented her experiences in designing a self-tracking mobile application which delivers complex messaging. The app is currently being used in a randomized controlled trial to better understand the effectiveness of encouraging health behaviours through mobile applications. The objective of the mobile application is to track sun exposure – this is a complex task as too little can mean vitamin D deficiency, too much can put an individual at risk of sun burns and skin cancer, plus factors such as what the app user is wearing needs to be taken into account. Kayla discussed user design techniques such as saving default settings and adding gamification elements to encourage user engagement and to deliver a complex message. It may be a while before the app is available to the broader public, but the results of the RCT will be interesting to follow.

QS Melbourne Announces the Quantified Self Device Library
In addition to the great discussion about the challenges and rewards of building software and hardware for self-tracking, QS Melbourne announced the development of a QS device library. As a result from a research project that happened at the Health and Biomedical Informatics Centre (HaBIC) at the University of Melbourne, there are about 40 self-tracking devices sitting on a shelf gathering dust. In an effort to put these devices to good use HaBIC is working with the QS Melbourne organisers to build a library where devices can be signed out for 1-3 month periods to encourage n=1 activity in the QS community. While still in the logistical planning phases this is a great opportunity to engage the community in QS ideas and concepts and end up with some great show&tell presentations that combine data sources in creative ways. Discussion about how the logistical issues will be handled is ongoing on the Melbourne QS meetup discussion board along with a list of the available devices. Thoughts about how best to setup this library would be appreciated.

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Sara Riggare: How Not to Fall

We’re always interested in the way individuals with chronic conditions use self-tracking to better understand themselves. A great example of this is our good friend, Sara Riggare. Sara has Parkinson’s Disease and we’ve featured some of her amazing self-tracking work here before. At the 2014 Quantified Self Conference, Sara gave a short talk on what she feels is her most troublesome symptom: freezing of gait. In this talk, she explains why it’s such a big part of her daily life and how she’s using new tools and techniques to track and improve her gait.

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QS Meetups This Week

There is one QS Meetup this week. Check the full list of the over 100 QS meetup groups in the right sidebar to find the next upcoming meet up near you. If you don’t see one near you, start your own!

Tuesday (August 12)

East Lansing, Michigan
Should be a great discussion in Michigan. If you are in the area, you should check it out!

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What We're Reading

Enjoy this week’s list!

Articles
The Five Modes of Self-Tracking by Deborah Lupton. One of our favorite sociologists, Deborah Lupton, explores the typologies of self-trackers she’s identified for an upcoming paper. A very nice and clear explanation of the self-tracking practices in regards to different “loci of control.” (Make sure to also read Deborah’s great post, “Beyond the Quantified Self: The Reflexive Monitoring Self“)

In-Depth: How Activity Trackers are Finding Their Way Into the Clinic by MobiHealthNews. An interesting look at the recent influx FDA-cleared activity and movement trackers and how clinicians are looking to use them. Surprising to me is the lack of data access for the patient in these devices (at least on first glance).

The Reluctantly Quantified Parent by Erin Kissane. As a new mother, Erin was hesitant to use what she deemed “anxious technology.” After some hard nights of little sleep she began to slowly incorporate some self-tracking technology into her routine with her newborn daughter. A great read about using tools then putting them away once they’ve served their purpose. (Reminded me of this great talk by Yasmin Lucero.)

Show&Tell
Returns to Leisure by Tom VanAntwerp. Tom was interested in his return on investment from his leisure time actives. He tracked his time spent in different non-work activities for two weeks and calculated the cost of participating in those activities.

The Quantified Microbiome Self By Carl Zimmer. The great science writer, Carl Zimmer, writes about a recent experiment and journal article by two MIT researchers who tracked their microbiome every day for a year. Fascinating findings, including a successful self-diagnosis of salmonella poisoning. You can also read the original research paper here.

Better Living Through Data by James Davenport. We recently highlighted one of James’ posts on how his laptop battery tracking led him to understand his computer use habits. In this post he dives deeper into the data.

Visualizations
citibike2

A Personal Analysis of 1 Year of Using Citibike by Miles Grimshaw. Miles was interested in understanding more about his use of the Citibike bike share system in New York City. Using some ingenious methods he was able to download, visualize, and analyze his 268 total trips. I especially appreciate his addition of a simple “how-to” so other Citibike users can make the same visualizations.

RunkeeperinR

Visualizing Runkeeper Data in R by Dan Goldin. In 2013 Dan ran 1000 miles and tracked them using the popular Runkeeper app. Runkeeper has a quick and easy data export function and Dan was able to download his data and use R to visualize and analyze his runs. (Bonus Link: If you’re a Runkeeper user you might be interested in this fantastic how-to for making a heatmap of your runs.)

From the Forum
Google Fit
Breakout: Productivity Tracking
Track Your Phone Addiction
Activity Tracking Without Online Requirement
Quantified Self – It’s Benefits

This Week on Quantifiedself.com
Natty Hoffman: The Enlightened Consumer
QSEU14 Breakout: Passive Sensing With Smartphones
Jenny Tillotson: Science, Smell, and Fashion
Paul LaFontaine: We Never Fight on Wednesdays
Vanessa Sabino on Tracking a Year of Sleep

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Vanessa Sabino on Tracking a Year of Sleep

Vanessa Sabino was curious about how well she was sleeping. By using the Sleep as Android app, she was able to track a year of sleep data. Before she was able to dig into the data she ran into a problem with the data export format and had to write her own custom data parser to create usable CSV files. Vanessa was then able to use the data to explore her question, “When do I get the most amount of deep sleep?” In this talk, presented at the Toronto QS meetup group, Vanessa explains her process and what she learned from analyzing 340 days of sleep data.

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Paul LaFontaine: We Never Fight on Wednesday

Paul LaFontaine was interested in understanding his anxiety and negative emotional states. What was causing them? When were they happening? What could he do to combat them? Using TapLog, a simple Android-based tracking app (with easy data export), Paul tracked these mental events for six months as well as the triggers associated with each one. In this talk, presented at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, Paul dives deep in to the data to show how he was able to learn how different triggers were related to his anxiety and stress. While exploring his data, he also discovered a few surprising and profound insights. Watch his great talk below to learn more!

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