Paul LaFontaine: Using Heart Rate Variability to Analyze Stress in Conversation

Paul LaFontaine is the organizer for the Denver QS meetup and has given many fabulous talks on heart rate variability. If you are not familiar with HRV, you can think of it as the measurement of your nervous system’s reaction to a perceived threat.

“Vapor lock” is Paul’s term for that feeling when you are trying to retrieve something from memory in a conversation, but because of the stress of the situation (especially if it is with a boss), you lock up as your recall fails. To better understand this phenomenon and learn how to prevent it, Paul measured his HRV during 154 conversations with bosses and co-workers.

Because “vapor lock” is not a standard measurement, Paul shows the criteria he used to identify these moments in his data. His analysis revealed a likely cause for what locks him up, but it was not what he expected and it changed his approach to meetings and conversations at work.

If you want to watch more talks about heart rate variability, Randy Sargent showed us what his HRV looks like through a spectogram. Matt Dobson talked about using it, along with other measurements, as a way to passively detect emotions. And I used a HRV device to track my stress at work.

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Make Advanced Self-Measurement More Accessible by Bob Evans

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From the Quantified Self Public Health Symposium

Why can’t everybody use advanced analytics to understand themselves? Bob Evans is the lead developer of PACO, an open source tool for supporting both individual discovery and large scale participatory research. Bob originally designed PACO as a personal project to get a better handle on how he felt at work by querying himself at random times during the day, a method known as “experience sampling.” PACO has grown and developed over time into a platform for experimentation used in over one thousand projects designed by researchers, companies, and individuals. Here, Bob shares some of his lessons about how and where the individual quest for self-discovery connects with large scale research. “The goal is to make it easier for researchers and individuals to experience their own lives, be scientists, and make their own experiments at will. The long tail of questions that people want to ask is very, very long.”

Watch Bob’s video on Medium.

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What We Are Reading

WWAR

Articles

This Scientist Is Turning Every Element In the Periodic Table Into Music by Jennifer Ouellette. We have seen Randy Sargent analyze his heart rate variability with a spectogram, a tool normally used for visualizing sound. This project is perhaps the inverse, turning the molecular structure of elements into audible tones. Surprisingly, “sonification” is becoming a useful analytical tool in materials science. Here’s the sound of silicon. -Steven

Building a Better Tracker: Older Consumers Weigh In On Activity and Sleep Monitoring Devices. (PDF) This study by the Georgia Home Lab that explored the value of self-tracking for people over 50. The researchers enrolled 92 participants and set them up with seven different activity trackers, then followed them for a six week period. While participants tended to believe that self-tracking could be valuable, most of them did not learn much of interest, and reason is telling: the lessons provided by the trackers were too general. “Participants who did not find the devices to be useful said that they wanted more data related to their specific conditions and that they wanted notification if the data indicated something of concern. More sensors relevant to health conditions was the most common suggestion for improvement.” -Gary

If You Want Life Insurance, Think Twice Before Getting A Genetic Test by Christina Farr and Cops are asking Ancestry.com and 23andMe for their customers’ DNA by Kashmir Hill. I’m filing both of these stories under “Ways your data can be used against you.” -Steven 

BMI Is A Terrible Measure Of Health: But we keep using it anyway by Katherine Hobson. It’s not news for me that BMI is a terrible metric. But if BMI is not a good proxy for health, what metric is out there that is better and as easy to measure? This article looks at mid-section measurements as a candidate. -Steven

Your Letters Helped Challenger Shuttle Engineer Shed 30 Years Of Guilt by Howard Berkes. This is a short piece, but it touches on themes of data-based arguments, courage, guilt, and self-forgiveness. -Steven

Show&Tell

Know Thy Cycle, Know Thyself by Ilyse Magy. Using the Fertility Awareness Method and Kindara, Ilyse diagnosed a previously unnoticed vitamin deficiency that had a huge effect on her wellbeing, as well as gained other important insights into cyclical dimensions of her health and wellbeing. ”Once I started charting, I was pretty amazed by what I was learning, but also kind of mad that no one had ever told me this stuff before.” -Gary

Why I Weighed My Whiskers by John Cousins. Inspired by an anecdote about a man’s beard growth while working on a remote island, Jon explores whether there is a relationship between his mood and facial hair. Yes, you read that right. -Steven

Stoic Self-Tracking by Alberto Frigo. One of the most consistently interesting chronicles of a self-tracking life is Morris Villarroel’s shadow of the stream, where he writes on his ongoing, multi-year life-logging projects, about which he’s given several excellent conference talks. But this week Morris turned over his blog to another deeply reflective self-tracker, the artist Alberto Frigo, whose self-tracking practice includes photographing everything he picks up in his right hand. In this post, Alberto revives an old word – operosity – in describing the worthy laboriousness of self-care. -Gary

Excerpt from Alberto’s piece:

On a bus from the Venice airport to the mountains where I am now restoring an abandoned barn to deposit my life-work, I was reading Seneca. I was reading it for different reasons; in the first place, it was what an old professor of mine  quoted when he decided to give up his inspiring career and retire to a small barn near the town the bus was passing. Secondly, reading Seneca was like a counter-reaction to all the Anglo-Saxon stuff one is forced to refer to in today’s humanities. Thirdly, Seneca has often been quite superficially pointed out as one of the first persons to quantify himself.

Basis Breakdown. This an interesting take on a weekly journal, combining Basis Peak stats with daily reflections. -Steven

Data Visualizations

 

LifeOfAmericans

A Day in the Life of Americans by Nathan Yau. This visualization is a timelapse showing how Americans spend their day, based on the Bureau of Labor’s American Time Use Study. It would like to see a similar visualization, but for a single person with each dot representing a different date. -Steven

 

Codeology

Codeology. This project takes code from github and represents them with an odd combination of 3D and ASCII text to create organic seeming shapes. After looking at a couple dozen of these, I wanted to see the shapes interact with each other. Arena fight, perhaps? -Steven

 

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The Potential for the Most Liberal Supreme Court in Decades by Alicia Parlapiano and Margo Sanger-Katz. This excellent visualization uses Martin-Quinn scores to show the ideological leanings of Supreme Court justices’ rulings by year. More importantly, by highlighting the relative liberal or conservatism of the justice who sits in the ideological median, it shows how the character of the court has shifted through the years. -Steven

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Ilyse Magy: Know Thy Cycle, Know Thyself

“My luteal phase went from 10 days to 16, which is a frickin’ Quantified Self miracle.”

In this great talk, Ilyse Magy describes how tracking her menstrual cycle with the Fertility Awareness Method and Kindara worked for more than birth control. Tracking her cycle helped her understand how it affects her emotional state, and led her to find out that she had a previously unnoticed vitamin deficiency.  ”Once I started charting, I was pretty amazed by what I was learning, but also kind of mad that no one had ever told me this stuff before.”

You can discuss this show&tell talk at the QS Forum.

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The Patient Voice by Heidi Dohse

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From the Quantified Self Public Health Symposium

Heidi Dohse has been a heart patient since 1983. As someone living with a pacemaker, “one of the best quantified self devices,” she’s deeply interested in understanding how patient-generated data can play a role in improving the treatment and diagnosis of heart conditions. And as a member of the steering committee of the Health eHeart Alliance, she’s intimately involved with bringing not only patient data but the patient voice into the research environment through the Health eHeart Study. Currently, there are over 20,000 patients signed up to share their data with the study. “It’s not quite a million yet, but we’re going to get there.”

Watch Heidi’s video on Medium.

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Friends in High Places

Can’t resist just posting this photo from our friend Dana Lewis, taken today at the White House. She’s holding up her DIY artificial pancreas system as her fellow #wearenotwaiting activist Howard Look talks data access with – yes, that’s him – President Barack Obama.

 

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For more on Dana, Howard, and the movement to build a new ecosystem for diabetes care, see the links below:

Diabetes Data for All: Interview with Howard Look

DIY Diabetes: Interview with Dana Lewis and Scott Leibrand

Explaining Nightscout by Lane Desborough

 

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Participants at the Center by Michael Kellen

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From the Public Health Symposium

The promise of Apple’s Research Kit is that everybody can contribute to medical research. But what does this really mean? Michael Kellen is the Director of Technology at Sage Bionetworks, and was closely involved in the development of two of the four research apps that launched with Research Kit: The Parkinson Disease mPower app and Share the Journey, a breast cancer survivors research app. We asked Michael to give us early word about what was involved in opening up a platform for large-scale research participation.

Watch Michael’s talk on Medium.

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Jon Cousins: Why I Weighed My Whiskers

Jon Cousins has given wonderful show&tell talks on mood tracking. Like most methods for measuring mood, his process involves a subjective assessment of his well being. But what if there was a physical measurement related to mood that doesn’t involve blood work?

Inspired by an anecdote about a man’s beard growth while working on a remote island, Jon explores whether there is a relationship between his mood and facial hair. Yes, you read that right.

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Explaining Nightscout by Lane Desborough

Today the New York Times published a fantastic story by Peter Andrey Smith about the Nightscout and OpenAPS projects: A Do-It-Yourself Revolution in Diabetes Care. People with diabetes and parents of kids with diabetes are self-tracking by necessity, and we’ve learned a lot from their talks about their projects at QS meetings and conferences. Their impact is growing. Reading Smith’s story inspired me to repost a talk by Nightscout pioneer Lane Desborough, along with links to additional people and resources that didn’t make it into the Times story.


Nightscout, which Lane describes in this wonderful talk, allows people with people with diabetes and parents of kids with diabetes the see real time data from a blood glucose monitor on a mobile device. While similar efforts are underway among manufacturers, leadership is coming from patients and caregivers.

The quality and commitment here can inspire anybody who is thinking about how QS tools fit into new forms of knowledge and cooperation. The projects Lane discusses in this talk have continued to grow and evolve. Supported by a remarkable group of activists and a technically expert community made up mainly of people with diabetes and parents of kids with diabetes, contributors to these projects have created a suite of tools that can dramatically improve self-care.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago I saw this tweet from Howard Look, founder of Tidepool:

Did you know that people with diabetes have been building their own artificial pancreas systems? Read more about Nightscout, the Open Artificial Pancreas System, and related projects at these links:

Dana Lewis on the Open Artificial Pancreas System

Background on the #OpenAPS Project

Tidepool: A platform for diabetes data and the apps that use it

Nightscout project on Facebook

#WeAreNotWaiting on Twitter

 

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What We Are Reading

WWAR

Articles

DNA Got a Kid Kicked Out of School—And It’ll Happen Again by Sarah Zhang. This a potent example of the unexpected ways that genetic information can be used against someone. We’ve already seen how 23andMe data can be used for nefarious ends. In this case, it’s a child who was transferred from his school as if he has cystic fibrosis, but only has the genetic markers for the disease. A set of norms or rights around personal data (and genetic information, in particular) has barely been established, so it will be interesting to see how many similar incidents we will see. What’s tricky is that neither side is acting irrationally. At heart is this question: How do you manage risk when a person’s DNA is part of the equation? -Steven

When Wearable Makers Shut Down, Getting Your Data Isn’t Always Easy by Stephanie M. Lee. San Francisco QS Show&Tell co-organizer Greg Schwartz is quoted in this Buzzfeed story about the recent shutdown of BodyMedia servers and bricking of the devices. In January Greg posted a how-to video users who still wanted to get their data, but this only worked until the servers were taken offline on January 31, 2016 Article author Stephanie M. Lee talked a bit about the defunct QS companies Lark, and Zeo. The Zeo shutdown sparked a record thread on the QS Forum where users still trade tips to keep instances of this late, lamented sleep tracker in action. -Gary

Working memory training could help beat anxiety by Christian Jarrett. Dual n-back tests have been championed as a brain game that actually works since a 2008 study showed that the exercise improved fluid intelligence (i.e., IQ). Those results have since been in dispute, but a new study cautiously supports the idea that dual n-back, by improving working memory, may also lessen anxiety symptoms. -Steven

Graphing When Your Facebook Friends Are Awake by Alex. There are at least five reasons to love this post about building graphs of Facebook Friends’ awake/asleep time: a surprising revelation of hidden system, uh, features; a “procedural” on hacking them that is basically comprehensible even if – like me – you don’t understand all the details; a useful general lesson about public exposure of personal data from seemingly friendly and low level status tracking; a hilarious stream-of-consciousness narrative that tries, half-successfully, to answer the question “why;” and, for all of us who have ever tried to do something meaningful with our own data, the comforting admission that the real trouble started when it came time to make a graph. Really a great post that this preview doesn’t do justice, so go read it. -Gary

This Canadian Lab Spent 20 Years Ruining Lives by Tess Owen. As much as it’s claimed that there’s a fair amount of skepticism of science, especially in the United States, there is no doubt that it carries authority in legal matters. This article shows the damage that can happen when seemingly rigorous test procedures and results are accepted without scrutiny. It’s especially galling to see how sloppy commercial testing procedures can become, and how dangerous it is to assume that professional measurement is more reliable than personal measurement, human dialog, and common sense. -Steven

Give Up Your Data to Cure Disease by David B. Agus. Another article on the opportunities and pitfalls of making medical records available for health research. While this opinion piece argues for the value of the opportunities, it makes clear that we need better data security practices to ensure that health information is used for the greater good, rather than used against individual patients. However, nowhere is the point made that research subjects can play an active role in investigating disease and making new discoveries. -Steven

 

Show&Tell

 

MarkWilsonInbox

Three Years of Logging my Inbox by Mark Wilson. The number of emails in Mark’s inbox correlates very well with his stress level. After passively tracking his email for three years, Mark explores how his inbox count reflects his stress level and influences his sense of self. -Steven

 

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Measuring My Indoor Environment: Indoor Quality and Water Quality by Bob Troia. The first two parts in a multi-part series, Bob shows the tools and measurements he’s using to understand the quality of his living space. -Steven

 

 

ManiacWeek

Maniac Weeks for Extreme Productivity by Bethany Soule. A “maniac week” (coined by Nick Winter) is spent doing nothing but working and sleeping while documenting your face and screen with a time-lapse video. Bethany talks about her successes, failures, and side effects of this level of extremism. -Steven

 

 

Data Visualizations

 

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This Chart Shows Who Marries CEOs, Doctors, Chefs and Janitors by Adam Pearce and Dorothy Gambrell. With data from the U.S. Census Bureau, this interactive chart allows you to select a profession and see the five most likeliest occupations of the partner. It will also show whether if the partner is more likely a member of one sex or the other. Refreshing to see that it represents same-sex partnerships as well. -Steven

 

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How China’s economic slowdown could weigh on the rest of the world by Carlo Zapponi, Seán Clarke, Helena Bengtsson, Troy Griggs and Phillip Inman. The interconnectedness of global economies can be difficult to wrap your head around, but this series of visualizations from the Guardian do a good job of illustrating which economies’ rely on exports to China, and how much they are exposed to a downturn in the world’s second biggest economy. -Steven

 

Projects

Música hecha con el corazon. A website where you tap your current heart rate and it finds a song that matches the beat. The site is in Spanish but is easy enough to figure out. Just put one finger on the artery in your neck and click in the circle in time with your pulse. -Steven

The Chart Book: An Overview of Standard Celeration Chart Conventions and Practices. Owen R. White, Malcolm D. Neely. This pdf covers how to use a Celeration chart. Used for the assessment of students by teachers, this chart template aspires to be flexible enough to chart data clearly no matter the scale. It would be interesting to see this used for personal data. Thanks to Ryan O’Donnell. -Steven

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