Tag Archives: Recap
This weekend we’re hosting over 275 wonderful people at the 2013 Quantified Self European Conference. So far it’s been an amazing gathering chock full on interesting talks, great conversations, and thoughtful discussion. There’s too much happening to properly summarize it all here, but we thought we’ld give you a little tast of what’s going on.
In collaboration with Fast Moving Targets a few of our conference attendees have been able to share their self-tracking stories and why they’re here.
Make sure to follow along with what’s going on by checking on the very active conference Twitter stream here.
This guest post comes to us from QS Los Angeles member, Mark Krynsky.
I went to the Los Angeles Quantified Self Meetup meeting on March 7th and had a fantastic time meeting like-minded people that are all willing to experiment and share their experiences. The meetup was held at the artisanal engineering studios of the Two Bit Circus located in the eclectic Brewery Art Colony. This made for a really great venue.
The first speaker was Brent Bushnell who is the Circus ring leader. He walked us through a project his team worked on for the Extreme Makeover Home Edition where they built a relaxation chair for a veteran that suffered from PTSD. They used sensors to track his biometrics to help identify when he may be susceptible to trauma. When certain thresholds were met based on his heart rate the soldier would sit in the chair which would then play soothing sounds and had an aroma therapy device.
QS Boston Meetup #5 was held on Wednesday on the topic “The Science of Sleep,” a subject that comes up here regularly. The event was major success and, to my mind, demonstrated powerfully the potential of the self-experimentation movement and the exceptional people making it happen. Here is a brief recap of the evening, with my comments on what was discussed. A big thanks to Zeo for their generous support of the meeting, QS Boston leader Michael Nagle, and sprout for hosting the event.
Experiment-in-action: A participatory Zeo sleep trial
Michael put the theme into action uniquely by arranging for a free 30-day trial of Zeo sleep sensors to any members who were interested in experimenting with it and willing to give a short presentation about their results. Over a dozen people participated, and the talks were a treat that stimulated lots of discussion. I thought this was an excellent use of the impressive members of this community, as the talks demonstrated.
Zeo research scientist Steve Fabregas kicked off the meetup by explaining the complex mechanisms of sleep, and the challenges of creating a consumer tool that balances invasiveness, fidelity, and ease of use. He talked about Zeo’s initial focus (managing Sleep inertia by waking you up strategically), which – in prime startup fashion – developed into the final product. Steve also gave a rundown of the device’s performance, including the neural network-based algorithm that infers sleep states from the noisy raw data, something he said that even humans have trouble with. There were lots of questions afterward, including about their API and variations in data based on age and gender. All in all, a great talk.
Sanjiv started out the sleep trial presentations with a lively talk about the many experiments he’s done to improve his sleep, including a pitch-black room, ear plugs, and no alcohol or caffeine. But the biggest surprise (to him and us) was his discovery of how a particular color of yellow glasses, worn three hours before bed, helped his sleep dramatically. This is apparently based on research into the sleep-disturbing frequencies of artificial light. He shared how wearing these also helped reduce jet lag. The talk was a hit, with folks clamoring to know where to get the glasses. I found this page helpful in understanding the science. (An aside: If you’re interested in trying these out in a group experiment, please let me know. I am definitely going to test them.)
Adriel studied the impact on weather and his sleep (via the Zeo’s calculated ZQ) by recording things like temperature, dew point, and air pressure. He concluded that there’s a possible connection between sleep and changes in those measures, but he said he needs more time and data. Audience questions were about measuring inside vs. outside conditions, sunrise and sunset times, and cloudiness.
Susan tested the effect of colored lights (green and purple) on sleep. Her conclusion was that there was no impact. As a surprise, though, she made a discovery about a the side-effects of a particular medication: none! This is a fine example of what I call the serendipity of experimentation.
Eric tried a novel application of the Zeo: Testing it during the day. His surprise: The device mistakenly thought he was asleep a good portion of his day. He got chuckles reflecting on Matrix-like metaphysical implications, such as “Am I really awake?” and “Am I a bizarre case?” His results kicked off a useful discussion about the Zeo’s algorithms and the difficulty of inferring state. Essentially, the device’s programming is trained on a particular set of individuals’ data, and is designed to be used at night. Fortunately, the consensus was that Eric is not abnormal.
Jacqueline finished up the participatory talks with her experiment to test whether she can sleep anywhere. Her baseline was two weeks sleeping in her bed, followed by couch then floor sleep. Her conclusion was that her sleep venue didn’t seem to matter. One reason I liked Jacqueline’s experiment is that, like many experiments, surprises are so rich and satisfying. Think bread mould. She said more data was needed, along with more controls. Sadly, she wondered whether her expensive mattress was worth it. Look for it on eBay.
Matt Bianchi, a sleep doctor at Mass General, finished out the meetup with a discussion of the science and practice of researching sleep. Pictures and a description of what what a sleep lab is like brought home the point that what is measured there is not “normal” sleep: 40 minutes of setup and attaching electrodes, 200′ of wires, and constant video and audio monitoring make for a novel $2,000 night. He said these labs give valuable information about disorders like sleep apnea, and at the same time, what matters at the end of the day is finding something that works for individuals. Given the multitude of contributing factors (he listed over a dozen, like medications, health, stress, anxiety, caffeine, exercise, sex, and light), trying things out for yourself is crucial. He also talked about the difficulties of measuring sleep, for example the unreliability of self-reported information. This made me wonder about the limitations of what we can realistically monitor about ourselves. Clearly tools like Zeo can play an important role. Questions to him included how to be a wake more (a member said “I’m willing to be tired, but not to die sooner,”) to which he replied that the number of hours of sleep each of us needs varies widely. (The eight hour guideline is apparently “junk.”)
Matt’s talk brought up a discussion around the relative value of exploring small effects. The thought is that we should look for simple changes that have big results, i.e., the low hanging fruit. A heuristic suggested was if, after 5-10 days, you’re not seeing a result, then move on to something else. A related rule might be that the more subtle the data, the more data points you need. I’d love to have a discussion about that idea, because some things require more time to manifest. (I explored some of this in my post Designing good experiments: Some mistakes and lessons.)
Finally, Matt highlighted the importance of self-experimentation. The point was that large trials result in learning what works for groups of people, but the ultimate test is what works for us individually. (He called this “individualizing medicine.”) This struck a chord in me, because the enormous potential of personal experimenting is exactly what’s so exciting about the work we’re all doing here. All in all, a great meetup.
[Image courtesy of Keith Simmons]
(Matt is a terminally-curious ex-NASA engineer and avid self-experimenter. His projects include developing the Think, Try, Learn philosophy, creating the Edison experimenter’s journal, and writing at his blog, The Experiment-Driven Life. Give him a holler at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last week the first Quantified Self Meetup took place in Brussels, there were some earlier events, but those didn’t include as much speakers as it did now. So this is the first official one with a recap!
I also had the honor to start as the first speaker and my talk was about data-portability and my own small experiments. I showed several experiments and my own system for collecting data. It’s was my first talk ever related to QS and I got some great feedback!
Then Matthew Cornell gave a talk about his system Edison trough Skype. The system looks nice for people who want to get started with self-tracking. And he offered some prizes for the most creative use of Edison. I managed to tape the last two presentations from Candide Kemmler and Ben Senior and embedded them below:
After about 5 months from the first meetup in Amsterdam, we organized the second meetup. The venue changed from het Volkskrant gebouw to Mediamatic which also sponsored us the venue! I have to add that Mediamatic is a awesome location for QS Meetups. They had an exhibition about early computers and consoles which perfectly fits to the QS mood. Ten minutes before the start, people started to arrive and just before we started we could count more then eighty people!
After a short introduction by Maarten den Braber; Glenn Wolters and Jeroen Bos from Lifelapse took the stage. They started with a short movie about their project which was created as an invention during their semesters at school. They’ve build an iPhone app which let’s you take a picture every 30 seconds and publish it as a movie. I’ve beta tested their app and find it awesome for capturing events like these meetups!
Second to take the stage was Tim van den Dool who talked about his ongoing project Livind(Asssisted Daily Living). The system monitors elderly people in a non-invasive way to watch for accidents or other irregular things. If something happens, parents or caretakers are remotely notified trough SMS or a beeper. He also talked about the growth of the project and how much expectations tend to be different from reality.
Just before the break Denis Harscoat, founder of Quantter and co-organizer of QS London talked about his start-up and showed how it works by letting people quantt trough Twitter. An interesting discussion started about public/private tracking and there was lots of good feedback!
After a 10 minute break we are being shown the fun side of the Quantified Self when Leonieke and Willempje talk about figurerunning. With apps like Runkeeper they try to draw figures on maps, both succesfull drawings as well as hilarious failures are being shown and there is lots of laughing in the audience! Try it out yourself, and realize it is not as easy as it sounds, if you succeed you may even end up in the half of fame!
James Burke gave a short talk about his ongoing project about memories and coins the sentence: Life as a software CVS. He ponders about a system that could be used as a memory and provides food for thought in a more philosophical way.
The last speaker Ben Blench talked about tracking his infant and more specifically the tools he used. He made in interesting comparison between digital and analog and noticed that most digital things have too much functions and lack flexibility. Meanwhile, paper supports fuzziness of data but has less methods of quantification. His talk in combination with some funny pictures completes the session and we take the discussion to the bar!
The second Quantified Self meetup in Amsterdam was awesome! We hope to organize another meetup just before the QS Conference! Again thanks to Sebastiaan ter Burg, who happily provided us with photos. And the videos will be online this weekend! We hope to see you next time!