Tag Archives: Sara Riggare
In three months we’ll be gathering again in Amsterdam for our third Quantified Self Europe Conference. Since 2011 we’ve seen this event grow into an amazing experience. We spend a lot of time working with attendees to find those special projects and experiments that show the diversity of the self-tracking experience. We’ve been honored to have worked with over 100 different attendees to bring outstanding presentations, breakout discussions, and interactive experiences.
I wanted to share one of those attendees with you today. Sara Riggare is an engineer, graduate student, and mother. She also has Parkinson’s Disease. We first met Sara at our first European Conference in 2011 where she gave an inspiring talk about how she uses self-tracking to monitor her movement and symptom progression. We were happy to welcome her again in 2013 where she shared her insights and experience with tracking how her medication impacted her movement throughout the day and how that enabled her to have more meaningful conversations with her healthcare team.
We could stop here and tell you how excited we are to have Sara attending the upcoming Quantified Self Europe Conference, but I want to share one more story with you. We are constantly telling people how our conferences are an opportunity to share and learn from each other. We love hearing stories about someone being inspired by what they saw. After Sara spoke about her experience in 2011 she met Caspar Addyman, a psychologist and researcher, and they started exploring their shared interests and expertise. Sharing quickly turned into collaboration and a successfully funded research project in the UK, which they shared in a short talk at the 2013 conference.
Lucky for us, Sara hasn’t stopped exploring her personal quantified self experience. Just this past September Sara was in the Bay Area and shared her current tracking progress and the tools she’s using:
We’re happy to have Sara as part of our community in Europe and we’re looking forward to what we’ll learn from her in May. We hope you’ll join us in Amsterdam to meet Sara and the other self-trackers, toolmakers, and researchers that make up our wonderful community. Registration is open now.
In the fall of 2011 we hosted our first European Quantified Self Conference. It was a fantastic time and we came away with new ideas, and the pleasure of bringing together a great group of individuals interested in self-tracking and self-knowledge. We see a lot of relationships form and blossom as a result of the bringing like-minded people together for few days of intimate sharing and conversation. With our the 2013 Quantified Self Global Conference on the horizon we wanted to highlight one of those relationships.
Sara Riggare is a QS meetup organizer (Stockholm), PhD student, and Parkinson’s patient. At the 2011 QS Europe conference she met Caspar Addyman, a psychologist and researcher. Together they’ve partnered on a few projects to create self-tracking tools for the Parkinson’s community. Watch their Ignite presentation at the 2013 QS Europe Conference to learn more:
Make sure to register for our 2013 Quantified Self Global Conference. We hope to see you there!
The second QS European 2013 Conference is coming up. We run our QS global meetings as “carefully curated unconferences,” meaning that we make the program out of ideas and suggestions from the registrants, with a lot of thoughtful back-and-forth in advance. We’re starting to get the point where we can give previews of the talks we’ll have in Amsterdam in May. Today we’re happy to share a preview from Sara Riggare.
Sara was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2003 when she was just 32. Parkinson’s is usually diagnosed later in life. After learning she had Parkinson’s, Sara used her engineering and passion for measurement to better understand her disease.
Our QS Conferences are organized to maximize discovery and serendipity. The entire program results from us inviting attendees to present and participate. You’re never quite sure what you’ll get, but it’s hardly ever boring! I didn’t know what to expect when Caspar Addyman took the stage in Amsterdam to talk about “Tracking your brain on booze”, but he very quickly grabbed my attention. His talk reminded me that, as Malcolm Gladwell once reported, “How much people drink may matter less than how they drink it.”
Q: How do you describe Boozerlyzer? What is it?
Addyman: The Boozerlyzer is a drinks-tracking app for Android phones. It lets you count your drinks and their calories and tells you your current blood alcohol. Crucially, it also lets you record your mood and play a range of simple games that measure your coordination, reaction time, memory and judgment.
What Boozerlyzer explicitly does not do is tell people how much to drink. We think people would find it patronizing and off-putting. Rather we hope that it will help people get better insight into how drinking affects them.
In addition, if users agree, their data is sent to our servers to contribute to our research on how drink affects people. I’m a researcher with the Center for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck College, University of London, and this project was started as a way to collect data beyond the artificial setting of a laboratory.
Addyman: I originally had the idea back in 2003 while doing my undergraduate psychology degree. I was interested in how to study the affects of recreational drugs. The web technology of the time couldn’t be used when people were out at the pub or club so I didn’t pursue it.
In summer of 2010 I took part in a science & technology hack day in London and the idea occurred to me again, this time using smartphones. So I told a few friends about it. Mark Carrigan, a sociologist at Warwick University, opened my eyes to the more sociological types of data that we could gather. This broadened the aims from my initial very cognitive focus to think about the emotional and social experiences involved with drugs and alcohol. That was at the end of 2010. All that remained then was to invent the app. I’m not really a developer and have been working on this in my spare time so it has taken longer than I’d expected.
Q: What impact has it had? What have you heard from users?
Addyman: I have been using the app myself for 6 months now and the thing that has surprised me the most is how rapidly the drinks accumulate if I’m out with friends. A few drinks early in an evening, then a couple of glasses of wine with a meal and then more drinks all through the night. Over a particularly sociable weekend I find myself drinking a disturbing amount even though it doesn’t seem that way at the time.
We started our first public beta in December 2011 and have a hundred or so users. I still have to analyse the first batch of data and usage statistics. But, a first look at the data from December and January showed something surprising: the Christmas season seems to ratchet up drinking levels, normalising heavy drinking on into January. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve got enough data to tell if this is real trend.
In terms of direct feedback from users, generally, we’ve had positive reaction to the idea but there are plenty of things we can improve. One of the biggest problems with the enterprise is that our users forget to actually use the app when in the bar, or when they’ve stopped drinking. Also, people are willing to track their drinks and their mood as they go along, as that takes very little time. But at the moment the games take a little too long to play, and the game feedback is a bit too abstract. We aren’t yet giving estimates of drunkeness based on game performance. Here we are in a bit of Catch 22: more compelling feedback ought to be possible once we’ve got a reasonable base set of group data to run some regression analysis but without interesting feedback we have trouble getting people to play the game in the first place.
Q: What makes it different, sets it apart?
Addyman: One big difference between our app and many tools in the personal health world is that our focus is not on behavior change, but instead on data for scientific research and self-learning.
Also, this is an academic, non-commercial project. Our app will always be free. We will never collected any data that could directly identify you nor will we sell any of the data we collect. We believe in open systems, open data and open minds. The code we write is open sourced. The data we collect will be available to anyone that wants to study it.
Q: What are you doing next? How do you see Boozerlyzer evolving?
Addyman: The Boozerlyzer is our first app and there are still plenty of improvements to make to it. But, in addition, we want to broaden our scope and apply the same principle to recreational drugs and the effects of various medications.
As an example, I met Sara Riggare Sara Riggare from the Parkinson’s Movement at the Amsterdam QS conference. She pointed out that a version of Boozerlyzer could help Parkinson’s patients track their medication intake and quantify the effects of the medications on mood, coordination, memory, etc. We are starting a collaboration to redesign the app for this purpose.
Meanwhile, my own motivation for starting this project was always to be able to do better research into recreational drugs. This has never been a more pressing concern, and I am hoping that a drugs tracker app can help. Obviously, this is fraught with legal and ethical difficulties so we are having to tread carefully. See here and here for more background on this.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
Addyman: We have already benefited greatly from our contact with QS community. The conference was a great inspiration and I wish could get to more of the lively London meet ups. If anyone out there would like to get involved with our project, we’d love to hear from you. Any advice or experience you could lend us would be greatly appreciated. Our project is both open source and open science. We believe in the power of collaboration and so would love to hear from anyone with similar projects in mind.
This is the 12th post in the “Toolmaker Talks” series. The QS blog features intrepid self-quantifiers and their stories: what did they do? how did they do it? and what have they learned? In Toolmaker Talks we hear from QS enablers, those observing this QS activity and developing self-quantifying tools: what needs have they observed? what tools have they developed in response? and what have they learned from users’ experiences? If you are a “toolmaker” and want to participate in this series, contact Rajiv Mehta at email@example.com.