Tag Archives: spreadsheets

QS15 Conference Preview: Katie McCurdy on Symptom Tracking with Spreadsheets

On June 18-20 we’ll be hosting the QS15 Conference & Activate Expo in San Francisco at  the beautiful facilities at the Fort Mason Center. This will be a very special year with three days of inspiring talks, demos, and discussion with your fellow self-trackers and toolmakers. As we start to fill out our program we’ll be highlighting speakers, sponsors, and attendees here. 

katie-mccurdyKatie McCurdy is a UX Designer and Researcher living in Burlington, VT. She also happens to have a few autoimmune diseases, and for the past few years she’s been fortunate to be able to focus her UX practice on healthcare. She is especially excited about helping patients communicate better with their healthcare providers, and she’s always experimenting with new and better ways of telling stories. A few years ago she created a visual timeline of her symptoms in an effort to tell a more concise and illustrative story to a new doctor. (It worked.) More recently, she’s been tracking symptoms in a spreadsheet in an effort to maintain control over them. Katie currently works with Open mHealth and the start-up Notabli.

Katie will be sharing her self-tracking story as part of our show&tell program, where attendees share their first-person accounts of what they’ve learned through self-tracking. Katie has been tracking her symptoms, medication doses, and other important health-related things in a giant spreadsheet for a year and a half. She call’s it her “Spreadsheet from Hell.”


In her talk, Katie will share insights that she’s learned from working with her spreadsheet including but not limited to: how she realized that she had chemical sensitivities; how she kept up with tracking for so long; how she got lazy and started entering incorrect data; and what she learned about her periods. We’re excited to have Katie joining us and asked her a few questions about herself and what she’s looking forward to at the conference.

QS: What is your favorite self-tracking tool (device, service, app, etc)?

Katie: Right now, I’m still using a spreadsheet most of the time for symptoms and related life things. It’s not my favorite, but it’s flexible and so far it’s the one I’ve been able to stick with the longest. I do keep Moves and Breeze on in the background on my phone at all times.

QS: What are you most looking forward to at the conference?

Katie: I’m looking forward to meeting and talking with the awesome people at the conference. I love the spirit of openness and experimentation in the QS community. I’m also looking forward to seeing what other people are learning about their health through tracking.

QS: What should people come talk to you about at the conference?

Katie: I’d love to speak with anyone who is interested in how health tracking can help with chronic illness. I’ve tracked symptoms and triggers on and off for about 3 years, and have learned some things that have helped me modify my behavior. I also have an interest in bringing health tracking data into a clinical setting and making it more useful for doctors and patients; that’s what I’m doing professionally with Open mHealth.

QS: What tools, devices, or apps do you want to see at the conference?

Katie: Anything that makes it easier for patients to gather data, and anything that makes it easier to make sense of data sets (heath or otherwise.)

QS: What topic do you think that Quantified Self community is not talking enough about?

Katie: I think it’s good to keep in mind that for most people, manual data tracking over long time periods is not very feasible – it’s just too hard. This is especially important for app developers to understand; even though the resulting data may be really useful, tracking is hard work. I personally have a love-hate relationship with it. I hope that the move to more passive data collection could result in more seamless data capture.

Katie’s session is just one of the many hands-on, up-to-date, expertly moderated sessions we’re planning for the QS15 Global Conference and Exposition. Register here!

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Greg Kroleski: Six Years of Tracking My Time

Greg Kroleski has been tracking his time for the past six years, starting when he was 20-years old. Using a spreadsheet he designed himself he collects how much time he spends in eight different categories: Survival, Labor, Social, Spiritual, Mind, Expression, Body, and Distraction. In this talk, presented at the San Francisco QS meetup group, Greg describes the data he’s collected and what he’s learned about where his time goes. If you’re interested in applying his tracking methodology he’s graciously put his spreadsheet template online here.

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What We Are Reading

We had a lot of fun putting together this week’s list. Enjoy!

A Spreadsheet Way of Knowledge by Steven Levy. A few weeks ago we noted that it was the 35th anniversary of the digital spreadsheet. Steven Levy noticed too and dug up this piece he wrote for Harpers in 1984. If you read nothing else today, read this. First, because we should know where our tools come from, their history and inventors. And second, but not last nor least, because it has wonderful quotes like this:

“The spreadsheet is a tool, and it is also a world view — reality by the numbers.”

The Ethics of Experimenting on Yourself by Amy Dockser Markus. With new companies cropping up to help individuals collect and share their personal data there has been an increased interest in citizen science. A short piece here at the Wall Street Journal lays the groundwork for what may become a contentious debate between the old vanguards of the scientific institution and the companies and citizens pushing the envelope. (The article is behind a paywall, but we’ve archived it here.)

Better All The Time by James Surowiecki. I started reading this thinking it would be another good piece about the digitization of sport performance and training, and it was, but only partly. What begins with sports turns into a fascinating look at how we are succeeding, and in some cases failing, to improve.

Article 29 Data Protection Working Party: Opinion 8/2014 on the Recent Developments on the Internet of Things. Do not let the obscure boring title fool you, this is an important document, especially if you’re interested in personal data, data privacy, and data protection rights. Most interesting to me was the summary of six challenges facing IoT data privacy and protection. I’m also left wondering if other countries may follow the precedents possibly set by this EU Working Party.

30 Little-Known Features of the Health and Fitness Apps You Use Every Day by Ash Read / AddApp. Our friends at AddApp.io put together a great list of neat things you may or may not know you can do with various health and fitness apps.

Man Uses Twitter to Augment his Damaged Memory by John Paul Tiltow. Wonderful piece here about Thomas Dixon, who uses Twitter to help document his life after suffering a traumatic brain injury that severely diminished his episodic memory. What makes it more interesting is that it’s not just a journal, but also a source of inspiration for personal data analysis:

”Sometimes if I have like an hour, I’ll be like ‘How’s the last week been?’“ Dixon says. ”I’ll look at the past week and I’ll go, ‘Oh, okay. I really do want to get a run in.’ So I will use it to influence certain decisions.”

Patients and Data – Changing roles and relationships by David Gilbert and Mark Doughty. Another nice article about the ever-changing landscape that is the patient/provide/insurer ecosystem.

The Quantified Anatomy of a Paper by Mohammed AlQuaraishi. Mohammed is a Systems Biology Fellow at Harvard Medical School, and he’s an avid self-tracker. In this post he lays out what he’s learned through tracking the life of a successful project, a journal publication (read it here), and how he’s applying what he learned to another project.

Calories In, Calories Out by (author unknown). A fascinating post about modeling weight reduction over time and testing to see if said model actually matches up with recorded weight. Not all math and formulas here though,

“I learned several interesting things from this experiment.  I learned that it is really hard to accurately measure calories consumed, even if you are trying.  (Look at the box and think about this the next time you pour a bowl of cereal, for example.)  I learned that a chicken thigh loses over 40% of its weight from grilling.  And I learned that, somewhat sadly, mathematical curiosity can be an even greater motivation than self-interest in personal health.”

Fitness Tracker on a Cat – Java’s Story by Pearce H. Delphin. A delightful post here about tracking and learning about a cat’s behavior by making it wear at Fitbit. Who said QS has to be serious all the time?!

100 Days of Quantified Self by Matt Yancey. Matt downloaded his Fitbit Flex data using our data export how-to then set out analyzing and visualizing the data. Make sure to click through for the full visualization.

IAMI by Ligoranoreese. If you’re in San Francisco consider stoping by the Catherine Clark Gallery for this interesting exhibit. The duo, Ligoranoreese, created woven fiber optic artwork based on Fitbit data.

List of Physical Visualizations. I can’t say it any better than Mortiz Stefaner: “Remember that epic list of data sculptures and physical data visualizations? Well, it became more epic.

From the Forum
Anyone have a good way to aggregate and visualize data?
Questions about personal health tracking
Hello QS
Call for Papers: special issue of JBHI on Sensor Informatics
Sleep Tracking Device – BodyEcho


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Michael Cohn on Tracking Commitment

Like many of us, Michael Cohn had a hard time “rationally regulating” his behavior. Even as a psychology researcher at UCSF, he was falling victim to procrastination and time wasting. He started exploring “irrationally regulating” his behavior by stating personal commitment contacts then using self-tracking via spreadsheets to understand how he spends his time and his progress on different personal commitments. In this talk, presented at teh Bay Area QS meetup group, he explains his history, his use of tracking, and what happens when he falters.

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