Tag Archives: technology

Ulrich Atz on Tracking on Paper

“If I look at this, I have these memories, and I remember this was a good year.”

Collect it and forget it. This could be be hidden mantra of many people engaged with self-tracking, myself included. I will readily admit to buying a device or application with the hope that I can collect enough information to generate a grand insight at some mythical point in the future where the intersection of free time, analytical knowledge, and sample size magically coalesce. Ulrich Atz encountered the same problem. He was tracking, but soon lost sight of the purpose. Rather than giving up he started a new tracking project.

Ulrich started by building on the popular habit and tracking theory, Don’t Break the Chain, based on consistency in behaviors you care about. He identified six major categories he wanted to understand and pay attention to: his evening ritual, fitness, nutrition, learning, sleep, and travel. Rather than using an passive tracking system like Foursquare of Sleep Cycle, he decided to keep track of it by writing on a large wall calendar. In this presentation, given at the London QS meetup group, Ulrich describes his methods and what he learned from this year-long process.

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Charles Wang on Mindfulness, Technology, and Me

Charles Wang is one of the co-founders of Lumo BodyTech, the makers of the LUMOback posture sensor. When he’s not building new self-tracking tools, he’s taking a some time to watch the world around him. Watch this great Ignite talk from Charles to hear about his observations and how they apply to his long-term posture tracking.

We’ll be posting videos from our 2013 Global Conference during the next few months. If you’d like see talks like this in person we invite you to join us in Amsterdam for our 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference on May 10 and 11th.

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QS 101: It is Not About the Tools

There has been an exponential rise in the number of people talking and writing about Quantified Self. Some call it a movement, some call it “the next big thing.” In most, if not all cases, there is a an overwhelming emphasis on the role of technology. Be it new sensor systems, applications, or analytical tools, there is an interesting need to equate Quantified Self with technology. It should come as no surprise then that when people start asking me about Quantified Self one of the first questions I hear is, “What device should I buy?” or “What is the killer app/tool/service for QS?” Maybe this is something you’re asking yourself so let’s talk a little bit about how tools fit into the Quantified Self experience.

Think about the last home improvement project you started. Whether it was fixing a leaky faucet or replacing your carpet you most likely went about your work in a simple step-wise fashion: 1) Identify the problem, 2) Examine possible solutions, 3) Identify the most appropriate solution, 4) Gather the right tools to implement the solution, and then 5) Fix the problem. Tools don’t come in to equation until late in the game. I think the same can be said for your self-tracking or self-experiment. The tool is not the piece that defines what you should be tracking or what experiment you should run. It is merely there to help you gather information that is necessary to produce a new piece of knowledge. And that is the point of this whole endeavor – creating new knowledge. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked because in most cases knowledge isn’t as sexy as a new shiny wireless device.

So if tools are not the end-game here, what is? Let’s take a quick look at the Three Prime Questions:

  1. What did you do?
  2. How did you do it?
  3. What did you learn?

Those three simple questions are great guiding principle for Quantified Self and your own personal self-experimentation. You’ll notice that technology isn’t mentioned in our methodology (what some consider to be a simplified scientific method). In fact, the most important aspect of this methodology, and where we recommend you start your self-experimentation journey, is the last question: What did you learn? Perhaps it is better to phrase it this way, “What do you want to learn?” What is the question that has been nagging you lately. What lifehack, productivity secret, or health tip have you come across and wondered. “Is that true?” or “Will that work for me?” This is where all good experiments start. Whether it is a million dollar experiment in a renowned university lab or a personal experiment that starts in your kitchen, the production of new knowledge starts with a good question. 

Only after you’ve identified and refined your question should you begin to look into tools that will help you produce the information that helps you develop the understanding that may lead to an answer. You may even want to develop a methodology or experimental plan before identifying what tools works best for you. In any case, keep in mind that the goal of self-experimentation, of Quantified Self, is to produce and share new knowledge.

 

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