Topic Archives: Conference

Why Quantified Self Show&Talks are Amazing

I have had the esteemed pleasure for the last couple of years of helping speakers at Quantified Self conferences put together their talks. It’s a lot of work for me, but more so for the speakers. At the QS15 Conference last month in San Francisco, I took the opportunity to not only express my appreciation for our speakers’ effort, but to also speak to why the act of sharing your own personal data experience is so important and has historical precedent.

Below is a video of the speech along with the prepared remarks:

My role at the conference is to help our speakers put together their show&tell talks. For every speaker, we have a forty-five minute discussion to go over their talk.

It’s a role I relish because I get to see the process that people go through to turn their personal experience into the form of 30 slides in 7 and a half minutes.

Unless you’ve given a show&tell talk, it’s hard to know the effort and difficulty inherent in presenting one’s story. There’s the doubt and questioning of why anyone would be interested in my personal experience. How do you decide what is the right amount of context to give people? How do you sequence the information so it is intelligible?

But if I may, I want to spend a moment to talk about this practice of self-examination, and why I think it is so special.

Something that came to mind while mulling this over is something Sarah Bakewell wrote in a book about Michel de Montaigne, the 16th century french philosopher.

“Montaigne and Shakespeare have each been held up as the first truly modern writers, capturing that distinctive modern sense of being unsure where you belong, who you are, and what you are expected to do.”

If you don’t know, Montaigne was famous for a series of philosophical essays written in the 1500’s.

What was special about his essays was how honest and self-reflective he was, if meandering and digressive. But this style was novel at the time. Montaigne’s philosophical inquiries were not expansive and universal. They were small. They were constrained to just himself.

What’s funny is that this sharing of one person’s self-examination was wildly popular. For next few centuries every generation saw itself in Montaigne. Picking out different aspects of him that resonate.

By limiting the scope of conveying an experience, the power to resonate with people is much stronger and wider than it would be if you strove to be universal.

What makes Show&Tells special is that they are personal. They are small, honest, and vulnerable. They are from individuals who are humbly trying to figure out who they are and what they should be doing.

I think we are all blessed by their graciousness and generosity in sharing their experiences, so that we can see ourselves in them and figure out how to navigate our own place in a huge, immensely interesting but very confounding world.

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2015 QS Visualization Gallery: Part 3

We’re excited to share another round of personal data visualizations from our QS community. Below you’ll find another five visualizations of different types of personal data. Make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 as well!

eddie-flights Name: Edward Dench
Description: All recorded flights I’ve taken.
Tools: Manual entry into (there is an interface using TripIt though).


QS Visualization Name: Siva Raj
Description: After 6 months of regular exercise failed to improve my fitness and blood pressure levels, I switched to training above my endurance limit (anaerobic threshold). This was higher intensity but half the cycling time, yet my fitness and blood pressure improved within weeks.
Tools:Revvo – tracking fitness and intensity of workout; Withings – weight; iHealth BP Monitor – BP. Visualization created by overlaying Revvo screenshot with other information in photoshop.


Screenshot 2015-06-05 08.07.14 Name: Kurt Spindler
Description: Grafana is a common tool in the Software community to create beautiful dashboards to visualize server health (network, requests, workers, cpu, etc.) and therefore more easily diagnose problems. I created a custom iOS app that allows me to publish metrics to the same backend as Grafana, giving me Grafana dashboards for my personal health.
Tools:Custom iOS app, Grafana, Graphite
RyanODonnell_PagesReadPerMonthName: Ryan O’Donnell
Description: This semi-logarithmic graph is called the Standard Celeration Chart (SCC). It’s beauty is that anything a human does can be placed on this chart (i.e., standardized display). This also allows for cool metrics to be developed that lend well to predictability. I charted the number of pages that I read for my field of study, Behavior Analysis. I wrote a blog post on the display to speak some to the reading requirements suggested by professionals in the field. There were many variables that led to variations in reading rate, but the point of this work was to try and establish a steady reading repertoire. A recent probe in May of 2015 was at 2800 pages read. Essentially, I learned how to incorporate reading behavior analytic material almost daily in my life, which indirectly aids in the effectiveness I have as a practitioner and supervisor.
Tools: Standard Celeration Chart and paper-based data collection system (pages read each day on a sheet of paper).


Graph4_red_black Name: Francois-Joseph Lapointe
Description: This *Microbial Selfie* depicts the gene similarity network among various families of bacteria sampled from my gut microbiome (red) and oral microbiome (black). Two bacteria are connected in the network when their gene sequences are more similar than a fixed threshold (80%). The different clusters thus identify bacterial families restricted to a single body site (red or black) versus those inhabiting multiple body sites (red and black).
Tools: In order to generate this data visualization, samples of my oral and gut microbiome have been sequenced on a MiSeq platform by means of 16S rRNA targeted amplicon sequencing, and the resulting data have been analyzed using QIIME, an open-source bioinformatics pipeline for performing microbiome analysis. The gene similarity network was produced with the open graph viz platform Gephi, using the Fruchterman–Reingold algorithm.

Stay tuned here for more QS Gallery visualizations in the coming weeks. If you’ve learned something that you are willing to share from seeing your own data in a chart or a graph, please send it along. We’d love to see more!

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Damien Catani: Tracking 7,459 Dreams


After going through a life crisis during his teenage years, Damien Catani turned to tracking his dreams to help “rebuild his sense of self.” Eighteen years and seven thousand dreams later Damien shared his tracking process and what he’s been learning at the QS15 Conference and Expo. In his data he found patterns for the number of dreams he experienced and remembered according to the day of the week, season of the year, and the affect of different lifestyle factors.

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QS Radio: Episode #3


After a bit of a hiatus, mostly due to our planning and production for the QS15 Conference and Expo, we’re back again with another episode of QS Radio. Join us as we discuss last month’s conference, including the great show&tell talks, breakout sessions, and some of the great exhibitors.

Download the episode here or subscribe on iTunes.

QS15 Photos
The BrainStimulator

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2015 QS Visualization Gallery: Part 2

We’re back again with another round of visualizations from our QS15 Conference and Expo attendees. In today’s batch you’ll see a variety of representations of different tracking projects, from tracking biometrics while watching a movie to running distance over nearly 13 years. Enjoy!

interstellar-hr-hrv-gsr-1024x635 Name: Bob Troia
Description: I tracked my heart rate, HRV, and galvanic skin response while watching the movie Interstellar (in IMAX!), then plotted the data to understand how my body reacted during the 3+ hour movie. (Check Bob’s blog post about this data here!)
Tools: Polar H7 chest strap, SweeBeat Life app (iPhone), Basis B1 band, Excel.


Sleep for a week Name: Tahl Milburn
Description: This shows sleep over a week. The overall height of the bar is the time in bed. The part above the baseline is actual sleep whereas the part below 0 is restless sleep or awakening during the night. The line above the bars is the goal number of hours. The bar itself is green is all okay, turns yellow if overall duration is short or awakened too much. Red is even worse.
Tools: Google Charts with data from Fitbit.


LifeGauge Name: Tahl Milburn
Description: This is a very simple but powerful chart. T his is a “Life Gauge” which show how much of my statistical life has already been used. The ultimate age is based on the consensus estimate from several sources. Note the yellow and red markings indicating that one might be running out of life soon.
Tools: Google Charts for the graph itself. Several sources for computing the ultimate age.


BigGraph Name: Julie Price
Description: My running miles per week plus marathons since 2002.
Tools: Tracked running miles using various methods and recorded both on paper and, in the past few years, on a Google sheet. Summarized & graphed in Excel before manually adding in marathons.


IMG_8244 Name: Allan Caeg
Description: ”How much did you win today?” is one of the most important questions I ask myself every day. This pre-sleep question constantly gets me to reflect on what I did with my free will, inspiring me to ensure that I’d make the most out of every day.
Tools: Reporter

Stay tuned here for more QS Gallery visualizations in the coming weeks. If you’ve learned something that you are willing to share from seeing your own data in a chart or a graph, please send it along. We’d love to see more!

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Steven Zhang: Concussions, Headaches and the Whole30 Elimination Diet



At every conference, a synchronicity will occur where a few talks cover a similar, but previously unexplored topic. At QS15, we were surprised to see an increased discussion of concussions. It’s hard to know whether this is due to random chance or a glimmer of the zeitgeist, but we like to take note of these little waves of how people are finding new ways to understand themselves, or in this case, overcome strife.

Though Steven Zhang had a history of sleepiness and headaches, he never tracked them prior to his concussion. But during his recovery from post-concussion syndrome (which worsened his sleepiness and headaches), he wanted a clear record of his progress. He tracked headaches using the Tap Log android app and tracked his sleep using Sleep As Android, manually logging in and out in the app as he prepared for or woke from sleep. That he naps often and has many unsuccessful attempts to sleep meant that automatic methods for tracking sleep, like wrist-worn activity trackers, were ineffective, an important lesson considering that good sleep data is still sought after by many in the QS community.

Visualizing his data in Tableau, he gained a sense of norms for his headache frequency and nap lengths, allowing him to test the effectiveness of a dietary intervention, the fascinating result of which you can watch in the video of his talk below:

Steven presented this talk last month at the QS Global Conference in San Francisco. To see more great talks like this, you should join us at our Europe Conference on September 18 and 19th in Amsterdam. We have a limited number of early bird tickets available, so make sure that you don’t miss out by registering!

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Announcing the 2015 Quantified Self Europe Conference


We are excited to announce that registration is now open for the 2015 Quantified Self Europe Conference. On September 18th and 19th we’re once again filling the beautiful Casa 400 hotel in Amsterdam with talks, discussions, and demos from the global Quantified Self community. If you’re interested in self-tracking, lifelogging, data visualization and art, new technologies of personal science, the policy and politics of  data access, and helping understand and shape the future of the Quantified Self movement, these two days are for you.

As always, we’ll be crafting a “carefully curated un-conference” that is based on the emerging topics from the QS community. When you register, we’ll invite you to tell us something about your own self-tracking practice, and suggest topics for discussion. We’ll be working over the next three months to put together a program that surfaces the most important current questions. We have a limited number of registrations available for €149, so if you plan to be there you want to register right away.


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QS15: What Happened?

QS15.wide shot.DH.Medium

Two hundred sessions. Two thousand people. Thirty thousand square feet of exposition space on a San Francisco Pier. Did we really do that?

Over the next weeks we’ll be posting videos, photos, interviews and essays inspired by what happened last week at #QS15. But for the next day or two we’re just going to recover a bit, reflect on how things went, and enjoy the afterglow of spending 3 days with remarkable self-trackers, toolmakers, and scholars who share our interest in self-knowledge through numbers.

Our deepest thanks to to everybody who came to the event and to the hundreds of QS participants who worked with us for more than a year to create the program: to the speakers and session leaders who shared their self-tracking stories and ideas; to our courageous sponsors, whose support was indispensable; to the remarkable architects at The Living, who worked with us tirelessly to design an exposition space that supported conversation and discovery; and, to our friends at e2k events x entertainment, who managed the construction of the exposition from scratch.




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An Interface for Your Life: Compass at QS15

One June 18-20 we’re hosting our QS15 Conference and Expo and we’re delighted that so many great toolmakers will be joining us to show off their devices, apps, and services. We’ve asked our toolmakers to give us a bit more background information about their company and what they’re excited about. If you’d like to meet these innovative companies and the amazing people behind them then make sure to register today!


How do you describe Compass?
Compass is the first application agent from the Existence platform, developed as an interface for your life.

Compass works quietly in the background looking at the moments in your day and creating three amazing ways of viewing your time.

We don’t count moments, we make moments count!

What’s the backstory?
Six years ago, Chris Dancy thought there had to be a better way to save all the information about his life.  After consulting, speaking and making media appearances around the globe, he joined Healthways  as SVP, Chief Digital Officer.

How did you get started?
In the fall of 2015, a small group of dedicated people started to map out how the future of the user interface could put humankind back in control of our overly saturated tech lives. Four principles where created that drive our product today: Trustworthiness, Awareness, Safety and Kindness, or “TASK.”  In January 2015, we started coding our way to the future. Our team grew in the spring and we are excited about our first event and public debut at the Quantified Self Conference 2015!

What impact has it had?
After announcing the launch of our Alpha version at SXSW 2015, we were blown away to have over 100 signups in 24 hours.

People shared the types of problems they were trying to solve through their use of Compass. Each user’s submission was a trip with great personal intimacy. Users were looking to “{get} help with understanding my depression,” “ease stresses at work and home,” “learn how to sustain my happy times,” and one user even wanted to “make better use of the limited time I have left on earth”.

What have you heard from users?
Each organization we share Compass with is blown away at the potential of a native client on mobile devices.  We are currently exploring partner models. Our limited Alpha testers have experienced both a lot of delight and a lot of testing fatigue. No system has ever been assembled to combine this much personal information and we are thankful for the ongoing support of our testing communities.

Planet_SunsetWhat makes it different sets it apart?
Having tried hundreds of applications, services, devices and sensors, we feel we are the only platform that is taking what people want to do most, which is live their life, not log data, and combining it with things they love to do, like taking photos, looking at maps and reviewing timelines.

Most importantly, we’re the only application that uses Healthkit, activity, behavior, environment, date, time, and more, to passively create moments in a person’s day. So often data services depend on 100’s of API’s, manual logging or arcane processes. Compass elegantly runs in the background and doesn’t stop working if you decide to go live life.

Finally, we are passionate about privacy and data ownership.  Compass data lives solely on the device and is exportable by the user at any time.

What are you doing next?
Next up we have more testing and some final UI tweaks for our release this fall.  We are prioritizing our device strategy from Android to Apple Watch and hiring great new people!

How do you see it evolving?
So much of what we do today as consumers of technology services has turned humanity into a giant mouse pad for personalization.  We see the power of the Existence platform and application agents, like Compass, to become the fuel for an entire new ecosystem of habits and environments as we replace applications and services.

How can people find out more about you?
Check out our blog or introduce yourself to our team!

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A Computer on Your Finger: OURA at QS15

One June 18-20 we’re hosting ourQS15 Conference and Expo and we’re delighted that so many great toolmakers will be joining us to show off their devices, apps, and services. We’ve  asked each of our toolmakers to give us a bit more background information about their company and what they’re excited about. If you’d like to meet these innovative companies and the amazing people behind them then make sure to register today!

How do you describe Oura?
Ōura makes a self-tracking ring that helps you be your best in everyday life. By sensing your body’s physiological responses, it guides you to adjust sleeping behavior and activity level to improve your sleep quality and optimize mental and physical performance. We want to help people stay balanced, improve quality of life and overall mental and physical performance.

What’s the backstory? How did you get started?
Our passion comes from our own need to stay balanced and performing well in the middle of hectic business and family life and our desire to provide the same opportunity for others so that people can live up to true their potential.

Several members of our team have created consumer products, either medical, wellness, sports and/or mobile and/or embedded systems in different contexts. A few of us have done research and created algorithms, one for more than 17 years at Polar, the leading manufacturer of heart rate monitors. Several members of our team have monitored themselves for a long time in different ways. We knew that to get a long-term view on physiological changes in the body we had to find a unique way to access the data with high accuracy but in a very desirable comfortable design. We found the finger to be an optimum place for measurement and through years of extensive R&D and prototyping, eventually managed to fit a full featured computer into a small enough form. The ŌURA ring was born.

What impact has it had? What have you heard from users?
The ŌURA ring will be available for pre-orders in July-August, so extensive feedback from users/customers is yet to come. However, within a limited group of people and our own team, we have been using ŌURA rings – some of us wearing two of them continuously – for more than half a year. And with the earlier prototypes, we’ve collected data for much longer.

Since launching the product at Launch Festival in San Francisco in March 2015, we have met hundreds of people, showing them the ring and the App and sharing the science and technology. The feedback has been very positive. People love the design and especially appreciate our focus on providing the user with an understanding of how to improve sleep quality, adjust activity, and balance them to optimize their mental and physical performance.

What makes it different, sets it apart?
ŌURA ring amplifies the voice of the body. Through the App it gives an opportunity to better understand what choices are good for us. Since our lifestyles are unique and the physiological reactions of our bodies are unique, by listening to our own bodies we can adjust our behavior to stay balanced and perform well.

ŌURA ring is simple and effortless to use. There are no buttons or lights, it requires nothing from you. It just senses your body and its reactions when you wear it. It combines style and comfort with high-end technology, applying over three decades of research on human physiology and behavior.

What are you doing next? How do you see it evolving?
Over the few months, we are creating connections – our target audience and especially early adaptors – mostly in the USA, to deepen our understanding of how we can refine the benefits of using the ŌURA ring in every day life.

ŌURA will be evolving in many ways, based on the feedback and ideas coming from the backers of the early adaptors in the pre-order campaign as well as from those partnering with us to develop their own solutions and applications based on ŌURA ring.

How can people find out more about you?
Check out our website and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. And of course come see us in person at the QS15 Conference and Expo!

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