Topic Archives: QS15
The emergence of self-tracking tools that came with the advent of the smartphone was a boon for people like Shannon Conners, who have long been recording their personal data with pen and paper. Her workout and food journals date back to her high school years.
Not content to let her data be incomplete, she has used novel sources for filling out her data sets, like going through her baby books for weight check-ins. Having a picture of her data that is comprehensive gives her a unique view. By adding annotations of major life events, she can see the vicissitudes of life reflected in her data.
Looking at her data side by side in JMP, her tool of choice, she sees how one affects the other. She determined that her cholesterol levels moved in the same direction as her weight, demonstrating to her that managing weight can be a good “surrogate variable” for keeping other biomarkers in check.
Her story may inspire you to increase your self-tracking diligence (it has for me). It has already inspired people around her. Her mother and sisters, after seeing her results with managing her weight, asked for Shannon’s coaching on how they can use self-tracking to help themselves. This is the value of sharing one’s methods: it can inspire others to change their ways of living and being.
The charts in this talk are fantastic, but they go by so quickly that I wanted to share them here so you can take them in. It should be no surprise that Shannon was featured in our QS Visualization Gallery and interviewed for the QS Radio podcast. You can keep up with Shannon on her blog, where she writes about her methods and what she’s learning.
“The heartbeat is a treasure chest of information…”
Mark Leavitt has a unique perspective in that he is both an engineer and a physician. In his retirement, he is applying his wealth of knowledge to keeping himself healthy.
In this talk, Mark looks at how heart rate variability relates to his willpower. Does he lift more weight when his HRV is high? What happens to his eating habits when his HRV is low? And if the term “heart rate variability” is new to you, Mark gives a lucid explanation.
Also, you will get a glimpse of his amazing customized workstation with pedals to keep him active, a split keyboard on the armrests to keep his knees free and built-in copper strips for measuring HRV. Cue envy.
When someone comes into your life and takes up a special place in your heart, do they also occupy a similar place in your data? Shelly used GMvault to look through 5 years of Google Chat logs to “hunt for signals that I loved my husband and not somebody else.”
She looked at whom she messages, the time of a day, and the words she uses. She was able to extract meaning from innocuous metrics like “delay in response” to show whether her or her future husband were “playing games” at the beginning of the relationship. She also found that use of the word “love” did not correspond with the object of her affections (case in point: “This cytometer needs love too.”)
If you would like to do a similar analysis of your Google Chat log, contact Shelly to get the scripts she used.
“I started [tracking location] because I’m interested in all these invisible systems that we are immersed in.”
Stephen Cartwright has been tracking his latitude, longitude and elevation every hour since 1999. Even though the GPS in smartphones has made location tracking automatic, Stephen finds that he gets more reliable data from manually logging his location, of which he has almost 150,000 entries.
In this talk, Steven shows how seventeen years of location tracking has given him a wealth of data to explore in the form of three-dimensional data visualization sculptures. He has even brought some of these to QS conferences. They are amazing to behold in person.
While his visualizations show where he’s been, he says that it’s the negative space that can be more interesting, prompting the question, “Where do I need to go? What do I need to see?”
Other location tracking talks that we’ve featured include Jamie Aspinall‘s adventures in the UK, Robbie MacDonell on logging his transportation, and Alastair Tse on walking around Manhattan. We’ve also featured some great location-related visualizations from Bob Troia, Aaron Parecki, Eric Jain, and Tom McWright. If you have some location data from Moves, we’ve also written a guide on mapping it.
Paul LaFontaine is the organizer for the Denver QS meetup and has given many fabulous talks on heart rate variability. If you are not familiar with HRV, you can think of it as the measurement of your nervous system’s reaction to a perceived threat.
“Vapor lock” is Paul’s term for that feeling when you are trying to retrieve something from memory in a conversation, but because of the stress of the situation (especially if it is with a boss), you lock up as your recall fails. To better understand this phenomenon and learn how to prevent it, Paul measured his HRV during 154 conversations with bosses and co-workers.
Because “vapor lock” is not a standard measurement, Paul shows the criteria he used to identify these moments in his data. His analysis revealed a likely cause for what locks him up, but it was not what he expected and it changed his approach to meetings and conversations at work.
If you want to watch more talks about heart rate variability, Randy Sargent showed us what his HRV looks like through a spectogram. Matt Dobson talked about using it, along with other measurements, as a way to passively detect emotions. And I used a HRV device to track my stress at work.
“My luteal phase went from 10 days to 16, which is a frickin’ Quantified Self miracle.”
In this great talk, Ilyse Magy describes how tracking her menstrual cycle with the Fertility Awareness Method and Kindara worked for more than birth control. Tracking her cycle helped her understand how it affects her emotional state, and led her to find out that she had a previously unnoticed vitamin deficiency. ”Once I started charting, I was pretty amazed by what I was learning, but also kind of mad that no one had ever told me this stuff before.”
You can discuss this show&tell talk at the QS Forum.
Jon Cousins has given wonderful show&tell talks on mood tracking. Like most methods for measuring mood, his process involves a subjective assessment of his well being. But what if there was a physical measurement related to mood that doesn’t involve blood work?
Inspired by an anecdote about a man’s beard growth while working on a remote island, Jon explores whether there is a relationship between his mood and facial hair. Yes, you read that right.
“My inbox has become a barometer of my stress level.”
Email overwhelm is something that most people of first world means can relate to. Getting a handle on this digital deluge is a Sisyphean endeavor that is, perhaps, only endured by deluding ourselves into thinking that it is possible if only we found the right tool or adopted the right habit.
In this talk, Mark Wilson (who we’ve featured before) tells us what he learned from tracking the number and age of emails in his inbox and how that made him confront the impact that his message count has on his self-esteem.
“That’s insane! I want to try it.”
Bethany Soule is the co-found of Beeminder, a commitment tool which she characterizes as “goal-tracking with teeth.” Her and Daniel Reeves, the other founder, have spoken on how they tracked the development of the tool and integrating it with other QS tools.
In this talk from QS15, Bethany tells of how she was inspired by Nick Winter’s “Maniac Week“, to focus solely on working for an entire week. She shares what she learned from doing this multiple times, from tools for reducing distractions to tracking accomplishments and ensuring accountability. You’ll also find out how many hours she was actually able to work.
Here is the time-lapse of Bethany’s Maniac Week, as well as, her blog post on the experience:
“I don’t have a concrete goal. I don’t have a concrete aim to advance myself. It’s a way to explore different aspects of my life through data.”
Since 2009 Jacek Smolicki has experimented with using personal data as a mode for artistic exploration. In this talk, he presents some of his practices:
To learn more about Jacek’s practices, explore his website. Check out other examples of self-tracking as artistic expression with talks from Laurie Frick and Alberto Frigo, and pieces from the art exhibition at the 2015 QS Conference in San Francisco.