Topic Archives: QS17
“When in doubt, add more instrumentation.”
Have you ever felt that some parts of your life should remain unquantified? Perceived quality of your poetry, or perhaps duration of arguments with your significant other? Until recently, I kept running in my ‘not to be quantified’ bucket. It was such a meditative alone time that I didn’t want to risk disturbing it through observation. I tracked the kilometers I ran and nothing more. That changed at the finish line of a recent 50k, where I learned that my wearable had overestimated the race distance by over 8 k! I was pretty miffed, and I turned to this talk for inspiration.
Thomas inhabits the far end of the quantified running spectrum. His talk from QS17 is a fun watch, and the project page is here.
What did he do? He started out disappointed by hitting the wall midway through a marathon. This is common enough, but Thomas’ response to running a painfully positive split was to code his own negative split plan generator, rubber band split-plan sticky notes to his arm, and set out to run at a concrete pace. His project evolved to include an olympic swimming coach, many new devices, a metronome – and ultimately mastery of the art of pacing.
He has generated several interesting personal insights, including some not yet published on: correlation of felt energy levels to blood ketone levels, the inverse relationship between ketones and glucose, and the ceiling effect of too-high ketones. I can’t find any publications on the wine-effect, so there may be a novel discovery in there as well. Check out Mark’s QS project page here.
I periodically become fascinated with ketosis, so the talk inspired me to revisit the topic of ketosis and prolonged fasting in women. The debate about the issue is intense, and there are relatively few publications that address women specifically. Have women in QS tried a similar experiment? What was your experience? We’ve started a forum post here on the topic.
In a show&tell talk that is as sweet as it is clever, Kyrill asks how his grandchildren might one day learn about him through digital family heirlooms and offers this unique project as an example.
Kyrill recently acquired his grandfather’s shaving razor and was struck by the connection he felt through the evidence of ownership: the darkened areas, worn edges and other traces of use.
Reflecting on his own mostly computer-based work, Kyrill noted how little of a physical trail he leaves in the world. Could his time and productivity data leave a mark on anything? Does he have a physical object, like his grandfather’s razor, that is indirectly shaped by his toil, besides a dirty keyboard?
Kyrill explored this idea by connecting the time-tracking service RescueTime to a light placed in a box with a house plant that he named Eddie. When he spends time on things he finds personally fulfilling, like working on his PhD, the light turns on and the plant grows. When he’s caught up in other activities, the leaves yellow and die.
The arrangement adds a new dimension to his productivity data. Every couple of days, Kyrill opens the box to water the plant. This ritual provides an opportunity to take stock on how he has been using his time, based on the condition of the plant. Embodied in this living organism is his failures to stay on task and focus on what’s important. Distractions take on a new threat. Rather than just endangering his goals, they now threaten the health of Eddie.
Although Kyrill won’t be able to leave a houseplant to his descendants, it’s a worthwhile meditation on how different modes of presenting personal data can have a profound difference in the way it engages one’s emotions.
Jakob Eg Larsen has tracked his sleep and resting heart rate (RHR) for the past four years. His 7 minute talk is far better watched than read about: it’s a great illustration of data validation, longitudinal tracking, and data assisted self-awareness.
Briefly, by tracking his RHR over a long period of time, Jakob has developed an intuition for connections between his RHR and physiological state. He’s able to use the data to tune his self-awareness, but still keep a safety net when unexpected RHR elevations might portend a flu. To boot, the years of data across the Fitbit Blaze, Oura ring and Basis are one of the most extensive within-individual comparisons I can find anywhere of these devices.
You can watch the full video of Jakob’s talk at his QS Project page.
It rains a lot in Portland, Oregon. And if you’re 8 years old like Cantor, recess gets cancelled a lot. But unlike most 8-year-olds, Cantor is doing something about that.
By tracking his steps, he’s able to show that every cancelled recess takes about 600 steps out of his day. Compared to his average of ~15,000 steps a day, it might not sound like a lot, but Cantor and his mom Bethany hope it might be enough to change his elementary school’s policy for rainy-day restrictions.
We don’t typically see young children doing serious self-tracking, especially with such an altruistic (and downright cool) aim of fighting for more recess time. We have our fingers crossed, both for the school’s response and for seeing more projects like Cantor’s in the future. Check out Cantor’s talk at QS Project page.
We all accumulate physical scars throughout our lives. My own history consists of scrapes from trees, kitchen burns and a misadventure with liquid nitrogen. Ellis has taken a quantitative and thoughtful look at the form and meaning of her scars. At left, is a map of decades’ worth of Ellis’ scars. In her talk, she walks through that history and the way she turned it into data, which allowed novel findings, such as, if she added the lengths of her scars, the total is over a meter.
We often spend our time trying to appear and feel unworn by our years, covering them with clothing or makeup and ignoring the memories they represent. While Ellis embraces the past, she discusses the frustration associated with the limitations imposed by her injuries. Still, she uses her scars as a visual reminder to appreciate her own history and resilience.
You may watch the entire talk at her project’s page.
A persistent theme at the 2017 Quantified Self Conference was how self-tracking can help those with chronic conditions spot associations between symptoms and lifestyle that a clinician might not have time to uncover. These personal discoveries can help improve one’s health.
In this show&tell, Justin Lawler talks about learning that he has early onset osteoporosis and the several metrics, including diet, microbiome, exercise, sleep and bone density, he tracks to help manage and understand the disease.
I love that the talk emphasizes that many QS projects are long term – even lifelong. Most conventional research projects have a start and end date, garnering a lot of information but only addressing a limited window in time. The self awareness that comes with self tracking can be useful across months and years, elucidating subtle patterns that might otherwise be undetectable.
I was thrilled to have the chance to do a Show&Tell talk about tracking my ovulatory cycle via minute-by-minute body temperature during the final plenary session at QS17 Conference. It’s an ongoing project that explores what high-temporal-resolution body temperature can help us learn about our reproductive state. Daily body temperature readings are already used to aid fertility tracking, but several of you expressed interest in collecting more frequent data with me. You inspired me to start uploading my cycle tracking code on Github. I’ll be adding to this repository over time, so check back and shoot me a message if you have an idea you’d like me to try!
We’re back from QS17 and eager to share the conference with you from beginning to end. This, our ninth conference, covered a lot of ground: we showcased self-tracking projects, investigated our relationship with technology, and discussed the past and future of QS. Over the coming weeks, we’ll share some conference highlights.
Today I want to share our opening Show & Tell from Robin Weis, which captures the personal discovery and data-driven spirit of QS. If you’re new to QS, you might not know that the community is about much more than tracking your steps or your hours of sleep: it’s about gaining personal insight by putting numbers to any important aspect of your life. Robin Weis tracked an unusual metric – crying – over a long period of time and did an inspiring job tying together her personal story with her data. Click the link above, check it out, and come back in a few days for another talk!
We’ve just returned from the latest Quantified Self Conference in Amsterdam and we’re working on the slides and videos of talks to share with everybody. It always takes a few weeks of work to get them ready for posting, so be patient.
If you are already nostalgic (or wishing you’d been there) you can check out some random highlights using the QS17 tag on Twitter. Official documentation coming soon!