Topic Archives: Meeting Recaps

QS Los Angeles Meetup Recap

This guest post comes to us from QS Los Angeles member, Mark Krynsky.

I went to the Los Angeles Quantified Self Meetup meeting on March 7th and had a fantastic time meeting like-minded people that are all willing to experiment and share their experiences. The meetup was held at the artisanal engineering studios of the Two Bit Circus located in the eclectic Brewery Art Colony. This made for a really great venue.

qs_la_03-13

Photo from QS LA taken by Eric Blue

The first speaker was Brent Bushnell who is the Circus ring leader. He walked us through a project his team worked on for the Extreme Makeover Home Edition where they built a relaxation chair for a veteran that suffered from PTSD. They used sensors to track his biometrics to help identify when he may be susceptible to trauma. When certain thresholds were met based on his heart rate the soldier would sit in the chair which would then play soothing sounds and had an aroma therapy device.

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Recap of Louisville QS Winter Meetup

This is a guest post from Chris Hall, organizer of QS Louisville. Thanks Chris!!

Quantified Self Louisville Winter Meetup

Coming off of a Sunday morning spread of our last QS Louisville event, in the Louisville Courier Journal, we threw another Quantified Self Meetup just last Wednesday. This time we were in the World Headquarters of the Beam Bluetooth Toothbrush. I roped Alex Frommeyer, Beam Brush CEO, into becoming a co-organizer with me and together we were unstoppable in tapping into the Louisville Metro’s thirst for quantifying their lives. Here’s the Insider Louisville article talking up the event beforehand to prove it.

I actually shot video of all three speakers, but am running into technical difficulties in post production, so I figured I’d get the post up first and possibly follow with the videos as time permits… In the meantime, here’s is what we discussed last Wednesday:

ASTHMAPOLIS

We totally had Mark Gehring co-founder of Asthmapolis in the house, as he was in town giving a preliminary update on the Louisville Smarter Cities initiative we have going on here between the City, IBM and Asthmapolis.  Mark is a great guy who gave an really inspiring talk on how both use of rescue inhalers has decreased and asthma free days have increased, on average, from month one to month two of the program. A super cool byproduct of this effort is the ability to have the data mapped to look for areas of interest, geographically, and try to gain more of an understanding of how our natural and man made surroundings interact to affect air quality.

Asthmapolis Map of Louisville's Air Quality via Inhaler Use

PIVOTT

Next up we had Wes Brooks, an engineering student at the University of Kentucky, who made the trek to present on a project he is working on called Pivott, a way for people to answer their health related questions using various sources of data so that they may take action on their health. Wes’ project stems from his love for Quantified Self and his interest in understanding exactly what he can do to prevent adverse health affects that seem to run in his family. Wes contends that there are a lot of opportunities to look at data, but he aims to solve the interpretation of that data to answer practical health questions.

Wes Brooks Pivott slide showing all of the dashboards out there.

ADVENTURES IN RISK LOGGING

I brought up the rear to talk about something I’ve been doing since the Quantified Self Global Conference last September… and that is Risk Logging with my friend, Dr. Gareth Holman. When Gareth and I met up for beers at the conference, he introduced me to FAP, Functional Analytical Psychotherapy, as a way to measure and (hopefully) increase the risks that I take, because that was of interest to me. We use a three point scale to rate daily risks and track points divided by points possible each week to come up with a weekly score. This weekly score, then, can be averaged monthly and that gives me a baseline of month one followed by the average scores of subsequent months. It turns out that over a four month time period, I have increased my average risks taken by 26%. True story.  But more importantly, it is now becoming second nature to push myself to do things that I normally would not do.

WRAP UP

Call me biased, but I thought this was a great event. I’m inspired by the new people I was able to meet  and talk with and it is looking like there is a general interest in QS among Louisvillains. Alex and I will put another QS Meetup together in mid to late spring and I’m pumped to get more people in front of the group so that we may learn from their experiences.

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Recap of the First Melbourne QS Meetup

This is a guest post from Philip Goebel of Melbourne, Australia. Thanks Phil!

photo 5

On January 30th, QS Melbourne held its first Show & Tell. It was on Melbourne University campus, with the space being organized by the university’s Interaction Design Lab and some light snacks and drinks for the audience provided by the Health and Biomedical Informatics Research Unit.

After a short round of introductions, our first presenter Paul Kittson (co-organizer of QS Melbourne) started the Show & Tell. Paul talked about his struggle with chronic knee pain. After visiting multiple health professionals, a physiotherapist suggested starting a pain journal to track the pain. Paul followed this advice and began regularly tracking his pain along with a note about his activity, using old-fashioned pen and paper. This led to surprising insights about what was aggravating his knee pain, resulting in a reduction of self-limiting behaviour and eventually leading to the cessation of chronic pain symptoms.

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Berlin QS Show&Tell #1 Recap

This post was kindly sent in by Peter Lewis and Florian Schumacher, translated from Arne Tensfeldt’s original post in German.

The first Show & Tell meetup of theBerlin International Quantified Self Group took place on November 22nd. The Berlin QS Group had been founded several weeks earlier for the English-speaking Berlin community. With around 70 participants, the meetup was the largest to date in Germany, having been announced and covered by a variety of Berlin blogs and news sites. The meeting began with the standard “three word introduction,” in which everyone present introduced themselves with just three of their interests or other descriptive words. The variety of chosen descriptions and interests reinforced the wide range of the QS movement and offered a good preview of the subjects that would be discussed over the rest of the evening.

After this introduction, Steve Dean (head of the NY Quantified Self Group) began with a keynote speech about the founding of the Quantified Self movement as well as his own experience in preparing for an Ironman Triathlon. Through the measurement of his resting pulse every morning, recommended by his trainer, he was able to predict when he would get sick from overtraining and reschedule his workouts to allow more rest at the right times. He then discussed a second self-experiment that was also shaped by his athletic pursuits: after the end of his intensive Ironman training, he suffered from an inflammation of his eyelids. After countless unsuccessful treatment attempts, he learned from careful self-tracking that the regular exposure to chlorine from swimming had been keeping this problem in check — and after a long break, resuming his visits to the pool led to a recovery from the infection. His slide presentation can be seen here.

Max Kossatz, CEO of Archify, showed the data he had gathered from his company’s newly developed browser plugin. Archify tracks each website that a user visits, saving all text content and capturing a screenshot. This leads to a type of digital “mindfile” which can be easily searched in the future. Max presented an analysis of his own online content in his personal project “My Online Life for the Last 8 Months.” In addition to showing his preferred sources of information, this data also made it possible to recognize patterns like the drastic reduction of online time during his vacation, or an increase in online activity during his preparation for important business events. His presentation can be seen here.

As the third speaker, Peter Lewis (co-organizer of the Berlin QS group) showed his experience with spaced repetition algorithms to optimize learning efficiency, which he had used in learning languages. As a starting point, he set up an experiment in which he (as a native English speaker) tried to acquire all the new vocabulary he found in a German novel — about 900 words — within a period of one month. He demonstrated the use of software that allowed him to track his progress through decks of digital flashcards. With an excursion into theory and algorithms, as well as practical explanations and tips on the current state of the technology, he gave a comprehensive overview of spaced repetition software applications and and the different ways to use them.

After the lectures, the attendees had the chance to view demos from some Berlin startups in the QS field and to make new contacts as well. The event was also recorded by the TV show Planetopia; their episode on QS aired on Monday, December 3rd.

The organizers of the Berlin group are already planning their next meeting: in January’s Show & Tell there will be numerous speakers on subjects like genome sequencing, health and biohacking, as well as another Demo Hour with projects and startups from the QS scene.

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QS Worldwide

A big part of what we do here at Quantified Self is support and promote our amazing meetup groups around the world. We have a wonderful network of meetups  in over 70 cities in more than 15 countries around the world. We wouldn’t be able to post all the great videos and articles here on the Quantified Self website if it wasn’t for the meetup organizers and attendees coming together to share and learn about self-tracking and self-experimentation in warm and open environments.

Today we just wanted to highlight a few of the most recent meetups from around the world!

QS Berlin 

 

QS Toronto

QS Stockholm

 

 QS Syndey

 

QS Bay Area

 

We have another exciting week of meetups coming up with events in Seattle, Stockholm, Phoenix, and Singapore. If you don’t have a meetup in your community and want to learn more about how to start one just let us know!

 

 

 

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New York QS Show and Tell #18 Recap

We had a great turnout at our last meetup in New York hosted at startup accelerator program Blueprint Health in Soho. Thank you to my co-organizers, Patrick Whitaker and Andrew Paulus , who helped pull together this recap. And thank you to the rest of my co-organizers Brian Gallegos, Mark Brooks and Konstantin Augemberg for helping out with another fascinating evening of demo and show&tell talks.

Demo Hour
Our latest demo hour included five presenters with concepts ranging from behavior change to respiratory training. QS attendees mingled around tables and engaged in interactive discussions with five demonstrators, who had come to present some interesting and diverse initiatives.

Susan Alexander from app4Mind presented a mental model she created for behavior modification. Susan was inspired by her own experience, those of others, and the world’s wealth of research on change, growth, and how to change behavior. The model distills all of this down to four memorable principles, each word beginning with the letter M. Together, they serve as a “mind app” which she presented in illustrated form. Susan is planning to launch a new website by year’s end to serve as a platform for app4Mind.

Matt Stanfield demonstrated BagIQ, a platform he is developing to give people product-level purchase data and insight into spending habits. BagIQ renders detailed product-by-product, dollar-by-dollar analysis, and presents them in simple, digestible ways. The power is in taking that product level data and connecting it to personally relevant 3rd party data specific to each user’s health, diet, ethics, shopping. Matt’s demo culminated with sweeping discussions about potential applications and insights that could be derived from the data and it will be interesting to see how BagIQ develops.

Melody Wilding presented eCaring, a care management system that seeks to generate comprehensive, real-time behavioral & clinical data from a patient’s home. eCaring was developed to enable hospitals, healthcare providers & families to track & respond to conditions, making early intervention possible, reducing hospital readmissions, lowering care costs, & improving care quality for seniors & people with chronic conditions. eCaring currently has several programs underway with hospitals & for long term care management.

Anthony Ina demonstrated a prototype of HealthBoard, which was developed to allow active duty military personnel the ability to interact with their own personal health information and electronic medical records, and to offer healthcare providers better access to patients and their decisions. By integrating information design principles, HealthBoard seeks provides users with enhanced and streamlined access to information, making it less intimidating and easier to understand the impacts of decisions on health outcomes.

Bez Arkush demonstrated a device that can measure inspiratory and expiratory breathing. Different resistance levels support breathing measurements and exercises to be used in respiratory therapy and respiratory sport training. The device connects with iPads and creates a game-like environment while keeping track of your activity.

Show&Tell Talks

Following demo hour, we had six show&tell talks on guitar playing, lucid dreaming, salt sensitivity, exercise, headaches and the unconscious.

Exploring the Sleep Frontier – Lucid Dreaming with the Zeo
The evening started with Dave Comeau, a lucid dreaming enthusiast who described his experiments hacking the Zeo to help trigger lucid dreams. Although Dave had been experimenting with lucid dreaming for many years, the launch of the Zeo Sleep Manager gave him fresh insight into his sleeping patterns, specifically about when he entered the REM sleep states most conducive to lucid dreaming. Dave introduced resources like Zeoscope and Sleep Stream Online and told of his experiments using the Zeo extensions to trigger visual and auditory cues with hopes of inducing lucid dreaming, although they often backfired by waking him up. Following the presentation, there was an interactive Q&A in which the potential of other sensory cues was discussed (e.g. olfactory or gustatory cues like using X10 to trigger a Glade PlugIn). When asked what drew him to lucid dreaming, Dave said “I don’t know what the benefits of those are — except being awesome!”

Exercise and Consumption
The next talk was by Emily Chambliss, who had completed several months of tracking her consumption and exercise in a comprehensive, color-coded spreadsheet. When asked about the motivation behind this effort, Emily noted that she didn’t trust her own perceptions, which is why she needed to start tracking. Informed by her nutrition and activity tracking, Emily was able to strategize, set goals, and implement greater levels of self discipline into her daily life. Over time she learned that her behavior was surprisingly predictable, and clear insights emerged about her self-described “lack of discipline on weekends.” In response to audience questions about the scope and challenges of her tracking project, Emily clarified that she tracked “everything — including booze, which was painful” and was quick to note that “a shot of whiskey has 64 Calories, according to most sources.”

Salt Sensitivity
Midway through the evening, we heard from Greg Pomerantz on a self experiment he had conducted on salt sensitivity. Greg noted that health authorities generally recommend salt restriction, which is controversial since people have varying levels of sensitivity to salt that cannot be addressed by blanket advice. Greg raised one of the challenges that “you need IRB approval when you do experiments on humans — except, you know, when you do it on yourself.” Thus empowered with the administrative freedom of n=1 self-experimentation, Greg weighed himself every morning and deliberately varied his salt intake through three phases over a period of several weeks. Although Greg had conceived this experiment since his blood pressure was at the higher end of the normal range, he was surprised by his findings that he was not particularly sensitive to salt, and moreover that the only adverse consequences he experienced (e.g., impair thermoregulation) seemed to be caused by insufficient salt consumption. Since his experiment, Greg has made a point to add more salt to his meals to ensure sufficient levels of consumption. When asked if he had talked to his primary care physician about this, Greg smiled and said, “not yet, but I’m sure he would be interested.”

200 Hours of Guitar Practice in a Year
Jake Jenkins had always wanted to play the guitar, and he told an impressive story of pursuing this goal with the help of commitment devices and Beeminder. Based on his prior experiences learning kite surfing, indoor rock climbing, and downhill skiing, Jake estimated he would need to spend 400 hours deliberately practicing the guitar to be “good enough” and set a goal of practicing for 35 minutes every day for two years. After mixed results and missed practice sessions at the beginning, Jake grew interested in commitment devices and discovered the website Beeminder.com, which helped hold him accountable on a daily basis and achieve remarkable consistency with his guitar practice. Although Jake said at the outset that “[he] would classify[himself] as without rhythm,” he has been continuously improving through one year and 200 hours of guitar practice, which is evident by the videos he posts on YouTube every few months to show himself playing. Although Jake found self-tracking to be a powerful motivator, he learned that it isn’t always enough and can sometimes use the assistance of external commitment devices to stay on track. Jake’s talk was a compelling example of using QS concepts to motivate and manage his efforts to develop a challenging new skill.

Figuring out a Headache’s Source
The next presenter was Michael Wenger, who implemented a series of lifestyle experiments in response to some startlingly vague advice from a doctor. Prompted by chronic headaches, Michael had undergone an MRI which revealed a benign brain tumor. Extreme risks ruled out surgery as a viable option, so a physical simply recommended that Michael “make some lifestyle changes” to try to reduce the frequency and intensity of his headaches. With this sudden burst of motivation, Michael made some critical lifestyle changes including easing the pressure of academic overachieving by electing some pass/fail courses, improving his sleeping habits and eliminating all consumption of alcohol. Michael used various mobile apps to track relevant activities, and over the short term, Michael learned that the best remedy for an excruciating headache was “driving a car with the windows down while having a milkshake.” More importantly, Michael learned that “you can fix things” over the long term by tracking relevant measure to increase awareness of lifestyle choices and making changes to improve your condition.

Storyboarding the Psyche
The final talk of the night was delivered by Cliff Atkinson, who started with the question of “how do you quantify the unconscious?” Interested in exploring such tendencies as procrastination in the context of knowledge about the unconscious developed by the early psychoanalysts, Cliff took a remarkably visual approach to his self tracking by tracking his body, emotions, and thinking through the creative use of iPhone apps, including Insight Timer and Penultimate. By importing clip art in the shape of a body and a head, Cliff created a template where he would visually annotate his feelings and observations each day, and he could zoom out in Penultimate to see many days at once and reflect on the visual storyboard of his tracking activities over time.

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QS PDX Recap (October 30, 2012)

This guest post comes to us from one of our wonderful QS Meetup organizers, Steven Jonas. If you’re a Meetup Organizer and want to post a recap of your meetup just let us know!

Quantified Self Portland Show & Tell Meetup Recap – October 30, 2012

Puppet Labs opened up their space and generously hosted our October Meetup. We had some amazing talks and discussion. Read on for more about each of the talks and our post show&tell discussion session.

David Gwilliam – Text Message Analytics

David GwilliamVIDEO | SLIDES | TWITTER

Brief: After getting dumped, David needed an excuse to read his old text messages. Exporting all of his SMS’s out of Google Voice, he used a variety of tools to get them in a form that would allow for linguistic analysis and visualization. Doing so, he reconfirmed his belief that most of his communication was either to girls or about girls. As his project moves forward, he wants to improve the linguistic analysis by looking at significant phrases, rather than words, and tweak his D3 visualization so that it better represents clustering.

Tools and other things mentioned:

-His GitHub page for his project – http://github.com/dhgwilliam/google-voice-stats
-Twitter page – http://twitter.com/dhgwilliam
-Google Voice – google.com/voice
-Google Takeout – google.com/takeout
-Data Liberation Front – www.dataliberation.org/takeout-products
-Markdown – http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/
-Redis – http://redis.io
-Ohm ORM – http://ohm.keyvalue.org
-Sinatra – http://www.sinatrarb.com
-Statistically Improbable Phrases – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistically_Improbable_Phrases
-Rack Cache – http://github.com/rtomayko/rack-cache
-Resque – http://github.com/defunkt/resque
-Rake – http://rake.rubyforge.org
-GCharts – http://mootools.net/forge/p/gcharts
-Pandoc – http://johnmacfarlane.net/pandoc/
-D3 – http://d3js.org
-jQuery -http://jquery.com
-Linguistic analysis equation – http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/~paul/publications/rg_acl2000.pdf

Rob Shields – Search Your Life

Rob Shields

VIDEO | SLIDES | TWITTER

Brief: Rob was interested in passively recording his life, so he rigged his phone to hang around his neck and take a picture nearly every minute. He dumped the photos into Picasa and with tagging and face recognition used them to start answering questions such as “When did I last have sushi?” and “What was the name of that guy I met at the QS Data Co-op?” Rob found that knowing that the phone was recording events, it allowed him to be more present in the moment, since he didn’t have to worry about retrieving a camera to capture events. Going forward, he would like to have ways to add more metadata (like geotagging) to add context to the images that he captures, a wider lens, and be able to integrate it with other streams of data.

Tools and other things mentioned:

-Gordon Bell’s SenseCam – http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/cambridge/projects/sensecam/
-Autographer – http://www.autographer.com/
-Memoto – http://memoto.com
-Project Glass – http://plus.google.com/+projectglass/posts
-Google Goggles – http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/
-TagTime – http://messymatters.com/tagtime/
-Picasa -http://picasa.google.com
-Vicon Revue – http://viconrevue.com/product.html

Steven Jonas – Stressing Out Loud

Steven Jonas

VIDEO* | SLIDES | TWITTER

*from the QS Seattle meetup a week earlier

Brief: Steven discovered through an EEG assessment that he had a strong “freeze” response to stressful situations. This inspired him to use his emWave to monitor his stress levels, hack it to alert him whenever he got too stressed, and change his patterns at work. He found that keeping his stress levels in check allowed him to focus better and left him with more energy at the end of the day. Going forward, he would like to find a tool that allows him to annotate the data, and be able to track stress when he’s not at his desk.

Tools and other things mentioned:

-emWave2 – http://www.heartmathstore.com/item/6310/emwave2
-equanimity – http://www.meditate.mx/iphone

Daniel Reeves – Beeminder update

Daniel Reeves

TWITTER*

*sorry, no video

Brief: Daniel gave us an update on Beeminder, highlighting new functionality for connecting the great project management tool, Trello, as well as using Beeminder to keep track of your progress during NaNoWriMo. He also talked about a Pomodoro Poker, a hack night where participants bet on how close they can complete a task to a time limit (without going over).

Tools and other things mentioned:

-Beeminder – http://www.beeminder.com
-Trello – http://blog.beeminder.com/trello/
-NaNoWriMo – http://blog.beeminder.com/nanowrimo/
-Pomodoro Poker – http://blog.beeminder.com/tv/#comment-691153967

Discussion

discussionPrompt: One of the interesting things about self-tracking is the heightened awareness that you’ll gain. Noticing things that you could never perceive before. This could take different forms, sometimes like a sixth sense. For example, this is a device I built from a kit made by Sensebridge that attaches to your ankle and points in the direction of north. Over time, the wearers develop of sense of where North is that lasts even after they remove the device. Are these extra senses always good? Can they be negative?

Tools and other things mentioned:

-Sensebridge’s North Paw – http://sensebridge.net/projects/northpaw/
-Contour @USB – http://bayercontourusb.us
-Zeo – http://www.myzeo.com/sleep/shop/zeo-sleep-manager-mobile.html

Drinks afterward at Deschutes Brewery

The night ended with a lively discussion where the main topic was productivity systems where everybody shared what they use, what failed for them and why.

What’s Up Next?

All in all, it was a fantastic, invigorating evening. We hope to see you at the Data Co-op on November 27. What is a Data Co-op? It’s a regular part of our QS PDX meetup series for people with data that they’re working on, or people who want to see what data other people are working on, or people who want/have tips for working their QS-related data. If you track some kind of data about your life and are trying to make sense of it, join us during this open time and bring your data and a computer with you.

Topics that arose last time:

D3 and data visualization (http://d3js.org/)

Wolfram Alpha and analysis of meditation data

Scraping Nike FuelBand data with Firefox

And, of course, people brought dozens of projects with them to work on, and many ideas were shared in small groups. We plan on hosting the next Show & Tell in January and hope to see you soon!

Pictures courtesy of Ryan Casey. See more here.

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London Meetup #13

The QS London meeting in October (#13) was full of interesting speakers and they’re now available in video form. You can find them all on the London Channel at:

London QS Channel

The October talks include (in the order presented):

  • Conference Roundup (Adriana Lukas). An Overview for Londoners of the QS Annual Conference.
  • SnoreLab (Jules Goldberg). Jules talks about his new iPhone app for tracking and (hopefully) taking control of snoring problems.
  • The Memome Project (Stuart Calimport). Stuart talks about his personal adventure in finding the most useful memes for health and wellbeing.
  • Quantify my Brain (Ryota Kanai). Professor Ryota discusses his experiments with brain imaging and how his brain compares to others.
  • Quantify my Emotions (Matt Dobson). Matt shares his knowledge about the quantification of emotions and shares some interesting current technologies as well as what he sees coming over the next few years.
It was a great day, I hope you enjoy these sessions as much as the folks who were there did.
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Quantified Self Louisville: Fall 2012 Meetup Recap

This guest post comes to us courtesy of Chris Hall, our wonderful Louisville Meetup organizer. 

Two weeks ago I threw a Quantified Self Meetup in beautiful downtown Louisville, and I’m writing this post, two weeks later because I’ve finally come down from the experience. We had a total of four speakers and 13 people show up to the recently renovated iHub co-working space. And I even convinced my mom to postpone her trip back home so that she could speak at it, too. Score. By all accounts it was a great night.  If you missed it, check out the abridged recap below (and show up next time!).

Brushing Ain’t Easy

Our first presenter was my friend and long time Quantified Self Louisville aficionado, Alex Frommeyer. Alex has a local start-up that is building a blue tooth toothbrush called the BEAM toothbrush. The idea is to stick sensors into a toothbrush along with Bluetooth technology so that you can keep track of your or your loved ones (kids) brush strokes in a mobile application. Alex talked about the Quantified Self movement in general, the BEAM brush in particular, passed around samples and also spoke about the niche for oral care within QS. The talk was really well received, as I had to cut off the question period, and fend off my mom, who kept bugging me to see if she could get the hook up on a BEAM brush, so we could get to the next speaker.

Alex Frommeyer presents the BEAM bluetooth toothbrush

Let Me Ride… My Personal Dashboard

I have to hand it to Nick Such, because he was really the force behind this meetup. Nick lives in Lexington but really wants a group like this to exist in Kentucky and I can’t thank him enough for helping put this event together. Not only is he a super cool guy, his presentation was super cool too… as he spoke of how he started measuring things by tracking the gas mileage he would get on an old beater he drove in high school and college. That love for efficiency later translated to him joining the Solar Car Team at the University of Kentucky, and ultimately to him tracking and creating a personal dashboard that he presented to the group. He uses the dashboard to track sleep, activity and food consumption, and I’m personally hoping that Nick comes back to speak again after having a chance to dig through his data with questions.

Nick Such talking personal dashboards

You’re a Data Customer

Next up was my old Humana Innovation Center comradeShane Regala, who I now owe a big favor. Shane won the unofficial “who’s wearing the most personal tracking devices at the same time” contest, coming in at four. He also handed out a copy of Ubisoft’s Yourshape Fitness Evolved 2012 Xbox Kinect game to a lucky winner that guessed the number of steps he took on a random Saturday as a volunteer soccer coach (the right answer was 18,000). Shane delivered a visionary talk that related his personal experience tracking his sleep with two small children in the house to the bigger picture of how tracking may be used by payers, to help us all lead healthier lives in the not so distant future. It was also great to get a peak at some of the projects Humana’s Innovation Center is working on, as well as soak in some of Shane’s abundant energy.

Quantified Self Louisville Fall 2012 Meetup

Last Night a Fitbit Saved My Life

Last but certainly not least, was my very own mother. My mom’s story is that she first felt symptoms related to Multiple Sclerosis in 1985, but wasn’t diagnosed until 1987. She is still able to walk and live a somewhat normal life, fortunately, and has a never give up attitude. But as you can imagine, it’s hard for her to stay motivated sometimes. As the story goes, my wife and I had purchased Fitbits for ourselves earlier this year and then bought one for my mom for Mother’s Day. We got her all set up before she flew back home to Minnesota and two weeks later, I received this E-mail from her in my Inbox:

I just had to tell you guys, I am so-ooo psyched(sp), I got my weekly results for last week, (5-28 to 6-3), I walked 20,724 steps, distance, 7.69 miles, and burned 10,303 calories.  WOW!!!!!  I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday, and I’ve lost 3 pounds since last time I was there.  Not much, but dang, it’s a start.  I told him my kids gave me the Fitbit for Mothers Day, and he thought that was great.  I told him how motivated I am, because I can see the results, as I do them!!  I told him I was thinking about getting a three-wheeled bike too, for exercise, and he really thought that was a good idea!!!  I woke up at 5:30 this morning, and I laid there trying to decide, get up, or go back to sleep?  I got up, got dressed and went for an early morning walk.  I kept walking until I did a mile.  My legs hurt so bad when I got home, I could hardly pick them up, but I did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I know for all you walkers, that doesn’t sound like much, but dang, dang, dang, I am so pumped up, I think I’ll go pull some weeds!!!!  Love you all!!!

I’m man enough to admit that I cried when I read this the first time. Feedback loops are powerful.

But as we were looking through my mom’s weekly Fitbit summary E-mails, to put some slides together, we noticed something wasn’t quite adding up. She had been accepted to try out a new drug called Ampyra in June, and by her account it made her right leg, which had been giving her a lot of problems, feel great. However, her Fitbit summaries were curtailing month after month showing less and less activity.  When she went to take the Ampyra follow up test, after using it for a month, the drug was deemed to not be helping her enough to warrant continued coverage. She had never looked at her Fitbit E-mails successively to notice that her activity had declined so much, so she was genuinely surprised to see the downward trend.

I personally thought it was super interesting that the Fitbit data didn’t necessarily support my mother’s conviction that this specific drug is helping her, and yet she still loves her Fitbit AND feels that she needs Ampyra because it helps her. A great paradox of the modern health care system. Flash forward two weeks and she has begun her Ampyra retest period, on her own dime, so that she may come to her own conclusions and either appeal a denied claim or move on to something else that correlates with an increase in both activity AND feeling good,  but on her own terms. I personally think that is what the future of health care can and should look like in America.

Thank you Fitbit. 

Quantified Self Louisville Fall 2012 Meetup

Sidenote: My mother informed me that she is not a “public speaker” many times before the event… I’m extremely proud that she stepped out of her comfort zone to tell her story to a room full of strangers. Her strength and sense of adventure have inspired me more than she will know. :)

Wrap Up

All in all it was a great experience, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the early 2013. Hope to see you there!

Do you have a recap from a Quantified Self Meetup you attended recently? If so, send links over to Ernesto and we’ll post them here!

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New York QS Show&Tell #17 Recap

At our last meetup in New York, we had a packed house at NYU’s ITP, one of our great supporters of QS here in NY. Thank you to my co-organizers, Ben Ahrens and Brian Gallegos, who helped pull together this recap for the blog.

DEMO HOUR

Brad Hammonds and Stan Berkow gave a large-scale, real time demonstration of their web app StudyCure – an online platform that allows its users to create and run interactive experiments geared toward understanding their health in the best possible way. Each experiment is set up in an if…then… fashion (eg. IF I focus on breathing during the day, THEN I will be less stressed). This keeps experiments clean and simple and helps participants make meaningful use of their data that leads to positive change. StudyCure will eventually be able to compare your data with a range of population norms within a given experiment, giving you the ability to benchmark your results against the larger community.

Lead by Lisa and Dr. Mike Gerstenfeld, MD, along with their team of developers, Cloud2Health solves the problem of decentralized and disconnected health data from health & fitness apps and medical records. It does this by providing its customers with one centralized site which serves as “a single source of truth.” In an age of ever-increasing data streams, wouldn’t that be nice? A video presentation was given in a private demo room and projected on the wall while QS experts and enthusiasts crowded around. View their comprehensive video demonstration on the site!

Back in the main demo room, Kuan Huang and partners gave QS members a trial run on Feelytics.me – their iPhone app that allows you to log your ever changing emotional state and associate with your peers based on how they are feeling. The app is characterized by cute and expressive faces ascribed to each emotion and the ability to connect with others, centered on the feelings the faces portray.

Another and very different emotional state tracking platform was being demonstrated across the table by Dan Bretl. Emotish allows you to take a photo of yourself in a particular state (e.g., blissful, serene, calm, excited, etc.) and tag it accordingly. These labels then function a lot like hash tags on twitter and allow you to filter and search for photos of other users in a particular mood or mind state. This app offers a lot of potential and creative leeway for it’s users to search, follow, filter, crowd-source, and of course track their own patterns of emotional change as depicted by a photo journal.

Smart Diaper – this demo was just as cool as it is practical – one of those, “why didn’t I think of that” product ideas. Conceived and created by Yaroslav Fabishenko while taking a 4-hour car ride with his two kids in the back, the Smart Diaper harbors an embedded urinalysis patch that measures ketone bodies, ph balance, presence of certain proteins, and a host of other useful information for keeping on top of your babies health every time they… do their business. The diaper is linked with a phone app that lets you snap a picture of the test patch for the data to be logged and analyzed. Based on the analysis, parents may then, for instance, receive a message suggesting that their child be sent for a checkup or even a particular screening.

SHOW&TELL TALKS

Following the demo hour, we had four inspiring show&tell talks.

Autobiography Through Quantification

Christian Monterroza was inspired by On Kawara, an artist that self tracked each day of the year through paintings and newspaper headlines. He wanted to do something similar with his life and asked himself the question, “How can I know if what I’m doing is wrong if I never track what I do?” So he started a regimen of tracking. He found himself using several tools but soon became fed up and created his own tool. He used On Kawara’s work as an example of changing the power of a simple time stamp. He started calling his own self tracking time stamps “self portraits.”

His tracking consisted of sending postcards to friends of the city he was in and recorded everywhere he went in that city. He took this concept and gave it a name, Wrkstrm. To help with this, he built a tool that did the monitoring for him. It’s an application on his phone that automatically tags when he’s in certain regions.

Christian gained a lot of value from his tracking. He learned that it’s not all about numbers. It’s about the perspectives his experiences provided. He learned that sometimes we record the wrong things. For example, we spend a lot of time tracking obvious moments but serendipitous moments are getting lost. He also learned that passive tracking is better than active tracking and that gamification doesn’t really help. In the end, he succeeded in optimizing his day.

I Shot Myself: 365 Days of Self-Portraits

Next up was Sharla Sava with her photo project. Her project was to take a photo every day. But the rules were that a) she could never miss a day and b) she had to appear somewhere in the photo. She added the photos to a group pool on Flickr and collected feedback from the members. She found that having an immediate and responsive audience is addictive. She wondered if her self portraits were just for her and not really for anyone else. But she learned that self portraits, while not very practical, are also not trivial. They can be a site for public dialog.

For example, she explored how the body functions in journalism to send a message. She discovered how certain gestures communicating different messages based on the reactions from the Flickr group. She began to explore and capture a state of mind that’s difficult to convey.

While self portraits may not be meaningless, a question she set out to answer is how do we quantify the meaning? She found that the numbers are related to external factors. For example, Flickr tracks views, etc. She was able to draw conclusions from this data, but it didn’t really allow her to measure meaning. This project ultimately taught her something meaningful about her connection to the world.

Audio Jack Sensor Hack

This was Joel Murphy’s second time presenting at QS New York and this time, along with Leif Percifield, they showed everyone a project to find a better way of getting sensor data into a smart phone or tablet. The basis for their project is that once the data is in there, you can do anything with it. But getting the data into these devices is sometimes difficult. In fact, it’s fairly easy if you have a large processor, but an 8bit processor like the Arduino doesn’t work very well.

Their goal is to create a cheap way to develop hardware that gets data to a phone or tablet easily. So they figured out a way to essentially turn speaker outputs into digital outputs (analog waves to digital). They created a mini-IDE on the phone where you can type in calculations and mine the raw data.

Joel and Lief are hardware hackers trying to get more powerful data transfer from sensors and other devices in a cheaper way. In the end, they showed a quick and dirty etch-a-sketch that displayed the power of their new device. Joel’s notes from the talk are at Phone Jack Hack.

Spaced Repetition: A Cognitive QS Method for Knowledge Acquisition

The final presenter of the night was another veteran of the Quantified Self circuit, Roger Craig. Roger presented on the concept of spaced repetition. Spaced repetition is not about how fast we learn, but how fast we forget. Roger described how Hermann Ebbinghaus, a quantified self pioneer, spent decades of time on memory experiments with himself and discovered what he called the “forgetting curve.” The forgetting curve says that when you remember something, you will forget it, but the decay gets flatter and flatter the more often you are exposed to it.

In the 1930′s, Cecil Mace developed the concept of spaced repetition. With this, you take the forgetting curve and create essentially an algorithm to ping yourself with a piece of information you’d like to remember. You then optimize this process of review. So some information is reviewed more frequently when you first learn it, but then it’s refreshed less often later on as you are able to show fast recall. The advantage of this process is that you learn where to ‘aim’ your learning based on the speed at which you can recall.

Roger has tried many applications to practice spaced repetition and currently uses Anki. He learned that it’s a great way for self trackers to optimize learning.

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