Topic Archives: Meeting Recaps
London’s August Meetup sessions are now up on Vimeo. Drop what you’re doing and head on over for:
- Anxiety and Me by Farzana Dudhwala
- Long Run Quantification by Mathew Beard
- Skill Acquisition by Adam Johnson
See them now before they’re converted to 3D and have lost all their QS edginess. Videos can all be found on the London QS channel:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a guest post from Philip Goebel of Melbourne, Australia. Thanks Phil!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
You’re a Data Customer
Next up was my old Humana Innovation Center comrade, Shane 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.
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.
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.
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!