Topic Archives: Videos

Michael Cohn on Tracking Commitment

Like many of us, Michael Cohn had a hard time “rationally regulating” his behavior. Even as a psychology researcher at UCSF, he was falling victim to procrastination and time wasting. He started exploring “irrationally regulating” his behavior by stating personal commitment contacts then using self-tracking via spreadsheets to understand how he spends his time and his progress on different personal commitments. In this talk, presented at teh Bay Area QS meetup group, he explains his history, his use of tracking, and what happens when he falters.

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Rosane Oliveira on The Quantified Double Self

Rosane Oliveiria is a researcher and scholar that focuses on integrative medicine, genomics, and nutrition. She’s also an identical twin. In 2012 she was struck by the different patterns of weight fluctuations that she and her sister, Renata, had been experiencing. Using historical data and medical records she was able to go back in time and track their paired histories, dietary changes, and blood markers. Rosane and Renata started adding to there data-rich story by exploring genetic testing, additional biomarkers, and are looking to incorporate activity and microbiome data in the future. Watch her presentation, from the 2013 Quantified Self Global Conference, to learn more about this interesting quantified double self story.

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Fit Fifties, Sound Sixties: Maria Benet on Active Aging

Maria Benet began tracking her activity a few years ago as a way to lose weight and take control of her health. What started with a simple pedometer and a few custom Access databases has morphed into a multi-year tracking project that includes news apps and tools. Her progress and data has even spurred her on to new experiences and athletic endeavors. Watch her talk, filmed at the Bay Area QS meetup group, and read the transcript below.

(Editors Note: We’re excited to have Maria attending the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference where we hope to hear an updated version of this wonderful talk.)

What did I do?

Hi, my name is Maria Benet and I am happy to tell you that only about two-thirds of me is here to talk about my tracking project. I mean that literarily, because in the 10 years since I’ve been self-tracking I lost over 50 pounds while getting fitter.

In my early 50s, I was overweight, out of shape, with bad knees, and when not cranky, depressed. I was already on meds for high blood pressure and was looking at the prospect of more prescriptions down the road.

So, what did I do to change my situation? I set about tracking my activity levels, my weight and my food intake with the help of apps, wearable devices – plus — in databases and Excel spreadsheets that I designed. Until late 2011, I tracked inconsistently, but once I discovered mobile apps and wearable devices — I became more systematic and consistent about tracking weight, food intake, and fitness data.

How did I do it? 

When I first started — losing 50 pounds seemed daunting, but going for a walk at least 5 days a week seemed less formidable. To track walks I was going to take in the hilly neighborhood where I live, I created a simple Access database.

I bought a pedometer, hiking shoes, and off I went. After walking, I recorded the duration, the number of steps, and calculated the distances I covered. I also charted my routes by naming the streets, and made notes about the weather and my mood during the walk.

Recording the data turned out to be a form of reward in itself. At the start of this tracking project, I enjoyed seeing the database grow a little more than I enjoyed the actual walks themselves.

Over time, the walks got longer, steeper, and eventually included actual hikes. I also took up the practice of Yoga regularly, and then added Pilates to my exercise repertoire.

Along the way, I also started to lose weight. Though I didn’t weigh myself every day, I began to pay attention to the kinds of foods I ate and tried to wean myself off processed foods in general.

They say you get fit in the gym, but lose weight in the kitchen. In September 2011, when I discovered LoseIt, it became my virtual kitchen: LoseIt helped me see what foods I ate regularly, which of these spiked my weight, even if my calorie intake stayed the same. I noticed these relationships anecdotally, rather than by finding statistical correlations between them.

Tracking in LoseIt helped me realize that as much as I love bread and beer, they are not my friends. Two years ago, an allergist confirmed my wheat sensitivity through blood tests and an elimination diet.

I added Endomondo to my tool box a few months later, since I liked having the maps and stats it offered, in addition to the other data it showed. By December I also added a Fitbit, as with it I could track more accurately how many steps I took and approximate better the number of calories I burned. The Fitbit was like going back to the pedometer, but to one on steroids.

With the Fitibit, I focus mostly on the Very Active Minutes it claims to measure. Increasing that number over time became a game. In 2012, I was averaging about 57 minutes a day, which put me in the 98th percentile. Increasing to 69 minutes only brought me to the 99th percentile, as the Fitbit population also has increased over time.

The Fitbit turned out to be a catalytic tool, because it spurred me on to push the perceived limits of my fitness abilities and possibilities further. It ended up putting wheels under my dreams.

In the spring of 2012,I took up cycling to increase my active minutes and challenge a mental habit of opting out of things because of a fear of failure or thinking of them as not age appropriate. Biking, in turn, added to my collection of gadgets and apps for tracking the metrics involved.

By 2012 then, in addition to LoseIt and Fitbit, I was tracking workouts with a Garmin GPS watch with a HR monitor and my bike rides with a Garmin Edge computer, uploading the data to the Garmin site, to Endomondo and Strava, as each had strengths the other lacked, from my perspective.

To complicate data gathering, back in January 2012, I started a basic Excel spreadsheet that tracks highlights from each of these apps in an application-independent reference for me. In Excel I track the type of activity, duration, distance, if applicable, average and maximum heart rate, Strava suffer points, (a measure of exertion), the hours I slept and how that sleep seemed to me, and additional notes about the day I might think relevant.

The plethora of my gadgets and apps might earn me an entry into the next edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But exploring these tools was, and still is, my way of looking for a comprehensive and personalized way to track the quantities in my habits and activities that make for a qualitative difference in my life … which brings me to what I learned so far:

What did I learn?

I learned that small quantitative changes in particular daily habits add up to a big difference in quality of life in general.

The incremental additions in my tracking methods and number of gadgets I added produced a lot of data, which I haven’t analyzed closely, because I was already getting a lot of return from them in the form of new experiences in my life.

The most memorable of these experiences is my having completed the metric century ride on the Tour de Fuzz in Sonoma last September. In the space of a little over a year I went from covering barely 8 miles in an hour on my first rides to completing 63 miles in 5 and ½ hours and feeling ready to ride a lot more.

It has been said that motivation is what gets us up and going, but it’s habit that keeps us going. So it is with my tracking: though the motivation was to lose weight, the habit of tracking and keeping an eye on the numbers are what allowed me to go from daily small changes to a much bigger transformation from the overweight, depressed, and achy person I was 10 years ago to who I am now: someone interested in health and fitness and setting goals I can meet.

I learned that for me the act of tracking is the project itself. Although the data I generate can be charted and described in numerical relationships the number that brings me the information that makes a difference in my life, is a simple 1 – or tracking one day at a time.

I love to see the numbers my Garmin and Fitbit generate, but in the end, the quantified self for me is not so much about the measured life as it is about keeping those numbers coming through a well-lived and, more importantly, well-enjoyed life as I go from my fitter fifties into what I hope will be my sounder sixties.

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Joris Janssen on SenseOS

Joris Janssen is a researcher who’s focused his work on combining sensing algorithms with psychological insights. Currently he’s a researcher and developer at Sense Observation Systems, a Netherlands-based company developing context-aware computing. In this talk, filmed at the Amsterdam QS meetup group, Joris gives a brief explanation of the work they do at SenseOS, then discusses Goalie, an app developed to use psychological theory, active and passive sensing, and a therapy gateway to treat and improve depression.

We’re excited to have Joris and his colleague from SenseOS, Jan Peter Larson, joining us at our upcoming 2014 Quantified Self European Conference. If you’d like to learn more about the work Joris and Jan are doing at SenseOS we invite you to register today!

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Eric Jain on Sleep and Moon Phases

Eric Jain stumbled upon a study published in 2013 that found the a full moon was associated with less sleep. Being an avid self-tracker and a toolmaker he decided to find out if that was true for him as well. Eric used his tool, Zenobase, to import, aggregate, filter, and then analyze his sleep data in a few unique ways. While he found some evidence that a full moon was associated with less total sleep he wasn’t able to make any statistically significant results. Watch his short video below, filmed at the Seattle QS meetup group, then take a look at his great screencast where he walks through all his steps to complete this analysis.

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The State of Self Tracking (QS London Survey)

The excellent organizers of the London Quantified Self Show&Tell recently fielded a detailed survey about the self-tracking practices in their group. In the video below Ulrich Atz presents their findings.

Some of the interesting results from the survey:

  • 105 respondents (22 identified as female, 76 as male).
  • Over 500 unique tools were being used.
  • 47% of the respondents are currently measuring weight (17% have in the past).
  • Pen & paper is being used by 28% of respondents.
  • 90% of respondents who answered a question about data sharing would share their data (or share it for medical research).

QSLondon_tracking2

The presentation is available online here (PDF) and an aggregate view of the survey results is also available for you to explore here. We’re excited to see and learn more from this interesting data set in the future.

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Thomas Christiansen on Learning from 60,000 Observations

It’s an iterative process. I’m peeling an onion, and I can continue peeling that onion for the probably the rest of my life.

How many times have you sneezed today? This month? Over the last 3 years? Thomas Christiansen knows his sneeze count because he’s been tracking them since 2011. We’ve actually heard from Thomas before, but we were happy to have him give an update on his unique self-tracking project at the 2013 Quantified Self Global Conference.

To better understand his allergies and his overall health, Thomas began tracking a discrete phenomena, his sneezes. By plotting them over time and then exposing himself to other data like sleep, travel, and diet he’s been able to start to understand himself better. Watch his talk below to see what Thomas learned, and how he thinks about his process of continuous learning.

This video is from our 2013 Global Conference, a unique gathering of toolmakers, users, inventors, and entrepreneurs. If you’d like see talks like this in person we invite you to join us in Amsterdam for our 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference on May 10 and 11th.

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Nancy Dougherty on Quantified/Unquantified

Nancy Dougherty has talked to us in the past about her experiences with exploring self-tracking and how mindfulness interacts with the technological processes of gathering and understanding personal data. In this short Ignite talk, given at the 2013 Quantified Self Global Conference, Nancy digs a bit deeper into her personal experiences when she gave up tracking while maintaining what she calls, “the QS mindset.”

This video is from our 2013 Global Conference, a unique gathering of toolmakers, users, inventors, and entrepreneurs. If you’d like see talks like this in person we invite you to join us in Amsterdam for our 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference on May 10 and 11th.

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Max Gotzler on Tracking Testosterone and Diet

Max Gotzler was smack dab in the middle of a long Berlin winter and he started experiencing reductions in this mood, energy levels, and sleep. After getting a blood test he found out he had low levels of vitamin D and testosterone (among other biomarkers). His prior reading and research led him to experimenting with his diet (primarily with carbohydrates). In this talk, filmed at the Berlin QS Meetup group, Max describes his diet experiments and the results he found over six months of tracking.

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Mark Drangsholt on Understanding His Heart Rhythm Disorder

Mark Drangsholt has been dealing with an issue with his heart since he was a young man. Since his early twenties, when he as diagnosed with paroxysmal atrial tachycardia he’s had to deal with irregular heart rhythms. In this talk Mark explains how the transition into adulthood negatively impacted his health and then how he used self-tracking and a focused athletic program to help him reduce his weight and improve his health. Most show&tell talks would end there, but Mark still had the irregular rhythm issue to deal with. After what he describes as an episode that made him think, “This is it. I’m going to die.” he decided it was time to apply his self-tracking process in order to understand his heart rhythm disorder and possible triggers. Mark also decided to go one step further and apply the principles of case-crossover design to his tracking methodology. Watch his talk below and keep reading to learn a bit more about why you might want to consider using case-crossover design in your self-tracking projects and experiments.

The following excerpt from the QS Primer: Case-Crossover Design by Gary Wolf provides a great background for his method:

Mark’s self-tracking data didn’t naturally fit with any of these approaches. To understand whether these triggers actually had an effect on his arrhythmias, he used a special technique originally proposed by the epidemiologists Murray Mittleman and K. Malcolm Maclure. A case-crossover design is a scientific way to answer the question: “Was the patient doing anything unusual just before the onset of the disease?” It is a design that compares the exposure to a certain agent during the interval when the event does not occur to the exposure during the interval when the event occurs.

Using this method, Mark discovered that events linked to his attacks included high intensity exercise, afternoon caffeine, public speaking to large groups, and inadequate sleep on the previous night. While these were not surprising discoveries, it was interesting to him to be able to rigorously analyze them, and see his intuition supported by evidence. “A citizen scientist isn’t even on the conventional evidence pyramid,” Mark notes. “But you can structure a single subject design to raise the level of evidence and it will be more convincing.”

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