Topic Archives: Videos
I have had the esteemed pleasure for the last couple of years of helping speakers at Quantified Self conferences put together their talks. It’s a lot of work for me, but more so for the speakers. At the QS15 Conference last month in San Francisco, I took the opportunity to not only express my appreciation for our speakers’ effort, but to also speak to why the act of sharing your own personal data experience is so important and has historical precedent.
Below is a video of the speech along with the prepared remarks:
My role at the conference is to help our speakers put together their show&tell talks. For every speaker, we have a forty-five minute discussion to go over their talk.
It’s a role I relish because I get to see the process that people go through to turn their personal experience into the form of 30 slides in 7 and a half minutes.
Unless you’ve given a show&tell talk, it’s hard to know the effort and difficulty inherent in presenting one’s story. There’s the doubt and questioning of why anyone would be interested in my personal experience. How do you decide what is the right amount of context to give people? How do you sequence the information so it is intelligible?
But if I may, I want to spend a moment to talk about this practice of self-examination, and why I think it is so special.
Something that came to mind while mulling this over is something Sarah Bakewell wrote in a book about Michel de Montaigne, the 16th century french philosopher.
“Montaigne and Shakespeare have each been held up as the first truly modern writers, capturing that distinctive modern sense of being unsure where you belong, who you are, and what you are expected to do.”
If you don’t know, Montaigne was famous for a series of philosophical essays written in the 1500’s.
What was special about his essays was how honest and self-reflective he was, if meandering and digressive. But this style was novel at the time. Montaigne’s philosophical inquiries were not expansive and universal. They were small. They were constrained to just himself.
What’s funny is that this sharing of one person’s self-examination was wildly popular. For next few centuries every generation saw itself in Montaigne. Picking out different aspects of him that resonate.
By limiting the scope of conveying an experience, the power to resonate with people is much stronger and wider than it would be if you strove to be universal.
What makes Show&Tells special is that they are personal. They are small, honest, and vulnerable. They are from individuals who are humbly trying to figure out who they are and what they should be doing.
I think we are all blessed by their graciousness and generosity in sharing their experiences, so that we can see ourselves in them and figure out how to navigate our own place in a huge, immensely interesting but very confounding world.
After going through a life crisis during his teenage years, Damien Catani turned to tracking his dreams to help “rebuild his sense of self.” Eighteen years and seven thousand dreams later Damien shared his tracking process and what he’s been learning at the QS15 Conference and Expo. In his data he found patterns for the number of dreams he experienced and remembered according to the day of the week, season of the year, and the affect of different lifestyle factors.
At every conference, a synchronicity will occur where a few talks cover a similar, but previously unexplored topic. At QS15, we were surprised to see an increased discussion of concussions. It’s hard to know whether this is due to random chance or a glimmer of the zeitgeist, but we like to take note of these little waves of how people are finding new ways to understand themselves, or in this case, overcome strife.
Though Steven Zhang had a history of sleepiness and headaches, he never tracked them prior to his concussion. But during his recovery from post-concussion syndrome (which worsened his sleepiness and headaches), he wanted a clear record of his progress. He tracked headaches using the Tap Log android app and tracked his sleep using Sleep As Android, manually logging in and out in the app as he prepared for or woke from sleep. That he naps often and has many unsuccessful attempts to sleep meant that automatic methods for tracking sleep, like wrist-worn activity trackers, were ineffective, an important lesson considering that good sleep data is still sought after by many in the QS community.
Visualizing his data in Tableau, he gained a sense of norms for his headache frequency and nap lengths, allowing him to test the effectiveness of a dietary intervention, the fascinating result of which you can watch in the video of his talk below:
Steven presented this talk last month at the QS Global Conference in San Francisco. To see more great talks like this, you should join us at our Europe Conference on September 18 and 19th in Amsterdam. We have a limited number of early bird tickets available, so make sure that you don’t miss out by registering!
Though a trying experience, Mark brings levity to his show&talk presented at QS15.
With all the self-tracking applications, devices, and services out there it can be hard to make sense of all the data you’re collecting. Anand Sharma ran into this situation in 2014 when he started thinking about his data and how he wanted to use it to help him understand himself, optimize what he cared about, and help him tell the story of his life through data. He tackled this problem by creating a personal website called Aprilzero that let him publicly expose his data and insights. After a large influx of positive feedback Anand, along with a few collaborators, has launched Gyroscope, which enables individuals to use his visualization and aggregation system. We were excited to have Anand at our Bay Area meetup group a few months ago, where he told us the story of hw this all came together and what he’s been learning in the process.
To learn more about Anand, and his journey to create Aprilzero and Gyroscope check out his journal.
Catha Mullen has a long history with tracking, primarily from her experience as an elite-level distance runner. In this talk, presented at the Bay Area QS Meetup, she describes how tracking and data analysis helped her understand and improve her financial health.
Anna Nicanorova is a data scientist. Starting in 2013 she started making an annual report, but what stuck by how difficult it was to access her own data she was collecting through different apps and services. Early this year she put together her 2014 annual report based on a few different tools and using If This Then That as a data backup service. In this short talk, presented at the New York QS meetup group, Anna describes her process, her data, and what she learned from examining a year in numbers.
In 2008 Alice Pilgram was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Faced with numerous life changes and having to now track multiple pieces of data, she started to feel overburdened. In this talk, presented at the Bay Area QS meetup group, she explains how a new simple tracking system helped her see the bigger picture.
Gordon Bell has been involved with self-tracking for over a decade. From his ground-breakign MyLifeBits project to his popular book on the possibilities of a fully digital life he is constantly thinking about new ways we can understand ourselves through the data we collect. We are always excited to see him at our QS events and were especially happy to have him reach out to us about presenting at our last Bay Area QS meetup.
Gordon has experienced two heart attacks, one in 1983 and another in 1996, two double bypasses, and currently is living with his third pacemaker. It probably isn’t surprising given his medical history that he has a keen interest in understanding his heart. In this talk Gordon describes what he’s been learning from the data collected from his pacemaker and the 320 days of heart rate and activity data he has collected with his Basis watch.
We’re also excited to have Gordon joining us at our upcoming QS15 Conference & Activate Expo. Register here!