Topic Archives: Videos

Ian Eslick on Self-Tracking, Self-Experimentation, and Self-Science

“Personal experimentation is simply tracking, on a schedule.”

Ian Eslick is a scientist, researcher, and self-tracker. His unique history has led him down a path towards understanding what it means to understand yourself and your health in and outside the world of healthcare. Ian’s health history helped push him down this path. Since being diagnosed with psoriasis he’s been confronted with the difficult task of figuring out triggers, effects, and treatments as his symptoms changed over time. Ian, began to explore self-tracking by mentally noting what was going on in his life and his symptom severity. You would think that this “in my own head” tracking methodology would limit analytical capabilities, but it helped Ian create mental models that informed more consistent and rigorous tracking methods, as well as influenced his future research.

In this talk below Ian describes that research, both personal and community-based, that explored the concept of helping people learn how to create and engage with personal experimentation.

“What I came to in conclusion after all of this is that N of 1 is overkill for QS. It’s unnecessary level of rigor. Ninety-five percent confidence intervals are about scientific causal proof, but what I want to know is am I making a better decision. Is data improving my decision in some measurable way? Not is it a perfect decision or do I have proof. So we want to value personal significance over statistical significance. Statistical significance says that if I run this trial twenty more times I’m likely to get the same result, but what I want to know is should I keep doing this and in QS we’re never going to stop keep experimenting, in a way, because our life keeps going.”

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Enrico Bertini on Tracking Focused Work

We’ve all come face to face with tracking some aspect of our life only to realize that we’re not quite sure how to get started. Enrico Bertini encountered this roadblock when he began thinking about tracking the amount of time he spends engaging in “focused work.” As an information visualization researcher at NYU he decided on a simple rule that would give him the most accurate data that represented his interests: if it wasn’t tracked then it wasn’t focused work. In this talk, given at the New York QS meetup group, Enrico explains his process and shares his findings (including some great visualizations).

Slides available here.

(Editor’s Note: Enrico also co-hosts a great podcast on data visualization and information design called Data Stories. I highly recommend listening. If you’re looking for a place to start try Episode 17: Data Sculptures.)

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An Introduction to the Quantified Self

A big piece of our work at QS Labs is supporting our worldwide community through the over 100 Quantified Self Meetups (see our sidebar at right). At our local meetup in the Bay Area, and others we’ve had the pleasure of visiting, we are consistently observing that nearly half of the attendees are new to the Quantified Self. Considering this, Gary Wolf, our director and co-founder, gave a short presentation to introduce our work and how we see the Quantified Self as a cultural and technological movement. If you’re new here, or just want to reorient yourself, watch Gary’s excellent talk below.

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Ulrich Atz on Tracking on Paper

“If I look at this, I have these memories, and I remember this was a good year.”

Collect it and forget it. This could be be hidden mantra of many people engaged with self-tracking, myself included. I will readily admit to buying a device or application with the hope that I can collect enough information to generate a grand insight at some mythical point in the future where the intersection of free time, analytical knowledge, and sample size magically coalesce. Ulrich Atz encountered the same problem. He was tracking, but soon lost sight of the purpose. Rather than giving up he started a new tracking project.

Ulrich started by building on the popular habit and tracking theory, Don’t Break the Chain, based on consistency in behaviors you care about. He identified six major categories he wanted to understand and pay attention to: his evening ritual, fitness, nutrition, learning, sleep, and travel. Rather than using an passive tracking system like Foursquare of Sleep Cycle, he decided to keep track of it by writing on a large wall calendar. In this presentation, given at the London QS meetup group, Ulrich describes his methods and what he learned from this year-long process.

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Nick Alexander on Running in the Cold

Science. Someone makes an observation, creates a hypothesis, tests it, then analyzes the results against the hypothesis. Hopefully once a conclusion is reached it is tested again and again for validity and reproducibility. With self-tracking, the world of personal science and experimentation is opening up real-world personal laboratories to test the findings, claims, and promises available through the popular and scientific literature.

Nick Alexander is one of these self-experimenters. When he started to hear about thermodynamics and the effect of temperature on exercise and energy expenditure he decided to set up his own experiment:

I had been introduced to thermodynamics exercise research by former NASA scientistRay Cronise via Wired and the Four Hour Body. Ray makes an extraordinary claim (i.e. that exercising in a cold environment, especially in cold water, causes a large increase in calorie burn), and I was curious to see if it would work for me.

In this talk, given at the 2013 Quantified Self Global Conference, Nick explains his experimental setup and what he found after tracking over 30 runs and crunching the numbers. For a more in-depth discussion about his methodology and his findings I recommend reading his recaps.

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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Bethany Soule on Beeminding Beeminder

In this short talk Bethany Soule, founder of Beeminder, a goal setting and commitment tool, describes what happened when they started using it to “mind” the development of the service itself.

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Mike McDearmon on Things I Run Into

There are no shortage of apps and devices to track our various physical activities. Going for run? A few laps at the pool? An early morning hike? All of these are trackable with data delivered and archived in a variety of different ways. Mike McDearmon loves to get outdoors, and he also loves tracking his activities. What started as a project to document his runs by taking a picture every time he went running has evolved into a fascinating mixed-media project. Since 2011 Mike has been taking a picture every time he exercises outdoors. In this talk, presented at the New York QS meetup group, Mike explains his methods, and digs a bit deeper into what this means to him.

For me, the real value in this whole project hasn’t necessarily come from the data at all, but from the process of getting outdoors, exploring my surroundings, taking photographs, and then reflecting on my experiences through documentation. This is what I feel is at the heart of the Quantified Self movement – it’s the passion and enjoyment in certain aspects of our lives that makes us want to document them in the first place. – from 300 Outings.

Download slides here.

I highly suggest taking the time to peruse Mike’s wonderful website where he documents his running, cycling, hiking, walking, and the pictures he’s talking along the way. He’s also built a really neat data dashboard that is worth perusing.

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Kevin Krejci on Tracking Parkinson’s

Kevin Krejci was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease last year. At a recent Bay Area QS Meetup, Kevin shared his story of how he’s using self-tracking applications and devices to help him monitor different symptoms and outcomes related to his diagnosis. Watch his talk below to hear about his triumphs and challenges.

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Rob Rothfarb on Tracking My Blood

Rob Rothfarb has an artificial aortic heart valve. It requires him to take anticoagulation therapy so that he reduces his risk of blood clots. It also requires constant monitoring to ensure that he is within target ranges. Rob learned that different lifestyle factors and genetic susceptibility was related to how effective his therapy was so he decided to start doing weekly self-testing and experimenting with one factor, his diet. Watch his talk from our 2013 Global Conference to find out what he learned.

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Kendra Albert on Tracking Reading

At the beginning of 2013 Kendra Albert set herself a very ambitious goal of reading five books a week. After tracking her reading by using Goodreads and writing short book reviews she realized that what she was reading wasn’t matching up to what she wanted to read. Watch her short talk with and the Q&A that follows to see how she used her tracking data to help her break out of her typical consumption pattern and include a more diverse set of authors. (Filmed at the Boston QS meetup group.)

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