Topic Archives: What We’re Reading
So much going on this week! We just announced and opened registration for our QS15 Exposition. If you’re in the Bay Area join us on June 20th for an amazing day of demos, talks, and sessions highlighting the very best of the Quantified Self. Readers of What We’re Reading get a special discount. Just click here to get $10 off your ticket price.
We also just announced the Future Normal QS15 Challenge. Thanks to our long time friends and QS sponsors InsideTracker, we’re inviting you to take part in an exciting challenge to develop new ideas and questions about what we can learn from unlocking the information stored in our blood. Click here to learn more and enter to win two free Ultimate Panels!
Now, on with this week’s list!
How accurate is the Apple Watch’s step counter and distance tracking? by Dan Graziano. Great article testing how accurate the new Apple Watch is versus other activity trackers and smart watches. It’s a short(ish) controlled experiment, but the initial results seem positive. Key takeaway: if you have an Apple Watch take the time to calibrate it!
Forget the Fitbit: Can Wearables be Designed for the Developing World? by Jessica Leber. Together with Frog and ARM, UNICEF is launching a “Wearables For Good” challenge to generate ideas and designs for new sensors and technologies that can be used in “resource constrained environments.” Check out the challenge website here: Wearables For Good.
Is the Wearable Health Movement Sustainable by Tim Bajarin. TL;DR: Yes.
With Great Data Comes Great Responsibility by Paz. Ownership, privacy, and longevity. These are the three topics taken on in this long, but well written article on data. If you’re working with or collecting a user’s data this is a must read. And if you’re sending your data to a service, you might as well read it too.
Data is Personal by Frances Angulo. A beautiful post by Frances about using a few simple tools to track anxiety, including a few wonderful visualizations. Once again, I’m astounding by the simple power of using a tool like Google Forms to ask oneself the question that matter.
This is what it is like to be charged by a hippopotamus. by Jer Thorp. Turns out it’s super scary and makes your heart rate jump through the roof. Make sure to click through to see and hear the visualization. It’s well worth it.
From the Forum
This Week on QuantifiedSelf.com
A few notes up top here. First, if you haven’t yet checked it out please give our new QS Radio podcast a listen. We’d love to hear what you think!
Second, our QS15 Conference & Exposition is fast approaching. It’s going to be a wonderful and jam-packed three days of talks, sessions, and amazing demos. Our Early Bird tickets are almost gone. Register before Monday (May 11th) to get $200 off the regular price!
Now, on to the links!
Data (v.) by Jer Thorp. So many people in my network were sharing this over the last few days I had to give it a read, and I’m happy I did. Jer Thorp makes a succinct argument for turning the word “data” from a amorphous blob of a noun into a verb.
By embracing the new verbal form of data, we might better understand its potential for action, and in turn move beyond our own prescribed role as the objects in data sentences.
How Not to Drown in Numbers by Alex Peysakhovich and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. In this great article, two data scientists make the case for “small data” – the surveys and rich contextual information from open-ended questions.
We are optimists about the potential of data to improve human lives. But the world is incredibly complicated. No one data set, no matter how big, is going to tell us exactly what we need. The new mountains of blunt data sets make human creativity, judgment, intuition and expertise more valuable, not less.
Data, Data, Everywhere, but Who Gets to Interpret It? by Dawn Nafus. We’ve been collaborating with Dawn and her team at Intel for quite a while, and we’ve learned a lot. Reading this wonderful piece lead to even more learning. Dawn uses this article to describe not only the community of individuals who track, but also why, and what happens when it comes time to interpret the data. (You can explore DataSense, the tool Dawn and her team have been working on, here: makesenseofdata.com)
Applying Design Thinking to Protect Research Subjects by Lori Melichar. Lori is a director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and recently did some work related to how institutional review boards (IRBs) function. For those who don’t know, IRBs are the groups/committee that evaluate the benefits and harms of human subjects research. Their process hasn’t changed much in the few decades, but the face of research has. In this short post Lori describes the ideas that came from thinking about how we might re-design the current system.
ResearchKit and the Changing Face of Human Subjects Protections by Avery Avrakotos. As mentioned above, research is changing, and one of the big changes we’re currently seeing is the use of mobile systems like Apple’s ResearchKit. It’s not all sunshine and roses though, the popularity and excitement that goes along with these new methods also means we have to think hard about we protect those who choose to participate.
I measured my brain waves and task performance on caffeine- here’s what I found by John Fawkes. John was interested in how much caffeine he should be ingesting to help with his mental and physical performance. In this post he details some of what did, how he tested himself, and what he learned about how caffeine, and how much of it, affects different aspects of his life.
The Quantified Self & Diabetes by Tom Higham. Tom was diagnosed with diabetes in the late 80s. In this short post he details some of the different apps and tools he uses to “get my HbA1c down to the best levels it’s ever been.”
2014: A Year in New Music by Eric Boam. I had the pleasure of meeting Eric recently in Austin and was blown away by his ongoing music tracking project. I’m excited to see this new report and learn a bit more about what he’s discovered.
Apple Watch Heart Rate Comparison by Brad Larson. Brad used a simple script to export the heart rate values from his Apple Watch and compare it to two different heart rate measurement devices. Above is a comparison with the Mio Alpha, and he also compared is to a more traditional chest strap and found the readings to be “nearly identical.”
From the Forum
This week on QuantifiedSelf.com
A short list this week. Enjoy!
How Networks Bring Down Experts by Max Borders. Max gets double points for this great piece on using networks and peer-to-peer learning for developing personal expertise. Loved the reference to the writing of Michael Polanyi.
Mark Cuban on Blood Testing- Drawing the Wrong Conclusion or a Step in the Right Direction? by Bruce Williams. A nice piece by Dr. Williams about the recent controversy over patient generated blood testing brought on by Mark Cuban.
Defining a New Indicator of Cardiovascular Endurance and Fitness by Marco Altini. Marco has been exploring fitness and heart rate variability detection using iOS applications. Recently he’s been using activity and HRV to examine a new method for determining fitness level. As per usual, Marco wrote an amazing and in-depth report using his own data to showcase what he’s learning from his new application.
Quantified Self: A Data Visualization by Joyce Chow, Kinan A, and Adam S. Three students explored data visualization and self-tracking through logging diet and activity.
From the Forum
Who Owns Medical Records: 50 State Comparison by George Washington University’s Hirsh Health Law and Policy Program. You’ll never guess how many states have laws that give patients ownership rights for their medical records. Spoiler: ONE.
Want to Improve Health? Help People Use and Share Their Data by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shares her thoughts about how access to and sharing data can bring about a Culture of Health:
I believe that, fundamentally, data is all about helping people find new opportunities to pursue optimal health and participate in their own care. That means promoting ways to get, use, and share information about themselves easily and securely.
Technology That Prods You to Take Action, Not Just Collect Data by Natasha Singer. A nice article here that includes some great insights from our friend and community contributor, Natasha Dow Schüll. Are devices being “dumbed down” or are we when we “cede [our] free will to machine algorithms”? Only time will tell.
Can healthy people benefit from health apps? by Iltifat Husain & Des Spence. In this debate, Iltifat Husain and Des Spence discuss different types of health tools, applications, and devices being used by healthy individuals. Do they impact our health for the better? These two physicians duke it out through spoken and written word.
Excavating Old-School Self-Tracking Tools by Jamie Todd Rubin. A short but interesting thought experiment here by Jamie. What would happen if we analyzed the vast troves of “soft” data found in the diaries and journals? What could we find out about our past, our history?
How We Are Measuring Happiness at Whitesmith by Daniel F. Lopes. Another interesting example of using the workplace team communication tool, Slack, to gauge and collect information about the emotional wellbeing of employees.
Impact of music streaming on my listening habits by Maciej Konieczny. Maciej switched to streaming music in 2013, and it completely changed how he experienced music. In this great post Maciej he describes how exploring his music listening data (from Last.fm, of course), he was able to see just how his listening habits were impacted.
Quantified Self About Town by Changyeon Lee. This visualization is part of a project by Changyeon to map artificial light in New York City. Above you see a data visualization of artificial light data around the NYU Tisch Building
My year in calories/weight.Data exported from MyFitnesspal by reddit user qwerty2020.
In world of health data, enemies may become friends
Why should patients have the right to a copy of their imaging data?
WHO: Share Trial Data
California Launches Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine
From the Forum
Body Analyzing Scales – the maths?
Sleep Apnea Treatments
Central repository for QS dataComparing Steps with BodyMedia FIT and Fitbit Charge HR
How to calculate the impact of activities on pain levels
I’m filling in for Ernesto. I hope you enjoy this week’s list of articles and visualizations!
Don’t Relax: Uncomfortability Is The New Convenience by Adele Peters. This article looks at some products where a tolerable level of inconvenience is built into the design that prompts healthy actions or occasions for reflection.
Using Biometric Data to Make Simple Objects Come to Life by Liz Stinson. A whimsical project on display at Dublin Science Gallery’s Life Logging exhibition uses household objects to reflect and amplify the signals from your body.
The High Price of Precision Healthcare by Joseph Guinto. This is a fairly in-depth article on the relationship between drug and insurance companies and what happens when drug companies are given incentives for developing medicine for smaller populations. Not a breezy read by any means, but important for understanding the unintended consequences of changes made to the American healthcare system.
If Algorithms Know All, How Much Should Humans Help? by Steve Lohr. An exploration of a quandary that arises from machine learning methods. At what point do the automatic, self-learning processes mature to the point where any human intervention for correction is seen as injecting sullying “human bias.”
Networking the Coffee Maker by David Taylor. A fun, little project using an ElectricImp micro-controller to track when the office coffee pot was brewing. The author helpfully includes his code.
Using 750words.com and self-quantification by Morris Villarroel. Morris has been using 750words.com for the past three months and reflects on his previous attempts to use the service consistently and how he uses it now.
My brain on electricity: a 130 day tDCS experiment. This is a fascinating self-experiment where the author tries different tDCS montages while doing thirty minutes of dual n-back training.
My Path to Sobriety by ERAU. From Reddit, the poster shares the data from an effort to reduce one’s alcohol consumption.
From the Forum
The validity of consumer-level, activity monitors in healthy adults worn in free- living conditions: a cross-sectional study by Ty Ferguson, Alex Rowland, Tim Olds, and Carol Maher. A very interesting research study examining the accuracy of different consumer activity trackers when compared to “research-grade devices.” Free living only lasted a few days, but it’s a great start to what I hope to see more of in the research – actual use out in the wild.
The Healing Power of Your Own Medical Records by Steve Lohr. Steven Keating has a brain tumor. He also has over 70GB of his medical data, much of which is open and available for anyone to peruse. Is he showing us our future? One can hope.
Mr. Keating has no doubts. “Data can heal,” he said. “There is a huge healing power to patients understanding and seeing the effects of treatments and medications.”
Why the DIY part of OpenAPS is important by Dana Lewis. Always great to read Dana’s thoughts on the ever evolving ecosystem of data and data-systems for people living with diabetes.
Why I Don’t Worry About a Super AI by Kevin Kelly. I, for one, am super excited for advancements in artificial intelligence. There are some that aren’t that excited. In this short post our QS co-founder, Kevin Kelly, lays out four reasons why he, and maybe why all of us, shouldn’t be fearful of AI now or into the future.
Responding to Mark Cuban: More is not always better by Aaron Carroll. Earlier this week Mark Cuban started a bit of an kerfuffle by tweeting out, “1) If you can afford to have your blood tested for everything available, do it quarterly so you have a baseline of your own personal health.” What followed, and is still ongoing, is a great discussion about the usefulness of longitudinal medical testing. I’m not sure I agree with the argument made here in this piece, but interesting nonetheless.
My Quantified Email Self Experiment: A failure by Paul Ford. Paul takes a look at his over 450,000 email messages dating back 18 years. He find out a lot, but states that he doesn’t learn anything. I disagree, but then again, I’m not Paul. Still fascinating regardless of the outcome.
Filling up your productivity graph by Belle Beth Cooper. Want to understand your productivity, but not sure where to start? This is a great post by Belle about how she uses Exist and RescueTime to track and understand her productive time.
2014: An Interactive Year In New Music by Eric Boam. We’ve featured some of Eric’s visualization work here before, but this one just blew me away. So interesting to see visualization of personal data, in this case music listening information, turned into something touchable and engaging.
“Women and Children First” by Alice Corona. A fascinating deep data dive into the Titanic disaster. Was the common refrain, “Women and children first!” followed? Read on to find out.
HHS Expands Its Approach to Making Research Results Freely Available For the Public
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Grants Public Access to Data through Scientific “Data Warehouse”
FDA ‘Taking a Very Light Touch’ on Regulating the Apple Watch
Selling your right of privacy at $5 a pop
From the Forum
Enjoy this week’s list!
The inside story of how Apple’s new medical research platform was born by Daneila Hernandez. I know we’ve been talking a lot about ResearchKit lately, but I had to add this fantastic piece on Stephen Friend’s journey that lead him to help bring it out of Apple’s lab and onto our iPhones. Of particular interest was this sentence from a FOIA request on Apple’s meeting with the FDA in 2013:
“Apple sees mobile technology platforms as an opportunity for people to learn more about themselves. “
Your Data Is Not Your Life Story by Michael Humphrey. An interesting take on the influence of machines and algorithms on our ability to understand and tell the stories of our lives.
Data Privacy in a Wearable World by Gawain Morrison. Gawain lists five steps for companies to consider as they beocome the gatekeepers of our personal data. My favorite: “Set up an ethical body”
DJ Patil Talks Nerd to Us by Andrew Flowers. You may know DJ as the gentleman who coined the term “data scientist” or from his groundbreaking work at LinkedIn, or maybe even his new position as the deputy chief technology officer for data policy and chief data scientist at the White House. Regardless, this interview sheds some light on his new role and how he thinks about the power of data at the national level.
Wireless Sensors Help Scientists Map Staph Spread Inside Hospital by Scott Hensley. A great piece on a new research article the described a new digital epidemiology method used to track individuals and infection in a hospital. One can’t help but wonder about the future of this type of system for understanding healthcare interactions now that we have low-cost iBeacon, NFC, and RF technology embedded into our phones.
Sensored City by Creative Commons. Together with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the City of Louisville, CC Science is creating an open-source project to map and visualize environmental data. So great to see this work getting out there.
Reflections on my ongoing diet and fitness project by Shannon Conners. Again Shannon wows us with her beautiful and thoughtful explanation on how tracking and visualizing her data has set her on a path to a healthy weight.
“I have now collected enough free-living data in my own n=1 study to quantify what works for me to lose weight and maintain in a healthy range for me — an understanding that largely eluded me up to this point in my life. Not surprisingly, I have converged on the same deficit strategy commonly employed in weight loss studies that treat people like caged rats, closely quantifying their intake and activity to prove that negative calorie balance is the critical factor that causes weight loss. I’m truly grateful that I didn’t need to live in a cage to learn what I have over the past few years. In many ways, learning what I have from my data has helped set me free.”
Tracking Joy at Work by Joe Nelson. Joe and his coworkers use Slack to communicate at work. He was wondering why sometimes things just weren’t working right so he created a tool to randomly ask himself and his coworkers how he they feel. Results are then displayed anonymously on a dashboard. So cool.
Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec. Two friends track one topic each week and send each other postcards with hand-drawn visualizations based on the data. Absolutely beautiful work.
Air Transformed By Stafanie Posavec with Miriam Quick. Two wearable data objects based on open air quality data: Touching Air (a necklace) and Seeing Air (glasses).
Laurie Frick – American Canvas. A great interview with our friend and data artist, Laurie Frick. Make sure to watch through to the end.
It’s Not Just the Watch: Apple Also Helping Cancer Patients
Americans Believe Personal Medical Data Should Be Openly Shared with Their Health Care Providers
What should we do about re-identification? A precautionary approach to big data privacy
Ernesto is in sunny Austin for SXSW, so I’m filling in to gather this week’s articles and links for your reading pleasure.
Apple ResearchKit concerns, potential, analysis by MobiHealthNews. ResearchKit was a big surprise coming out of Apple’s Special Event this week. It was quite difficult to select just one representative article about the ensuing conversation, so this round-up serves nicely.
#WhatIfResearchKit: What if Research Kit actually, truly, worked… by Christopher Snider. Okay, I failed to keep to one article on ResearchKit. This post chronicles a series of Twitter conversations on the question: if ResearchKit does work, what are the possibilities?
The Electric Mood-Control Acid Test by Kevin Bullis. Thync is a sort of evolved version of a transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) device. A technology with a lot of potential and controversy, this article explores why the brain-enhancing effects of the TDCS only work for some people. By the way, if you are a fan of Philip K. Dick, Thync may remind you of the mood organ that was in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Automated Learning by Nichole Dobo. Some school classrooms are experimenting with ”Blended learning”, a method of combining classroom teachers and computer-assisted lessons. A detail that stuck with me is the description of three large displays that show where each student is supposed to go that day, based on the results of the previous day’s lesson.
The Mouse Trap: Can One Lab Animal Cure Every Disease? by Daniel Engber. An in-depth how science’s predominant use of lab mice could be limiting our knowledge of disease. Of relevance to self-trackers because many models of optimal health are in part based on mouse studies.
Analyzing a Year of My Sleep Tracking Data by Bob Troia. This is a superb exploration of Bob’s sleep data from 2014 as collected by his Basis watch.
Notes on 416 Days of Treadmill Desk Usage by Neal Stephenson. The author of Snow Crash and The Cryptonomicon is a long time user of a treadmill desk, but when he began having pain in his left leg, he had to reevaluate how he used his favored tool.
Qualities of #QuantifiedSelf by Christina Lidwin. A fascinating analysis of the #quantifiedself hashtag.
First medical apps built with Apple’s ResearchKit won’t share data for commercial gain by Fred O’Connor
Talking Next-Gen Diabetes Tools with Dexcom Leaders by Mike Hoskins
From the Forum
Mood Tracking Methods?
Howto track laptop uptime
CCD or CCR conversion tools?
What gets measured, gets managed – Quantified Self in the workplace
Best ECG/EKG Tool for Exercise
Best iOS app to track water/coffee/alcohol intake?
This Week on QuantifiedSelf.com
QS15 Sponsor Highlight: RescueTime
Quantified Self and Apple’s ResearchKit
Better by Default: An Access Conversation with John Wilbanks
QS15 Conference Preview: Jamie Williams on Tracking My Days
Quantified Self Styles
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a lovely little comic with a message that many self-trackers can relate to.
The Secret by Grant Snider
We hope you enjoy this week’s selection of links, show&tell posts, and visualizations!
Hacking Your Brain by The Economist. Increasing performance and cognitive functioning, reducing depression, improving memory – if you could use a simple tool to get all these done, would you? What if that device was delivering electrical current to your brain? That’s the promise of transcranial direct current stimulation.
Talking Next-Gen Diabetes Tools with Dexcom Leaders by Mike Hoskins. Wonderful interview here with Terry Gregg (chairman) and Kevin Sayer (CEO) of Dexcom. Particular focus is given to their reaction and ideas regarding the open source Nightscout project.
Scientists threatened by demands to share data by Victoria Schelsinger. An older article (2013) about the shift towards open data and data sharing in academic science and it’s potential impact and possible pitfalls.
”’I think the public thinks that we’re all learning from everyone else’s work. That’s not true, and furthermore, it’s not true in ways that are even worse than you might think.’” – Heather Piwowar
Changing Representation of Self-Tracking by Deborah Lupton. It’s always great to hear that Deborah has released new writing. Her thoughtful analysis about self-tracking, data as culture, and data as object is consistently fantastic. Great addition to her growing body of work here.
Why Pets Are the Future of Fitness Wearables by Annie Lowrey. An interesting take on how the rise of tracking tools for pets may impact pet owners. Reminds me of research conducted by my old colleagues at San Diego State University: Physical activity, weight status, and neighborhood characteristics of dog walkers (Spoiler: Having a dog is associated with being more physically avtive.)
This guy is the Mark Zuckerberg of open-source genetics by Daniela Hernandez. A few weeks ago we highlighted an article by Daniela that focused on the fantastic openSNP project. She’s back with a profile of one of the founders, Bastian Greshake. (Full disclosure: I am openSNP member #610.)
Personal Sleep Monitors: Do They Work? by Christopher Winter. Superb experiment here to try and understand the accuracy of different sleep trackers.
What I’ve learned after 10 years of quantifying myself by Maxim Kotin. The title says is all.
A History of Checkins: Facebook Checkin Stats by Octavian Logigan. Octavian breaks down three years of his location checkin history and describes what he learned through examining seasonal trends, category breakdowns, and travel patterns.
I love the sleep tracker, so I can quantify this kind of information! (I have a 2yo and a 5yo….) by reddit user EclecticBlue. Fun visualization here of Fitbit sleep data. Also, great comments in the thread.
Locals & Tourists by Mapbox & Eric Fischer. I could spend hours exploring this interactive map of tweet locations by “tourists” and “locals”. (Special thanks to Beau Gunderson for point out that Eric also did a similar project with geotagged Flickr photos)
The Impact of Weather on Human Activity by Paul Veugen. The team at Human “1.9M activities in Boston & NYC to see the impact of weather on Human activity.” Make sure to click through for the full visualization.
FCC & FDA moving connected health forward by establishing wireless medical test beds
Nike+ Running Expand Global Partnerships
Will Our Fitness Data Be Used Against Us?
As the “quantified self” industry explodes, who will control the data — us or them?
This Week on QuantifiedSelf.com
Gordon Bell: Every Beat of My Heart
QS15 Conference Preview: Stephen Cartwright on 17 Years of Location Tracking
What’s in My Gut