Tag Archives: tracking

Tidings: QS Washington DC Show&Tell


Today’s Tidings dispatch is from Daniel Gartenberg, co-organizer of the Washington DC meetup group. Read below to hear about their recent meetup. It sounds like a great time and we can’t wait to share the videos from these interesting talks.

We had our biggest meetup yet at 1776 – a start-up hub located in the heart of our nations capital.  At the meetup there were three great talks, fun socializing over sandwiches, and lively QS Discussions. We had three wonderful talks:

James Norris – serial entrepreneur and avid self-experimenter gave a captivating talk about tracking his “firsts”. This included everything from his first kiss to his first time meditating on a train.  One thing that James found was that traveling was one of the key factors that impacted his “firsts” – but only up to a limit – where after some time traveling, there are diminishing returns to “firsts”.


Next, Daniel Gartenberg gave a talk on his new efforts to evaluate and improve sleep.  He described a study that he is conducting with the QS community where participants can receive $50 for tracking 2 weeks of their sleep data.  Some participants will even have the opportunity to use a Hexoskin, actiwatch, and galaxy gear.  However, users must have an iPhone and be willing to take 10 minutes out of their day for cognitive testing. Please contact Daniel Gartenberg at gartenbergdaniel@gmail.com if you are interested in participating in the study.

Finally, Daniel Martinez showed off an amazing visualization of more than 1800 days of his sleep data that he calculated using pencil and paper and inputting the data into Mathemetica software.  Daniel created a new tool for evaluating sleep, which included categorizing time as “up and at em”, dozing, sleeping, and awake while trying to sleep.  Using these categories he presented visualizations of sleep and showed a bimodal distribution in his bedtime and a new way to evaluate his sleep quality.



If you’re in the Washington, DC area we invite you to join this great meetup group!

Posted in Meeting Recaps, Tidings | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Laurie Frick: Experiments in Self-tracking

As much as we talk about self-tracking being about health or fitness. . . I think it’s about identity. I think it’s about us. It’s about seeing something meaningful in who we are.

Laurie Frick is a self-tracker and visual artist. It this unique combination that has led her down a path of learning about herself while using the data she collects to inform her artistic work. What started with time and sleep tracking rapidly expanded to included other types of data. In this short talk, presented at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, Laurie explains how her past experiences have informed her new way of thinking about data, “Don’t hide. Get more.”

If you’re interested in Laurie’s artistic work I highly recommend spending some time browsing the gallery on her website.

Posted in Conference, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anne Wright: Breaking Free of the Tyranny of the Norm

We’ve heard from our friend, and Pittsburgh QS meetup co-organizer, Anne Wright, many times before. She’s a wonderful proponent of the power of self-tracking and using data, research, and continuous exploration to discover and learn about what is meaningful in your life. All of that passion stems from a personal experience with overcoming various health issues. In this talk, presented at the London QS meetup group, Anne talks about how self-tracking played the key role in helping her recover. Anne then goes on to make the case for using self-tracking to learn how to forge your own unique path towards understanding in a world built around the idea of what is normal.

Posted in Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steven Dean: A Quantified Sense of Self

At our 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, as with all our events, we sourced all of our content from the attendees. During the lead up were delighted to have some amazing interactions with attendees Alberto Frigo and Danielle Roberts, both of whom have been engaged with long-term tracking projects. This theme of “Tracking Over Time” was nicely rounded out by our longtime friend and New York QS meetup organizer, Steven Dean. Steven has been tracking himself off and on for almost two decades. In the talk below, Steven discusses what led him to self-tracking and how he’s come to internalize data and experiences in order to create his sense of self.

Quantified Sense of Self
by Steven Dean

Twenty years ago, I was in grad school getting an MFA. I was making a lot of objects that had very strong autobiographical component to it. Some I understood the source of. Many I did not. Continue reading

Posted in Conference, Videos | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What We're Reading

Enjoy this week’s list!

CGM in the Cloud: Personal Preferences by Kerri Sparling. A great blog post here by Kerri who explains why it’s so important to have access to her blood sugar data. She’s part of a growing community of people with diabetes who are using different methods to broadcast their CGM data into the could.

On Minorities and Outliers: The Case for Making Big Data Small by Brooke Foucault Welles. The rush towards finding the answers in “Big Data” might lead to the continued exclusion of the women, minorities, and the “outliers” of the world. Brooke makes the case here for examining these “small datasets”  to give them the weight they deserve.

“When women and minorities are excluded as subjects of basic social science research, there is a tendency to identify majority experiences as “normal,” and discuss minority experiences in terms of how they deviate from those norms . In doing so, women, minorities, and the statistically underrepresented are problematically written into the margins of social science, discussed only in terms of their differences, or else excluded altogether.”

Here’s Looking at You: How Personal Health Information Is Being Tracked and Used [PDF] by Jane Sarashon-Kahn. In this report, from the California Healthcare Foundation, Jane lays out how our health data is being acquired and used, for commercial and public benefit. I especially liked the emphasis on privacy, or lack there of.

The Making of April Zero by Anand Sharma. Anand details his journey from starting to self-track to creating an amazing website that serves as his personal QS dashboard. One interesting bit is that his tracking activities increased dramatically after Apple’s M7 chip came out with the iPhone 5S and he noticed that his phone’s battery took much less of a hit from running apps that track his activity in the background.

Tracking Upset and Recovery by Paul LaFontaine. Paul has been using the Heartmath stress monitor to help him record and understand what causes him to get upset (fall out of coherence). In this post, he details how his recovery method has helped him progress, recover, and slightly reduce the number of upsets during his working session. I recommend reading all of Paul’s great posts on this work.

Europe Honeymoon by reddit user Glorypants. This reddit user tracked his European honeymoon with the Moves app and then used our How to Map Your Moves Data post to learn how to make some great maps to share his experience.

This Year in Numbers – 2014 by Lillian Karabaic. A great “year in review” post here that details the tracking Lillian has done from July 2013 to July 2014. I love the mix of hand-drawn and computer-generate visualizations that provide insight into Lillian’s sleep, diet, cycling, mood, and communication data. (Editor’s Note: Lillian sent this link via the comments on Quantifiedself.com. If you have something to share please let us know!)

HelpMeViz.com. I wanted to highlight this great website and community project as we have many great visualization and data scientists in our community. On the HelpMeViz website people submit their visualizations for feedback and assistance. I’ve had fun interacting with the growing community and have even learned a few neat tricks in the process.

The Quantified Self by Travis Hodges. Travis is a portrait photographer based in London. For his newest project he sought out fifteen individuals who are using self-tracking to understand and improve themselves. I especially like the inclusion of the data visualizations coupled with the individual stories from these self-trackers.

Visualizing Your Twitter Conversations by Jon Bulava. Jon, a Developer Advocate at Twitter, put together a wonderful how-to for getting started on visualizing your friend network on Twitter. (If you’re interested in using the new Twitter Analytics data to better understand your tweeting we suggest Bill Johnson’s great how-to.)

From the Forum
Data Aggregation
Smart Mirror with Health Sensors
Garmin Vivo Activity Tracker – Your Results?
Sleep Tracking for New Parents

Want to receive the weekly What We Are Reading posts in your inbox? We’ve set up a simple newsletter just for you. Click here to subscribe

Posted in What We're Reading | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Debbie Chaves: A Librarian in Numbers

Debbie Chaves is a science and research librarian at Wilfred Laurier University and was interested in understanding her job and the various demands placed on her time. Using methods she’d employed previously she set about tracking different aspects of her work. The data she gathered allowed her to advocate for new changes and policies within her library. In this video, presented at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, Debbie explains her tracking, what she found, and what she was able to accomplish.

Posted in Conference, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brian Crain on Optimizing Productivity

There are many people in the QS community who are fascinated by understanding productivity. We’ve featured many different talks that explore different methods for tracking and hopefully improving productivity. At the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference we were happy to continue this exploration with a show&tell talk by Brian Crain. Brian has been thinking about his productivity since 2011. He tried a few different methods, but he’s found that using the pomodoro technique has been very helpful in understanding and improving his work. Watch his talk below to learn what he found by tracking the number of pomodoros he completes each day and what new methods he’s using to make sure he gets things done.

You can also view the slides here.

What did you do?
I started tracking my work time using the Pomodoro Technique in 2011 and have been logging all my sessions since September 2012. While, I have kept experimenting with different productivity methods, my consistent usage of the Pomodoro Technique has given me a great view of changes over time. I also discussed my experience with tracking my commitments over the past months.

How did you do it?
For the Pomodoro Technique, I would set a task, work on it for 25 minutes, then log the task. Over time, I built a large excel sheet that automatically updates with a variety of metrics that tell me how much productive time I spent working and how that has changed over time. For the commitment tracking, I would use an agenda, where I write down all commitments. I would then cross out completed commitments and track my compliance at the end of each day.

What did you learn?
I learned that having a continuous metric is enormously motivating since it allows you to continually improve yourself. These small, continuous changes make a huge difference over time. I also learned that building a user-interface is tricky, but very important to make tracking rewarding. This is something I successfully did with the Pomodoro Technique, but have found difficult to replicate with other methods. Finally, tracking commitments has taught me how critical one’s mindset is. When I would slip into thinking of commitments as simple tasks, my success with that method derailed completely. So for that method, I realized how important it is to build a system and user interface that helps maintain the commitment mindset.

Posted in Conference, Videos | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steve Dean: Washing My Eyelids

Steve Dean is the co-organizer of our New York City QS meetup group. He’s also an avid self-tracker, using different methods and tools to understand his life. About three years ago Steve started to experience inflammation along his eyelids. After seeing a dermatologist and being diagnosed with atopic dermatitis he was prescribed a treatment regiment. He wanted to understand if the treatments were working so he created a Google Form to track his symptoms and the treatments he was doing every day. Unfortunately the treatments didn’t work and he went back to the dermatologist. This cycle of tracking, treatment, and frustration at the lack of improvement unfortunately continued. Watch Steve’s talk, presented at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, to learn how tracking finally helped him understand how to get everything under control.

You can also view the slides here.

What did you do?
Organizing my symptoms and treatments for atopic dermatitis to learn what worked and didn’t work.

How did you do it?
Using my phone’s camera to visually track symptoms and Google Forms to track type of symptoms, various treatments, and how I was feeling.

What did you learn?
It helped me have quality conversations with my dermatologists based on what was working, what wasn’t working in an attempt to find a solution.

Posted in Conference, Videos | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kay Stoner on Tracking Headaches on Paper

Kay Stoner has a long history of battling chronic health issues, but what bothers her the most is her experience with frequent headaches. Kay has been tracking her headaches since 2007 after she had a hard time communicating with her healthcare providers. What followed were years of attempting different types of methods of tracking, including creating her own web application. After a fair bit of trial and error she’s began to move back from more technical methods and is using her own paper-based tracking system. Watch her talk, presented at the Boston QS meetup group, to learn about her experiences and what she’s learned from tracking her headaches on paper.

I’ve found that keeping a special journal to track my headaches really helps – both me, and my doctors. After several years of trial and error, I designed a system specifically for recording details of my headaches — when and where in my head they happen, how severe they are, and the details about my life at the time. It’s quick, it’s simple, and my doctors can see at a glance where I’m having issues, without wading through a lot of medical terminology.

Posted in Videos | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Kaiton Williams on the Weight of Things Lost

Yesterday we posted our first opening plenary talk from the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference. Today we are happy to post our second talk from the opening plenary session.

Kaiton Williams is PhD student at Cornell in the department of Information Science. Over the last few years he’s been interested in how people use technology to understand and create the stories of themselves. As we were exploring our 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference registrants to see what they were involved in we were immediately drawn to Kaiton’s paper from the 2013 CHI Personal Informatics Workshop, The Weight of Things Lost. We asked Kaiton to talk about his experience with self-tracking and the mental and social tension inherent in the numerical definition of life. Kaiton’s plenary talk is available below as is a transcript of the talk.

First, thank you all for welcoming me here. I do take it as a privilege to be here. This is a surreal, and a little bit frightening, experience for me. It feels in many ways like the end of a pilgrimage.

I’m a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University and over the last few years, I’ve been working to understand how we’re harnessing our devices, our applications and our algorithms to figure out just who, when, what, & why we are. I’m particularly interested in the ideologies and values that inform the things we discuss in rooms like this one, and go on to create and use.

I’m going to talk a little but about my experience with self-tracking and self-transformation and how it brought me here to this room, and then I’ll pose some ideas and questions on how we might use personal experiences like mine as a platform from which to influence the developing relationships between companies, markets, health, and our data.

And while my talk is fancily titled in your program as “The Weight of Things Lost,” I really could have gone with “All I Wanted Was a Flat Stomach and Six- Pack Abs” It was this, more than any high-minded investigation into technology, or a community, or our practices, that got me started and kept me going.

My story began about 28 months and over 1.3M calories ago. Like many tales, it began at Christmas. I was experimenting with a polaroid camera one day, and as I watched my picture develop, I realized how out of shape I had gotten. Even though I thought I was in control of my diet and getting enough exercise I had been slowly but steadily gaining weight without paying much attention. I looked, in my own estimation, terrible. Granted, as physical problems go, this was a minor calamity but I wanted to do something about it. But I realized that I didn’t know how exactly to go about it. I wasn’t sure what good goals where or even what I was capable of. And I definitely had little formal idea of how to manage my consumption to meet them.

2 ½ years later and this remains something that I consider with a fair amount of irony. I was among a group of researchers who had been critical of the persuasive and reductive logic that powered many of the popular diet control and tracking systems. But now I found myself in need of them.

This was the time and place of my first conflict. As a researcher now seeking to modify my body how could I participate in systems like these and still champion the resistance against them? Would I be taking them down from the inside?

Maybe after I got my 6 pack, washboard abs. THEN, then it would be down with the tyranny of rational digital systems and self-surveillance.

What I told myself was that I would be able to develop a personal, inside understanding that was tied to a real personal need. Surely this was better than just critical analysis lobbed in from the outside? So I swallowed my pride and looked for help. And, as it turned out, there were many apps for that.

In the months that followed I assembled & auditioned a shifting conglomerate of tracking apps, sensors, and databases. I scheduled full body density scans, blood panels, and metabolic breath tests. It didn’t take very long before I began to read my life through the prism of my tools and data. I had found new units of measure, new ways of marking my time, my mind, and my body. For 18 months, not a single day passed where I did not enter, in almost excruciating detail, what I had eaten and planned to eat. My tools were my oracles, and I consulted with them regularly.

Their effect was strong even though I knew intellectually that I was reacting to numbers, colors and graphs based on rough estimates, or provisional theories. I knew that, by describing my body as a precise system that would go out of sync based on small discrepancies, an industry benefited by positioning their tools and systems as indispensable and necessary guide in my life.

But once I began to see successes, I felt a strong sense of fidelity to my system; an ordained from Logos desire to keep the record true. And, over the months I steadily made my life more calculable by streamlining my diet to in turn streamline how I input data into my tools. I avoided complex recipes and prioritized foods that best fit the capabilities of my databases and sensors.

Halfway in, I spent the better part of one morning trying to figure out what happens to the calories in baking powder once baked into a cake. For that matter actually, I swore off cake.

Surprisingly though, I found a freedom & spiritual joy in this calculation and control, and ample room in its reduction. It was, reassurance itself. Together, my conglomerate and I had constructed a digital model of my self that I fully bought into and managed. I was managing myself, it seems now, by proxy.

I became worried about going it alone though. What would I do without my systems? How would I maintain the goals that I had developed and now hit? I think a lot about the transformation.

The numbers showing my weight and fitness level fill me with as much pleasure as fear. Can I maintain this state without help from my system? And even if I do cast these systems aside, would doing so really lead to any better engagement with my self? What happens if these tools are no longer supported, or if the people behind them make business or ethical decisions that I can no longer support?

And this is how I ended up here: to get your help in answering the questions.

I had begun this journey this to feel in better control of my self and to be healthy and fit. I definitely feel healthier but am I really in control? It is this last move, from personal questions to broader political ones, that concerns me the most— particularly when being healthy no longer seems to mean just avoiding being sick but continuously optimizing our selves. Self-tracking habits are becoming mainstream and I believe that how we are globally perceiving and contesting our possibilities is being reshaped through discussions and design decisions made at conferences like this one.

Our conversations are already embracing holistic ideas of well-being that stretch beyond the easily quantifiable, but we should also incorporate and question how our personhood and our work is increasingly being defined not just by ourselves, but by an array of others that includes entrepreneurs, governments, institutions and corporations that are all building on our desire to optimize our selves. If we understand that the work done in this community affects practices in the wider world, how can we begin to explicitly shape those relationships?

I think we can use our diverse store of personal knowledge to construct platforms for doing just that. Focusing on personal experience doesn’t have to be seen as a retreat from focusing on others, but instead can be a strong foundation from which to develop empathy for the experiences of others and to understand their implications for our joint lives.

And so to close, I’d like to pose these questions to you:

If our new abilities to measure and track our selves are forming the basis of what it means to be modern, healthy and connected, how can we use personal experiences like mine and the ones we’ll hear this weekend, to tackle not just the question of what does the collection and availability of data means for n=1/just me, but what it might mean for others? Particularly, others who might not be in the same circumstances, or might not have the same ability or availability to join this community? How do we incorporate the perspectives of the many who can’t participate here, are overlooked and marginalized, but whose lives will eventually be affected by practices that spiral out from ours?

Can we transform our wealth of personal and experiential data into a platform for improving our connection to those around us and to the broader world?

Posted in Conference, Videos | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment