Tag Archives: videos

Peter Torelli: 20 Years of Memories Tucked Away in Personal Finance Data

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Peter Torelli had $2000 saved when he entered college. He knew that it wouldn’t last long, so he had to be careful about his spending. He switched to using a credit card in order to have a record of his purchases and reconciled his accounts every month. It became a habit that he kept for a long time. A really long time.

Peter now has 20 years of financial data, and the way he’s logged his data has followed larger technological trends. Starting with manually logging transactions in Quattro Pro and storing his data on floppy disks, his data now resides on Quicken’s servers. These changes have brought better security with better backups, but also uncertainty about the ownership of his data and lack of flexibility to move his information elsewhere because of proprietary data formats.

One of the surprising findings is how many memories flooded back when he reviewed past transactions. Both memories and transactions are tied to places. A simple line item can trigger a forgotten moment with an out-of-touch friend. When Peter’s spending trends are displayed on a multi-year timeline, it’s not just a representation of his finances, but the chapters of his life as well.

There are many more great insights from Peter’s talk at the Quantified Self San Francisco meetup in April:

You can read more about Peter’s projects on his website. For more on this topic, here’s a great roundup of QS projects related to money.

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Akhsar Kharebov: A Smart Scale for Healthy Weight Loss

Historically, the most prevalent self-tracking tool in the home was the scale and the relationship between people and weight is complicated. Akhsar found healthy weight loss to be an emotionally difficult process. His breakthrough came with the Withings smart scale with which he lost 65 pounds in the first year and has kept it off for the last three. In this talk he discusses how the data helped him gain the self control to overcome temptations.

Weight has been a popular topic for Show&Tell talks:
Julie Price on the effect of running and family events.
Nan Shellabarger on seeing her life story in 26 years of weight data.
Kouris Kalligas on the relationship between his weight and sleep.
Jan Szelagiewicz on being motivated by family history.
Lisa Betts-LaCroix on using spreadsheets, forms and wireless scales changes the tracking experience.
Rob Portil on how he and his partner experience weight tracking differently.
Amelia Greenhall on using a 10-day moving average.

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Stephen Cartwright: 17 Years of Location Tracking

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“I started [tracking location] because I’m interested in all these invisible systems that we are immersed in.”

Stephen Cartwright has been tracking his latitude, longitude and elevation every hour since 1999. Even though the GPS in smartphones has made location tracking automatic, Stephen finds that he gets more reliable data from manually logging his location, of which he has almost 150,000 entries.

In this talk, Steven shows how seventeen years of location tracking has given him a wealth of data to explore in the form of three-dimensional data visualization sculptures. He has even brought some of these to QS conferences. They are amazing to behold in person.

While his visualizations show where he’s been, he says that it’s the negative space that can be more interesting, prompting the question, “Where do I need to go? What do I need to see?”

Other location tracking talks that we’ve featured include Jamie Aspinall‘s adventures in the UK, Robbie MacDonell on logging his transportation, and Alastair Tse on walking around Manhattan. We’ve also featured some great location-related visualizations from Bob Troia, Aaron Parecki, Eric Jain, and Tom McWright.  If you have some location data from Moves, we’ve also written a guide on mapping it.

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Jon Cousins: Why I Weighed My Whiskers

Jon Cousins has given wonderful show&tell talks on mood tracking. Like most methods for measuring mood, his process involves a subjective assessment of his well being. But what if there was a physical measurement related to mood that doesn’t involve blood work?

Inspired by an anecdote about a man’s beard growth while working on a remote island, Jon explores whether there is a relationship between his mood and facial hair. Yes, you read that right.

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Mark Wilson: Three Years of Logging my Inbox

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“My inbox has become a barometer of my stress level.”

Email overwhelm is something that most people of first world means can relate to. Getting a handle on this digital deluge is a Sisyphean endeavor that is, perhaps, only endured by deluding ourselves into thinking that it is possible if only we found the right tool or adopted the right habit.

In this talk, Mark Wilson (who we’ve featured before) tells us what he learned from tracking the number and age of emails in his inbox and how that made him confront the impact that his message count has on his self-esteem.

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Jacek Smolicki: Self-Tracking As Artistic Practice

“I don’t have a concrete goal. I don’t have a concrete aim to advance myself. It’s a way to explore different aspects of my life through data.”

Since 2009 Jacek Smolicki has experimented with using personal data as a mode for artistic exploration. In this talk, he presents some of his practices:

To learn more about Jacek’s practices, explore his website. Check out other examples of self-tracking as artistic expression with talks from Laurie Frick and Alberto Frigo, and pieces from the art exhibition at the 2015 QS Conference in San Francisco.

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Visualizing Blood Glucose

 

For people who take insulin, self-measurement is a matter of life and death. No wonder, then, that people with diabetes who track their blood glucose have been so important in advancing techniques of visualization,and understanding data. At the Quantified Self Europe conference in Amsterdam this year, we were honored to host a panel discussion on Data Visualization and Meaning with Joel Goldsmith (Abbott Diabetes Care), Jana Beck (Tidepool), Doug Kanter (Databetes), and Stefanie Rondags (diabetes coach and blogger).

This discussion strikes me as widely important for self-trackers whether or not we have diabetes. Many  of us will be tracking blood glucose in the near future. And the issues of data access, understanding, and clinical relevance that people with diabetes are working on resemble challenges commonly faced by anybody who is tracking for health.

For instance, Jana Beck was asked during the Q&A about her health care providers. How receptive are they to the important experiments she’s done to improve her health based on the data she’s collected? ”None of my endocrinologists have been very receptive to this approach,” she answered. “My A1C tends to fall within the range of what’s considered the gold range for people with Type 1. But I’m interested in optimizing that further. Often, I don’t even see them more than twice a year.”

Jana, Stefanie, and Doug all showed their own data in the context of discussing experiments and decisions that have had a major impact on their wellbeing. All were clear that the domain of these experiments and decisions is not healthcare as traditionally understood; but nor is it a matter of general fitness or lifestyle. The domain of these experiments is different and perhaps still unnamed. Self-collected data can and should essential health decisions, but the most advanced techniques of understanding this data are still being developed in an ad-hoc, grassroots way, by knowledgeable and open minded individuals who have a strong interest in learning for themselves.

At the end of the session I asked Joel Goldsmith, of Abbott Diabetes care, about the future prospects of the Freestyle Libre, a minimally invasive wearable blood glucose monitor that is not yet available in the US. (Disclosure: Abbott Diabetes Care was one of the sponsors of the QS Europe Conference.) The Freestyle Libre has a sensor in the form of a patch worn on the arm, and a touchscreen reader device that you lift close to the sensor to get a reading. There is no finger prick involved. While this and competing minimally invasive or non-invasive glucose monitors will almost certainly continue to be regulated as medical devices and understood as part of the health care system, many other people will also use them, and the flood of data and the questions that go with it will challenge our understanding of where this type of information should live.

The video above contains the full session, including the Q&A.

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Why Quantified Self Show&Talks are Amazing

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.

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Fabio Ricardo dos Santos on Using Relationship Data to Navigate a Chaotic Life

I’m fascinated by self-tracking projects that focus on things that are hard to quantify.

Such is the case here. Fabio Ricardo dos Santos is gregarious and likes to be around people. A lot of people. But he had a nagging sense that something was out of balance.

To better understand why, he began to track his relationships and interactions. He soon found that out of the people that he knows, only about 14% are what he considered to be important relationships and that they made up 34% of his interactions. He felt that this number was too low and it spurred him to spend more time with that important 14%.

But he didn’t just track his time with people and the number of interactions. He expanded his system to include the quality of his relationships and interactions. He found that this made him focus on face-to-face interactions and video chats over emails and texts.

The other side of this, though, is that when you have a system where you rate and rank your relationships, how does it not seem like you are rating people? What are the implications of doing so?

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Greg Pomerantz on Trying a High Carbohydrate Diet

Greg Pomerantz was curious about the effect of carbohydrate intake on his various health indicators. After eating a low carbohydrate diet for a few years Greg wanted to see what happened if he reversed course and switched to a high carbohydrate diet (mostly fish and rice). Watch this quick talk, filmed at the New York QS Meetup group, to see what he learned.

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