Author: Matthew Cornell


Keeping motivated in your tracking

July 1, 2011

I recently received an email from someone having trouble keeping up with her experiment. While there is lots of general advice about discipline and motivation, this got me thinking about how doing personal experiments might differ. Following are a few brief thoughts, but I’d love to hear ways that you keep motivated in your quantified…


What’s the oddest thing you’ve tracked?

June 17, 2011

We see a lot of cool things here that people are experimenting with, such as health (sleep, water intake, mood) or productivity (interruptions, hours/day, attention), but we are also trying odder things. My interest is in widening the definition of what could be considered an experiment, so I thought I’d ask, what off-the-wall things have…


What makes a successful personal experiment?

June 10, 2011

As I continue trying to stretch the concept of experiment so that a wide audience understands applying a scientific method to life, I struggle with defining success. While the trite “You can always learn something” is true, I think we need more detail. At heart is the tension between the nature of experimentation’s trial-and-error process…


Personal Development, Self-Experiments, and the Future of Search

May 13, 2011

We experiment on ourselves and track the results to improve the way we work, our health, and our personal lives. This rational approach is essential because there are few guarantees that what works for others will work for us. Take the category of sleep, for example. Of the hundreds of tinctures and techniques available, clearly…


Micro Experiments

April 15, 2011

What’s the smallest thing you’ve tracked that had a short turnaround time but generated useful results? I’ve noticed that the kinds things we try here in the Quantified Self community are often longer-term experiments that seem to be a week or two long at a minimum. I think this is primarily due to the effects…


Quantified Self Boston Meetup #5, The Science of Sleep: Recap

April 1, 2011

QS Boston Meetup #5 was held on Wednesday on the topic “The Science of Sleep,” a subject that comes up here regularly. The event was major success and, to my mind, demonstrated powerfully the potential of the self-experimentation movement and the exceptional people making it happen. Here is a brief recap of the evening, with…


Making citizen scientists

February 4, 2011

While talking recently with my QS fellows (thanks Alex, Eri, Seth, and Rajiv) I realized I’ve been using the term “citizen science” rather loosely. Expanding on my short section in Wandering minds, self-tracking, and citizen science, I’d like to use this post to explore how the expression is used, sketch a little vision of where…


How to experiment: Guidelines from Stewart Friedman's "Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life"

January 28, 2011

Curiosity: An emotion related to natural inquisitive behavior such as exploration, investigation, and learning. Exploration: To travel for the purpose of discovery. Discovery: A productive insight. I’ve been thinking of this triumvirate as essential characteristics of scientific inquiry – get curious about something, try out some different things to dig into it, see what you…


Designing good experiments: Some mistakes and lessons

January 21, 2011

Like you I’m an avid self-experimenter, and I’m always on the lookout for things to change that will either a) improve me, or b) help me understand myself better so I can do a). I was comparing notes recently with Seth Roberts (his QS posts are here) about what experiments we’ve done, what processes we’ve…


Your life in data: Is it all about events and properties?

January 7, 2011

I’m designing the data layer for my site, and it’s got me thinking about the essentials of what it is exactly that we track when self-experimenting. Putting on my ontologist‘s hat I’ve come up with two kinds of things that I think cover anything a human would want to track (I might as well be…


What will you track over the holidays?

December 24, 2010

A touchy-feely post this week, I’d love to hear your suggestions on meaningful things we might track during the holidays, now or whenever they are celebrated. Here are a few ideas I had in the social and health categories. What are yours? # social events participated in # laughs # times you stopped and took…


Is There a Self-Experimentation Gender Gap?

December 17, 2010

As I get to know the QS community and the wider life-as-experiment one, I’ve noticed something troubling. In some areas there seems to be more men participating in our work than women. In this post I’ll try to identify the problem, suggest a couple of causes, and then get your feedback on what you think…


Discuss: The Quantified Worker

December 10, 2010

While much of our work here is focused on individual development, there are plenty of circumstances in our professional lives where we can apply the ideas of experimentation. Let me set the stage with some background and ideas, and then I’d love to hear from you on how you widen self-tracking to apply to your…


Five ways to generate data

December 3, 2010

I’ve been wondering if there is a small set of categories encompassing the ways we interact with the world to get useful data. Following are some that came to me, which I’d love your thoughts on. Note that all these offer creative opportunities for things to measure based on the consequences of the type of…


Wandering minds, self-tracking, and citizen science

November 20, 2010

A reader over at my blog shared the NYT article Wandering Mind Is a Sign of Unhappiness, which reports on research by Killingsworth and Gilbert showing some surprises about distractedness. (My take: First, the least surprising result may be that the world’s happiest activity is reproduction. Second, almost half of the time we are not…


How do you celebrate the data?

November 11, 2010

When was the last time you stepped back and gave yourself credit for your data-driven work? In our busy lives it is easy to forget to celebrate our accomplishments. It’s especially true when what we’re doing is heavy, like working with a medical ailment or a relationship problem. Fortunately, treating life as an experiment –…