Category Archives: quantified self

QS17 Day 2

I’m at the Quantified Self conference in Amsterdam, Day 2 of 2 completed.  I covered Day 1 previously.

This conference is always so packed with inspiring and thought-provoking talks, breakouts, workshops, office hours, and discussions!  It’s difficult to keep track, summarize, or highlight.  But I’ll do what I can!

Personal note: not everyone took a free uBiome kit, so I grabbed an extra one for Rover.  I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.

Flavor quotes

I feel like the following highlights how informal, accepting, and up-to-the-minute-data-focused this particular conference is.  A speaker was called to the podium and came up very slowly, tapping on his laptop.  The organizer asked:

“Are you still working on your slides as you’re walking up from the back?”
“Yup.”

And another quote to highlight that you don’t have to be technical to be an avid self-quantifier:

“What I lack in technical skills I more than make up for with my ability to outsource.”

Note: A number of talks and office hours were devoted to helping people analyze and visualize without coding skills, such that outsourcing is also not necessary for those with a little time on their hands.

 

Emergent themes

Day 2 had some theme overlap with Day 1, and also produced some new themes.  My lists will of course be different from others’ because every conversation is unique.  The conference was organized with 30 minute breaks between sessions, so there were many fascinating and lengthy conversations—without keeping anyone from attending a session.

  • “emergent experiments”: the idea that many in the Quantified Self community define their personal “experiments” in retrospect, making them more of a precursor to or inspiration for experiments with more scientific rigor
  • high frequency blood measurements: glucose, ketones, and more
  • monetizing QS data, either from the perspective of a company that has access to it or from the perspective of an individual
  • guilt and judgment of behaviors exhibited by self-trackers; how to set a goal for modifying it if it really is a problem
  • custom personal dashboards
  • data ownership—big theme this year!

 

Other topics

A more comprehensive summary of topics I attended or which were discussed in my vicinity today:

  • optimizing athletic training using genetics
  • obtaining accurate maximum heart rate value without a lab
  • AMH as a fertility measure, and the interesting result that AMH can be increased after it falls
  • creating a negative split app for running
  • tracking phone use to reduce overuse
  • diabetes type 1 tracking and management
  • creating personal dashboards
  • tracking personal growth
  • fasting and ketones
  • automation and screen scraping for creating personal dashboards; UI to emphasize GTD
  • EMG tracking for 6 months; correcting weightlifting form based on muscle activation data
  • balancing neurotransmitters for Parkinson’s
  • sleep tracking and resting heart rate; wearable sensors can predict sickness
  • producing life data magazines
  • overthinking your entire personal inventory
  • recess activity analysis—data to prove to the school that canceling recess is detrimental
  • menstrual and hormonal tracking
  • tracking cyclical data
  • body temperature and ovulatory cycles
  • felt routines
  • turning sleep insights into sculptures
  • turning sleep insights into galaxy-inspired art

…and so many other things! I got more swept away with conversations today and didn’t make as many notes.

QS17

I’m at the Quantified Self conference in Amsterdam, Day 1 of 2 completed.  uBiome gave us free kits!

 

What is Quantified Self?

This year the Quantified Self Institute proposed a working definition that I feel is concise and captures the spirit of the community:

Quantified Self is personal discovery through everyday science.

This seems like a great way to introduce the idea to new people.  You still have to explain “everyday science”, but this is the shortest definition I’ve seen that covers most of the things people in this community do without being overly vague.  “Everyday science” in this case refers not to professional or academic rigor, but to approaching personal discovery with an analytical mind, inspired by the scientific method.  I like this “everyday” modifier not just because I believe it’s possible to discover and change yourself without formal training, but because some of the experiments people perform on themselves could well be detrimental to them if performed with full scientific rigor.  In fact, many of the “experiments” in this community are not planned ahead of time and become experiments in retrospect, as they unexpectedly get a result from a not-fully-intentional change, visible among the data they are already tracking.

 

Emerging themes

Some themes are starting to emerge among the talks and breakout sessions I’ve attended, as well as the smaller informal conversations I’ve had:

  • data ownership—ways to keep your own data and/or find out where else your data may be and for how long
  • tracking fatigue—for those without a specific experimental focus, it is easy to grow tired of carrying a device or checking results
  • whether automation is “better” than manual tracking, when it’s possible
  • tracking subjective experiences is tricky—comparing data, keeping data consistent, affecting the value by the fact that you are tracking, etc
  • user experience is key

 

Other topics

Just to give an idea of what other kinds of things we talk about:

  • What is Quantified Self?
  • Quantified Self Institute
  • Crying
  • Psychedelic sweet spot
  • Automatically creating comics in place of complicated flowcharts
  • Why do we track so much?
  • Biofeedback for meditation
  • 3D body scanning
  • Skin scars
  • Tracking, surveying, visualizing, performing nontrivial analyses (beyond a regression), and predicting—without needing to code
  • Tracking subjective variables
  • Single subject experiment design
  • How much do we use our phones? Is our usage (or anyone’s usage) pathological?
  • Tracking parenting data and significant moments in a child’s life
  • Tracking menstrual cycles
  • Hearing loss and pharmaceuticals that prevent/delay it
  • Underwear for tracking
  • Sleep tracking

Spammy callers escalating, still not beating Google Voice

My various spammy callers have recently taken to leaving voicemails that don’t say anything—either complete silence or the sound of people chattering in the background (I got curious and listened to a couple). IIRC the law prohibits callers from leaving automated messages, but it would be awfully hard to prove these are automated even if you could prove who was calling. One of these silent messages was 48 seconds long! Overkill much?

I’m so glad I run everything through Google Voice‘s transcriptions, so I can see at a glance that it was a spam/phish caller who’s trying to trick me into calling back. I highly recommend an automated transcription service to anyone else who gets far more illegitimate calls than legit ones.

For example, looking at the last month, my legit calls were ~5-10% of all attempted calls—including ones where I was the caller, not the callee. People often look at me like I have 12 heads when I say I never answer unknown numbers. I think it would be crazy for me to answer them, given the givens. Legit callers leave real voicemails or texts, or contact me by other means.

Waking songs

Music in my head

I’m one of those people who have songs in their head over 20% of the time.  It’s rarely a conscious choice.  Most often they’re triggered by conversations, because my head is an distracting little lyrics repository.  They can be obvious triggers like “I hurt myself today” (which is a terrible time to share what’s in my head), or slightly obtuse associative triggers like “Got it!”  And sometimes they can even be triggered by the cadence, rather than the content, of what they said.  I actually rediscovered a 1983 tune I had almost completely forgotten that way.  The lyrics were gone except for “got to keep a-movin“, but the chorus rhythm was still stored in my brain.  Songs also pop into my head when I’m walking or exercising, based on my movements.  You wouldn’t believe how often “March of the Trolls” sneaks in there!

It Only Makes Me Laugh

It Only Makes Me Laugh (Oingo Boingo)

Waking songs

I often find that there’s a song in my head when I wake.  Sometimes this song is related to recent events, but more often I see no connection.  In fact, more often than not it’s something from my childhood, and not always a good something—to the point where I haven’t heard it since my childhood.  I keep “Carry On Wayward Son” on conscious standby to kick out any awful earworms that I need out of my head.  It’s rarely necessary, but it always works.

 

Patterns?

Most of my waking songs are benign but bemusing.  I’ve started wondering if there’s a pattern I can’t see because these songs are only in my head as I’m waking up—not the clearest-thinking part of the day!  So I’ve started writing them down.  At the end of a year, perhaps, I’ll compile a playlist, and if I’m not too embarrassed by it, I’ll share with y’all.  Maybe we can come up with some interesting hypotheses or experiments.