Category Archives: quantified self movement
The following post was written by Dr. Alan Dabney. Professor Alan Dabney received his Ph.D. in biostatistics from the University of Washington in 2006. He joined the faculty in the statistics department at Texas A&M University later that year and received tenure in 2011. Dr. Dabney conducts research in the analysis of “big data,” particularly the kind that originate from biological applications; for a list of his research publications, please see his Google Scholar profile. In addition to his research activities, Dr. Dabney is an award-winning teacher of both undergraduate and graduate students in the statistics department at Texas A&M. He is also active in the creation of non-standard educational media that is broadly accessible. Examples include his upcoming “graphic novel,” The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics, and his featured role in W.H. Freeman’s Stat-Clips video lecture series. He can be reached at adabney (at) stat.tamu (dot) edu.
Just last month I shared with you my vision of the perfect tool for tracking diet. Turns out, Chef Sleeve’s team has the same idea, and they are now trying to raise funds to build a smart digital food scale connected to iPad. Check out their awesome Kickstarter campaign and join me in supporting this great project. I personally just pledged $79 for a promise to receive the scale before it is available to general public (at projected price of $99). The estimated shipping date is November 2013. Watch the video pitch after the jump.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared some lessons that I learned while tracking my diet for over six months. One of the conclusions was that tracking diet is one of the most cumbersome aspects of self-quantification/self-experimentation, mainly due to the lack of passive measurement tools and often overwhelming amount of nutritional information to collect and deal with. That naturally let me to the question: how can we make the diet tracking process easier? What would the perfect tool for tracking diet look like? The longer I am pondering this problem, the more I realize that we are talking not about a single stand-alone gadget or app, but rather a small ecosystem that includes digital scale, mobile phone and content. Let me now elaborate.
Once in awhile (and recently more and more often) I would see someone writing or talking about Quantified Self movement and using words “Big Data” in the same sentence. I have been expressing my discontent with this “pairing” for quite a while now, and finally, decided to write this post. Today I would like to to explain how Big Data and Quantified Self, just like chocolate and champagne, do not pair together well. In fact, these two lie on the opposite ends of a conceptual spectrum, and should not be confused or mixed with each other. It is my understanding that this confusion comes from the fact that Quantified Self movement is currently seen from three different perspectives. The first perspective, “n=1”, is of IT, technology and data folks. The second perspective, “n=you” is of marketers and pharmaceutical and health insurance companies. And the third perspective, “n=me”, is of self-trackers and self-experimenters. It is the “n=me” perspective that represents the very premise and nature of self-tracking and Quantified Self; that’s how this movement started, and that’s how it should continue to be. Let me now know explain why.
I must admit that of all my self-tracking efforts that I took on in the past six months, tracking diet turned out to be THE most cumbersome so far. Of course, I am not giving up, and will continue testing and experimenting, until I find the most efficient tools and methods for quantifying diet and its effects on my everyday life. In the meantime, I would like to share some observations and lessons that I learned during the past six months, including what worked and did not work for me, and some interesting insights about my diet and eating habits.
A lot of people have been asking me if anyone can do self-tracking, how difficult it is, and how to conduct a successful and insightful Quantified Self project. In this post, I would like to share a couple of recommendations that are based on my personal experiences. So if you are considering to give self-tracking a try, this post is for you. Of course, if you are a “seasoned” self-tracker, you are more than welcome to tune in and contribute to this post, either in comments, on Facebook or Twitter.
In this post, I would like to raise a question that in some degree reflects my personal concerns about current trends in Quantified Self movement. Since this opinion is based primarily on my personal observations, I would really appreciate any feedback or comments from QS community. Please correct me if I am wrong, but why do we have so many tools and projects that focus on diet, sleep, exercise, but when it comes to tracking psyche, in particular, psychological states and traits, the inventory and range of QS projects is rather limited?
During my searches for good mobile apps for self-tracking (e.g, here or here), I often encounter apps that offer to measure mental or physical performance, or diagnose and even treat some medical conditions, while citing questionable scientific theories or methods, or not listing any research references at all. This great article in Washington Post takes a closer look at the high-tech “snake oil” of XXI centure: health apps.
If you live in New York, you probably already know that NY Quantified Self community has held its quarterly meeting this Thursday, November 15. I have been attending NYQS meetups regularly for quite some time now, but this time I was especially thrilled because I helped to organize it. With overwhelming turnaround, engaging Show&Tell sessions, creative presentations, and community interaction and networking afterwards, the meetup, as always, exceeded my expectations. In this post, I will sum up the presentations that made this event so informative, inspirational and thought-provoking.