Why Quantified Self Is The Next Big Thing

During the weekend of May 10-12, 250 students, scientists, artists, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs gathered at the Quantified Self Conference #qseu14 in Amsterdam, the fifth conference of its kind and the second one taking place in Europe. First timers, not being familiar with the concept of QS, got used to it pretty quickly and absorbed the essential aspects easily, as some of them told me during the breaks.

For me, it was a great experience and I learned even more than during #qseu13: the program was even more dense with most session descriptions reading so promising that selecting the “best ones” became quite tough. A nice location (the Casa 400) and a oerfect organisation (you won’t find a that kind of catering at other conferences) by Marcia and her team made the #qseu14 a real treat.

The Next Big Thing
And yet, this great experience is not the reason for this post. I think that the Quantified Self marks the beginning of the biggest societal shift since the Industrial Revolution. Or, to tone it a little bit down and to limit the claim to the more mundane area of economics: QS is the Next Big Thing. QS is the redistribution of power from experts and organizations to the individual. QS gives autonomy to the individual who, assessing herself through tracking tools and therefore knowing herself quantitavely and – based on data analysis – qualitatively, becomes independent from the opinion leadership of experts like medical doctors regarding the aspects of her health.

Redistribtion Of Power
In this sense, QS stands in a line with technologies and tools enabling billions of individuals of doing things formerly reserved to organizations: the internet itself, providing people with access to information, social media, enabling people to publish their own ideas, or 3D printers, enabling individuals to manufacture real products in their homes: all those redistribute power to the individual.

An Inbound Perspective
What is so special about the Quantified Self? Compared with the above mentioned technologies, QS isn’t about external tools to be used in order to do something you couldn’t before. It’s rather the inbound aspect of QS: by tracking themselves people start knowing themselves for the first time in history. It’s not about learning a new technique, it’s about learning about yourself. You use tools like wearable devices, smart clothes and apps to know yourself better and to optimize your lifestyle subsequently.

The Self
Trying to understand themselves better has kept people busy for centuries. Descartes, Locke, Hume, Nietzsche, Sartre and others pondered on the self, this agent responsible for the thoughts and actions of an individual. And still, the more complex the world has become, the less known the self seemed to be to their “owners”.

For instance, most aspects of health, being private affairs in earlier times, have been delegated to specialists in this field, medical doctors, psychologists and scientists. Even lifestyle health aspects as losing weight have been occupied by nutritional experts – may it even be the ubiquitous yellow press diet recommendation.

Health Care
And although we’re living longer than ever – the global life expectancy has improved to 68 years for men and 73 years for women – many health problems seem to be unsolvable. Obesity alone costs the U.S. health system more than $150 billion per year. So-called diseases of civilization have occurred or risen within the last decades, such as diabetes, cardiac diseases, specific types of cancer. And the proposed solutions of the health industry and its proponents is to cure the symptoms of these sicknesses, to produce more effective drugs and to develop the best therapies for so-called chronic diseases. As a diabetes patient, you get the diabetes treatment. No matter, if you are a 45-year-old mother, a 22-year-old obese student or a 72-year-old sporty pensioner, you get more or less the same diabetes treatment.

The Quantified Self In Health
What if it were possible to get the treatment which exactly matches your individual personal physique? What if the treatment took your complete lifestyle into account and would be adapted to your daily behavior? Or – even better: what, if a treatment would start with the prevention of diabetes by providing you with helpful advice regarding necessary behavior change based on the analysis on your realtime body data? Any health system in developed countries is based on fighting the symptoms of diseases, and on nurturing healthcare industries which need to retain their patients by providing them with drugs keeping them loyal customers. As long as the individual depends on the healthcare industry alone, he won’t get cured of diseases of civilization. There is an opportunity to leave this system, and this is the Quantified Self. As soon as the individual is provided with unbiased realtime data about his body, he can realize impending health risks and act accordingly by changing his behavior to prevent a disease. Or, he gets qualified recommendations regarding his lifestyle in order to reduce the negative effects of his chronic disease, or to even recover completely.

For sure, not everybody wants to know everything about himself, perhaps because he feels that the data would show that he’s in a very bad condition. Or, some people might just be quite insensitive towards their own health as some behaviors, such as smoking, seem to imply. And, as always, people will have to get used to track and analyze their body data consistently, as well as to learn to change their behavior based on recommendations. This latter aspect – how to motivate people to change their behavior – will be discussed in one of the next posts.

A Movement
The Quantified Self is not a technology, and it neither is an industry. It’s rather a movement, a lifestyle enabled by technologies such as apps, wearable device’s sensors and algorithms which translate body data into meaningful stories about human behavior. The Quantified Self is not powered by inventions, it isn’t owned by companies and it isn’t ‘protected’ from innovation by patents. The Quantified Self is powerd by the people, by individuals who realize that they have the ability to know and to make sense from all their data. By quantifying herself, the individual is the one who knows herself, who can change herself and therefore who can change the world. As soon as the individual becomes aware of her newly gained power, her re-gained autonomy, she will use it. And with her, billions of people.

In this post, I have pointed out the impacts of the Quantified Self on health care. There are other areas of life where we will see similar disruptive effects, e.g. education. Knowing your data makes the difference. And that’s why I think that the Quantified Self is the Next Big Thing.

What are your thoughts? Would love to read them!

Datarella People: Max Gotzler, Basketballer & Entrepreneur

Here is the transcript of the Datarella (DR) interview with Maximilian ‘Max’ Gotzler at the Quantified Self Conference 2014 in Amsterdam.


At the Quantified Self Conference 2014 in Amsterdam, we’re together with Maximilian Gotzler, semi-professional basketballer and Berlin-based entrepreneur. Max, could you introduce yourself and tell us why you are here at the Quantified Self conference?

First, I’m personally interested in Quantified Self: I want to know what’s new and how everything is evolving. Then, I held a presentation about a self-experiment about testosterone. And last but not least, I have presented my own startup biotrackr in an office hour.

A self-experiment on testosterone – that sounds pretty interesting. Can you tell us more about that?

It all started last year during some sort of a winter depression, when my blood test a relatively low level of testosterone. Since then I’ve tried to enhance this level by changing my nutrition and some aspects of my lifestyle, and I’ve presented the results here at the conference yesterday.

What are the results?

The results show that nutrition, sleep and stress have a big impact on the hormone balance, and especially on the testosterone level. Those three factors massively add to your well-being.

You profit from your experience as a semi-professional basketballer, playing in Germany and the United States in building your startup biotrackr. Can you tell us about that?

Sure. Biotracker provides a simple, easy-to-use process to measure your blood values at home. The user gets a test kit, takes her blood probe and sends it back to a laboratory. They get their results vizsuLized on our online platform.

The idea originates in competitive sports: as you said, I have been playing basketball, and the idea was to optimize performance by measuring several body-related parameters. And now I try to provide everybody with this competive sports concept to optimze health levels.

Your test focuses on measuring a user’s Vitamine D level. What are the effects of the Vitamine D level on the body?

Vitamine D holds many roles within the human body. It isn’t really a vitamine, but it’s a so-called secosteroid which evolves into a hormone. It has a big impact on the immune system, muscle growth, bone strength – and on your mood. In Germany and in other rather cold countries, most people have a Vitamine D deficiency – especially during the winter. And we want to make people aware of that. Since by measuring, you can spir people to change their behavior.

Does that mean we all should sunbathe? I mean, that would speak against conventional wisdom.

You should leave plain sunshine after 10-15 minutes or to put on some lotion. But I redommend to sunbathe the very first minutes without any lotion because then, the formerly inactive Vitamine D will be activated by the UVB rays and then can take full effect.

Here at the Quantified Self conference all discussions are about self-tracking and knowing yourself better by measuring your body data. Which data do you track yourself?

I’m very interested in sleep tracking: every night, I try to measure how long I sleep, how long it took me to fall asleep and how man phases of deep sleep I had. I want to optimize that. Additionally, I track my weight, body fat percentage, and my movements. And whereas I track sleep actively, I track all those other data passively.

Ok, that means that you don’t invest much of your time in tracking. Which is your favorite tracking app?

I really like Runkeeper which also shows your actuall running paths. Then I like an a called Mappiness, a mood app which asks you about your mood twice a day. And last but not least I really like the Jawbone UP app.

Max, thank you very much!

Very welcome!

Datarella People: Dan Berglund, Senior Developer at Narrative

Here’s the transcript of the Datarella (DR) interview with Dan Berglund of Stockholm-based life-logging startup Narrative.

At the Quantified Self Conference 2014 in Amsterdam, we’re together with Dan Berglund from Swedish startup Narrative. Dan, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Narrative?

Sure. I work as a Software Engineer at Narrative, a software and hardware company which makes a very tiny mobile camera that takes photos of everything you see. Photos are taken every 30 seconds, then they’re aggregated and we show you a meaningful representation of your data life.

You’re wearing a narrative camera. Could you show it to us and explain what this camera does in comparison with a typical camera?

Yes. Here it is. It’s working automatically – so you wear it at your shirt or jacket, and it takes photos every 30 seconds. If you want to turn it off, you just put it into your pocket. Then we offer a service, which is connected with the camera: it aggregates all photos and tries to find the best ones by grouping together similar photos. So at the end, you have a diary of your life.

What is the typical use case for the narrative? To automatically shoot photos during parties?

Sure – that would be one use case: special occasions like parties or when people are travelling. In general, people are interested to have photos made of their whole lives. Especially here at the Quantified Self – that’s the purpose of this crowd.

Dan, you are the most senior developer at Narative – ars you also a co-founder?

No, I’m not a co-founder, but I have been with the company almost from the beginning and I’m a senior developer at Narrative.

Can you tell us a bit about the challenges you have been cobfronted with during the early development phase of Narrative?

Yeah. Most developers of our team of 30 have a software background. And it was quite hard to understand how hard it is to develop hardware: you have long release cycles with long delays. And when you have to redisign something you have an additional delay of weeks or months. And this happend quite a few time during development.That, for sure, was the hardest part.

Yesterday, your colleague Eric told me that you manufacture in Taiwan. How hard was it to set up this manufacturing process for a startup working out of Stockholm, Sweden?

We actually got some help from another startup called MuteWatch which uses the same suppliers and plants. Without them it would have been much harder, and still, it’s quite hard to put all relevant things together and build a streamlined production process.

Apart from wearing your own Narrative camera, do you use other life-logging or self-tracking wearables?

I have tried out some passive tracking apps like Moves to track my movements – and similar ones- but I wouldn’t call myself a big life-logger or quantified self person. I’m more the kind of a ‘special events user’.

Thank you very much, Dan!


[Here you can see Datarella CEO @jbenno life-logging with the narrative]

When will the Quantified Self cross the chasm?

Bring cutting-edge technologies and products to larger markets, making them mainstream – that’s what Moore’s Crossing the Chasm is all about. Where is this specific point in a technology’s adoption lifecycle that transforms a nerd toy into a quite natural product of everyday’s life?

The biggest, and possibly only, problem of the Quantified Self is its name: whereas “the self” is a widely known – though misunderstood – term, “quantified” is a so-called conversion: a verb turned into an adjective. Those grammatic conversions require additional thought processes before people either express them or understand them. Second, “quantified” is a foreign word which we all would not use every day.

It must be assumed that, when Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf started the Quantified Self movement in 2007, agreeing upon this term did not come easy, although it exactly defines itself: an [international] collaboration of users and makers of self-tracking tools. In this definition, the difference between Quantified Self and self-tracking becomes evident: whereas self-tracking describes the individual (and detached) behavior of collecting data about oneself, the Quantified Self additionally contains the aspect of collaboration of individuals and/or groups of self-trackers. So – it seems to be difficult or even impossible to ease the way for the Quantified Self by renaming it self-tracking.

But, let’s put the wording problem aside for a moment, and let’s take a look at the hurdles technologies have to overcome on their way to mass market. Alex Iskold from RRW describes the dynamics:

Crossing the Chasm

To become a mass market product, it has to attract Innovators, which typically are defined as 2.5% of the market, followed by the Early Adopters, which make up for 13.5%. After used by around 16% of the market, a chasm yawns. To become mainstream, the product has to motivate the next group, the 34% Early Majority, to be used by up to 50% of the market.

Compared with 1991, when Geoffrey A. Moore introduced the term “Crossing the Chasm”, the speed of new market entrants has increased dramatically. Many technologies – especially those invented in Silicon Valley – are aimed at innovators and early adopters. And 12 months after a product has gained traction, it’s online at amazon.com or the Apple Store, and that means a worldwide availability. Today, startups can sell their products in the tens of thousands in a foreign market before they even have their first customer support agent hired – a typical early adopter’s problem.

In the U.S., retailers like Safeway, mobile operators and others have shelves offering fitness gear communicating with apps – the most visible quantified self products these days. According to Pew Internet, 66% of North Americans track themselves with dedicated devices and 46% state that they have changed their behavior based on the collected data. What Pew does not disclose is whether those people actually know that their behavior is called Quantified Self. It’s a matter of fact: more and more people who quantify themselves haven’t heard of that specific term before.  They just do it. The reason: there are no “Quantified Self” signs at the shelves. People buy wristbands or smart watches, but not “quantified self” tools.

Coming back to wording: if “the Quantified Self” will be used as a more academic term for people buying wristbands, smart watches, smart clothes, etc., and sharing their data, then we’ll have the interesting effect of a coming mass market with a name only insiders know about.

cisco wearable tech forecast

Did I say mass market? Indeed: ask the one market research company or another, the market for so-called wearable tech; i.e. the technology used by the Quantified Self – will grow to $30-40 billion in 2018. I call that a mass market. The assumption behind these numbers – as always – is that these products cross the chasm, that they overcome the hurdle from motivating early adopters only to wow the early majority, too.

In our opinion, that’s possible. Why? The Quantified Self / Wearable Tech will become a huge market because it empowers the individual: QS redirects competences from experts – physicists, scientists, etc. – to the individual. Sue Clark is able to collect and analyze enough high quality data to be informed about her health situation at all times. She can either predict serious health problems like strokes, or she can help to prevent them by changing her behavior to the better. QS gives autonomy back to the individual, and this is the main force behind a dynamic growth of this market.

The growth rates will depend on the availability, the usability and the personalization of advice – aka social relevance:

  1. Everybody must be able to use the device. The device itself should be free or cost less than $100.
  2. It must be absolutely easy to use the device – nobody must be overly creative or be urged to engage heavily.
  3. The user must get individual and personalized recommendations to change her behavior, if necessary. No standardized programs, but individual advice.

If these criteria are met, a QS device, be it a wearable app, or hardware, will be sold in its tens or hundreds of thousands within short notice. And problems like obesity, which alone costs the United States more than $150 billion in lost productivity a year, could be addressed in a new way.

And then, the Quantified Self will have crossed the chasm – perhaps without even being noticed.

Our Session at the Quantified Self Europe Conference

[Opening the QS Europe Conference 2013: Gery Wolf (left) and Ernesto Ramirez (right)]

The Quantified Self Europe Conference will take place May 10th to May 11th in Amsterdam. This year we are excited to not only visit but also take an active part in the conference. We will host a session:

QS and philosophy

We would like to discuss some philosophical (or rather “ideological”) aspects of QS:
– QS, postprivacy, and communalization of private life.

How does the practice of tracking, sharing, and using data for personal meaning challenge our ideas about human connection, ideas traditionally framed as oppositions between between “individuals” and “society.”

My thoughts on this topic, I have put down here:
“Organizing a System of 10 Billion People”

Hope to see many of you there!

Organizing a System of 10 Billion People

In this post, I will make some predictions on the nearer and farther end of the Quantified Self movement. Using McLuhan’s Tetrad, I will argue that Quantified Self will get huge incentives from enhancing healthcare, crowdsourcing science, and support a strong common ground, people will organize their life upon. Also, Quantified Self will weaken institutionalized medical care, and it might even obsolesce governmental surveillance by pushing moral control from institutions back to communities. By this, Quantified Self retrieves a form of communal life that could be called a bucolic, but also global village. Finally, Quantified Self, together with the web and social media, can become part of an adaptive, global operational system that make a population of 10 billion people sustainable.

Organizing a System of 10 Billion People

Quantified Self – this means tracking your life, analyzing the data, sharing intimate details, and changing behaviour. Self-tracking has become a huge thing recently. It is a complex built on three rather new technological pillars: wearable technology, hardware to measure your life, sensors that everyone can carry around, second ubiquitous mobile technology, thus the means to emit the data at once into the cloud, and finally social media everyone participates in and by which everyone is connected to everyone else.

The third column, social networks, has already laid the ground for people to accept, their lives becoming more transparent to others, to keep track on many things, like their friends and interconnections, their daily routine like food which they take images of and share, and also the special events, the highlights, that are in particular shared.

So, tracking your life and sharing it with others has become a rather common thing. Quantified Self now ads measured data to that. Be it your work-out, your running, cycling or other sports activities, be it dietary data, or be it data about chronically conditions, your blood pressure, your muscular tremor or even your mood.

Quantified Self already supports the lives of people suffering from bipolar distortion, from Parkinson disease, cardio-vasculary disorders and many other objectives that would usually demand a much higher attention from medical doctors than anybody can afford or would like to maintain because of its time consumption.

What does Quantified Self enhance?

From healthcare to selfcare

To keep people healthy, more self-determined even under chronic conditions, is a huge, immediate benefit of Quantified Self. By providing cheep analytics like test strips for all kinds of metabolic blood tests, easily ordered via Amazon, Quantified Self brings medical support to people living in regions without hospitals nearby or without standard public healthcare systems.

This benefit is strong. It alone will promote Quantified Self to a huge extent. When a society realizes how much efficiency is gained by citizens tracking their vital data, there will also be monetary incentives for doing it. This might start with getting tax breaks or deductibility, and go on with discounts on health or life insurances.

Crowdsourcing science

Quantified Self does not only support the self-trackers themselves. It is also collects data on many individuals. Self-tracking does not only include tracking health. People track their whereabouts, their financials, and – often without being aware of – all kinds of other data tracked by their smartphones automatically and continuously. Thus, Quantified Self is in fact a huge collection of different experiments on social behavior, mobility, health, life conditions – on a large scale. Some experiments are literally crowdsourcing the data collection to the self-trackers.

The benefit of having this data available is huge. Doctors’ records are only showing a small portion of people’s life. Quantified Self can draw a much more complete picture. Huge advances in early diagnosing illnesses and finding cures for individuals will be possible.

A common ground

Sharing personal data via Quantified Self also works as an extension of sharing thoughts, opinions, and events via social networks. You connect with others by sharing your life, and particularly by exchanging with others, getting back from them what you gave before. Sharing creates bonds that wave the social fabric denser. We realize what is relevant to others, what is the matter with them, and we can show respect for their condition.

What does Quantified Self make obsolete?

Disrupting medical care

Bringing your own medical data to the doctor will certainly not only create joyful reactions. Self-tracking is the first step of becoming more independent from experts. Whenever people started to massively share things, two developments occurred: crowdsourcing became more and more efficient and effective, and the proprietary hubs decayed. We will see this happen. Most likely, it begins at the periphery. First, the classic practitioners will feel decreasing numbers of visitors. The small laboratories will see falling numbers in prescribed analyses. Maintaining a small medical shop will become less and less profitable.

People will also become more demanding. The passive that is the etymological root of patient will change into active, educated, knowing, and no longer taking the expert for granted. People will start to question the solidarity of health insurances. Why would they still pay for others who willingly and consciously bring their health at risk? Of course they would demand discounts, making risky behavior even more expensive. In the end, with most medical support at hand, provided by advanced self-tracking analytics and the crowd, people would not only have become autonomous, but also autarkic.

Surveillance becomes pointless

The spook business might get in trouble with Quantified Self, too. This sounds contradictory at first: didn’t the NSA turn Facebook, Google, and the whole web into a giant surveillance machine? Surveillance is characterized by entities watching many “objects”, which often are not even aware of being watched. This is what the prefix “sur” means: from above. The end point of surveillance is the panoptikon as envisioned by Jeremy Benthem in the 18th century: a society confined within a circular prison that surrounds a central watchtower. Very few guards are needed to contain a panoptic prison.

With every step in life becoming tracked and stored, it will be increasingly difficult for authoritarian security forces to conduct their atrocities that keep people small. We already witness police violence all over the world, documented and published at once, via smartphone. Surveillance turns into souvaillance, watching back. Without the hierarchical gradient, surveillance as means of suppression becomes pointless. If it is just evidence for wrongdoing that is needed, people voluntarily will provide that with their own gadgets.

What does come back from the past through Quantified Self?

The Global Village

The all-seeing panoptic eye of governmental control will vanish. What comes instead is your neighbors being able to see into most of you and your life. Society will degrade to community. As people start to question insurances and ask to bring their own wellbehaving into calculation, people will also start to question anti-communal behavior as a whole. Instead of showing off with prestigious wealth, locking yourself behind gated communities, keeping “the 99%” outside, provoking aspiration, people will start to pose as meaningful members of the community.

People will care. Everyone becomes their neighbors’ keeper. Help is always near, as is judgement. This of course bears some serious problems: while some behavior in public is broadly accepted for men, the same might be taboo for women. Narrow communities are usually not too tolerant against those deviating from what is regarded as “normal”. We will have to fight unprecedented forms of ableism – the movie GATTACA might serve as a good illustration.

No longer being on your own means becoming embedded into a lively community with all its warmth and kindness, and at the same time, coming under the full power of moral control. Individual deviance might get strictly sanctioned. Although deeply liberal by empowering the personal self, the quantified society will enforce communal morale. A bucolic global village with communitarian moral control might not sound like fun. However, compared with authoritarian security regimes most of humanity has to live with nowadays, is far worse. Quantified Self guides people to act responsibly for themselves as well as for others. In the end, we might gain more freedom than we give up.

What does Quantified Self finally flip into?

Stabilizing the global society

Quantified Self as extended social media weaves a smooth tissue of social fabric between people on a global scale. The emergent communal control warrants sustainable behavior like no legal system ever could. By building a communitarian, voluntaristic moral society of all humanity, Quantified Self might be a step towards a global social operating system.

System theory (although I am not really fond of it, I must admit) gives a good explanation, why global movements like social media and Quantified Self have occurred just now and why both will not be temporary but will accompany us for a long time.

When the global population started exploding at the beginning of the 20th century, major disturbances took place even threatening the further existence of the whole system – mankind: the world wars, atomic warfare, destruction of the environment, climate crisis, and huge economic inequality, to name a few. However, systems tend to stabilize. I believe that the web, social media, open data, and Quantified Self may let the system regain stability under the changed condition of a population unmet in size and density.

The noo-sphere

With social media, we already feel permanently connected to our community. With self tracking, we will be aware of our peers even more seamlessly. First, we will be connected with others cognitively and emotionally, but with wearable technology this connection even turns physical. Also, we will become aware of all the data that surrounds us. Data will look like extra dimensions invisible for the unarmed eye, but meaningful and rich for our head-up displays and also getting directly knit into our lives by interacting with our health and wellbeing. We already experience the world getting augmented by the data-sphere. But this experience of specialness will vanish. Data will become integral with our sensory, biological self. And, as we get more and more connected, our feeling of being tied into one body will also fade, as we become data creatures, bodiless, angelized.

Note on McLuhan’s Tetrad
McLuhan’s Tetrad: a framework to foresee effects of changes of media and technology on culture and society in different dimensions.

Health, Fitness, Science, Communication
Temperance, Communal Life, Caring, Bucolic Village, Moral Control
Quantified Self
Reverses into
Organizing a System of 10 Billion, Noo-Sphere, Angelization, Weltgeist
General Practioners, The Psychiatrist’s Couch, Surveillance

Datarella People – Michael Ricks, Self-Tracker, Investment Banker, Inventor

Here’s the transcript of this Datarella (DR) interview with Michael Ricks, self-tracker, investment banker and inventor.

Michael, you are an American living in Munich, Germany. Could you tell us a little about you?

Ok – so, what am I? A guy who is trying to get the most out of life. I’m a father of four kids who are pretty active. I work as an investment banker and inventor, and otherwise I’m just enjoying life.

How do you track yourself?

Probably like everyone does. I get up in the morning and think about what my day is going to bring. Every day I do a thousand repetitions of something or a combination of those thousand things. So, most days I start with a hundred stit-ups in bed! And that’s the beginning of tracking what I’m doing there in the course of the day. Then I figure out how many hours I’ve slept, and then I decide how to spend my day: I look at my calendar, divide up my time, dibide up my activity… and start!

What reason would there be to stop tracking yourself?

If tracking became something which consumed more time and energy than it delivered in terms of benefit, I’d stop.

That’s easy! Should more people track themselves?

Well, I think that people who don’t track are missing out. Usually you can see the symptoms of people’s failings to track their own bodies and activities. You see it on simple things: people being obese, you see it on more difficult things, e.g. people not being successful in their business activities simply because they’re not using their time sensibly.

In which situations does tracking make especially sense?

I think it especially makes sense in terms of things that are life or death. So, I want to know whether I’m getting the right nutrition I need, I want to know if I’ve got some sort of dread disease that can be cured. I also want to keep up with my body’s development over time, if my organs are all doing their job. Finally, I want to keep myself on track, keep myself honest.

Do you share your data?

That depends on what you mean with “sharing my data”: do I post it on Facebook for everyone ego read? No. But do I make my data available anonymously? We all do that probably a lot more than we think – so my blood tests is certainly information being compared in the lab I have my blood tests done in. Thats the same with some other things we do – it simply becomes public information.

Sharing data can help people. It can save lives. Is sharing data there fore a social obligation?

Hm. An example of that would be the case of someone who has leukemia and a transfer of bone marrow from an appropriate donor could save their lives. But in order to find out who the appropriate donor is you have to know many more details than you see from looking from the outside. So people do have to get tested.

And I think it makes sense. I’m also a blood donor, and there you would got to have information that’s relevant for both parties in order to make sure that someone would get what they need.

How has tracking changed your behavior?

I guess, I try to be purposeful in my life. And by tracking I’m able to better understand whether I’m really being purposeful. I then can think about what I’m doing with my time, what I’m doing with my body, and – in the end – have a better idea whether I’m delivering on my life mission.

Cool – now the last one: what is your favorite tracking app and/or what must a tracking app offer?

Hm. I would honestly say I don’t have a favorite, yet, because I have to use different ways of tracking information in order to achieve all of my objectives. Right now, I’m using a wristband, the Jawbone Up, and – with all of its pitfalls, the device is able to keep me up and moving, not sitting around during the course of the day. It let’s me know whether or not I had a good, restful sleep, and how much of it. So that’s the one I use the most for right now.

Great! Thank you very much!

Thank you!

Datarella People – Florian Schumacher, QS Evangelist

Here’s the transcript of this Datarella (DR) interview with Florian Schumacher, Founder QS Meetups, Germany.

Florian Schumacher, you started the first Quantified Self QS Meetup in Germany. Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your QS approach?

When I learned about Quantified Self in 2011, I immediately felt attracted by its very positive culture. Consequently, I started the QS meetups in Berlin and Munich in 2012 which is a lot of fun. Besides, I am a trendscout of Wearable Technologies AG. Here, I’m dealing with all devices you can wear and the sensors which collect behavioral data.

What do you track yourself and how do you do that?

I regularly and passively track my weight, my body fat, my physical activities and my sleep – all those data are collected automatically, so that’s completely effortless. Then, I manually collect sample data on my blood pressure, blood sugar, my girth, and I try to keep an eye on my haemogram. This, I do on a weekly basis. Then I track other data as time, which is quite sophisticated, since it’s not automated at all and I track everything: every project, every lunch, every activity finds its place in my calendar. So I have a good overview of how I spend my time, and how my time is devoted to my hobbies.

You told us that you have lost weight – voluntarily, that is – that means tracking has very specific consequences on your life!

Yes, indeed. I have been testing QS devices for three years now. While I kind of just tested theses devices before, I have started to use them for special purposes last year. I have been trying to lose weight, I’m on a special diet and let my ape count my calorie intake. Then I check what nutritients my food actually contains. Then I exercise regularly – and by tracking all that I can understand my body’s changes very well – and I like that very much!

Then for you QS is more a motivational thing, rather than a supervisory body…

QS is a control body, but more in a positive sense: by comparing different measured values I learn and get a better understanding of my body and, consequently, I get motivated and become happy even if sometimes this way is somewhat hard.

Do you share your tracking data with others?

Yes, but I only share some of my data: e.g. I share my steps within my Fitbit community – but only my steps – since for me these are indiscriminate data. All other data I would share with my doctor rather than with my friends.

So you draw a line at sharing your data. Could you elaborate on that a little more?

I think that’s very personal everybody should define what data to share individually. Sharing your data can be very motivating if people have mutual goals. There are studies showing that everybody will be far more successful if all share their data which each other; e.g. people lose two to three times more weight if they share their goals and data. That means in case of very personal data (e.g. illnesses) I would share my data within a closed group of likeminded people, but I think everybody should decide that by herself – and there should be some control mechanisms preventing abuse of this data.

At QS13, Gary Wolf [Co-founder of the Quantified Self] said that Tracking and data sharing would become a social responsibility to provide access to important learnings to everybody. Do you agree with Gary?

I don’t think that self-tracking should become a, obligation for everybody. But what I strongly support is the anonymous sharing of data to realize potential benefits in scientific research and pharmaceutical product development. I’m sure that this will promote our culture to the next level.

A last question: which tracking app or gadget do you like most?

I really like this Basis band, since it automatically tracks my sleep, my movement and it accurately calculates my calorie intake. At the moment the Basis is the most accurate tracking device on the market and I like it very much!

Thank you!


Quantified Self or Quantified Us – A Social Responsibility

Life logging, tracking, the Quantified Self, the Quantified Life – and now the Quantified Us? Do we need more or better expressions for this global trend which motivates people to change their behavior?

Matthew Jordan and Nikki Pfarr from Artefact make their case for changing the Quantified Self into Quantified Us. The first degree of meaning, that is to know your personal data, is the first step for all life loggers: by collecting data about their behavior they can compare their subjective perception of movements, food intake etc. with the reality. And get meaning from that, such as: “Ah, I see – I don’t run 10 kilometers every second day but I run 7.5 kilometers twice a week – on average.”

After having learned about oneself, the user takes action – the second degree of meaning: she buys new running shoes to please herself and then she extends her weekly parcours to 10 kilometers, completed every second day. Lesson learned, quality of life of the individual improved.

The third degree of meaning would be added, when people get advice to make better use of their – and other people’s – data in the moments when decisions are actually made. A basic requirement for the third degree is that people (anonymously) share their personal data.

Matthew and Nikki prefer a Quantified Us approach to the Quantified Self. They call for groups of like-minded people quantifying themselves and sharing their data with each other. Apps which support those groups should help the users to make it easier to collect the data and to get a personal meaning from the data.

We could not phrase that better – and this is exactly the our approach at Datarella with our app explore: By asking our users questions we make it very easy for them to track those parts of their individual behavior which cannot be tracked by sensors but have to be added manually. She does not see a blank page which he has to fill by being highly creative , but by answering questionnaires, the user is guided and is able to add lots of contents in a very short time.

Second, explore user get feedback on their own behavior as well as the behavior of other users. They can use the answers of others as benchmark – and they see their individual position within the explore community.

These two aspects let every user provide their personal individual data as useful community data: by adding her own data, everybody is acting as an important piece of the puzzle. And, as known from P2P networks, such as Skype, the result for each individual will improve with every new participant in the network or community.

Coming back to Quantified Self vs Quantified Us: yes, we totally agree that the social – or community – factor is necessary for the movement to become socially relevant. But we think that the individual – the self – is the key factor in the game: the individual must decide to participate in one of the most important movements ever, or to stand still and rely on traditional eveolutionary mechanisms.

We’d love to read your thoughts on that!