This week’s podcast is about the rising movement for quantifying our lives beyond just health and body. The Quantified Self is about self-knowledge through self-tracking and extends our awareness about what’s happening in our lives, how we’re spending our time, and pretty much anything related to our daily living.
In 2007 Ernesto Ramirez joined with Wired Magazine’s Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf to create this organization, made up predominantly of individuals with a passion for managing their lives. The society has grown from its San Francisco roots to about 90 groups meeting regularly worldwide. Many of the devices we talk about on this show have been supported by this movement, and some of the trendsetters in our community are themselves “Quantified Selfers”.
– Ernesto Ramirez
Ernesto is the program director for The Quantified Self, as well as a research associate at the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems at the University of California, San Diego where he’s done his PhD work. Today we speak with Ernesto in his role as program director and talk about The Quantified Self, where it’s going, and about the best practices for quantifying aspects of our biology and daily lives.
The show notes, biomarkers, and links to the apps, devices and labs and everything else mentioned are below. Enjoy the show and let me know what you think in the comments!
- The roots of The Quantified Self (2:55)
- The first meetings (4:50)
- What are meetings about and what types of information are shared? (5:59)
- “Show and tell” (8:12)
- Personal “N = 1” experiments and personal self-tracking (9:10)
- Gaining value from personal tracking (15:10)
- Where is the movement now, and where is it going? (18:50)
- The challenges of engaging with your personal data and the role of data visualization (19:15)
- Data privacy in a quantified world (21:37)
- Medical self-testing, value and drawbacks (24:40)
- Accuracy and action-ability when using personal tracking devices (29:30)
- What is the role of personal data collection in research and healthcare (35:21)
- Best practices for Quantifying the Self (41:58)
- What is the future of self quantification? (44:12)
- How to get started in self quantification (46:00)
- Useful resources in self quantifying (49:42)
- Your most important recommendations for people (51:18)
- What data metrics do you personally track? (53:30)
- What have been your biggest insights from Self Quantifying? (54:20)
Thank Ernesto Ramirez on Twitter for this interview.
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The Quantified Self & Ernesto Ramirez
- The Quantified Self : The Quantified Self is an international collaboration of users and makers of self-tracking tools. Dedicated to self improvement by tracking their daily lives with the end-goal of maximizing performance, they enjoy regular meetups to share ideas, data and tactics.
- Forums at The Quantified Self : The forums page is a great place to connect with other QS users for conversations and the sharing of ideas between meetups.
- The QS15 conference in San Francisco (June 18-20, 2015) QS15 is a two-day event for self-trackers, toolmakers, artists, designers and engineers followed by a day of public exposition. The Quantified Self invites self-trackers to share projects, try out new tools, and shape the future of QS. Their European division based out of Amsterdam will be hosting their own QS15 as well. Information can be found at their Meetup site.
- “Show and Tell” QS Presentations: The Quantified Self site maintains a video database of presentations made by members, which they lovingly call “Show and Tell”. The participants talk about their life-tracking and how it has impacted them.
- QS Meetups: QS-ers meet regularly to discuss their life-tracking experiences, and share suggestions for the betterment of themselves and QS as a whole. Meetings can be found at Meetup.Com.
- QS on Twitter: Subscribe to The Quantified Self’s twitter feed.
- Ernesto has created a number of slide presentations which can be found at Slideshare and Speakerdeck. He presents a variety of discussions on The Quantified Self as well as other topics about self improvement.
- Ernesto did his graduate work at the University of California at San Diego and continues as a research associate with the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems.
- Physical activity and dietary behavior change in Internet-based weight loss interventions: comparing two multiple-behavior change indices
- Adolescent screen time and rules to limit screen time in the home
- A Meta-analytic Examination of Exercise & Stress Reactivity in Animals and Humans. Arizona State University. Jan 1, 2008. (Link not available): A secondary examination of current research.
The Quantified Self
Ernesto’s Authored Studies & Publications
Biomarkers/Tracked Data Points
- Running schedule and physical activity: Ernesto finds the most important aspect to his daily life quality is how much he moves. He uses a number of tools such as a FitBit and his phone to monitor his running schedule and other activity. His phone keeps track of his heart rate and Geolocation, to give him a better idea of the effectiveness of his workouts and how they affect his life.
- Weight: Monitoring his weight allows Ernesto to keep an eye on his health and determine when he’s not getting enough time on his feet. He doesn’t check it daily, but keeps a running idea of its fluctuations.
Lab Tests, Devices and Apps
- FitBit: Ernesto uses his FitBit to track his running schedule and activity. FitBit have a range of activity tracking devices, and are one of the larger and more popular manufacturers of activity tracking devices in 2015.
- SuperMemo: A website and software devoted to improving memory, self-growth, creativity, time-management, and speed-learning. It’s based on the concept of spaced repetition – which improves retention by repeating new ideas at an ever-increasing interval based on the average time to forget learned material.
Other People, Resources and Books
- Kevin Kelly: Wired magazine’s founding editor and The Quantified Self co-founder. His official web page can be found here.
- Gary Wolf is a contributing editor at Wired and co-founder of The Quantified Self. He’s the author of “The Curse of Xanadu” about Ted Nelson and Project Xanadu, and “The World According to Woz” about Steve Wozniak. His TED talk about The Quantified Self can be found here.
- The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is a program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States.
- Databetes was founded by Doug Kanter, a patient with type-1 diabetes. Doug is a graduate of NYU’s ITP where he studied data visualization and interaction design. Previously Doug worked as a photographer in New York City and Beijing, China. He’s run a few marathons and is pretty intrigued by Quantified Self.
- Asian Efficiency: Damien mentioned that a friend Aaron who runs this site, tracked every minute of his day for a year to optimize his schedule and how much time he put into each activity from work to social to sleep and everything else.
Full Interview Transcript
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Ernesto, thank you so much for joining us today.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: No problem, glad to be here.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great. Well, I wanted to jump straight into it. You’re from the Quantified Self. Welcome Quantified Self to the Quantified Body. You guys have pretty much started this. When did you start the Quantified Movement? When did QS come about?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Sure. So Quantified Self came about out of a collaboration between Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly. Both had been working at Wired magazine for quite a long time, and late 2007, early 2008, they were looking at what was – what were kind of the new things.
Obviously, personal computing had come about. Like the reason Wired was started was – had been here. Now, at that point, people are walking around with iPhones, and they realized that computing was getting a lot closer to individuals’ bodies. People were able to now use computing in ways to ask very personal questions about themselves. So they started to meet up, and people came in and started talking about how they were tracking different things about their lives, and we’ve kind of just been rolling ever since.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s great, right. I think a lot of people have heard of Gary and Kevin, but could you give a quick background on why these two people came together at that time? What were their backgrounds to kind of start all of this?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah, so Kevin Kelly was one of the founding editors of Wired magazine, but he’s been involved in lots of different projects around how people use different tools, objects and technologies. I mean, he’s been a thinker on technology for quite a long time. You know, he was around Stewart Brand and the whole Earth Catalogue, and then transitioned into Wired magazine.
Gary is a journalist focusing primarily on technology, and so they were – they both kind of just used their mutual interests to brainstorm on what was next, you know, and that’s what they came up with was Quantified Self, QS.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, that’s great. And, of course, QS is pretty much all over the world now, and we can talk a little bit about that as we go on and how people can participate. But back there in the first meeting, I think you had, like, eight people. It was a very small meeting. I think Tim Ferriss was one of the guys who turned up to the first meetings. Do you know how many people turned up to that first meeting?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: I think they said somewhere around 25 or 30. That was before my time.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: I only got involved in about 2010, but it was a really interesting meeting because they didn’t really have an agenda. It didn’t look at all like what it looks like now, and then they really didn’t know what was going to happen. They thought, okay, people that are interested in this stuff will kind of just come and talk to us, and we’ll just have like a chat.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: And then someone came in late, and because they came in late, Kevin Kelly just said, you know, ‘You have to talk first. You have to tell us about what you’re doing, why you’re here, what you’re interested in.’ And that gentleman just opened up his computer and said, ‘I’ve been tracking every day of my life for like the past three years in 15 minute increments.’
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Wow.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: And that just, like, blew everyone away. And from there, we’ve kind of built on top of that mentality where people come and actually show the things that they’re doing in their own lives. You know, the tools they’re using, what they’re learning from self-tracking, and how they’re experiencing this new idea of Quantified Self.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, yeah. Well, let’s get people an idea of what’s going on at the moment. So basically there are groups all around the world meeting in different cities all around the world. How is a meeting structured? What goes on in a meeting?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah, so right now we have about 110 groups in a little over 30 countries around the world, and all of them have a little bit different structure. We don’t kind of force anything on them. They’re all volunteer groups that are meeting.
But what we try to do is have people come together to share their own personal stories. So rather than people standing up and talking about, oh, you should do this thing, or you should use this tool, it’s very much a first-person narrative where an individual will come in and say, ‘This is a thing that I’ve done, I’ve used this tool or this system or this application in this new and interesting way, and these are the things I’m learning about myself.’
That spans, like, all different types of self-tracking technologies and experimentations and projects, all the way from – we’ve had a lot of individuals with chronic diseases, people with type 1 diabetes saying, ‘This is what I’m learning from tracking my blood glucose and my diet in this really interesting way,’ or, ‘This is what I’m learning from tracking the dates I go on,’ to my pets, to all sorts of different stuff.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I think that’s one of the things that strikes you when you go to a Quantified meeting. Here at the Quantified Body, we tend to focus on health, longevity, things about the body, which can be related a bit to medical or performance or longevity, these kind of things. But Quantified Self is a lot broader. You can go to a meeting and you can hear, like you said, about someone’s dating life and how they’ve managed to track that over time and quantify it in whatever way.
So, I think the big difference people should get the idea of here is that it’s absolutely quantifying any aspect of your life that is interesting to you. And for that reason, when you go to a meeting, you really don’t know what is going to come up. I think the conference really displays that quite well, because you have many, many what we call show-and-tells. So if you could explain to people a little bit about what a show-and-tell is?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Sure. It’s where we have those individuals come and actually talk about what they’re doing. We call it the show-and-tell because it’s very much like kindergarten. You get up in front of the room and you say, ‘This is what I’ve done. This is what I’m bringing to everyone.’
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: And we ask presenters to really answer three simple questions, which is: What did you do? How did you do it? What did you learn? And all the time, keeping that kind of first-person narrative perspective, where it’s really about their experiences, the visualizations they made, the data analysis they’ve done, the process they’ve done to gather data, and what conclusions they’ve come up with through that entire data gathering experience.
And if you think about it, one of the fun things is that those three questions – ‘What did you do?’, ‘How did you do it?’, and ‘What did you learn?’ are really a simple, simple way to think about the scientific method. The scientific method is a little bit broader, but if you bring it really – if you kind of just simplify that and bring it down to the individual level, that’s what we’re trying to do.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah. Another term we often come across today is ‘N=1 experiments.’ Would you say there are a lot of people also doing kind of N=1 experiments? Because it’s basically – there’s tracking, just recording – and then there’s, like, I’m going to change something and see what happens. So are both of those things covered in QS naturally, or how does that work?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Oh, totally. So you have a lot of people engaging with self-tracking. You know, the broad spectrum of things that could be called self-tracking for a variety of different reasons. One you mentioned – a few of them you did mention.
One is just kind of data gathering, just for the purpose of data gathering. You know, a lot of people wear smart pedometers, like a Fitbit or Jawbone Up or a Nike FuelBand, without any real purpose other than they want to just understand and keep track of this data. And then there’s the individual, like you’re saying, that do these kind of N=1 experiments. And even within those experiments, there’s a huge range of kind of how meticulous and detailed people get.
Some people just say, ‘You know what? I want to see if going on a more plant-based diet is going to reduce my weight and improve my blood cholesterol levels.’ And they’ll just kind of track the things they’re eating. They’ll track their weight. They might do a blood test or something, and then there’s other people that are just super-meticulous about setting up a very programmed experimentation or experimental protocol. Those are always a lot of fun to watch, to see people get very scientific about the things that they care about.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right. I’ve seen many of these things where it’s actually made a huge impact on people’s lives. Right? That’s some of the astounding things. I remember the first one I went to in London, and there was a presentation from a guy who had suffered from depression for most of his life, and he simply set up a way of quantifying and communicating that to all of his friends.
So I think there’s sometimes a social aspect – you can potentially speak a lot more about this than me – and simply by doing that, he found that his rate of depression dropped, and he was basically happier every day just through this exercise of tracking and letting all of his friends see how depressed or how not depressed he was. Obviously, that completely revolutionized his life, because he didn’t feel depressed most of the time anymore. So I’ve seen some, you know, huge changes, and weight loss is very obvious. What are some of the most exciting changes you’ve seen people get out from the Quantified Self?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah, so there’s a bunch. One of my favorites – there’s a gentleman in New York. He’s given a talk a few times, actually, in New York at their MeetUp, and I think he also gave a talk at our last conference in 2013 – our last U.S.-based conference.
His name is Doug Kantor. He’s a type 1 diabetic. He’s been on an insulin pump for quite a long time, and now is on a continuous glucose measurement system, so rather than doing, like, the finger prick, he has an implanted device that can continually measure his blood glucose.
As part of one of his graduate design projects in New York, he developed a system to gather all of that data, so he was gathering his insulin, his blood glucose, and then also his meals and his physical activity. He was primarily a runner. And he tells this really interesting story about bringing all of that data in and being able to see all this information and kind of how it all connects. Led to the healthiest year of his life when you look at it from a diabetic perspective.
So, you know, that’s A1c, which is their primary measure, so which is how well they can metabolize blood glucose. And it really tells this, like, interesting thing. Plus, his visualizations, that’s primarily what he was doing in graduate school was working on design, are just astounding. You can definitely see what happens to him over the course of a year through his wonderful visualizations, which – if your listeners want to look online – I believe his website is called Databetes.
I mean, that’s a really interesting one. And we’ve seen a bunch, like you were saying, the gentleman that was tracking his mood, that seems to be a really, really interesting one as well. One of the most interesting and fun ones that you wouldn’t think would be in Quantified Self, but is, is there’s an individual who actually does some work with us, but lives in Portland named Steven Jonas, and he’s really interested in memory and being able to remember things, and he uses a system called Space Repetition and a program called Super Memo. He’s given two talks recently about how he’s using Space Repetition to try and remember every day of his life.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Wow.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: So every day he creates a card, basically these are like intelligent flash cards that say these are the important things that happened today, and quizzes himself to see if he can remember what days those were.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s really interesting. I mean, that’s something very unique, as well. I think that’s the amazing thing about QS. No matter what you’re interested in, you can go there and you can get feedback from other people to potentially improve what you’re doing. Like with these show-and-tells, there’s a lot of questions, of course, that come from the audience once you’ve finished your show-and-tell.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah, I think you’re right. I mean, and that’s one of the interesting things. Like, a lot of people would say – you would think that we would focus just on health, or just on weight loss and physical activity, since those are like the primary things that people do when they engage with these self-tracking tools and applications and devices.
But what we’ve found is that when people go up and talk about their super personal experiences, whether it’s individual tracking his – we had one in San Francisco tracking his blood coagulation levels, because he is on blood thinners. Or it’s someone talking about how they track their heart rate variability, because they want to understand their stress. Even though you may not be interested in that particular topic, the process that they go through and the things that they do might inspire you to try something in your own life around the ideas that you’re interested in, like, who knows, tracking how much you drive your car.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, because I think there’s this whole – I mean, there’s scientific relevance in terms of how you’re tracking, is it controlled and things. And I found, because I led the Bangkok QS session, most – like the questions that come out, it’s about the quality of the data, if we can trust it. You know, these kinds of things come up. And if you’re doing an experiment, is it well controlled? Can we believe in the results? These kinds of questions often come up, and it helps us to – and, of course, this could apply to anything that you’re tracking. It’s obviously a lot of the time it’s the same kinds of questions. Okay, how useful is this data?
And also, I found that people often share their own experiences from that kind of aspect of their life, and they get new ideas. So one time we had one of my friends, he has a website called asianefficiency.com, and he tracks all of his time, all of his time he puts into categories, no matter what he’s doing. When he’s sleeping, it’s categorized as sleeping. And he’s done this experiment for, I think it was about a year.
So he brought all his data, which basically showed what he’d been doing with his life for about a year, and it was really interesting for a lot of people, because, like, oh, that’s interesting. How much time you spend preparing meals, or how much time you spend walking or commuting, and it can be quite shocking to some people when they start to think about, well, maybe I’m spending too much time commuting in my life and stuff.
So I found that a really interesting one, and obviously everyone had something to say about that. And for most of the show-and-tells, I would say, it is things that relate to anyone, and you’ll go and you’ll – and these are aspects of your life maybe you don’t look so closely at, but most of the time it’s something you can relate to and learn from yourself, also.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah, and, I mean, a lot of times, like what you’re describing here with this individual that tracks time, which is also a super, very, very popular topic. It’s really interesting to kind of see how people actually engage with their time tracking in different ways. Whether they just let their machines track their time for them, or they do it all themselves and set up really fancy Excel spreadsheets to do it.
What is interesting is that a lot of times when someone gets up and says, ‘I’m doing this thing,’ There are a lot of times that people will say, ‘You know what? I was interested in that, too,’ or, ‘I’ve always been thinking about it.’ Like you were saying, I was wondering how much time I spend commuting. This is someone who has actually done something, and now I can take this lesson. If I want to apply it to my own life, I can take their lessons that they are learning and try to do that in my own life, or reformat it into a different way that might work for me.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, right. Well, I can tell you, once I had seen my friend’s data, I was inspired to track my life for a few moments every hour, and I got a lot out of it as a consequence. So I think what we’re touching on here is QS helps motivate, inspire people. The fact that people can get together and talk about quantification.
So, for someone who perhaps – they’d like to do experiments on their life, they’d like to potentially improve upon their life which they have been having trouble with before, or maybe they are just interested in understanding something better, I think QS is a great place to go to, because they’ll be other people, and it kind of provides you this motivation, this support network following through, is that – whereas most people maybe find it harder to get started. And there’s a lot of people who know a lot about the devices, and there’s a lot of people generally in those groups who know a lot about the kinds of devices that are out there. And so it’s a great group, also, to swap ideas on things.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Oh, yeah. I mean, the number of individuals around the world that engage with their own Quantified Self MeetUps, they organize them, or they come to our conferences, or they just engage with us on our forum on our website is astounding. And the amount of help that people get, people are asking questions all the time. ‘What device can I use to track this thing?’ Or ‘I’ve been thinking about doing this.’ ‘My physician said I should try tracking this to help me with this condition or that condition.’ It’s amazing. It’s always great to see. It’s one of the reasons we love doing this.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, absolutely. Another thing I wanted to really touch on is where have you seen the movement come from, and where is it today in terms of making progress? What have we learned so far about tracking data on ourselves from QS? What are the kinds of biggest achievements to date? Is there anything that you’ve changed about the way you’re going QS to help people get more out of it, get more out of tracking in general?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Well, I think one of the things that we’re learning is that people definitely want to engage with their data, and that’s not always easy. And so one of the things that we’ve been doing and one of our core pieces of our current work and future work over the next few years is going to be really tackling this issue of data access. So if you use a device or an application that you’re contributing data to, so it’s tracking your physical activity or your location or doing something where you’re contributing pieces of information that are about you, and this happens a lot in the medical setting. You know, like that individual that has to wear a glucose meter. They are contributing their own personal data.
In many cases, getting that data out, controlling it, being able to access it – even in some cases having ownership of it is tricky, and it’s not a very clear, like, consensus across the board whether or not people should have ownership, whether they should have control, whether they should have access. All of these are like three different concepts that kind of always get talked about in each other or around each other.
And that’s one of things that we’re really focused on is improving the amount of access that people have from their data. Right now, we’re really early on, but it’s something that we’re really, really passionate about. Because one of the things that we’ve seen through a lot of these show-and-tells and through our conferences is that when people actually get access to their data, they can export their data, put it into a CSV spreadsheet, you know, use an API connection to plug it into a different tool, they can do astounding things with it. They can learn really, really important stuff, whether it’s just through a visualization or some kind of analytics tool. So that’s one of the things that we’re definitely seeing.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s interesting, because I think the first one you talked about, – access – it’s kind of like knocking its head with privacy. If we look at the world to date, information has been pretty private. If we look at medical information, for instance, it’s tucked in some doctor’s drawer, and even the patient doesn’t realize he can have access to that information a lot and even take it home.
So there’s kind of the health area, and I think also, like, financials and all of these different aspects of our lives. And it is an interesting topic, how much do we want other people to have access to it, how easy is it to get access to our own information. I think, obviously, the first one is it would be nice if everyone had ownership of their own information, to start with, and be able to decide what privacy limitations are on that, in an ideal future world. Are these some of the topics you’re struggling with and looking at?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Definitely. So, across the board, we’re really interested. I mean, privacy, data access and data ownership, they’re all kind of like prongs in this really big conversation, which is what is the role of personal data in our lives? What should we be able to do with it? So all the way from – you see there’s a lot of work now in, like you were saying, the health records space. Like should you have access to the health records?
Like if you get a lab test at your physician’s office, should you have immediate access to that information? What does that mean? Actually, there’s some really interesting programs going on in the United States where if you go to see a physician, when you’re talking to them, you’re having a conversation, they’re writing on their laptop or their desktop computer, they’re writing notes in your file. Should you be able to read those notes? For a long time, those were just kind of in your medical record and you never got to see them unless you specifically asked for them, and then in some cases you have to pay for that access and lots of weird stuff. Now there’s projects opening those up, so people could have conversations about those notes, which are pieces of data about that interaction.
And then there’s a lot of information around data privacy, as well, so should a company – like say you are wearing a Fitbit. Should Fitbit be able to make aggregated charts and graphs about your physical activity to share with, kind of like, readers of their Fitbit blog? You know, maybe not your specific, but a group of people, and what does that mean? Is that going against data privacy or not? There’s a lot of unanswered questions.
And I don’t think there’s a lot of – there’s not going to be any definitive answer. I don’t think anyone’s going to just say, okay, we’re going to turn the key now and now everyone has complete ownership over their own data, and they have to authorize every single person in the room, whoever wants to look at something. Nothing so far has really shown that that’s going to occur, because data has some inherent value for a lot of these companies that you’re engaging with. But there are really interesting conversations around, like, what does mean and who actually should be able to work with this data, and how easy should it be for the individuals that create it to use it and have access to it so they can do whatever they’d like.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah. These questions definitely need to be tackled. Like you said, it’s kind of up in the air. There’s a lot more self-testing in the health area being made available to us now. Increasingly over time, but of course, that’s kind of knocking heads with regulation, and physicians, how comfortable they feel with that based on the complexity of tests, if people can understand them and interpret them properly. There’s lots and lots of questions in the health area about that. I don’t think it’s going to get resolved any time soon.
But in the meantime, it seems like access to testing is steadily coming on line anyway, whether we’re ready for it or not from that perspective. So it will be interesting – I guess, like, QS is going to be tackling those issues. Because, I mean, what happens in QS is like whatever is going on tends to come up and be talked about in QS, since it’s basically the home of everything that’s being discussed in quantification in the moment, right?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah. You know, this is something interesting. Someone – we’re hosting another – what we call our global conference, the large conference in the United States, in June of next year.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Which city is that in?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: So, yeah, in 2015, we’re hosting the Quantified Self Global Conference, which we call QS15. It’s actually going to be a three-day conference. It’s a conference and expo. I can talk about it a little bit, if you want. We can talk about our overall program.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: It’s in San Francisco, right?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: In San Francisco, correct.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: So someone was talking about this idea of privacy and ownership, specifically around home testing. So, you know, in the United States we have the FDA, which has to approve medical tests. And there’s a big push from a lot of companies in the startup space saying, like, we can have people do medical testing at home. All the way from testing your blood for vitamin D levels to testing urinary fluid to see about – to track blood glucose and other different things.
And this big push, because people want to be able to do this stuff on their own, just in the same way that people wanted to measure their blood pressure at home a long time ago. They realized that just getting your blood pressure measured, you know, twice a year in the doctor’s office doesn’t really give you a good look at what blood pressure is for you. The same way, you know, that getting your blood tested once a year or once every few years if there’s only an issue, doesn’t really tell you the whole story.
And so there’s like a big push right now, and we’re closely following it, because, obviously, that’s a whole new area, a way for people to learn about their lives, being able to actually gather data that heretofore has been just kind of siloed in the medical establishment, and bringing that to the individuals.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: But if we open that – I mean, there’s a huge potential in terms of – a big problem doctors have today is compliance with whatever protocol or treatment they’ve applied to people. But, you know, a feedback system. Feedback is incredibly valuable. If you tell someone that – well, look at glucose management, right?
So if you tell them that currently their fasting glucose in the morning is 100, and it really needs to be down in the low 90s, and they have some convenient way of doing that at home, say it’s uploaded to a system that’s shared with the doctor, if they are given that reading in their face every morning, they’re like, uh-oh, I’m not making progress here, and I’ve got my doctor’s appointment coming up next month. I think there’s incredible accountability and motivation aspect from that perspective to be, like, okay, I’ve got to get back on this treatment protocol that my doctor gave me last visit.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Exactly. You know, there is that – there is the motivational aspect. There’s – I mean, the individual’s ability to learn about themselves, but there’s also the ability to understand – you know, if you really take the medical example as the leading example here – understanding treatment and outcomes at a very personal level.
So rather than a doctor saying, hey, go use this thing – use this blood pressure medication for 6 weeks, and then come back to me, and then we’ll measure your blood pressure again and we’ll see how it’s working. Rather than waiting that entire time, you can maybe get a faster feedback system so you can say, ‘This one is really working for me. I’ve already seen my blood pressure go down. I’ve been taking it once in the morning, once in the evening, by myself, in my home, using the protocol that you set up.’ Or, ‘This one is definitely not working. We need to use a different kind of medication.’ So rather than just saying, here’s what works, now we can start to ask what actually works for me as an individual.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, absolutely. There’s many, many devices, as you’ve eluded to. There are startups – there’s a lot of investment in this area right now in terms of startups, where it comes to health testing, fitness tracking, all sorts of aspects of this. And social media kind of like sharing of data and these kinds of things, and aggregating data. So in terms of the state of devices available today, are there any challenges faced with people using these and getting a value from these? Because I’ve bought many tracking devices, and I have to say, so far, I think the main complaint is people don’t find that a lot of data is very actionable when it comes down to it.
And I think sometimes it comes down to – there’s the other concern of accuracy. Many of the devices, it’s kind of nascent. If you look at, for instance, a lot of the watches, the fitness trackers and all of these kinds of things which are tracking, in a very convenient way, because you’re just wearing this piece of technology which is going to quantify different aspects of your movement and things going on each day. But when – like some of the studies I’ve seen where people have compared these devices with each other, well, they don’t really measure up to each other, right? They got different results. So there’s a concern of accuracy there which has come up.
So I think that leads into the actionability, also, of what we are doing. And also like the selection of measures and what the device companies are doing. So I’m just interested in your perspective on what’s going on out there, and what the biggest challenges are to reinforce that movement. If we are going to see an explosion of devices over the next years because they did become so valuable to our lives, what would need to change?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah. I think regardless of whether we want it or not, we are going to see an explosion of devices.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: The investment’s there.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah. There’s a lot of – yeah, there’s a lot of money there that people are kind of pouring into the system. Sensors are becoming cheaper. Battery life is improving. The technical capacity of computing to track things and make sense of objects and behaviors and information is improving. I mean, that’s just kind of the state of technology as a whole. It’s just kind of on this upwards trend, and it’s always improving. Data science is getting better. Algorithms are getting better.
I think one of the issues around this kind of accuracy idea is in some cases the over-promising of what a device can do and what it can understand, and individuals – what they really, actually need. So I always like to have the more philosophical conversation around, like, accuracy versus truth and that that actually means for an individual. Does your Fitbit or Jawbone UP need to know down to the exact number of steps? Like, does it matter if it says 10,412 versus 10,512?
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: And also this is a relative thing. If it’s wrong the same amount every day, well, you can still use it for motivation, like a lot of things.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah. I mean, if you have systematic error, random error, it really matters. But in most cases, a lot of this stuff is just kind of systematic bias. It’s always going to be wrong at this certain level. But if your scale is always wrong 5 pounds heavy in the morning, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you use the same scale.
But in some cases – a lot of the issue, though, around this accuracy is tied to the medical system. Because a lot of people want to push the data that they’re collecting into some sort of health record, or have it coordinated with their care so that people can understand this data in relation to their health outcomes.
And so now there’s a bigger push to take the data from these devices, figure out if they are accurate, and then put them in kind of a clinical model so they can be looked at in the health records. And I think that’s something that is coming quickly. We are already seeing that happen with – Apple made a big push for this with Health Kit. So they took devices, and they took data formats, and they said, okay, these are the exact formats that we can use, and now they’re being pushed into electronic medical records, I think at, like, Duke Hospital and a few other different hospital systems.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Wow, wow. So could you just talk a little about that? Basically Apple has done some work to standardize a number of measures that they’re going to be –
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah. Rather than saying, like, we trust you as a device maker. So let’s say there’s like seven different digital scales that are out there. Rather than saying, ‘These are the four that we think are accurate,’ they are saying, ‘If you want to integrate with our Health Kit system, you have to report this data format, this data feature.’ Which is weight in a specific way that we know is clinically understandable.
So if you’re going to say what blood glucose is, it has to be in – I think it’s in millimoles. You have to report it in the specific data format so that it can be understandable at a clinical level. The accuracy part is kind of left up to the people that take in that data, because one of the things – this is kind of a more technical conversation how Health Kit works, but basically someone who says –
Say a doctor says they want to look at my Health Kit data, and they want to look at the amount of miles I run each week, and if I connect, like, three different running apps, they can say, well, I trust RunKeeper, but not Strava. So I only will take runs that are reported with RunKeeper, for whatever reason. That’s a completely arbitrary example. Both I think are fine apps.
So that is something that is definitely coming on board, which is – it kind of relates to our conversation earlier, which is this kind of personalized medical testing, is that there’s a lot of push to get the entire breadth of someone’s life, their behaviors that they do outside of a clinical or medical setting, and bring that understanding into the medical field, so that people can create better care plans. They can understand cause and effect at a better level.
And it’s still very nascent. You know, this is still very early on. But there’s entire work on this which is people who are wanting to say let’s track from your genome to your weight to your diet to your physical activity. If we could bring all of that in, what is it that we can actually learn about humanity and how life actually works out there in reality.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah. It sounds like the device manufacturers, the technology companies like Apple and – like Intel has been making acquisitions in this area. They’ve acquired Basis. So, you know, a lot of these companies are now looking at this area. It sounds like they’re going to be a tremendous force in where this goes, and even when it comes to the governmental typically regulated parts, like health and so on. They’re going to be a tremendous force in where this eventually goes in influence. Is that what you’re seeing at the moment? There seems to be more and more influences that are trying to push the realm out, basically.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: I think so. I think there’s a lot – it’s still a little early on to say, like, these are going – they are going to start maybe lobbying the government to do different things. But what we are seeing is that there is actually a lot of pressure within governmental organizations and governmental bodies to understand – everyone calls this stuff different things. We have mHealth, we have ConnectedHealth, and we have Quantified Self. All of them kind of relate to each other. And there’s a lot of push right now to say, like, this is happening.
We can’t just say, like, that this stuff isn’t around. What can we actually do to make sense of this? So one of the things that we actually did as an organization, in collaboration with a large funder – health research funder here in the United States, called the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we hosted a meeting last year – I’m sorry, earlier this year, actually, early 2014, where we brought together people in the Quantified Self that are what we call toolmakers, you know, the people that make devices and applications and systems, along with researchers in public health and computer science, to say – to understand what is the role of this personal data in research?
Because now, rather than a researcher saying, ‘I have to develop an entirely new strategy, and I have to buy a bunch of sensors to give to people so I can understand how much activity they get during the week versus the weekend,’ now those people, they’re just collecting that data on their own. What is the role of that information in the research realm? And what can we learn from that? And that’s still very, very, very early, but there’s a big push, I think, to say why should we pay a $1 million grant for you to develop new sensors or new tools or buy different things, when there are all these people actually out there doing it on their own? What can we learn from them?
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right. So previously, on episode 9 of the Quantified body, we spoke to Jessica Richman of uBiome, which you should know well. And she’s approaching this whole thing, calling it crowd science.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Which is basically turning science upside down and using technology and putting the right standards in place and so on. We could completely revolutionize the approach through quantification, like, of the masses. Basically Quantified Self everywhere could start feeding science, the new ideas and so on, and completely revolutionize the way we approach all of that.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Exactly. I mean, this idea of crowdsourced science or citizen science is super compelling. You know, at this meeting, we were talking with an individual named Margaret McKenna who is on the data science team at RunKeeper. And we were talking just about –
So in the United States, I think in 2008, they published kind of what they called a physical activity guideline, which says adults have to get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week. But she was talking about when they look at their data, that’s just not true. People just don’t do that. They’re not robots. They don’t, like, every week get exactly this amount. It kind of goes in waves. People come and go. And she was talking – is there something we could do as an organization? Like, we are a large data collector – we have millions and millions of users that are tracking activity – to better understand what guidelines should actually be?
Or if you look at – say, for instance, in part of my world, I did physical activity research, so that’s where all my examples come from, I apologize. But in the United States we have what’s called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. So every few years, they go out and try to measure the health of America. And they do it through clinical work, through surveys, and they also – to measure physical activity, they give a few thousand people accelerometers. That’s how we say, okay, people aren’t or are getting enough physical activity.
And that – if you were to say that’s how we measure physical activity in the United States, that data set is just completely dwarfed by the amount of data that companies like Garmin and Nike and Fitbit and Jawbone have. If – just in the United States. But then if you think about the worldwide scale, we’re now – they’re able to track millions of people. And if we could use that to understand interesting things about human behavior, it really opens up a whole new world of possibilities in the research realm.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah. It would change completely our approach, I know, from a business decision making prospect of Internet marketing, for instance. With previous partners, I always used to have discussions, and it was opinion based. And even when I was working in consulting, we’d have opinion based discussions, and whoever argue the best would win. In this new world, the idea is that we’re actually able and go test, and that’s what’s nice about the Internet today.
People in business, instead of arguing backwards and forwards and the person who argues the most in business, now they’re saying, well, ‘let’s test that idea and see what happens’. Right? I think that’s what’s really exciting, especially with people who follow kind of the health realm, there’s been many assumptions made and killed over time. And there’s still a ton of conflict in the world of medicine and health, for sure, if not more and more so as things – as different people discover new things and so on.
I don’t think that’s going to disappear any time soon, because it’s kind of like cutting-edge, leading-edge science. But if we had this kind of feedback mechanism where we could actually do tests and see – let’s just put it to a test. Let’s see what the population tells us about that hypothesis. It would revolutionize the speed of development of things.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Or imagine, like one of the things that we’re doing. Like what if you put the question asking in the hands of the actual individuals? So in Jessica’s case, she’s looking at microbiome data. So rather than saying, okay, what are the research questions that are in the field, that’s in the literature, what if individuals came up with those questions? What if they – what if someone said, ‘You know what, I really like my pets. I wonder if being around my dog changes my microbiome, my amount of bacteria that I’m in contact with?’ That’s probably a really interesting question. Has it been asked in the literature? Who knows? I mean, someone probably knows; not me.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Exactly. So it brings to surface things people actually care about instead of us assuming this is what matters to humans. What matters to everyone that we kind of resolve and put science towards. So in terms of Quantified Self, coming back to more practical, what would you say are the best tips if someone wants to quantify something about themselves? What would you say are best practice kinds of tips that you think it’s good to follow in terms of gathering or using the data or whatever you’ve seen over time?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: I think simplicity is always best. So one of the things that people – like they always – okay, well ‘I want to know about X, Y and Z about my life’. And then you start building the mechanism, how can I keep track of this data that I care about? And that can get really unwieldy really quickly. Because there’s so many different ways to do it, and we may want to get very, very super specific.
I think the easiest thing to do is whenever you find the question that you’re interested in, in other orders, ‘I’m curious about,’ or ‘I wonder if this is related to that,’ try to develop the easiest way that you can collect that information and engage with it, and then build a system around that. Whether that’s going and buying a fitness tracker or an Internet-connected weight scale, or setting up, you know, Google spreadsheets. I think one of the most underrated quantified self-tracking systems is Google Forms. It’s super easy to do. You can put it on your phone, and you can just have yourself answer surveys whenever you want.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, right. Just answer those two questions every morning. You can have an alert on your IPhone as well that says answer your form.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Exactly, exactly. Say you wanted to know about your sleep. You could just say, every morning, just click open that little Google Form that says, how did you sleep; how long did you sleep; what did you do the night before? Simple things like that. But the other thing is, you know, it does seem a little self-promotional, but on the Quantified Self website, we have a link to the show-and-tell videos, and there are hundreds of them.
We have over 700 videos in our video archive on Vimeo. But you can search the website, and probably find something that’s related to what you’re interested in. So if you’re interested in blood glucose, you can type that in, and you’re going to get returned a bunch of different posts and videos and real people talking about their real experiences tracking that thing.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Exactly, and what obstacles they came across and resolved, or so on, so you can get a head start, rather than starting from zero and maybe falling into the same traps. Yep, excellent point. So, Ernesto, what do you see – what’s the future of QS? You spoke a little bit about what you guys are focusing on right now, but are the specific things you’re looking at the moment, and any kind of challenges you’ve kind of got your eye on as well of the movement?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: One of the things that we’re doing is we’re trying to open up and really bring this idea of Quantified Self to the public and really showcase that these tools and technologies are going to start coming hard and fast, and whatever kind of questions you have, you’re going to be able to engage with those questions.
And so one of the things that we’re doing alongside of our global conference is having this public expo. So we have this really amazing venue in San Francisco, right on the water at Fort Mason, where we’re inviting people just to come and experience all of the different kinds of tools and tracking systems, to understand what’s actually available out there. What are the cool things that you can do? What are the questions that you can ask? How can you engage with your own personal data through a way of engaging with your own life?
So that’s one of our – I think one of the things we’re really interested in, and one of our fun challenges for next year. Part of it is also that data access piece, something we’re very interested in. Trying to engage the research community with the quantified self-community as a whole.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great, great. Thank you very much for that. Who besides QS or perhaps specific resources, what would you recommend people look at in order to learn more about quantifying themselves? Like are there any specific resources, people, or things that people could look at to learn how to do this better and so on?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Obviously, again, self-promotional here, I’ll start with the Quantified Self website, which is just QuantifiedSelf.com.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right. And to join – I mean, what’s the best approach to get involved? Let’s talk straight about it. To get involved in QS, what’s the best – I know how I do it. But let’s hear how you would go and get – how would you – what’s your first step to get involved in QS?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: So on the website, we have – there’s a sidebar. There’s a list of all of the different MeetUps that are Quantified Self MeetUps around the world. So one of the first things you can do is -I mean, obviously in person is going to be a lot more fun than just watching videos at home on your computer. So trying to find a MeetUp that’s close to you is step number one. So whether you’re in Los Angeles or New York or Boston or St. Louis or – like yourself, or in Australia, gosh, I’m trying to name all of them, now. London.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: They’re all over the world.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: They’re all over. Singapore. You can find a MeetUp close to you. If, though, however, you can’t find a MeetUp, we invite you to just start your own and then publicize it within your own local community to meet other people like you. That’s one of – I think the most interesting and fun parts of this, is it is a community. It’s a social aspect. We hear all the time when people come to the conferences or come to the meet ups, like, I didn’t realize there were other people that are interested in the same things I was interested in. I didn’t realize there were other dorks or geeks that were tracking their lives in Excel.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Or using wireless scales and really trying to understand themselves through the lens of personal data.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: We have a how to start your own MeetUp blog post or page on the website where it details everything, but also you can get a hold of me. My contact information is up on the website as well.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s great. And just for people – I was living in Bangkok at the time where they didn’t have a QS, but I did travel a bit. I go to London, come to the U.S. sometimes, and I would just drop in. Like, whenever I’m in a city, I’ll see if there’s a QS there. So if you travel a bit, you know, you can always check out, oh, do they have any local QS’s? And you can either do that on meetup.com, or you can go straight to the Quantified Self and, as you said, you have everything listed there. I think the thing we didn’t say is all of the meets for Quantified Self are managed through meetup.com, so they’re all listed in there. Is that correct?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: That’s correct. So all of them are on meetup.com. So you can always search Quantified Self on MeetUp to find something near you.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, and you can just RSVP, I’m going to go and join. So, I found that helpful, personally, to see what it was like. I was in some of the early meetings for London and stuff, and then because there was nothing in Bangkok, like you said, I was just, like, okay, I’ll just create my own one. And it was surprising to see that even in Bangkok, Thailand, where you don’t exactly think there’s going to be a lot of people interested in kind of something that’s a bit more cutting edge from Silicon Valley, yeah, there’s was a whole bunch of people who joined just naturally for the meet. It’s very easy to get started, even if there isn’t one in your own town.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Exactly. And, you know, one of the other things, obviously, you can come to one of our two conferences. We put on two a year. I was mentioning our global conference, we call it QS15. It will be in June in San Francisco. And we’re currently planning our fourth European Conference in Amsterdam in September of 2015.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, and that’s a great intro, because there’s such a variety of different people and things going on there. A great place to network and meet people that might be interested in similar things to you. I’m sure there are many businesses being grown out of QS, in fact, just for that kind of networking aspect.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Too many to even name. I mean, it seems like there’s one a day. And that’s great, because the more ways people can engage with their own personal data – like we were saying, answer the questions that they find interesting and important, the better for them.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yep. Are there any other resources you’ve found useful in terms of whatever, like, learning how to gather data better, or, you know, track it better, or make better decisions from it, or whatever?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: So one of the things that – I, because it’s part of my job as program director for Quantified Self, is just kind of staying abreast of different news and information. So if you’re on Twitter, the Quantified Self hashtag, which is just all one word, QuantifiedSelf, is pretty great. You know, there’s a mix of people, like news articles, people doing interesting things, but also people talking about their own data and different visualizations or projects or experiments they’ve done.
Our QS forum is great. People are always posting stuff on there, which is just forum.quantifiedself.com.
Then, gosh, I just feel self-promotional, just trying to promote all we do –
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You can’t think of anything besides QS? Well, I guess you guys are trying to pull in anything that’s good, right?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah. So every Saturday I post on our website, and it also goes out as a newsletter called ‘What We’re Reading,’ and it’s just links to both self-tracking projects, interesting data visualizations, but also just kind of like articles around the culture of data and quantified self and what that means, people who are doing interesting stuff. But it’s also just some tech news in general.
I think the last time – this last week, I posted a random article about researchers who were able to trick computers into thinking – different images were not what they seemed. It was really interesting, about algorithms and robotics.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: We’ll put links to all that stuff in the show notes.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So, Ernesto, what would be your number one recommendation to someone trying to use some form of data to make better decisions about their body’s health…performance?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Oh, my number one recommendation. That is – I said it earlier, which is, you know, start small and kind of look at the easiest possible way to do it. So try not to overload yourself with devices or systems or tools or applications.
And the second part is, I think, talk to someone else about your data. Whether that’s someone online that you know or don’t know, you know, sharing your data visualization, having a conversation. Because what happens, I think, a lot of times is when individuals sit with their own question and they engage with their own data, you already have some sort of bias. Like, you’re already looking for some kind of interesting pattern in a specific way.
And someone else who doesn’t have your own personal experience, I mean, they’re obviously not you, is going to bring a new set of eyes and a new set of experiences, and having those conversations with people, I think, can be really, really interesting. A lot of those show-and-tells that happen in person, a question will be, have you ever thought about looking at your data in this other way? And a speaker or presenter will say, ‘Oh, I really haven’t. That’s an interesting thing to do. I’ve never thought about that.’ So I think talking to someone about it, about what you’ve learned or what you’re doing, is always a great way to actually learn more.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great, great. And to your first point, you were saying keep it simple, because – because basically, I know some people take on these projects, they’re too complex, and they get tired of them, because it takes too much effort every day, so convenience – how conveniently can you track this, how little effort does it take, are important considerations when you’re saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got to track this data for a month or two to get what I want out of it.’ So not trying to go overboard, I think, some projects could be dropped.
Have you seen that kind of thing? Like where people start out a bit over ambitious in terms of how much they want to collect and how much time they’re spending on it, and kind of drop the project halfway through and don’t get the value or whatever they wanted out of it.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Of course, yeah, it happens all the time.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yep, yeah. In all aspects of life. Final question. A bit more about you. What data metrics do you track for your own body on a routine basis?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah, so I’ve been tracking with a Fitbit since 2011. I had – you know, I had a space in there where I lost it, so I had – I used data from my phone to kind of back up. I used – I’m a fan of redundant systems.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: So I have – my phone is tracking my physical activity, and so is my Fitbit. I track my running both with a GPS watch and a heart rate monitor and my phone as well. I also – I’m a really big fan of geolocation, because I think it tells a really interesting story about how you move around the world. So I track my geolocation. I’ve been doing my weight – not every morning, but I try and be pretty consistent, as well with that. And then my overall productivity and computer use. I use some time tracking software to do that, as well.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great. And what has been the biggest insight from all of this kind of stuff that you’ve drawn to date, that you’ve found personally most useful? It could be anything. Just that you found it personally useful for your life?
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Oh, so, even, like, as a physical activity researcher, I found it really useful to have something that tracks my physical activity, because it really kind of hit home for me that you really have to make it a priority. At least for my own. I really had to make it a priority to move. Whether that’s making sure that I go on walks, I get up from my desk, that I go on a run every so often. If I don’t – because a lot of times I’m working either from home or from another small office – that I’ll just kind of get in the zone and zone out, and it will be a few hours later, and I haven’t done anything. So really, for me, it’s really about how much of the things you kind of take for granted. Just, like, normal everyday activity, you really have to be thoughtful of.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great, and tracking it has helped do that for you, obviously, by bringing it –
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah, enormously. I mean, just looking at it on a day-to-day basis. But every now and then, I go back and look at aggregate information. I’ve played around with making calendar heatmaps to look at kind of my years versus each other. And it’s pretty striking to see, like, how life changes, like walking to an office versus working from home really affects overall activity.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, yeah, that’s interesting. So it’s the things we don’t really think about which could influence physical activity, for example, and it’s just some kind of life change. That’s very interesting.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: Yeah.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Ernesto, thank you so much for joining us today, and to introduce us to the Quantified Self. It’s been great. Like I said, we’ll put all the links to you guys and everything in the show notes, so people can find you easily and get started, hopefully, in their local towns and so on.
[Ernesto Ramirez]: This has been fun. I really appreciate it.