I always thought of myself as a control freak, Type A, self-aware (flaws and all) person but then I attended the Quantified Self Conference last week in San Francisco.
There is so much more one can do to learn about one’s self. The possibilities are endless on what I can quantify (measure about myself) and there are so many people capturing many surprising things.
Quantified Self, if you haven’t heard, is “a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self knowledge through self-tracking,” as described by by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly. I’ve also been an admirer of Nicholas Felton, who has beautiful visualizations of his data.
The two-day conference consisted of morning and afternoon plenary sessions, and in between, the day is filled with ten-minute talks on the main stage (where practitioners share their own QS work, tools, and personal data), with breakout sessions for group discussions and office hours for hands-on help happening concurrently. There were plenty of topics for a newbie QS-er like me or a longtime enthusiast.
My conference experience in numbers:
- 4 plenary session talks
- 30 session talks
- 1 breakout session on “The Quantified Self at Work”
Videos and presentations should be posted in the coming weeks but until then, here is a summary of from Gary Wolf.
Beyond the numbers, I was surprised, inspired and learned a few lessons. It is amazing what quantified self-ers are capturing, the extent and effort they take, and their life changing impacts. There is plenty of fitness, diet, and health tracking happening, but others are tracking things such as:
The list goes on but this sampling gives you a sense of the range of self tracking.
While lots of recording was being done with commonly available sensors, devices, and apps, there was a lot of data being recorded manually through pen-paper journals and spreadsheets.
There are endless measures (and many low and high tech tools) but recording is not the end goal. The measures help inform our goals and the actions to achieve those goals. There were several talks about the importance of self-tracking to understand your numbers, your similarities and your differences to population normals.
In “Beyond Normal: A Conversation,” Dawn Nafus (@dawnnafus) and Anne Wright (@annerwright) discussed the importance of self-tracking to gain awareness on whether the standards, baselines, and conventions apply to you. Population normals are a good starting point but they shouldn’t define your target as you are unique and the normals may not be right for you (#resistemplotment).
My takeaway, don’t worry about getting the perfect device or tool. Start with finding a goal or change that is important to you. Record, measure, and analyze – glean insights that move you along to being your best self. It is not about the Q but the S.