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Using Data

Quantified Self Louisville – Winter 2013 Meetup

By | Using Data


Coming off of a Sunday morning spread of our last QS Louisville event, in the Louisville Courier Journal, we threw another Quantified Self Meetup just last Wednesday. This time we were in the World Headquarters of the Beam Bluetooth Toothbrush. I roped Alex Frommeyer, Beam Brush CEO, into becoming a co-organizer with me and together we were unstoppable in tapping into the Louisville Metro’s thirst for quantifying their lives. Here’s the Insider Louisville article talking up the event beforehand to prove it.

I actually shot video of all three speakers, but am running into technical difficulties in post production, so I figured I’d get the post up first and possibly follow with the videos as time permits… In the meantime, here’s is what we discussed last Wednesday:


We totally had Mark Gehring co-founder of Asthmapolis in the house, as he was in town giving a preliminary update on the Louisville Smarter Cities initiative we have going on here between the City, IBM and Asthmapolis.  Mark is a great guy who gave an really inspiring talk on how both use of rescue inhalers has decreased and asthma free days have increased, on average, from month one to month two of the program. A super cool byproduct of this effort is the ability to have the data mapped to look for areas of interest, geographically, and try to gain more of an understanding of how our natural and man made surroundings interact to affect air quality.



Next up we had Wes Brooks, an engineering student at the University of Kentucky, who made the trek to present on a project he is working on called Pivott, a way for people to answer their health related questions using various sources of data so that they may take action on their health. Wes’ project stems from his love for Quantified Self and his interest in understanding exactly what he can do to prevent adverse health affects that seem to run in his family. Wes contends that there are a lot of opportunities to look at data, but he aims to solve the interpretation of that data to answer practical health questions.


I brought up the rear to talk about something I’ve been doing since the Quantified Self Global Conference last September… and that is Risk Logging with my friend, Dr. Gareth Holman. When Gareth and I met up for beers at the conference, he introduced me to FAP, Functional Analytical Psychotherapy, as a way to measure and (hopefully) increase the risks that I take, because that was of interest to me. We use a three point scale to rate daily risks and track points divided by points possible each week to come up with a weekly score. This weekly score, then, can be averaged monthly and that gives me a baseline of month one followed by the average scores of subsequent months. It turns out that over a four month time period, I have increased my average risks taken by 26%. True story.  But more importantly, it is now becoming second nature to push myself to do things that I normally would not do.

[slideshare id=16460088&doc=adventuresinrisklogging-130210223825-phpapp01]


Call me biased, but I thought this was a great event. I’m inspired by the new people I was able to meet  and talk with and it is looking like there is a general interest in QS among Louisvillains. Alex and I will put another QS Meetup together in mid to late spring and I’m pumped to get more people in front of the group so that we may learn from their experiences.



Quantified Self Louisville – Fall 2012 Meetup Recap

By | Using Data

Quantified Self Louisville Meetup Fall 2012

Two weeks ago I threw a Quantified Self Meetup in beautiful downtown Louisville, and I’m writing this post, two weeks later because I’ve finally come down from the experience… We had a total of four speakers and 13 people show up to the recently renovated iHub co-working space. And I even convinced my mom to postpone her trip back home so that she could speak at it, too. Score.

By all accounts it was a great night. The Coors Light feedback loop cans were flowing like water as was the nerdiness and camaraderie around collecting data to better ourselves. If you missed it, check out the abridged recap below, and show up next time… mmm-kay?

Brushing Ain’t Easy

Our first presenter was my friend and long time Quantified Self Louisville aficionado, Alex Frommeyer. Alex has a local start-up that is building a blue tooth toothbrush called the BEAM toothbrush. The idea is to stick sensors into a toothbrush along with Bluetooth technology so that you can keep track of your or your loved ones (read kids) brush strokes in a mobile application. Alex talked about the Quantified Self movement in general, the BEAM brush in particular, passed around samples and also spoke about the niche for oral care within QS. The talk was really well received, as I had to cut off the question period, and fend off my mom, who kept bugging me to see if she could get the hook up on a BEAM brush, so we could get to the next speaker.

Alex Frommeyer presents the BEAM bluetooth toothbrush

Let Me Ride… My Personal Dashboard

I have to hand it to Nick Such, because he was really the force behind this meetup. Nick lives in Lexington but really wants a group like this to exist in Kentucky and I can’t thank him enough for helping put this event together. Not only is he a super cool guy, his presentation was super cool too… as he spoke of how he started measuring things by tracking the gas mileage he would get on an old beater he drove in high school and college. That love for efficiency later translated to him joining the Solar Car Team at the University of Kentucky, and ultimately to him tracking and creating a personal dashboard that he presented to the group. He uses the dashboard to track sleep, activity and food consumption, and I’m personally hoping that Nick comes back to speak again after having a chance to dig through his data with questions.

Nick Such talking personal dashboards

 You’re a Data Customer

Next up was my old Humana Innovation Center comrade, Shane Regala, who I now owe a big favor. Shane won the unofficial “who’s wearing the most personal tracking devices at the same time” contest, coming in at four. He also handed out a copy of Ubisoft’s Yourshape Fitness Evolved 2012 Xbox Kinect game to a lucky winner that guessed the number of steps he took on a random Saturday as a volunteer soccer coach… The right answer was 18,000. Shane delivered a visionary talk that related his personal experience tracking his sleep with two small children in the house to the bigger picture of how tracking may be used by payers, to help us all lead healthier lives in the not so distant future. It was also great to get a peak at some of the projects Humana’s Innovation Center is working on, as well as soak in some of Shane’s abundant energy, while he presented and DID NOT pitch to the group.

Quantified Self Louisville Fall 2012 Meetup

Last Night a Fitbit Saved My Life

Last but certainly not least, was my very own mother. My mom’s story is that she first felt symptoms related to Multiple Sclerosis in 1985, but wasn’t diagnosed until 1987. She is still able to walk and live a somewhat normal life, fortunately, and has a never give up attitude. But as you can imagine, it’s hard for her to stay motivated sometimes. As the story goes, my wife and I had purchased Fitbits for ourselves earlier this year and then bought one for my mom for Mother’s Day. We got her all set up before she flew back home to Minnesota and two weeks later, I received this E-mail from her in my Inbox:

I just had to tell you guys, I am so-ooo psyched(sp), I got my weekly results for last week, (5-28 to 6-3), I walked 20,724 steps, distance, 7.69 miles, and burned 10,303 calories.  WOW!!!!!  I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday, and I’ve lost 3 pounds since last time I was there.  Not much, but dang, it’s a start.  I told him my kids gave me the Fitbit for Mothers Day, and he thought that was great.  I told him how motivated I am, because I can see the results, as I do them!!  I told him I was thinking about getting a three-wheeled bike too, for exercise, and he really thought that was a good idea!!!  I woke up at 5:30 this morning, and I laid there trying to decide, get up, or go back to sleep?  I got up, got dressed and went for an early morning walk.  I kept walking until I did a mile.  My legs hurt so bad when I got home, I could hardly pick them up, but I did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I know for all you walkers, that doesn’t sound like much, but dang, dang, dang, I am so pumped up, I think I’ll go pull some weeds!!!!  Love you all!!!

I’m man enough to admit that I cried when I read this the first time. The underlined part is my emphasis on why I’m into tracking things. Feedback loops are powerful.

But as we were looking through my mom’s weekly Fitbit summary E-mails, to put some slides together, we noticed something wasn’t quite adding up. She had been accepted to try out a new drug called Ampyra in June, and by her account it made her right leg, which had been giving her a lot of problems, feel great. However, her Fitbit summaries were curtailing month after month showing less and less activity.  When she went to take the Ampyra follow up test, after using it for a month, the drug was deemed to not be helping her enough to warrant continued coverage. She had never looked at her Fitbit E-mails successively to notice that her activity had declined so much, so she was genuinely surprised to see the downward trend.

I personally thought it was super interesting that the Fitbit data didn’t necessarily support my mother’s conviction that this specific drug is helping her, and yet she still loves her Fitbit AND feels that she needs Ampyra because it helps her. A great paradox of the modern health care system. Flash forward two weeks and she has begun her Ampyra retest period, on her own dime, so that she may come to her own conclusions and either appeal a denied claim or move on to something else that correlates with an increase in both activity AND feeling good… but on her own terms. I personally think that is what the future of health care can and should look like in America.

Thank you Fitbit. 

Quantified Self Louisville Fall 2012 Meetup

Sidenote: My mother informed me that she is not a “public speaker” many times before the event… I’m extremely proud that she stepped out of her comfort zone to tell her story to a room full of strangers. Her strength and sense of adventure have inspired me more than she will know. 🙂

Wrap Up

All in all it was a great experience, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the January/February timeframe. Until then… keep it real.

Quantified Self Conference 2012

By | Using Data

I had the pleasure of attending this year’s Quantified Self Organizers Meeting as well as the 2012 Conference at Stanford, and was moved by the experience. If you don’t know what the Quantified Self movement is all about, then you can read more about it here. I went into this adventure thinking that I had to throw bigger and better events in my local market, to put Louisville on the proverbial map. That somehow we could prove that we belong among this crowd that regularly throws larger than life Meetups in bigger markets. But I came out of the five day journey with a much deeper understanding of what Quantified Self is all about.

Size Doesn’t Matter

The big take away for me was how I should be measuring success… and it’s definitely quality over quantity. Connection trumps volume. The way that the Organizer’s Meeting was structured, it was impossible to not strike up a conversation with someone who was immensely interesting. And I don’t know when I’ve ever been among 40-50 people who were as open and friendly as they were intellectually stimulating. This is what Alexandra Carmichael, Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf have created and it has inspired me.

I left the Organizer’s Meeting with a new sense of purpose. I would selfishly like to seek out all of the similar, curious and interesting people, wherever I may be, and hang out with them both individually and as a group. Whether or not I’m able to find enough of them to satisfy my own desire for growth and learning is how I will measure success, not by how many fill up a room… This was a much needed course correction for me and I’m very happy that I made the trek to receive it. Thank you, Gary. 🙂

If you’re in the Louisville area and want to hang out, feel free to reach out and/or join our meetup group.


photo by: rajivzume

Here’s a Toast… and Corn

By | Using Data
King Korn: You Are What You Eat
Image by elycefeliz via Flickr

I had good times with my family this Memorial Day weekend. I am deeply thankful for all that has been given to me as a result of my service, and used the time to hang out with and remember old friends.

Remembering is important.

I also used the time to catch up on some movie watching, and one documentary in particular got me thinking a bit. If you haven’t seen it already, then you should definitely check out: King Corn.

The Story

Two friends find out that they both have great grandparents from the same town in Iowa. They decide to farm an acre of corn in the town together and film the process, whereby the audience learns about the positive and negative effects of U.S. agricultural policy

the good We have cheap food. What I really liked about the film was that they were able to interview the man who created the system of cheap food in the 1970s, Earl Butz. And it was obvious that in the interview he was still convinced that he had done the right thing for his country. Earl Butz had grown up in a time when food was labor intensive and expensive, and he had lived to see the day where Americans only needed to spend roughly 15% of their annual incomes on feeding themselves.

the bad Recent studies imply that cheap food may be causing an obesity epidemic across the nation, as American’s over consume things high in high fructose corn syrup due to its abundance and affordability.

The Takeaway

Politics aside, I think that the fascinating part of this storyline is that by solving one particular problem, the need for affordable food, we may (or may not) have created an entirely new problem, an addiction to sweets that causes health issues.

I get that it has taken some time to even see the symptoms of health problems that may be associated with the 1970s policy change… However, it seems to me that there is enough of a connection between the two areas: agriculture and health, to warrant more of a conversation than this about the two together.

I’m not saying abolish corn, because I don’t know if that is the answer. I am saying let’s break down the silos and really try to understand the network effects of policy decisions as we continue to make them. We can really only do this by connecting data together.

What do you think?

[Disclaimer Alert: I work for Humana, a health insurance company. However, the thoughts above are my own and do not reflect the thoughts of Humana.]

A Better Way To Find Influencers

By | Using Data
Visualization of the Influence Landscape
Image by marketingfacts via Flickr

Let me start by saying that the word “influencer” has become a bit of a Holy Grail in social media speak. I don’t necessarily agree with how it is often used. Thus, the mere fact that I put the word influencer in the title of this post shows that my hypocrisy knows no bounds.

All kidding aside, I tend to think that there is a difference between somebody with a large audience, and somebody with a large audience of people with small to large audiences of their own. In other words, I’m far more interested in visualizing how news spreads among networks of people on-line, than I am in just finding the large nodes.

It’s kind of like the difference between velocity and acceleration, in my mind. Both are great things to know, but acceleration is definitely more exciting than velocity.

The Better Process

I had another demo with Social Radar this week that has led me to believe that I can map out on-line networks of people around the keywords that I care about. And it doesn’t start with monitoring the entire internets. The technique that we used, and are experimenting with is:

site descriptions and tags Searching all the content on-line returns a lot of SPAM. Social Radar has a function that crawls site descriptions and tags, and it seemed to drastically reduce the amount of SPAM returned.

start broad We used a broad keyword, health, and that returned 14,000 sites… which was around the number I had in my mind. Between 10,000 and 20,000 sites just seems right to me for now.

then search specific Once we had our list of “trusted” sites on health, we could query them with specific search terms, like exergaming and healthy games. Low and behold, the results that were returned were all quality and social radar provides a visualization of the sites that are linked to one another.

now make friends So the connected sites around your keywords have been identified, now it’s just a matter of importing them into your reader and following the bloggers on Twitter to find the ones that you can actually start building relationships with on-line.

Ready For Action

This is the theory I’ve been working on for the last month, and now that I’ve figured out how to do it in a semi-automated way I’m really excited to get going with it. I’m convinced that the way for organizations to spread information on-line in the future, is for their individual employees to connect with other individuals on-line who have the desire and ability to help spread messages.

The process I outlined above helps the organization identify the right people to try to connect with upfront, with the understanding that there is not yet a science to building real and lasting relationships with people. I’m also assuming that the organization truly wants to build relationships with these people for mutual benefit, as opposed to only being out to make a buck.

A Word On Ben

I think that it’s necessary to give a shout out to Ben Hagedorn for being a great salesman throughout this process. I started out by digging through Kevin Palmer’s extensive list of monitoring tools, to get to six that looked like they could help me find networked influencers. From that list I reached out to three companies, Infegy being one of them…

Two things that stood out about Ben were that:

A. Ben actually looked at my LinkedIn profile before our first call. That is such an easy thing to do, and nobody does it when they’re trying to sell me something. It made an impression.

B. Ben never gave up on the sale. I told him point blank last week that I didn’t think his tool had it. But because we’d been working together on my needs (he knew that I was blogging about them and actually followed along at home) he went back to his development team and found a feature that is currently hardly used, but that COMPLETELY SOLVED MY PROBLEM!

He then demoed it to me, and we walked through a couple scenarios and I was sold. Talk about going the extra mile to make the sale. Kudos, Ben… Now we just have to get through the contracting process on our end and we’re home free. 😉

Mapping Linked Posts vs. Linked Sites

By | Using Data
Full New MTR System Map with Southern Kowloon Link
Image by Hong Kong dear Edward via Flickr

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about visualizing relationships between blog posts / web pages vs. visualizing relationships between blogs / web sites.


If you have a site and you link to another site from your homepage that tells me that you have a relationship with that other site. Whether it’s reciprocal or not, you have identified that, at the very least, you endorse the content on that other site. One sided relationships are still relationships to visualize in this case.

However, inferring that you have a connection with everything on that other site may be a stretch. Thinking of my own site, the topics that I write about have varied over the past year and a half. So if some third party marketer assumed that I would spread a message because a site I linked to on my homepage wrote about it, that may or may not be the case.


Whereas, if you have a site and you write a post about a specific keyword, and you link that post to another post on-line with the same or similar keywords, that tells me that you have a relationship with that other site, as well. Only it tells me that you’re connecting on a specific topic that I, or some other third party marketer, may care about.

If we could map out all of those connections around specific topics, from post to post, then we may be able to track down some good old fashioned influencers.

Building It

I spoke with Carol Leaman at PostRank last Friday and it sounds like they may have something like that in the works. But if they don’t, (or even if they do), I think that I need to introduce myself to Marc Smith because I can’t shake the feeling that our dev team could somehow combine PostRank data with NodeXL to get me the well-being influencer sociograms that I covet.

So that I can truly help my colleagues with their relationship marketing efforts…

Mining Amazon’s “Also Purchased” Data

By | Using Data

If you’ve ever wondered what products people also buy when they buy a particular product, Amazon has had your back for some time now. But I thought it would be interesting to see the data in a sociogram. So my main man Ramtin hacked a super sizzlin’ Amazon Tracker tool together for a project we’re working on in Humana’s Innovation Center.

Tracking connections between products on Amazon

link to QA site
[Note: These words represent my thoughts, not Humana’s]

Why Does It Matter?

If you’re trying to build a system that incentivizes people to care about their own well-being, it helps to start with well being product purchase data. We could guess what people do to engage in their own wellness and how those things are connected, or we could build a tool that looks it up and tells us. That would be the primary mission of this tool, as it evolves.

One cool secondary mission that I’m excited about is people discovery. With books in particular, it’s safe to say that some authors also maintain a presence on the social web. If they happened to write a book about any aspect of well-being, like say the Atkins Diet as an example, and have developed a community on/off-line around that specific topic, then I may be interested in building a relationship with them and their community. The Amazon Tracker helps me discover them.

Rough Around The Edges

I have medium sized plans for the Amazon Tracker, currently codenamed: Shopensteinr. So look for some layout / UI changes in the next week or two. The plan is to get it presentable by DC Week. [fingers crossed]

Also wanted to give shouts out to Similarity Web and Twitterzon for some inspiration. And if you have any ideas for the Shopensteinr, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

People Who Bought This…

By | Using Data
Data storage - old and new
Image by Ian-S via Flickr

I’ve been talking about this function on Amazon for a while now, to anybody and everybody who will listen. And I was lucky enough to have telephone conversations with two people I admire fairly recently, Valdis Krebs and Bernardo Huberman, to talk a bit about the subject.

It feels like an argument needs to be made that what people actually do is at least as important, if not more important, than what they talk about doing. Amazon.com gives you that information in the form of “people who bought this item also bought item X.”

The team that brought you myTPSreport.com is working on another prototype right now that will initially allow you to input a group of product SSIN ID numbers into it to map out what is also purchased when that item is purchased.

Not looked at…

Not queried on…


Where’s The Overlap

The ideal future for a tool like this would be to allow a user to type in a keyword, search any/all categories on Amazon and come back with the products that overlap most of the products within that given segment. What also gets bought?

That will go into the next iteration.

I really think that a tool like this could have a lot of application in general, but for the world of well-being in particular, as products from each wellness vertical can be looked up and understood in a new context. It could also give us some good leads on potentially influential people to follow and get to know in those given segments.

Questions on my mind right now are: What do people buy, in general, when they buy a book on the Atkins diet? Or when they buy a new pedometer?

But not just the most popular of these items. We’re talking, what do people buy when they buy every one of the products in a given product segment.

Finding Networked Influencers

By | Using Data

If you’re into optimizing a site for search, then developing keywords that you would like to “own” for SEO purposes is pretty straight forward. Cruise over to your friendly neighborhood Google Keyword Tool and figure out what terms people are searching for every month.

But let’s say that you’re not trying to come up with keywords people are searching for on-line. Let’s say that you are looking for keywords that people write about on-line. Because you want to find sites built by networked influencers around given topics.

Last week I talked about inbound and outbound links and it didn’t seem like anybody cared… So let me show you a picture that blew my mind today after tooling around with Social Radar for a few hours:

Boing Boing is a Networked Influencer

What You’re Looking At

I set up a search of 500 sites/blogs using the terms Health and Gaming within 10 words of one another without the terms Gambling or Casino present in the search. This is a subset of those 500 sites with Boing Boing selected as the center node.

Green nodes have the most relevant posts according to my search parameters, and bigger nodes have more average daily inbound links.

Relevance being important because I only want to target sites/blogs that actually talk about the topics I care about, in this case that happens to be health AND gaming.

Average inbound links being important because that gives me an indication of social media reach.

What I’m Doing

Tools like Social Radar and Sysomos that show networked influencers help product and community managers perform the first function in the relationship marketing process / theory I wrote about and illustrated. We’re looking for 100 networked influencers who talk about the keywords that we care about, on a somewhat regular basis, so that product managers don’t have to guess about who they need to know if they want to get the word out about their upcoming product launch.

As an aside: This isn’t intended to be disingenuous, mind you. I’m assuming that a product manager has a minimum amount of passion for the product they are developing, and that bloggers and community managers have a minimum amount of passion for the ideas they have built communities around.

The thought is to make it easy for these two parties to find one another, and see what comes of it.

Thoughts on Boolean Operators

If you’re not a Boolean Search Operator wizard, then you’re in luck because I found a site that really helped me to understand how to start optimizing my searches in Social Radar. Basic things to know:

and vs. or statements I’ve learned that I can put AND and OR statements together in the same search string. This is useful if I want to query the keywords I care about along with my brand’s name.

not I never really used the NOT operator before today, but I gotta say that eliminating certain words that pop-up is very nice.

near You need to make sure that two words are within some kind of proximity with the sites you’re looking at, if they go together in real life. Especially for a term made up of two or more common words, like health and gaming.

parenthesis Making sure that your search strings are separated is an important task, especially when you’re trying to sift through 500 records at a time.

Who’s Working On This Stuff

I am curious if anybody else is working on projects like this with a similar methodology. Please hit me up in the comments or on Twitter if you are, because I would love to talk with you.

You Are What You Type

By | Using Data
Camp Happy Face Mascot
Image by emdot via Flickr

The idea that our physical and mental health are tied to the words we write probably shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did.

Since gaining this knowledge, I can’t help but think that understanding an individual’s psychometrics will provide some sort of insight that could be helpful in more ways than one.

In particular, I’m interested in learning if mapping out peoples’ psychometrics based on their tweets is something that can be trended around search commonalities. For example, what is the psychometric make-up of people who tweet the word happy as opposed to the psychometric data around people who tweet the word sad?

The comparisons are virtually infinite…

Mapping Inbound and Outbound Links

By | Using Data

I received a product demonstration from Adam, Jordan and Nick at Sysomos yesterday, and the tool impressed me… The demo got me thinking about mapping the inbound and outbound links of a given website and what both types of link mean for building relationships with on-line influencers:

inbound links Looking at a graph of a blog’s inbound links gives you an idea of the number and quality of other blogs/sites that are picking up news from it. This is important when it comes to reach. You want to look for sites that are news epicenters around your keywords and attempt to get the attention of and build a rapport with the caretakers of that site.

Inbound Links Diagram

outbound links Looking at a graph of a blog’s outbound links gives you an idea of the blogs/sites that blog gets news from. This is important when it comes to getting attention. You want to look for sites that break news for the news epicenters, and build rapport with the makers of those sites, if you can’t get in good with anybody from a news epicenter.

Outbound Links Diagram

Network Effects

Finding one site with a large audience to write about your story is good, a percentage of people from that audience will read the write-up, share it, and/or click through. But it’s even better when a number of other sites, that you hadn’t built relationships with, write about your story because of the first site’s post. When this occurs two things happen:

A. You extend your reach to new audiences
B. You have a reason to engage/build rapport with an increased number of bloggers

Achieving network effects with shared news/posts is a primary reason to map out the inbound and outbound links of sites that discuss topics of interest.

Who Are You?

By | Using Data

Pete Warden recently wrote this post called, Is making public data more accessible a threatening act? I really liked the post and it is interesting to me for a couple of reasons:

First The question Pete is trying to understand being, is it OK that people can purchase personal information about you AND not OK if people can get a hold of that information for free? Or is that some kind of weird double standard?

Second The idea that we can have multiple faces that we put on and wear day in and day out is getting harder and harder to maintain as we share our lives on social networks and all that data gets aggregated back into one place.

Third For a culture of people that talks about tolerance a lot, it sure doesn’t seem as though we are very tolerant of other people’s beliefs when they oppose our own…