Sources and Methods #7: Ernesto Ramirez


Show Notes:

Quantified Self - wikipedia

Quantified Self (Official Site)

Ernesto Ramirez (Twitter)


Alex’s pick: - Great way to listen to authors talk about new books, new podcasts regularly on a wide variety of subjects.

Matt’s pick: The Ice Balloon by Alec Wilkinson

6:24 - Alex: Quantified Self is interesting for those who may want to use data for self-improvement.

7:35 - Ernesto on QS: The act of collecting information - data - about your individuality, about yourself, whether that’s your health, your activity, your mood, all the things that make up who you are in the world.

People have been doing this forever. Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues is just one example. But I think why this has come to the fore recently over the last five or six years is the increasing ease of collection, and an increasing ease of analysis. This is why there is a thing called Quantified Self.

10:50 - The technology is really what’s driving this forward - there are more and more technologies that are allowing us to gather information about ourselves that a) we were never able to gather before and b) we’re able to gather it much more easily.

11:33 - As these technological changes have come along, there’s been an increasing focus in the individuality of human nature and that - what works for me, may not work for you.

13:15 - The Human Genome Project

14:51 - What we’ve found is that individual stories actually can inspire lots of other people.

17:21 - Rescuetime - an app for time management. Lift - an app for hitting your daily goals.  

19:51 - I collect data in the hope that I can use it in the future to help me answer questions I may have. It can help you develop a rich autobiographical narrative as this data is continually collected.

25:23 - Ernesto’s recommendations to start QS in your life:

  1. Make sure the system you choose to record this data lets you access the data it collects

  2. Start with simple things - simple data visualizations can tell you great stories. Start with scatterplots.

  3. Share your observations with others - you’ll come up with new ways to look at this information

29:50 - Alex: What I like is that in this data, in these visualizations - there’s always a story embedded in that, as to why things happened the way they did.

31:42 - Right now, it’s all about data aggregation, about pulling it all together. But there are a few people working on how to create a subjective context that you need to have to make those more datasets more understood, more useful.

33:01 - Basis Watch that tracks exercise and sleeping in particular.

34:56 - Different companies take different approaches - Jawbone is trying to create automatic insights into your data that they can push to you in the form of simple correlations. Or Basis, which is more focused on helping you develop a stronger habits.

40:10 - Gary Wolf, co-founder of Quantified Self: Ted Talk

42:55 - What would be great would be to see a highly interactive computer system with these data systems that humans could work with, to really start to make this very useful.

44:18 - What people do most often with this technology is actually use it to share their experiences.

46:47 - We hear this all the time: ‘we just want people to donate all their data to us so we could create something interesting.’ What I think is more interesting would be to involve people in the discovery of data itself. Once you have this data, how can you feed back this information to the users who are generating it so it can be more useful?

47:58 - We know that the act of data collection in itself is a mechanism to change their behavior. You give someone a pedometer, they’re going to take more steps, it happens time and time again.

49:28 - I think that’s what it all comes down to - how can people understand and tell the story of their life? In some cases people want to improve, and sometimes people just want to understand, and some people just want to share what’s going on.