What would you do if you met a healthier you?

Courtesy Nick from Sessions


The Computational Quantified Self: Q & A with Stephen Wolfram

I was lucky to be able to have a short email conversation with Stephen Wolfram (of Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha) regarding his self-tracking practice. I really think the implications for tracking and analyzing health information and behavior data are profound. 

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts.

Move. All Day. Every Day. 

Kierkegaard (via slavin)

Walk needlessly!

(via bustr)

(Source: purrsikat, via bustr)

If we can pause, we create space. Space to breathe, to think, to be without acting.

The pause is the answer to so many of our problems. Such a small thing, and so powerful.

To develop the pause, notice your next urge. Is it an urge to go check something online? Or eat something you know isn’t healthy for you? Pay attention to the urge, learn as much as you can about it. If you act on it after the pause, that’s OK. Just notice it, and pause, and pay attention.

Do it again for the next urge, and the next. You will get good at it with practice, and you’ll have lots of opportunities to practice.

This sound a lot like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which I’ve been thinking about lately in reference to self-tracking and awareness. 

- Zen Habits: Pause

The key is to just pause… not to try to change your behavior.

Lately I’ve started to believe that behavior change is about 98 parts attention (aka pause), 1 part self-judgment, and 1 part effort.  Of course self-judgment should stay low, but effort is the one that tries to sneak in all the time. Let effort emerge naturally from attention, not from other parts of your will.

(via bustr)

(Source: bustr)

Do it because it’s hard

It’s 3AM here in San Diego and I can’t sleep. Too many neurons firing. So I decided to hop on over to Quora and see if I can help answer some questions. In typical fashion I headed directly for the Fitbit topic area to see what people are talking about. To my pleasure I found this question: 

How hard is it for a startup to design hardware like Jawbone UP, Nike+ Fuelband, Fitbit, etc.?

Since I know some of you aren’t on Quora I’ll repost my answer here. Be prepared it is long. 

here is a lot of room to improve upon the design, UI/UX, and hardware of physical activity and tracking devices. For instance, I noticed you didn’t mention Basis. They are are bringing a great new device to market this year that will integrate optically sensed HR, galvanic skin response, and accelerometery in a nicely designed watch. 

When you talk about designing hardware you have to always think not just about what is possible now, but also what will be possible over the next 5-10 years and begin designing products that take advantage of new MEMs technology. For instance, there is a lot of great R&D coming out of MIT that is supporting the creation of even smaller sensors: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/accelerometer-0416.html

Another design element to think of is functionality. Not in the sense of doe the device work, but rather, how it works around your normal everyday life. My fiance was considering all three you mention (FitBit, Nike+ Fuelband, Up) and decided to go with the FitBit because she didn’t want to be tied to wearing something on her wrist every day that isn’t a watch (she’s old school). With the new class of open-source wearable microprocessors (LillyPay, Flora) I don’t see why in the next few years we can have our trackers embedded in our clothing. 

This is getting long, but I’ll bring up another hardware design that I see really separating the industry - wireless connectivity. I don’t mean bluetooth, I mean true wireless, send the data to cloud, kind of connectivity. Qualcomm is pioneering this initiative with their new Qualcomm Life venture and their proprietary machine-to-machine systems. There will be a day soon, if not this year then next, where your FitBit or Nike+ Fuelband or whatever YOU make has a similar chipset to what you find in the Kindle 3G. This is a huge design challenge as battery usage will be altered dramatically, but again nothing that is insurmountable. 

Lastly, I think (and I’m a bit biased as I’m a behavioral scientist), is that the technology community tends to overly focus on the hardware rather than the user experience design. Yes, it has to work well as Jawbone showed us. Yes, it has look good - Jawbone showed us that too. But, it also has to be tied to an engaging and worthwhile experience. The importance of good design cannot be overstated. Look at what Aza Raskin is doing over at Massive Health and their Eatery app. Design will win every time. If you’re really thinking about building hardware make sure you find an Aza clone (good luck with that) and spend as much if not more time creating, testing and iterating on the user experience. People will use something because it’s cool and different, but the world will use the thing that works, the thing that makes them forget they’re interacting with 1’ and 0’s (you only need to look at the iPhone for confirmation about the importance of experience design).

Oh, and I guess to really answer your question. It is very, very, very hard to make physical products that work. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. Fitbit is a great example. They went through many trials after their huge showing at Techcrunch50 in 2008. They missed launch dates, they had some product failures, but they persevered. Now look at them: http://allthingsd.com/20120124/amid-increasing-competition-fitbit-scores-12-million-in-funding/

I guess in the end you might be asking the wrong question. Of course it is hard, building cars is hard, doing astrophysics is hard, playing the cello is hard. But here we are with hundreds of cars to choose from, new PhDs staring at the stars every night, and parents enrolling their children in orchestras. Hard will never go away, but being better is always within reach

So there you go. Sorry for any grammar errors. I can only plead tiredness and an lack of motivation to do another read through to catch my failures. 

We are embarking on a new revolution of empowerment that is being ushered in by self-tracking tools and services.
Thoughts during a great to be posted email conversation.

Who Owns Data From Inside Your Body? - On The Media


Required listening for anyone in the QS movement.

I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Hugo Campos and he is an inspiring guy. I also recommend watching his TEDxCambridge talk.


I have some exciting news

No biggie


The multiverse, the universe, the world, history, everyone alive, your friends and family, you, your behavior, what you are doing right now. You can only change one of these things, and it’s not easy, and you’ll probably fail the first 38,000 times, but by eventually changing it you indirectly change all of the others. After figuring that out, the only remaining problem is figuring out what you want to change and why.

Good ole’ Buster bringing the wisdom again. 

(Source: bustr)


All this chatter about gamify-ing and gamification has got me thinking. At the moment my thoughts can be boiled down to two things:

1) Users want to know, “Am I better today than I was yesterday?”

2) It is your job (developers) to not only answer that question, but to consistently help your users become their better selves.

If you’re a user (and we all are) think about #1. Think about your life. Can you answer that question? More importantly, are the things you’re interacting with on a day-to-day basis helping you ask yourself that question?

If you’re a maker of things (tools/services) you need to think really hard about #2. Strip away every badge and point system you have and think about the fundamentals of the experience you’re leading your users through. Those neatly designed digital trophies are the tinsel on a Christmas tree. They enhance the experience, but is the tree that matters. Focus on your tree then find the tinsel that makes it beautiful and pleasing. Who knows you may find out that your tree is so magnificent that you don’t even need the tinsel.

*This post was inspired by the information screen in my mom’s Prius. Don’t worry, I wasn’t driving.