Archive for May, 2011

Mixing MAKE & Quantified Self

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

With SF Bay Maker Faire just behind us, and the first-ever Global Quantified Self Conference right around the corner, I’ve got health hacking on my mind. (And proud to report that BioCurious won an Education Award at Maker Faire!)


I was at Maker Faire this weekend, where one of my first stops was the Health 2.0 Pavilion. And, one of my first questions: Why does Health 2.0 have a pavilion at Maker Faire? (What’s health got to do with Making?) Said the health team: “We’re beginning to see a convergence between the groups that innovate in Health 2.0 and those that make/hack.”

Yes! It’s a convergence that’s taking place in biohacking, too, so the new Health/Making culture comes as no surprise. However, this blended culture is already apparent in Quantified Self, where programmers are making self tracking apps and hardware hackers are breaking down the data walls in gadgets like FitBit (see Eric Blue’s hack). Side note: thank you, companies who have an open API!

I asked the Health 2.0 team if they were involved with Quantified Self.  They responded that Health 2.0 was kinda like QS brought mainstream. I kinda got it. From personal experience, people outside the geek realm or Silicon Valley (same thing?) don’t know what QS is when I ask them. So, there’s some sort of niche thing happening. (btw, I’ve experienced the same, “Duh! Of course I know it!” and “No. No idea.” when I ask Bay Area folks vs ‘everyone else’ about Maker Faire.) However, I haven’t attempted to ask people if they know what Health 2.0 is. I just say it with authority because, after Web 2.0, this sort of terminology automatically makes sense to people…right?

But how much more mainstream is Health 2.0 than QS, really? With QS appearing across the media – the WSJ, NYT, again and again in Forbes, Gary Wolf in TED, and QS meetups all over the world – it’s hard to say QS isn’t mainstream.


Could it be just a matter of semantics? The – Quantified – Self. It takes some ‘splaining, that’s for sure. I mean, it makes literal sense: a person (self) who quantifies (tracks) stuff. But it takes anecdotes to really help people make sense of the concept, which is less true for the term Health 2.0. People think they get it… even if they don’t. One of these people being me. 😉

Here’s what I see as the main difference between the groups: Quantified Self seeks to elevate the individual who has used data in some meaningful way. Health 2.0 seeks to elevate health-related companies that share their culture and create positive reform in healthcare.  Different, but similar, and there’s proven to be room for tinkerers in both. It’s like MAKE  Quantified Health Self 2.0. I’ll work on that name…. as I enjoy a fab weekend with fellow QS-ers

Does above average REM sleep cause sleepiness?

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

One of the most interesting discussions on sleep I’ve seen has been unfolding over the past 1.5 years at the Zeo forums. A subset of Zeo users who are not getting enough “Deep Sleep” (as Zeo calls it, otherwise known as phases 3+4, and the sleep during which your body repairs itself) are getting too much REM sleep (the dream state, when your brain pieces together information you’ve gathered in the past day). 

These users are saying that they’re chronically exhausted, despite having a normal amount of total sleep, and speculate that their dream state minds may be racing so much that it leads to daytime exhaustion. [Note: I am one of these excessive dreamers – and I am pretty much always exhausted. (She types as she finishes her 5th cup of coffee…)]


My first reaction was that the inverse may be true: that a stressful/exhausting daytime life leads to increased REM. From personal experience, when my life is more stressful, I have nightmares. When my life is either boring (aka…happy?) or when I’m not getting enough sleep, my dreams are mundane. It could be that nightmares – or more exciting dreams – cause more REM sleep and boring dreams cause less. It’s too bad that, during those times, I neither took notes on daytime sleepiness nor owned a Zeo.

But times have changed! I own a Zeo, a tiny sleep-monitoring device. Which is AWESOME. I’m thinking and reading more about quality sleep. For the first time in my life, I am becoming an aware sleeper!

Without wearing this 3-point EEG on my brain every night, I wouldn’t be able to ask questions about my own states of Deep and REM sleep, let alone start interventions to change them. That’s the path I’m taking now – first, with experiments on myself, then, it’s on to group experiments, crowdsourced clinical trial style. We’ll be sleeping together: for science!

Update: Average REM sleep for adults is 90-120min, per Wikipedia

 (I get about twice the average. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN???)


Citizen Science goes Open Source at O’Reilly’s OSCON (and I’ll be there to talk about it!)

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Update: link to my talk:

Citizen Science is making a big splash at this years Open Source Conference (OSCON)! And how! For the first time in its 13 year history, Citizen Science will be one of OSCON’s primary tracks!

What does that mean for us biohackers and garage scientists? For starters, it signals that we no longer have to lay low, trying to do work on the sly without alerting the township. Turns out that, when we wander out of our garages, the cool hunters think, well… that what we’re doing is cool, not that we’re out to genetically modify their faces off.

We’ve been recognized as so cool, in fact, that, this summer, we’ll be joining the software and tech l33t to speak out about participatory healthcare, crowdscourced science, and garage-to-bedside bio.

Our arrival at OSCON signifies the rise and the legitimization of citizen science as well as the inherently collaborative nature of the growing synthetic biology and genomic fields. We need biologists, chemists, programmers, entrepreneurs and more! My hope is that geeks in all fields will get jazzed about science and begin thinking about how they can contribute to these bodies of work. Perhaps a few will join us at BioCurious.


Take a look at the 2010 list of “Who Should Attend,” below. It’s blatantly lacking life science. But! No longer! Genomera‘s Raymond McCauley and Greg Biggers will take the stage the morning of July 28, 2011 to talk about DIY Clinical Trials (“or How to Guinea Pig Your Way to Scientific Truth). Our colleague Melanie Swan at DIYgenomics will present later in the day on Open Source Medicine & Genomics.  And, in a move that knocked my socks off, Edd Dumbill, as in the Edd Dumbill that co-chairs the thing, invited me to keynote for the Citizen Science track. (I said yes! and:) I’m still blushing.

Thanks kindly to Edd, co-chair Sarah Novotny and Tim O’Reilly for elevating citizen science!

See OSCON keynotes here. I’ll be speaking at 10.40a on July 28th. You won’t see much info on the page yet, as I haven’t done my presentation! Have some ideas on what should make the cut?  Please add your thoughts below!

  • Developers and programmers
  • Engineers
  • Designers
  • Sys admins
  • [BIO]Hackers and geeks[Ya ya!]
  • Enterprise developers and managers
  • IT managers and CxOs
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Activists
  • Trainers and educators