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

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