Archive for September, 2011 celebrates 10 years and an inspiring reaction to 9/11

Monday, September 12th, 2011
I, along with millions of other Meetup users, recently received this email from the CEO of In it, he chronicles his reaction to the tragedies of 9/11 and how he and the founding Meetup team used technology to make people want to meet face-to-face. I had no idea that this is where Meetup had its roots, but I find the story inspiring and a tribute to the human condition. I applaud the Meetup team for turning crisis into beauty. We can all take a lesson from their book.

Fellow Meetuppers,

I don’t write to our whole community often, but this week is
special because it’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and many
people don’t know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.

Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles
from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought
local community doesn’t matter much if we’ve got the internet
and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I
hoped they wouldn’t bother me.

When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors
in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to
neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they’d normally
ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each
other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being

A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring
people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was
born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet — and
grow local communities?

We didn’t know if it would work. Most people thought it was a
crazy idea — especially because terrorism is designed to make
people distrust one another.

A small team came together, and we launched Meetup 9 months
after 9/11.

Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it’s
working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups,
Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups… a wild variety of
100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common — except one

Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to
neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me.
They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and
motivate each other, they babysit each other’s kids and find
other ways to work together. They have fun and find solace
together. They make friends and form powerful community. It’s
powerful stuff.

It’s a wonderful revolution in local community, and it’s thanks
to everyone who shows up.

Meetups aren’t about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it
weren’t for 9/11.

9/11 didn’t make us too scared to go outside or talk to
strangers. 9/11 didn’t rip us apart. No, we’re building new
community together!!!!

The towers fell, but we rise up. And we’re just getting started
with these Meetups.

Scott Heiferman (on behalf of 80 people at Meetup HQ)
Co-Founder & CEO, Meetup
New York City
September 2011

Announcing a Genomera Sleep Study – Orange You Sleepy?

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Michael Nagle and Eri Gentry are bringing you the first group sleep study at Genomera, looking at the effect of blue-light blocking (aka “orange” or “amber-tinted”) glasses on sleep!

Blue light and sleep

We were inspired by a talk at the Quantified Self Boston meetup – “The Science of Sleep” – in which Sanjiv Shah immensely improved his sleep by wearing blue-light blocking glasses several hours before his bedtime. Using the Zeo, a small EEG headband worn during sleep, he was able to show that his average time to fall asleep without the glasses was 28 minutes, while his average time to sleep using the glasses was 4 minutes. What’s more, his deep sleep increased from about 60 minutes to 85 minutes with the glasses!

Research suggests that these glasses improve sleep by advancing circadian rhythm. Humans don’t produce melatonin, a hormone related to sleep, until darkness sets in. In this modern age, a host of electronics replace darkness with stimulating lights and images, delaying the onset of melatonin production. These glasses may function to improve sleep – as well as mood – by blocking blue light, which tells our bodies to begin producing melatonin, allowing for a more natural bedtime, even with continued nighttime electronics usage.

A group sleep study using the Zeo

“Orange you sleepy?” is an open group study during which participants will track their sleep using the Zeo for three weeks. 

  • During Week 1, participants will track sleep – with no other interventions. 
  • During Week 2, they will wear blue-light blocking glasses and continue to track sleep.
  • During Week 3, participants will track sleep with no interventions.

Interested in joining? Go here to sign up for the study and here to check out the study.

Where to get blue-light blocking or “orange” glasses

These can cost from $5 to more than $100. See google shopping results for a general, confusing overview. What to look for: (1) that the glasses do, indeed, block blue light. Look for the terms “blue blocker” or the name brand “BluBlocker” and (2) glasses that block as much light as possible — that is, glasses with maximum eye coverage and as little gap as possible in between your skin, like these $4 wraparound glasses available on eBay or these $40 StarShield glasses on Amazon. 

Where to get a Zeo

Check out Zeo here and click through to product page to buy.

Ever wonder what the inside of an at-home cholesterol test looks like?

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011



Photo (and destruction for the sake of science) credit: Tito Jankowski

Tons of paper
Tons of plastic
Little bitty test strip

The test is poorly designed and surprisingly hard to use*. How could we do this better?

* For what the test is, it has a disproportionately complex set of instructions for you to follow as you go through the steps: bleed yourself, put the blood on the right spot.  That much is not complicated, but the pamphlet you’re supposed to read as the blood runs down your finger is. Another element of bad design. 

* It takes a pro tip to know that you’ll need an extra lancet to draw enough blood to make the test work. Is it a conspiracy to use ineffective lancets – to cause tests to fail, requiring purchase of additional tests?

What if the test were just the paper strip, with the indicators on the paper? Blood here -> O. Markers up the sides. Same test, different look, less waste.

And the instructions… let’s limit these to one sheet (it’s too difficult to flip open a pamphlet to the English section with one hand) with minimal text and big pictures. Goal: make it easy to know what to do at a glance. The rest of the world has heard of infographics, why not a simple, yet unnecessarily overcomplicated at-home cholesterol test?

I question whether these tests are marketed at real people. Who would enjoy the experience described above? My impression is that the extra materials and reading are meant to make the test look more sophisticated (complicated, hard to understand) and professional, so that users trust the results. Well, in this massive design fail, it’s difficult to actually get the results (you’ve stopped bleeding by the time you figure out where the blood goes).

What if these tests were marketed for us? What would the hipster cholesterol test look like? To get this answer, I don’t look to the medical device insdustry, I look to designers, artists, architects. People who understand how beauty comes from functionality + simplicity.