My Trip to the QS15 Conference Begins

I was fortunate to attend the QS15 conference in San Francisco June 18-20.  The three day event was organized by QS Labs.  Between the conference and the public expo that followed, this event gathered thousands of people together to learn about new devices and share what they’ve learned from using self-tracking tools and technologies.  You can see a copy of the packed agenda here.

I have a lot of notes and thoughts about what I learned at the conference, so I am going to try to break it up in a few ways.  I’ll share some more about the early part of my trip first, leading up to my talk, including screen shots from my Moves app.  I’ll post later about the talks, companies, technologies and apps that I saw at the conference.  I’ll try to keep the posts on the shorter side and topic-specific, but no guarantees.

I flew to San Francisco on on Wednesday June 17th, with a very early wakeup at 4 am.  It isn’t unusual for me to be up that early, but it was unusual to be heading to catch a plane.  I traveled regularly in my last position as JMP Genomics product manager, but I’ve only made one plane trip in the past four years.  I was surprised to find a long line at the RDU airport.  My flights were both delayed about 1.5 hours, so I had plenty of time to walk around the RDU and ORD terminals.

IMG_1681 (1)I dozed a bit on my first flight while using a meditation app, then started going over my conference presentation and the various data tables I would use for my office hour session.  I cleaned up my final table of BodyMedia food logs that I had imported before leaving town.  It included foods I had logged from December 21, 2010 through March 29, 2015 when I decided to stop using BodyMedia’s food logging software and switch to MFP.  I also consolidated food item names for my first 60 days of data from MyFitnessPal, which I had extracted using the MyFitnessPal Data Downloader Chrome extension and imported using an add-in I wrote previously. (By the way, MFP had a booth at QS15 and I talked to them about data export.  It sounds like they are working on providing an export utility for the future and are aware of unsupported add-ins like the one I used.  I suggested they make food categories available in the exported data.)

I also reviewed the final tables of my summarized activity and sleep data from BodyMedia that I had imported from Excel and Zenobase. I deleted scripts I didn’t need and added new ones to show useful trends in my data.  After a plane change in Chicago, I was on my way to San Francisco.

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Once I arrived, I took a shuttle from the airport to the Holiday Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf. I was thrilled that the hotel was so close to Lombard Street, which is one of my favorite places to walk when I visit San Francisco. I got settled and put on some walking clothes so that I could check out the conference venue down at The Fort Mason Center and visit Lombard Street.


I also stopped to have some dinner at Blue Mermaid Chowder House.  The waiter was from Rochester, NY, about an hour and a half from where I grew up in Rome, NY.  After dinner, I walked back to the hotel, practiced my talk a few times and went to bed early.


The next morning I reviewed my talk again.  I have never practiced a talk so much as I practiced this one.  The format was new to me-a modified Ignite format that used 30 slides in seven and a half minutes.  In other words, I had ~15 seconds per slide.  It took a lot of evaluating and reorganizing the talk to finally get it right, but I liked the way it turned out.  I will plan to post a link of my talk when it becomes available. A Picture is Worth 1000 Calories notes 6-16-15 is a pdf of my talk with notes included to give an idea of what I said for each slide.

Conference organizer Stephen Jonas had made some really helpful suggestions when we had reviewed it together a few weeks before.  He suggested that I place more focus more on how I had managed to collect such detailed data about my eating and use my visualizations the centerpiece of the talk.  I did use weight loss and maintenance to motivate why I was interested in this area, but I think the final talk flowed much better after implementing Steven’s suggestions.

All of the QS Labs people I met at the conference were just amazing. It was fantastic to meet Steven in person and also Ernesto Ramirez, who I had talked to for a QS Labs podcast recently, and of course Gary Wolf, who gave the first talk I ever saw on the topic of quantified self. I was really impressed with Gary’s thoughtful questions for conference participants as the days went on.  Gary, Ernesto and Steven clearly have a passion for the technologies, approaches, and personal learning that embody the quantified self movement.

Backstage, I told Gary the story about how I had seen his TED talk from summer 2010 which helped inspire me to purchase my BodyMedia FIT activity monitor in December 2010.  Over the next few years, I focused on collecting my own data through my pregnancy and post baby weight loss and transitioning into maintenance.  It was only after I started working through extracting my data for my JMP Discovery project in 2014 that Gary’s QS TED talk resurfaced for me.  My dad caught a PBS program that mentioned quantified self, came across the TED talk and showed it to me.  As I watched it, I remembered that I had seen it before. Hilariously, my dad was very excited to find out that there were a lot more people than just me obsessing about collecting data on themselves!

I’m going to wrap up this post because the kids and dogs are restless and I need to get ready for my last half day of work before the long holiday weekend!  I’ll continue on with the conference posts as time permits.


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