Pitch for The Big Date Hackathon

I was invited to pitch at a hackathon hosted by the GGD. The topic was: Data citizens: using quantified self to improve health? I got a lot of positive feedback on my pitch so I want to share it here.

I have a dream…
But then I wake up.
I’m lying in my bed, my Emfit QS sleep sensor has logged my sleep phases, heartrate and movements. Todays’ sleep score is 86 points. But how did I sleep according to me? For one I already feel quite stressed because of some issues at work.
I take my morning blood pressure reading and sure enough the blood pressure has risen.
I hope some meditation will help. I put on my meditation monitoring gear and meditate for 30 minutes. Later I can see from my log that my heart rate came down. And I’m glad the whirlwind of thoughts has dropped.
Every morning I’m curious about my current weight. So I step on my Aria Wi-Fi scale, hmm. Yesterday I had a beer and some peanuts and it shows: weight has gone op by 0.4 kg and fat percentage by 0.1. But I can make a new start every day.
So let’s continue with a healthy breakfast: banana 83 gr, 74 kcal, orange 140 gr, 69 kcal, kiwi fruit, 75 gr, 46 kcal. After that a nice, warm oatmeal with extra fibre, apricots, flax seeds and soy milk: a total of 360 kcal.
Now I’m ready for work! My project timer logs the minutes I spend on different projects and the Workpace software makes sure it take my breaks on time.
After lunch (498 kcal) it is time for my walk in the afternoon sun. 4731 steps. Still more then 5000 to go.
In the evening, after a workout and a nice diner I check my energy balance, 1966 calories in and 1856 calories out. I try and burn a little bit more and take an evening stroll.

After some stretch exercise I head of to bed. And then I have a dream:
I’m travelling on a train. A nice and professional looking lady takes the seat next to me. She says: “I’ve been watching you. I see you very often, almost every time I take the train. I’ve got a feeling I know you pretty well. I know you have a very conscious lifestyle: your diet is healthy, you take enough exercise and your BMI is perfect. I estimate your biological age to be around 12.5 years younger than your chronological age. But still, you sleep poorly from time to time and your fat percentage as well as your concentration during meditation fluctuate. Please let me tell you what you can do to further optimise your health.” She bends over and starts whispering in my ear. I can’t make out everything she says but a sense of insight, purpose and control fills me. I lean back in my chair and a feel happy and relieved.

As we’re entering a tunnel she gets up and sits down opposite an elderly, overweight woman with a walking stick by her side. Slowly the young professional transforms into a kind granny as she takes out some knitting from her bag. She starts a conversation with the other woman, about arthritis if I’m not mistaken. Then I wake up.

I had a dream. In this dream all the fragmented pieces of data that I collect about my body and behaviour were translated into actionable information, explained to me in a language I can understand. I had insight into what my next steps should be and what path to follow to keep on track and to further improve my health. I received some true health wisdom.
Now I’m a media artist, I work with data, I program, make visualisations and use statistics. But even for me it is not clear what actionable conclusions I can draw from my data. A visualisation doesn’t necessarily lead to insight let alone advice on how to improve my lifestyle.

And look at the elderly lady. She got her information in a way that was appropriate for her. The oracle answered questions and gave advice fitting to this individual based on a deep understanding of all the data available.

But… it was a dream.
I challenge you to come up with solutions on how to combine data sets, generate knowledge from it and translate it into plans and advice people can really work with. Solutions that are transparent and respect the choices and privacy of the users.
I challenge you to make my dreams come true this weekend.

The big date

The big date hackathon, picture by MAD


looping through the years

I’m starting a new data visualisation project. It uses some eight years of data from the numuseum website. In 2005 I started with a micro diary (255 characters per day) using custom software to update it every two hours. In 2006 followed my energy level and in 2008 inner peace and stress were added. All could be updated every two hours using the custom software. There are almost 900 pictures and around 60 haiku’s.

All this data will be integrated in an off-line visualisation: reversed calendar. This will take the form of an enormous tear-off calendar, where every leaf represents a day. There will be 2865 leafs in the calendar.

So I first have to get my head around the data sets. Luckily statistics wizard Marco Altini is helping to sort things out. He uses the very powerful program called R. Which can give you quick insight into data correlations. It was a bit embarrassing to discover how sloppy my data is. Notations have changed over the years and errors cause my program to halt.

At the moment I’m designing the leafs and doing some initial data accessing. I started out with the micro diary. I use Processing and Java to read in the data and at a later stage create pdfs for every day which can then be printed and made into a real tear-off calendar.

My idea is to make a big loop going through all the days from 27-4-2005 till 01-03-2013. I use the Java GreogorianCalendar class for that. The diary is in csv format consisting of a date and text string. I then compare every date with the date text string in the loaded data. It took some time to get the formatting right so the data can be compared as strings. I now have the first data ready to be incorporated into the pages. The printed output looks like this:

maandag 25-02-2013 // date of the page
Things are looking clear today.<br />Why does everything go more slow then you hoped? // diary text
p. 2861 // page of the calendar
dinsdag 26-02-2013
I hope I will learn the art of not worrying.<br />A nice conversation, new perspectives.
p. 2862

I want to share a little bit of code with you that I’m not using in the application but which might come in handy sometime. It lets you compare a date string to the incremented date (calStart):

Date d = new Date();
// make date
String myDate = “30-11-2005″;
DateFormat sdf = new SimpleDateFormat(“dd-MM-yyyy”);
d = sdf.parse(myDate);
catch(ParseException e){
Calendar tmpCal = new GregorianCalendar();

if(tmpCal.compareTo(calStart)== 0){