What I learned at Quantified Self EU 2015

I learned a lot at the Quantified Self Europe conference last week. I learned that people track everything, from their ailments to the diameter of smiles on smiley faces they draw on a daily basis. People measure how much time they spent using smartphones in the car, count their fallen out hair and track how 50 Cent is their preferred artist during the fertile phase.

But most encouraging for me was that I learned Clue is known and appreciated as an app serving a diverse group of people. And I was the privileged one showing them 23 new categories we released on Friday September 17, the same day I was in Amsterdam for the conference.

It is remarkable how many things people will track because they believe it improves their live. It’s also amazing how many unserved needs there are. But that gap is getting smaller thanks to Clue!

(Sadly, I also witnessed the ever-present “women are run by their cycles” gender bias and prejudice in the form of comments by some attendees during one of the presentations. It was quite swiftly cut off by one of the organizers, and I can only applaud them for that. The female cycle is much more than the “moodiness” attributed to it. I’m proud to say that we at Clue are working hard to dispel those myths.)

The urge to quantify oneself has always existed in us, but the time to track is now. Today we are able to self-track almost effortlessly. My primary goal was to present my ideas and stories about how the quantified self could help us diagnose diseases (namely cancer) earlier. But I was asked for a more personal story, and I dug deep into my insecurities over the non-sexy diseases I had, and pulled out the most embarrassing one: the story of my digestive troubles. I was nervous to present, as not many people know my story, but 30 seconds in I felt that the people sitting in the room had shared so many intimate details with me, how could I do the same?

The urge to quantify oneself has always existed in us,
but the time to track is now.

It was rewarding to have so many of the (too few) women attending the meeting telling me they experienced similar problems but didn’t know how to interpret the data, or how to show it to their general practitioners, or what to make of the entire measured and experienced mess. This is where I became extremely proud of my place in this intimate history: the platform we are building at Clue enables individuals to track things that may (at a first glance) look so disconnected from our cycles. But they are not! There is already an existing body of research, and in the future there will hopefully be more showing us how are things so beautifully interconnected, how details do matter and how we should get an integrated picture of our health.

Because, and this is the researcher in me talking, even if there is no evidence of a particular connection between dispersed symptoms today, there will be in 2, 5 or 10 years, and then we can together look at our data, and make a greater sense out of it. Making sense that will impact our health!

It was a great honor to host a additional breakout session on how to track complex data and present it to healthcare practitioners. This is a tough challenge; I know it firsthand as a patient. It is something Clue is diligently working on, by working with medical professionals, at the same time furthering the relationship that will take us deeper into an area needed and useful for both patients and for healthcare professionals.

Thank you to all of the organizers of Quantified Self. There is so much more to see in the future.

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