This spring I had the pleasure of attending (and speaking) at the Quantified Self Europe conference in Amsterdam. I have attended the annual US conferences the past few years, so I was excited to see lots of familiar faces, and even more new ones. It was a fun, educational, and inspiring time and my post-event buzz still hasn’t worn off (whereas thankfully the Jenever has!).
In the spirit of Quantified Self’s “Show and Tell” talks, I’ve structured my recap using the 3 questions every presenter is required to answer…
What Did I Do?
I attended Quantified Self Europe 2014.
How Did I Do It?
I registered for the conference, prepared my talk, and eagerly got on a plane from New York City to Amsterdam, where I took a short train ride to get to Hotel Casa 400.
What Did I Learn?
1. So many great sessions (and not enough time!).
The conference was so packed full of great talks and breakout sessions happening at the same time that there was simply no way to see it all. Fortunately, most of the talks (including mine!) were recorded and the QS folks will be posting videos shortly. I often found myself running from room to room to take in as much as possible or walking in late because of a great conversation I was having during one of the breaks!
2. Privacy concerns shifting from “mine” to “yours”.
Whereas the QS privacy/data debate has focused on the self, there was a much more awareness about factoring in the privacy of others we may be recording without their consent/knowledge with the proliferation of “lifelogging” devices. And even with all of this lifelogging going on, ironically, not one person posted a photo of me giving my talk on the conference Flickr stream! (please send me a pic if you took one :))
3. Europeans have a much better fashion sense than Americans.
Amazingly, I did not see one person wearing a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. Sorry San Francisco!
4. QS is not just about health.
While much of the QS subject matter has a heavy focus on health/wellness, people are using self-tracking to better understand all aspects of their lives, from productivity to grief, improving memory to goal setting, improving relationships to tracking media consumption, to even transforming data into art!
5. But as it relates to health, QS…
Is evolving from people sharing stories about identifying/treating/overcoming existing problems to using self-tracking as a way to take proactive/preventative measures to ensure they can live optimally both today and in the future (what’s the point of living a long life if you aren’t able to truly “live”?).
6. Quantified Self vs. Biohacking
While QS and biohacking are very connected, not all QSers are biohackers, and not all biohackers consider themselves QS practitioners. This seems to be becoming more evident as practitioners begin to push the envelop on both fronts. I personally view myself as someone that falls smack in the middle – an avid practitioner of both.
7. QS is a global movement.
Probably my favorite part of the conference was that as an American, I was of the minority in attendance, and it was great to engage with so many people from other parts of the world. They really brought a fresh perspective to the QS conversation. That being said, as much as I love San Francisco, I think future QS conferences would benefit from moving to locations outside of the San Francisco/Bay area, where it can feel very insular and disconnected at times.
8. Startups, startups, startups.
As the QS movement continues to grow, so too is the QS-related startup ecosystem. It was great to see companies that just a year or two ago were nothing more than a prototype finally launching and raising some serious capital. In addition, some big established companies are beginning to show up (from consumer electronics to pharma). I hope that future conferences can maintain their content focus on allowing individuals to give talks about their personal journeys and not having the talks get too commercial/salesy (I will still visit all of the sponsor booths!).
9. Seth Roberts left a lasting QS legacy.
The closing plenary was a touching tribute to the late Seth Roberts, who unexpectedly passed away just weeks before the event. While I never knew Seth personally, I definitely admired and have been inspired by his work and it was touching to hear various attendees share their stories about him. Whether you are simply curious about self-tracking or are an active practitioner, his blog and papers are required reading.
10. Amsterdam is an awesome city!
After spending 2 rainy days holed up in the conference hotel, I was so glad I tacked on a few extra days after the conference to check out as much of the city as possible. If you’ve never visited, I highly recommend it. It’s the most laid-back, friendly city I have ever been to. I can’t wait to go back!
Thanks again to all of the conference organizers for putting on such a great, smoothly run event. I realize what a tremendous amount of work must have gone into making it a success! The QS folks have posted their own recap/roundup, which also includes links to recap posts by other attendees. Can’t wait until the next one!