Better to know or to live in blissful ignorance?

23andme box

Following my brush with death I have taken a much deeper look at my family genes.

But one of the ultimate ways to know more is by signing up to 23 and me.

Although the idea freaks most people out, when you’ve been so close to death theres really little which can freak you out. So I have been considering the process quite a lot and looking through there material and some of the backstory of 23 and me.

Besides my thoughts of a world like Gattaca, I’m wondering if its better to know or live in a world of blissful ignorance? Although I do have to say blissful ignorance is part of the reason why I ended up in hospital. I do however wonder about 23 and me’s terms of conditions. There privacy statement is interesting too…

You may learn information about yourself that you do not anticipate. This information may evoke strong emotions and has the potential to alter your life and worldview. You may discover things about yourself that trouble you and that you may not have the ability to control or change (e.g., your father is not genetically your father, surprising facts related to your ancestry, or that someone with your genotype may have a higher than average chance of developing a specific condition or disease). These outcomes could have social, legal, or economic implications.

Genetic Information that you choose to share with your physician or other health care provider may become part of your medical record and through that route be accessible to other health care providers and/or insurance companies in the future. Genetic Information that you share with family, friends or employers may be used against your interests. Even if you share Genetic Information that has no or limited meaning today, that information could have greater meaning in the future as new discoveries are made. If you are asked by an insurance company whether you have learned Genetic Information about health conditions and you do not disclose this to them, this may be considered to be fraud.

We do not sell, lease, or rent your individual-level Personal Information without your explicit consent. As a general rule, 23andMe will not disclose your individual-level Personal Information to any third party, except under the following circumstances:

  • Partners or service providers (e.g. credit card processors or our contracted genotyping laboratory) process and/or store the information in order to help us provide, understand or improve 23andMe’s Services.
  • If you have consented for research, research contractors may access your individual-level Genetic and Self-Reported Information onsite at 23andMe’s offices for the purpose of scientific research, provided that all such research contractors will be supervised by 23andMe and subject to 23andMe’s access rules and guidelines.
  • If you have consented to use of your individual-level data in the Research Portal feature, qualified researchers (who must comply with certain requirements) may access your individual-level Genetic and/or Self-Reported Information for the purpose of scientific research, which could lead to commercial use.
  • We are required to do so by law or we do so in coordination with regulatory authorities (see the section below titled “Information Disclosure Required By Law”).
  • You have provided explicit consent for us to do so.

On a whole I don’t quite feel at ease with there terms of conditions or privacy statements. 23andme is a company and that worries me. If they were a charity or something like that, I would feel a slight bit better. How long will it be till they sell out on there users? You only have to look at what’s happened with Flickr to see the bizarre things that can happen.

So its not the information I’m worried about, its the way its stored and disclosed, now and into the future…

 

 

Perceptive Radio on BBC Click

Perceptive Media on BBC Click

I’m very happy to say Perceptive Media/Radio made it on to BBC Click today. Its short and sweet but so nice to hear its inspired even more people.

Greg from Mudlark explains the idea and then I chime in later with a little more information. Its right at the start, so go download the podcast and let us know what you think.

Perceptive Media isn’t about algorthms alone

BBC Perceptive Radio

From the Independent today… something which sounds like a episode of Black Mirror

The most cunning trick of the internet is that, with the help of some clever algorhythm-tracking piece of technology, it follows  our online behaviour and reflects  it back to us in the browsing choices it offers.

Dismayingly, radio may soon be playing the same game. A new invention called the Perceptive Radio, unveiled at the recent Thinking Digital Conference, is said to be able to respond to the kind of device listeners are using and to where they live. It will then adapt its output to include, for example, mentions of their local town, or the weather outside.

The aim, according to the team behind Perceptive Radio, is to provide “a more immersive experience” and, it almost goes without saying, to encourage diversity.

It sounds creepy to me. The very last thing I want from my radio is that it is customised to me and reflects my own world. True diversity lies in difference, not similarity.

Terence Blacker misses the fact Perceptive Media isn’t about algorithms alone. Its about giving the storyteller freedom to tell stories which make sense to the audience at the time. It also considers the space and place where the story is being told.  It doesn’t simply reflect your world back at you. I would say its a very lazy writing to do so, you also fall into the trouble of the mediabubble theory and finally how do you cover a group or audience?

Luckily Bex jumps in with a comment…

Interesting re ‘Perceptive Radio’. I was at the launch at Thinking Digital, and went to the lunchtime session as had somewhat of the impression that you give here – that it would become yet another ‘echo chamber’ – something I’m always seeking to avoid – but it seems more about intelligent reactions (e.g. volume changes if you’re singing along), and augmented information dependent upon location. I’m sure as with all other tech, can choose to enable, customise or disable..

Perceptive Media is smarter than machine algorithm alone. It empowers the scriptwritter and storyteller…

The first Manchester Quantified Self Meetup

Life logging

I can happily tell the world that Manchester’s first Quantified Self Meetup will be Friday 5th July at MadLab.

Madlab will update their calendar real soon but you can sign up using Meetup.com for free.

I will be giving a talk about my work time, foodfeed.us blog and fitbit to kick start discussions. Of course we’re looking for other speakers to join me and talk about there own experiences in quantified self.

When:
Friday, July 5, 2013 – 6:30 – 8:30PM
Where:
Mad Lab: 36-40 Edge Street, Manchester, United Kingdom

Details:
Manchester QS meetup consists of Show & Tell where people present or simply talk for 10-15 mins about their experience and experiments with self-tracking, quantifying and self-hacking whether it involves devices, applications or not.

This part lasts till about 8:30pm. We then move next door to Terrance or Common, which is an essential and integral part of the meetup, as important as the first part the ‘Show & Tell’. If you can join us, I encourage you to do so. Not only it’s always good fun, the conversations are equally interesting.

Facebook try again

No Facebook Home for the Galaxy S IV

I un-installed Facebook home from my HTC One X recently, and it sounds like I’m not the only one.

The European launch of the “Facebook phone” has been delayed following disappointing US sales and negative feedback. The HTC handset runs Facebook’s enhanced Home software, designed to be more integrated into the smartphone than a normal app. UK mobile operator EE confirmed that “following customer feedback” the Europe launch had been stalled.

For me Facebook home was interesting but I really don’t use Facebook enough to really make use of it. Its also a bit of a hog when it comes to resources of the phone. Once again I’d like to upgrade to Android 4.2 for daydream or maybe try one of the other more interesting launchers.

User experience design with Aral

Safety dip

Before I start on this little rant, its worth pointing out this is following a talk from Aral Balkan’s talk at Thinking Digital 2013. I have still yet to write my review of the best talks and my own experience with Perceptive Radio but I had to stop and moan about Aral’s talk.

Aral is a friend and I like him a lot but even in the early days I disagreed with him on so many things.

Aral showed many examples of really bad user experience design, many where they got the focus wrong.

User experience bugs me, I agree with a lot but then there are many examples where it seems like a simple no brainier. I would generalise what Aral was showing but I lost my notes by accident in the wifi handover (hoping there still on my tablet and just need to load up evernote and sync the notes. So as I was saying user experience is important but they sometimes go too far…

Here’s something I tweeted last year…

“Frankly this is the worst keypad layout I’ve seen in the wild. should be a shamed of this! http://yfrog.com/odgevclj”

Aral spoke about washing machines and how complex they are. He suggested all you need is a some places to put the washing powder and fabric conditioner. A button or two to maybe start a programme and thats it. Well no I disagree. My mum is a genius with the washing machine and she knows exactly what to put in for the weight and volume of clothes. To be such a expert required time and effort, shes proud than shes mastered the washing machine.

Having a single button machine would rob my mother of her mastery of that machine.

Now I imagine Aral would say, for the bulk of people, all they want to do is get there clothes clean and they don’t really care. And he would be right. I generally don’t care but robbing people of the ability to master a system or device seems a real shame and I’d say is criminal.

After Arals talk and a slight break for audience clapping. He launched into how he’s been involved in helping the next generation to learn how to get their digital skills. How ironic that most of us got our start by mastering the computer by ultimately being geeky.

If you subscribe to the idea that we are almost all geeky about something (coding, design, cars, cooking, paintings, trains, stamps, celebrities, tv shows, beer, phones, films, cocktails, gardening, farming, sports, etc). Most of these require experience, understanding and mastery. Robbing someone of this seems at least to me anti-human.

Not that I’m saying you should have to go through an ordeal to get a ticket for the train/metro/tram. The example of the CTA machine is a total joke, I remember looking at it when I last was last in Chicago and thought what level of hell does this machine come from?

Heat control

I would say the showers in most modern hotels is up as a example of a great user experience because they have that recommended option but if you know better you can press the button and get even more heat. Yes the button protects you from burning but it can also be easily bypassed. Now thats my kind of user experience.

Aral mentioned a few other things which had my fingers tapping.

“Design can not be democratic, design is opinionated and full of assumptions.”

Design can not be democratic? I say rubbish, designers work in small groups and collaborate on problems all the time. I would go as far as to say design in isolation is art. Design doesn’t have to be opinionated, in actual fact user experience design is about designing around the accordances of the user. This means working around them and not making assumptions…

Anyway everything I’ve said is just my view and I’m sure I would say the same to Aral’s face. Looking forward to next time we meet and of course 🙂 Which will be soon… Good talk even though I was screaming inside 🙂

What a difference a year makes… Vivid LoungeUK

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Fran of Vivid Lounge UK welcomes you with that warm smile, while Sam hides in the Kitchen (maybe to keep his head from exploding)

Over a year ago I wrote a blog post which made me one of the most hated people in my apartment block (islington wharf). It wasn’t deliberately made to piss anyone off but I guess no one wants to hear the truth, specially when things are on the line. Some said I was in-sensitive and my timing was very bad. No matter what they think, I wrote a number of points which I suggested could be to blame for the rapid shutdown of Vivid Lounge.

  1. Engagement with the residents and residents committee…
  2. Get Decor
  3. Environmental factors
  4. Taking feedback on the chin
  5. Celebrate every moment
  6. Its not just about us…
  7. Whats on the menu?

Each one I backed up with some of my own thoughts….

Anyway over the last year or so, I’ve witnessed a place go from closed to busy and delightful.

So what happened? Well frankly they did most of the things I suggested in the blog post. Of course I’m not suggesting I was directly responsible for the transformation but the owner(s) did read the post at least.

So whats changed?

Wooden Tables throughout

The decor of the old Vivid lounge was too plastic and white. It didn’t feel homey and because of that it suffered deeply. Well now the white plastic table/chairs are gone (good thing because they were falling apart anyway) and we have wooden tables and benches. Ok from Ikea but to be honest I and others couldn’t care less. Every single customer who has come in has said great things about the new look. More wood is planned and I’m sure it will be a similar effect.

The bright stark lights are all gone and now theres gentle hanging lights and plenty of tealights/candles. Its really making use of the space better now (at least on the ground floor). The top floor still needs to be sorted out as its basically a store room right now.

Feedback is less welcomed, but only because Sam the owner is convinced he knows everything. I guess its like telling Steve Jobs how to run Apple. And like Jobs, Sam has his own strong opinions which drive the momentum of VividloungeUK. He’s a bit of a perfectionist, so at least he can spot the problems. He also seems to be amassing the right people behind him (including a Fran who was a manager at Starbucks). On top of that the amount of staff has dropped down to about 2 -3 on the weekends and 1-2 during the week. Much more sensible levels of staffing.

Vivid Lounge

Saturday and Sunday before 1pm its possible to get a full english cooked breakfast and its even possible to have it delivered to your door if you call up or leave details on facebook. But there are limitations to the size of the kitchen, meaning the hugely popular vividboxes had to go. Now you have a couple choices from the specials which is every day now. There is also a menu with daily pre-made sandwiches in a fridge you can just grab if your in a rush. When I walked in today, there was some made menus on the table. I hear the full menus are coming real soon but generally you can see what they got from whats on the board and stuff in the fridge.

2013-05-25%2020.51.06

Theres much more engagement with the other apartments in the area and they even deliver to Milliners Wharf, Vulcan Mills and Chips. Vivid isn’t reliant on just islington wharf anymore, theres a much more local pub feeling and they even play with the local and homemade idea in their branding.

I can’t praise Sam and VividLoungeUK enough (although I wouldn’t do the first one to his face because we regularly takes the piss out of each other). I do wish he got a proper website and there were changes to upstairs but honestly I’m impressed.

Well worth visiting and making your local if your in the New Islington area of Manchester. Look forward to a review update in another year…

Perceptive Radio

perceptivemedia radio

Photo credit: Greg Povey, @topfife CC-BY-SA (official photo)

Today at the Thinking digital conference in Gateshead, we (BBC R&D) launched the latest prototype for Perceptive Media.

Perceptive Radio, is a project collaboration between BBC R&D, Mudlark and MCQN ltd.

Perceptive Radio credits

It can playback Perceptive Media content and has sensors of its own (proximity, light and microphone) to modify the media elements/objects in real-time. I quickly did an audioboo interview with Christian while finishing publicly showing the radio for the first time.

It will be compared to the Olinda radio which Berg made years ago, and they both share the prototype label…

…aims to provoke discussion on the future and design of radios for the home

Exciting times and there will be loads more information coming soon including details of the open sourcing of this…

IMAG2957

See your self in Quantified Self Europe

I had the pleasure of attending the Quantified Self Europe conference in Amsterdam. It was part of my idea to head towards conferences which are less mainstream and more edgy. Nothing wrong with the mainstream, but I love the idea of finding something quite raw.

The Quantified self I have been tracking for quite sometime and I now I got to realise all those self tracking things I do are just part of my lifestyle.

The conference was more of a unconference with up to 14 tracks running in parallel at some point. There are keynotes and sessions which are attended by everyone but most of the time your walking between sessions and talking to people.

As usual here’s my highlights from the conference…

Your Life Log my privacy

Life logging…

There was lots of talk about lifelogging or photologging. Although not quantifiable as such it came up  in discussions around the Google Glass project. The discussions were centred around the privacy issues of lifelogging using not only google glass. 5 people had been given lifelogging devices and had been walking around the conference for a day or so. They then showed the results on the big screen. The ethics and norms were discussed. Witney talked about being conscious of the device taking pictures and shifting her angle when talking to someone to avoid taking clos up pictures. I described my experience of being audio blogged at Future Everything and how it felt like loosing a sense after it was gone. The same was true of the lifeloggers. Somewhere in the discussion Glass came up again and again. People seemed to feel it would work because the norm when not using it is simply to put the glasses on the top of your head. Simple and elegant way of saying you have my full attention and I’m not logging this.

Interesting points… Photos created by them are not as such images but rather data. From the day, 4% were good images, 40% were too dark and blury and 56% were only useful for data.

Relationship logging

Mood and the yet unquantifiable

There was a clear move to towards the yet unquantified. Mood, emotion, context, relationships, sleep tracking, meme, dreamtracking, mindhacking, etc. One of my favourites was relationship tracking by Fabio Ricardo.

Fabio tracks who he’s talking to, when, where and about what in a series of handwritten note books. The data is quite simple but there is so much of it, it makes for some great insight into conversations and relationships which change over time. Of course I have alot of interest in relationship data but more from a different angle. Had a real good chat with Fabio about his findings and possibilities.

It was also good to see Snoozon also talking as they are working with Lucidpedia who are my choice for mydreamscape. If I can get them to do one thing correctly, that would be the way dream data is entered. Actually I found this app which does a much better job.

Food tracking

Food Tracking

There were a number of talks about food tracking for fitness and enjoyment. The problem is putting in that data so it can be quantified. There is a social pressure involved with taking pictures of food. On one half its good because your sharing and the act of doing so really helps the tracker. For example loosing weight through the fact of documenting. However standing up in a restaurant to take a picture of your food is still generally socially painful. Whats interesting however is all the meta stuff around the photo. The table cloth, the angle, who is with you, where, etc. Taking pictures of what your drinking is very boring unless its cocktails (and Rain did suggest I should take do some cocktail tracking)

But the hardest thing is still how you work out the calories, how healthy the contents is, etc. On top of that we have no idea the overall effect on the tracker. This is all tied deeply into health tracking which was a big theme but isn’t so important to my work.

Visualising data with Rain

Alternative uses for Microdata

I was happy to see big data discussed and talked about at length. But it was even better to see personal tracked data included in that category. I have always stood by the idea of personal tracked data as microdata of big data. But interestingly there was lots of talk about the tracking side (tons on sensors) of the quantified self and not much thought about the after effects.

Generally the data was being used for self analysis or to visualise. Rainycat talked about visualising the data using clothes to demonstrate the data.

Quantified Self Europe 2013

Of course my big thing was Perceptive Media and in fact when I kind of hijacked a Fujitsu Labs presentation. The questions and feedback was a lot better than I first feared it would be. Using microdata to drive and alter media seemed of interest to the people in the room, although there was lots of questions about how?

There was so much more to the quantified self conference, I haven’t touched the crazy amount of sensors and there getting so small. One thing which got me very excited was http://funf.org.

The Funf Open Sensing Framework is an extensible sensing and data processing framework for mobile devices, supported and maintained by Behavio. The core concept is to provide an open source, reusable set of functionalities, enabling the collection, uploading, and configuration of a wide range of data signals accessible via mobile phones.

It doesn’t take a lot to imagine the possibilities for prototyping perceptive media projects using Funf…

The whole conference was made of such great diversity of views and opinions, and I was blown away by the mixed of people.

The missing trackers

Who’s missing from the Quantified Self?

However the session which I missed all of but the last 10mins was, the missing trackers by Witney. Looking at the notes it was a very interesting discussion about the ethics of self tracking and sharing. When I joined later it had turned into a debate about identity and how to put forward the Quantified self in the best light. There seems to be a split of view of how to best promote the Quantified Self movement. Is it best done through the numbers and hard data or through the stories and experiences.

I chimed in with the answer being the stories and experiences, data will loose most people while a good narrative will always attract and inspire people.

Quantified Self Europe 2013

We all Track…

To be honest by the end of the conference I was amazed at the amount of things (media, food, steps, work) I track had not really thought about before. Thinking next year I could confidently give a talk about an element of self tracking, although I’d prefer to come back with some Perceptive Media demos.

I was also interviewed at the conference as you can see at the top of the post. I think it went rather well, except half eaten through an apple and really wanting some water. I did have a shock in the morning when coming down to breakfast. One of the ladies behind the reception said they had heard me on the local radio station. Turns out the local station watch the local hashtags top10 and found the interview and decided to use it. I won’t touch on the licence terms but its good to hear Perceptive Media went out to most of Amsterdam.

The whole movement can seem a bit like a low key cult with people talking about self improvement through data. But I felt welcomed and there’s plenty of rational arguments back and forth. People were open and happy to stop and talk about there self tracking projects or ideas to improve self tracking.

I went away inspired enough to setup a Manchester Quantified Self group, so look out for more details about that real soon.

This movement is certainly on its way up and out to the mainstreamsee you next year?

Push me a message

Pushover with ifttt

Pushover makes it easy to send real-time notifications to your Android and iOS devices.

I love the fact its simple and works with ifttt. Heck I can imagine some scenarios with ifttt and taskrabbit. But I’m left wondering the advantages of a private push service over using something like xmpp/jabber?

Yes its going to be somewhat cheaper than using SMS, more extensible  than twitter direct message and less hassle than xmpp? But running yet another service on your phone? Isn’t this what Amazon SNS was about?

XBMC used for in hotel system

XBMC?

I was in Amsterdam for the Quantified Self conference (blog post coming soon) and the whole conference was in a hotel called Casa 400. It was a good conference but what was strange was the TV in my hotel room which look familiar to me.

XBMC?

I swear it was XBMC underneath but unfortunately the functionality they could have enabled like Samba/NFS shares, DLNA, UPnP and heck Airplay were not available. If they were it would make for an amazing in room system on top of a already technically great hotel. Couldn’t knock there wifi deployment one bit, even with 4 devices using it all day…

XBMC?

Welcome to the world of the implicit

Advertising?

A while back I wrote a blog about how implicit data is the dark matter to the explicit. I also write about it in my wired/tired/expired post.

Well I thought its about time I started writing why the implicit is so rich and may become the dominating model in the future. Of course if you know anything about me and the BBC R&D project Perceptive Media, I have an interest in this area, I actually talked about context before but didn’t really make it clear that context is a part of the implicit dataset.

It started with personalised ads, currently sits with Google Now and ends with the end of internet advertising as a thing.

Yes I said it… The end of advertising… (which isn’t the same as the end of marketing btw)

Most people now prefer targeted advertising than wholesale advertising but hate the idea of minority report’s advertising nightmare. What was missing was the context.

Duhhh… In the future, surely a smart advert wouldn’t show tom cruise cars and expensive gifts while he was running down the shopping centre trying to escape. Yes it sounds pretty dumb when you add the context to the scene. Maybe showing Tom visions of holidays and trainers would make much more sense.

The end of advertising might seem a little premature but look at Google now. Then imagine Google now serving up adverts instead…

Double Duhhh… of course Google will be using the same algorithm to serve adverts if it can be proven to be even a slight bit more effective.

Although its far from perfect, the fact is with enough data and a insight into your context and implicit motivations. Google really can start to serve up adverts for things I want before I realise I actually want it (sounds freakish but its already happening). And if that fills you with fear, you better get ready as its not easily stopped. This might rely on the likes of our government not being greedy and short sighted, actually reflect the good of the people who put them there.

I’m thinking about a future where its too expensive and too inefficient to do the mass/wholesale advertising…A future where adblockers and VRM – Vendor Relationship Management is the norm, people pay to never see the adverts not targeted at you. Yes a bit of a dream but you got to dream a little bigger darling.

I have been using the term, Micro Data which is a specific part of the Big Data puzzle. Micro data is the implicit data, the data which is personal and we generate all the time. Its that Microdata which will power the next generation of services, apps and products. You can clearly see why I’m at the Quantified Self conference

Soundclouds dispute grows up… a bit

One of the my big issues with Soundcloud was the dispute process…

Well it seems to have grown up and learned a trick from Youtube.

Our automatic content protection system has detected that your sound “The impossible wall of trance mix” may contain copyright content. As a result, its publication on your profile has been blocked.

You can dispute this report, if you believe the copyright content has been mistakenly identified or if you have obtained all the necessary rights, licenses and/or permissions to upload and share this material on SoundCloud.

Please do so by filling out our dispute webform at the following link:https://soundcloud.com/settings/disputes/

Unlike before you can dispute it but of course its hard to understand which part is being disputed in a mix… So its not exactly great…

You must’nt be afraid to dream a little bigger darling

Times Square, Inception style

[SPOILERS  below! You were warned!]

I am a total sucker for films which need you to think a little bigger.

You think its so big and then you square it to get an idea of how big things really are… Some would suggest these type of films are either too complex or too up themselves.

  • InceptionThe king of all… Confusion and levels of visual and mental complexity which had most people scratching their heads. Inception isn’t overly complex to those who have ever had a vivid dream. But once you get your head around the first leap that you can control dreams, your greeted with the easily digestible fact you can have dreams inside of dreams. But there serious consequences too.
  • Trance – My new love in this type of film. Having gotten hypnotherapy myself, I understand the power of suggestion, having  gone wrong or is it right? Must be watched twice at least to see all the subtle clues of whats really going on. From a robbery to a film about abuse and personal spirit. Trance makes you think outside the box.
  • RevolverMost people hated this movie because they expected something like lock stock and snatch. What it creates is a world told from our anti-hero’s point of view. You start to question whats actually going on. After much introspective it becomes clear the characters he thinks are his savour are actually his cell mates with far too much time on their hands, mater minding a plan which out smarts not only him but his nemesis. The game is discussed in detail and the chess metaphors are spot on.
  • Primer – A film so complex it comes with its own timeline. What makes Primer so special is if your not really watching, you may miss the very suttle clues to what on earth is going on. Unlike Revolver, Trance or Inception, you don’t get a sense of how epic this film is from the usual visual or audio clues were use to. Its easy to watch it and shrug your shoulders wondering what the big deal is about. Once you step outside the box and think that your actually watching one of the copies/timelines (can’t think of a better name) not the first instance your on your way questioning everything your being visually fed.

I love them and just like those famous words in Inception… You must’nt be afraid to dream a little bigger darling