Why you should come to the Quantified Self 2014?

Quantified Self Europe 2014, May 10-11

Everyone knows the Quantified Self is really starting to hit the mainstream now. I was lucky enough to go last year and had a great time learning all about different aspects being quantified. I even ended up on the national radio following this video.

Its quite an amazing conference/unconference. Lots of different angles and opinions. Lots of interesting people looking at many different sides of life. All with the belief in knowledge through numbers.

The community which surrounds the Quantified Self are passionate and so sharing friendly. I think this is what makes it very different from the eHealth and personal informatics sectors. It can seem a little quirky at first, but only in the same way BarCamp seemed a little quirky on paper. After attending and spending time with the QS community, I was inspired and setup Manchester Quantified Self group.

But I’ve only just scratched the surface… Trust the community to explain why you should go, on top of what I already said…

Our conferences are different than typical industry or business conference. They are community-driven events that we like to refer to as  “carefully curated unconferences”. All of our sessions and talks come from our conference attendees, which requires more hands-on work from our program staff. The end result is dynamic program that reflects the interest, insights, and experiences of our community.

Show & Tell Talks: These talks are personal first-person self-tracking stories. We ask speakers to present their tracking experiments with an emphasis on what they’ve learned. At previous conferences we’ve heard talks on tracking Parkinson’s disease, computer use, continuous heart rate, and other fascinating subjects.

Breakout Discussions: We also program breakout discussions, which are held concurrently with Show & Tell talks. The breakouts are group discussions about a particular topic related to Quantified Self. Each discussion topic is proposed and led by a conference attendee. Previous breakouts have touched on issues related to privacy, the “missing trackers”, DIY tracking, visualization design, the role of open data in the QS community, and many others.

Lunchtime Ignite Talks: After a healthy and delicious meal (lunch is provided for attendees) we encourage attendees to listen to six or eight rapid-fire Ignite talks from attendees. These talks are similar to our Show & Tell talks, but typically have a more light-weight and entertaining feel. A great example is this talk given by Mark Moschel on tracking rejection.

Office Hours: In addition to the talks and breakouts, we also encourage attendees to bring current projects, tools, or applications they’re working on. We provide space during a program session for them to interact with attendees and have one-on-one conversations with interested individuals . At previous conferences we’ve been delighted to see a wide range of concepts exposed during office hours such as art projects, new visualization methods, meet and greets with luminaries in the field, and new tool prototypes.

It very certain I’ll be back this year and hopefully have some more experiences and maybe somethings to show this time? Massive thanks to Rain by the way for actually introducing me to the Quantified Self ages ago. Before that I only knew of Personal informatics which in comparison seems so dull and boring.

The Eatery…?

A few people have recommended the eatery application to me, which is from massive health. (Aza Raskin’s new startup).

I have a lot of respect for Aza Raskin and some of his view points, although I do disagree on quite a few. Massive health’s ethos has certainly spiked my attention in the past and the eatery should do the same. However…

  1. I’m frankly fed up of apps only being on the iOS platform
  2. The crowd sourced methodology is useful but too fuzzy for myself
  3. It underplays the possible importance of such an application (which might be its plan from conception)

Most people know I use Foodfeed.us a lot to document what I’m eating by tweeting @having. I use to take pictures but as I discovered my NHS dietation’s computers block the images and won’t allow her to click on most of the social sites. So the description has to be reasonable enough.

The eatery might be very useful for little groups of people trying to help each other to eat better if it works the way I think it should/could. As a global thing, its not that interesting and I’d go as far as to say, its actually counter-productive. No one wants to know/be told there in the lower end of the healthy eaters. I won’t even go into the gaming element, what a way to make everyone else feel like crap?

Might be wrong and once again I can’t play with it because its iOS only! So I’ll reserve judgement till then…

Steve Jobs steps down

Steve Jobs talks about the iTunes Movie Rental stuff...

People have been asking me, what do I feel about Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO of Apple.

The markets have already spoken… But to be honest, I do wish him well although I talk smack about him and Apple all the time. For Apple, I do think the real test will be 2-4 years down the line when the current crop of products and services are a little old or long in the tooth.

The problem with having a leader dishing out his wisdom from on high, means when their gone (in what ever way) the single vision is lost or not communicated in the same way. And frankly I don’t think anyone will be able to follow Steve Jobs into the void.

Of course I don’t want to speak too ill of the sick but I’m really hoping Tim Cook can bring a little more openness to Apples future. Under Steve Jobs it was just never going to happen.

They say when you get older you become more conservative than before, maybe this sums up Apple’s recent moves to control and conquer?

When the buisness model gets in the way, its time to move on?

By now everyones seen the ravings about Twitter changing the developer API and telling developers not to build twitter clients.

In a statement issued today by Twitter on its official developer mailing list, the company informed third-party developers that they should no longer attempt to build conventional Twitter client applications. In a move to increase the "consistency" of the user experience, Twitter wants more control over how its service is presented to users in all contexts.

The announcement is a major blow to the third-party application developers who played a key role in popularizing Twitter’s service. More significantly, it demonstrates the vulnerability of building a business on top of a Web platform that is controlled by a single vendor. The situation highlights the importance of decentralization in building sustainable infrastructure for communication.

This I feel will have a massive chilling effect through out the developer community. Ideally people would move to status.net but I fear even this change isn’t enough to push people over and if the people won’t go the developers are unlikely to change focus to status.net and identi.ca.

I can’t quite link the two but in my mind there along the same lines. Cory Doctorow did a interview about why DRM is no friend of business. A very good interview which hits all the right points but theres something about twitter’s api change which is related. Maybe its about building a business model on shifting ground. If there business model and your business model don’t match or go in the same direction, maybe its time to move on?

LGBT now get there time to shine

Geeks Talks Sexy part 3

After the success of Geeks talk sexy part 2, its now the time for the geeks talk sexy flash light to cast a light on the subject of being Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual in geek culture in 2011. We’ll be looking at the attitudes of there fellow geeks and how the infighting causes even more confusion. We’ll also be asking the same question we asked of our straight people, how do you meet people / how have you met people?

Its promises to be another great night, so don’t miss it. Friday March 18th from 7pm…

New Year Resolutions 2010


So I’ve already done a review of 2009, so its time for my 2010 resolutions.

  1. Go skiing on real snow
    This is a carry over from 2009. I really need to just go do this, specially since there is a fake skiing place in Manchester’s Trafford Centre.
  2. Blog more
    Since Twitter, i’ve been blogging a lot less. This needs to stop as this is my base and twitter isn’t. Although I can aggregate with things like storytlr, i’m very interested the support for the twitter/open-microblogging api by wordpress/automatic.
  3. A better routine and live more healthy
    Goes without saying really but I’m already signed up to PureGym the 24hour Gym but need a doctors note saying I’m not going to die of a asthmatic attack if I use a running machine before I can go for the introduction. I’m also attempting to go to sleep before 2am every night and wake up at a decent time. I need to go to more comedy clubs too.
  4. Kick off Manchester werewolf night again
    We started playing werewolf in Manchester at the start of last year as a monthly thing in the BBC bar but moved it out to Space soon after as we got more people. I want to grow it a little and run a couple special one-off’s around events like FutureEverything and other conferences in the city. Actually the 1st one of the year will be Wednesday 3rd Feb if your interested.
  5. Find my perfect development stack
    I was meant to be learning Python but it just didn’t feel right for me. Apache Cocoon 2.1 is still my baby and I use it for all types of little bits and pieces but Cocoon 2.2 and 3.x are completely different. I could/maybe should learn how use them and the new Maven approach, Maven also seems to work well in Eclipse and Netbeans (didn’t I mention I like Netbeans).
    I like the idea of XQuery specially because it does most of the things I want to do in my web applications. Add in Exist DB the open source xml database and I got a complete backend stack. I’m also still liking the idea behind ZK to ease with the front end, although I know everyone is loving a javascript library over a complete framework. Lastly I’m looking more and more into XProc but I don’t feel this will help with my development stack.
  6. Playout live more
    I’m going out clubbing more which is great but I’m feeling the need to playout/dj out loud. There’s not many trance clubs in Manchester and I’ve already tried to join the Rong Trance night via a competition. So heck why not setup my own night? Well it looks like I found a venue (TV21 in the Trendy Northern Quarter) and a couple other djs who also want to play out live. So who knows…
  7. Use even more graphics
    Inkscape, napkin sketches, raytracing are all working for me. Now I’m sketching on my ebook reader in some meetings so I just need better ways to integrate them into my presentations and work.
  8. Upgrade sooner if it makes a noticeable difference
    Sometimes I wait too long to upgrade software and hardware. For example I waited till my old battery only holds 12% charge before getting a new one. This is fine but having to go to meetings next door with a power adapter is a pain. I should have bought a new battery ages ago. I also waited too long to upgrade to Gwibber 2.0 for sure. This also extends to other stuff for example I just bought some new trainers after 3+ years of wearing the last one to near collapse. All this stuff is worth just buying earlier to avoid all the stresses which go into keeping the previous generation alive. Talking of which I really should upgrade my camera to a DSLR soon.
  9. Be involved in a regular podcast
    I started one with a few friends but we never really got it off the ground due to our pretty hectic lifestyles. However now I know I can do skype over my Orange HSDPA connection and it still sounds great, I should be able to do it from anywhere I am. So its just a matter of being committed really.
  10. Buy a flat in Central Manchester
    People have been wondering what happened with this. Well it was all happening then the mortgage deposits when from 10% to 20% across all lenders, which ruled me out of buying a 2 bedroom place. However this year I’m confident that I’ll be on the property ladder again. Although I’m thinking maybe I should consider one bedroom places too.
  11. Avoid all online services which don’t perform to my acceptable levels of data portability
    Its 2010, theres no need for closed systems which don’t talk to anything else. No OpenID or OAuth? You won’t see me signing up in the future. Can’t get my data out on to my own site via some API? forget about it, I’m not even going to venture near it.
  12. Play more games
    I love games but never play enough of them. There’s a whole selection of great games which I’ve not played which I think I’m missing out on. For example I bought Portal the other day for a day when I’m sick and need to stay in. Theres some amazingly inspiring games out there which must be played.

Hello 2010, welcome to the new blog


So I finally decided to switch my blog to wordpress and on top of that I was able to install storytlr open source.

I’m still in the process of doing all the redirects and general cleaning up but its coming together quite nicely. Once its all stable I’m hoping to spend some time sorting out the styles and themes.

Getting the entries out of Blojsom was easy as pie but then converting them into a format which WordPress wouldn’t barf on was a big problem. In the end I wrote a throw away XSL to do it, because it WordPress didn’t like namespaced elements or generally anything over the standard RSS 2.0 elements. I did manage to push over the Categories and Tags but had to split them apart in WordPress later.

My whole thing is hosted with GoDaddy on their new European Servers and will be quite slow while it caches all requests.

I love Blojsom but I never upgraded to version 3.x which required a database to work. With the need for a database, it meant the ground between WordPress and blojsom was a less so. Then add cheap hosting, amazing plugins, themes and community. And its pretty much a no brainer. I also found that less and less blog editors are supporting Blojsom (some kind of metaweblog xmlrpc category issue). So now I’m able to use Bilbo which is a KDE editor with support for pretty much everything WordPress allows. I’m also able to use Google Gears which is useful when offline.

This was also a chance to get a little more serious about my blogging and footprint online. Hence I’m really hoping to stretch what storytlr can do for me and some of the projects I have for it.

In the meantime, let me know if you see anything very weird which I may have missed….

So what happened to my blog?

The blog went down back in June and only went back up a few days ago. So what happened? Well I'll spare you the long story.

Hub.org did a upgrade on the Operating System and other bits and pieces, and broke the frankly weird setup I have for my blog. Now normally I would say they should fix it but the truth is that I've been hosting my blog on there lovely servers for years for free. Well I say free but I did do some work on the hub.org website a while back. So we have a gentlemans agreement that I don't bug them and they let me have a nice virtual private server, which is needed to run the Blojsom blogging server. So I needed to fix why Resin would start then stop. It ended up being a problem with the change of configuration in later versions of Resin.

The reason it took so long was because I tried a few things along the way to fix it and move my blog elsewhere. My previous setup was Apache running on port 80 in front of Resin on port 8080 (always worth checking port 8080 to see if my blog is actually down or not). Previously I was running Pound in front of Tomcat, now I'm using Pound again in front of Resin. Apache isn't really needed because Resin is fast enough to serve up static files along side dynamic processes.

When things went wrong, I did decide to finally move my blog from Blojsom to WordPress. To get stuff out of blojsom I needed to get the server up and running again. I won't explain how but theres ways to get every single entry out of blojsom in a xml/atom/rdf feed. Hell you can even filter between 2 dates and get those entries out in any format you like. Once blojsom was up and running on port 8080 I was able to get all my entries. I also discovered that Blojsom creator had created a export plugin which is now standard and very useful. The problem is WordPress, wordpress fails to import anything I get from Blojsom. I double checked the blojsom files and there all well formed. I've even tried importing into Blogger.com but none of them work, I think its mainly the size of the import file (almost 10meg). Ultimately I do want to move to WordPress because although Blojsom is great, its not quite as actively being developed. Also moving to WordPress will mean I can switch to a cheaper hosting plan and get full support. Hub are great but I think its worth paying for my blog to be up as much as possible. Maybe I'd host my blog somewhere else and I'd use the hub account for my experiments with Cocoon. Although with Google App engine supporting Java servelets now, even that might be a little mute.

For now, the blog will stay where it is but I may be doing some stuff else where in the background. Expect lots of entries from now on.

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Cubicgarden.com changes

I was meant to be learning Python while on my holidays but that plan got slightly disrupted with crazy nights out on the town in Manchester and long sleeps to recover. No worries, I guess its what I should be doing on holiday anyway. However in between all the crazy nights, I did manage to start to jiggle things around on a couple of domains I own.

I recently switched over the commenting system within my blog to Disqus. The main reason is because lots of people comment elsewhere on my blog entries and I wanted to find a way to aggregate them and reply to them sensibly. Disqus also has a import and export ability which will be useful for when I do finally move my blog to wordpress.

As many of you might have seen, a while back I made a static summary page about myself on cubicgarden.com. After a while it refreshes and send you to the blog url. Some people have asked me how to avoid the landing page (as such). Simple just type cubicgarden.com/blojsom/blog/cubicgarden/ or even cubicgarden.com/blojsom/blog. Most modern browsers will autotype in previous locations you've been to, so you don't need to type the lot. However this is a temporary solution. I originally wanted to install Sweetcron at cubicgarden.com, so people could see what else I get up to elsewhere online. But then I found Storytlr which allows you to semi-host a lifestream under your own url. Friend feed and tublr get a mentioned a lot in this space but to be honest storytlr was ideal. So you can get to that stream by now going to www.ianforrester.org. Enjoy…

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Welcome to the cubicgarden

I'm now starting to actively promote the cubicgarden.com as my news site which is kind of weird because its just evolved not really changed. Anyhow I guess with this whole new blog area and the ability to comment on what I write, its starting to come together nicely.
I'm hoping to add less techie things, but that will come as I start to do less techie things. I mean for example the last time I did mix on my computer was such a long time ago. And I love and listen to dance music everyday. Oh well hopefully gatecrasher in 2 fridays will inspire me to do more mixing.

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