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Winner of Amgen Patients | Choices | Empowerment Competition Emerging Star of HealthCare Engagement Award
Mayo Clinic Award - LeftA winner of the Mayo Clinic iSpot Competition for Ideas that will Transform HealthcareMayo Clinic Award - R

Stories of Data-Driven Lives

April 30th, 2010 Alexandra Carmichael Posted in Health Tracking 1 Comment »

Does data drive your life? For some people, measuring and tracking themselves is a self-exploration process. Many stories can be found at The Quantified Self (where I am a blogger).

One of the founders of Quantified Self, Gary Wolf of WIRED Magazine, just wrote this article in the New York Times Magazine called The Data-Driven Life. CureTogether is mentioned twice in the article – yay! Here is an excerpt:

Trackers focused on their health want to ensure that their medical practitioners don’t miss the particulars of their condition; trackers who record their mental states are often trying to find their own way to personal fulfillment amid the seductions of marketing and the errors of common opinion; fitness trackers are trying to tune their training regimes to their own body types and competitive goals, but they are also looking to understand their strengths and weaknesses, to uncover potential they didn’t know they had. Self-tracking, in this way, is not really a tool of optimization but of discovery, and if tracking regimes that we would once have thought bizarre are becoming normal, one of the most interesting effects may be to make us re-evaluate what “normal” means.

What could you learn by incorporating more data into your life?

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5 Free Self-Tracking Tools to Help You Get In Shape

December 29th, 2009 Alexandra Carmichael Posted in Health Tracking 9 Comments »


It’s easier than ever to get in amazing shape. (Photo: mikebaird)                    

OK, so we all indulge a bit extra over the holidays.

Cozy family gatherings, festive parties, and the mass consumption frenzy that surrounds us, even if we’re trying to keep things simple.

Fortunately, the new year always gives us a chance to start fresh. And this year it will be so much easier to stick to your resolutions, thanks to the explosion of self-tracking tools 2009 has seen.

Here are my top 5 to help you get going:

1. #getupandmove

Picture 10This is the best new app I’ve tried in a while. Hot off the press from the brilliant @jensmccabe and @shazow, #getupandmove is a lightweight Twitter app where you challenge your online friends to exercise with you.

For me, having virtual running buddies has been amazingly motivating, fun, and a great way to stay healthy while connecting with friends. Thank you, Jen!

2. DailyBurnPicture 13

Ever tried to calculate and record calories on paper? It’s frustrating and cumbersome. That’s why I was excited to find DailyBurn‘s free iPhone app that takes care of it for me.

Not only does it have a great database that includes most grocery store brands and even many restaurant meals, but it calculates my ratio of fat/carbs/protein during the day, so I know how to balance the rest of my meals.

You can set target ranges and earn little apple icon rewards for meeting them. So easy to use, it’s a must-try if you have an iPhone.

3. RunKeeper

Picture 17Here’s another one of my daily staples. I wake up, put on my running shoes, fire up my iPhone, and I’m off!

Running is so much easier with the free GPS-based RunKeeper app. It tracks how far you’ve gone, how long you’ve been running, your pace, and even a map of your route. (It works great for walking too.)

RunKeeper and DailyBurn both have Pro versions with extra features that you can upgrade to, but I find the free versions more than adequate for my needs.

I’m actually training for my first marathon now, thanks in large part to inspiration and ease from these first 3 apps.

4. CureTogether

Picture 18Yes, this one is a shameless plug. :)

Thousands of people have been tracking over 100 different measures of their health over the past year at CureTogether. It’s been amazing to see the range of what people track, from mood to sleep to miles to supplements.

You can track yourself for free here, and we’ll soon be announcing (drumroll, please!) a Pro version that includes advanced analytics for your health and lets you connect with people who match your health profile. Join in the fun and stay tuned!

5. Personal Informatics

If you like brain candy, check out Ian Li’s Personal Informatics site. Ian does research at Carnegie Mellon University, and he has put together this amazingly beautiful, categorized list of all the self-tracking tools he could find. It’s fun to look around, and you just might find a gem that makes your life wonderful.

So these are my 5 favorites for getting in shape – free, easy, and fun. (If you have any other favorites, please let me know in the comments.)

Wishing you a happy, healthy new year!

Related Posts:

- Why Track Yourself?

- Quantifying Myself: my self-tracking story at the Quantified Self

- Top 10 Innovations at TEDMED

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CureTogether in h+ Magazine

December 9th, 2009 Alexandra Carmichael Posted in Health Tracking, Perspective No Comments »


h+ Magazine asked me to write an article about self-tracking, so I did! It’s in the Winter Issue of h+, available for download now.

It talks about Gordon Bell’s self-tracking work at Microsoft, the Quantified Self, my own tracking, and CureTogether.

I think the Quantified Life is worth living, do you?

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I, Medicine: Predictive Biometrics and Health Optimization

December 6th, 2009 Alexandra Carmichael Posted in Health Tracking, Patient Stories 4 Comments »

bardThis is a guest post from Bard C., a CureTogether member from Australia and self-tracker who has made some interesting discoveries about his own health. Thanks Bard for sharing your thoughts, perspective, and a link to your own self-tracking system!


The most important online applications to be developed since the birth of the Internet are less than a decade away, yet they remain largely off the radar of investors and web-developers. These applications are optimizers for the most important thing we have – our health.

Here’s why… Read the rest of this entry »

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Winning Mayo Clinic Talk on the Future of Health

October 1st, 2009 Alexandra Carmichael Posted in Events, Health Tracking, Presentations No Comments »

Click here to watch this talk

Picture 12

I was recently at the Mayo Clinic Transforming Healthcare Symposium to give a talk on how Self-Tracking will change the future of health. Here is an overview of the talk, as well as slides and video… Read the rest of this entry »

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The 21 Things People Track at CureTogether

March 23rd, 2009 Alexandra Carmichael Posted in Health Tracking No Comments »

After the recent release of the “track anything you want” feature at CureTogether, a flurry of self-tracking happened. People started measuring themselves every day. They added new measures to track, some of which were wonderfully surprising.

Tracking happens right on the CureTogether home page after you log in, or using our iGoogle widget. Here’s the list of what people are tracking today:


Sample CureTogether self-tracking graph


  • Adderall time (1 and 2, times drug taken)
  • BMI (%)
  • Blood pressure (Sys and Dia, mmHg)
  • Calories burned (cal)
  • Caloric intake (cal)
  • Count my blessings
  • Exercise (minutes)
  • Hydration (%)
  • Laughter (units)
  • Meal time (1-4, time)
  • Mood (units)
  • Nap (min)
  • Peak flow (units)
  • Productivity (pages)
  • Pulse (BPM)
  • Sleep (hours)
  • Sleep time (time)
  • Temperature (degrees)
  • Wake time (time)
  • Walk/run (miles)
  • Web-networking (hrs)

Anyone can add a new measure to track. Everyone can see the measures other people are tracking. You choose what to track for yourself and watch the trend graph change every day.

The question is, what do you want to track?

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First Crowdsourced Book on Endometriosis Released

March 12th, 2009 Alexandra Carmichael Posted in Books, Health Tracking, Open Source Research, Perspective, Random Company News No Comments »

We are excited to announce today the release of “Endometriosis Heroes: 137 Women Share Their Experiences and Treatments.”

What’s Inside?

137 women share stories, symptoms, and resources
Surprising data on co-morbid conditions
Detailed comments on treatments by real patients

Please spread the word!

Blog or tweet

All proceeds from Endometriosis Heroes go to fund the endometriosis data community at A FREE PDF version is available if you invite 19 friends to CureTogether.


What People Are Saying

Congrats – hands together for you and the amazing disruptive women at CureTogether!” Jen McCabe Gorman (@jenmccabegorman on Twitter)

Health 2.0 in action. CureTogether uses real patient stories to bring light to under-recognized condition Endometriosis.” Chris Hogg (@cwhogg on Twitter)

“With endometriosis, early diagnosis is important. I went from age 13 to age 23 undiagnosed. This is a common time lag for endo diagnosis. There should NOT be such a lag! Endometriosis awareness matters!!” — Jeanne, of Jeanne’s Endo Blog

“This is great. I am just starting to really appreciate what awesome power CureTogether can have.” — CureTogether member

To order your copy, visit

Thank you for your support!


UPDATE: Since the book release, we have received comments expressing concern about hysterectomy being rated highly as a treatment for endometriosis in the book. In order to balance this view, please read this post:

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The Personal Side of Tracking

February 22nd, 2009 Alexandra Carmichael Posted in Health Tracking, Patient Stories No Comments »

Here’s a quick slideshow I put together about what I learned over 5 months of tracking my health, from August 08 to January 09.

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Why Track Yourself?

February 19th, 2009 Alexandra Carmichael Posted in Health Tracking, Perspective 1 Comment »

With all the media attention on self-tracking lately (Wall Street Journal, Globe and Mail, GOOD), you might be wondering whether to give it a try for yourself. But the polarized comments on these articles and the labeling of self-tracking as narcissism might be causing doubt.

Here’s a special guest post from CureTogether co-founder Daniel Reda to offer reasons for why tracking yourself is a good idea. And a beautiful image compiled by the Globe and Mail, on the cover of today’s Life section.


“Whether it’s science, business, politics or your personal life, you can’t effectively understand, manage or improve what you don’t measure.

trackHuman intuitive judgments, even those of experts, are systematically biased. Hundreds of studies have revealed that our decision making, memories, evaluations, estimates (e.g. how long a project will take to complete) and even assessments of how happy something made us in the past or predictions of how happy we would be if something happened in the future (e.g. if we won the lottery) turn out to be quite inaccurate.

It’s humbling, but increasingly clear that the human mind has been optimized over millions of years to solve certain kinds of problems essential to our survival very well (e.g. is this food safe to eat? is this a good mate? is this person a friend or a foe?). It was not optimized to practice law or medicine, do project management or even to predict what will make us happy.

Collecting data and analyzing it objectively is an effort to overcome our very real human limitations – to become better at managing all aspects of our lives, both personal and social.

Whether it’s applied to improving the quality of sex or to improving medical care in developing countries, its superiority over intuitive decisions is increasingly difficult to dispute. To label it narcissism is to judge its application, not its power.

The funny thing is that quickly dismissing it as narcissism is itself one of those intuitive judgments that turn out to be wrong when you look at the data (

You are free to live life by the seat of your pants, but you can’t deny that if you want to improve something, those who objectively measure, test and optimize will consistently achieve better results.”

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New Paper on Patient-Driven Health Care

February 5th, 2009 Alexandra Carmichael Posted in Health Tracking, Perspective No Comments »

melanieswanMelanie Swan, expert on personalized medicine and advisor to CureTogether, has just published an open access article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. It’s called “Emerging Patient-Driven Health Care Models: An Examination of Health Social Networks, Consumer Personalized Medicine and Quantified Self-Tracking“.

She presents a thorough, well-documented analysis of the players and issues in the personalized health and self-tracking spaces. Recommended for anyone interested in CureTogether or the idea of patients directing their own health. It’s free and a good read!

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