michael nagle about large projects personal projects

ginger.io consulting

spring 2011 to summer 2013 and ongoing

with Ryan O'Toole and ginger.io team

fast company article


One of the meetup's I ran as part of the Boston Quantified Self was hosted by the Media Lab at MIT, and specifically sponsored by Sandy Pentland's Human Dynamics group.

Some months later, the startup Ginger.io formed out of research done at the lab, looking at the signals people leave through movement and communication patterns, and tied to this measures like whether someone was sick or feeling down.

I consulted with them to look at connected work in the Quantifed Self space, and also to lead their entry to Sanofi-Aventis' Data Diabetes Design competition.

In that process, I worked closely with Ryan O'Toole to imagine an intervention that felt useful but also humane. Inspired by Jane McGonigal's SuperBetter -- identifying the challenges of recruiting social support -- we looked at an intervention which would notify a loved one when someone's mood appeared to be low. The idea was that we wanted to invert the normal dynamics of social media: instead of broadcasting a message, what if it was sent to just one critical person? And we also wanted to acknowledge the faults in mahcine learning -- a false positive would at worst end up in more communication from a loved one.

Ginger.io won $100k and the competition. I believe that this project was formative in Ginger's ongoing focus on passive analytics and mood.

meetup site. You can tell when I stopped running it by when the weird puns and references in the meetup names stop in 2012.

boston globe article

technology review article


In the end of 2008, I took a break from running Camp Kaleidoscope. At this time, I was barely able to use a computer. I would get overwhelming body pain and headaches. It was to the point where I was barely using a computer.

This experience got me very interested in what it would mean for medicine to have a truly individualized nature. Around this time the first quantified self meetup started in the Bay Area, and I decided that it might be interested to see to what extent technology could help in this process of personalizing medicine and the process of engaging with our bodies.

I ran the Boston meetup for its first two years in Boston, and appreciated the mixture of people who came beyond any one role: academics and researchers, entrepeneurs, technologists. This led me to work with ginger.io and later lark technologies.

One of the ideas that excited me the most in the quantified self world was the idea that meetup could become a kind of democratic filter for hypotheses about the body. The meetup was a filter for anecdotes -- the anecdote had to be (hopefully) something interesting and novel about the body, and likely had to use some sensor or journalling process to substantiate the claim. My hope was that group experiments would arise out of these hypotheses -- to see if and how any of these results generalized to an n = 10 size from an n = 1 report. I collaborated with Eri Gentry when she was at Genomera on running a fifty person group experiment -- based on a qs boston member's claim that blue light-blocking glasses gave him signficantly better sleep, as measured by a sleep company's EEG headband.

It's been interesting to see the quantified self become a kind of buzzword in silicon valley land. To me the promise of meaning filtering and aggregation of individual exploration feels still to be at the fringes of the quantified self community. Hopefully I will feel the need to come edit this sometime in the future.