Self-constraint markets in everything

by on May 20, 2015 at 2:10 pm in Education, Food and Drink, Web/Tech | Permalink

For most people, weight is a private issue. That looks like it could be a thing of the past for anyone who gets a WiFi Body Scale that has come to the market. It is set up to auto tweet, or auto post to Facebook each time you step on it. Is this designed to keep people accountable, or just plain stupid?

This scale is retailing for just under $150 by a company called Withings. Previous versions of this scale allowed you to track your weight and other data such as heart rate and body fat percentage from your Apple Iphone. I guess they needed to take it a step further and allow you to auto tweet or facebook your weight for the world to see.

There is more here, via Fred Smalkin.

1 Joel May 20, 2015 at 2:19 pm

I like to support my friends in their efforts at self-improvement, but if they started tweeting out their weights all the time I would probably unfollow them. Twitter has enough noise already.

2 MOFO. May 20, 2015 at 2:40 pm

I was gonna say just that. Who the fuck spends their time following other people’s vital signs?

3 Turkey Vulture May 20, 2015 at 2:43 pm

The urge to save our brothers from sin has long extended into the bathroom. How can we save them without the knowledge that they need saving?

4 mobile May 20, 2015 at 5:51 pm

The real monetization for this product will be charging people to opt out of the messages it produces.

5 Mark Thorson May 20, 2015 at 2:49 pm

My objection to “fitness” devices is that they border on fraud. They gather data like heart rate and activity and software extrapolates that to stuff like calorie burning, sleep quality, etc. The data they gather is the easy stuff. Heart rate can be measure easily with an LED and photosensor. Activity is estimated by a cheap accelerometer chip. But those inputs are almost useless. You could be jogging, a dog barks at you, and your heart rate jumps up but nothing else has changed. How is software supposed to interpret that? For someone in good shape, heart rate doesn’t go up very much during exercise. It’s mostly a fraud to think these devices have any insight into your health.

The good inputs would be stuff like blood pressure, but no wristwatch or fitness tracking band is going to do that. It would be too expensive and too uncomfortable to have your fitness band inflating a blood pressure cuff. The development of fitness devices is premature, and they may discredit the product segment even if reasonable sensors come along later that can make accurate estimations of health parameters.

6 Joe Torben May 20, 2015 at 3:12 pm

While there is no shortage of crappy products on this markets, the actual pulse measuring high-end watches by Garmin, Suunto and Polar do work. They are used by almost all top endurance athletes. Do you think they don’t know what they are doing? But they of course only tells you something about your exercise, and don’t pretend to measure “sleep quality” or stuff like that. BTW, the “dog barking” excuse was new, creative and, of course, completely misinformed. Do you only exercise for 30 seconds? If you do exersice for 30+ minutes at a time, like science tells you, that blip will have zero effect on the overall workout.

7 Mark Thorson May 20, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Oh yeah, endorsements from athletes are your most important source of reliable information about health-related subjects.

8 Aaron Luchko May 20, 2015 at 5:21 pm

He never said anything about endorsements, he said what they used.

I don’t give a damn about what brand of shoe they wear, nor do any other amateur athletes (outside of general fan-boyishness). But how they actually train is what makes them elite athletes.

9 p ed May 20, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Mark — stop digging your hole deeper. If you yourself put on a cheap HR monitor and went for a short run, you’d see that most of your concerns are groundless.

10 Aaron Luchko May 20, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Heart rate is a great training aid, there’s a reason it’s one of the primary metrics used by every elite endurance coach and athlete out there.

As for the relationship to exercise if a chubby 100kg guy runs 5km in 30 min his heart rate is going to go through the roof, if I do the same my heart rate will barely budge.

This is great feedback because if the 100kg guy does nothing but that every day for a week he’ll likely get faster, if I do nothing but that every day of the week I’ll likely get slower.

11 p ed May 20, 2015 at 5:22 pm

“For someone in good shape, heart rate doesn’t go up very much during exercise”? On what planet? For someone in good shape, pulse rate can easily double or even triple during intense exercise.

If you’re motoring along at a brisk pace, the momentary stimulus provided by a barking dog, etc, won’t matter. Even low-end devices can tell you your average heart rate for a given workout or route, so, in fact, you can get a sense of whether your fitness is improving.

the real objection to fitness devices is that they make it too easy to obsess on data–and on the “self” reflected in the data–and to miss the broader, less tangible experience of exercise.

12 charlie May 20, 2015 at 6:47 pm

While you have a point:

1. The Withings scale doesn’t actually tweet. It can, if you want it to, but it shares the weight with other apps via an API or the Health app.

2. Withings makes a very nice blood pressure monitors that does the same thing.

3. It isn’t the jump in heart rates — it is how quickly the heart rate can settle back down.

4. Putting the data up and comparing it with more data can generate some interesting hypothesis and ideas. Not there yet.

5. Fitness trackers very helpful for elite athletic traning, useless for losing 10 to 40 pounds, which is what 75% of Americans are attempting.

13 S.C. Schwarz May 20, 2015 at 9:51 pm

Actually I did very well at weight loss with the Withings scale, a FitBit, and some calorie counting software called MyFitnessPal. The virtue of the scale is that you get an automatic record of your progress, or lack thereof. Of course you could do the same thing by hand but it’s tedious. The reason you need a careful record is that long term weight loss is slow and the signal gets lost in the noise unless you focus on the long-term trend.

14 charlie May 21, 2015 at 9:04 am

Yep, and part of the market is for kids, where parents want them to adding weight.

15 Tropes May 20, 2015 at 3:16 pm

One day technology will advance enough that we will be able to tell who is fat simply by looking at them.

16 cheesetrader May 20, 2015 at 4:13 pm


17 anon May 20, 2015 at 5:06 pm


18 Robert May 20, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Obesity is a major, expensive problem.

I think the height and weight on driver’s licenses should be verified, and our marginal tax rate should be based on BMI or body-fat percentage.

Any device that will help fatties be less fat is good.

19 IVV May 20, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Like you’re free from sin.

20 Projection May 20, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Who are you going to have sex with when all the fatties are gone?

21 Dan Weber May 21, 2015 at 9:04 am

Robots will take over the prostitutes’ jobs.

22 Gronk Hellenwich May 20, 2015 at 5:11 pm

The government must allow me to register my animals to vote.

23 anon May 20, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Human beings who breathe and take up space and don’t contribute to the growth and success of the state is an expensive problem.

I think the IQ and political leanings and productivity of all subjects of the state should be verified, and our marginal tax rate should be based on how stupid or wrong-thinking or productive they are. For example, why do we allow the elderly and the weak to exist?

Any device or policy that will help us be less free is good.

24 Robert May 20, 2015 at 9:43 pm

That’s just silly. You can change your weight. You can’t do anything about your IQ! That’s genetic.

25 anon May 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

You can change your weight.

Yes, all it takes is a little nudge from the all-knowing – but benevolent! – state. And when a little nudge doesn’t work, we’ll make the nudge a bit larger. Because clearly the state and its “experts” know what is best. Just like the FDA guidelines for years pushed low-fat and carbs.

You have a lot more faith in your fellow statists than I do my friend.

26 anon May 21, 2015 at 12:37 pm

H. L. Mencken:
“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”

James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention on Control of the Military, June 16, 1788:
“Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

C. S. Lewis:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

27 Jay May 20, 2015 at 3:23 pm

How many such tweet’s or posts until every single friend they have will block/unfollow them? My guess is 1….great product.

28 cheesetrader May 20, 2015 at 4:15 pm

I’m thinking this product will be extremely popular with a certain class of workout girl – you know the type – the endless mirror pics on instagram with their yoga pant clad asses sticking out

which reminds me – have to check my feed…..

29 Axa May 21, 2015 at 6:48 am

Of course.

Social competition is harsh. When you meet with your friends for lunch you can enjoy the envy on their looks.

30 Hazel Meade May 20, 2015 at 4:38 pm

This is like my version of hell. Not actually owning one of these scales, but being forced to read automated twitter posts from people’s bathroom scales, and being socially pressured to comment and advise my friends about their weight.

But maybe on the plus side, in the future, we will all have bots that carry out our new social duties by auto-liking and auto-upvoting people’s Facebook posts based on some sort of strategic social signalling criteria. So we can stop actually thinking about whether we’re offending people or not if we don’t reciprocally like their posts or retweet them. And then we’ll have a separate bot that will tell us which posts to actually read.

31 Albigensian May 20, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Is it possible that some will buy this, and then hang onto a towel rack or something to reduce the indicated weight?

If so, how long before the scale is discarded (perhaps because it “broke”)?

Maybe Withings will sell cheats- some magic code that makes your scale take just a little off your weight? For a week, so you have to buy another to maintain the lie, of course.

32 anon May 20, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Owned one of these for a while so my doctor could see how my weight fluctuated with different meds. Recorded the weights to an app on my phone that was easily shared with him at office visits.

Mine really broke after about 15 months. Rip off.

33 Urso May 20, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Won’t this just discourage people from weighing themselves?

34 Hasdrubal May 21, 2015 at 10:20 am

Yeah, that was my first thought: “Great way to ensure that anyone who actually needs to lose weight never steps on the scale again.”

My second thought was: “One more source of spam posts from all my vegan/paleo/crossfit acquaintances.”

35 So Much for Subtlety May 20, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Who is going to be blamed when the first teenage girl kills herself because of the deluge of ostensibly supportive tweets telling her she is too fat and ugly and needs to get with the program?

36 Urso May 20, 2015 at 6:16 pm

You, so watch it.

37 Hazel Meade May 20, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Who is going to be blamed when an artifically intelligent bathroom scale tweets something unintentionally racist and causes a twitter storm, that ends when the teenage girl kills herself after being being socially shamed by enraged twitter mobs?

38 So Much for Subtlety May 21, 2015 at 4:31 am

That’s no problem at all. The blame will land on some visa-holding semi-legal Silicon Valley cubicle drone from China or India.

It is not as if they would blame someone with real money.

39 Axa May 21, 2015 at 6:50 am

I’d blame the suicide teen for buying the scale in first place.

40 8 May 20, 2015 at 6:17 pm

This is like rules against talking about your health in a job interview. Skinny women will tweet their weight the most.

41 Benjamin Cole May 20, 2015 at 11:04 pm

Well, when I am on a diet, it becomes the only thing I think about, except possibly for sex. Have you ever dieted for four months?
I think my dieting should be the lead story every day on earth, when I am dieting. I exaggerate…maybe. I am grumpy too.

42 BC May 21, 2015 at 4:57 am

I now see where Google Glass went wrong. It auto-captures everything on camera *except* for the wearer. That’s really useful only for automatically taking pictures of the wearers’ dinner and uploading to facebook and instagram. Maybe, we have found the Killer App for drones: a mini drone that follows you everywhere, taking selfies (of you, not the drone) that get automatically uploaded to social media. Privacy rights are nothing next to the right to be the center of attention.

43 Lyth May 23, 2015 at 6:01 pm

In my view we should always believe in our self, if we always keep on hearing what others are saying then we will never be able to get any positive results, so that’s why I prefer been positive and doing Forex trading helps a lot in doing this especially with OctaFX broker. It’s a picture perfect company to work with right from start with their 50% bonus on deposit that’s available to use, so that makes life so easy for all.

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