Who Publicly Tweets Body Weight Using Withings?

On of the most well known QS devices is the Withings WiFi body scale. Automatically transmitting weight to a computer or mobile phone, the scale is a good example of a solid, mainstream approach to self-tracking. But I was curious recently to see how many people are taking advantage of the ability to publicly tweet their body weight. The number is not very large; normally just a few every hour, a few hundred in total, assuming most people measure their weight once per day. Certainly a small fraction of Withings users.  English tweets dominate, but German and Japanese tweets are also common.

QS friends know that I’ve been ranting lately against the notion that the only reason people will do anything is because they want to improve their visibility in a social network. The viral spread of Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare have convinced some otherwise smart people I know that nobody will do anything that is not “social.”

This means that one of the most important features of a wireless scale is easy, automatic public tweeting of your weight. It makes a good story, but as far as I can tell it is not very real,  even among early adopters. I bother to point this out because the focus on public exposure of personal data obscures some of the reasons people actually do want to track themselves using convenient tools that stream data to computers and phones. They want this information not to share publicly, but for themselves, and perhaps for a small number of others who comprise their private network of close support.

Personal data has tremendous personal value. In aggregate, and anonymized, it is important for science and public health. But the theory that personal data, outside of sports and gaming, is a type of social currency is still waiting for some evidence to back it up.

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2 Responses to Who Publicly Tweets Body Weight Using Withings?

  1. @harscoat says:

    Thanks Gary for your post with a challenge.
    I must admit I still did not read or have watched all QSelf posts or video. So if this has already been discussed please forward me the pointer to it.
    I will not challenge the fact that many data should stay private, I agree.
    However, for this “public “wifi scale” discussion we may consider:
    @Tgoetz arguments that there is evidence that measuring is already a big step towards controlling (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jY2CegmG85U).
    So just the fact of making public the fact of measuring our weight can already be a step towards positive health impacts…
    and also Nicholas Christakis who explained that social networks spread behaviors (like an epidemic! obesity or its opposite) http://www.ted.com/talks/nicholas_christakis_the_hidden_influence_of_social_networks.html
    If we talk about health and healthy behavior that may be very important aspects to consider.
    Now to ‘“theory that personal data, outside of sports and gaming, is a type of social currency” waits for evidence’, this is true today but thank you, this is a call to action, a challenge to show that many people should and will share their data in public. Why? because it would be better for the community that some data are shared in public, and I will explain which type of data.
    Briefly, this is why we start a project called Quantter. Still, no matter who makes this best (Poyozo, Getupandmove, Polka, Quantter, Nike+ whoever… or all of them), I will argue that some personal data/numbers need urgently to be made public on social networks and that QuantifiedSelf should not be only about health, there are other data which matters.
    These are numbers related to “deliberate practice” and efforts in general.
    Why? Because they can answer one of the most important questions? (and I ardently want my own child to know and practice the answer asap):
    How can we become good at something? how can we achieve something that matters? and more: how can we have more efficient group/public/gov actions?
    Deliberate (personal) practice refers to the works of K. Anders Ericsson (http://projects.ict.usc.edu/itw/gel/EricssonDeliberatePracticePR93.pdf).
    Blood pressure, heartbeat rates, mental activities, will soon have automatic data collection with sensors etc. and there can be thousands of those health related data (and sure I want them to remain private or only agregated for scientific research purpose). But each one of those data do they matter alone? Each of these come with me breathing. (How much are they “up to me” as the stoics says, can I influence them directly?)
    Deliberate practice data on the other end, they are not granted at all, they are directly “up to me” (they are not “ἀδιάφορα”, not “indifferent things”), they are directly geared towards acquiring a specific skill, reaching goals, improving, productivity, action, focusing time and ressources on what/who matters.
    Methods (and numbers) used by people to achieve goals, “greatness”, fulfilling human lives with a higher success rate, this imho really matters. Seinfeld productivity secret is it Quantified Self or not? (http://lifehacker.com/281626/jerry-seinfelds-productivity-secret). In any case I am happy someone made it public. We need more of these shared, online, so that one can see efforts of people like Seinfeld or “fleißig” students in real time and be stimulated (contagionhealth “behaviors”/not just health) to do the same.
    It turns out that most of the great people with great results have put in the numbers, not only pittoresque anecdotes on Flaubert, 5 years of daily painful effort for just 1 book tells it but more and more researchers put forward evidence base that 10 000 hour rules is necessary.
    Few like Herbert Simon (CMU – he talked about the “10 years rule”) knew this, alas this is not clear to most people yet, this has not reached the general population and this is complicated to explain to children.
    I want those personal numbers to be as public as possible to inspire others to emulate. Whether numbers of practice from our nobel prize winners, Rostropovitch, Tigerwoods or basketball players, or the fireman good at what he does, even the people who fail but try, I would love them to publish it in public.
    So that my kid as any other kid could be inspired by their examples.
    As say Dean Kamen ” in the free culture, you get what you celebrate” (http://www.forbes.com/2009/08/27/dean-kamen-education-thought-leaders-innovation.html).
    Celebrate means public.
    I think it is time to celebrate deliberate practice on social networks (!) specifically:
    daily numbers of boring tedious repetitive efforts, that are not sufficient but necessary to maybe one day achieve something… that matters.

  2. Chris Parker says:

    Fame at last! I enabled the twitter feed so that I would “diet by humiliation”! I started out at 96 kg so it seems to be working!
    The withings scale is great, by the way,

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