If you feel that most messages posted on Twitter verge on over-sharing, you can stop reading here.
But if you're fascinated (as I am) by all the private-turned-public observations Twitter encourages, the WiFi Body Scale from Withings, a French company, will be just one more astounding data point. It not only charts the ups and downs of your body mass index on a password-protected Web site, but it can send out info about your morning weigh-in to all your followers on Twitter.
Yes, it tweets your weight.
It went on sale in the U.S. in September, and entrepreneur-turned-investor Bob Metcalfe of Polaris Venture Partners was one of the first locals to start using it. (The Twitter feature was added just last month.)
Every morning at 9 AM, the scale in Metcalfe's Back Bay townhouse sends out a tweet; he's trying to go from the 220-pound range to 179, by eating less and exercising more. A typical message might read, "My weight: 222 lb. 41.2 lb to go. Never too rich or too thin. http://withings.com."
Soon after I started seeing messages from Metcalfe's bathroom appliance, I noticed that Rich Miner, the Cambridge-based partner at Google Ventures, the investment arm of the search company, was sending out a tweet right after Metcalfe's. A characteristic Miner tweet would say, "My weight: 168.7 lb. 16.7 lb to go. How obnoxious is this... http://withings.com."
I sort of assumed that Miner was teasing Metcalfe about his very public weight loss endeavor, which is an occasional topic of conversation among the entrepreneurs and investors who know him. ("Is the Dow up or down today?" someone might ask you at a cocktail party, by way of greeting. "And how about Bob's weight?") I figured Miner was typing in the mocking tweet ("how obnoxious is this?") right after Metcalfe's had gone out -- or maybe, being a techie, that he'd written a software program to send it out automatically.
But no. Turns out that Miner owns the Withings scale, too.
His theory about why the tweets happen in such close succession is that the Withings server sends all of its users' weigh-in data to Twitter in a big batch, instead of at the precise moment they hop on the scale.
Joseph Kvedar, director of the Center for Connected Health at Partners HealthCare, also owns a Withings scale. As he has explained on Twitter, “[The] goal of [my] automated daily weight is to see if my followers will help me keep down around 182 – 183.”
Setting up the scale, Kvedar writes via e-mail, “requires one step which I think is beyond many ‘average’ users and that is plugging it into a computer via USB and downloading a set-up wizard to get it integrated into one’s WiFi network. However once that is done, it is incredibly reliable.”
The $159 scale is available on Amazon.com or Withings own Web site, if someone on your holiday shopping list would like to share his weight loss campaign with the world...
About Scott Kirsner
Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
Subscribe via e-mail
More from Scott
March 3: Web Innovators Group
Demos, drinks, and schmoozing at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge.
March 7-8: MassDigi Game Challenge
Competition for aspiring game developers... plus panels and keynotes related to the business of play.
April 3-4: Mass Biotech Annual Meeting
Issues facing the region's life sciences community.