A Tweeting Ovechkin is a Happy Ovechkin is a Winning Ovechkin

On January 30, 2009, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals stopped tweeting.

Ovechkin's Last Tweet for 14 Months

Suddenly, on March 2, 2011, he returned.

Yes! A Tweeting Ovechkin!

In just under two weeks since this tweet, Ovechkin has tweeted another 65 times.  Since his return to Twitter on March 2, the Capitals have won 5 games in a row.  Scoring in each of these 5 games, Ovechkin has 2 goals and 5 assists, a game winning goal, and the only shoot out goal in a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After Beating the Blues 3-2 on March 3

Going back a bit farther, the Capitals have won 9 of their last 10 games, and Ovechkin has 4 goals and 8 assists in those 9 victories.  If it wasn’t for a 6-0 beat down at the hands of the New York Rangers, Ovechkin might very well have a 10 game point streak on its hands.

After Beating the Lightning on March 7

Statistics show that the Caps have improved this season on defense, but statistics also show that Ovechkin is having a bad year (or at least one less productive than earlier years).  Pundits say that Ovie is weighed down by the Capitals’ playoff failures and Team Russia’s Olympic failures.  They say that he isn’t himself, and that he might be hurt.

Now, Ovechkin’s point streak and the Capitals’ success are leaving some of these critics with nothing to say.  When other teams see a happy Ovechkin, an Ovechkin slamming against the boards after scoring, an Ovechkin enjoying himself, an Ovechkin tweeting again, they are scared.  Nothing appears to be weighing him down now.  Whatever “himself” is, that’s what Ovechkin is now.  And that’s good for the Caps and their fans.

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192.8 Pounds; Readying for a Public Diet

This morning I weighed 192.8 pounds on my new scale.  More about the scale below.  I haven’t gained much over the past few weeks, which is good, considering I just spent a week in Beijing for what I hope is really, finally, my last trip.

Instead of maintaining weight, I’d like to be losing weight.  Starting this Thursday, I’m going to begin to force myself to do just that by going completely public.  I’ll be the most recent in a reasonably long line of people to do this, but, I figure, why not.  Come back here on Thursday to learn more.

Onto my new scale.

Last week, I took the plunge, and I purchased the Withings scale that I wrote about here on September 28. I’ll give Withings credit.  The scale was very easy to connect to my home wireless network.  I also downloaded the Withings applications for my iPhone and my iPad.  Now, when I step on the scale, my weight, lean mass and fat mass are instantly transported to the web and the two Apple devices for tracking.  The wow factor is huge.

To see what the graph looks like, click here.  I’d like to embed the graph on my blog, but, unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t yet support iframe embeds.

The Withings scale also allows for easy automatic tweeting of your weight and posting on Facebook.  I haven’t tweeted yet, but that’s in the plans.  Ian Ayres, the author of Carrots and Sticks does tweet his weight every day, so you can see what that looks like here – @ianweight.  I have installed the application on my Facebook page, but it doesn’t do much for me.  It isn’t just a simple posting, but is more like a game and a graph.  Honestly, it doesn’t really work well.  If it did, the concept (around Guessing Someone’s Weight) is actually pretty cool.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work.

That’s it for now.  192.8.  Just the start.  Time to go public.

Ian Ayres Hits Home with “Carrots and Sticks”

Back in July, I posted about the website Stickk.com.  Stickk.com uses the concept of commitment bonds to help people achieve goals.  Commitment bonds are an agreement to pay a fine if we don’t achieve a goal, such as weight loss or exercise or even walking the dog.  Commitment bonds rely on the premise of “loss aversion:”  people fill the sting of losses more than the elation of an identical gain.

I used Stickk.com in early 2009 to lose one pound a week for twenty weeks.  I agreed on Stickk.com to pay $75 to charity, if I didn’t stay on my pace of one pound per week.  Thus, for the 20 weeks timeframe, I put $1,500 at risk.  In the end, I achieved my weight loss goal and paid out only $75 over the course of the week.

After I lost the weight, I had an opportunity to talk with Ian Ayres, a professor at Yale Law School, and one of the founders of Stickk.com.  Now, 14 months later, my weight loss experience with Stickk.com is described in his new book Carrots and Sticks. The book is an expansion of his theories around commitments and how people make them and achieve them.

I’m proud to be an example of how commitment bonds can work.  But, as Ian describes in the book, making the commitment bond itself wasn’t enough for me.  I took the commitment one step further, and I told my parents, sisters, in-laws and co-workers about the commitment.  I invited all of them to register at Stickk.com and watch my weight loss.  Telling them was a lot harder than putting the $1,500 at risk.  Ian talks about this social aspect a bit in the book (see page 183), but I can’t underscore it enough.  Getting fined and getting embarrassed socially for missing a commitment is a powerful one-two combo.

My commitment actually took one step more than Ian documents in the book.  About three weeks into the diet, I presented on loss aversion and other aspects of behavioral economics at a meeting of my company’s top 120 executives.  During the Q&A session after the presentation, a colleague publicly “outed” me and my commitment in front of all these folks as an example.  In retrospect, I couldn’t have asked for a better incentive.

Ian writes in the book about how I was likely to gain back half the weight after a year, due to my unwillingness to enter into a “maintenance contract,” in which I would commit to keep my weight within a band or have to pay out a sum to charity.  After struggling to get through those last few pounds, I just had no energy to enter into a maintenance contract.  I remember telling Ian that I needed a few weeks off, that I was just too tired.  Ian accurately describes our conversation in the book.

Unfortunately, the good professor is correct on pages 105 and 106 of his book that I should have entered into that maintenance contract.  The 20th pound came off in May, 2009.  Now, in October, 2010, I have indeed gained back half the weight, exactly what Ian predicted.  And, you know what? I’m struggling to get the weight back off without making a commitment bond.

If I had a do-over, I would have entered into the maintenance contract.  I’ve gone from the shining example of how commitment bonds can be helpful to the example of how not using them can hurt.  Bummer.

I think that adding a commitment bond to weight loss goals is likely the answer for people who already have the social embarrassment, but still aren’t achieving their goals.  Many people use on-line communities, blogs, or support groups to help them.  I’ve written how Brian Stelter posts his eating diary and weight on Twitter with regularity and, just last week, about a scale that will tweet your weight every day.  Is publicity of your success or failure really enough incentive?  I’ve actually been posting about my diet once a week for nine weeks.  I wanted to lose one pound per week, but after nine weeks, I’m down only 4.4 pounds.

I’m glad that Stickk.com is a success, and I urge others to use it.  I wish Ian best wishes with his book.  It’s an honor to be cited in the book, for better and for worse.

With our daughter’s bat mitzvah coming up in early February, there could be another commitment bond on Stickk.com in my future.  I’m sure Ian would recommend it.

Diet Week 8: +1 lb. Is a Wifi Scale the Way to Go?

Week eight saw me continue my battling a very seesaw diet.  I gained a pound to 192.4 and am down 5 pounds in eight weeks.  (Six pounds in seven weeks sounded a lot better!)  The momentum I had hoped for last week didn’t materialize.

I know from my eating decisions, that, after two months, I’m not yet in the zone.  That’s disappointing.  I’m just not making the best decisions.  I went for a Caesar salad with chicken at lunch yesterday, when I could have had a much lower-calorie salad from the salad bar.  On the other hand, I continue to be happy with my exercise regimen.  I started off slowly eight weeks ago and am progressing nicely, ramping up my speed on the treadmill and completing longer runs on Sundays.

I wrote a few weeks back about Brian Stelter and his use of tweeting as part of his diet process.  Proclaiming in public that you are going to lose weight and giving people a window into that process is a very interesting motivator.  It doesn’t work for everyone, but works for Brian and, I think, works for me.  The key is to open up a two-way dialog, where one person is sharing and others are supporting.  Multi-way dialogs are even better, where multiple people are trying to lose weight and helping each other.  This is the notion behind every diet site having a community aspect and behind the old-school weekly meetings at Weight Watchers.

The Wi-Fi Connected Withings Bathroom Scale

In Sunday’s New York Times, an article discusses the benefits of the Withings bathroom scale, which is Wifi-enabled, and pushes your weight to your computer, your iPhone app and, if desired, directly to Twitter.  This scale is not new. Googling uncovers articles from as far back as August, 2009.  There are 129 reviews on Amazon for the product, 90 of which are 5-star.  The product sells there for $145 plus shipping.

I’ve got a colleague who just bought one, but I don’t know yet if he set it up. $145 for a bathroom scale is not cheap. Wifi connectivity seems par for the course in 2010.  The auto-tracking to a smart phone is also logical and will no doubt expand to other scale brands at some point.  The connectivity to Twitter, Facebook and a range of other sites is the most intriguing aspect of all.

We know that off-line social impact weight gain, as per this 2007 study.  Brian Stelter has shown that using Twitter can make a difference with weight loss.  The automation of the Withings scale is just the next step.  Brian has to think about sending the Twitter each day.  The Withings scale requires only one decision – to turn on the sharing aspect of the software.  Then, off you go.  It makes sense to me.

So Much for Regularity

In his new book “The Business of Happiness,” Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis writes of six tenets to live by.  The third tenet is “Personal Expression.”  Mr. Leonsis believes that everyone needs to have an outlet, be it art, writing, or, as he puts it, singing in the shower.  I haven’t finished the book yet, but I will.  (I’ve got an 18 hour flight to Singapore coming up next week.)   I think Mr. Leonsis (can I call him Ted?) is right.  That’s why I started this blog.  I just haven’t kept it up.

I’ve been Tweeting a lot lately, but I think it’s time to move beyond 140 characters to something a bit longer.  I’ve been reading a lot about travel and a lot about hockey.  There’s some interesting stuff out there that people might be interested in.

Bear with me.  We’ll see what happens.  I’m hoping this is the start of something (again!).

Am I Digital Yet?

These days I am feeling way more connected than I’ve ever been. I guess, at age 43, I’ve caught up to most people half my age, and I’m finally, truly digital. Or at least I’ll believe I am.

I’ve learned the obvious — that having a Blackberry just isn’t enough.. There’s much more to being digital than being able to get an email from your boss, your dad or your kids’ school at any hour of the day in any country on the planet. I don’t really think Facebook is enough either, and I’ll admit to never having played one minute of FarmVille (I had to Google it to check the spelling!).

Since August, I’ve been part of the international team at work and have traveled quite a bit. I’ve sent text messages and picture mail to my daughter and video Skyped with my family from 14 time zones away. In general, I’ve started utilizing digital media more – and I think I now know what it really means to be connected – or at least I’ll believe I do. The information overload is a rush, truly a rush.

I now have a blog (but you already know that, because you are reading). I also now use Google Reader to subscribe to about 30 different blogs and check them at home, work and on my iPhone.  Again, digital media keeping me informed.

I have a Twitter account (@lifewithspidey), and I’ve sent 18 tweets, follow 33 tweeters and have 10 followers myself — all more of a start than something to brag about. I have sent tweets from my computer, but also from my iPhone. I get regular Twitter updates on my iPhone and through an add-in in Firefox. For news and information junkies, Twitter is amazing. I knew about Mark McGwire’s steriod admission 20 minutes before it was posted on espn.com.

I figured out how to shorten URL’s with bit.ly, and I created a Flickr account to which I’ve posted all my Spidey photos (links at right). Lastly, I’ve also become a podcast junkie — audio only please. I listed to the podcasts in the car, which are a great supplement to audio books.

At this point, even mentioning a Kindle seems like nothing.

Texting, blogging, tweeting, podcasting – can I say flickring or Firefoxing? Can I (or you or we) get any more connected?

Now I’m off to tweet about his post and notify my Facebook friends about the blog.  Maybe FarmVille is next?