Guest post: Chris Matyszczyk investigates the soft underbelly of Web culture.
As Hillary Clinton and Michael Moore will tell you, there is no greater potential money-spinner in the US today than health. We all get sick. So there's always some sicko who wants to make a buck out of our bad luck.
I have become fascinated, since descending into the world of tech, about the health ramifications surrounding parking one's body in a seated position in front of a screen for ungodly hours every day.
As far back as November 2000, the BBC was reporting that thousands of children were already being affected by computer-related injuries. (This does not seem to have included throwing them in frustration.) Dr Charles Daniels of Yarmouth, Canada, even has a Web site dedicated to computer ergonomics.
But a fundamental problem, surely, is that sitting down all day in front of a screen is not healthy. Geeks, those who are reputedly married to their computing gadgets, are often portrayed as pasty, porky, and slovenly.
While that characterization is a gross, very gross, generalization (geeks can be tan, slim, well coiffed and happily married to another human, or, at least, another geek), there is a group of people, based, it appears, in Milwaukee, that has decided to glory in the corpulence that their supposed geekdom inspires. May I introduce you, if you haven't been introduced already, to FatGeeks.com.
FatGeeks.com declares that it is the "Official Product-Line for Fat Geeks." The products that it offers are t-shirts (currently sold out), static cling window stickers and bumper stickers.
I should warn you that if you go to this site, as well as seeing pictures of corporate types in FatGeeks t-shirts, you will also see pictures of large men lying topless on their beds. And, perhaps the apogee of sophistication, you will see an image of a geek balancing his paper beer cup on his belly, with the words "Check Out the Shelf" scrawled over the picture, Perez Hilton-style. You will also see many testimonials of women who appear to be enchanted by overweight geekdom.
I cannot guarantee that the brawns behind this work of art all work in the tech industry. The sheer lack of sophistication of the site design suggests that perhaps there are simply too many bars in Wisconsin.
However, the site does purport to have a semi-serious purpose. For example, it carries an interesting interview with the renowned (no, really) diet and fitness expert Don Lemmon. Here's just one Lemmon nugget: "Well, bro, being fat, ain't all that. Accepting it is accepting you are trying to kill yourself."
Looking at just one picture of Mr. Lemmon I can see that he is wise and that he has never taken steroids.
So what can the true purpose of FatGeeks.com be? Besides a serious (unless you are strange enough to find it amusing) call for help? I may have an answer and it has a deep connection with the world of tech.
One part of the site claims to offer "Domains for Sale." These words are accompanied by a Star Wars logo. (I wonder how much the rights to that cost them. Or, um, didn't.) And if you dig very, very deep, you will see that one of the domains these wily Wisconsians are trying to sell, is, you will be shocked, FatGeeks.com.
Yes, the tech ethos of 'If You Build It, They Will Buy' has permeated our society to a degree that even fat men in Wisconsin think they can make a killing (and not in the sense Don Lemmon warns us against).
I cannot decide whether this is a good thing. However, I think it is incumbent on some big or even very big wig in tech to make a deal (a low ball deal, I would suggest) with these loons and bring the true seriousness of the shocking problem of obesitech to a wider audience.
FatGeeks.com could easily become the Web's MD. Or a vertical, if horizontally challenging, slice of Facebook.
Chris Matyszczyk has spent most of his career as an award-winning creative director in the advertising industry. He advises major global companies on marketing and creativity. Chris has also been a journalist, covering the Olympics, SuperBowl and other sporting events. He brings a non-techie's perspective to the tech world and a sharp wit to the rest of the world. Check out his "Pond Culture" blog.