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Build Your Own Weasley Location Clock (github.com/randomstring)
130 points by randomstring on May 19, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 46 comments

This is a fun project. It aligns with one of the truisms that I find overlooked by many which is that there is a lot of currently useful information available on the network that isn't visible.

I have always thought it would be fun to build something like this but send it package tracking numbers and have the hands indicate where the packages I had sent or had been shipped to me were in the system. Just with a glance up at the wall!

Project creator here.. AMA.

The hands don't just show the person's state. When "In Transit" the hand position in the sector shows their distance from home. At a glance you can tell if they are close to home, in town, or across the country. Using a logarithmic scale to give more resolution for points closer to home.

Depending on where your hand is in the "Home" sector indicates what part of the house you're in.

This provides location information on people, without feeling like a violation of their privacy.

Hi, CEO of Life360 here - great stuff. If you want to chat more I'm at chris@life360.com

100% expected this to just be a jpg of all the hands pointing to home for corona virus lockdown.

built something similar back in '06: http://thisispete.com/weatherclock


I have a collection of related projects here: https://github.com/randomstring/WeasleyClock#related-project...

I hadn't seen yours, I'll add it to the list.

Cool project, but please don’t install Life360 on your child’s phone. IMO it really destroys trust with your child. Having Life360 on your phone is a signal among children that your parents are very strict and some consider it a vector for emotional abuse.

I understand where you're coming from on this. I do not think the the service itself is a source of emotional abuse, it's how it's used. Can it be used to abuse privacy? Absolutely. I've seen other parents who have harassed their kid about where they are or how fast they are driving. I don't want to use it that way, I'm not going to use it that way.

Modeling appropriate use of technology and privileges is an important lesson that needs be taught (and practiced). Lessons that translate to being an admin on a minecraft server or having root access on a system.

When I first installed Life360 my son was using it to track me. He made some comment one day about how he saw where I'd gone for lunch. He'd been checking up on me. Since then, he's become bored stalking his family. With shelter-in-place in effect no one goes anywhere anyway.

I don’t know. To me it’s the same as removing the lock from your child’s door. It’s safer, more convenient, and if you respect your child’s boundaries it’s functionally the same. But what message does that send? Installing this app might just be for convenience and safety and you’ve given me no reason to believe you would use abusively, but this is still an app that has a reputation of abuse and mistrust. Look it up on /r/teenagers or TikTok. Kids know this is a tool of abuse and installing it on their phone sends the message that a parent doesn’t trust their child to be safe. Especially as the child nears adulthood, when they’re about to be extremely independent.

Life360 CEO here - we are actually pairing up with teens to do some features that address this.

90%+ of families have no issues and use it in healthy ways. We are going to try to help that remaining 10%


I'm against the idea of tracking my kids, but on the other hand, i also look at it as kind of a challenge for them. I'd be pretty disappointed if my kid couldn't figure out how to get it off their phone or at least work around it or something. That's how I learned when my parents tried to install a keylogger on my computer when I was young.

Plus, it'll help make them tracking savvy and teach them young they need to be aware of this and learn how to deal with them. It has become one of those constant things in today's society.

Challenging your child to learn tech so they can more effectively lie to you seems extremely unhealthy.

What? No... this is clearly a system where an honest child is rewarded just as much as a dishonest one, and... Ah wait, no its not.

I... just, what exact message are you trying to send with that? Because I can't think of one that is not just massively bad.

we live in a world with lots of rules. some of them are dumb, but carry serious consequences if you're caught. the message is, if you're gonna break the rules, you need to at least get away with it. it's (usually) better to get caught by your parents the first time, rather than an institution like school that isn't as invested in the outcome for you as an individual.

not quite the same, but this reminds me of a conversation I recently had with my parents. they were fairly strict when I was a kid, and I was asking them as an adult why they were like that. they told me that they expected me to break the rules and considered it a healthy part of growing up. they set the rules conservatively so I wouldn't need to do anything terribly unsafe just to rebel.

The alternative is of course that, out of love and respect for your parents, you chose not to bend the rules even when you could have because you trusted that your parents placed the rules there for good purpose in the first place.

To then find out that a) the rules were placed to control you and not necessarily protect you, and b) they didn't trust you not to break them, and c) they wouldn't follow these rules themselves....

...that surely leads to some serious implications in how you view society if the only definitions of rules you've experienced are seen as temporary barriers to getting what you want

i don't know specifically about Life360 as we use Find My (apple's) in our family, but if everyone in your family trusts each other it can potentially be a life-saver. i've never stalked any of my family using it, i only use it when expecting someone or if it's late and i'm concerned about their wellbeing.

i am acutely aware that this is not always the case within families, however.

Regardless if everyone is using the app 100% consensually, it has some horrible privacy policies. They reserve the right to sell your location data to insurance companies. They can inform your car and health insurance that think you’re not driving safe or going to dangerous areas.

yeahhhh, okay that's pretty bad. regardless of apple's privacy policies i'm uncomfortable with giving access to my location to any company, in case interests change. i will definitely consider self-hosting something like owntracks [0] so i'm in control of my data. OP should consider doing the same! (not a shill)

[0]: https://owntracks.org

-With regards to selling my location info to third parties, I have been fighting an increasingly irresistible urge to set up an old smartphone and an SDR in my basement to see whether they derive the location info from GPS exclusively or if they use cellular info, too.

It would be fun to spoof the GPS data to draw all sorts of obscene art for their viewing (dis)pleasure.

It is frustrating when people say this. We are super transparent and give way more control than other apps. And no, we don't sell your data to insurance companies (we do do sell data for things like real time speed monitoring for traffic companies and people movement like the COVID dashboards many people have seen).

See blog post here https://www.life360.com/blog/understanding-how-life360-uses-...

Your privacy policy also says you share geolocation data with a 3rd party company that may “provide and service insurance products, including using personal data to perform profiling activities”

See comment below for more details, but we have driving services powered by Allstate (Arity a subsidiary to be specific). This is not a buyer/seller relationship and they are heavily restricted with what they can do. There is no risk of (or ability for) them to use this to change your rates or link this to your current insurance policy.

You might not like that the clock shows you to be in "Mortal Peril" when you travel over 75mph. :)

Indeed. It used to be common in (muggle) families to satisfy themselves with "be home when the street lights come on" as a heuristic, and it instilled toughness and maturity in kids as a result.

This is very cool. I've been considering doing something similar for my family. Is there a hardware solution (like an open-source GPS-enabled Tile) that you found that could track people's location without installing Life360? I did some cursory research a few months back and couldn't find anything.

As mentioned in other comments here and I discuss in my build log. There's Apple's Find My Phone service, but this is iOS only. The authentication API for Find My Phone changed while I was working on the project and Life360 has really good support in Home Assistant.

There's OwnTracks (https://owntracks.org/) and Google location services. I didn't try those.

I opted for Life360 because it's supported on iPhone and Android and I just wanted the location data to "just work." I had enough technical hurdles, I didn't want to add debugging why someone's phone stopped sending location updates.

Owntracks works with ios and android, is open source, and you can have it directly connect to a server of your choosing and nothing else. owntracks + mqtt bridge + homeassistant is what i use and it works great(I haven't touched it since I set it up)

Owntracks is my backup plan. Integration with Home Assistant is a must.

There's a little backstory to choosing Life360. The clock was a surprise for my wife and I needed to get her to willingly install and run a tracking app on her phone. A "Family Safety" app was an easier sell than a more abstract home automation integration. :)

Life360 cofounder & CEO here. Great integration!

To address some other comments on the thread: 1) We don't sell your data to insurance companies

2) We are ultra-transparent on how we handle your data and give far more control than almost any other app out there. More here: https://www.life360.com/blog/understanding-how-life360-uses-...

But do you sell the data at all? Just because you do not sell the data to insurance companies directly doesn't the data is safe. could easily sell the data to data aggregators who sell to insurance companies.

"We share your personal information, driving event data and other information to Arity 875, LLC (“Arity”), which provides driving analytics behaviour services to enable us to provide certain functionalities of the Service, such as driving event history. Arity may also use this information to calculate discounts, rewards or pricing offers by third parties such as insurance companies, and to perform various profiling activities in order to produce a score which may predict the level of driver riskiness, and to develop its risk predictive models for its own analytics purposes. You hereby acknowledge and consent to the collection and use of your data and information by Arity as set out in this policy and in Arity’s privacy policy, which is located at https://www.arity.com/privacy."


Got it.

EDIT: my tone wasn't good here. Assuming good intentions. I am leaving the original below just so people can see what the replies where to.

Original: Got It. So the above is a flat out lie.

No, it is not a lie. I'm happy to answer questions openly but please give me a chance before calling me a liar.

Arity (an Allstate subsidiary) provides us tech that powers our crash detection service (think Onstar for your phone - we dispatched 10k ambulances last year) and other driving features. Arity also scores our drivers, like a credit score for your driving. But, this is extremely different than selling your data.

Arity does not know who these people are - they get a set of limited information which is not tied to an indvidual. They then take that information and match it with insurance offers based on a number of factors, but who that person is, or there forward looking behavior is never connected back. They don't have the legal right (or even the reasonable technical ability based on the data we give them) and the offers are not tied to an individual.

The insurance offers are similar to what Credit Karma does with your credit score. You go to Credit Karma, you give them your social and some seriously sensitive info, and then they match you with offers. They are NOT selling your info to credit card companies in the same way we are not selling your info to insurance companies. There is very little difference.

To the technical piece, I guess they could theoretically reverse engineer people from our data, but that is like say anyone who uses say Amplitude or some metrics provider could be selling your data to insurance companies. All of us developers use a number of 3rd party services that we are trusting to be shepherds of private information. In this case one of our third party providers is an insurer. So you could argue they have more incentive to breach to contract, but they would really get no benefit from that because a) we would sue the to oblivion and b) do you really think they could get insurance commissioners to allow them to price on stolen data?

As mentioned above we are extremely transparent about all this. It is explained at sign up. We push the information to our users. We give them a privacy center which goes through all of this in non-legalese. User can opt out of anything they want and we don't degrade the service intentionally (e.g. if you opt out of the connection to Arity we literally can't power the features). We even let free users opt out of the targeted promotions.

Some people may still not like this but we do not do corporate speak and we do not try to hide anything.

I appreciate the time you have take to talk about this, especially with how critical we've been of your work. If I may add one more piece of criticism: I really want to believe you about your policy and I would be much more comfortable with your app if the privacy policy explicitly said some of the things you claim.

Thanks and noted.. Have you seen the Privacy Center in our app? This was meant as the area to get plain English explanations on how things work along with various opt-outs. It is still a bit more legalese-ish than I would like but the intent was very much to be open and let users make informed decisions.

I apologize if it seemed like a personal attack. That wasn't my intention. And I really do appreciate the fact that you guys have a privacy preference center. It's clear that you do care about privacy, and since you do care about privacy then I am sure you can understand the concerns.

Thanks - much appreciated. What I primarily believe in is being open and honest with our users, and avoiding corporate speak whenever possible.

Privacy means different things to different people and I probably am more open than he average person on hacker news. A full comment on what it personally means to me would be quite a long essay!

Yes, there are certain portions of data we sell, but not the type that would/could be used for insurance. There are a ton of legal/contractual restrictions based on each partner as well. See my other comments that go into more detail and the level of transparency and control we provide.

A stalking-free version of this where you could push your state manually to the clock and have it automatically reset to home when your device is detected on the home wifi network would be more fun, and removes a dependency. You could also support more specific states this way that you cannot detect through simple movements. States can also decay to an unknown state if not updated in a while and you never come home.

And it would be better for building any kind of trust in a child, as they would know you are trusting them to tell you where they might be, and gives a character-building opportunity to choose between lying or telling the truth. Without those opportunities, you never learn the satisfaction of telling the truth, only the satisfaction of lying to get your way when you are not trusted. Inevitably, you become a vicious liar with no limit, and you will lie to everyone: Your parents, your spouse, your mistress, your children, and worst of all yourself.

State can be pushed to an SMS number powered by Twilio.

Well done! This must have been a massive project. 1000 hours?

Don't miss the project photo album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/7yxiuzpsFReUh5Yy5

It was a year from idea to finished, installed clock. 1000 hours? Maybe. Yes, if you include time spent worrying about how to make the clock hands look good and stay on.

This is absolutely incredible. Totally made my day. SO well done.

I like this alot. However, you should make sure it isn't visible through a window or it's basically an "all clear" indicator for burglars.

They'd have to look through the window for quite a while to realize that it wasn't simply a decoration from Harry Potter.

Very cool. I'm curious — why didn't you photoshop out the Weasleys locations from the background of your clock face?

I purchased the artwork from Minalima, https://minalima.com/product/the-weasley-family-clock/ and used that. It's officially licensed artwork.

I consider the background a feature as it is intended to also be a Harry Potter "artifact."

Others have done custom artwork or made copies of official images (there are two variants that appear in the Harry Potter movies). I really liked this artwork, so that's what I did.

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