TiVo programmer Ryan Rose has hacked his washing machine to send text message notifications over Twitter when his clothes are done. He did this for a practical reason, to prevent forgetting about his laundry which might sit in the damp washer and mildew. You can follow the washing machine’s activity on Twitter (412 people, including myself, already do) to be instantly informed when Mr. Rose’s laundry is done. Why would you want to? More on that later… Here’s video of “PiMPY” in action:
I’m a big fan of Activity Streams such as Twitter and FriendFeed. Once current user contributions across all the social web sites are freely distributed, with an emphasis on privacy, a new web era will arrive. My vision originates from Professor David Gelernter‘s “Life Streams” as defined in his 1993 book Mirror Worlds: The Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox – How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean.
Apparently I am not alone in my opinion that Activity Streams are the next big thing. Some of the most influential people in social media (MySpace, Google, Plaxo, Comcast, Nokia just to name a few) recently attended a DiSo meeting to discuss the future of how their user’s activity will be published. (Ian Kennedy, formerly of Yahoo and now head of Nokia’s Ovi service, kindly recorded the DiSo meeting using his phone.) One of the points discussed during the event was that activity streams are not just generated by people but that machines, like PiMPY, can also broadcast what they’re doing. Mr. Rose’s place of employment is noteworthy, and it got me thinking about the possibilities of machines with their own activity streams – particularly TiVo.
If we were to imbue a TiVo PVR with the means to broadcast its activities, it might look something like this:
There’s a definitely a simple convenience factor in receiving a message from your DVR, but that alone may not be enough of a value proposition to cause every TiVo owner to embrace this. What more could be extracted from letting our favorite little STB “speak” publicly?
Back to that earlier challenge
Why would you want to start following a washing machine on Twitter? The Los Angeles Times suggested a reason:
One subscriber to PiMPY’s laundry [activity] feed is the Whirlpool Twitter account. Brian Snyder, Whirlpool spokesman who oversees the appliance manufacturer’s social media accounts, reached out to Rose on YouTube after spotting the video. He said the company was “always looking for new ways to connect our appliances to the Internet.
Marc M. Sanford Ph.D., in a detailed white paper titled ‘Social Media Measurement: Widgets and Applications‘ finds that consumer purchase behavior directly correlates to how deeply a Consumer engages with a piece of social media and where they discover the media. Not surprisingly, referrals from friends (or influencers) are 4x more effective.
So if the Razorfish paper offers evidence that people are four times more likely to buy goods and services they see referenced in social media, such as an activity stream, it would be trivial for thought leaders like TiVo, Netflix, Roku and Amazon to offer a revenue sharing program. In theory, the people following your TiVo’s activity stream just might earn you some money by clicking on the show its recording. I would consider this reason enough to participate, would you? Now if we could just get Ryan Rose to write the code…