mundanecomp & the nu-DIY · 20. April 2011, 12:14

Really nice to present at London IA last night, mostly it was a retelling of what I said at Design of Understanding, but polished a bit more and with a few new shiny things added.

I talked a bit about mundanecomp. A lot of time and effort in the Internet industry goes on extremes of life – going to new places, finding new things and people. Most of life isn’t like that. Most of the time, people are in routines, doing the same thing day after day. It’s not a bad thing. It’s life. And I’m interested in how technology can make some of these daily moments better.

It started with my washing machine. It’s needy. It cries if you ignore it when it’s finished. Incessantly. For about an hour. Now, I like clean clothes, but I’m not quite as obsessed with them as my washing machine. Contrast this with my dishwasher. Silent, powerful. Does its job and remains stoic. No sounds. Not even a flashing light. Just a single illuminated 0. It’s very zen about its position.

We’ve spent 10 years making machines that have some etiquette – phones have silent modes, ways of handling and routing salient notifications to be handled when and how we want. Why can’t my washing machine text me instead of crying? In fact, why doesn’t it have a network connection and an API? If you can buy a printer for 30 quid with a wireless connection and monitoring software, why can’t the same be in all our household products?


And so that’s why I see the nu-DIY being about Arduinos and hooking things up to the Internet. If there are no user-servicable parts inside, it doesn’t mean we can’t tinker, and can’t be given enough access to mould product and data to our needs. And one of the nicest examples of nu-DIY I’ve seen recently is the Homesense project, and in particular Russell’s bike map. Simple, smart, and looks like part of the furniture. Which it is.


(Hello, I haven’t disappeared, just mainly been blogging over there. As penance, have a bonus link: R4 on the German Mittelstand pencil war.)


My habit, in the last few years, has been to schedule “washing machine” as a fixed-time period event in an electronic calendar and then adjust it when I turn it on.

Most washing machines have similar scheduling needs to, say, office meeting rooms. (Although I’m the only person in my house who thinks that a dedicated iCal for scheduling the washing machine is a reasonable idea…)

Lee    20.04.11    #