10 minute read

Sterling (who's iron is in this fire, preferring his own neologism, "spime"), has linked to a compiled list of all the synonyms for "blogjects" -- objects which collect data and spew it out into the Internet that this guy put together (I'm betting his vote is for "Designed Objects" myself). I wrote about blogjects a while back when Bruce'd focused on them in his SIGGRAPH and SXSW speeches.

Beyond needing an agreed-upon name (I obviously favor blogject), this is technology searching for a problem. To the extent that they're remote Net-connected sensors, they're nothing new, manufacturing --and scientiific research (see that story for a description of why there's a pink dinosaur on this post) -- has been doing this for quite some time. Hell, webcams (remember when they weren't for pr0n on IM?) were set up for this. Most of the Big Geek campuses had soda machines that would respond with their stock on "finger" requests from the Internet.

The democratization of net-connected objects has happened (for the geeks). Arguably, this is the parallel: Printing->Big Publishers->Small Publishers->Internet sites for geeks->blogs for Joe Q. Public || Remote Sensing for Mfgs. -> Net-connected doodads for geeks -> blogjects for everyone. I don't see it. Blogjects are still firmly in the geek domain. Sure, there are a slow increasing number of more consumer-oriented items, and I definitely see this coming eventually, but we're not there.

What has to happen to enable these:

*WiFi access -- whether more standardized cell modem access (and much, much cheaper cellmodems and service fees!) or WiMax muni networks or pirate mesh networks, blogjects are useless and stuck at home without some way to connect to the Internet

*Batteries -- they're similarly tethered to a plug or require lots and lots of maintenance/batter replacement/charging unless a better battery or lower-power network connection is enabled, again, for cheap.

*A NEED -- OK, so, the biggest current potential use that I see (from my own warped perspective) are to chronicle rights abuses. Scatter some videostreaming blogjects around a demonstration site and suddenly you're watching the watchers. Capturing the enforcement of "Free Speech Zones" and the like. This means that you're going to lose a lot of these through confiscation, theft, destruction and so on. The history of blogjects has been hands that wave, webcams you can move, and coke or coffee machines whose status you can check. Oh, and toasters that download the weather forecast and burn it into your bread This is great. Yay for ubiquitous info. But this is not consumer-ready, it is and will be for some time in the geek domain. I seem to recall LG doing some consumery level blogjects, but mostly in EU, and not really blogjects as much as smart appliances that pinged each other to see what was pulling down the most current, so as to stay below peak current levels and avoid big charges (the dryer would see if the freezer was on, request it to go off, then turn itself on, for example).

*Overall cheapness -- the "blog revolution" is because anyone with Internet access can start - for free - a blog, and if they have something to say/fill a niche, they can get popular, make some cash off of ads, and sell books (there's something amusing about that, I might add). Blogjects will never be as free, unless they hijack onto existing technologies (like, if cell phones ever became open sourced, there you have a blogject just ready for action!). (...my real suspicion is that everyone else expects their pricepoint to drop in the next few years and are wrangling for naming privileges...) To some extent, RFID tags will move this along. Sure, they're passive, but they are potentially very enabling. Imagine this scenario, which I --> posted in Slashdot in (weep) 2003:

Everyone freaks out about RFIDs, but I remain in the camp that these could be really cool, as long as consumers (ok, geeks) figure out how to control them (by burning them out or just finding the darned things and removing them from unwanted places, like the back of a Yugo [1])

Ever lose your cell phone and have someone call it so you could find it? Imagin being able to do that with any random item? superglue a RFID onto it, and walk around with a semi-portable RFID scanner. OK, not as great due to the limited range of the things, but you could pretty easily determine if the keys were under the couch or not.

Now, the sucky thing will be if (when) manufacturers build RFIDs into places that you can't get to without destroying the item or voiding the warranty.

So, we need an opt-out method for RFIDs, which may be as simple as a way to find the lil' bastards and plier them flat, but beyond the scare, there's promise:

telnet homenetwork : fridgeport
Brr! it's cold in here [45F]! Can I have your username?
> JoeBachelor
And your password?
> gotb33r?
Welcome to your Refridgerator/Freezer system!
>cd fridge
Directory of /fridge:

Beer/Shiner Bock (1)
Beer/MGD (5)

Condiments/ketchup package (13)
Condiments/mustard package (2.5)
Condiments/SoySauce package (1)
Condiments/Unidentifiable (5)
Condiments/mayonnaise (1) (warning: use-by-date 5 months expired!)


Coke (.5)
Mountain Dew (4)
lunchmeat_ham (1) (warning: use-by-date 1 week expired!)
cheese_cheddar (2) (warning: use-by-date is tommorow!)
End of directory. No healthy food available.
>man healthy
Sorry, you need to install the Health modules for these extensions
>make food
Unable to make food. Stop.

see?!!!!! see! this is my vision!

[1] That's a "Mall Rats" reference, for the rest of you.

So, to continue in a /. vein -- I, for one, welcome our new blogject leaders... if they ever actually get here and are affordable and available to the average jane or joe -- and once that happens, then let's talk about their implications for development/human rights work, because I guarantee you that pit traps are more effective at defending your rights than a webcam with a tenuous slow dialup speed to the Internet that will report the abuses, but not prevent them on an immediate basis.