Kind of Chunderwhelmed

For my birthday (I’m now 100000 in binary) my lovely wife got me a Chumby to place in the kitchen. Specifically, it was to replace the low-quality radio that I had in there. I wanted to be able to listen to internet radio (mostly the KUOW stream) as well as view various photos from flickr.

It does both of the things that I want it to, but neither in the way I actually want.

Internet Radio

Turning on the radio consists of (1) squeeze to bring up control panel. (2) touch  “Music” button, (3)touch to scroll down to “My Streams”, (4)touch to select my favorite station. (5)touch play. Optionally, if I want to get back to the channel/widget display, I have to (6) touch “done”, (7) touch “done” again, and finally ( 8 ) touch “hide control panel”. 

Yes, that’s 1 “squeeze” and 7 touches to turn on the radio and get back to where I was. Sometimes I want to do this with wet and/or soapy hands. 

Flickr Photos

Flickr has a cool feature where you can get the RSS feed of just about any collection of photographs. You can see the photos your contacts have posted, photos uploaded to a particular group, photos tagged with particular tags, etc. It’s a very cool system. I had assumed that I could just point the chumby at a flickr RSS feed for some of my favorite groups and always get a chance to see new different things. Unfortunately, the Flickr widget doesn’t do this. Instead, I created a simple “Chumby set” in my account, and I’m using the chumby like a simple digital picture frame, looping through the same small set of pictures. It’s cool, but not what I had in mind.

What does this mean to me as a developer?

As someone who both produces and consumes software, this speaks to the difference between a feature and a use case. “Flickr Support” is a feature, while “As an off-camera lighting geek, I want to view new strobist group photos, because I enjoy getting new ideas” is a use case. “Internet Radio Support” is a feature, “as a news junkie, I would like to switch on NPR the moment I enter the kitchen because loading/unloading the dishes is a boring low-stimulation activity” is a use case.

Too often, people are thinking/speaking in terms of features when they should be thinking in terms of use cases. This is not to pick on the good people at Chumby, I think what is more likely is that they were thinking in terms of an entirely different set of use cases than I was. 

To be fair, a lot of things work really well. The chumball game is mesmerizing. The motion sensor works much better than I would have expected. The selection of clock widgets is awesome. My favorite is the death star clock. The sound quality is quite good for such small speakers. Much better than the radio I replaced with it.  I’m still planning  on writing a few chumby widgets of my own, and I plan on getting one to use as a bedside clock-radio. I’m just a little sad that this cute funky toy is so close to what I actually want.

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