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The Little House that Tweets.
March 10, 2014 9:40 AM   Subscribe

In San Francisco, a homeowner gave his house a Twitter account that posts an update when there is unanticipated movement on the first floor, and welcomes him home.

Mefi Own's Tom Coates (aka barbelith) is the guy who gave his humble house its own nearly independent online identity. Here Tom answers questions about how it works. And of course, even back home in his native UK, people are talking about his house.

Of course, you can follow House of Coates at its own twitter feed here. His house even has its own eerie counterpart, Haunted Coates House.

And yes, Tom Coates is the beloved creator of the late, lamented internet forum, Barbelith.
posted by Kitteh (47 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like this idea. It might inspire me to give my bowels their own Twitter account.
posted by perhapses at 9:44 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


Ok, I will have to give credit to the NYT headlines writer for this one: "Home Tweet Home."
posted by mikeand1 at 9:45 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]


"Home again, home again, jiggety-jig! Gooooooood evening, J.F.!"
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:47 AM on March 10 [19 favorites]


I've followed Tom's project for a while, and really like the "human" result of it. It's pretty simple, just a bunch of wifi-connected plugs that hit the If This Then That service and tweet out canned responses, but the overall result is better than anything in the home automation space by a country mile.

I've been playing with x10/wifi/etc home automation gadgets for the past 15 years, and they're remarkably clunky. After reading about Tom's setup, I decided to try out a few of the products he uses and although most of them are still hard to use, the Belkin WeMo devices are pretty nice and easy to setup. Once I got them working and talking to various APIs, I could see how he set it all up and it's very clever.

I wish some company making these products hired a designer like him to help them out, you would not believe how difficult most of these devices are to configure and get running, and then to figure out how to make them enhance your life without requiring any further input. Mostly these things are fiddly, add a difficult technology layer to things as simple as turning the lights on and end up being more of a burden than a help.
posted by mathowie at 9:48 AM on March 10 [10 favorites]


Man, I miss Barbelith.
posted by enn at 9:52 AM on March 10 [7 favorites]


When friends who are staying with Mr. Coates return home unexpectedly, he receives a tweet from the house: “@tomcoates, is that you?” Mr. Coates then logs into an app on his smartphone that shows him a live video feed of the apartment. When he sees houseguests, he tells them, through the device’s speaker, to help themselves to anything in the fridge.

Why does this give me an urge to be his houseguest and then put on some black clothing, play some Henry Mancini music and try to figure out how to get around the house without the appliances noticing me. The end-goal is to get the house to tweet the lyrics of "Daisy Bell."
posted by vacapinta at 9:56 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


I keep thinking I should wire a webcam and doorbell up so that I get a tweet with the picture of the person ringing my doorbell.
posted by ODiV at 10:00 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


I just want wifi in my bedroom. The failure of low expectations.
posted by shothotbot at 10:07 AM on March 10 [10 favorites]


I miss Barbelith too. But I do always love seeing what Tom gets up to these days.
posted by Kitteh at 10:07 AM on March 10


I should wire a webcam and doorbell up so that I get a tweet with the picture of the person ringing my doorbell

Doorbot could possibly do this already.
posted by mathowie at 10:13 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


"Today is August 4, 2026," said a second voice from the kitchen ceiling, "in the city of Allendale, California." It repeated the date three times for memory's sake. "Today is Mr. Featherstone's birthday. Today is the anniversary of Tilita's marriage. Insurance is payable, as are the water, gas, and light bills."
posted by Chrysostom at 10:18 AM on March 10 [16 favorites]


I like this idea. It might inspire me to give my bowels their own Twitter account.

If you're familiar with JerkCity, Deuce has been doing this since 2007. Although the level of automation is.....questionable.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:20 AM on March 10


I must have hooked mine up backwards, because now whenever I post a tweet there's an unanticipated movement in my house. It's getting kind of creepy, to be honest.
posted by oulipian at 10:21 AM on March 10 [12 favorites]


If it's unanticipated every time you post a tweet then I think it might be user error, oulipian.

Doorbot could possibly do this already.

Yeah, but $200! I could do it myself for... probably three weekends and an as of yet unknown amount of money to make something way less elegant.

damn
posted by ODiV at 10:25 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


The spambot wasteland that Barbelith's turned into makes me so sad... I understand why Barbelith broke (a somewhat unusual moderation structure without enough mods to actually get anything done toward the end), but I just can't fathom why Tom hasn't taken the site offline, or at least closed it to new comments.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:28 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


"Looks like someone broke into @tomcoates' Sitting Room."
posted by dhammond at 10:33 AM on March 10


It's kind of like what happened to Lord Fortnum of Alamein.
posted by perhapses at 10:44 AM on March 10


Aw, Doorbot's operating temperature is 5-122°F.

Why do you hate Canada, Doorbot?
posted by ODiV at 10:46 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


It might inspire me to give my bowels their own Twitter account.

There is more than one meaning for that word.....
posted by HuronBob at 10:48 AM on March 10


I'm waiting for @house_ebooks
posted by Rock Steady at 10:55 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


There is more than one meaning for that word.

A trait it shares with the word house, and both can be evacuated.
posted by perhapses at 11:02 AM on March 10


Just in case Tom never heard it, they were talking about this on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning.

It was in the last 20 minutes of the three hour show.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:06 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


I like his furniture.
posted by mullacc at 11:15 AM on March 10


Why do you hate Canada, Doorbot?

It's probably limited by the operating temperature of the batteries. If you hacked it into a wired power supply I suspect it would work fine even if it got colder than that. And the batteries might still work even if it's below 5F, the lifespan might just be really crappy.

Also, unless your house is spectacularly well-insulated (and maybe Canadian houses are by US standards), even if the ambient temperature is well below 0F the surface temperature of an object fixed onto your door might still be in the single digits, since there's going to be heat transmitted from inside through the door.

Or, you could drill a hole and just move the batteries to the inside of the door, that would keep them warmer and probably do the job.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:15 AM on March 10


Thanks for all the nice words! I just listened to the Today programme piece this morning. Loved John Humphries essentially going "WTF I DON'T BELIEVE IT"...
posted by barbelith at 12:31 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]


@tomcoates I've just picked up a fault in the AE35 unit. It's going to go 100% failure in 72 hours.
posted by quarsan at 12:37 PM on March 10 [7 favorites]


More than just giving him peace of mind, Mr. Coates said, having a tweeting house has fundamentally altered the way he conceives of his home. “This may seem really weird,” he said, “but I feel like it’s deepened my emotional relationship with my house.”


No that's not weird at all.

Run ladies!!!!!!! Runnnnnnnnnn!!

posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:50 PM on March 10


"I can't touch you, Susan. I can't touch you as a man could. But I can show you things that I alone have seen. I can't touch, but I can see. They've constructed eyes for me, to watch the show. And ears, so that I can listen in to the galactic dialogue."
posted by Poldo at 12:58 PM on March 10


I think you're barking up the wrong tree, there, St. Peepsburg
posted by mikeh at 1:38 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


...and the tweets were coming FROM THE HOUSE!
posted by gottabefunky at 1:38 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


Does the house tweet in a Pierce Brosnan accent?
posted by dry white toast at 1:53 PM on March 10


Forget Pierce Brosnan, I want Paul Bettany.
posted by Samizdata at 2:18 PM on March 10


With a snarky vocab addon.
posted by Samizdata at 2:19 PM on March 10


I was hearing Stephen Fry as Jeeves: "Just so you know sir, the Bedroom Light is now on"
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 3:05 PM on March 10


It's people like this who will become the first round of soldier-slaves when AI becomes self aware.
posted by perhapses at 3:35 PM on March 10


People like what? Like me? Nah. I'm making friends with the computers *before* they take over. It's the rest of you that'll be screwed...
posted by barbelith at 3:40 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


Basically I just want to visit so I can have a house tweet that I am welcome to whatever is in the fridge then reprimand me by saying, "I meant you can have a soda or some water. The beer is not for guests."
posted by Kitteh at 3:53 PM on March 10


I'm making friends with the computers

Looks like the front line may already be here.
posted by perhapses at 4:20 PM on March 10


#someonestoleyourstereo #isaywegogetthatmofo
posted by Chuffy at 4:31 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


I remember an old BYTE (or was it SoftTalk?) article about a guy who hooked up a speech synth to announce when his cat was pooping. I thought it lame at the time. But I knew deep down inside I would one day be that guy.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:12 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


If he ever gets sick of it, he can just turn on Lithium Mode.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:23 PM on March 10


On Almost Human, Smart House control is the gun control of the future
posted by homunculus at 12:33 AM on March 11


I like this idea. It might inspire me to give my bowels their own Twitter account.

Perhapses, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Good-bye.
posted by Pudhoho at 12:44 AM on March 11


I've been slowly working on building a thing that will send a tweet and/or SMS me when my doorbell rings. I like the idea of knowing when delivery folks try to make a delivery attempt. I'll probably also link up a temp/humidity sensor and track conditions (and probably use it to adjust my programmable thermostat (not a nest, just a plain old "at this hour, change the temp setting to this" sort)).

I'm not expecting it to change my relationship with my house, though.

I mean, I put a wifi camera in my basement, and that hasn't changed things. Except now when it's raining and I haven't heard the sump pump in a while, I don't have to go outside to go into the basement to check whether part of the basement is under water. (I live in a 2 family house where I can't get from my apartment to the basement without going outside.)
posted by rmd1023 at 10:40 AM on March 11


Our BabyCam sends notifications to our iOS devices, and it's primarily false-positives. I'm not sure I would want to know when ghosts enter my house.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:09 AM on March 11


Our BabyCam sends notifications to our iOS devices, and it's primarily false-positives.

Well babies don't just happen.
posted by ODiV at 11:32 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


trying to remember a story i read in 8th graed about a robot house
posted by pins, needles at 3:19 AM. 0 answers
posted by radwolf76 at 3:00 AM on March 12


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