Chumby, My Chumby?
July 16, 2007, 6:01 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

On a whim today, I filled out an application to make history as one of the “first 50” people to receive a chumby, and for free at that. I am not one who normally succumbs to knee-jerk technolust, but something about this particular gadget just twiddles my knobs and makes my antennae stand up. The iPhone is sexy and all, but I can’t get too excited about it right now because I already have both a phone and an iPod, albeit a sadly outdated one. If need be, I will gladly pay for the privilege of being able to tell people I’ve got woot on my chumby and enjoying their befuddlement. Having the actual thing would just be the icing on the cake.

I first heard about chumby on Boing Boing and have been following its development with bated breath (chumby is due for release sometime in summer of 2007). At this writing I have never owned a laptop, and I opted not to activate the wi-fi service on my Blackberry Pearl because the large cost was not justified by the small screen. The iPhone is too expensive by far and does things that I don’t really need done for me at the moment, and my spouse’s Nokia 770 Tablet lacks the appealing web interface and cuteness factor that make chumby so appealing. And speaking of the little devil, here it is:chumby

Apart from its squishability factor, what distinguishes chumby from other web gadgets is its unique web interface that allows users to develop their own channels using widgets. The widgets range from known entities such as YouTube and myspace to user-generated games and visuals. The selections are limited right now because chumby is still in development, but I’m sure the options will increase exponentially as the product continues to approach its realease date and generates more buzz. In what I think must be one of the most brilliant marketing strategies I’ve ever encountered, chumby’s web site enables users to sign up for an account and develop a virtual chumby with customized widgets, all ready to plug in and zap into your real chumby just as soon as you can get your hot little hands on one.

In a move that is sure to generate oodles of customer goodwill, chumby is completely hackable and customizeable. In a current business climate that treats modification and appropriation like theft, it speaks well for the chumby people that they understand how much they have to gain from respecting their user base as a valuable product development resource and testing ground rather than as passive slaves to an object they are allowed to interact with only according to prescription.

Right now I am just beginning to consider what chumby library widgets might look like. I can see users searching library catalogs at home, saving the results onto their chumby, and then taking the device to the library to help speed up searches. Furthermore, as more libraries incorporate 2.0 services it will make sense for each patron to have an online account with a customizeable home page that enables them to be informed of library programs and/or share information about items they have checked out, make and receive recommendations, and perhaps share a few web links. Since there always seems to be a wait for library computers to access the internet but more and more libraries are offering wi-fi, bringing chumby to the library is one way to get your name off the waiting list and get you online.

I highly recommend visiting the chumby web site, which has photos of customized chumbies and such, along with a wiki and weblog.  You’ll be tempted to set up your own channel like I did today, and I will be posting it here just as soon as I can figure out how the hell to do it.  And if you happen to have some clue what the hell chumbooty loot is, take a moment to relieve my burning curiosity.

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