s3e08: The Surface Area of Being Consulted 

by danhon

0.0 Station Ident

1:32pm on Monday, 4 April, 2016. We’ve had a fantastic weekend in Portland with summery weather. Seeing Zootopia at a drive-in on Friday night was a treat (a super fun movie, but the Shakira song seemed out of place a little and not quite as good as it could’ve been), an impromptu barbecue at a friend’s place and then, well, the less said of Sunday the better.

I wrote a couple episodes ago that I had submitted COUPLAND to McSweeney’s and am proud to report that I’ve received my first rejection letter! Which is better than receiving no rejection letter at all, right? And they did ask me to consider sending them more stuff. Anyway, if you want to read COUPLAND, it’s actually Parenting Tips from Odin, Son of Bor, King of Asgard and Protector of the Nine Realms[1], mainly because I’d just re-watched Thor recently and who wouldn’t want to get parenting tips from Anthony Hopkins’ Odin?

[1]  Parenting Tips From Odin, son of Bor, King of Asgard and Protector of the Nine Realms — Medium

1.0 The Surface Area of Being Consulted

With absolutely no apologies whatsoever and instead a bit of a stink-eye toward Nest and Revolv[1, 2]

Please see an important message from our founders below.

Door. A Home company.

A letter from Door’s founders.

We’re shutting Door.

Door was a great first step into the connected home. It wasn’t perfect, but it was great at connecting Rooms to each other. We were proud to have worked hard to make something we – and other smart builders and makers – could build on.

It worked.

In 2014, Door was bought by Home and the inspiring Room connecting technology we made became an integral part of the Works in Homes platform. Now Works in Homes is turning into something more secure, more useful and just flat-out better than anything Door ever created or connected.

So: we’re pouring all our energy into Works in Homes and are incredibly excited about what we’re making.

Unfortunately, that means we can’t pay attention to Doors anymore and we have to close them. All of them. As of May 15, 2016, your Doors will no longer work. They’ll be permanently closed. To prepare for this, you may want to gather all of your Belongings and family members together in one Room because after May 15, 2016 any of your Rooms connected by Doors will no longer be accessible.

Thank you for your support and believing in us. We’re sad for the end of Doors, but this isn’t the end of the connected home. This is a new opening.

– Tim & Mike

So there’s a predictable backlash against the predictable, almost-expected shut-down of Yet Another Internet Service, this time Revolv, an Internet of Things start-up that was acquired by Nest (itself acquired by Google) back in 2014. Nest is dealing with all of this consolidation by predictably sunsetting products that its acquisitions had sold and were supporting. There’s a particularly good response on Medium (one of the internet’s two main avenues for people communicating their feelings about Not Being Consulted about a Particular Action That Has Been Taken Or Has Not Been Taken; the other avenue being Twitter) from Arlo Gilbert, That Time Tony Fadell Sold Me a Container of Hummus[3]. The inside-riff that I’m making here about people being consulted and being outraged is one that Paul Ford made a while ago about the web being a customer service medium[4], which I’m pretty sure I’ve linked to here before.

The long and the short of it is that if you agree that the web is a customer service medium, then extending the internet (and by extension, the web) into everyday objects and devices, you’re (the brand, whatever) going to get shat on from a great height if you don’t understand that you’ve just opened yourself up, willingly, to a torrent of customer service and intense community moderation. Internet (it’s still okay to capitalise internet if it’s at the beginning of sentences, right?) connected devices that formerly did mundane things like juice vegetables and fruit and are now connected to things like product support forums and literally require you to pair them to a Bluetooth or Wifi network to work are now premier examples of things to which people are now (whether reasonably or not) entitled to have an Opinion. In the case of internet connected hardware that does things like control your lights and open doors and control your heating and cooling, there’s probably a clearer expectation that there’s a *thing you buy that you can hold* and that it’s pretty much a paperweight (remember? We used to make jokes about useless computers being paperweights? Pretty soon Apple’s obsession with thinness and lightness will make computers being paperweights pretty obsolete) if the *thing you can’t hold but access through a web-browser or app* just suddenly vanishes. It’s not like someone’s going to come round your house and remove all of the light switches in the middle of the night, but one way of looking at things is this: traditional door knobs and light switches and, well, mechanically-driven things, all have this wonderful service-level agreement that guarantees some sort of level of availability due to underlying properties such as materials science and, I don’t know, *physics*. My chairs and tables would cease to work properly if someone just turned of Gravity-as-a-Service, but I’m *reasonably* sure that Gravity is going to be sunsetted anytime soon.

Right?

Anyway. That’s the deal. The surface area of being consulted. It is expanding.

[1] Revolv
[2] Nest is permanently disabling the Revolv smart home hub | The Verge
[3] The time that Tony Fadell sold me a container of hummus. — Medium
[4] The Web Is a Customer Service Medium (Ftrain.com)

2:05pm. I got a bit distracted somewhere. Sorry about that. How’s your day going? Has the week kicked off ok? Send me notes!

Best,

Dan