Here at Quartz, our newsroom will be driven by a set of core obsessions. (Kevin talked about this strategy in a recent interview, and we’ll have plenty more to say about it as we approach our launch.) One of my obsessions is the Internet of Things, which refers to physical objects that can collect data and communicate, like plants that tweet when they’re thirsty or trash cans that report the news.
To slake my obsession and distract myself from work, I recently set up a lightbulb in our office that toggles on and off when someone mentions @quartznews on Twitter, among other rules. Now, when you interact with us, our newsroom is literally brightened.
The setup is fairly simple, thanks to some new products that help anyone with a nerdy curiosity play around with the Internet of Things. The lightbulb, pictured above, is plugged into a Belkin WeMo Switch, which was released last month. It connects to the Internet over WiFi, and an accompanying iPhone app lets you turn on and off any device plugged into the WeMo. (I use one at home to flip on my AC before getting home.)
In addition to manual control with your phone, it’s also possible to give the switch a bit of a Web-connected brain. Belkin has partnered with ifttt, a Web service that stands for “if this, then that.” That allowed us to set some rules for our little lightbulb: if something happens, then flip the switch. Here’s what we came up with:
Facebook’s share price dipped below $20 on Thursday and Friday last week. And China has won 77 medals so far at the Olympics. (The latter data comes from an API built by ESPN, which is nice because we’re pro-collaboration here at Quartz.) But the most interesting and meaningful, if not exactly practical, trigger is the one that lights up our newsroom when @quartznews is mentioned on Twitter. It’s a nice manifestation of our relationship with Quartz users, without whom we’ll be in the dark.
Of course, there are plenty of other lights in our newsroom, we actually use TweetDeck to keep tabs of mentions, and having multiple triggers means it’s sometimes unclear whether Facebook is tanking or we’re blowing up on Twitter. We should probably pare it down to a single rule. But for now, we’re just playing around. When devices and sensors are hooked up to the Web, the possibilities unfurl in lots of directions.
The lightbulb awaits your tweets…
If something they post goes viral, they’re going to be in trouble.