Topic: Chumby.com sucks. For no good reason.
Let me start by saying I love chumby. This is why I am writing this post. Bunny was my TA at school. I want to say 002, but I am not sure. As a freshman, I rushed his frat and got to meet him there. I've occasionally followed the hacking he's done on his blog over the years. I'm excited to see this new company and--from the bottom of my heart--I want to see it succeed.
I've started two companies on the web-community side that have both been acquired, so I like to think I can provide some insight in this area.
Consumer Electronics is a brutally tough business. The Samsungs and Nokias of the world dominate by producing low-cost products w/ good enough quality. As a small company your only hope is to get government support, get acquired, or be in such a disruptive space that by the time they see you its too late.
Chumby as a product is not "disruptive".
Chumby+Chumby.com, a strong community of developers and hackers IS.
However, I have had my chumby for 1+ years now and I have seen the community angle given lipservice at best but with no serious support.
And its a shame, b/c without a great website where the dev and user community can flourish, you will be run over by a large consumer company who will ship a chumby at lower cost. The community and the userbase creating software is your "moat" against the Samsungs of the world, and you are essentially making it REALLY HARD for those of us that want to be in the community to be part of it.
I know you guys are probably mostly hardware people, but you need to focus on the website part to rapidly develop out your community if you want to survive. Bring in some solid web guys to make that happen, and get out of their way!
Here are some quick things I see that can be improved.
0. support some sort of HTML based widget using webkit or something. 99% of your potential devs know web stuff. very very few know flash. It'll probably increase the number of widgets that get made by quadruple. if there is one thing you can do to get better apps, it is probably this. i even tried to learn flash to write a chumby widget but i don't want to pay adobe, and I had second thoughts about learning another language that was essentially being abandoned by adobe as we speak.
1. single sign on between the forums and chumby.com
seriously guys. just implement facebook login or openID or something. it is just ridiculous that you don't have single sign on. You are essentially telling us you don't want a community. I can't tell what you're using to run chumby.com from looking at the headers, but the URL structure makes me suspect you are using ruby on rails. Here is a nice article that might help: http://punbb.informer.com/forums/topic/ … -on-rails/
2. make the forum headerbar more like the chumby.com headerbar
nothing fancy. just cut and paste that html here. I press that logo and I'm never quite sure if thats going to get me to the forum homepage or the chumby.com homepage. it is inconsistent. for example, the chumbywiki logo goes to the chumbywiki page whereas this one goes to the chumby.com page.
3. in fact, think about just building out a dead simple forum yourself on chumby.com
its not hard, there aren't too many features and it'll let you extend it to further support the community. for example, you could have profile pages for devs or users. we can make friends w/ each other and people can show off their widgets and chumby setups.
4. let people share code. THere is no place where people can upload the code and open it up for folks who want to modify it and upload a slightly tweaked widget. if you do that, maybe even a boneheaded person like me could even contribute!
5. integrating the wiki would be nice too, but forums are definitely a must have.
6. think about doing dev contests to build the coolest apps.
7. think about doing a user contest - best use of da chumby. or best chumby setup.
thats all I have. in general, please invest more in the community and let us help you succeed.