Topic: Why my Chumby is gathering dust
There's an awful lot about Chumby that I like, and I'm impressed with the effort that's gone into getting it this far along. I feel kinda bad providing negative feedback, but I signed on as an early adopter in the hopes that I could help the Chumbians make Chumby more successful (and, frankly, more to my liking), so I feel it's my duty to be honest. Please know that the following is said with respect.
I was very excited about Chumby when I first read about it on the Make blog. I have mad respect for Bunnie and his involvement particularly caught my interest. When I was able to sign up to buy Chumby, I was even more excited. When I put my order in, I was thrilled. And when my Chumby arrived, I was downright stoked. Seldom has a project so struck my fancy - cute, able, totally open hardware... right up my alley.
On the first day I had Chumby working, I turned it off when I went to bed. This wasn't something I had planned on ever doing - the always-on nature of it is something that appealed to me from the very beginning. But I found that in "night mode" the Chumby produced too much light to be in my bedroom - I like it dark. Off it went.
For the next couple of days, I read a good portion of these forums. I made a few suggestions as to how Chumby might be improved in my eyes. I created channels for my Chumby. I became Chums with one of my friends, who had also bought a Chumby after I showed him the website. I installed a user-created script to allow me to control Shoutcast streaming on my Chumby from my web browser.
And then I lost interest. At this point, I haven't turned my Chumby on for a week or more. I think the main reason why is that the Chumby doesn't feel like it's mine.
I have shares on my network containing music, movies and images. This is the media that's most personal and of the most interest to me. Chumby is on my network, yet there isn't any way I know of - and certainly no obvious or easy way - to integrate that media with my Chumby Experience. Chumby seems uninterested in *my* interests.
Chumby makes no effort to acknowledge my lifestyle and habits. I don't expect it to figure this stuff out - while I know it's feasible to implement "learning" algorithms that would make Chumby adapt to how I use it, I don't perceive that as desirable. I'd actually be happier being able to explicitly set rules for Chumby rather than discover that Chumby has "learned" something erroneously. I'd like to tell Chumby, here's when you're allowed to use your backlight. Here's when you're allowed to make sound. Here's when I care about the weather or the news and here's when I just want to be entertained. I suggested a way to accomplish this here ( http://forum.chumby.com/viewtopic.php?id=646&p=2 ) but received no acknowledgment from anyone in any official capacity. Maybe this is in development; maybe it will never be implemented. I don't know - I got no response.
And Chumby is interested in selling me stuff. The fact that this has been brought up so many times and in so many ways in these forums is significant. Yeah, some people knew this ahead of time, and others are okay with it having learned after the fact. Browsing the forums, I get the impression that at least twice as many people are unhappy with the idea than are down with it, and many, like me, made the purchase unaware. My bad, sure, but it makes for a less than happy customer. When I see stuff on Chumby that I didn't personally choose, Chumby feels like an unwelcome visitor in my home who insists on talking about stuff I care nothing about. I buy what I want, what I see value in. Advertisements make me *less* likely to buy something. If I want it or need it, I'll seek it out. And I do - I'm a good little consumer. I fritter away all of my disposable income, mostly on stuff I don't need (like Chumby).
It seems to me that Chumby is being positioned as a little digital friend. It's cute, it's small, it's charming, it's hip, etc. It's kind of similar to the virtual pets in that sense. I have friends who have real pets with bad habits - they shrug and love them anyway. I'm not that way - I won't have a pet that howls or makes messes. That's kind of how I feel about Chumby right now; it doesn't really do what I want it to, and it has its own agenda. So it sits sadly on my desk, bereft of power, gathering dust.
Some folks are talking about making an alternative Chumby firmware. Maybe I'll go that route, or roll my own. I don't really have time, though, and I don't really want to. I like the idea of supporting the Chumby team. For now, it'll continue to sit around until I see what direction the official firmware takes.
I hope Chumby and I can be friends some day.