The Wattson is a design object from DIY Kyoto. It provides a visual indication of the current level of electrical usage in your house and how it compares to your average.
There are a bunch of things that I love about the Wattson. I love the design object, it’s beautiful, as you might expect from a cohort of designers from the RCA. But I find the objective of their mission also beautiful. At GeeKyoto DIYKyoto’s Greta Corke talked about creating awareness without preaching. She said they wanted to help people understand how their electricity usage affects climate change but without judging them. She cited a number of really positive customer stories. My favourite was the little boy who slept with the family Wattson in an attempt to stay up for it turning blue during Earth Hour.
However, there is something that’s been bugging me about the Wattson as well. I hate that the data is so closely coupled to the rendering. The Wattson is essentially two parts. A part that clips onto your mains and transmits data and a part that turns that data into something meaningful. I was unimpressed when Greta answered a question about the feasibility of building on Open Source Wattson with a complete dismissal. I understand that they have put a lot of work in, but I think the Wattson as a design object would stand alone. I think it’s more interesting to decouple the part that transmits the data so that systems could be written around it.
AMEE, for example, generated a lot of discussion. An open standards for transmitting data about electrical usage could allow data to be fed into AMEE. Also if Wattson was more open it would be interesting to see what other measurements could be fed in. For example a wireless multimeter in the form of a plug socket would be awesome. Rather than having a much more horribly sterile looking thing the ability to transmit data to the Wattson, as a design object, would rock.
I guess I’m going to look for a cheap way to beam my electrical data from both mains and plug sockets to a computer and then have some kind of generic ambient data device (homebrew ambient orbs anyone) rather than buy a very specific kind of propriety, if pretty, device.
This week I’m going to two Green events, a networking party run by AMEE and GeeKyoto. Given that I am such a treehugging (carbon neutral), duck-squeezing (vegan), person I’ve been wondering what it is that makes some geeks care so much about green.
My simple conclusion is that geeks feel like they are empowered to make a difference. Hacker culture is pretty strong right now, where if something on your computer isn’t the way you want it, you fix it. Or, you can at least find someone else who did. The same is true of green, the long standing “justification” about why not to be green is that one person won’t make a difference. The debate here is not why economic theory doesn’t fit well into the human psyche, but rather that geeks don’t feel that way.
I’m proud to be a geek, I’m proud to be part of a sub-culture, a growing generation of hackers that change what they don’t like, I’m proud that one of the things I’m changing is how we learn to look after our planet.
So Rosemarie and I have finally switched over to green power. Yay! The companies we are using are Good Energy for the Electricity and Utilita for gas.
I like Good Energy especially, they don’t supply gas, everything they do is 100% renewable. It was surprisingly cheap and should save us a little bit from British Gas. One of the the things Good Energy impressed me with was their work with micro-generation. They will actually pay you to generate your own power even if you don’t sell it back to the grid, which I assume is them making a government offsetting scheme available to the little guys.
Utilia are also good, for us it’s because they are offsetting our Gas usage. However, although they do use fossil fuels in part, they have a much better balance than most energy companies. They are investing in more green power than the government requires. They advocate energy saving quite well with schemes to award you free energy saving items such as loft insulation and light bulbs.
A cute little site called The Nag helped me switch with some great advice on which green tariffs really weren’t green. Some of the bug players in the market simply charge you more to switch to a green tariff getting energy from renewable sources. This is even though the government requires them to provide a percentage of their energy from renewable sources.
We went shopping in a Primark today, not an experience I’ve had before. It was packed. At least that’s what I thought. I overheard two of the shop assistants talking, apparently said the more experienced of the two, this was a quiet day. It’s kinda unsuprising after the Primark Riot.
While Rosemarie and I rarely splurge on clothes, I would say the select was pretty decent and the prices are very low. I guess that’s where the problem lies. To me I enjoy a cost saving while getting some new clothes because my others have worn out. It seems like many people see the reduction in price as a reason to buy more. While I understand the consumer culture somewhat, being the typical geeky gadget whore, I can’t say I like it. Especially when basics like clothes become almost disposable.
I wonder at the culture that a store like Primark brings and it makes me think of why I became vegan. I don’t object to the consumption of meat. What I object to is the culture which insists on the over-consumption of meat so strongly that it is necessary to have factory farms. These places where living, feeling creatures are treated with the indifference of commodity to be handled to maximise yield. Gone are notions of quality and ethics, only the ability to produce the most (marginally) acceptable goods at the lowest price matters.
While I don’t expect everyone to become a Vegan, think about shops like Primark and ask yourselves if you want to create a dirty disposable world with poorly paid labourers. I don’t, and I’m not sure how much longer I will shop at Primark.
They used traditional methods with some modern materials to create a stunning space. The building is ecologically sound and fits into the environment. While I can’t have anything like this living in London, it’s definitely something to think about the future.