One of the underrated pleasures of this modern world is developing more intimate relationships with one’s appliances and household objects–via Twitter.
Innovators have already connected rice cookers, toasters, house plants, and even a toilet to Twitter so that people can get crucial updates on these objects’ status. For example, MyToaster updates its twitter feed with messages like “toasting” and “toasted” so the toaster owner knows when to go pop that bread out.
The latest product to join the list of socially networked appliances is the Twettle–the tea kettle that tweets when the water is boiling and the time is right for steeping tea bags.
Developed by Ben Perman and Murat Multu, the Twettle comes in bright, happy colors; the British designers hope the product will eventually take off in the United Kingdom, where tea is a cornerstone of culture and life.
Wondering which Hollywood movie will be this weekend’s smash hit? Head straight to Twitter, as a new study (pdf) suggests the microblogging service offers the most accurate predictions of a movie’s success.
In a new paper about Twitter’s success at gauging a film’s fortunes, Sitaram Asur and Bernando Huberman from HP devised a simple model that tracks people’s tweets about a certain movie (for their study, they collected almost 3 million tweets). The researchers found that compared to the industry’s gold standard for movie success prediction, the Hollywood Stock Exchange, tweets were far more accurate in predicting how much money a movie would make.
The researchers’ system tracks the rate and frequency of movie mentions, and also categorizes the tweet reviews as either positive or negative. The Twitter findings reflect marketing realities, the researchers note: While movie studios can push people to the theaters with hype and pre-release marketing, it’s usually positive reviews and word-of-mouth that sustains people’s interest after a movie has been released.
Anyone who uses Facebook or Twitter is probably familiar with Bit.ly or TinyURL.com–Web services that shortens lengthy Web addresses to fit within limited character counts. These truncated URLs don’t make it clear what page the link redirects to, but most people have gotten used to that fact; users happily click a shortened URL without worrying that it might actually send you to a site that starts a computer virus download.
Now, a new website called ShadyURL.com is generating a few laughs for its service that claims to “make your Twitter followers a little more uneasy.” The web service shortens web addresses into “suspicious and frightening” links that would anyone think hard before clicking on.
Facebook.com became http://5z8.info/56-DEPLOY-TROJAN-287.mw9—-_i6f3e__init_download
Twitter.com turned into http://5z8.info/trojan_j7r7z_inject_worm
When we typed in DiscoverMagazine.com, here’s what we got:
Rest assured, these URLs don’t actually send you to sites where trojan horses will be deployed, worms will be injected, and webcams will start recording. Then again, we wonder how long it will be before someone puts an actual virus in a ShadyURL that looks obviously shady but that people will assume is a safe URL cloaked in false shadiness.
Damn your logical puzzles, Internet.
Discoblog: Astronauts in Space Finally Enter the Intertubes
Discoblog: New Device Aims to Read Your Dog’s Mind—and Broadcast It on Twitter
There was a time when having a pooch brought simple chores like taking the dog on regular walks, brushing its coat, and occasionally throwing a stick or prying a slipper loose from its clenched jaws. But these days, having a dog can bring strange new responsibilities–like signing the pup up to Twitter.
A new product by toy giant Mattel called “Puppy Tweets” lets the whole universe get a peek into your dog’s daily activities. The colorful little device hangs from your dog’s collar, and when it detects movement or barking it sends a message via wi-fi to your computer. The messages are translated into pre-programmed tweets and get broadcast directly via Twitter. Your pet’s twitter followers can stay up to date with the latest as he wakes, poops, and woofs.
It’s official. Even people in space are tweeting. NASA announced today that astronaut T.J. Creamer on the International Space Station has become the first person to tweet directly from space, making use of a brand new direct Internet connection. Creamer tweeted: “Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station — the 1st live tweet from Space! More soon, send your ?s”
Yay. Space tweets. Sweet.
In the past, astronauts could use email and twitter–but they had to relay their messages to ground control in Houston, who then sent them on. But now, thanks to the new system of personal Web access, called the Crew Support LAN, astronauts can take advantage of existing communication links to and from the station and browse the Web directly.
Consider this post to be your daily reminder to check your social network privacy settings–too much transparency could cost you your insurance benefits, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:
Nathalie Blanchard, a Granby resident, says she’s suffering from severe depression that has made it impossible for her to work full-time for the past 18-months.
She says her sick leave payments were cut after insurance giant Manulife obtained profile pictures on Facebook showing her at bars, whooping it up during her birthday and on a beach holiday.
Blanchard, who lives in Quebec province, said her doctor told her to go have some fun, but apparently her insurer thought she was having too much to be depressed. According to another CBC article, the moments of revelry didn’t cure her condition:
“In the moment I’m happy, but before and after I have the same problems” as before, she said.
She’s taking them to court, in what should be an interesting case to test social media’s reach into the real world. The case suggests a host of other difficult questions: Can insurance companies raise your premiums if they see a picture of you smoking a cigarette on the internet? Will the court decide you can make a medical diagnosis from a Facebook picture? What about a weekend’s worth of happy tweets?
Another take home lesson, kids, is that should you make headlines, for whatever dubious reason, your Facebook pics will also be on the news. However in this case, Blanchard offered up her photos to get her story to the media. ABC News has a short video interview with Blanchard on their site.
Discoblog: Desperate For Facebook Friends? Buy Some!
Discoblog: Computer Program Can “Out” Gay Facebook Users
Reality Base: Charged With a Crime? Better Check Your Facebook Pictures
While some companies are hiring people to promote the company brand on Twitter, others frown on their employees’ personal use of social networking during work hours. And now, it’s being reported that people waste so much time Tweeting/Facebooking/etc. that it costs British companies $2.2 billion a year, according to a survey put out by Morse. The results are based on 1,460 people surveyed, who on average used Twitter or Facebook for 40 minutes during the business week.
But is time spent on Facebook and Twitter really wasted time? As TechCrunch points out, there is a “difference between being productive and ‘not wasting time':
I’d like to see more research in this field, but more focused on office workers who spend the majority of their day staring out the windows, yapping about last night’s television highlights with coworkers in the coffee and/or smoking room, attending meetings where no decision or progress gets made, or simply working on stuff that’s not particularly considered to be productive for their employer, the British economy as a whole, or the rest of planet Earth.
As a protective measure, some companies have banned the use of social networks by having the IT guy block access to the sites. The Washington Post put out guidelines on what to Tweet and what not to Tweet. Perhaps these tips could have prevented ABC employees from tweeting that Obama called Kanye a “jackass” during an off-the-record interview. Needless to say, basic Twitter etiquette will continue to evolve: In the meantime, don’t say anything that will get you fired.
And if you happen to be on Twitter, follow us — @discovermag.
DISCOVER: 3 Great Uses of Twitter, According to Cofounder Jack Dorsey
Discoblog: Want a Job at Best Buy? Better Have 250 Twitter Followers
Image: flickr/ Mykl Roventine
• ZOMG! U.K. court tweets its ruling against a Twitter impostor.
• Nerds rejoice as “time-telescope” is unveiled, possibly changing the way data is shared on the interwebs.
• Want some light? Cut your finger: New vampire lamp runs on human blood.
• Big brother satellites can spot illegal toxic waste from space.
• Kids that pig out on candy are more likely to be violent adults, says a new correlative study that has enraged sweet tooths everywhere.
• It’s arachna-Bowie! A rare, hairy, and yellow spider has been named after the master of Ziggy Stardust himself. It’s new title: Heteropoda davidbowie.
• Today’s flabbergast: If Fruit Loops are a healthy food, our derriere is a color television set.
• Swimmers of Amity Island, beware—great white sharks have been tagged up in New England (hear that, Robert Shaw?).
• It was only a matter of time: Porn hits Twitter.
• Meanwhile, Boulder, CO is being taken over by ladybugs.
Have you seen Wired writer Evan Ratliff in the past few weeks? We’re guessing the answer is no—otherwise, we assume you would’ve claimed your $5,000 prize.
That’s because Ratliff is doing his best to keep his whereabouts unknown (even to friends and family) until Sept. 15. The goal of the stunt is to demonstrate how easy it can be to disappear under the radar, even in the digital age. ABC News reports:
[Ratliff] must stay hidden for one month with a bounty over his head.
But to keep things interesting, Ratliff can’t go entirely off the grid. Like any digital denizen, he has to keep up with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and make at least the occasional cell phone call or credit card transaction.
By posting those digital breadcrumbs to the contest’s online page, Wired hopes sleuths both high-tech and low will be enticed to join the hunt. Already, hundreds — maybe thousands — have taken the bait, populating Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and comment threads with tips and teasers about his whereabouts.
Ratliff apparently got the idea while writing about Matthew Alan Sheppard, who disappeared in an attempt to escape financial ruin. Wired‘s plot seems a little gimmicky, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t curious about where he is—and who (if anyone) will be able to track him down before time runs out.
Discoblog: My Water Broke! Time to Twitter!
Discoblog: Want a Job at Best Buy? Better Have 250 Twitter Followers
Discoblog: Twitter Used to Test Our “Psychic Abilities”
Image: flickr / Si1Very