Ambient Social Invitation

 
 

The Philosophy

As anyone whose tried it before knows, making friends can be hard. 

Part of what makes it hard is the traditional way we go about inviting people to spend time together. Generally, you have two types of friends: 

1. Good friends who you feel comfortable inviting over without any plans or agenda.

2. Casual friends who you only feel comfortable inviting to specific activities. 

Bridging the gap between these groups is tricky. Lots of relationship building opportunities are missed because a direct invitation inherently applies a high level of social pressure to both the receiver and the issuer. The receiver feels obligated to respond to at least 50% of all invitations and the issuer feels obligated to make it worth their time. 

This is where the ambient social invitation comes to the rescue. What if there was a way for casual friends to know your home is open without needing to directly accept or deny an invitation? What if you could invite your casual friends without feeling the need to have a specific event. 

That’s what I set out to build this weekend. An ambient social invitation mechanism that makes it easy for causal friends to know when they are welcome and easy for me to invite them without worrying about expectations or making them turn down an invitation. 

The Activity  

The perfect activity to match the informality of an ambient invitation is a good cup of coffee (unless your friends are Mormons). Preparation of good coffee not only takes a while but is quite fun and educational for those who don’t know much about it. Coffee also comes in a huge amount of varieties so it doesn’t get old. 

For me, it was settled that when I’m making coffee, I want my friends to know they have an open invite to come over. But I also don’t want to manually send an invite every time. What to do? Read on… 

The Tool

To actually implement the ambient social invitation I used a combo of Twine with a magnetic sensor and Twitter. For those of you who don’t know Twine is a wifi enabled device that can be used to monitor a variety of variables (temperature, movement, etc). You can then setup If / then statements to trigger certain actions upon parameters. For example, “Send a tweet when the temperature reaches 80”. 

I specifically used the magnetic switch breakout which can be used for a bunch of purposes but works well for monitoring when doors open or close. 

My kettle currently resides in a cupboard that isn’t opened except to remove and return the kettle. So I decided to use this as my point of invitation. 

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I applied the magnetic to the hinge of the cupboard 

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And I used some putty to place the sensor inside the cupboard close enough to sense the magnetic when closed. 

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It ended up looking like this 

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I then setup the twitter account, MadCats Coffee (a play on words with one of my favorite shops, MadCap Coffee). 

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And a basic message when the door opens and closes, signify the invitation. 

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Now I just tell my friends to follow the account and come over whenever a tweet has been sent! I also plan to setup email notifications for those less tech oriented. Follow the account here.  

Conclusion 

Hopefully this will be a fun way to create more opportunities for old and new friends to spend time together. 

I’ll try to update in a few weeks with how it’s going or you could just follow the twitter account!