Chumby’s successful developer approach

Chumby

Chumby is the super-cute night table device that could be our gateway to finally having the all-time most useful interface known to man — the console on the refrigerator that allows us to scan our food going in and prompts us (as well as automatically places a food order) whenever we’re running out of milk.

OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but I do see a lot of future uses with the Chumby technology as it evolves from simple LCD-touchscreen-on-beanbag state to a more flexible and wider-implemented hardware form. The Chumby and I first encountered each other at a Yahoo! internal hack day, and 2 years later, I still find myself wondering when I’ll put forth the $180 and get one for myself. Hopefully that day is coming soon…

I recently took a closer look at Chumby’s developer program, the heart and soul of their community turned Widget factory. See, to date, Chumby’s real value is not in the hardware, but rather the plethora of widgets that proud Chumby owners can install. To fuel this creation of content, Chumby engages would-be developers with a simple call to action: “Are you a Flash animator? We like to think of a chumby as a Flash showcase and encourage Flash artists to spread their talents through our network.”

Given the necessary (but certainly not limiting skillset) needed to code a Chumby app, I’m not sure many would-be Chumby developers ever consider themselves ‘Flash animators’ or ‘Flash artists’. What the call to action does is create the perception that building a Chumby app requires a low barrier of entry, which I like. I also like the fact that the Chumby team lists out some ideas to get you started. Best of all, they provide a virtual Chumby interface for testing your widget. The only thing missing here is that you won’t be able to test Chumby’s accelerometer feature!

Chumby’s widget gallery serves up over 700 widgets to users. There is no immediate incentive to build a Chumby widget, other than to share your work in a gallery. If mass adoption and innovation are enough for developers to spend cycles coding, Chumby seems to know how to tap it.

Articles for getting started:
Adobe Developer Center article, by Phillip Kerman

CS3 Device Profile, by Scott Janousek

Chumby Wiki

Chumby Develop Template

And finally, this is super cool: Chumby Sensor API