We live in an auditory landscape populated by dings, blips and jangling -- constant reminders of the probably-dire messages you're missing on your phone or computer. If you're like me, your stomach drops a little bit each time you hear those familiar bleeps. That's why Blink1, a notification device that gives you a visual cue instead, is so great.
This little USB dongle was originally funded in a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign last year. Designed by ubiquitous computing company ThingM, it's really a very simple piece of hardware: just a USB connector, an LED and a USB controller. What's really neat is the firmware that ThingM has designed for the little guy -- using IFTTT, you can program virtually any notification imaginable.
There are obvious uses: Let me know when I get an email! Or when someone tweets at me. Or when someone mentions me in group chat. But the more niche uses are way more fun, as ThingM points out: You could use hundreds of Blink1s to watch of the status of each machine in your server farm. Or as an indicator to let your coworkers know you don't want to be bothered while you work. Or as a status indicator for the weather. Or your favourite sports team. And if you'd like to set up different notifications for each, you can control everything from the colour of the light, to the pattern in which it flickers, to the actual brightness:
We tend to think we want to see every single notification and event as they happen: We want our watches to buzz when we get an email, and we want our phones to ding any time anyone in the world mentions our names. But in practice all those notifications get loud -- and stressful -- when you're trying to focus on a single task.
Products like Blink1 are like gatekeepers, occupying the zone between "tell me everything" and "tell me nothing". You can pick one up for $US30, with discounts for bulk buys. [Blink1]