This week I was lucky enough to be away in Amsterdam for a few days.  Speaking at Picnic and then a weekend lay over.  My oldest son is now 8, and as well as missing his dad when I am away he is far more aware of where I am, always asking what I’m up to when I call/skype him.

This year I have been to Bangkok, Amsterdam, Paris, Eindhoven, and a tonne of places in London.  He doesn’t care which cafe I am hiding in, or what is the name of the conference is but he does like to know roughly where I am.

I have never really fallen off the foursquare wagon, and I was thinking about giving him access to bits, but he looked at and said “it wasn’t his cup of tea”. 

I stream my check ins to a twitter account (Inspired by Phil Gyford and Russell Davies’ life stream to somewhere that I can share or RSS) but I’m not sure Archie is ready for twitter.

He has access to a tonne of screens but not really in any personal way for him. My laptop/Em’s laptop/Xbox/tv/our music iMac/iPads/mum’s phone etc..


In the shower on saturday I got to thinking about some of our glanceable apps, dashboards etc etc and can i produce something for him that was cheap, preferably something I could put on the wall ( radiator, bus timetables etc), and roughly informative enough.

I am a bit obsessed with Split Flap displays.

If i could build one to leave in the kitchen/bedroom it would be perfect.

Pull city data, regions from foursquare and display on his flip destination.

The sound of the flips flapping would signify I had moved.  So not something he would need to consistently check, or refer back to. Sound in glanceables is an area I keep thinking about and Russell again has written about.

So flip destination board + arduino.  This is close to it.

A DIY split flap clock

Brilliant but not something I can do in a hotel in Amsterdam.

So I started chatting to Dan Williams about cheap screen alternatives. Kindles are so in now. Cheap monitors need machines, and it would be about 20 minutes before Archie realised he could play plants vs zombies in his bedroom. iPads seem to provide so much other noise it needs to be simple.

Dan let it slip that he was right then at a foursquare hack day as they are realising their apis’s (well actually I knew he was but didn’t want to let him know I was stalking him) so we started talking about foursquare to glanceable..



Quick to build. 

Let’s start with an old iphone screen.

A flip destination board can be something we get to.

Sunday lunchtime as I sipped the last Dutch koffie before my flight home, and with a little CSS wrangling, Dann released version 0.9. 

There’s more work to do.  

We need to be really careful not to add to much gumf ( we talked about dopplr city colours that could render the city text - This would be fun but probably pointless,  weather information (Wouldn’t it be fun to show  ”dads caught in a storm,  whilst we play in the garden” ) and maybe airport codes.  Everyone likes airport codes

 But I am really happy with it, and can’t wait to show Archie.

We are also working on a larger screen one, an app that shows ALL of your friends locations, it clicks clacks when people move, and give you the opportunity for serendipity.

They both need work, but we are getting something good.

There is more on Dan’s Blog


Created 2011-09-17

Technologies: Sinatra, Heroku, Foursquare API

Screenshots & Videos Flickr & Vimeo


Foursquare Blog

The Next Web

PSFK (twice)


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