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Social hardware




Social hardware

Originally uploaded by freerangelibrarian

I brought this small travel power strip to IA Summit 2008 (write-up pending, but it was great). I’d like to say it was my idea, but it wasn’t; I snarfed the concept from Cindi Trainor. It’s small, powerful, sturdy, folds up neatly, and is insanely useful.

Some of its uses are obvious if you’ve ever been in a hotel room where you found yourself moving furniture to get to the second plug, but as someone at IA Summit 2008 commented, “It’s very social hardware!”

If you travel with a laptop, you know the scene: you are in a coffeeshop, airport waiting room, or conference room. There are two plugs on the wall to be shared among many people. You can either arrive early, hog one of two outlets, and pretend people aren’t staring at you with sad puppy-eyes, or you can plug in your strip and invite others to share.

Or you don’t arrive early, and someone is avoiding eye contact because he or she is using the outlet and feels bad about it. (At IA Summit, one of the plugs on each side of the room had the wifi router — made for great wifi, but also reduced available outlets by half.) Maybe someone promised their boss they’d cover this session in-depth, and their battery is low, so they really, really need the plug… but they know they’re using it at the expense of others.

So you whip out your new social hardware and say, “May I share your outlet? I have this powerstrip!” Relief pours over your new friend’s face, because these people doesn’t want to be hogs — they’re just looking out for their own interests in a situation that makes it hard to share.

It’s not just that you are able to share a power outlet with a stranger for a few minutes, but you’ve enriched a touchy social situation and made the world a little closer.

It’s the best small hardware purchase I’ve made in years. The only problem comes when you have to leave early and three people are plugged into your strip — just tell them it’s $17 on Amazon and “don’t leave home without one.”

Posted on this day, other years:

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22 Comments

  1. Sarah Shreeves wrote:

    I just bought one of these two weeks ago and used it at a conference this week – so useful! And, as you said, very social.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 3:10 pm | Permalink
  2. Sarah wrote:

    Okay, I have never ordered anything so quickly in my life. I got halfway through your post and hopped onto Amazon. What a brilliant idea… at last, I can write at the Blue Moose without guilt.

    Or I could, if I would learn to just say no to muffins.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 7:36 pm | Permalink
  3. I’m a little embarrassed of how much I enjoy sharing my powerstrip — almost feels needy :-)

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 7:37 pm | Permalink
  4. Bobbi Newman wrote:

    what a great idea! Off to find one of my own before my next conference or coffee shop outing! :-)

    Sunday, May 4, 2008 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  5. Paul wrote:

    Awesome. I so need one of these for traveling. A lack of power outlets always seems to be something I encounter, but I don’t want to add another bulky item to my bag, this is hopefully perfect.

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 10:11 am | Permalink
  6. Peter Murray wrote:

    I’ll admit that the social hardware power doo-hickey I carry around just looks after myself. It is a Ziotek Power Strip Liberator Plus ($2.59 each at X-Tremegeek.com). It only allows for one addition outlet, and it is also handy when dealing with large “brick” power supplies.

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  7. Peter, that’s kind of personal-pan-pizza ;-)

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  8. Thomas Dowling wrote:

    I made friends fast at Code4Lib 2007 when I schlepped over to the university bookstore and brought back a powerstrip (regular old 6-plug variety) to a room where 75 people were all installing software on laptops, in a room with literally four electrical outlets. At least people on their last gasp of battery life could plug in.

    What’s amazing to me is that public places like new-ish conference rooms and airport terminals are still being built with such stingy outlet placement.

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  9. Right, Thomas… and that otherwise echt-tech conferences miss the ‘lectricity part of connectivity!

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  10. Jon Gorman wrote:

    Although I haven’t gotten around on to it, but I’ve been thinking of getting a power squid for this reason.

    http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/travelpower/77e6/

    Meant to get one to take to this year’s code4lib, but didnt’ get around to it.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  11. Jon, that would take up a lot of space in my computer purse. :-)

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 6:27 pm | Permalink
  12. pollyalida wrote:

    “social hardware”! What a great concept. And this is a terrific ‘gotta have’. Ordering it now and adding it to my list of gadgets not to forget when traveling. You know, that list you printout and forget to actually read and check off everything and then you get there and slap your head…. yeah, that list!

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 11:46 pm | Permalink
  13. Jon Gorman wrote:

    KGS – Good point ;). I seem to remember there was a similar one that was travel-friendly, but can’t seem to find it now. Maybe that’s why I never got it.

    But now I notice “rotating electrical sockets” also at thinkgeek.

    http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/travelpower/9537/

    Might be time for a little home improvement project.

    Ah, thinkgeek. One of these days I’ll actually get something for myself from that site.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 10:15 am | Permalink
  14. GraceAnne wrote:

    I bought one, not when I read this post – although I meant to – but when I saw the link in AL Direct. Cool. Viral shopping goodness.
    Also, it’s cute. I find technology entirely irresistible if it is useful and cute.

    Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 3:52 pm | Permalink
  15. There was a link in AL Direct? I am bad. Obviously falling behind :-)

    Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 4:27 pm | Permalink
  16. I just bought one of these. I like it already!

    Monday, May 26, 2008 at 4:26 pm | Permalink
  17. The one caution I have is that the cord works as advertised — it will trip if overloaded or on a bad circuit. That’s what you want, but you may want to test your strip before sticking it in your bag (or just reset it before you take off for a trip) so you don’t do as I did and grandly offer the use of your strip only to have it not work… it resets immediately (a good thing).

    Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 10:11 am | Permalink
  18. Pat Shufeldt wrote:

    I too purchased one of these pieces of “social hardware” after you mentioned it here. The first time I shared it, there was a brief power dip in the building. Lights went out and back on–and the next thing we knew, all three of our laptops were showing low batteries before we realized we’d forgotten to hit the reset button!

    I was reminded of this posting today when I read another blog post today about the social aspects of cafes with Internet:
    http://koonjblog.wordpress.com/2008/08/05/breaking-up-the-cafe-listings/

    Thought you’d appreciate the musings about the desirability of a separation of cafes by type of visitor.

    Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 7:59 am | Permalink
  19. sohbet wrote:

    I just bought one of these. I like it already!

    Sunday, August 24, 2008 at 8:28 am | Permalink
  20. Liz Lawley wrote:

    I bought one based on your recommendation, and was so delighted not to have to unplug my bedside lamp in the hotel just so I could have both cellphone and laptop charging nearby.

    Even better, I’ll be featuring the powerstrip *and* your post in my IL08 closing keynote on Wednesday :)

    Sunday, October 19, 2008 at 3:09 pm | Permalink
  21. Liseli seks wrote:

    That’s what you want, but you may want to test your strip before sticking it in your bag (or just reset it before you take off for a trip) so you don’t do as I did and grandly offer the use of your strip only to have it not work

    Monday, August 24, 2009 at 7:20 am | Permalink
  22. kabin wrote:

    Right, Thomas… and that otherwise echt-tech conferences miss the ‘lectricity part of connectivity! kabin

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 10:32 am | Permalink

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