I turned my Baby Dash Button Hack into a Pager for Toddlers

(And I’ll make you one, too)

When I blogged about hacking Amazon’s Dash buttons, I never expected it to go viral. It’s a year later and I still get emails all the time from folks who have rigged Dash buttons to do all sorts of cool things. (My favorite is a tie between a “Request Uber” doorbell and a curse word counter.)

Now that my son, Everest, is a toddler, I’m getting so much sleep I don’t know what to do with myself. So time for another hack.

While I’m at work, Everest has been picking up my wife’s phone and shouting “Siri, call my husband” at it. That’s ridiculously cute, but Siri always responds with “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that.”

That got me thinking — why not use the old Dash button to make him a pager? He can push it any time he wants me to call him with a knock knock joke, and it will send me a text message

.…behold the Toddler Pager.

I laugh way too hard at this video.

The real “Hack” is Usability

Here’s the amazing thing about the state of technology: making the button send a text message only requires adding three lines of code to the original project.

If you’re a programmer, that’s amazing usability.

But the hundreds of letters I’ve gotten from the original blog post taught me that for every programmer interested, there are many more non-programmers who want to get in on the action but are held back by the hurdle of programming.

So let’s end that right now.

Everyone gets a button!

Today Cloudstitch (my startup) is launching a service called Buttonjoy. We want to erase the technical hurdles to experimenting with these buttons.

Just go to buttonjoy.com, tell us what you want your button to do, and we’ll mail you a pre-configured Dash button ready to use.

We’re selling two flavors of buttons.

The first is a DIY button — it can call a phone and play a preset message, text a phone, send emails. Because Buttonjoy is powered by Cloudstitch, we also log every button push to a spreadsheet, so you can use it to track data and power visualizations.

The second is for charity. Last week a man named Nathan Pryor hacked a button to donate to the ACLU when he pushed it. *Mad genius! *we thought, and with a major tip of the hat to Nathan, we’re launching charity buttons that let you do that too.

Go forth and make awesome things

Obviously your toddler needs a Dad Joke Pager. Your boss needs a secret “Rescue me from this Meeting” button. And you need a charity button to keep next to your TV remote.

But we also think there are a zillion other uses for these buttons:

  • Resupply companies can give them clients to press when their water coolers, coffee stock, or vending machines run empty.
  • **Event planners **can hang them outside a building as a “SMS doorbell” so they know when to come down and let people in after hours.
  • **AirBnB hosts **can stick them by the door as a “checkout doorbell” that notifies them when it’s safe to head over and start cleaning

Or, hey, if you want to wire one up to your coworkers cell phone number so you can prank call him with fake robo-surveys, I say go for it.

I think new technologies don’t really reveal their potential until we can play with them. And in order to play with something, it’s got to be simple.