Did You Feed the Dog? My Invention in Unobtrusive Usability

My first invention, the fully unobtrusive way to answer "did you feed the dog?"
My first invention, the fully unobtrusive way to answer "did you feed the dog?"
My first invention, the fully unobtrusive way to answer “did you feed the dog?”


“Did you feed the dog?” or “Did I feed the dog?” is heard every day in my household. On 3/10/15 the dog started howling in pain that night. Nearly midnight, I called the all night vet. She quizzed me on a couple habits concerning the dog and discovered it was possible that we overfed him. The dry food, when moistened, expands in their belly which is next to the diaphragm. “He’s going to be uncomfortable” and “we get a lot of calls like this” is what she said.

There has got to be a better way.

So if this happened to us, maybe it happens to other people. And, why don’t we have the technology to fix it? I see a need and think about how to fix it. Calendar? No, Gregor won’t. Push a button? No, Gregor won’t. Push a bead on an abacus? No. Just no.  There has got to be a better way. Only a completely unobtrusive approach will work. I wanted a way to know when food went into the bowl, and it had to happen automatically, without Gregor’s intervention. The answer is a SCALE. The scale measures the amount of food in the bowl to trigger a timestamp to tell us the last time food was in the bowl, answering the question “did you feed the dog?”.

The answer is a scale, and have it timestamp the last time food was in the dog bowl.

I researched the project for a month until I finally found an existing patent. I was so disappointed. I don’t know why, I just wanted the patent for my own idea. I stopped working on the project.

“… but did you feed the dog?”

Three months later I found myself still asking the same darn question. I decided I just need to do this to see if it betters our lives. I hired an Arduino board consultant, I purchased the parts, and put it all together. The circuitry went inside a Quaker Oats round cardboard can. Now ready for the first day of usability testing!


The first night it worked as expected, and the next morning it worked as expected. But on the second day it stopped working. When I checked on it the timestamp was a full day behind: Tuesday 7:22pm but it was Wednesday. I tripped the scale and the timestamp updated from Tues 7:22pm to Weds 7:22pm. I scratched my head and checked the time, and yes, it was exactly 7:22pm (funny odds).

I asked Gregor if I could observe him feeding the dog

So the scale is technically working. I asked Gregor if I could observe him feeding the dog. He tossed the dry food into the bowl just as I expected, but the scale read 277, and the program is waiting for 300. Bingo!

So I set the program to 200, uploaded it to the circuit board, and reinstalled the dog dish. Because it sits under the ironing board, I dropped a sock on it just to see if it would trigger. It did, even though the sock weighed less than 200. I had to power boot the dish again, but so far it has been working successfully.

Testing showed me something else

After about a month the dish so far is performing as expected, but I did not take into account the times the dog is put into his crate, and fed there. So sometimes he is not being fed out of the scale-dish.  Oh well! Even though I believed I knew what my household’s needs are, this just goes to prove you never know what your users needs are until you go to testing. Even if the user is yourself.

Email Signup Form that I Don’t Mind

Email Signup form that does not' cover content

The reason I don’t mind this email signup form is because of it’s location and unobtrusiveness. I hate any form that 100% covers the screen in the middle of me reading your content. REALLY? You got me here to your content, I am actually reading it, and now you cover up the content in the middle of my reading. That is so rude I can’t stand it.

This form is tucked out of the way of the content, and is just on stand-by. Not trying to be in my face. I really don’t mind this one. I actually signed up.

Email Signup form that does not' cover content
Email Signup form that does not’ cover content

Author Pic in Corner on Hover

design inspiration

I like the effect of this hover in the upper left corner. It unveils the author’s picture. This technique will work for blogs that have multiple authors, not really for a one woman shop. It could be applied to something else other than the author. What would it be like to have the parent category in the corner? What else could this technique be used for?