Weird Portland – Holiday Lights

Craig Giffen, the creator of Problematic.TVThe Human Clock. The Human Calendar, the Pacific Crest Trail planner, Portland Free Crap and on and on (does he ever stop? We hope not!), brings back deee-lights. We’ve sat down to ask Giffen 8 very important questions about deee-lights, including, what they are.

Bridgeliner: For those Portlanders who don’t know about deee-lights, can you give an explanation?

Craig Giffen: They are basically lights you can control from the comforts of your own home. You can view a live video stream and watch the lights go on and off in mostly-real time as you click buttons.

Bridgeliner: What made you come up with the concept of deee-lights?

Craig Giffen: I work for dlvr.it and years ago we were updating hardware and we had some extra network-enabled power switches that were not being used. They are basically a techie power strip that you can “log in to” and turn each outlet on or off. This way you can turn the power off and on for a computer/server that is plugged into it without having to physically be there. Anyway, I got to thinking what I could turn on and off and thought of Christmas lights. This is the fourth year I’ve done it if I remember right. Each year it gets more complex. My wife Cora thought of the name, hence we ended up playing Groove is in the Heart a lot last year.

Bridgeliner: You’ve put up deee-lights for four years now. What do people say about them?

Craig Giffen: They all liked it. Sometimes when I was on the porch with our dog Freddie (12xu.com/dog), people would turn the emoji display to a dog. It went mostly well, the rain was kind of problematic at times since it kept tripping all the GFCI breakers and taking the lights offline. Some people would turn them all off before they went to bed. I changed it this year so the roof lights stay on in the early hours of the day.

Bridgeliner: Can somebody undo my turning them on immediately?

Craig Giffen: For now yes, hence when there are more than about ten people online it gets a little chaotic. I have a “queuing” system setup that I haven’t implemented yet. This way everyone will get a minute or so to play with the lights and then get moved to the back of the line.

Bridgeliner: Can someone only turn on, say, a specific color or strand?

Craig Giffen: Pretty much, yeah. Some have their own button, others are part of a programmed sequence and not directly accessible. If you click “rope” it actually turns off and on about 15 different circuits to do an animation.

Bridgeliner: How many lights, total?

Craig Giffen: Good question! Let me go count…ok, about 3000 at least.

Bridgeliner: If other people wanted to join this, say, be able to have their house lit and unlit via deee-lights, is that a possibility? Have you thought of doing more houses?

Craig Giffen: Not really, there are a lot of figurative moving parts and it takes four computers to run it, not to mention all the switches and the camera. I spend short of forever dealing with tech support and it is me asking the questions!

Bridgeliner: Have you thought of doing more holidays. Say, Saint Patrick’s Day or something during Gay Pride? Or for important protests?

Craig Giffen: Possibly, it takes so much time I can only really do it once a year. Finding an arbitrary holiday in the summer might be kind of fun though. Apparently July is National Dog House Repair Month, so you never know.

By Bridgeliner Creative Studio
The Bridgeliner Creative Studio helps clients big and small engage locals, through campaigns that use creative marketing, storytelling, events, and activations to build community, conversation, and impact.