Turkey Tracker: What to Watch (Online) This Thanksgiving

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Turkey Tracker is a bold experiment in social networking and turkey-smoking technology. Turkey Tracker combines a live video stream of a turkey smoking (at an undisclosed location, but I might as well tell you it's in Portland, Oregon), a live Q&A session and other events throughout the day (see the Broadcast Schedule at the bottom of this post for details), a live temperature graph of the bird gathered using high-tech components (again, see below for the ridiculously awesome details), Twitter updates, Flickr updates, a chat room, and more. It's a wonderfully geeky thing to check out on your Thanksgiving -- just stick the laptop in the corner of your kitchen and tune in!

In addition to the main turkey action, the Turkey Tracker folks are asking viewers to pledge money to the Oregon Food Bank in a style similar to a walkathon, where you pledge a small amount per Turkey Tracker viewer. (Don't worry, you can limit the pledge total amount in case this thing goes nuts and there are a million visitors.) The money goes directly to the charity, there's nothing fishy going on here. (Also, they're giving away an iPod touch to people who donate.)

Here's a video of Michael Weinberg (the Turkey Master) on "Thanksgiving 2.0," explaining the Turkey Tracker 2009 project. This is really fun, and includes some shots of "technical difficulties" (involving fire) from last year's event.

Here's an example of awesome geekiness from the Turkey Tracker 2009 FAQ (emphasis added):

8. How do you track the temperature?

This year, we're using Type-K thermocouples from Omega Engineering in Connecticut--they're a provider of industrial sensors and process control equipment. Our ambient and smoker temperature sensors are bolt-on thermocouples with glass-insulated wire rated to 480degC (900degF). The probe for the turkey itself is a custom ordered probe that has a advanced ceramic insulation made by 3M that's rated to 1200degC (2200degF). The thermocouples generate a current proportional to the temperature, which we amplify with an Analog Devices AD595 chip. The AD595 is then connected to an Arduino microcontroller board that is programmed to output the temperature, in Celsius, over USB. We have a ruby script that collects the data on the serial line and converts it to Fahrenheit. For graphing, we use RRDTool. The data is polled every minute. The steps you see in the graph also depict minute intervals.

Our obsession with high-temperature rated materials is due to events last year that caused us to lose sensors twice during the cooking process in a very dramatic fashion. Besides, we haven't had a chance to buy export-restricted thermally-insulated sensors before.

How to Track the Turkey

First off, follow @turkeytracker on Twitter. Next, check out the Turkey Tracker website (where you can watch live video, view a temperature graph, check out user-contributed turkey photos from around the world, and chat with other visitors). If you want to pledge to help Oregon Food Bank, there's a convenient form to help out. Finally, check out the Turkey Tracker Blog which includes this important schedule (times are Pacific Standard Time):

Broadcast Schedule

9 "“ 9:30 AM: Turkey in the smoker, broadcast starts.
10 AM: Gobble Gobble Hey? "“ We answer your questions.
11 AM: Turkey Toast & Technocrati Talk "“ A Discussion of the Technology Behind Turkey Tracker. This hour is sponsored by New Seasons Market.
12 PM: Kevin Ludwig from Beaker and Flask presents a cocktail in honor of Turkey Tracker. (pre-taped)
1 PM: Beers to compliment your Thanksgiving meal. Q&A.
2 PM : Kevin Ludwig from Beaker and Flask presents a cocktail in honor of Turkey Tracker. (pre-taped) followed by dedications.
3 PM: Wines to compliment your Thanksgiving meal. Q&A.
4 PM: Kevin Ludwig from Beaker and Flask presents a cocktail in honor of Turkey Tracker. (pre-taped) followed by more Gobble Gobble, Hey?
5 PM: Parade of Appetizers
6 PM: Kevin Ludwig from Beaker and Flask presents a cocktail in honor of Turkey Tracker. (pre-taped) followed by Prize Drawing.
6:30 "“ 7 PM: Turkey is done!

See also: coverage of Turkey Tracker from 2008.

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November 25, 2009 - 10:34am
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