If you’re anything like me, the ideal plant is a cactus or succulent that requires virtually no care — anything more needy just takes too much work to keep alive. You have to make sure the plant gets enough sunlight, water and …well that’s pretty much it. Even so, it can be hard to remember to water the plant regularly. That’s why data engineer Tyler Wood set up the r/takecareofmyplant subreddit three years ago so the internet could water his zebra plant for him.
This is, of course, a social experiment more than anything else. Wood could have just as easily set it up so that the system automatically waters the plant on a timer. But he wanted to see if the internet was capable of displaying the kindness necessary to keep the plant, named Jeff, alive. As we all know, the internet as whole isn’t exactly known for its kindness, and Wood doesn’t directly intervene with the watering. Despite that, r/takecareofmyplant subreddit kept Jeff alive and well for two years before he tragically perished when Wood moved. Jeff was then replaced with a new zebra plant called Freyja, who is stilled going strong.
On the technical side, Wood is using a Raspberry Pi to monitor moisture, temperature, sunlight, and humidity sensors. That information is updated every ten minutes on takecareofmyplant.com, where there is also a live stream of the thriving plant. Once a day, a poll is posted in the r/takecareofmyplant subreddit asking users to vote on whether the plant should be watered or not. If the majority vote yes, then the Raspberry Pi triggers a water pump to satiate Freyja’s thirst. That subreddit currently has more than 12,000 subscribers, and most of them remain dedicated to keeping Freyja healthy. In our modern climate of internet trolls and anonymous hate, this is welcome proof that there is still kindness out there.