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Seattle entrepreneur John Lauer is the master of the tech PR stunt, once rigging up a system at his Detroit Web development company in the late 90s that allowed employees to read automated news feeds on the toilet. The story went viral after first appearing on the front page of The Detroit News.

“We couldn’t believe it. It was the stupidest thing ever, and it made the front page,” said Lauer, who later helped created an automated stick-man figure above the door of the toilet to tell employees whether the bathroom was occupied or not. “I have always had this love for this idea of this ‘man bites dog story’ … That’s what people want to read about —  unique, different things — that people have never done before.”

Well, Lauer is back to his old tricks, this time at the Seattle startup Zipwhip. As you’ll see above, the company has created a whimsical way to keep track of every time a new consumer signs up for the service. (A bit different from the gong that F5 Networks used to bang every time there was a big sale).

Here’s how it works:

“The flag is attached to a stepper motor and an Arduino over ethernet . Each time we get the sign up event, we send the signal over the wire to the assembly and UP POPS THE FLAG!

The one concern is that we may have to build in a queue to the software that sends the signal to the Arduino. This is because we get quite a few sign ups. So much so, that we will get a lag between when the flag actually moves, and the exact time the sign up occurred. If the queues fill up too much or the lag gets too long, we will likely just reduce the size of our flag and make a wall of flags all moving independently.”

And that’s not the only silly thing that Zipwhip has percolating in the office. At the Startup Conference earlier this month, Lauer noted that they have devised a system that allows employees to send a text message to a coffee maker, thus setting in motion the morning cup of Joe.

“We removed the buttons, just to be a jerk, so you have to text ‘espresso’ or ‘latte’ or ‘Americano’ into the phone number of the machine, because we took our product and shoved it into the back of the machine,” said Lauer.

That offering certainly showcases Zipwhip’s technology, which allows individuals to send text messages from personal computers. I can see the Zipwhip office buzzing with activity with plenty of beta testers on that one.

[Hat tip to TechCrunch]

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