With the rush to build full-fledged mobile applications for smartphones, sometimes we forget that there are still a lot of people on...shall we say...dumbphones. So what do you do when you want to interact with as many people as possible? You drop down to the lowest common denominator: voice and SMS.
Lehigh University's annual reunion features a parade of classes through the heart of campus. Every class does a performance for a theoretically impartial panel of judges who take the reaction of the crowd into account during their voting. Awards are given, like the "Best Alumni Band Award" (given to the one and only Marching 97 alumni band) and the Petty Flag (for the overall best performance). This year, we wanted to add more crowd interaction to the mix.
The idea was to bang out a quick "vote via SMS" app so everybody watching the parade could vote (as many times as they like) for the class they thought did best. The powers that be have decided to add an award based on the results too.
Enter Twilio! The best part: it's stupid simple to build this kind of app using their REST API. First thing was to sign up for a number - it's only $1/mo. I then set the "SMS request URL" to a page on my server.
Then on the page I pointed it to, I set up code to handle the text that was being sent in. The entire message is passed in in form scope as the "body" attribute with all the other attributes (sender phone number and their account locale information) sent along too.
Then, I send an acknowledgement message to the sender:
That's it! Already they're thinking of other uses for this kind of tool. I'll be sure to post again on Monday with the writeup on how it went.