Using Twitter to Promote an Event Last Minute + Results

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This evening I gave a talk for the Chicago Interactive Designers and Developers Meetup. I’ve been so busy lately that I did not think to promote it well in advance. As a result I didn’t get the word out about it until late in the afternoon today.

With tools like Twitter search and bit.ly, I was able to track all the chatter leading up to it and as well as during the talk. I was so excited to see all this data that I felt like I had to share this experience for people who doubt the utility of Twitter.

3:00PM – I send out my first Tweet about my talk. Mind you my talk is at 6PM. A few moments later I send out another Tweet about it.

In about 2 hours, I count 10 tweets regarding the event, using a quick search for my name or the talk. I also track the amount of times that people click on the link to the talk page. By 5PM there are over 50 clicks to the page. At this point I’m pretty giddy. I’m no David Armano or Frank Ze so 10 tweets and 50 click-throughs is huge.

I wanted to see if people would tweet about the talk during the talk or afterwards. This was what I did to foster that. Once the talk begins I start off by telling people to use the hash tag #chiixdd (for Chicago Interactive Designers & Developers). Judi the organizer also tells people to use #cidd. On the front page of my presentation I also give my Twitter username.

A quick search on my name right after the talk yielded this – around 13 tweets.

Digging a little deeper I found other mentions:

What’s cool is Roundarch (the company that puts food on the table for me) got mentioned and so did Merapi, the Flash Java Bridge created by by Adam Flater, another Roundarcher.

Another interesting measure is to look at the number of followers that each person who tweeted your message has. Essentially that is the number of people who heard your message. I counted up all followers and it came to 4314. So the key in Twitter’s utility is other people spreading your message. If it was just up to me, only 629 people would hear my message but because other people have passed my message along, my reach has increased 4 fold in this instance. And I’m some super no name guy. Imagine if you had 20,000 followers and thousands of people who retweeted your message.

Did I also tell you bit.ly is the bomb? Before if you pasted a link on Twitter, you’d have no way of knowing how many people clicked on that link if it wasn’t your own site. A quick look at the bitly page for the meetup page that I tweeted tells me over 100 people have clicked on the page at the time of this writing.

So for all you Twitter haters or people who think that there is no use to Twitter, think again. In a very short amount of time (3 hrs), a no name speaker such as myself is able to broaden his reach in getting people to know about his talk. About 70 people RSVPed and about 40 people showed up. I’m told that it’s a pretty decent turnout and that the ratio is usually about 50%.

If anyone has great Twitter stories, I’d love to hear them as well.

Popularity: 2% [?]

RIApalooza 2: RIAs Beyond the Mouse and Keyboard Recap

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On May 8th I as at RIApalooza Two, an unconference event for Rich Internet Application enthusiasts. Adam Flater and I gave a talk titled ‘RIA Beyond the Mouse and Keyboard’. Adam and I talked about how computing user interfaces are evolving and moving away from the current status quo of mouse and keyboard.

Adam talked about and demoed examples including his use of the mac accelerometer as an input device, his Lego Mindstorm robot controlled via Flash, and his mobile device, the Tesla Roadster.

I showed a couple videos of innovative uses of technologies such as augmented reality, touch computing, and the Wii balance board. Here’s a link to some of those videos. I demoed controlling a virtual 3D car with the Wii balance board, controlling a 3D earth using head tracking, combining Augmented Reality with Twitter, and my PostIt board with handwriting recognition. These are all part of a holistic vision of what constitutes a more natural user interface, moving away from the more artificial interaction that are the current state of input devices.

Here are some photos taken from Anthony Hand’s camera. My favorite picture has to be where I’m caught picking my nose – great.

Popularity: 3% [?]

3D Earth with Head Tracking

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Here’s a demo that illustrates my ideas on computer human interaction. Instead of controlling the movement of a 3D globe through the mouse and keyboard, why not move your head to look around the globe. You’ll need a webcam for this demo to work.


Side to side motion works pretty well. Up and down is a little iffy.

Moving around to see what’s on the other side is a much more natural and intuitive human behavior than say pressing some computer keys to change perspective of an object. I believe that as computers become more powerful and more and more people have to interact with them in their daily lives, computer scientists will have to design systems and software that provide a more natural user interface (nui) than what we currently have.

Although many people today deal with computers and the internet, this highly technical tool is still completely inaccessible to a large population because it is so difficult to use. By creating interfaces that are more natural to use, we make technology more approachable to the masses. That’s my 2 cents. Feel free to chime in.

Popularity: 3% [?]

Concept Virtual Corkboard With Handwriting Recognition for Large Interactive Walls

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I’ve been playing with the idea of an inexpensive large collaborative wall. Part of the requirements for my large interactive touch screen is that it has to be multitouch and provide a more natural way of interfacing with it other than mouse and keyboard. Johnny Lee has shown that you can build one pretty cheaply. You can set one up using just a couple Wii remotes, a projection screen, and a homemade IR pen. You can then create a virtual whiteboard application pretty easily.

The problem with virtual whiteboards is that all the drawings and text are just graphics. They don’t mean anything to the system. The text isn’t really text. It would be better if you could write the letters and have them be interpreted as real text.

Using an open source Flash based mouse gesture library, I put together a concept virtual corkboard that lets you write letters with your mouse (or IR pen) and put that text on virtual PostIt notes that you can place anywhere on the board.

Check out the video:

Of course, this isn’t the only way to tackle this problem. One could just do OCR on the drawings and figure out the text that way like the mobile app EverNote, but this is just one solution.

Open demo in lightbox

Open demo in new browser

Popularity: 15% [?]

Twitter + Augmented Reality

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What happens when you put together Flash, Augmented Reality, Papervision3D, the Twitter API, and a bored geek? You get this little webcam demo of a Flash app that tracks a marker and displays a speech bubble with your latest tweet.

Although Augmented Reality (AR) has been around for a while now, cheap webcams, 3D on the web, and other factors have only recently enabled the field of AR to be usable by the masses.

Thanks to John Lindquist’s tutorials, I was able to quickly put together a small demo of what you can do with AR and the Twitter API.

The commercial use of AR is still in it’s infancy and people are still trying to figure out how to use it. There have been some examples in the entertainment space, namely the PS3 game Eye of Judgement and the Topps Baseball trading cards.

Here’s a cool AR idea for a conference. Your registration badge can come with a marker that can be read by a big interactive wall installation with cameras. You can then walk up to it and it would show you your sessions. Not only that, but other people who walk up to it can also see their sessions and maybe, if the person standing next to you has the same sessions as you, it would let you know that so you can connect.

Here’s another cool AR idea for the web. Webcam Poker. Each player would have a marker on their desk. The webcam can then pick up the marker and project a virtual hand on your desk, so that your opponent would see your desk as if you had cards on them and you would be able to play virtual poker in a slightly more realist fashion than just clicking cards on screen.

Popularity: 4% [?]

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