Congratulations to Julian Gay, the winner of the Twilio + Kynetx developer contest. Julian developed Playdate, an easy way for parents to coordinate play times with each other via SMS. Playdate works by allowing one parent to broadcast where they will be heading to play with their kids. Julian describes it as a “future check-in.” We wanted to know more about the story behind Playdate, how it was built and where it might go in the future. Julian, in his own words…
What’s the story behind Playdate?
JG: I’d been thinking about the idea for a while since I received a text message one Sunday afternoon from a local friend asking if my son and I wanted to join him and his son at a local playground for one last energy burn-off before dinner time. He sent me a text message and I wondered if he’d had to text around all the parents we know in the area, and thought there has to be a better way. I attended the Kynetx Dev Day in Mountain View last week and that provided the catalyst for integrating user-managed group messaging into an event-driven process initiated by a single SMS message. In the future I’d like to deploy this as a service and add the ability for parents to add time availability and email addresses, other contact points so messages get routed to the right people, at the right time through the right channel for that parent.
What technologies is Playdate built on?
JG: Given the short timeframe, it took me an evening to get the solution up and running. To save time I decided to leverage existing services. The contact numbers are managed in a Google Spreadsheet which is shared with the parents group so they can change the number they want to by called on or add/remove numbers at any time. The spreadsheet is published as a CSV file and fed into a Yahoo Pipe which translates the CSV into JSON which is more easily digested by the Kynetx Rules Engine. I created the Kynetx rule to read the numbers from the contact list and used the Twilio integration to forward the original message to the recipients via SMS. Finally I connected the event which triggers the whole process which is an SMS webhook which triggers the Kynetx rule.
How was the experience of integrating Twilio with Kynetx?
JG: First, I developed the Kynetx Rule which would be activated by the SMS to Twilio’s service. I used the Kynetx AppBuilder to generate a bookmarklet which I used throughout the development process to test the application. It definitely helped that I’d attended the Kynetx Dev Day on Friday so I could see how to configure the bookmarklet to work with domains. Although the AppBuilder looks like an IDE, it was a little tricky to test whether the data I was expecting from my Google Spreadsheet/Yahoo Pipe, but I was able to output the results to the in-browser notify window, so it didn’t prove too difficult. Once I’d proved out the process I needed to integrate the Twilio event endpoint to initiate the process and the Twilio service for sending an SMS to each contact in the list. This part was particularly easy since I could leverage the existing integration between Kynetx and Twilio.
How did you get started developing with Twilio?
JG: I tried the basic tutorial on the Twilio site on Thursday to familiarize myself with the services I could play with and that lead me to thinking about how I could solve my original problem of essentially creating a lightweight ‘future checkin’ to coordinate groups of people – in my case it was my parents/kids group.
Congratulations again to Julian for a great entry. If you’d like to enter your own Twilio app, enter this week’s developer contest. The category for this week is Python-powered Twilio apps. The contest ends Sunday November 14th at 11:59pm PT.