Everyone has heard radio call in contests where the 10th caller wins a new CD (remember those?) or concert tickets to see Justin Bieber. Some of you may have even participated in one or two. I know I have. I’d get a busy signal and hit redial until I either won or wore out the keys on my phone. Back when I as a college radio DJ we ran these types of contests all the time as well and having to answer the phone while doing other things was tricky. Tim Lytle has solved this problem with NthCaller, a web-based call in contest manager.
Using NthCaller couldn’t be easier. You load up the web page, enter which caller should win and a number to be called when the threshold is reached. No more answering the phone manually to deliver the bad news to unlucky caller #9. As the calls come in, the web page is updated in real-time until the winner is selected and a call is placed to your number, connecting you directly to the winner.
Tim put together a screencast showing the app in use:
Tim tells us more about how he developed NthCaller.
Why did you build NthCaller?
TL: I’ve always had an interest in radio programming – both over the air and on the web. I’ve thought of build a cloud based call screening app, allowing people or stations with one or two phone lines to be able to queue and screen multiple calls, even from different locations. A ‘nth’ caller application seemed like a good test run for the concept. The same basic setup could be used to create a virtual switchboard (say for OpenVBX) or a number of other applications.
What technologies are you using?
TL: Right now it’s built on a very thin PHP application that basically passes information between Twilio and the browser. PubNub is used for the push notifications of call status – when a call is received and when it disconnects. The winning call is picked by the browser, by simply checking an array of calls populated by the incoming call messages. A little jQuery AJAX allows the browser to direct the calls – the winner to a connect URL, all other calls to a ‘try again’ message.
How was the experience of integrating Twilio with PubNub?
TL: As always, Twilio integration was easy. Just passed Twilio’s initial request and status callback to PubNub and I had a real-time call list. Then I took the browser’s AJAX requests to route the call and passed them back to Twilio’s REST API. In the end, the browser shows the call ending before my phone realizes Twilio hung up the line.
How did you get started developing with Twilio?
TL: Ran across the API looking for an SMS API (back before one was offered). It seemed so ridiculously simple, I had to play around with it. Looking back a year later, having worked on more than a few Twilio projects for clients, it turned out to be a pretty good decision.
We’re giving away a trip to Boston to the best Twilio integration with any TechStars company’s API or service. The winner will get a chance to meet with some VCs and other mentors while in Boston. Check out the contest page for complete details.