Banters Adds Twilio-Powered Siri Integration with Relaunch

Brooklyn darlings Banters just relaunched their conversation sharing app and website with a new name, a fresh coat of paint and a tasty Twilio integration that enables their service to be used with Siri.  Formerly called bnter, the fun brainchild of bit artist Patrick Moberg and Texts From Last Night creator Lauren Leto dropped a big release this past week with a new responsive design, some oft-requested privacy features and a Siri integration powered by Twilio SMS messaging added in for good measure.

We caught up with Banters hacker Patrick Moberg to rap about the release, what Banters is all about and how Twilio ended up being a part of their rebrand party.  You can tune into our chat or read the transcript below:

Interview with Patrick Moberg from Banters by RobSpectre

Twilio: You just had a huge relaunch – how you feeling?
Patrick Moberg: Feelin’ great.  I think we’re excited to get the things out we were working on for a while and then excited about the great ideas we have the queue.  Ready to start working on those and get those out as well.

T: For all the folks who are less cool than I am and uninitiated to the awesomeness of Banters, how would you describe the site to someone new?
PM:  Banters came out as an idea by Lauren Leto, who was one of the co-founders of Texts From Last Night.  They noticed they were getting tons of submissions that weren’t so much globally funny as funny to small groups of friends.  So her idea was to make a new platform where they could post those quotes and conversations from their friends, follow each other much like Twitter, and just keep up with inside jokes that are happening when you’re not around.

T: You just had the launch of 2.0.
PM: We got a lot of feedback from the first version.  We had some restrictions – you could only have three back-and-forths.  Now there is no restriction on that.  You can anonymously attribute people now.  It’s just much more open and capable of handling all different kinds of content.

T: Can you tell me a little bit about how your new Siri integration works?
One of the things that the new iOS 5 enabled was Siri and you can tell Siri to text certain numbers.  One of the hacks we thought of for posting to Banters was to use Twilio to catch SMS messages that you send onto a certain Banters number, then convert them into Banters posts.

T: That’s very clever.  What was that experience like working with the Siri service using Twilio?
PM: Pretty seamless.  We definitely budgeted for far more dev time than it took, mostly because how great Twilio is.

T: Awwww….
PM: I know this sounds like I’m kissing ass, but it’s true, it’s true. Everything we wanted it to do, it did.  Every wall we hit, there was an answer for it in the Twilio community.  So, it really worked out great.

T: Thanks man – appreciate that.  In addition to allowing you to post on Banters through Siri, you feature your own SMS integration.  Can you tell me about how that came to pass?
PM:  The old format for posting to the site was this big form where you had to pick the participants, choose what they said and fill out a form that made you feel like you were doing taxes or something.  So we really wanted to boil that down to something easy.  So we started creating a structured formatter for a big text blob.  The more we played with that, the more it allows us to do things like take an SMS message and parse that into the very structured format of a Banters post.

T: How difficult was it to set up the SMS integration in terms of turning a 160 character SMS into the content that is richly displayed on Banters?
PM:  Most of the parsing came from when we were redoing the input mechanism for the actual website.  So when we had that in place, it was just a matter of collecting the SMS messages that were set to our number.  The main problem was messages that were over 160 characters were split up into several messages.

T: So you have multiple messages and they still show up in the same Banters post.  How did you do that using the Twilio API?
PM:  There is a cookie session mechanism you can use so you have the knowledge of where the messages came from.  So if you send a message over 160 characters and it is split up over two or more messages and we receive them in a timespan under five seconds, we assume they are all part of one big message.  So we keep track of them and concatenate them together and POST them all as one big text blob.

T: What’s next for Banters?  What’s the plan for promoting the new relaunch?  Are you heading to SXSW?
PM: Yeah, we went down there last year and had a blast.  We have a bunch of really awesome things in the pipeline that we’ll probably get out by March.  We’ll probably be showing them off while we’re down there.

T: Sick buddy – we’ll see you there!