Monday, February 23, 2009

Making It Work - SCREENtxt Part 2

This is the second post in a three-part series dealing with the concept, implementation and outcomes of the Mattress Factory's SCREENtxt project. View the first post HERE.

All apologies this post is late in arriving; I had hoped to get it posted shortly after the project launch, but some technical glitches and other projects got in the way of it's timliness. At any rate, here's a bit of information about how we got the project underway and some modifications we plan to make as soon as possible.


MF SCREENtxt - 1

On Friday, February 6th, we went live with SCREENtxt. A partnership with BrightKite, SCREENtxt makes use of the location-based social network's Display Wall feature, allowing visitors to post text messages and photos to an electronic comment screen hanging in the museum lobby. All SCREENtxt activity is also viewable online HERE.


We originally explored using Twitter for this application, but the SMS registration process was too intricate and entwined for visitors to easily make their way through. BrightKite's SMS registration process is streamlined and intuitive. First, participants send a short check-in text (@MF) to the BrightKite shortcode. They receive a confirmation text a few moments later. The next, and final step, is to select a username. Because BrightKite is a rapidly growing social network, most common usernames are already taken. To alleviate a troublesome username selection, we've recommended participants use their first name with a few random digits tacked onto the end so a name is assigned on the first try. Registration complete. Visitors can now post to the wall.

UPDATE: As of February 23, the BrightKite wall now integrates with Twitter. This makes it very easy for existing Twitter users to post directly to the wall without registering with BrightKite. Now, any Twitter post containing the hashtag #MFtxt will appear in the Mattress Factory placestream. This also makes it very easy for those off-site to communicate with visitors on-site. We are currently revising our collateral material to reflect this new option.

Another nice thing about using the BrightKite display wall is that all the meaty code lives on their end. This eliminates the costly expense of in-house development. You sacrifice a bit of customization, but for organizations operating under limited budgets, it makes a lot of sense. The BrightKite user interface is sleek and self-serve, so any institution can create a display wall in a few minutes. For FREE.


All hardware used for SCREENtxt was equipment we had lying around the museum. Coincidentally, Inner and Outer Space closed in January, so a flat-screen TeeVee that had been showing a David Ellis piece became available.

We connected a Mac Mini to the museum's network directly under the TeeVee in the basement. MF Owen and MF Danny then drilled a hole in the floor through which they ran a DVI to HDMI cable connecting computer to television. Voila. Hardware set-up complete.

Because the Mac Mini was sans monitor and controller, we needed to install remote operating software on a usable workstation. We've used Chicken of the VNC many times before, and it's a perfect fit in this instance. We downloaded the program on my computer and the computer at the admissions desk, so there are two routes into the SCREENtxt mini.

The first time we logged into the SCREENtxt mini, we set automated daily start-up (9AM) & shut-down (10PM) times for the unit. We also set the Safari preferences to open automatically to the SCREENtxt URL upon startup. And that's it. Project implemented.

MF SCREENtxt - 3    MF SCREENtxt - 2


In order to entice maximum participation, we needed to make the collateral material approachable and easy to comprehend at first glance. View a PDF of the first draft of the SCREENtxt handout HERE. This is still something we're experimenting with and refining. We'll be adding the Twitter integration information, and trying multiple self-service distribution locations throughout the museum. Of course, we welcome any ideas about how to convey the necessary info easily and efficiently to visitors. Feel free to hit up the comments below.

And that, in a nutshell, is how we got this project rolling. It continues to be an ongoing experiment, and one we're excited to watch grow. I'll probably be making a few SCREENtxt update posts along the way before a final wrap-up/outcomes post sometime in April. Again, a big THANKS to everyone (especially Brady Becker) at BrightKite for assisting throughout the implementation phase.

As always, if you have questions or thoughts, get in touch via blog comments, email or Twitter.

Posted by JEFFREY


Shelley said...

This is super - thanks for posting the howto and congrats on such a great project!

Unknown said...

This is great.

Anonymous said...

This is such a great idea! We've been talking about doing something like this for an upcoming show; looks like y'all beat us to the punch...

Amy said...

I've been wanting something like this since I started using Twitter, so SCREENtxt is like a dream come true! Can't wait to hear more about how it's going and I hope lots of other museums pick up on the idea.

Anonymous said...

so how much time do you spend watching the feed, responding to it and (perhaps) removing distasteful content?

Anonymous said...


Good question. I'll probably address the time/content management of it all a bit more thoroughly in an outcomes post, but to answer your question directly, this aspect is not very time consuming at all.

When the museum is open, our admissions staff is responsible for keeping an eye on the content. I've set them up with desktop notification via RSS for incoming messages and photos. So when a message comes in, a notification box pops-up on the admissions workstation notifying them of a new addition to the screen. When I'm at my desk, I also run TweetDeck with the #MFtxt term flagged so I can keep a second eye on content.

To date, we haven't had to remove distasteful content. And I'm not sure we would. We're approaching this in the same way we approached MF iConfess, in that off-topic content is okay. The only content we would remove after the fact is content violating the platform's terms or the MF's mission.