Cheer Total

Without fail, the holidays end up being one of the most stressful times of the year. Amidst the hustle and bustle it's easy to lose the spirit of the season.

And that's why we built the Cheer Tracker. To give busy Philadelphians a physical reminder of all the holiday happiness being shared around the globe.

Luckily, we had the perfect platform. Our Philadelphia office windows overlook one of the busiest shopping districts in the city. A great opportunity to put smiles on the faces of people passing by.

Cheer Tracker appeared to be a standard holiday window display, three Christmas trees with lights. The difference is, our trees would blink whenever someone in the world said merry, joy or cheer on Twitter.

If you mentioned you were merry in Melbourne, joyful in Jamaica or cheerful in China, one of the trees in our Philadelphia office would blink in grateful acknowledgement.

We thought it was a fun way to visualize goodwill on a global scale, for all to see. And we were able to play with a few new tech gadgets to make it happen.

Tracking began on December 7th and concluded on January 1st. Our initial goal was to capture a million expressions of holiday happiness, but we hit that in the first week and the numbers continued to rise.

We’ve detailed some of the technical aspects of the project below and even put together a quick little video to share with friends.

We hope it brightened your day and gave you a moment to smile during a hectic time of year.

From our previous work with Twitter's streaming API (Phightins Phever & Tweet to Shoot) we knew we could filter global mentions of holiday happiness. What we sought to eliminate, with this experiment, was any delay in the data visualization. Whenever someone mentioned the words "cheer", "joy" or "merry" we updated a tally stored in a Redis hash, sent that count out to our displays (physical and virtual) using and told the corresponding tree to blink.

Our team is interested in how home automation will serve as an engagement platform for marketers. There is lots of chatter about the second screen experience, but we think there are even more possibilities that lie ahead. For these reasons, we chose to use a Belkin WeMo switch to power each tree. Or in other words, a device anyone can buy at Best Buy.

Using Perl's universal plug & play library, we communicated with our WeMo devices directly over a local WiFi connection without delay, rather than completing the IFFT loop. This provided us with the ability to send an instant signal and blink our trees in real time.