With the election near for the next leader of the free world (including but not limited to anywhere the RIAA have an interest) I have been keeping an eye on things and decided this might be a useful tutorial for our Campaigner product. You know, campaigner… get it?
Anyway, Bulletin Campaigner (formerly known as mQuery) is a powerful auto handler for SMS. It can be used to run radio station feedback, festival and/or “next top model” votes, Google searches, real estate information etc using either dedicated numbers or a shared number with dedicated unique keywords.
I have been hitting the excellent http://www.politico.com/p/2012-election/polls/president site to get my political fix and given the nice way the data is structured on that page it seemed a ‘no brainer’ (yes, that is an editorial comment) to use Campaigner’s built-in “Extract From Web Page” action to update me on the state of play. You could do the same thing with the world series but given it was a white wash and over in moments why bother? We also use this action for getting real estate information from sites, the current homeland security status and even flight info. In fact there are very few publicly available sites that can’t be scraped with no technical nous needed.
As we don’t have the budget of the Presidential candidates we are using our shared number for this example. Try it now if you like, TXT President to 1 (941) 421-9850. If you wanted to do something like this as a business plan to help turn around the recession then this is a good start but eventually you will need a short code so you can charge a premium for the service.
Talk to us about premium short codes, we can help sort that out and link it to your campaigner account so it’s as painless as possible.
Now for the Tutorial. Before you start you will need the following.
- An account in Bulletin Campaigner
- Access to the intertubes
- Five minutes
1. Log into Campaigner
Using your Bulletin Credentials (sign up now if you do not have any) sign into http://bulletincampaigner.com. You may need to subscribe to the service first but there is no cost to do so and no credit card or commitment required.
2. Create a Keyword for your Campaign
Its not really a campaign at this stage but it gives you something to aspire to.
This simple three step process is important but things can be changed later if needed so don’t panic.
Your new keyword is probably the biggest decision you will have to make and we recommend you get the one you want, common misspellings of that and a ‘catcher’ to get anything that is a little awkward.
As Campaigner is keyword based every character could have meaning. For example one of my processes is simply a dot (“.”) so that I can short cut a Google search by sending “. politics” and getting a web page back. This means that if a Mobile punctuates the keyword then it will not match. What are the chances that a TEXTer punctuates anyway but its best to be sure.
So, in addition to president and prezident which will match exactly those words, I have set-up the ‘catcher’ keyword startsWith:president, to respond to any message that starts with president but which might have a dot, comma or exclamation after it such as president! or president:( or even presidential as that starts with president too. If someone else has one of the keywords you want then you will not be able to use it. In that case look for alternatives or consider a dedicated number for your service.
Step Two is to choose the type of action you want to use for the keyword/process. Given we like the data on http://www.politico.com/p/2012-election/polls/president it makes sence that we reuse that data. They might have an API we could use but for this example we can just scrape the data from the page. Therefore, select the Send an Extract from a Web Page action.
Step three is so simple, even a politician could pay someone to do it…. click the tick. Your keyword will be registered (if available) or you will get told you need to choose another. Once registered you will need to configure it to do as you need in the next screen.
3. Configure your Keyword
Things start to get a little more complicated here but if you can understand the NFL or the difference between donkeys and elephants then this will seem quite easy. For everyone else the on-line user guide has great examples in too for you to try.
While the Send an Extract from a Web Page configuration may have a lot of information on it, you should be able to step through it easily.
The key thing to remember is to use the Preview Extract button at every opportunity so you can see your message take shape.
- Copy the full URL (address) of the page you want to use. In this case it is http://www.politico.com/p/2012-election/polls/president. Paste this into the space provided (1) on the config page.
- To test that the URL is correct use the View Text button (2) to see what Campaigner sees.If you don’t see what you expect then use the Open Page to show the page in a browser. If the page does not load correctly then the URL may be wrong.
- When you have the text on-screen (2) that you want to use then you need to decide what you want to send to the phone as the SMS. You could send the first part of the page but that is not what we are after here. We want to show the ‘bottom line’, the ‘top dog’, the final count down etc etc and that is (ironically) in the middle of the page.Scroll through to the ‘National’ section of the page. It looks like the Best place to start would with the section National ’12 President General Election as it is not used much in the page and is at the start of the section I want to SMS. I copy this text from the preview in to the Start String field (3) and decide to include it for context in the SMS.
- Preview Extract to see how you message looks. You should see that your SMS will now start with National ’12 President General Election and then has about 400 characters of your message. Unfortunately it cuts off some of the Washington Post Results so we are going to ditch that section in the next step, just for cleanliness rather than any political bias. I could look at saving a few cents by restricting the message to one SMS rather than three but I am not that much of a fiscal tight ass.
- After looking at the preview deciding to send two complete poll results instead of 2.5, I look at the logical place to end the message (see image on the left).As each Poll has its source at the end, the logical ending string would be Washington Post – ABC News as that is probably going to stay the same over time. Copy that string and paste it in the configuration End String field (4) including it in the SMS message to provide some context.
- Preview Extract to see how you message looks now. It is almost complete and as you would expect to see it on the phone.
- The last thing I want to do before actually testing the SMS itself is add a Comment to the end of the message. I am thinking the URL of the page because a) it’s not my data so they should get the credit, and b) I may like to click-through to it from the phone to get more information. Copy the URL into the Comment field of the configuration and set it to appear after the content.
- Preview Extract to see how you message looks. It should just about be perfect now as you can see over to the right
- Once you are happy with the configuration, Save it and your settings will be saved and you will be ready to test it for real.
- To test how it all works send president to 1 (941) 421-9850
- If step 10 worked then you are good to go. If it didn’t work and all the previews were OK then something went crazy. Email me and I will try to help out!
4. That’s it!
All you need to do now is publicise it you want or use it as needed. As mentioned earlier there are many existing actions setup by myself and other users and over the next few months I will be detailing some of the more interesting ones such as accessing the Stolen Car Database in New Zealand, checking Food Additives or playing a simple game. If you have something you think might be good but are not sure where to start then email me and we’ll see what we can do.