Free SMS voting using intelliSoftware SMS Gateway service

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Technology - "Future Vision"
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Previously I written about Using a Learning Apps (xLearn) textwall for SMS voting for £25/year, but what if you haven’t got £25 to spare? How about free SMS voting*, and when I say free, I don’t mean free for the first 15 votes like SMSPOLL.net or free for the first 30 votes like PollEverywhere.com, I mean free for as many responses and polls you like!

*excluding the price to send a txt msg

I’ve been think about free SMS voting for quite a while, 4 years in fact! Back in 2006 one of the first blogs I regularly read was David Muir’s EdCompBlog. At the time I worked at the University of Strathclyde in CAPLE and David was in the Faculty of Education. His blog was great to find out what was going on at the other end of the institution, something Brian Kelly regularly highlights.

In October 2006 David posted his experiences on Moblogging: Turn it on again where he was able to mash a free SMS textwall using intelliSoftware SMS gateway. At the time I left a comment asking if David had:

thought about parsing the text messages for voting? i.e. students text 'pgdes2blog Q1B' to answer B in MCQ for question 1 etc? (Anonymously said …)

As it happened David had but neither of us was in the position to come up with a solution back then. Roll forward 4 years (with a Twitter voting solution inspired by David in between) and the old grey cells get a jump start after David posted some reflection on his student induction 2010 style in What did they need to know?. David mentioned he used his free textwall solution again collecting responses on this blog.

Both of us realised that if David was collecting responses on a blog that it would be easy to reuse my earlier Learning Apps solution to grab and parse the responses (using RSS). In fact it was so easy all I needed to do was change one line of code.

So below is an alternate version of XVS – SMS voting using Learning Apps:

*** RSSvs – SMS voting using RSS ***

With this version you can submit any RSS feed and it will extract/graph the number of occurrences of an answer option after a question identifier in the post title. Here is an example of a response chart which is generated from this test blog

So potentially you could use anything for voting which somehow creates results as an RSS feed. But how can you use this for SMS voting?

How to use RSSvs with intelliSoftware  

Unlike the Learning Apps textwall it doesn't have a native RSS feed for the SMS inbox, but as David has already demonstrated it is possible to automatically forward messages sent to intelliSoftware as an email which can then be used to publish a blog post. This is possible because a number of blogging platforms allow you to create posts from emails (e.g. Blogger: How do I post via email?). Here is how to setup your intelliSoftware account:

  1. Create a blogger account and enable mail-to-blogger (taking a note of your personal mail-to-blogger address)
  2. Usual form filling. Important: Username will be your message identifier i.e. students have to start their response txt with your username so keep it short and meaningful
  3. Once registered login and select ‘Preferences’ in ‘My Account’
  4. In the ‘Forwarding’ tab enable ‘incoming message forwarding’, choosing forwarding type email and entering your mail-to-blogger address.
  5. In the Advanced Settings for this you can also modify the email template. Important: Make sure [Message_Text] is included at the end of the ‘Email Subject’, you should also remove [Message_From_Number] to prevent students mobile numbers being published.

Collecting and displaying responses

When you want to ask a question give users the options and instructions like “to vote for option ‘A’ send a text message to 07786 XXX XXX with ‘xyz #q1 A’ (where 07786 XXX XXX is the mobile number found in the Trial Service section and xyz is your username created with intelliSoftware).

The question identifier (in this example #q1) can be anything you like as long as it starts with ‘#’ and the options can be anything you like (a, b, c … 1, 2, 3 … etc).

To display a response graph visit the  RSSvs Site and enter the rss feed for the blog you are collecting responses on and the question identifier.

Important Tip: If you are using Blogger Blogspot you can increase the number of items returned by adding &max-results={and a number}. For example: http://rschetest.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss&max-results=200 

Once the form is submitted you can swap between the live results and a static chart. (the url of this page can be included in PowerPoint slides allowing you to link directly to the results) Below is the format it uses:

http://mashe.hawksey.info/twevs/rssVS.php?id={see note}&tag=q1&options=-&type=live

idis an encoded version of your RSS feed url.The encoded id is fixed so can be reused

tag – your question identifier

options – optional number to restrict the number of options displayed

type – setting to ‘live’ displays the chart with realtime updates. Leaving blank displays the static chart

 

As intelliSoftware have been providing their SMS forwarding service for free since 2006 I would encourage you to have a look at some of there paid for services. Lots of developer tools to look at and the Multimedia Messaging Service MMS looks interesting too.

7 thoughts on “Free SMS voting using intelliSoftware SMS Gateway service

  1. David Muir

    Excellent! I tried to get it working with WordPress but failed. Love it that, not only did you get it working with Blogger, but we get step by step instructions on we can do it too! Brilliant.

    I’ll try this out with some students when they come back from placement the week after next.

  2. jim

    great postings Martin
    Staff hear are very interested in moving ‘clicking’ to mobile devices. it seems a shame though, i expected to fins more bluetooth development in this area, have you come across anything?
    i like your solutions, but they are a bit technical for the average staff member here, we are playing with polleverwhere, do you know anyone who has had good results with it?

    1. Martin Hawksey

      Post author

      Hi Jim,
      I know Manish Malik at the University of Plymouth was working on a bluetooth voting solution called iPRISm. There is a little more information here on it. I haven’t seen it working but it sounds promising.

      I’ve only heard of isolated uses of polleverywhere (individual academics choosing to pay a subscription out of their own budgets, sometimes their own pockets). Carol Withey from Greenwich presented on it’s use in her class at the ESTICT event in Edinburgh last year. A video and slides from here presentation are here.

      I know what you mean about my solutions being a bit technical. My excuse is I’m only supposed to ‘stimulate innovation’ (It’s a great get out clause ;-)

      Martin

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