Popcorn Tweets: Crowd-Sourced Internet Snacking

by Dave on February 5, 2010

This machine, with the help of a LEGO Mindstorms NXT robot and a custom LabVIEW application polls Twitter for mention of ‘#popcorn’ and pops kernels one Tweet at a time. Technical document here.

My friend Justin Goeres and I conspired to create this for a contest sponsored by Fireworks Popcorn. We won the contest, but were surprised and delighted when the video went viral in the process, with sites like Mashable and Engadget picking it up first, followed soon after by links from Huffington Post, WSJ, NPR and many, many others around the world! This, of course, was concurrent with an avalanche of #popcorn tweets cascading across twitter.

Here’s how it all came about:

We were Skyping a few weeks ago and I sent Justin a link to the Fireworks Popcorn contest; the deadline was Superbowl Sunday.

VIDEO CHALLENGE: Show us your most creative way to pop! Create a video showing your most creative — successful — method for making popcorn…

Dave: How can we win this?
Justin: Sound waves.
Dave: When’s Superbowl Sunday?
Justin: Three weeks minus two days from now. I doubt you can pop popcorn with sound waves. Or at least, *we* can’t. What about an apparatus that pops popcorn one kernel at a time. Then we make an application that monitors the Twitter global feed for #popmypopcorn or something. Each time a Tweet is detected with that tag, the machine pops ONE kernel of corn.
Dave: Oh, I like your idea.
Justin: That would totally win. The filming would be tricky. So the problem with our plan is that we need a critical tweet mass in order to make the video in the first place.
Dave: If we build it, they will come.
J: I bet they would…

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