Love Notes and Intimate Circuits
Helen J. Burgess
North Carolina State University
About this Kit
MashBOT consists of an automated Twitter account (a "twitterbot"), paired with a small thermal receipt printer and a microcontroller. At regular intervals, the twitter account tweets an unique love note, which is then sent to the microcontroller and printed thence on the thermal printer.
How It's Made
The project combines four clusters of related scripts and internet services:
- exciting.io, an open source project that provides detailed instructions for setting up a microcontroller/thermal printer, and then also provides a "backend server" - an internet-based service to send data to your printer. You can use their online service, or if you're nerdy, download the whole lot and set it up on your own server. I recommend sticking with their service until you've got everything worked out, though.
- Twitter + Zach Whalen's wonderful spreadsheet-based scripts for writing your own Twitterbot. In MashBOT's case, the script assembles unique love notes from small samples of text from Roland Barthes and Bruno Latour and then tweets them using the account @mashomatic.
- Intermediary scripts needed to get data OUT of Twitter and IN to the exciting.io printer server. I'm using a modified PHP script, combining the exciting.io stylesheet (to make it look presentable) and a script by Andrew Biggart that uses Twitter's API (twitteroauth) to get tweets.
- Finally, a simple POST command (I've automated mine via cron) executes the PHP script and sends the resulting output to exciting.io's server.
Since it relies heavily on existing scripts and services, MashBOT's configuration thus creates a long information pathway as the data moves from service to service:
⇢ google spreadsheet
↪ php script on local server
↪ automated POST command on local server
↪ exciting.io backend server
In this way, MashBOT is not only a twitter account that produces mash notes, but also a mashup of existing technologies.
In this kit I've provided images and a discussion of MashBOT, as well as instructions in three sections: one for setting up the microcontroller and printer, one for setting up the twitterbot, and one for feeding tweets to the printer and setting up a cron task. I've also collected together the various sketches and scripts you'll need to create your own MashBOT.