Text Blast: text alert app for community organizations launches - Technical.ly Philly

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May 14, 2012 11:00 am

Text Blast: text alert app for community organizations launches

If you have a civic group, and you’re looking for a new way to remind your members of an upcoming meeting, a new tool has launched with you in mind. The hobbyist hacker turned Philly 311 project manager Tim Wisniewski launched his side-project Text Blast, a mass SMS tool for civic groups, at the BarCamp […]

If you have a civic group, and you’re looking for a new way to remind your members of an upcoming meeting, a new tool has launched with you in mind.

The hobbyist hacker turned Philly 311 project manager Tim Wisniewski launched his side-project Text Blast, a mass SMS tool for civic groups, at the BarCamp NewsInnovation hackathon during Philly Tech Week at the end of April.

[Full Disclosure: Technically Philly helped organize the BarCamp NewsInnovation hackathon.]

The idea for Text Blast was born out of necessity, Wisniewski told Technically Philly, and he’s been using earlier versions of the application to help organize community meetings in Kensington, where he is president of the Police District Advisory Council int he 24th District. He’s been working on the project for months.

Try out the tool by visiting the TextBlast site here.

Prior to testing out Text Blast in Kensington, he’d run into challenges getting neighbors in that community to attend meetings because they’d never had community meetings before and many of them don’t have or use email frequently.

“I have seen a significant increase in attendance since using Text Blast. In March, I think, we had 91 neighbors in attendance in that community,” Wisniewski said. “That’s a huge number for anyone who goes to civic association meetings of any sort, especially in a community that’s not used to having community meetings.”

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But it’s usage beyond Kensington is also important to Wisniewski.

“Right now, I’m just seeing what the reception is and gathering feedback and seeing where to take it,” Wisniewski said.

Since the release at BCNI about 40 different organizations have registered to use the application, Wisniewski told Technically Philly.

The application was built using SMSified and is sponsored by its parent company Voxeo Labs. The sponsorship helps make the application available for free to community organizations. Wisniewski still has to build out spam protection and other functionality. At the moment, businesses are not able to use the service, Wisniewski told Technically Philly.

[Full Disclosure: Voxeo was a sponsor of the BCNI hackathon.]

So far, he says one organization has already tweeted to tell him that Text Blast is “just what we were looking for at just the right time.”

If you lead a civic organization or community group and are looking for way to reach constituents in your area, click here to try out Text Blast.

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Yael Borofsky was the lead reporter for Technically Philly from from December 2011 to June 2012 before leaving to pursue an urban studies graduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously she was an editor with the Breakthrough Journal in San Francisco. She loves hockey and coffee.

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