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Hacking History with Tropo

Posted on February 8, 2011 by Adam Kalsey

Photo of Brian Suda by Flickr user adactio
At the Hacking History Day event held recently in London, Tropo developer Brian Suda had an idea about how to use audio to help people relate better to history.

Inspired by the upcoming 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, Brian constructed a Tropo application that helps people relate to the disaster in a unique way and, hopefully, better understand the tragic events of April 14th, 1912.

Intrigued by Brian’s ingenuous use of the Tropo platform, we wanted to find out more about his project.

Briefly describe your project – what is it, what does it do?

I setup a phone boarding pass system that you can call and state your age and gender. It will then attempt to match you to a person of
similar stats who was on board the Titanic in 1912. History can sometimes be cold and big, but matching you to someone similar can
help you relate and hopefully this opens a door to deeper understanding and more learning about the past.

So after you state your information, it reads a brief history of the disaster and lets you know if your doppelganger survived or perished
at sea. Audio is really a powerful tool to emotionally explain history.

What was the motivation for your project? What inspired you to build it?

I was attending History Hack Day in London, were we had access to loads of data sets containing plenty of historic data. With the 100th
anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic approaching next year, I decided to experiment with some of the available data related to the

What technologies does your project use?

With Tropo I could easily choose between several. I am pretty proficient with PHP, so I choose that, but it was easy enough to port
to Javascript or any other. Since the data set wasn’t very large, less than 2,000 there was no need for a database. It is entirely
self-contained script with a single array of data.

Explain your decision to use the Tropo platform. Why did you choose Tropo?

Some friends were raving about Tropo, so I gave it a look and low and behold it let me play with the full feature set as a developer for
free. Since I had access to everything from day one, I built on top of it and was hook in an instant at what was possible!

What did you like best about using Tropo?

It couldn’t have been easier to build and deploy. Within an afternoon, I had a project that I could have people listen too. It also opened my
ears to the world of the blind – people who have to navigate and interact purely with audio. Taking existing data from tables on a web
page and putting it into an audio format really made me think about other information that could be presented aurally.

Congratulations to Brian on this unique use of Tropo, and to all of the other participants in the Hacking History Day event.

To find out more about the cool things Brian is working on, go to his site.

To test out the Tropo app he built for Hacking History Day, use the contact numbers below:

    • (804) 316-9215 (US)
    • 44 2035142721 (UK)
    • Skype Voice: +990009369991481398

Image credit: Flickr user adactio

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