The Midtown Muse

Fall 2020

The Midtown Muse

In the summer of 2020, most people were still locked in their homes and unable to see friends and family – I worked with Midtown Alliance to develop an SMS text bot that would do a variety of things: tell jokes, give words of encouragement, and help you figure out what local business to support (given that so many had weird hours).

SMS bots are tricky – it’s tough to know whether you’re texting a real person or a machine, especially in the brave new world of competent AIs. We made that clear up front to ease cognitive load on the user.

At the same time, I think SMS bots are a deeply interesting medium to consider and use as part of any program. They don’t require any sort of app to run, anyone on any phone (even a 2005 Motorola flip phone) can use them. I think that democratizes this technology in a way people are only starting to consider.

We also developed a series of banners and sidewalk decals as part of our rollout, to tell people about the bot and encourage participation.

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