Remind101 – Text Messaging for Classroom or Sports Teams

From the Twilio Customer Stories page I learned about Remind101, a free service designed for teachers to keep students and parents up to date via text messaging or email. From their website you can learn more about the service, or about the team.

This is a very useful service. While it was primarily designed for classrooms, it could also be used for sports teams or anywhere else you need a 1:Many text messaging system.

Remind101 designed their system to be very focused for this type of communication. By keeping with a narrow focus, they’ve got a strong set of features like:

  • Privacy – no one participating (teacher, student, parent) has anyone else’s phone numbers; this would be very important for younger kids in particular
  • Only Group Messaging – there is no support for 1:1 messages; instead everything is sent to the entire group/class
  • One-way Messaging – students and parents cannot reply to any teacher message; I would like to see the ability to reply as well, in order to make it a better communication channel for the students back to the teacher
  • Mobile Apps – for the teacher side, they have apps for both Android and iOS
  • Email – as an alternative to text messaging, students/parents can receive messages via email

As a sport coach or manager, you could set up individual teams (“classes”), and connect with each of your teams separately as needed. For example, “16U Red”, “16U White”, and so on. This app could be used for a whole season, or just for a tournement weekend. (Just delete the group when the weekend is over.)

Here’s a screenshot of the web interface for sending a message:

Remind101 website screenshot

Using Remind101 to send text messages to a sports team

Migration from MovableType Complete

I successfully migrated this website from MovableType 4.35 to WordPress 3.8.1. These are my notes from the migration in case they are helpful for anyone else. The good news is this is pretty straightforward, and there are plenty of notes out there (just search the internet for “WordPress MovableType import”). The tricky parts are the custom or special areas of your MovableType installation, and mine was no exception.

First, why switch to WordPress? I wanted something more current with a stronger platform of plugins and themes. I’ve been happy with MovableType and stuck through it over many versions and changes. It just started to look and feel a bit dated and it was time for something new. WordPress isn’t exactly “new” (having just passed its 10-year anniversary), but it continues to evolve and improve. I’ve also used it for a couple of sports team websites which turned out well.

As part of any migration , you need to identify the aspects of your site which are customized, unique, or which will potentially cause problems. In my case I had the following to deal with:

  • About 600 posts dating back 12 years
  • Individual post links were based on year/month/day, a custom slug name (saved in the Keywords field), and no extension; for example: http://www.cantoni.org/2013/12/05/tech-advent-calendars-2013
  • Posts written in different markup (plain text, HTML, Textile and Markdown)
  • Comments (which I did not migrate)
  • Categories, but no tags
  • Three different syntax-highlighting scripts/styles used over the years

These were the migration steps to import MovableType into WordPress:

  1. Installed WordPress
  2. Installed movabletype-importer plugin and activate it
  3. Configured the timezone and permalink settings (permalink matching what I used for MovableType)
  4. In MovableType modified ImportExport.pm to omit comments and tags, and set the proper basename for posts (gist)
  5. Performed the export of all entries to a text file
  6. Converted Textile and Markdown to HTML markup (gist, original script from Mark Shroyer)
  7. Imported into WordPress
  8. Moved old static directories (./2014, ./2013, etc.) so that WordPress would start serving those pages
  9. Installed wp-markdown plugin, activate it, and enable for posts and pages

I also found the suicide plugin very helpful as I iterated on the steps above. You can erase all posts and metadata in a single step. Make sure to remove after your migration is complete!

After everything was migrated and permalinks working correctly, I finished the initial setup:

  1. Installed disable-comments, activate it, and disable all comments site-wide
  2. Modified .htaccess to redirect from old rss.xml to new feed link
  3. Modified .htaccess to redirect from old category pages to new links
  4. Updated FeedBurner to use new feed link
  5. Installed google-analytics-for-wordpress, activate it, and configure my ID number
  6. Configured twenty-thirteen theme with a child theme, a few custom header images, and the sidebar widgets

Still on my to-do list:

  • Finish bringing over any static pages that are still useful
  • Fix syntax highlighting and consolidate to a single solution
  • Monitor Google Webmaster Tools for any crawler errors (page not found)
  • Clean up links to comment feeds (and other extra junk in HTML head)
  • Add more redirects from old archives pages where needed

Great Example of Mobile Context: Moviefone

There are a lot of “movie times” apps out there, but I’m sticking with Moviefone for my favorite feature: the Playing Now Near Me button. It really captures the idea around mobile context — rather than messing around with dates/times and zip codes, just show me what my closest options are. This would also be great for travelers who aren’t familiar with the area.

This could also be useful if you’re near the end of your movie, and want to sneak into another in the same theater!

Screenshot of Moviefone mobile iPhone app

The Moviefone mobile app killer feature: Playing Now Near Me
(click to view full-size)

Screencast: Mover.io Blog Backup to Box.com

I recently started using Mover.io to back up my blog. Mover is a relatively new service which can migrate or back up between several different cloud services. I’m starting to use it as part of my backup strategy, making sure even files I have “in the cloud” are located in more that one service.

The pricing model is also quite simple: they charge $1 per GB transferred. You deposit money in your account and it draws down. In the case of this blog, the initial data transfer was about 1 GB, and the daily incremental backups are usually under 1 MB. At that rate my initial $10 will last quite a while.

To demonstrate the steps, here’s a short screencast in which I add a regular backup task from part of my blog to the Box cloud service:

Mover.io Demo – Back up blog to Box cloud service