Integrating Live Twitter Streams into PowerPoint Using Xcelsius

October 8, 2009
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As a frequent presenter, I’ve been wanting to add some more interaction to presentations for a long time. A couple of years ago, I used some .php code I found on the web and an early version of Xcelsius to display a ticker bar during the presentation that contained the subject lines of emails sent to a particular address. And after some frustration, I even managed to put together a simple voting-by-email service that was adapted by the BusinessObjects demo team and worked perfectly during a large internal kickoff.

The system worked, but it was cumbersome: it required server code that broke when my service provider upgraded my hosting service, not many people were equipped with the suitable phones, it was awkward to type out the addresses, and letting somebody else use it meant setting up a separate system.

For all these reasons, the prototype just sat on one of my ancient “to do” lists – until now. Exactly two weeks ago, I suddenly realized that the world had moved on, and that the arrival of Twitter had provided me with a perfect opportunity to revive the prototype.

Twitter provides a service that’s available everywhere, for free, on just about any device (even older phones



powerpoint-twitter-tools-banner

As a frequent presenter, I’ve been wanting to add some more interaction to presentations for a long time. A couple of years ago, I used some .php code I found on the web and an early version of Xcelsius to display a ticker bar during the presentation that contained the subject lines of emails sent to a particular address. And after some frustration, I even managed to put together a simple voting-by-email service that was adapted by the BusinessObjects demo team and worked perfectly during a large internal kickoff.

The system worked, but it was cumbersome: it required server code that broke when my service provider upgraded my hosting service, not many people were equipped with the suitable phones, it was awkward to type out the addresses, and letting somebody else use it meant setting up a separate system.

For all these reasons, the prototype just sat on one of my ancient “to do” lists – until now. Exactly two weeks ago, I suddenly realized that the world had moved on, and that the arrival of Twitter had provided me with a perfect opportunity to revive the prototype.

Twitter provides a service that’s available everywhere, for free, on just about any device (even older phones, using SMS), and lots of people (at least in the Web 2.0 world) are already using it during presentations. And texting/accessing web pages is much easier than it used to be with a new generation of smarter, easier-to-use phones (e.g. there’s a great TweetDeck for the iPhone). So I set out to figure out how to link it to Xcelsius and put the result into a PowerPoint presentation

I looked at the search API, which turned out to be perfect for the job: a simple URL call, no ID required, which returns an RSS/XML results. I used the Xcelsius Excel XML Map integration to grab the data, added a ticker bar and a few buttons, and hey presto!, I had a basic prototype in just a few minutes.

I’ve dabbled in the past in some Flash scripting, but I’m completely out of my depth when it comes to the latest ActionScript 3.0 object-oriented code. Xcelsius made it easy for even somebody like me – a slightly geeky marketing guy – to build these tools without using anything more complicated than some Excel formulas.

I tried it out at a conference, and the feedback was very positive, so I shared it with some friends within SAP, added voting, and then decided to release it publicly on my other site, http://www.sapweb20.com/blog/powerpoint-twitter-tools

The prototypes are in “beta”, ready for testing. There are currently three tools — but others are in production!

  • PowerPoint Twitter ticker bar
  • PowerPoint Twitter feedback slide
  • PowerPoint Twitter voting

Display a real-time twitter Bar at the bottom of each slide

The twitter ticker bar sits at the bottom of each PowerPoint slide, displaying the ten latest tweets that contain a particular search string (e.g. “#businessobjects”). Status is maintained across slide transitions.

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Display a feedback slide with questions and comments from Twitter

Replace your standard Q&A slide with a twitter-powered version!

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Real-time voting over Twitter

Let the audience vote on choices by sending a tweet! Supports up to six choices, and up to 100 votes.

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When you launch the PowerPoint file containing the tools, it calls the Xcelsius .swf files from the sapweb20.com site – so that I can easily update them with new features, and people will automatically get the latest versions.

You can follow news about the project on http://twitter.com/sapweb20

Feedback so far has been great, and downloads from the site are sky-rocketing…

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And many, many others…

Go to the Powerpoint Twitter Tools page to download the tools!

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