Our Project: Backseat Casting

Our project: Backseat Casting

Mei Lu had a great idea for a fun social networking app.  She presented her idea well:

Tom Hanks shouldn’t have been cast as Dr. Langston in The Da Vinci Code movie.

Who would have done better?

It’s a simple parlor game that everyone has played.  If they made your favorite book into a movie, who would you pick, if you were the casting director (and money was no object.)  Alternately, who would be better cast in an existing movie.  Either originally or as a remake.  You could go for serious or funny answers.

Mei’s idea was a simple website where people could make suggestions and vote.  A brilliant idea, potentially ad driven, taking advantage of the viral marketing of social networks,

My contribution was the idea that you could use twitter as a user interface.  Just tweet your vote with a hashtag to facilitate search:

#backseatcasting Antonio Banderas as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride.

People could either use the web, or even twitter to follow others’ choices.  And of course, there would be a Facebook app.

I also thought of a variation.  Another parlor game I like to play with my wife while driving:

Worst Cover Song (or Worst Duet)

#worstcoversong Billy Corgan singing Hit Me Baby One More Time by Brittany Spears

The great part about using twitter as a UI is you can go live almost immediately.
We had a great team, even though we started out small (just 3 of us), but we grew as the weekend progressed.  It really was starting to come together, despite the technical difficulties.

I didn’t go on Sunday, so I missed our presentation and maybe hurt the team a little.

Our first decision was to go with .NET and Silverlight – technologies I know nothing about, but our only other developer, Jayhen, knew them well, and he was probably a better programmer than me.  But we ran into a snag when we couldn’t get hosting, the domain, or development tools set up, so we improvised mid-stream and I set up a QA Site with MySQL and PHP/Ruby.

Our next hurdle was migrating a SQL Server schema to MySQL and getting the database driver working in .NET.  That lost us valuable time.  Eventually, they switched back to SQL Server, but unfortunately I think there ended up being no  working UI or live site for the demo.  I don’t know how the sample data went, but we had a good start.

Lisa, our business girl, was up running creating a Silverlight user interface with MS Expression, and I worked on graphic design, and created a HTML site with a PHP template that we could drop our Silverlight controls into, as well as helping out with the database and our backup Linux environment.

Another programmer joined us (sorry, I forgot his name) and took over rapidly building the twitter API functionality I’d wanted but hadn’t got to yet.

The environment troubles and brutally unreliable internet (until I got plugged into a hub (as well as for me personally) having to use my piece of junk laptop – that’s right — I did some graphic design in MS Paint (because Gimp couldn’t cut and paste) with a broken mouse pad.  Still, not too bad, if I do say so myself


They ended up cutting out my UI as well, but c’est la vie.

I had a great time, and I’d love to see the project keep going.  I’ll still tweet my casting decisions from time to time if nothing else.

I also intend to develop my goal tracker widget as well, possibly with a twitter UI.

And I’m going to build a generalized twitter vote tallying app, too.  Twitter @tvotes or @tpolls go to http://tvotes.net or http://twitterpoll.biz.

With all these ideas (and more), I just hope I can maintain a fraction of the momentum I had at startupweekend.  I have another idea for that.  I’m going to start a blog and call it either “In one week” or “Done in one”.

The idea being to use the microsprint format to get working prototypes done in one week.  An initial idea could be pitched as a submission.  Readers could vote on it, either conceptually, or as a participant.  Once a project is green-lighted, teams will have 1 week to develop a prototype.  Then, potential users, customers, or investors could review it and they decide whether they pursue it further, or try again with something new.  Hopefully, I’ll get some of them to post lessons learned as well.

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