Greg Sabo

The Prom Server Becomes Sentient

A few weeks ago, Sam Siskind approached me with a pretty insane idea. He wanted to throw a party-but not just any party. This party would be a combination fake prom, fake bar mitzvah, and fake Super Sweet 16. It would also be his real birthday. The event was to be called My Super Sweet Prom Mitzvah, of course.

Sam had big plans for the event. He rented out a space at The Armory and started working on a killer playlist. I simply had to contribute something.

I came up with the idea for “party achievements”. I would try to gamify certain aspects of the party by handing out achievements for doing cool stuff, like dancing like a maniac or talking to people you don’t know.

The system had to be simple enough to use even when completely drunk, and I wanted it to just ooze with personality. Since we asked attendees for their phone numbers in the Eventbrite invitation, I decided to use text messages as the primary interface. Everyone would magically start receiving texts from the “Prom Server” when the party started.

An example Prom Server message stream

I hacked it together in Python on App Engine. The source code is on GitHub. Here are some interesting features of the service:

In the end, the Prom Server was meant to be a sarcastic statement about how technology manipulates our social lives. It made an impact only because it fit into the rest of the party’s multimedia onslaught of loud music, champagne, projected visualizations, multi-decade nostalgia, formal attire, party favors, enthusiastic dancing, fake Twitter accounts, cake, baby photos, and disco lights.

Want to relive some of the magic of My Super Sweet Prom Mitzvah? Check out the hashtag.