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Twitter Tree / Menorah

Our interactive tree and Menorah change color when people tweet a color using the hashtag #WickedCoolTree.

The goal of this project was to create a more inviting atmosphere in City Hall. The interactive Christmas tree and Menorah are set up with LED lights, which allow them to change color.

Why we did this

Mayor Walsh wanted City Hall’s entrance to reflect the principles of his administration, creating a space that is:

  • welcoming
  • engaging, and
  • transparent.

We had been trying a few projects to achieve this, including Bird’s Eye Boston and the Coffee Cart. We wanted to improve the lobby experience and showcase the City’s interest in promoting art and technology.

The experiment

Our hypothesis? Adding the Twitter Tree and Menorah to City Hall’s main lobby will encourage civic engagement. We’ll also add character and beauty to a public space.

City Hall usually has a large holiday display in its lobby every December. This includes a number of Christmas trees. We decked the central tree with 720 LED lights connected to three Wi-Fi enabled Arduinos.

We connected to Twitter’s streaming API to have the Arduinos identify the latest tweets with the #WickedCoolTree hashtag. The Arduinos also recognized whatever color or pattern of colors the tweet mentioned. A few examples are here, here, and here.

Our partner NuVu studios helped design and laser cut many of the ornaments. The tree was up for three weeks. People could also watch the tree online to see their tweets change the tree’s color.

Results and lessons learned

It’s a hit

People loved the experiment and sent more than 4,000 tweets. People also visited City Hall to check it out live.

The lights are popular

We’ve seen lights and Arduinos re-purposed for other public events, including a Women’s World Cup Soccer viewing party.

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