Halloween may be over by a few weeks, but it doesn’t mean we can’t talk about “freaks” a little bit. I spoke to someone about eight months ago who was working on a project who said, “we don’t really care how we do it even if we have to Frankenstein the thing together.” In his case, patch work was the name of the game. While I really do not necessarily agree with haphazardly slapping things together in a “do-it-yourself” fashion, I am not opposed to helping those wishing to take this route. Those who do wish to piece a network together are usually aware of the risks involved in taking such an approach, but still move forward anyway.
Before I move on to the meat and potatoes of what I want to say, I feel it important to look at the correlating pieces between DIY digital signage and Frankenstein. First, Frankenstein was mad. You may accordingly consider yourself a bit mad as well if you go it completely alone. Fact #2: Frankenstein’s monster was not necessarily put together with quality parts. If you’re taking old odds and ends of digital signage hardware, you will at some point run into issues with the differences in platforms and components. Finally, Frankenstein represented someone who was dead–brought back to life. Do you really want your network to be considered as an undead–resurrected into a hideous beast? Probably not.
Now that we have that out of the way and in the spirit of the Halloween season, let’s discuss a bit of piecemealing a sign project together.
There are many avenues that can be taken when it comes to using the Frankenstein approach. These methods can be implemented when choosing hardware and software. For our discussion here, let’s begin with the hardware portion of implementation and then we’ll get to the software.
Maybe your organization has a lot of old PCs lying around that are not living up to their dormant potential. Do you think resurrecting them and re-purposing them as digital media players would be the best approach? Perhaps you inherited a number of digital displays from another department who was not using them, maybe they’ll look better with some somewhat dynamic content on them. Both of these hardware uses (or more appropriately termed “blunders”) we have most likely been a witness to in the past. Doing so, while it could work, may be a larger gamble than your organization may want to risk. And, you may be creating for yourself a veritable signage version of Frankenstein’s monster.
Software is another area where organizations wish to go it alone. I guess it all depends on what you are attempting to accomplish. If you simply wish to play a Keynote presentation on a loop then “glory be!” you may want to do that. It used to be that in media signage, having the ability to schedule and day-part your content was what separated the men from the boys. Now, there are plenty of solutions both expensive and not-so-expensive who manage to schedule content. Going at it alone is doable, but with the litany of types, versions, and variety had in signage software, it would seem foolish to do so.
While doing it the Frankenstein way for integrating all the pieces of the project could pose for some hazardous support problems down the road, it’s not like a standard IT department couldn’t handle something of this nature. It’s more a matter of whether or not you wish to have them putting out fires that could have been prevented at the outset. One area that I am unyielding is in the sector of digital sign content. What is under the hood matters less to network’s message communication success than that which is being displayed. Crappy content will not get you anywhere. And having the office manager, an IT rep, or even a secretary manage and create the content could work from a logistics standpoint, it is ineffective if you wish to actually create an impact.
As much as I dislike the idea of Frankensteining the hardware and software, the idea of performing the same on the content makes my skin crawl. So, whatever your specialty, you can find something that will work. Even something as simple as a Powerpoint loop. But, don’t skimp on making that the best PPT presentation you have ever seen.
In summation, don’t do what Dr. Frankenstein did, but if you must, do it with as much class as possible–otherwise you may up with something that costs you much more in the long-run than it ever would of had you done it right the first time.