Dad creates "Christmas lights" app to help you find best decorated holiday homesBy Mustafa Gatollari
Dec. 9 2020, Updated 1:34 p.m. ET
One of the biggest joys around the Holidays is taking a late night drive to gander at the houses that went all out decorating their homes to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. We all have the one block in our area where the folks seem to be in some type of lights-decorating competition with one another. This kind of knowledge usually comes experience in riding around in an area for several years.
But let's say you aren't super familiar with a neighborhood, or just haven't gotten lost enough/driven around to find the homes that have the best Christmas lights-set up? Or what if you don't have the kind of time to spend cruising around to find spiffy houses? Well, this Philadelphia-Area Dad has an answer for the modern day home gazer who wants to find the absolute best holiday house watching route.
Mike Kane created the ChristmasPrism app, which was created not just for lights and decorations enthusiasts, but for folks who are looking for activities to do during COVID from the safety of their own vehicles. As we enter the cold and dark winter months of 2020 going into 2021 it doesn't look like there's going to be an end to the pandemic and the multitude of safety protocols being implemented to help curb its spread.
Packing your loved ones into a vehicle to check out Christmas Lights is not only an activity one can do safely, but it's also a great way to rekindle some nostalgic holiday memories that hearken back to a pre-COVID time, or it could be the perfect moment to create some new memories and traditions with your loved ones.
Philly Mag wrote that the dad created ChristmasPrism "out of fatherly necessity." The 36-year-old has two young children, around 2-years-old and one-year-old, and lives in Delaware County. "Delco" residents apparently take their Holiday lights displays extremely seriously, setting them up as early as the middle of November.
It was around that time that Mike decided to put his two children in the car and drive around to find the best displays in his area. However they were few and far between and he didn't know where to drive to find the next best house. It didn't take long for his 1-year-old child to begin crying and that's when the idea hit him: wouldn't it be great if one could mitigate the "dead" time between seeing awesome Christmas displays?
We had been seeing the same thing on the Next Door app and in all the mom groups: ‘Where are the lights at?' So I spent three weekends designing my ChristmasPrism app. Late on Friday nights and early on Saturday mornings, before breakfast. My wife works on Saturdays, so I’m with the kids all day. And then Sundays are reserved for family time.
Users can sign up for the app and upload photos of their own houses, or they can mark on the map where they've located a cool-looking and uber-decked out home of their own.
Users can "like" the homes to indicate if they have a high-rating, so folks can know where to go.
ChristmasPrism also allows for users to comment on the homes that they visit and while most of the houses on the app are currently in the Delco area, there aren't any restrictions in terms of app location.
What's interesting about Kane's journey to developing the app is that it only took a few weeks. He only started tinkering around with coding at the age of 30, so it's not like he's had a bevy of experience in programming either.
"I wanted to try something I had never done before. Something difficult. I wanted to prove something to myself. So I picked the hardest thing I could think of: I taught myself to code. It took me a year of reading books and practicing around the clock. All day. Every day."
His hard work paid off and he's now got a great position with Connectify, a Center City tech firm. Him and his team developed Speedify, a VPN.
While his full-time job involves computer programming, he says that his motives behind ChristmasPrism are "pure": "There is no underlying plot. I’m not collecting data to sell. I’m not selling advertising. Everybody just puts so much effort into their decorating. It’s just a way for people to show off a little during these dark times. And for others to find joy," Kane told Philly Mag.
And if that doesn't put someone in the Holiday spirit, I don't know what will.