A Funny Thing Happened the Other Day on the Internet…

This past week, I spent two days in Tiburon supporting my former colleague and bootcamper, Dana Reynolds, who was facilitating the Code for America staff retreat. Any time spent with the good folks at Code for America is going to be inspiring time, and I couldn’t help expressing this sentiment on Twitter after the retreat was over:

Total time spent tweeting this: Maybe 30 seconds.

Then a funny thing happened. Someone named Jang from Korea responded to my tweet with a question:

I didn’t know Jang, so I glanced at his Twitter profile, and I saw that my friends, June Kim and SeungBum Kim, followed him. That was a good sign, so I responded, resulting in the following exchange, each message less than 140 characters:

I was planning to send an email to some folks at Code for America to follow up, but it wasn’t necessary. Conversations on Twitter happen out in the open, and Cyd Harrell, Code for America’s UX evangelist, saw the thread and responded. This is what happened:

I don’t know what’s going to emerge from this whole interaction, but something good will. At worst:

  • I learned something new about an issue I care about in a country I care about
  • I made some new connections
  • I facilitated some new connections
  • I strengthened some old connections

All from simply tweeting how I was feeling one evening.

This is what can happen when you have ways to communicate with lots of people transparently and with very little friction. But it’s also critical to recognize what underlies the technology that makes this sort of thing possible: people, trust, relationships, and literacy.

Bottom line: This sort of thing makes me very, very happy.

Seeking Google Alerts Replacement

Google Reader officially died today. I was not one of the legions of people who expressed dismay and displeasure at Google’s decision. I can’t argue with a company’s desire to focus, I don’t have any insider information as to why they made that decision, and I’m not interested in participating in tech punditry theater.

My general feeling is that, if a service that’s valuable goes away, the marketplace will replace it. That’s exactly what happened here. Feedly and several other companies moved very quickly to fill that void. I migrated to Feedly shortly after Google made its announcement, and while the service has some warts, my overall feed reading experience is better than it was with Google Reader. Score one for markets!

Despite my overall apathy toward the shift, I was annoyed to receive a notice this morning saying that Google Alerts no longer supports RSS feeds. I suppose it validates speculation that Google is de-emphasizing RSS, as I see no substantial technical reasons why it should kill what amounts to another serialization format.

So it goes. I’ve decided to use this as an opportunity to find a replacement stalking personal dashboard notification tool. Unlike Google Reader, Google Alerts has been gradually fading on its own for months now, so this is a good excuse to find something better. I’ve already been using Newsle for several months now, which I like quite a bit, but it’s centered around people, and I want something for topics as well.

Any suggestions?