Some days are just weird. Today was one of those. I was a little tired today, and when I get tired, I get apathetic and a little down. I really should make sure I get enough sleep at night (hence the wine in my hand and the pillow awaiting me right now).
What could possibly bring a guy up from a sleep deprived downer? Your mom?
Well, yea. Apparently. My mother has lost her sister years ago. Literally lost. She disappeared. Because of that, she and her mother (my grandmother) have dedicated years of their lives to finding her.
This evening my mom and I played email-tag a few times. Right before she went to bed, she sent me the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Having lived in southern California for a few years now, I’ve seen the digital billboards on the highway pleading for people to keep an eye out for missing children. It’s sad that they are missing, but I love seeing the infrastructure being used for such things other than traffic delays.
Now, this organization has emergency cell phone alerts and things like that, which is awesome. But why not kick these guys into the cutting edge? I could do it. You could do it. Let’s do it.
I created a twitter account called MissingChildren and subscribed via email to their alert system. I’ve made a pretty diagram below to explain how it works.
Of course, I created this diagram before I got any actual emails, so the script actually does more than it looks like. I had to do a bunch of (careful, geek speak ahead) DOM parsing of a couple different pages to get what I needed out of it along with a few other hacks here and there.
Regardless of the script complexity, the idea is simple. Check your email every now and then and post to twitter the results. My script checks every minute of every day for new emails. Each minute counts in this case, and I’m hitting my own email address, so I can take it (as opposed to hitting an RSS feed every minute, in which case I think the RSS feed owner would be slightly ticked off).
The obvious next step is to separate out the geographical areas regarding where the emails are coming from, create separate twitter accounts for each, and let people subscribe to their area.
Any suggestions on how to improve this process or the idea in general? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If anyone’s interested in the code, just leave a comment with your email address and we’ll talk out of band.
Thanks, and please subscribe to the Missing Children twitter account today. It doesn’t hurt at all, and can do nothing but help.