A Small Project

“Did Everyone in the 80’s have a  helicopter?” I say after the second run-through of the Air Wolf intro on Brian’s iPad. “You might be right,” he responds, “A-Team, Magnum PI – might just be how everyone got around back then…”

This conversation began as a debate one whether Pinero had been beat boxing/humming (or whatever the hell it is that he does) to the Airwolf Theme, or the some mangled mashup of Magnum and Sanford and Son. (It was Airwolf, spot on).

This entire scene can be supplementally overlaid on our tiny call center, where in 36 hours we’ll be launching a 24-hour service line for young adults in abusive dating relationships. This timeline has been somewhat accelerated, so we are of course scrambling. The focus of our efforts is on mine and Brian’s pet project of adding a SMS/text component to the hotline, a channel we hope will not only be more comfortable for clients in crisis, but also cross some digital divide issues, giving lower-soci0-economic demographics, who may not have access to a computer (but may have pay-as-you-go phones with texting) a way to connect. It would allow them to ask basic questions about the health of their relationships without the scary crisis levels of calling the hotline (thus also saving us valuable resources by allowing us to triage incoming calls). It would be the first-of-its kind human services texting helpline in the country and would be announced on national television the next day.

And as of the Airwolf conversation, it did not work. The timeline had left us flat-footed. Our IT support was on vacation, and Brian and I were left staring at stalled status bars for the install of our new miracle chat, as it fought for space on our inadequate internet connection. This wouldn’t be a crisis in itself, except the helplines computers are old (like first-term-W old), and the chat client was disappearing from the system every time the machine was shut down (which needs to happen, else they start melting). This forced the advocates to reinstall every single time, doing god knows what to the systems, and slowing down the internet to a damn near inoperable degree.

“So what if we just leave them on and logged in till we can figure this out?” Brian suggests.

“I really think that might melt them. Or at the very least cause some serious issues…”

“What if we buy a fan, crank the AC and if they crap out, maybe we get a new computer or two?”

I shrug. “Tell your folks to bring blankets and jackets”

As much as this sounds like Doc Brown holding the cables to together while the Delorian blasts down main street as lightning simultaneously strikes the clock tower and sends Marty back to 1985, it was the best solution we had. On to the next crisis.

As a side note, the fact that Brian and I are heading up this project is two steps shy of mildly psychotic. Neither of us have degrees in IT-related fields, and in college Franzia on the couch before class in the morning, happened more than once. Yet here we were heading up project that actually meant a damn and could make a difference in peoples lives.

I’ve made a point to never write about work on this site (which explains the decrease in posting of late, as so much of my life is about work), but we’re making an exception here. One this was important and had the potential to change the direction of how these types of services are offered. Two: not everything went exactly to plan (in fact nothing went to plan) but we pulled it off – Brian, and my absurdly small communications team hit the mark and in doing so crossed some invisible threshold into being more than just a job, but something we could be proud of.

At that moment back on my side of the building, the official panic level on the whiteboard was climbing from “take cover” to a midpoint between “…Imperial troops have entered the base…” and “Fast Zombies”

In addition to taking on a new service provision we war also launching a new website with our partner project in California. As with these things, I’d assumed the website would be the impossible task and the chat the easy one. It turned out to be quite the opposite in fact, with the website kicking along quite smoothly and the cant being an epic clusterfuck.  Still, any website is an effort similar to counting grains of sand on a beach – reading back through content, checking links, tweaking styles, uploading file after file after file…how many times our stylesheets have made the virtual trip from our desktops to the data center in Kansas in the past 48 hours – the distance numbers would get us to the moon at least.

The really stunning thing is, in hindsight it all works out somehow. It’s not perfect, but we did something new, something a bit epic on a ridiculous time frame that no one thought possible. Our announcement had a few hitches, but at the end of the day we have something unique. Something we can be proud of.