Friday, January 6, 2012

in which I have an idea and somebody I've never met decides to make it happen

About a month ago I had to take an overnight trip to Ottawa for a meeting. Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) negotiates rates for accommodations and car rentals for federal employees travelling on government business. My meeting was downtown and I wanted to find a good hotel within walking distance. I had the PWGSC accommodation directory open in one browser window, Google Maps in another, and in a third. I was getting a bit frustrated flipping back and forth among them, and posted on Twitter:

@jeffmrose: My kingdom for a mashup of Google Maps, TripAdvisor reviews, and the PWGSC accommodation list. #GoC #w2p

It was an idle thought, a frustration I guessed a lot of public servants might share. A couple of people retweeted me right away, commenting that they thought it was a cool idea, but I wasn't expecting Sean Kibbee to say what he said next:

@SDKibb: @nellleo @RyanAndrosoff @jeffmrose Should be easy enough to do. Where do I get said PW accomodation list?

Then three weeks later:

@SDKibb: @nellleo @RyanAndrosoff @jeffmrose I've databased & Googlemapped PW accomodations data.Waiting for TripAdvisor license key 2 mash it all up.

And a few days ago:

@SDKibb: .@nellleo @RyanAndrosoff @jeffmrose Until Trip Advisor opens their API to me (!) here's a dirty but working version

I don't generally use the term, but I can't help myself: this is pure awesomesauce, with a side of win. I've played around with Sean's app, and it would have saved me time last month even without the TripAdvisor data.

This very cool experience has reinforced a couple of things I tend to take for granted:

1. Express your ideas, even if they seem small, even if you don't have the time to do anything about them yourself. You never know what they will turn into.

2. If you think something is a good idea, say so. I don't know whether Sean would have noticed my tweet or been inclined to act on it if Ryan and Nelly hadn't publicly supported it, but I'm sure it didn't hurt.

3. Social networks are important for ad hoc collaboration. I get why some departments feel the need to block certain sites, but I think it's unfortunate, and I'm glad that the new Guideline for External Use of Web 2.0 encourages departments to trust employees in their online activities as they do in other aspects of their work.

This post doubles as Follow Friday Director's Cut, Vol. 2. Follow Sean on Twitter here. Read Vol. 1 here.

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