My Robot, or Announcing DC Closings

Sunday January 24, 2016

I always know when it’s about to snow. I get a lot of new Twitter followers. Well, not really. Another account I have, @opmdcstatus gets new followers.

A long time ago, way back in 2011, the Office of Personnel Management only offered email broadcast of closings. I worked for the Fed, which followed OPM guidance on closings at the time, but the broadcast announcements would sometimes be delivered several hours late…which is mostly useless. I wanted a text alert, but OPM didn’t offer one. I could use Twitter to fake it. Back before it was cool, Twitter worked via text message (that’s why there’s a 140 character limit). And if you had an app, you could set certain accounts to deliver via text message. But I needed a way to get the info to Twitter.

Oddly, OPM provided an RSS feed. So I used Yahoo! Pipes to fetch the data, see if it changed, and if it has, it posts a Tweet. This has run, essentially untouched, since 2011, five years. I announced it here, but the only time I ever think about it is before a big snow. Not because the snow reminds me, but because I get an email for each new follower.

Of course, occasionally people reply to it and ask what the status is. I don’t really monitor the account, though I have been known to reply from @howardjp to explain I have nothing to do with OPM. This is despite the fact the biography says it is “Not affiliated with OPM because, frankly, they are not this useful.” So much for reading.

Nowadays, OPM provides an app. I get my announcements from that app, even. But the Twitter bot keeps running and continues to have about 20 more followers than I do.

Image by Carrie Smith, NOAA Central Library.