No matter what your political beliefs, if you’re an American, the last two weeks since the inauguration have been, well, interesting. In fact, there is such a stream of breaking, urgent news that there doesn’t seem to be any calm downtime any more. As someone who usually writes about mobile and web consumer products, it’s hard to get excited about the new on demand app (this month: luxury car!) that a young, new startup released in the Silicon Valley bubble I call home.
Yet it’s impossible to ignore tech’s role in recent events. Twitter itself is a contradiction. On one hand Twitter brings all the news that’s happening now to your phone, 24/7. On a well-curated timeline there is always an interesting take on the news that you haven’t heard. On a good day, it’s a way to meet new people, gain new perspective, and learn something. Unfortunately, on a bad day, Twitter is a minefield of trolls, links to fake stories, and links to stories that are completely true but disconcerting. I’ve found that Nuzzel is a good filter for the more important news, while the number of notifications per day is customizable and makes the volume of news articles palatable. I have also found many sites, some new and some that have been around for years but are now focused on organizing marches and meetings, creating support communities, driving calls to Congress, getting signatures for petitions, and, maybe most important, donating money to causes and organizations.
Going back to Twitter. When history tells the story of this period, Twitter will be front and center. On one hand, the unfiltered Tweets of the president can cause a stock to tumble or an ally to question their relationship with the US. This has created calls for suspension, which Twitter so far has ignored. Yet Twitter has also created an outlet for the so-called rogue accounts for various Federal agencies and the Parks. It has also started accounts to fact-check the president’s tweets, and shows the tweet and context as one image. There have also been a slew of interesting products launched on Product Hunt, from Celebrating Immigrants to lists of who is matching donations to the ACLU.
It’s these uses of existing platforms and the creation of new sites and services that give me hope that the tech community is changing. It’s no longer just about creating platforms that “replace their moms” but, perhaps, really is about changing the world. It’s why I continue writing about this industry. Sure, there is the built-for-urban-dwellers-with-high-incomes apps, but there’s also new and interesting takes on how to make a difference.