On March 18th 2020 I made a website to track the spread of coronavirus over time at the county level in Massachusetts (where I live). The next day, I had an army of amazing people willing to help me expand to all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico, to help people better understand the impact the coronavirus is having on their community and the communities of their loved ones. Better yet, we are building an app so that you can track as many counties as you want and get alerts when the numbers are updated. This is the story of the 24 hours that lead from one guy making one website to a bunch of bright and talented people coming together trying to help the whole country by providing the best information in the fastest and most efficient way possible.
It took me 40+ years to find the right path in my life and my career, but since I started consulting a little over a year ago I’ve never been happier. But like everyone else, I have had a really hard time focusing on work with everything going on with coronavirus these last few weeks. I felt powerless, afraid, worried about my friends and family, and wanted to do anything I could to help make things better. So I neglected work from paying clients for a day to build a website to track and visualize data on the spread of coronavirus at the county level for Massachusetts. It felt really empowering to use my skills in making information more accessible and easier to understand to help all my friends and family. The feedback was awesome. People were literally less afraid because they felt like they had a better grasp of what is actually going on. Information really is power. Unexpectedly, I also heard from a few friends that they are going to take the coronavirus much more seriously now that they have seen the impact it is having in their county and how quickly it is spreading. They had heard it was in some other country, then they heard there were just a few cases, then they heard it was no worse than the flu. They had a million reasons to ignore it. But once they saw it spreading in their county, they knew it was time to take it seriously. That is when I realized visualizing this data in a clear and accessible way could actually have a huge impact. The data exists at the county level, but seeing it grow is powerful and changes people.
The day after I built the first site I needed to scramble to catch up with client work since I spent most of previous day building a coronavirus website. Still distracted, I joined a call with one of my favorite clients, ready to apologize for being late to the call and being late with my deliverables. They had seen my coronavirus site and had already decided they wanted to do whatever it took to create a site for all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico, to make this information accessible and easy to read for everyone in the country. I could have cried. I’ve been in marketing for two decades and I have seen a lot of companies spin PR fluff stories around their corporate generosity, but it is always driven by their bottom line. There was no question on this call that everyone wanted to help because they, like me, are afraid for their families and feel powerless as we watch others suffer. They told me I didn’t even need to mention the company – just solve the problem and they would give me every resource that I need.
But I think it is important that you know it is Astreya who made it possible for me to scale from one website to 51 so that everyone in the country can easily track the spread of the virus at the local level. You have probably never heard of Astreya, but they deploy and manage IT equipment for some of the largest tech companies in the world. They know how to get huge projects done fast and done right.
I came to Astreya via the acquisition of RelayiQ, a company that specializes in sending out alerts based on important changes in data. Working with super-talented folks means that we can do more than just make websites. So we decided in addition to the 51 websites we are rolling out, we are also going to build a free app that will send you an automated alert with new numbers for any county in the US you want to track. Worried about your parents, grandparents, siblings, or college buddies? Track everyone’s county and automatically get an alert when new numbers come in showing you how fast this coronavirus is spreading (or hopefully soon how quickly the spread is slowing down). We fundamentally believe this is a better way to spread information rather than expecting people to remember to check a website or interpret a dashboard. We also recognize that the world needs some good news and positivity right now, so we will be including encouraging stories about people who are doing amazing things to help other people get through all of this. You can subscribe to receive alerts for those, as well.
We have some other exciting ideas we are going to working on to help people get through this — more on that later. But please know that if you are feeling helpless and don’t think you can make a difference, you are wrong. I took a day to make a mediocre website because I NEEDED to feel like I could do something to help. That quickly grew, and I am full of energy now knowing that I can work with awesome people to provide everyone in the country with better information about the spread of the virus at their county level to make a real difference. Do what you can, no matter how small. Help a neighbor, call someone who might be lonely, donate to your food pantry, and never underestimate the power for those small acts to spread. Our collective goodwill can outpace the spread of this virus, and it must if we want as many people as possible to make it through this.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Puerto Rico
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia