Rethinking Parent Alert System

I broke the Visual-Pager keypad at church yesterday. This device allows workers in our nursery to notify our tech booth operators that they need to display a number on our video projection system. Each parent and child are assigned a number and parents know they are being paged back to the nursery if their number appears on screen.

Being the frugal geek that I am, I’m trying to rethink if there is a free way to replace this system instead of spending another $250 on a new keypad. I’m thinking there should be some way to setup some service so that our nursery workers could call a special phone number and type in the number. Then this number is communicated to the tech booth operators via SMS, IM, or Twitter.

The closest I’ve come up with so far is to setup a special Jott account and link that in with a Twitter account. The nursery worker calls Jott, says they want to contact Twitter, and then speaks the number and name of the parent. This would require the tech booth to be running a Twitter client to see the alerts. Here’s a sample of what I’ve got it doing so far:

I’m thinking there should still be an even easier way to do this, hopefully involving fewer internet services. This solution wouldn’t work if our phone service, internet service, Jott, or Twitter experienced any outages. And, it’s not totally straight forward for our volunteers to use.

Anyone have a simpler idea?

Time Tracking with Twitter

At work recently we’ve been trying to get a better handle on how we use our time. My goal has been to document my time usage in 15 minute increments throughout the day. But, obviously this could quickly become a tedious task that is counter productive.

Yesterday I had an idea to simplify this task. I setup a new Twitter account specifically for this task. Then I downloaded a Twitter client and setup a cron entry to automatically open the twitter client every 15 minutes throughout my work day. So now documenting my work day is pretty unobtrusive. And if my coworkers ever want a glimpse of what I’m up to, they can simply subscribe to my Twitter feed.

I’ve been auditing my work time in a similar manner for the past couple of weeks and have found this extremely valuable. I’m finding 4 main benefits:

  1. I feel pressured to be more productive so I actually have something to include in my entries. It’s a kind of accountability.
  2. I can quickly review my week so that preparing status reports for management is easier.
  3. I’m seeing areas where I get bogged down and am unproductive, as well as times of day that I’m simply wasting time or goofing off.
  4. I have a historical log so that I can diagnose issues down the road. Lots of times we’ll see where one of our systems started having problems on a certain date or time; and now it’s easier to recall what might have changed during that particular time frame.

Have you ever found it useful to track your work and time in this much detail?

Do you have any other creative uses for