Your Last Project before the Covid Shutdown


Remembering March 2020

The Covid-19 shutdown was four years ago, and everything just before seems like a blur. Do you remember what you were doing right before everything shut down? Would you want to look it up if you could? GitLab keeps a history of contributors' activities, and I looked up what I was doing.

I had created a simple project: a service that would text me when a website changed, watch-url.

So here's the thing: I'm fundamentally against having to make a service like that. I feel like any site that relies on something changing should have an RSS feed or a web service that clients can query. I try to make that clear in the Before You Start section of the So my making this thing was under protest.

Salesforce Tower Tours

At the time, Salesforce Tower in San Francisco was occasionally offering tours to the top. To get on a tour you signed up at a site,, when they had openings. Problem was there was no telling when they'd update the page to allow sign-ups. Anytime they opened the site for reservations, it'd fill up in minutes, and the page would revert to the "Please come back later" page.

It was practically impossible to get reservations. My wife had been trying for weeks, and was on their email list, but it wasn't getting the job done. Their site didn't have an RSS feed or a web API. So I wrote that little web service so my wife could learn when reservations were available again. It was all for Salesforce Tower tours!

Then the U.S. shut down for Covid in March 2020, and there were no more tours to the top of Salesforce Tower. There was no more point to my little script. Oh, well.

Nudging a favorite site to get RSS

Since I decided to open-source watch-url, I chose a better example site to watch in the README, not the Salesforce site. I chose Nicky Case's, because her site is amazing, everybody should visit it, and it tragically didn't have RSS, so some fans wouldn't know if/when she posted something new. So I used it in the README example setup:


It was my way of saying that I loved her site, and I wished there were a better way to get notified whenever she updates it. (Since you can't always trust email, as Cory Doctorow pointed out when 2600's HOPE email got filtered away by Google.)

Later On, an Unexpected Win

So here I am in January 2024, reminiscing about February 2020, and bemoaning that we may never get on a tour to Salesforce Tower.

But guess what? Nicky Case added RSS to her site! I subscribed! And now I get notifications for her new posts. That's a win!

Photo by Bru-nO / Pixabay Content License

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