Your upcoming talk is titled “Winner Texts All.” In your work at Crisis Text Line, you’ve made intensely personal connections possible over a seemingly impersonal communication method. What has that taught you about capturing the power of the text message? Where is the inspiration for your talk coming from?
Text feels both more private and anonymous, while also allowing for deeply personal real sharing. It’s a phenomenal medium for counseling. Last week someone posted something on Imgur that said: “I suffer from depression and my anxiety prevents me from calling the suicide hotline. Found out there is a text version 741-741 “Start” and it’s been some of the best advice no therapist in 16 years has given me.” That post was shared over 600,000 times in 24 hours, then went to Tumblr, then the homepage of Reddit.
The theme of the conference this year is the future of civic tech. As briefly as you like: Where do you think civic tech is going, what do we have to look forward to, and what pitfalls should people working in this sector be aware of?
I’m excited about how much is happening in this space, but I am going to lay down a controversial plea: we don’t need lots of stuff, we need lots of good stuff. For example, Crisis Text Line copycats are a really dumb idea that will confuse people and fragment the data. So while I believe in an open system, I’m hoping we can all be smart and collaborate to do the best, most important work, efficiently.