One of my favorite things about summer is porch hangs. I have a porch, and I hang out on it with my friends. It’s nice doing this in a city like Chicago, which is a grim, frostbitten hellscape for six months out of the year. After winters like these, porch hangs is something you earn.

One day in March, I was running some errands on a day that was unseasonably warm – above freezing, even. Around 6pm, I received a text message from a friend of mine:

Where are you?

Confused, I replied:

I’m at the corner store, getting beer. Why do you ask?
We’re drinking on your porch. We need to pee.

I walked home, and sure enough, several of my friends were drinking on my porch. I had not invited them to my porch. They showed up there, and began drinking. My friends really, really care about porch hangs.

Earlier this year, in January, I deleted my personal Twitter account – which was the number one way that people found out about porch hangs. As a result, announcing porch hangs was suddenly thrown into question. Email doesn’t work, because a lot of people don’t check their personal email that frequently. Facebook doesn’t work because I’m not on Facebook. Instagram doesn’t work because I’m not on Facebook. Path doesn’t work because, well, Path. Foursquare? Can you privately mass-text friends on there now? I have no idea.

Point being: I don’t use a lot of social media, which is like the modern urban hipster equivalent of saying I don’t even own a TV. But it was genuinely frustrating in this situation. I could SMS people one-on-one, but that’s cumbersome and time-consuming. I tried iMessaging people once, but that resulted in a giant group iMessage that devolved into anarchy – and a really crappy porch hangs. I could go back on Twitter, but that’s never going to happen again, for a variety of personal reasons.

This is mostly my fault. I could just bite the bullet and start a Facebook group or rejoin Twitter, and then I wouldn’t have to worry about this. And that’s when my neighbor Chris jokingly suggested that I build an autodialer and robocall all of my friends. Obviously I did this, and it’s been awesome.

I got my friend Molly to record the announcements, because I sound horrible on the phone. There are seven different ones, and they all end with “this message has been dictated but not read.” Rarely is any relevant information provided to the listener during these messages.

Yet, more of my friends show more often, and everyone thinks it’s hilarious that I robocall them every week or so.

A bunch of my friends were biking home from a brewery one day, and they all got robocalled at once while waiting for a freight train to pass. One of them held her phone up for all of them to hear. I greatly enjoy that this happened.

Building a robocaller is seriously a trivial amount of code in Twilio. How easy is it? This easy. Yes, I made a GitHub repository for my stupid robocaller. Yes, I’m ruining the internet. Anyway, what can we take away from all this?

  • Robocall all of your friends every time you want to tell them anything.
  • It is possible to live without social media and be happy.
  • Porch hangs is the best.

If you’ve been to porch hangs this summer, thanks for stopping by. Erin and I really appreciate it.

Thanks for reading,
Nick Disabato
nickd@nickd.org


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