What it does
In times of hardship, sometimes you just need someone to talk to. anonybuddy is a web app designed to provide support to addicts and others in recovery in a personal yet anonymous way. "Clients" can reach out when they feel overwhelmed or fear relapse, and volunteers will support them over text.
When recovering addicts are struggling, the typical route is to call a hotline or attend a support group. This can be an issue for those who worry about shame and stigma, or are simply unable to make it to in-person meetings.
Existing addiction and other mental-health centred apps primarily focus on self-help, self-guided therapy, behaviour tracking, and automated reminders to stay on target. These are useful tools, but they don't provide the human connection and immediate feedback that a human sponsor provides. We wanted to create a solution that would offer that support.
We were inspired by the app "Be My Eyes" that connects sighted volunteers with blind or visually impaired people with vision-related tasks such as reading labels.
With this in mind, we built a web app that would anonymously connect users ("clients"), to human volunteers ("buddies") in a one-on-one chat room. This way, they can find motivation, solace, and comfort without worry of revealing their identity.
How we built it
anonybuddy is a React web app with a Google Firebase backend and styled components done in HTML, CSS and Bootstrap. We went through a lengthy ideation and design phase at the beginning of development in order to ensure our plans were solid. As we developed, we had to downsize and rethink our approach due to time constraints, but worked to ensure that we had a working minimum viable product by the end.
Challenges we had
Our main challenges were in our project implementation and inexperience with React. Our original plan was to build HTML and CSS web pages and integrate them with Firebase and React for the backend. Issues forced us to switch direction and build everything with React, which then brought up other difficulties due to our inexperience. We also ran into some communication struggles within our team, as multiple people were working on the same thing in different ways. One big issue was how to integrate all the pieces we individually worked on together.
What we learned
Communicate! One of the most important things we'll be taking away from this project is the importance to have frequent check-ins with the team. This will prevent overlap, highlight concerns earlier, and leave more time to solve problems. Other than that, we think it's important to limit the use of new technologies in a hackathon. Learning a new tool is great, but it is a short time window and it's probably best to stick to one new thing and integrate it with what we already know.
Also, taking the time to make good pitch plans, slides, and Devposts is well worth the effort.
What's next for anonybuddy
If we continued this project into the future, we would like to port it to a mobile app in order to let people connect to buddies more conveniently. We'd also love to incorporate Google's natural language processing API so that clients could type in their situation and get better matches. If our app were in production, we would like to ensure that mental health professionals were also on call to assist the volunteers and intervene in potentially dangerous situations.