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Staying up-to-date with COVID-19 stats and sparking healthy conversations!


Amid the panic, frustration, and isolation that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us, people turn towards Twitter for up-to-date news about the global pandemic, statistics about its scale and impact, and use Twitter as a means of both receiving, sharing, and communicating their thoughts about the deadly virus. This panic can increase when prompted with alarming posts on Twitter that share information about the virus that is simply not true. According to IEEE Spectrum, about 25% of “low credibility” links that spread misinformation about the pandemic are posted by Twitter bots. And because of the ability for information to spread rapidly throughout Twitter, millions of people can encounter false information about COVID-19, causing more stress and frustration.

To counteract the misinformation spread by Twitter bots about the pandemic and create a welcoming environment to discuss COVID-related topics, ApolloTalks was born. The ApolloTalks Twitter Bot is a place for Twitter users to access reliable COVID-19 data and converse among other Twitter users about concerns, ideas, and advice regarding the pandemic. We believe that fostering an open and welcoming community for users to interact with and express themselves is crucial for promoting #HealthyConversations, and the ApolloTalks Twitter Bot account allows them to do just that right at their fingertips.

What it does

ApolloTalks is a Twitter bot that tweets daily COVID-19 statistics in the United States including the total confirmed cases, total fatalities, and total recoveries, and supports #HealthConversations on Twitter with friendly quarantine conversation starters. The bot fetches data every morning and displays the COVID-19 statistics in list-form along with the net change from the day before. In the same tweet, ApolloTalks finishes off with a randomly-generated conversation starter related to safe practices during the pandemic, checking in on followers’ mental health, and fun, socially-distanced activities.

ApolloTalks tweets an auto-generated message with updated information every morning, keeping followers up-to-date with current COVID-19 statistics and promoting a safe, welcoming space for Twitter users to converse about their quarantine adventures.

For more detailed information about the COVID-19 data, apollotalks.tech showcases graphs with COVID-19 trends in the US and resources for followers to have healthy conversations.

How I built it

We used the Goldman Sachs Marquee API and Twitter API to make the ApolloTalks Twitter bot possible. Using Python, we imported the Wikipedia dataset from the Goldman Sachs Marquee API and extracted information about total confirmed cases, total fatalities, and total recoveries in the US. The Twitter Bot was accomplished using the tweepy library in python to access Twitter's API. We utilized this library to gain access to the desired Twitter Bot account using personal API keys given to us by Twitter's Developer website. We used this to send out Tweets containing COVID-19 data from the Marquee API along with a question or remark to insight healthy conversations among fellow Tweeter’s all from one python file.

For the ApolloTalks.tech website, we used matplotlib to create data visualizations of the COVID-19 data, and imported them to the website. The website was built using HTML and CSS in the sublime IDE. The first step was to write a skeleton code consisting of HTML: this is where the pages, links, headers, and sections were created. Sequentially, CSS was used to add structure and color to the web page.

Challenges I ran into

Because we were intrigued by several ideas we had to build a mobile app, our team spent about half a day planning a different project. Soon enough, we realized that our lack of experience with Flutter would limit the capabilities of our project idea, and decided to pursue the mobile app-building process at a later date once we were all more comfortable with Flutter. So, we pivoted our idea to a Twitter Bot and website which we were all more comfortable with. Although there was a time crunch at the very end, we were able to execute our project as we visualized it, making the process all worth it.

Challenges We Ran Into:

  • Not being able to link to domain due to not receiving the domain information from Domain.com

  • Not being well versed in HTML, CSS, and Javascript during the creation of the website. Leading to a sort of self-teach and implement strategy when programming the website.

  • We were not able to send tweets automatically and randomly after running our python file once. We had issues with the schedule library in python.

  • We ran into an issue with our tweets exceeding max character count so we had to truncate COVID data and questions in our tweets.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

We’re proud we were able to complete our ideal minimum viable product despite almost all of us being new hackers! It was great to see our idea come to life after lots of researching and learning to provide valuable information for our Twitter followers. We’re also proud that we’re able to positively contribute to sparking healthy conversations by reminding people how to stay safe during the pandemic and ways to keep their physical and mental health in check by promoting socially-distanced, quarantine-approved activities!

Our Twitter Bot compiles relevant information that should be easily accessible to people across the country. By providing it in a fun, conversational, and inviting manner through Twitter, we’re able to reach a large audience to help them stay informed and create a safe online community.

Our website shares an overview of COVID-19 latest news and stats. Additionally, it would showcase the healthy conversations sparked by Apollo Talks and would offer the user a way to add more to the conversation by linking the twitter thread to the web page.

What I learned

Since two of our team members are first-time hackers and the third member only started participating in hackathons last week, we all had a lot of room to learn and grow as hackers. We learned how to implement and retrieve information from APIs in Python, how to create a website using HTML and CSS, and how to link two separate APIs to form the messages we tweeted. We also learned how to use GitHub to have a uniform platform where everyone on our team could access updated project files and make changes themselves. We learned about the powerful git commands such as git add, git commit, and git push. More importantly, we learned how to debug our errors by posting on forums, reading code snippets, and asking for help from the mentors provided to us through ShellHacks.

What's next for ApolloTalks

•Implement auto-generated Tweets without having to run the program locally every morning

•Implement Javascript to make the website more engaging to the user

•Create an interactive twitter thread embedded in the website

•Improve on the UI/UX aspect of the website through CSS and Javascript and the addition of graphics

•After the pandemic, ApolloTalks can be a safe place for sparking #HealthyConversations by providing daily prompts to allow and promote friendly discourse on Twitter

Built With

  • css
  • datetime-library
  • emoji-library
  • goldman-sachs-marquee-api
  • html
  • matplotlib
  • os-library
  • pandas-library
  • python
  • tweepy-library
  • twitter
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