In this time of social distancing, insecurity and in which many people experience fear, we had the impulse to create an online tool, through which people can connect and experience deep and profound encounters with others in online video calls. We are working on creating a platform for hosting and participating in video calls for groups, using the method of the CoronaCircles. This method is a three step program to ensure a space for listening, sharing and the experience of community. We are connecting the ancient and powerful experience of meeting in circles with the current possibilities of video conferences.
What it does
The project lets participants experience the power of community, profound encounters with others and ensures social life, strengthening people's resilience and allows for a good experience of sharing & deep listening in times of social distancing.
How I built it
An application program interface (Python) built over a database (MySQL DBMS) is the engine behind a web-based graphical user interface that allows individuals to either create a "circle" (online web-event for deep listening) or to join an existing circle that is already scheduled. Circles are scheduled through Jitsi and automated emails are issued to hosts and guests to provide the websession URL, sent reminders and/or notify of schedule changes. The service, which requires no registration, aims at broadening the reach of the service, i.e. limiting the user overhead and therefore, reaching individuals with various levels of digital literacy.
Challenges I ran into
Financial challenges: subscription of a web-hosted service supporting the creation of a database. Technical challenges: integration of all layers, i.e. front-end and back-end API layer; back-end API layer and Jitsi API; back-end API layer and database. Operational challenges: timeline and bottlenecks/dependencies, timezones.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
The strong motivation and commitment of the team supported the in-depth scoping and analysis of the challenge. The collective efforts allowed the design of both a short-term solution for the delivery of a proof-of-concept and an engineered and scalable design for the delivery of a more flexible and thorough service.
What I learned
The true strength of the team were the power and synergies brought to the table by the highly diverse profiles in the team itself. The core mission of the challenge (creating a virtual space for mutual, deep listening and overcome imposed social isolation) resonated in all the phases of the implementation through each team member's efforts to listen to each other's needs and challenges.
What's next for Corona Circles
Our tech team is working on a first prototype over a simplified data model / set of assumptions. The final solution is a scalable and fully engineered service that supports the creation and management of users (hosts and guests) and circles (single events or recurring appointments). A lifecycle for all entities (users, circles, events) is defined and scheduled jobs on the database ensure that the data remain consistent over time and get removed from the database when obsolete (housekeeping of inactive users and expired circles).
Video of the platform prototype: https://youtu.be/Os3lh0OQxes