We want to change how women react to instances of sexism, from catcalls to sexual assault. Instead of sexism being a part of our lives that we put aside or ignore, we set out to create a place where women could not only find a supportive community, but take action and react against sexism that they experience in their everyday lives. Heard has several goals: we aim to generate data about where sexism occurs so that women can avoid dangerous streets on their walk home and stay away from establishments known for being less than amicable. We also use the data we collect so that we can see exactly where our communities have a problem where we can then actively apply efforts to correct. Finally, we wanted to provide a place where women could connect with other women, share their experiences, and support each other. Identifying sexism in our communities is the first step in addressing the issue, and Heard takes that first step by giving voice and community to the victims of sexism.

What it does

Heard allows women to quickly see places reported for sexism on a map (including details about the experience of the woman who reported the issue). It also allows women to easily report an issue and give a few details about the encounter including the location, a brief description, and the type of sexism of which they were the victims. The app also includes a button that will immediately call 911 should the user be reporting a situation that becomes physically dangerous. Other women can comment on posts, offering words of encouragement, empathy, and insight through their own experiences by looking at the feed of recently posted incidents. In essence, Heard provides women with a place to share their experiences and it provides data that may help us avoid sexism and violence against women in the future.

How we built it

The back-end of this app was built using Ruby on Rails; we created an API that can interact with our databases. The front-end of this app was built using the Ionic framework, which relies on HTML, CSS, AngularJS, and JavaScript. The app also interfaces with the Google Maps API in order to mark where instances of sexism occur and allow for ease of reporting. We chose Ionic because we wanted as many people as possible to be able to use the app; Ionic compiles into both iOS and Android mobile apps and can easily be converted into a website, as well. Our goal with this app is ease of use and breadth, which is why we chose a framework that would allow the most diverse range of users.

Challenges we ran into

We had some difficulties getting the API to accept POST requests, so it took a while to be able to add reports to the database, but in the end we managed to get it up and running. We also had some difficulties displaying the Google Map in Ionic, because the map wouldn't reload when transferring between Ionic views: it only reloaded when the page itself was refreshed. To solve this problem, we restructured the code so that the map was specific to a div, not the entire window, and this solved the problem. Overall, our coding went fairly smoothly.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We built a functional app that is fully integrated and practically ready to launch with only three developers over the course of 36 hours. However, what we are most proud of is what we believe the impact of this app will be upon release. We hope to see women's experiences with sexism become a more widely addressed issue, and we hope to help communities understand how they can better fight sexism with the data our app will generate.

What we learned

We came into this hackathon fairly comfortable with the technologies we decided to use, and that was a deliberate choice so that we could build a functioning app over the course of the hackathon. Still, we were incredibly impressed with the amount of work that we accomplished. Additionally, our back-end developer learned to create an API with rails, another developer grew much more comfortable with using GitHub, and we all gained a great deal of experience in dividing up a project in a way that we could all work simultaneously towards a goal.

What's next for Heard

We are extremely proud and excited of the app we developed, and all that's left is a bit of fine tuning before we can launch the app. Our plans for the future include marketing strategies across communities such as college campuses where women are ready to have their voices heard. We also plan to implement further features to prevent trolls from posting hateful or false comments (we already have features that allow users to report trolls, but we hope to add more security features so that the community can be a safe place for women, which is not always the case for online communities). Our aim is for women around the world to post to Heard whenever they experience sexism, so that we can gather the data we need to fight this injustice and take strides towards a better society.

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