Inspiration

Originally, currency developed as an abstraction for value of material goods. In today's world of finance, much of that meaning has been lost, especially with amounts in the millions, billions, and trillions that are difficult for humans to even conceptualize. What's a dollar? Does anybody really know?

What it does

How Many Pens turns dollar amounts on the pages you visit into their "equivalents" in actual things. Those jeans on Amazon? 2.1 pounds of uranium. Facebook's IPO? Peak market cap of 10.41 billion months of Netflix. Your checking account? 1.78 Canada Goose jackets. One can also opt to see only equivalents in BIC Pens, hence the name of the extension.

How we built it

We built a Chrome extension using Javascript. It finds dollar amounts on pages using a regex, parses out the value, and replaces it with the equivalent from a manually-curated list of goods.

Challenges we ran into

  • Amounts like "$1 billion" were slightly more difficult to find/replace. We eventually decided to transform the dollar amount, then append the item name after the "trillion/billion/million/thousand," e.g. $30 million -> 1.78 billion paper clips.

  • Contextual capitalization (e.g. in article titles) was difficult, since our regex only captured the dollar amount and none of the words around it. We partially fixed this by detecting and applying contextual capitalization if a written quantity (trillion/billion/million/thousand) was detected and capitalized.

What we learned

How to make Chrome extensions!

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