I created Isolating Together because I saw this crisis completely shattering many peoples’ daily routines. Of course this is stressful, but it’s also a rare opportunity to try new things and mindfully build new routines. I want to help people redirect their anxiety into positive action that can help them cope now and thrive in the future.

What it does

The heart of the website is a list of small actions and habits that make us healthier, happier, and more connected. The list is organized around four categories: healthy eating and exercise, relaxing activities like meditation, creative outlets and new hobbies, and ideas for reaching out to help others.

Here’s how it works: If you see something you’ve done recently, click the button to be counted. The main counter goes up in real time, so everyone looking at the page will see it increase. When multiple people are on the page at once, this is really compelling. People can submit their own ideas, and I’ve been adding a few new ones each day from user suggestions. In the future I could see adding personalized tracking around progress and consistency to encourage repeat use, kind of like a personal checklist or goal tracking app.

There are also two other pages. The first lists some of the best free resources I’ve found for helping people cope. Some of these are linked from the activities on the first page. The list can be filtered by topic and by who the resources are for, for example health care workers or students or everyone. The other page is a directory of ways to help, which can also be filtered by type, for example donations, medical supplies, or volunteering.

How I built it

It's a simple web application, built with Vue Javascript framework and Buefy UI components, and hosted on Firebase. I built most of it quickly over just a couple days, mainly as an outlet for my own energy during the early days of home isolation, and have continued making improvements as it's started to get more users.

Challenges I ran into

The biggest challenge has been getting it in front of actual users. I hoped that once enough people started using it, it might spread through social sharing, but hitting that critical mass has been hard. The internet is so saturated with content around COVID-19 right now, my own social networks are relatively small, and perhaps I have not found a sticky enough hook to encourage widespread sharing.

During the building phase, the biggest challenge was paring down my ideas to a simple MVP. My original idea included more complicated progress tracking and goal setting, but that complexity was holding me back from making progress on the true heart of the concept. I finally decided to start with a very simple version focused more on connection and positive vibes than rigorous individual tracking, which I think was a good choice, but tough to do.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

A number of people have sent notes saying they found some positivity and inspiration from using it, and thanking me for making it. That's the best accomplishment I could hope for.

What I learned

  • Increased comfort level with Vue and Firebase
  • Finding product-market fit is hard, even when the market is basically being created in real time.
  • Stickiness and virality are really hard to achieve. I still have not found the right hook.
  • The number of people coming together to build helpful tools right now is larger than I ever imagined!

What's next for Isolating Together

I would love to get it in front of more users, though this is a big challenge for me. If it were possible though, it might be worth the effort to add more features. Ideas I've considered:

  • More open flow for users to submit and view others' ideas, maybe via hashtag on social media.
  • A set of structured "Quarantine Challenges" in particular categories, for example, complete one action per day from a specific category that you choose.
  • Support for user accounts and keeping track of which activities you've done.
  • Support for commenting on actions (this was suggested by a user).

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