So far in 2020, social and political movements have been on the rise. More compelled to than ever, the younger generation is becoming increasingly involved in politics. Social Media apps have emphasized the importance of voting, and young celebrity icons everywhere are posting about hot-button political issues on medias such as Instagram and TikTok. Many young people encourage their peers to contact their local representatives about issues and voice their opinions. In a very technological era, it's become easier than ever to learn about politics via osmosis -- but information is scattered around viral media and harder to access for younger people with an affinity for technology.
What it does
Our app is intended to bridge the generational divide between young people and our political process, which is heavily reliant on phone calls and letters and websites that feel more accessible to the older generations. With a timeline of updates from politicians the user deems relevant, Outspeak makes it easy to view quick political updates via Twitter -- a common platform for obtaining near-instant updates about the state of politics. They can also follow certain issues they care about, and be given highlights about them. Alongside this, notices appear on the user's timeline to encourage them to be actively involved in politics, such as giving users voting information or recommending them local events based on their selected party of preference (events such as rallies, etc). Outspeak would allow users to save their local representatives to contacts so they can easily be called or communicated with. It also features polls, which can be used to get a general census of how the userbase feels about different topics and propositions.
How I built it
We first designed the application in Figma, then used React Native to build the frontend and Firebase to handle our data. The frontend contains small sample sets of data that are passed to its components, and is ready to be connected to bigger groups of data when ready. We attempted to use the dataset of the 116th US Congress from EveryPolitician, which gives details about many, many politicians.
Challenges I ran into
Half of our group members are first time hackers with little to no coding experience, which meant adjusting to the way a hackathon runs and learning a lot about the way applications are structured.
- Chasen was challenged with developing a user experience under the pressure of time, designing the application as fast as possible while also considering the best user experience.
- Gaby struggled with developing the app contents by sorting relevant and irrelevant features, as well as addressing the blurred line of user anonymity on an application about politics, which can cause heated discussions.
- Shiv has never used Firebase before and had difficulties setting up the backend on the last legs of the hackathon.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
We're proud that we managed to put together a project despite starting a bit late and using tools entirely new to us. All of our team members were pushed to do or use something new that tested the limits of our current capabilities. For our first time hackers, we're proud of them for completing their very first hackathon and learning something new!
What I learned
- Chasen learned how to balance time and detail as well as working with team members to make an application. He also got to practice designing a dark mode theme!
- Gaby learned lots about user interface design and the development that goes into turning designs into working applications; as someone very politically inclined, she learned a lot about putting herself in the shoes of those less informed to properly consider a target audience for the app
- Shiv learned a lot about Firebase, parsing datasets, and more about React Native. He also learned a lot about politics and government, which means Outspeak has already helped at least one person become more informed about the world around them!
What's next for Outspeak
- Fully implementing the backend to contain all governmental figures, not just US senators
- Implementing individual pages for politicians that give more instant insight about their political ideologies, fully utilizing the EveryPolitician dataset
- Streamlining the feed to show a careful balance of Tweet updates, event notices, and polls
- Suggesting politicians to follow on the feed based on a user's affiliated political party and location
- Further working towards creating an application that will help the younger generation become informed about issues scaling from local to countrywide, and encourage them to take an active role in politics when we need it most