Pillar

Activism is hard.

We get it. It's not that we don't care -- it's just hard to find time for activism in our busy schedules.

In today's politically divided climate, it's even more important to make your voice heard as citizen in US politics. One of the easiest concrete actions you can do to make your political voice heard is to contact your representatives in local, state, and federal legislative bodies.

We see a push in phone-banking events and Facebook posts encouraging congressional letter-writing every time a contentious, high-impact bill is on the table. But still, it can be hard to make sure you're adequately informed about the bill and then actually take that step to craft your message and contact your representatives.

Political engagement is the pillar of American democracy. Pillar makes advocacy easy.

What does Pillar do?

When you sign up for Pillar, you choose the issues you care about. When legislation related to those issues comes up at the state or federal level, you'll receive and alert in a weekly text message. When you click the alert and sign into Pillar, you can review all relevant legislation and how your representatives stand on the legislation. With just two clicks, you can generate a phone script or a letter to email or physically send in.

How we built it

We used python with Flask, pymongo, and a MongoDB database to write our back-end. We used Twilio API for SMS messaging. We used Bootstrap for front-end styling and Javascript, JQuery, and Vue.js to manage interaction. Ajax was used to dynamically populate data specific to the user. All data was processed using the ProPublica API, which provides information on current and previous bills.

Challenges we ran into

We spent 7 hours dealing with our browsers using cached versions of our Javascript files instead serving the updated, local versions. We learned that you need to use Ctrl+Shift+R specifically to refresh.

What we learned

We jumped into this project with the goal of learning new technologies and frameworks. Most of us had never done web development in Python before. The project also allowed us to learn new APIs (i.e. Twilio and Propublica) and web frameworks (i.e. Flask and Vue.js).

What's next for Pillar

We are in the process of building a page that shows data visualizations of the bills and legislative representatives' voting histories.

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