People are getting more used to connecting online. This also means they are less reliant on local contacts and thus less aware of everything that is available close by.

COVID-19 greatly amplifies the focus on online connections as it forces people to minimize real life contact. At the same time it causes people to become more isolated and also creates more need for help which is hard to find.

Being at home more presents time and opportunity for people to discover their local neighbourhood online, which is a more common practice in current society anyway. So post COVID-19 this could still work and might fuel a more involved local community.

What it does

SociaLocal is platform to foster involvement of people and small businesses in their local neighbourhood, which allows them to find people with common interests, create connections, share capabilities to help each other and setup or join memorable local experiences. The key features are:

  • Discover: local orientation using public profiles with filters
  • Connect: matching based on personal profiles and connecting based on invitations
  • Help out: ask for help and provide help
  • Meet up: create and attend (digital) events

How we built it

We began the build out of this project by using two scripts for Commercetools to create and delete Customers, setup our infrastructure in Terraform, which is hosted on the AWS cloud. Updates are handled with a Java Lambda function triggered with SQS. To support the backend development we added a LOT of CloudWatch logs! We then fed that customer data to Algolia to generate our customer index to take advantage of the unique searching capabilities. Finally, for the front end, our web-based application is rapidly deployed from our Bitbucket repo to Netlify hosting so that it can consume APIs from the headless tools. All of these solutions can certainly help our development teams get unstuck when working on other applications!

Challenges we ran into

As most of us were new to the hackathon experience, it was a challenge not to go in too much detail. Most of us were new to the MACH applications provided, so we needed to get up to speed quickly. Integrating these applications was therefore also a challenge for us. In terms of working together the timezone differences in our team limited the amount of time we could really work along side each other. One team member in the middle of moving even had to work on a work bench.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Overall we are proud of the fact we have been able to let our ideas come together in a coherent application and that we were able to create a presentable vision. Some other things we're proud of:

  • Fast infrastructure scaffolding for Cloud and Commercetools with Terraform
  • Ability to work in distributed environment
  • Efficiently collaborating in Miro
  • The MACH philosophy allowed us to decouple the different work streams.

What we learned

  • Experience with MACH practices and tools
  • What it is to participate in a hackathon (for most of us the first time)
  • How to setup infrastructure quickly
  • What technical things are most important to start up a MACH project - accesses, infra setup etc.
  • It is desirable to have a blueprint (typical) setup for a MACH project
  • There are lot of cases where it's easier to mock data in order to concentrate on MACH values mainly
  • Switching between ideation, prototyping and coding

What's next for Social Local

Currently there are no plans for further development, but we believe this is a feasible idea. For this to really take off you would need a commercial plan to get an investor that can also provide an infrastructure. For us as a team this has been a rewarding experience.

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