How financially literate are you? Are you comfortable investing your own money, or do you let it slowly fade away in management fees and nickel-and-dime savings accounts? Global financial literacy tests show that just 57% of adults in the U.S. are financially literate, so if you’re not informed with your money, you’re definitely not alone!

We created Switter to give everyday people the chance to explore, experiment and ultimately educate themselves on the topic of investing, without risking any of their hard-earned cash. To a lot of people investing seems like magic and so far removed from their daily lives that it would be impossible to learn. We disagree.

What it does

Twitter is a platform for financial exploration. It combines live data from social media feeds with cutting edge machine learning to display public opinion (sentiment) about publicly listed companies. Here’s how it works:

  1. Enter the company names/tickers that you are interested in
  2. The system analyzes social media posts relating to those companies, and shows a statistical analysis of the public opinion around them
  3. You can then compare the historic prices with the public opinion at the time, and decided whether or not to invest
  4. You have just completed your first financial experiment!

How we built it

Our team met for the first time ever at HackHarvard, and we all had similar goals: build a challenging technology project that could help people connect with and learn about traditionally disconnected topics. We were lucky enough to have complimenting skillsets and were able to split the project into two major parts and get to work quickly.

The visual interface was built almost entirely from scratch and we even did a little user testing during the hackathon. The database and API technologies were entirely new to our team but successfully leveraged technology from HP, Twitter, Yahoo, MongoDB and more.

Challenges we ran into

There were challenges throughout the project, but learning (and sometimes biting off more than you can chew) is all part of the hackathon experience. On the backend, one of the biggest challenges was handling so many asynchronous requests from multiple sources in our API. The front end team also experienced a few hiccups, mainly managing state with React-Redux.

And of course time constraints were also a big challenge (big thanks to the organizers for the caffeine supply).

Accomplishments that we're proud of

While we realize Switter isn’t at the stage it needs to be at to make the impact we want it to, we’re thrilled to have completed an MVP of our vision and have something that we can demo and get useful feedback from. It was also awesome to find such a great team just through the HackHarvard group.

What's next for Switter

We believe Switter can play a real role in informal finance education, but to get to that point it needs to become more of a generalized learning platform. Here’s what we have in mind:

  • Expand the number of news and social media sources used for displaying sentiment about different companies
  • Add an extensive “resources” section with embedded videos and learning modules for financial education
  • Test the idea of a “mock investing” section with users to see if that would be a big enough benefit to justify its development
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