Self Assessment

I've included my original self-assessment below, but I decided to write my final one separately, because my thought process has changed significantly since I first wrote it. Now, when I think about the questions I'm attempting to answer with my final prototype, I've realized it's not about "Good" vs. "Evil" or "Democrat" vs. "Republican". While I still 100% care about fighting for the transparency of government and business relations, my attention has really drifted towards the issue of SuperPACs. A lot of these companies that I showcase on my website have very similar contribution amounts to both Democrats and Republicans. The real issue is with the extent to which they contribute and the extent to which they lobby. Some of these companies are lobbying bills that are completely unrelated to their business. It is not the place of big business to attempt to influence our government. It is a terrifying thought that companies with so much money can and do influence the decisions of our lawmakers. So, how can I make it apparent to the average person why this is bad? How can I get them angry about the passing of the 2010 law that "Businesses are people too?" How can I distinguish bills of special interest that certain companies are lobbying? How can I educate, as well as create a sense of togetherness on this one topic, regardless of whether users are Democrat or Republican? I don't think anyone wants to have their country run behind-the-scenes by big telecomm companies who were never elected, and are just looking to gain as much power and influence as possible.

The strengths of my project continue to be in the UI/UX design. As was confirmed by my crits on Wednesday, the website is easy to navigate, easy to understand, and nice to look at. It targets the important information that gets lost in the flood of details provided to you by OpenSecrets and However, what David Carroll pointed out about the fact that this information is still abstract is definitely true. I still need to put it in a clearer context to really make a difference, which ties into Jeanne Kelly's idea of including notifications of some sort that inform the user when they have just given money to a specific candidate they hate or a cause they don't support by spending money on a certain product. 

I certainly need to include popular opinion, people need to be aware of the number of other people who have already Blacklisted a certain company. In a small way, my website has this with shares after you've already clicked the Blacklist! button. You can see how many people have shared their reasons for Blacklisting the company due to the Facebook share API, but I can certainly improve upon that and include a counter next to the Blacklist! button itself.

I think my favorite suggestion was from Jeanne Kelly about informing the companies every time a new user has blacklisted them. I think that could become an incredibly effective way to create real change, since sharing and informing others can only do so much. I was also thinking about Ben Norskov's suggestion about groups. Perhaps this could be a lot more social. When you blacklist a company, you are included in a community of all the other people who have blacklisted it. You can share information, stories, and ideas.

This was very clearly a huge undertaking. I feel good about sticking to my design values and achieving a simple and consistent web design, but this project has a long way to go. There are many features that need to be added, but I didn't feel it made sense to add them just yet, with only a small data set. I wanted to create a stable state for this website, so that I could get it on the server and see if my user-base found it understandable and useful in it's current iteration. There is a huge amount of information I need to be able to manipulate, and a lot more I would need to gather in order for this to be truly effective. It's not really a job for one person, I need a lot of help with data collection.

That's why although I understand the criticism I got for my Millennial audience, I would just argue that it makes more sense for me to build my first iteration for a smaller audience and get feedback before expanding out. I do understand and agree with the idea that I should not have made it clear to the user who exactly my audience was. I could have designed for Millennials without actually pointing it out to them, because that is very exclusionary. Of course I want anyone to be able to use the website, but for the purposes of this project and the fact that I used the Top 50 Millennial brands in order to work with less data, I felt that I needed to address my reasoning for that. 

Overall, I'm very happy with how much I learned this semester, especially in these last 6 weeks. I improved my understanding of both front-end web and mobile development immensely, which is definitely my concentration here at DT. I learned a new language (PHP) and seriously improved on my understanding of both JavaScript and Swift. I got my first website up on a server, and I achieved my design goals. This project has a long way to go, and I am certainly not done with it, because I truly believe it could make a difference.

a. What are the specific questions you are attempting to answer in your prototypes?

I am attempting to answer the question of why millennials tend not to make informed decisions about where they shop in terms of politics even though studies show that they really care about empathy and social responsibility from businesses. To me, this correlates with an interest in giving money to “good” over “evil” corporations. I think the reason that they are not making those informed decisions they want to make is because the sources available to them to become informed are too cluttered and complicated to understand, therefore I am making a simplified and easy-to-use version that appeals to millennials.

b. What the five strengths of your project?

One strength is that I have been working with the same idea since I first pitched it which has really given me the time to build out a lot of it. Second, I think my website is very clean and easy to navigate/understand. Third, I think the mobile component, though not very functional yet, has a very exciting candidates page. Fourth, I think my concept really has the ability to gain following in the context of the upcoming elections. Fifth, I think my idea could potentially make a big impact in the way this country is run, if it turns out to be effective.

c. What are the five most critical issues for your project?

One big issue is my lack of coding skill. I’m pretty much learning as I make and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve incorporated JavaScript and PHP. I am very beginner with JavaScript, and I just started learning PHP a couple days ago. This makes building the search and getting the API to work especially difficult. Second, since I have also decided to build out a mobile component, I am having trouble with the code for that as well but also making the layout of the website match that of the mobile component to an extent. In terms of branding, they look very different right now and I’m not sure how to merge them. Third, this is a huge undertaking with a lot of different components to think about and I’ve make a lot of little changes to the way I want to represent the information exactly which information I want to show many times (I believe I have settled on providing information on how much money was given to democrats and republicans, plus showing which bills were lobbied). Fourth, I’m having trouble deciding on what kind of information to include in the “Learn the Basics” portion of my website. I know I want to explain the idea of PACs and superPACs, but I’m not sure what else. Fifth, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to test this out with other people since it is such a big project and potentially won’t be done in time to give it a “test flight”

d. What can you do to address these issues, and to solidify the strengths?

Get help from people who I know are good at code (Saman Tehrani, probably), potentially focus more of my attention on the website and worry less about the mobile component for now, attempt to test out what I have so far after the prototype 2 is complete. Get some input about what to put in “learn the basics” from my international friends who don’t know much amount american politics and business.

e. Can you intuitively ask some new questions?

I can ask: What are the main points about american politics and business that should be pointed out to someone who is unfamiliar? Which component will millennials be more likely to use? mobile or web? Will this have an effect on their decisions in any way?

f. What questions need to be answered in order to create a proof of concept prototype?

How do I use PHP with my API to create a search function? How can I make this more social and have it go viral?

g. Are you on the right path or do you need to change direction, and if so, how will you do that?

I’m definitely on the right path, I just need more time.