Monthly Archives: March 2014

Putting the pieces of Sono together

After a meeting with Jeff and Quigley last week, the team has really jump-started our coding efforts. We’ve divided our pieces up so that by the end of this sprint, Sono will exist as a fully-formed app! The best part: every member of BadApp is learning something new, so that t the end of the day we will all walk away with new skills.

Daniel has been plugging away at the app’s main functionality, to record, save, mark, and edit Sono audio. Over the last sprint, he re-evaluated what was necessary for the app and what was just sufficient, and directed his program design considerations accordingly. What resulted was a complete overhaul in the abstraction layer of the application, which will allow for a fluid and seamless integration with the UI component.

After Daniel finished implementing the basic iPhone sound recording features, he began creating the features that make Sono intrinsically different from the rest. Testing will begin soon. For a limited time, reach out to us at badappgroup@gmail.com to be added to our alpha testing list.

Currently, Andrew is continuing to tweak the UI to anticipate any usability problems, thanks to lots of feedback from classmates, Jeff, and Quigley. A new logo has us all feeling pretty fancy as well:

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In terms of usability, the team decided to have a bottom tab bar instead of a side-swipe menu to keep Sono down to as few pages as possible. Hannah Jane has been working on that, and is excited to contribute something coding-related to the project.

Lele has been working on the Settings page. This is where the user will be able to set things like their markback time, export options, and more. There are a lot of decisions to be made and this page will likely change a lot throughout the rest of the sprint, but having such an important piece of the app done will be great.

To the average viewer the settings page may seem like something uninteresting, as it lacks the splash and shine of the other UI designs, but it holds the key to maximum functionality which makes Sono that much more special. Even before the groupings and ordering of the settings page could be created the extensive task of determining what the user should be able to customize came first. Everything from keeping the screen lit during recording, to choosing the destination folder settings had to be mapped to our current screens and mapped to future implementations. The creation of the setting screen also helped the group Sono decide what fine details we could implement and polish up in Sono.

Jenny has been working on a tutorial and about page, which will help our user experience by quickly explaining the different working parts of the app. The tutorial will include multiple screens giving the user instruction on the different functions and pages of Sono. The About page will be accessible from the bottom tabbed menu, and will pull information directly from Sono’s website. It looks great so far, and we’re excited to get feedback from others about the clarity of the app.

We have a working website that has both a front-end and an administrator back-end. HJ wanted to use Joomla! for content management because of the ease of use combined with the amount of flexibility . It took forever to get it correctly set up, but now the team has a bare-bones platform for sharing information that is all their own.

After getting all these pieces in order, it will be nerve-wracking to see what happens when we combine everything. But by next week’s end-of-sprint demo, we should have a functional and beautiful product that only needs some tweaking before we wow the crowd on Demo Day!

Don’t forget to check out our Facebook and Twitter!

Newt prepares to get social

As we approach the last week of of the third sprint, Newt is preparing for a big promotional and marketing push in sprint 4 to both promote our app and the demo day. Katie Paschall and Bobby Blanchard have sketched a social media game plan for the Newt team to tackle once Sprint 4 begins.

The Newt Twitter account will start promoting the demo day everyday. We also want to turn the Twitter account into a news-sharing services for a few days, but remind our followers that “you could be reading this on Newt…” This turns our social presence into an extended arm of our app. We also want to tweet out weather in the morning, which is something else our app does. Other tweet ideas we have are:

  • “Oh no! It looks like you might have missed that meeting. If you only had Newt to remind you to go…”
  • “Stuck in traffic? YIKES. Newt would have told you to leave early.”
  • “Why are you reading this tweet on Twitter? You could be reading it on Newt…”
  • “WHOA! It’s raining today. Newt would have told you to dress for the rain before you left.”

We also plan to make some funny Vine and InstaVideos of our developers asking students whether they are more likely to check their phone or the newspaper in the morning. These will be more like short, 7-15 second commercial like videos that we want to share on social accounts.

In addition, we are currently reaching out to specific media companies and news organizations to help spread the word of our app. In our next blog, we will share the Newt launch press release we have been working on and will show our marketing text required for our submission to Apple.

Coding in Style

When we first came up with the idea for WeatherVain, one of the core principles that we took with us — at the vocal insistence of our invaluable teammate Silvana di Ravenna — was that “it has to be stylish.” WeatherVain is not going to be a cartoonish or goofy way to help you dress for the weather; it’s going to be a smooth, sleek, fashionable way to do it.

The problem is, code and style don’t always get along. They’re not mortal enemies or anything. But they’re not exactly a match made in heaven, either. We found that out in a vexing way this week, but we’ve worked a way for code and style to live in harmony on our app.

Since very early on, WeatherVain’s design has been built around a main-screen image of the user’s suggested outfit for the day. We’ve always thought about those images being on an animated person, or at least in the shape of an imaginary person, like so:

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*No, that image of the woman isn’t ours. It was just a placeholder we grabbed off of Google until the real one was created, which, well, you’ll see how that went.

Each item of the outfit would be pulled together by an algorithm, and the user could then customize their preferred outfits by individual items of clothing, choosing which ones to show in certain weather situations. Simple, useful, and — most of all — stylish, right?

There’s just one problem: The code behind that kind of customizable, human-like graphic of clothes is really tough — certainly nothing we can do in a semester. Beyond the algorithm that selects particular items of clothing depending on the weather, it requires code that tells the clothes exactly where to show up on the main page and where to be in relation to other pieces of clothing, which might be totally different from day to day. With code just a little bit off, you could end up with a dress that only goes down to the midriff, or a skirt that covers up your shoes.

And even if we do get them at least generally arranged in the right places with the right dimensions, it’s a whole different level of coding challenge to so perfectly manipulate the minutia of location and arrangement to actually make those outfits look good regardless of the combination, instead of awkward and clunky. It’s one thing to create great-looking outfits from vector images in Photoshop; it’s quite another to write code that will do that automatically on an iPhone screen, no matter what combination it throws together.

When we realized this last week, we were left with a few alternatives, none of which were ideal. We could just present users with set, pre-created outfits, but then they wouldn’t be able to customize individual items of clothing, but only whole outfits. We could just use supply our own real images of whole outfits, which would require more work on our part and would still wipe out the individual clothing item customization. Or we could have users upload and share their own images of clothing, which would require a ton of work on the user’s part just to use the app at a basic level.

So that’s where we were — stuck. Nothing looked good, and every option would irreparably compromise either the app’s stylishness, customizability, or usability. So we did what every good development team should do when it’s stuck: We found someone smarter than us. We presented our conundrum to our esteemed professor Robert Quigley, and it took him all of about 10 seconds to come up with a solution: Present each piece of clothing as its own square on the main page, rather than as a whole outfit.

It allows us to keep the customizability of each individual article of clothing, the usability of pre-populated content, and the stylishness of the app as a whole, as soon as Jung Yoon finishes with her amazing design work. The vision of the mannequin-like figure wearing our clothes is gone, but in its place is something our users can interact with and our team can code. The idea was a stroke of genius, crashing through a wall we’d all been banging our heads against. That’s why they pay Quigley the big bucks, folks.

So the style is back in WeatherVain — well, it never left — and it’s been beautifully married with code. The CodeKite team remains hard at work, making sure this marriage is a happy one:

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- Mark Coddington

intELECT

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

- by William Ernest Henley

With the words of William Ernest Henley in our minds, we attempt to take on a challenge everybody in our class has deemed as bravery – we are redefining our brand and are changing the goals of our app. For those, who are still in shock or still haven’t quite understood, check out last week‘s post.

One of the first things, we needed to do was define a goal, but goal setting becomes easier when you can visualize what the final product would look like. We wanted a logo and an app icon that would reflect the end goal – having an app for intellectual voters, voters who can make clear decisions.

During the group discussion in class last week, out of sheer desperation, Maribel pulled up the white board and we all began throwing out random words that would help us come up with a name.

From ‘ThinkVote’ and ‘SmartElect’ to ‘PowerVote’, we came up with random words, trying to come up with the perfect name that would summarize it all. Finally, Navin came up with ‘Intellect’ and we decided to give it a little twist, so ‘Intellect’ transformed into ‘intELECT’.

But, deciding on an app name was just the beginning. With the name had to come a snazzy, new logo or app icon.

Chris’ doodling produced some fine results:

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No, that’s not a ZooZoo. For those, who don’t know what a ZooZoo is, watch this now.

What Chris drew above is a light bulb, with a few tweaks. While we all loved it, there was still something missing. Kritika wanted the logo and the app name to be integrated in some way, so we thought of using the light bulb as the ‘I’ in ‘intELECT’, but the design produced no results.

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Finally, Chris came up with the idea above, and the complete app name with logo below.

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Looks great, doesn’t it?

Phew, we finally did it, after countless tries, stretching our grey cells and disagreeing with each other. We still don’t know if this is the best app logo or not, but we are going ahead with it. Even the best can still be better.

With End-of-Sprint 3 demo looming ahead, we want to be able to showcase what we’ve created for the political party quiz. Chris and Navin are racing to get coding done and Heather, Maribel and Kritika are working on creating the next video and revamping social media.

Check out our new Facebook page and WordPress website.

By Kritika Pramod Kulshrestha

Turning it up a notch in crunch time

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If the ultimate goal is to have the app in the Apple App Store by Demo Day, Game Plan developer Courtney Bohrer said, the game clock is running out.

“We need to at least submit a minimum viable app to the App Store by March 28,” Bohrer said. “This will give us enough time to do an update to the app for Sprint 4, and still have it in the App Store for demo day.”

The time is now for the Game Plan team, and we have set up in our hurry-up offense, avoiding delays between plays. On March 20, the team wrote out a list of tasks it needed to complete in order to submit to the App Store: fix the restaurant annotations, come up with a new and simple icon, create new pin designs for the map, create a list view for the events, put out a new promo video, make sure our buttons work and add a “refresh” button and “favorites” button that will allow users to save their favorite events and show them on the map.

Although the plan is designed to complete a minimum viable app, the young group of journalists and developers knew this would take a lot out of them. However, the team came together, and it is looking like the submission will happen on the target date Friday.

Bohrer and Jeremy Hintz put in hours upon hours of coding and critiquing Game Plan. They fixed the restaurant annotations, so the user can now view a description of what deal the restaurant is offering.

The two also made the buttons at the top of the map work, which will utilize different maps for different types of events that users can change by clicking them.

Bohrer also made it to where the user’s location can be found, if he or she allows it, so their Facebook friends can find them on the app.

“I’m so happy that worked!” Bohrer said. “A big part of our app is the social aspect to it.”

The whole team concurs with Bohrer that the social aspect of the app is essential, and Hintz mentioned the app is not a social app without being able to find friends and even inviting friends.

“I’ve been working on the idea of inviting friends, and I am so close,” Hintz said. “It’s been a series of working, breaking everything and stashing, but I’ll get there.”

Hintz also worked on a new look for the screen where you enter your tailgate or party description as you can see below.

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Meanwhile, Courtney Ross was working on some coding of her own. She was assigned the task to create the list view for the events. After technological difficulties and some help from Jeff Linwood, she was able to successfully create the list, along with the buttons at the top of the list as well to create a similar segmented control to the map feature.

Our creative designer Elyana Barrera worked extra hard this week on design. She designed a new logo, created pins and picked out colors for the app that would fit the app. Barrera also designed the “refresh” and “favorites” buttons, a lock icon to log out and a button for “drop a pin.” You can see the new icon and some of her designs below.

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The new logo is a first-down marker (as seen in football), and we collectively thought this would be a great idea for our icon because it is simple and also symbolizes our pins. After all, the entire app is based on pins and seeing where all of them are. We may even make the pins on the map a first down marker, but for now, here is a look at what the pins look like on the map.

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Adam Beard attempted a new design for a logo as well, but it was not simple enough as Barrera’s. You can see his below.

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Barrera let Adam know that it was OK his design didn’t make the cut.

“I told him not to feel bad,” Barrera said. “Design isn’t something that is going to be set. It’s always changing, and we most likely will be making changes after the first submission.”

Beard was mainly focused on the social media, video creation and branding of the app, as well as supporting the team and doing whatever it is they needed him to do. In fact, he met up with a famous athlete to be a part of our next promo video. He is known as “The Playmaker” and knows a thing or two about football seeing as how he is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A preview can be seen below.

Game Plan Preview of Promo Video from JACCE Apps on Vimeo.

Now, we wait to hear from the Apple App Store, but we do so knowing that this app still has a lot of work. Therefore, we will continue to fix bugs, develop new features, work on design and brand ourselves to the max. The game is nearing the final buzzer, but it is far from over.

Mid-Game Changes For Game Plan

While much of UT enjoyed their break from classes, members of JACCE Apps were hard at work ironing kinks out of the Game Plan app and learning more about how to make the app successful. Some of our team members were able to join other classmates at the Facebook-Parse meeting at Capitol Factory here in Austin while our other members worked on the app and publicity for the app from their Spring Break destinations.

Our big win of the week came after we were able to fix some problems with gathering data from users. The bug was not letting us gather our user’s friend list through Facebook, but after multiple attempts and testing, Courtney B. and Jeremy were able to find a solution and get it working!

We also worked more on the layout of the app. Similar to a segmented controller, Game Plan now utilizes different maps for different types of events, which users can change by clicking buttons on the top of the map. We hope this will make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for, whether it is parties, tailgates or restaurants. We will also be adding a “Favorites” button that will allow users to save their favorite events and show them on one map. Along with those changes, Courtney R. worked on some other parts of the app, including the list view for the map.

Our design is something else we have been rethinking. Over the break, Elyana was able to speak with several entrepreneurs in town for South By Southwest Interactive about branding and what kind of design makes an app successful. To reflect the changes made in the newest iOS7 update, we’ve decided to go with more rounded buttons while still keeping the ever-popular flat design. We’ve also decided our app needs something other than just type that says “Game Plan” in our logo.  We want to create a unique, yet recognizable identity for Game Plan, a symbol that users can see and right away associate with the app — much like how twitter uses its blue bird silhouette. To do this, we’ve decided to update our design using a football down marker as our primary logo. Because the marker resembles a pin on a map and is also an easily recognizable object in sports, we think it is the perfect object to represent our brand!

We are also very excited about a certain celebrity Adam has been in communication with in the sports world! If you’d like to know who it is and what they have to say about Game Plan, stay tuned and stay updated by following us on Twitter, Facebook and our website.

Sono has Sprint Fever!

After a relaxing week of Spring Break, team BadApp is back in business! Jenny and Hannah Jane spent a quaint week back in their hometowns (Dallas and Austin represent!), while Daniel enjoyed a week of beaches, beers, and hangovers at Cabo. Lele spent the week rocking out at SXSW, and Andrew took a mini vacation to the Big Apple.

Although it was a great week, team BadApp experienced a slight panic attack when Andrew informed the team that after going through airport security, his laptop’s hard drive, which contained all of Sono’s beautiful user interface designs, had fatally crashed. But fear not! Andrew was able to recover everything from the faulty drive, and revamp his laptop with a new solid state drive. So once again, we are officially back in business.

Andrew

With only 5 more weeks until Demo Day, the team is going for a fast and hard push for Sprint 3. After Sprint 2, Sono had a second-round draft interface design with full functionality on the record, stop, and playback buttons. The app also had file saving capability, so that any and all saved audio files were displayed in a table view format for easy access.

For Sprint 3, we are working hard on differentiating and making Sono better than all the other audio recording apps out on the market. Our main goal for this Sprint is to fully implement the Mark and Markback functions as well as the note taking function for easy bookmarking and annotating the audio.

Daniel, the team’s coding wizard, has been working so hard on Sono that he’s grown a spiffy mustache:

 Daniel

We’re also working hard on re-creating the user interface design after receiving some constructive criticism from UI/UX experts during our End-Of-Sprint 2 demo. Andrew has also taken the liberty to design a new and improved logo for Sono, so be on the look out for that!

In the meantime, BadApp is planning on conducting a mini AMA (Ask Me Anything) on our social media platforms, so if you have any questions for any of the members, send them over to badappgroup@gmail.com, or post them directly on our Facebook or Twitter.

Newt: The Final Countdown

As Gob from “Arrested Development” would say (or rather, dance to), it’s the Final Countdown.

Newt has entered head-first into Sprint 3, which may not be our last sprint, but it’s the one we consider most important. If we want to have our app in the app store come Demo Day, we will likely have to have our app submitted by the time Sprint 3 is over and Sprint 4 has begun. We got a lot of work to do before we make it there, but we have divided up the main functions of our app to different team members.

Tim Carroll is working on the main and most important function of the app — the news section. He is working on displaying the news front and pulling different stories from different sources and trying to find the best way to display them.

Jennifer Rundle is creating the notification that will remind users to view our app. She is also spearheading a redesign process that will coordinate our design across all of our platforms.

Joe Capraro will work to create the google map and traffic function of the app — the function that alerts users to how much traffic there is on the road and how long it will take them to get to work in the morning.

And last but not least, Bobby Blanchard is working on the app’s calendar feature, and working with Katie Paschall to create a promotional social media game plan for when Newt hits the app store.

 

Adventures in Parseland

 

by Carlos Hernandez and Silvana Di Ravenna

 

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What happens when a computer scientist and a photojournalist walk into a room?

They learn new codes, of course!

It might sound like your typical silly joke, but when it comes to coding, we (Silvana and Carlos, two of the CodeKite members) are serious business! As serious as the hardcore app developers who were roaming inside Capital Factory’s headquarters on March 10.

For you see, when the rest of the student population was happily relaxing away, in the paradisiac waters of who-knows-what island, our team continued to work hard on our soon-to-be-born creation, WeatherVain.

We couldn’t let a lousy week of so-called fun get in our way. We couldn’t. So that Monday night, while 90 percent of Austin was still enjoying SXSW, we decided to get into the Omni Hotel elevator and ride up to a Facebook/Parse meeting.

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I mean, we are not going to complain. There was food (extremely yummy food), all sorts of wines, desserts, and a considerable amount of cool people. What else could we asked for?

Oh yeah, a free introductory lesson to Parse coding. Which we happily received. (Aren’t we lucky?)

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The evening went quickly, as other developers kindly shared their knowledge and experiences with our team. The highlights of the night were undoubtedly SendGrid, a simplified email delivery program, and Vest, an app that is completely supported by Parse.

(If you don’t know what Parse is exactly, this video is an excellent way to begin understanding its magic.)

After the amusing presentations, we mingled with interesting characters (among others, GamePlan members and our beloved Jeff Linwood, who of course was there) and then we explored Capital Factory and ventured into the city.

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We hate to admit it, but we didn’t know much about each other outside our WeatherVain bubble, so it was truly nice to finally sit down at the W’s Starbucks (very fancy, but that’s a different story) and talk about our lives, personal goals, and heck yes, the struggle that is coding.

We got along so well that we decided to meet again two days later, this time at UT’s Computer Science building (the only open building during spring break, apparently) to try our best at creating the login screen.

We attempted many, many times. After some difficult trial and error, an M&M’s binge, and a parade of profanities coming from Silvana’s mouth, we were finally able to add the Facebook login option to our welcome screen. Silvana literally screamed with delight! (Carlos did too, but don’t tell anyone.)

We had accomplished something together. And that was beautiful…while it lasted. Soon enough, we realized that it didn’t take us anywhere. Literally. Codes started crashing, and there we were again, hopeless as ever. (We are still trying as we type. Who said coding was easy?)

But looking back, it was a great bonding experience, and we truly hope that we’ll continue exploring Parse’s endless possibilities together.

As you can see, a science brain can complement an artistic one quite nicely. It is just a matter of sitting down and finding a common ground. Our common ground is our app, and we can’t wait to see it flourish.

Until next week,

Silvana and Carlos,
CodeKite members (and good friends)

Project ‘Vote Smart’ may very well be Project ‘Vote Mart’

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” by Henry Ford

Staying true to the thought-provoking words of the late Henry Ford, team LID was formed by a random allocation of students hailing from diverse academic backgrounds. We – Navin, Chris, Kritika, Maribel and Heather – came together to fulfill a simple task – to create an iPhone news app that would blow everyone’s (the Austin start up and technology community, Robert Quigley, Jeff Linwood) socks off! But, like Mr. Ford said, coming together was just the beginning.

We kept together, like diligent students, striving on, pushing hard, and trying to conquer the unconquerable. We somehow slaved on during Sprint 1 and Sprint 2, but with End-of-Sprint 3 demo day looming ahead, we’ve realized that we need to pull up our socks or be left floundering forever.

As a team, over the past two weeks, we’ve begun to realize that Project Vote Smart has truly not been the most responsive team and we are finding it difficult to get anything done. All this time, we were banking on implementing the Vote Easy feature of Project Vote Smart, but after chewing on the idea over Spring Break, we figured creating our own API for the Vote Easy feature is not the best way to go; the reason – it’s a tedious process that will compel us to manually enter candidate details, their bio and their voting history. We simply don’t have enough time for this.

To reiterate, the Vote Easy feature of Project Vote Smart is where users answer questions related to issues they personally care about such as Abortion, Environment, Education, Health, etc. and based on the users responses, they are matched with political candidates who have either voted on bills related to these issues or who align with these issues. However, the big problem with the current API of Project Vote Smart is that it is not updated and it does not have any information related to Vote Easy. Last week, when Jeff reviewed our plan for Sprint 3, he suggested we should not think about reverse engineering or creating a completely new API simply because we don’t have TIME!

Chris’ suggestion was that our app should now be a one-stop shop for non-partisan news and information. For this he proposed the idea that the home page should contain RSS feeds from different non-partisan websites and then have a few tabs that give information about candidates and their standings on various issues. This would mean changing the focus of our app, and concentrating on re-branding, developing new social media and creating a new logo and brand name.

During class this week, we decided that we could use other APIs instead of relying completely on Project Vote Smart’s API. There are APIs such as the Sunlight Foundation’s Congress API and Open State’s API that we can use with an API key that’s free. We have now decided to use multiple APIs to achieve our goal of creating a quiz-styled app along the lines of Pew Research Center’s Political Party quiz that aligns the user with a party and not a candidate. The main reason people don’t vote is because they don’t know which candidate belongs to which party and who they are aligned with personally.

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For more information on the Pew Center’s quiz, click here.

In this quiz-styled app that we plan on creating, once the user/voter is aligned with a party, he or she is provided with information about the candidates who belong to that party. For example, if the results of the political party quiz show that you align with a ‘Republican’ then on the sidebar inside the app, the Republican candidates show up.

Additionally, users get access to a news feed that connect them to the latest information on the political process, political parties, and other key issues based on the zip code through which they plan to access the app. Kritika presented an idea of bringing up a news feed that filters the latest information pertaining to a particular party based on the results of the quiz, but then Heather and Maribel felt that having a selective news feed would not serve the purpose of the app being a one-stop-shop for non-partisan news.

Well, we then discussed the idea of changing our name since we now plan to work independent of Project Vote Smart. We may still use their API for basic information about candidates, but we needed a new name. From ‘Vote Snap’ to ‘Snap Vote’, we finally arrived at ‘Vote Mart’. We even decided to be cheeky about naming our app by calling it ‘Project Vote Mart’ or ‘Votes Mart’. While we did come up with a few ideas, we still need to flesh them out and keep working together towards success.

You can continue to follow us on Twitter or Facebook or check out our website, but we need to rework our branding and come up with a different strategy.

We’re trying Mr. Ford, we really are.

By Kritika Pramod Kulshrestha