In 2016, shocked and appalled by the election, in a time where we can’t afford to have people in charge who aren’t taking the climate seriously, I just kind of completely flipped out.
Having spent most of 2016 trying to attend every local rally and call my representatives daily, by early 2017 I had settled into the idea that what we needed to keep the momentum going as maximally squeaky wheels was group social pressure. So, I got some folks together (at the peak, it was in the high teens), to work with me to build a cross-platform iOS/Android/Web app, called Politivate, and a support organization around it. “Pokemon Go for Democracy.” Hahaha.
In what was a hugely pointless waste of an opportunity, I got the basic minimum viable product for the app about 90% completed, and then just burned out so, so badly. We didn’t have any other developers really helping, and so with me flailing out, the project stopped moving forward. I canceled the weekly team meetings and, geez, you know, if you helped me with that in any way in 2016 or 2017, I’m so sorry. I had one feature left to do (web-based profiles) and I just… couldn’t do it.
Honestly, thinking about it again now, it’s kind of understandable. I was also simultaneously trying to do a PhD program in molecular biology (I had a thesis outline approved at least!) and also had a full job working on distributed storage systems. I was doing too much to be effective at anything.
And frankly what the team did achieve was kind of impressive. The team secured a number of local environmental charities to launch with the app and everything. The project was what caused the birth of my Go web non-framework, I learned React Native, and our slide deck was pretty awesome.
It’s 5 and 1⁄2 years later and at this point I’m not entirely convinced that the lesson to learn from mid-2016 is that what will bring everyone together are more partisan rallies, but I also am convinced we need everyone screaming like fire alarms, and honestly, Politivate is really pretty close to what I would imagine a good social pressure Seinfeld strategy system should look like for ringing every possible bell with any kind of stamina.
So, I’m doing what I should have done all along and I’m open sourcing Politivate. I’m not doing anything with it at the moment. It should probably reduce its generic political focus and really double down on explicitly caring about the most important topic anyway. If someone wants to beat me into turning it into a cross-platform Carbn app that is less focused on personal responsibility and more focused on making a difference with the actual lever pullers, great!
Check out this slide deck! Like seriously, it’s kind of great.