Here comes App Inventor!
For this week, we were tasked to develop a working mobile application called “Tweak the Tweet”. This is for a system that is part of HCDE Professor Kate Starbird’s work in crisis research. She studies the “use of social media during crisis events, specifically looking at how the converging audience (aka, the ‘crowd’) can contribute—and is already contributing—to crisis response efforts.
“TtT uses Twitter, in a form of “digital volunteerism,” to gather and direct information during crises to people who can act on it to the benefit of affected people and communities. As you can imagine, Twitter data can be very unstructured and noisy, and TtT is designed to allow digital volunteers to provide information in a form that is more easily and reliably processed and analyzed.
Last year, a group of HCDE students working with Professor Starbird, including Grace Jang, created a design for a mobile application to help volunteers build and send tweets that report crisis information in a structured format.
The Team and App Inventor:
I was working in a group of 5 people: Shia Liang, Albert Lui, Hadiza Ismail, David Yang, and myself to tackle each part of the spec. We were all new to the App Inventor and so this was a very good learning experience for us. I was responsible for programming GPS location pinpointing in the application, word counts while the user is typing and showing the tweet status on each page.
Check out video prototype of the project here:
While we were programming the application, we found a lot of room for improvement. So beyond the basic function in the spec, we went a step further to redesign some part of the user interface. We improve the user interface so that it has a better flow for user to go the application. For example, we made the first screen of the application less intimidating and create a new identity for the application.
Interface Design Credit: David Yang
Working with App Inventor was very challenging especially working in team on one project. At first, we divided each part of the project so that everyone can start to work in parallel. However, App Inventor did not have an easy way to share our work. So we need to compile our work onto one computer after we finish our part. Beyond the difficulty of sharing work on App Inventor, the program itself produces a lot of compiling error. We spent about a third of our time trying to figure out if it was the code we wrote that produce errors because of that. Overall, App Inventor is a good tool if you are an intermediate programmer. It is accessible and provide a lot of useful functionality.