Field the Bern

Canvassing app built by volunteers, absorbed by campaign



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Daniela PerdomoMaker@danielaperdomo · Founder goTenna &
Hi! We're grassroots volunteers who built a canvassing app, gamified to encourage participation, and simplified so that any Bernie Sanders supporter can download and get started getting-out-the-vote in under a minute, nationwide. We've been working on the apps since late summer and in early November the official campaign reached out (@schneidmaster & @saikatc are full-time devs there) and asked if we'd like to collaborate. As a result, our apps plug in directly into the campaign's voter databases so all information collected by volunteer canvassers is transmitted to HQ. Moreover, the campaign actually has absorbed the apps — you'll note on our website it says "Made with <3 by volunteers" but it also has the official campaign verbiage (and we can use the official fonts, too!). iOS launched yesterday and Android is coming in a few weeks. 51% of Iowa primary voters in 2008 decided who they were going to caucus for in the 28 days before the caucuses, so go-time is now! Ask us anything about creating tech projects with decentralized unpaid volunteers, how the Sanders campaign leverages technology, why this app is special, why we've all spent thousands of hours working for free. In addition to Field the Bern, we are also responsible for projects like:, Coders For Sanders, Code Corps, and more — so feel free to ask about that too. You can also ask us about Bernie Sanders' policies! :-) Here are some articles about our work so far: * WIRED, Sanders’ New Canvassing App On-Boards Volunteers in Seconds * NYT, Legion of Tech Volunteers Lead a Charge for Bernie Sanders * WSJ, How Bernie Sanders Tech Volunteers Code the Bern ASK US ANYTHING!
Joshua Dance@joshdance · Engineer, Product Manager, athlete
@danielaperdomo Very cool. What was your biggest challenge when building the app?
Josh SmithMaker@joshsmith · Founder, Code Corps
@joshdance Despite the vast number of developers who joined our Slack from r/CodersForSanders, there are still organizational challenges in sourcing and onboarding talent, and collaborating together. GitHub, as great as it is, is often too broad a tool to fit the goals of a project that relies on volunteer contributions. People make it work, but it's a challenge. We really lucked out on this point, since there were two separate apps being developed in parallel! And neither team knew about the other team's existence until a solid 6-8 weeks in. It worked out: my team had built 85% of what we needed and the other team had built the 15% we were missing. So we just merged it. Literally spent two hours just dropping in their code. But that could have turned out very differently. We could have lost hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars of real value by completely duplicating efforts. We also saw a large influx of developers after a New York Times story about our work. But how do you effectively match people with projects with just a Google spreadsheet? And how do you retain them once they've found you? Again, these are not problems for which we have purpose-built tools. A group of us feels so strongly about this that we're starting a non-profit and building a platform called Code Corps to solve these problems. If anyone likes the sound of that, we could use help if you're a Rails developer or a front-end developer.
Ted Henderson@tedatcapbells · Founder, Capitol Bells, Inc.
In what way have you gamified the app?
Ethan WojcinskiMaker@ethanw · Lead Developer,
@tedatcapbells For example, when a user visits a home they get points for knocking on their door and points for updating info about a residents information (are they a democrat or republican, do they support Bernie, etc.). Your points determine your placement on the leaderboard and you can compete with friends on Facebook. Users can see where they rank against their friends, their state, and everyone. We are hoping that the social integration will encourage users to canvass more often and with their friends.
Dossey Richards@dossey_richards
Interesting stuff