The page can be found here: Public Question a Day
This project is far from complete. But I like where it’s taking me. The premise is simple – each day when you fire up this webpage you’ll have the option to answer a question, or just poke around what other people have already answered. Right now it’s that simple. That’s how it works, now for what it does.
I wanted to show that we are all part of the human experience. We’re all different, all unique, but also all built from the same stuff. We feel the same things (not necessarily in the same ways or at the same times, but nonetheless). In our daily lives we forget that. We forget to take a moment to check in with ourselves, just to see how we’re doing. Some people keep journals to address this (I never have, but I obviously see the value in it). Others just plow through their days, nary a self-conscious or genuine thought. So how can we influence more people to be more self-aware? Journaling in general is often viewed as ‘girlish’ as there’s always some teenage girl on TV hiding her dear diary from her family’s prying eyes, but why does it have that connotation? Why, as a society, haven’t we allowed the idea of writing one’s personal thoughts down, no matter how pedantic or narcissistic or downright unpleasant, to span not only genders but generations? Yes, people share this stuff on facebook and it’s often met with ridicule. I’ve definitely unfriended people on Facebook because they post the same drivel day after day about their entirely uneventful days. But why do I feel this way? One guess is that Facebook posts grant affirmation, they work most effectively when they are liked and commented on. This encourages the kind of sympathy seeking that some people like to engage in, however superfluous and insincere. It becomes a contents. An effort to get people to make you feel liked. Feel popular. That’s not the right platform for honest sharing. All the sincerity gets trumped by the noise of social anxiety.
But. But what if you could journal in such a way where that degree of insincerity had no place? Enter my project. No commenting, no likes, no clickbait. Just people detailing their lives, their feelings, their boring days and their exciting days and sharing it for everyone to see. The simple act of stopping for a few minutes each day to engage with yourself in a thoughtful way is powerful. It takes discipline, but pays off massively if approached with sincerity. And to know that other people out there are grappling with the same questions is comforting, and ultimately intriguing. I want to know what my friends are answering, but I’m also deeply curious as to how people from other cultures will approach these questions.
Anyway, here it:
First and foremost: We Feel Fine by by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar.
Next, for the journal questions, I consulted the one and only Pinterest. The questions were created by the mind over at http://debbiehodge.com/ and slightly altered by me. To be honest, a lot of the questions are not interesting, but the task of scrubbing through them all to find the good ones is monumental. 365 questions is a lot, and creating consistently engaging questions for every single day of the year is quite the task. If I pursue this project further, it is on the todo-list of things to button up.
Tech Journey + References
This project morphed over an over, and it kept growing more and more complex as I wanted to add deeper functionality. On the surface it’s all very simple, which is what I was hoping for, but the underlying structure, while by no means complex from a web-development standpoint, was far more complex than I ever anticipated it needing to be. A lot of the details regarding this evolution can be found in a previous post.
But to sum up – I began using Parse as a database, but once I decided I wanted some sort of sentiment analysis, that pushed me to node, which meant server side logic. In order to collect data it meant actually deploying the app, which meant using a service like Heroku and MongoDB to act as my database. The easiest way to get a node.js app up and running is to use a framework like Express, which, while relatively simple, takes some getting used to. I’m not suggesting that any of this is all that complex, but because it was my first pass using these tools, it took about a week of watching tutorials (thanks Lynda!), writing terrible code, having things break for reasons I couldn’t understand, and finally getting the server side logic up and running in the most bare-bones of ways. The ultimate problem is that I spent so much time trudging through Node, Express, MongoDB, Heroku, and the general logic of separating server side and client side code, that I didn’t have much time to refine the idea. With that said, I can’t say that I explicity used others source code other than tiny bits and pieces of tutorials from all over the web. It’s hard to document the myriad paths I went down considering I didn’t save all the links I had open. Poor form, I know, but for the most part my code is a pretty boilerplate Express app.
As always, SOURCE CODE