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  • By Shalene Gupta
    What I Built: Danielle Baskin’s app for heart-to-hearts with strangers what-i-built-danielle-baskin-header

    When users join Dialup, they can choose from a list of topics they'd like to discuss: tarot, their boss, woodworking, relationships, and more. It’s a list of topics you might discover in a passing conversation on a bus, in an airport, or at a wedding. In a digital recreation of conversational happenstance, the app sends your interests to a stranger picked at random-- another curious soul seeking ephemeral social contact. Your lists of interests become conversation starters. And much like those passing conversations at crosswalks, movie theater lines, and plane rides, the exchange is fleeing by default. The strangers meeting on Dialup have no way of getting back in touch when the call ends.

    At the beginning of 2020, Dialup had 2,000 users. Today it has 31,000 users from 190 countries, and has been written up by the New York Times and The Guardian. Creator Danielle Baskin’s favorite story …

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  • By Shalene Gupta
    What I Built: Ifat Ribon’s COVID-friendly scheduling and communications app what-i-built-ifat-ribon-header

    In 2017, Ifat Ribon created a scheduling app for Olympus, a janitorial service company for colleges and universities. The app, meant as a replacement for paper schedules, sent electronic records to employees so they would know where they were going and what tasks they would do. Originally intended to prevent lost schedules and out-of-date task lists, in 2020 the app also served to prevent potential COVID infections.

    As a convenient, robust, and familiar resource for the staff, Olympus became an essential backbone for COVID communications. The app was able to push out mass text messages, including information about new safety protocols, or whether or not it was safe to go to work. It also included a messaging feature that allowed managers at Olympus to keep tabs on how employees were feeling during the pandemic.

    A screenshot from the Olympus app

    Meet the creator: Ifat Ribon

    Ifat Ribon is a senior software developer at Launchpad, a Chicago-based …

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  • By Shalene Gupta
    What I Built: Arthur Tham’s uwu-laden pandemic video game What I Built: Arthur Tham's uwu-laden pandemic video game

    During a pandemic where time has passed slowly and anxieties have multiplied, Arthur Tham’s quirky video game fills a much-needed gap. HackUWU is a deceptively simple, but ridiculously addictive, game full of joy. Tham, a recent Masters' graduate of UC Irvine, describes HackUWU’s storyline as “finding love in saying uwu, owo, and ewe; while avoiding common university temptations like banh mi, boba and memes.”

    Tham’s hackathon-built video game: A frenetic blitz of owo, uwu, campus buses, boba, and cats

    Tham’s hackathon-built video game: A frenetic blitz of owo, uwu, campus buses, boba, and cats

    Players click the bubbles that say “uwu”, “owo”, or “ewe”, while pictures of boba, bahn-mi, and memes flash across the screen, while a timer counts down. You earn points by clicking more bubbles, and lose points and gain time if you click on the boba and banh-mi. The bouncy soundtrack and quirky graphics add to the up-beat feeling that despite the stress of the pandemic, you are safe in HackUWU. As …

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