Fwd.Us Immigration Hackathon: Report
This past week, I was invited to serve as a Design Mentor for the Fwd.Us DREAMer Hackathon. The event featured a group of 20-some immigrants, most of them without documentation, leading up small teams of designers & coders. Each team was tasked with coming up with an idea to help immigrants, or the immigration reform movement. We would work for 2 days at the LinkedIn headquarters in Mountain View to come up with a working demo of our idea.
I was mentor to team NoblePaths.
Our goal was to create a visualization app that would empower immigrants to tell their personal story in a share-able, if not viral way. The point was to make the complicated (if not, outright broken) immigration system visible, and in human terms rather than in cold, formal, legalistic ways. (like the immigration roadmap below)
Concept: Personal Storyline visuals
I mocked up some possible personal Storyline Images, that our app would create. I hand-coded these, based on interviews with immigrants about their personal journeys. Then I created vector color maps of their journeys. The goal was to create viral, gripping, emotional images out of a personal story.
I also made less minimalistic versions, with annotations on the color map — including the stories that went along with each phase.
Our Demo product
The first, semi-functional version of NoblePaths is available here.
We made up a website & intake section, for people to enter their timeline information. Here are some of our screenshots of the demo site that we built:
Our team won honorable mention for Best Design, and even more importantly, we had a great time working together & imagining how we can use visualization & personalization to improve the immigration system. Can we help people understand their options better by showing them others’ stories? Can we crowdsource an immigration dataset, that shows trends in what pathways are possible, and how timely & expensive they are, and for which nationalities? Can we show the public how complicated & burdensome the current system is — how people who arrive here perfectly legal can end up as undocumented.
Here is a photo log of our event — from dinner on Tuesday night, where we met in person for the first time & talked about our ideas over dinner — through Wednesday’s launch, sketches, consultations with Mark Zuckerberg, Jose Antonio Vargas, Andrew Mason, Drew Houston, and Reid Hoffman — and Thursday’s crazy rush to get our demo ready.