Shortly after the 2014 midterm elections, electrical and computer engineering alumnus Kevin Ting ’12 was having an informal chat with friends about how none of them had voted. They all expressed their frustration with how difficult it was to cut through the noise and find personalized and trustworthy election information that would make them feel informed enough to go out and vote.
What if they could make an app that could provide that kind of information clearly and concisely, they wondered. Soapbox was born.
“We launched in mid-January 2016,” Ting said. “We developed an Android app first, and at the beginning of March, we launched our iPhone version.”
Soapbox starts by asking users to take a 14-question quiz and then it presents a candidate selection page which ranks the candidates in terms of how well they match with the user’s answers and information. Users can then access candidate profile page showing more detailed information about polling numbers, donation breakdowns, notable endorsements, biographies and their stances on major issues. The app also offers a side-by-side comparison of candidates, and a curated news feed that allows users to follow the latest happenings on the campaign trail.
The app aggregates information from a variety of online sources, including Huffington Post pollster, the 538 endorsements blog, and others. So far, close to 500 users have downloaded the app, and Ting hopes that more people will use this app as more features are added and the general election draws closer.
Seven people are working on the app right now, including Rice computer science alumna Jennifer Shen '14 ,Ting said, mostly as a passion project. The team hopes to get Soapbox in the hands of thousands of people, giving them information on candidates and referenda that they might otherwise be uninformed about.
“We’re currently talking about expanding the app to cover state ballot measures and other federal level elections,” said Ting, who was working at a networking company in the Bay Area but left in January of 2016 to travel and launch the app. “We’re waiting on hitting a target number of downloads before we get the ball rolling on our future features.”
Thus far, he said, feedback on the app has been positive and now that the launch is complete, the team is taking some time to look at user suggestions for possible improvements.
“We’re looking at incorporating an important dates timeline, and adding more customization to the app,” said Ting.
As the primary season stretches into summer ahead of the presidential contest this fall, Ting and his team are looking to have their app be a must-download to help voters make their choices.
For more details and where to download, visit the Soapbox website.