How Google Maps gets communities together— Coronavirus Edition

It’s my 4th week of home office… and I wanted to do something good about this. And because I’m preparing at work for Google Cloud Platform projects I wanted to sniff what’s all that buzz around third of the TOP 3 cloud providers (after AWS and Azure). That’s how Neightalk started.

So I’ve opened an account, ignited first year for free (well, almost free) and started my development. But what could be so beneficial, that maybe someday Google will take it over or at least give me unlimited free resources for this particular project? The answer came from above. More specific: upstairs where my neighbors decided to make a party for two. But I know what the are going through: they’ve kept the same amount of carbs while staying home without any chance to burn that calories down. They were like a cats — always going crazy 30 minutes before human bedtime.

So what did I need to share my thoughts with them without standing on their door step? Well, I needed a small announcements page. But not another Gumtree, Craigslist or OLX, this time it needed to be geolocation-based, so I needed a map.

Take a direction: maps first

You might ask: why maps? Cause first thing in whole process is to find your neighbors without violating users privacy with use of every sensor in computer or smartphone.

Best online map service is Google Maps. Thankfully their API is part of GCP, so I could spent my whole redeem on Maps API calls. That’s how I started with some basics: paiting map canvas, reacting to events and… repainting whole canvas so the page would not look like maps.google.com itself. Soooo…I’ve used Snazzy Maps.

Screen form Snazzy Maps with properties set for Neightalk-coloured map.

From german: Was ist DaaS?

The moment I got through rough JavaScripts for all event listeners there was a time for database… full CRUD (Create Read Update Delete) bundle saving and reading places and posts as well as deleting them (for the sake of moderation. I didn’t have much time, it’s just an MVP — I though. So I’ve learned Firestore — scalable, extremely expensive (comparing to self-hosted databse) solution made as a part of Firebase suite.

This is how simple database in Firebase is

Social / Community experience

I have maps, database, some of UI, now what? It’s time for social experience — people (if any) will want to share their spaces, tell their neighbours that Neightalk is present in their residential building. But how? Two things: unique URLs and printables. First one means update while opening building posts listing, second dynamically generated A4 print-ready page with address, URL and QR code for the sake of simplicity for everybody.

Printable page for one of the Neightalk chatpoints

Is that all?

For now, yes. I have working MVP, some sort of brand identity (logo just came to me on Saturday while laying drunk on a coach, watching “Money Heist”, season 4).

MVP of Neightalk — app for chatting with your neighbours

Now what?

But it needs to go viral, so that people know about that place, knowing that there’s a chance someone might wrote just for them. So if you got up to this line in this article, please share the link with others. Who knows? Maybe someone is waiting for you or one of your friends.

In case of any questions, reactions and applies for a cooperation, feel free to reach me here, on Twitter (@p_kolawa), Facebook (Piotrek Kolawa).

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Piotr Kolawa

I’m Software Engineer, telling my own stories. Sometimes about IT, sometimes about my country, mostly about LinkedIn.