Mutual aid groups around the world have started setting up WhatsApp groups to connect people during the COVID-19 pandemic. They post their WhatsApp group chat invite links (that look like this: chat.whatsapp.com/INXpjBYWdf4DnrTvpZcMy) online on websites like covidmutualaid.org. Anyone can join these groups and mutual aid organizers have complained about bots, spammers, and other unwanted people from joining. Furthermore, these links are long and messy and are hard to print on flyers or posters. I was inspired to make it easier to connect people quickly and safely through WhatsApp groups.
WhatsApp group security has been a major issue and several media companies have written about this including vice: www.vice.com/en_us/article/k7enqn/google-is-letting-people-find-invites-to-some-private-whatsapp-groups
What it does
By using Joingroupchat.com, group admins can protect their group chats to prevent bots, spammers, and other unwanted people from joining their group chats. Joingroupchat.com is a URL shortener and manager like Bit.ly or TinyURL.com. However, unlike Bit.ly or TinyURL.com, Joingroupchat.com allows the links to be protected through a password and a reCaptcha. Through Joingroupchat.com, group admins can also shorten and customize their group chat links. WhatsApp and Facebook group chat invite links are long and messy and look like this: WhatsApp: chat.whatsapp.com/IOGntjha8z05OKEyC5dFC, Facebook: m.me/join/Ab6bRjf8H3qer10p3m. These links can be turned into something clearer and shorter like Joingroupchat.com/groupname, which is easier to print on a poster or flyer.
How I built it
I asked mutual aid groups what problems they were facing to develop Joingroupchat.com. I built it with the help of my team.
Challenges I ran into
I found it hard to understand the struggles and pain points that mutual aid organizers were having. I solved this by reaching out to them through Facebook pages. I made some phone call with them so that they could explain what tools they needed to be able to connect people better.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Since launching, more and more mutual aid groups across the world, especially in the United Kingdom, have started using Joingroupchat.com to connect their local communities quickly and safely. More than 50 group chat admins have protected and shortened 400+ group chat invite links which have been used by 4500+ people to join groups. I have attached photos with the flyers of one group with their identifying information blurred out. The photos are called "blurred1.jpeg" and "blurred2.jpeg" (/path/to/blurred1.jpeg) (/path/to/blurred2.jpeg)
Joingroupchat.com is one of the many tools listed on the coronavirustechhandbook.com, a crowdsourced website that lists tech resources helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What I learned
I learned how to contact users in order to understand how to adjust the website to satisfy their needs better.
What's next for JoinGroupChat.com
I will continue developing it and adding features including connecting Joingroupchat.com to Google Maps to make it easier to find your local group chat.
Reach out to me!
I'd like to hear what you think about Joingroupchat.com. If you think other people would find it interesting or useful, feel free to share Joingroupchat.com with them. You can contact me through my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A warm virtual hug from Spain, Olivier Vroom
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