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What was the problem to be solved?
A prospect approached Gunner Technology about building, essentially, a Facebook notifier.
The company wanted a way to remind (and keep reminding) their employees to spread the company's social media post and also bury competitors social media posts.
Facebook's Algorithm boosts posts based on many factors, some of these being number of likes, shares and comments.
So whenever the company posted something, it would blast a company-wide email asking employees to share, like and comment on the post.
This was inefficient, however, as most employees would intentionally or unintentionally ignore the emails or couldn't find the posts.
They asked Gunner to propose a better solution.
What was the proposed solution?
Gunner's solution was to allow users to sign up for a third party app which we would build, using their Facebook account.
Once signed up, the app would allow the user to search for Facebook pages and add them to their "watch list." - additionally, admins could add Facebook pages for users in their company.
Whenever one of the pages created a new post, it would appear in the user's dashboard and stay there until the user liked, shared and commented on it.
Commenting and sharing could be done directly from the third party app we would build. Facebook doesn't allowing liking via third-party apps.
Additionally, our app would send push notification reminders to the user until they cleared their dashboard.
What challenges arose during the project?
The main challenge was the timeline.
Thirty days to build a native application for both Android and iOS .
The only other challenge was to efficiently create jobs that would poll for updates from a potentially wide number of pages.
What was the technical approach to the project?
The app also needed to be available in web browsers so we re-used the backend to create a React web app in relative ease.
Also, GraphQL helped us tremendously as it allowed us to declaratively build out and connect our backend and iteratively add and optimize the data transferred between the app and the backend.
We wired this all up using AWS AppSync and Mobile Hub. Amplify, in particular made integrating with Facebook login much easier via Cognito.
For the polling of pages, we created Lambda tasks on a recurring schedule using Node.js Lambda functions and SQS queues.
These functions grabbed the data and created markers in our DynamoDB.
This gave us a completely Serverless setup.
What was the project management approach to the project?
Using Agile Scrum, we took an iterative approach to this project with a team consisting of a back-end engineer, frontend engineer, a designer and a project manager - with each iteration lasting one week.
We started out with nothing (no mocks, no wireframes, etc), but we didn't have time for Research Sprints, so we jumped right in with a modification of our usual pattern:
1) One week function sprint where we added new functionality
2) Half week QA sprint
3) Half week bug fix sprint
Repeat until finished.
What platform was built for this project?
As this was a new product, we knew that initial usage would be very low and we were working with a near non-existent hosting budget, so a traditional, redundant, fault-tolerant architecture was unrealistic and wasteful.
However, using Serverless with AWS allowed for us to create a setup that will scale infinitely and immediately with no additional changes need from us. The cost will increase with usage, but at that point, the app will be generating revenue.
In the meantime, the setup runs itself for less than $15 a month.
We relied heavily on AWS AppSync to accomplish this.
AWS AppSync automatically updates the data in web and mobile applications in real time, and updates data for offline users as soon as they reconnect. AWS AppSync makes it easy to build collaborative mobile and web applications that deliver responsive, collaborative user experiences.
AppSync let us specify the data requirements of the application with simple code statements and iterate quickly during the prototyping and development process.
AppSync uses GraphQL, an open standard query language that makes it easy for applications to request data from the cloud.
AppSync automatically manages all the data operations for offline users. The service supports an offline programming model where application data is not only available for users who are offline, but users can also add and update app data locally as well. This makes it easy to build apps that cache important data locally for offline use, and then synchronize with the cloud when the device reconnects.
The service integrates with Amazon Cognito and AWS Identity and Access Management, allowing us to set fine-grained permissions on GraphQL operations that put strict controls on who can access the data.
AppSync makes it easy to combine data from different sources. With AppSync, we could access data in Amazon DynamoDB, trigger AWS Lambda functions, or run Amazon Elasticsearch queries and combine data from these services to provide the exact data we needed.
What did you learn from working on this project?
We learned a lot about the Facebook API - especially around the throttling and limitations.
How did this project benefit the client?
Within a month of launching the app, our client saw a 165% increase in post engagement on Facebook, a 67% increase in traffic to their site and a 48% increase in conversions via the site.
Unfortunately, the changing regulations around Facebook due to the Russian and Cambridge Analytica scandal have put this app on indefinite hiatus as we lost access to data we needed to make this app work as designed.
Why was Gunner selected for this project?
Given the time constraints, we were the only firm that could promise delivery.
Aside from that, we offered the best solution for a niche problem and articulated it in a way the client could understand.
What tools, techniques and methodologies were used on this project?