Written by: Liberty Baldovino and Joemar Belleza
With Filipinos as one of the most active social media users, as well as the different instances of flame commenting and social media shaming, this app may just come in handy.
Team In The Mix won the championship prize for Digital Halo-Halo Hackathon, a Facebook –sponsored, Affinis Labs-organized event, was held here in the Philippines last November 24-26. Its purpose was to encourage participants to create innovative online tools and platforms to improve digital literacy in the Philippines. As In The Mix was one of the six teams created during the event, despite the members not knowing each other, they were brought together by a common goal to create something great and would have a huge impact to make a difference.
Their project, MError, grabbed the first prize, after all six groups pitched their projects in front of a panel of judges, a live audience, and an online crowd on November 26.
So just what exactly is MError?
MError is a portmanteau of two words: me and error, also resembling the word mirror. Like facing your face in a mirror, MError, on the other hand, is like facing your online conscience.
Its primary aim is to stop cyberbullying which is severely affecting the lives of victims. In the Philippines, alone, 80% of Pinoy Teens were cyberbullied.
Cyberbullying may affect its victims and can have serious effects on them, according to a study by Dr. Mark Dombeck for The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Those who are cyberbullied may experience the following short-term effects:
• Anxious avoidance of settings in which bullying may occur.
• Greater incidence of illness
• Lower grades than non-bullied peers
• Suicidal thoughts and feelings
Long-term effects include:
• Reduced occupational opportunities
• Lingering feelings of anger and bitterness, desire for revenge.
• Difficulty trusting people
• Interpersonal difficulties, including fear and avoidance of new social situations
• Increased tendency to be a loner
• Perception of self as easy to victimize, overly sensitive, and thin-skinned
• Self-esteem problems (don’t think well of self)
• Increased incidence of continued bullying and victimization
These possibly damaging effects on cyberbullying victims are what motivated the team to conceptualize MError.
It is a Facebook app that enables users to track the number of positive words in their posts and comments. Think of it as a personal tool/positivity checker that will help users be mindful of the effects of their own Facebook presence and allow them to share that positivity with their network through timeline posting. Through networking, MError will promote this individualistic and personal approach of effecting change.
The app will not censor what users are supposed to post online. It is just one of the proactive ways to deal with the issue by empowering people to change their behavior on a more personal level.
How Does It Work?
When signing up with a Facebook account, a user gets to the automated data analysis tools in MError. All the user’s comments from the moment of sign up will be analyzed by Merror. It will count the number of widely-accepted words and phrases against the number of widely-considered negative words and phrases.
The “dictionary” of positive and negative words will be crowdsourced online via similarly-aligned interest groups as well as interested segment of the target demographics. Curation and maintenance of this dictionary will be done by the MError team initially and by a “committee” of interest groups and stakeholders consequently.
The dictionary and aggregated data analytics will be hosted on a separate database outside Facebook.
As mentioned earlier, In the Mix, as the hackathon’s winner, will receive a $5,000 seed funding from Facebook. Database server costs, code development and maintenance fees, content marketing budget, and incidental expenses will be sourced through corporate and NGO sponsorship.
Research shows that it only takes 66 days to form a new habit.
That’s only two months and six days. If we can encourage everyone to use MError daily for that length of time, we might succeed at having respectful online discussions and debates online.
And maybe, just maybe, we can lessen, if not totally stop cyberbullying.
Meet the Team
Liberty Baldovino (4th from left) is a freelance writer/VA.. She runs a blog, The Youthful Granny VA, with the goal of helping fellow freelancers especially newbies.
Joemar Belleza (2nd from left) is a staunch advocate of HIV awareness, LGBT rights, and the promotion of the purchasing power of the pink peso.
He runs his own blog called BaklaPoAko.Com
Dexter Rustia (squatting) is an IT undergrad from the Asian College of Technology. He took the subjects he liked, especially programming subjects. His skills and knowledge were honed from the jobs he did from a very able mentor.
Gabriel Sumalinog Patalunjug (2nd from right) is a Computer Engineering graduate from the University of San Carlos. Also, most of his skills were learned from an able mentor.
Raymond de la Cruz (3rd from right) is the group’s assigned Graphic Designer. He took a two-year Computer Software Technology in Datamex Institute of Computer, but focused more on Graphics and Web Designs. Most of his skills were self-taught.
Seth Tujan Abangan (3rd from left) is the group’s bandmaster. He’s a badass creative techie who’s into app development seeking business partners to build big-impact solutions.
With the team are Shahed Amanullah, Affinis Labs’ Co-Founder and CTO and Elizabeth Hernandez, Head of Public Policy for Asia Pacific at Facebook.
Liberty Baldovino and Joemar Belleza co-authored this article.