Civic News

Here’s the city’s latest effort at a virtual bulletin board: Nextdoor

Nextdoor is a private social network for each neighborhood in the city. The city says its staffers will now use it to communicate with Philadelphians.

The app is equipped with a database of more than 450 D.C. happy hours. We talked to Frank Goodman, the company's CTO and COO, about the tech used to create and run the app.

D.C.-based Happied is a company that curates an iOS and Google Play friendly app with a database of more than 450 D.C. happy hours.
When DC did a feature on the app's launch in April, it sparked a question I'm sure many technologists are wondering: How did the brains behind Happied get 450 happy hours in one place? Happied CEO April Johnson told us that the app was built as a hybrid app using Ionic, so it can be compatible for both iOS and Android users. Frank Goodman, the company's CTO and COO, lead the team who created the Happied App. Goodman said that the app took three to five months to built from conception to the finished product. To take a deeper dive for Tech Stacks Month, we spoke with Goodman about the tech stack used to create the Happied app and how it's continuously being managed on a daily basis. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


How was the Happied App built, and what programming languages were used?

After deciding to build an app, our team discussed what was most important to us and it basically boiled down to cost, speed and reaching the broadest audience possible. Based on the core features and target date, we decided to use Ionic. Happied was written in Javascript (Ionic/Angular framework) and PHP. In the future, we have plans of switching to native platforms, but for now our framework/stack is holding up well.

How many people were a part of the team who built the app and are you still working with them today?

We had three developers and a designer working on the Happied app. After launch, we downsized to two developers and they are from the same group. We are really looking forward to bringing on more talented developers in the near future that believe in our vision and want to help push our Happied app forward.

How is the app managed on the backend?

The Happied app is managed through our admin portal. We developed an interface that allows our team to manage the listings/data with the ability to create venue owner (bars and restaurants) accounts so the can update their own data as well.

What's the specific tech stack?

Our tech stack involves the Ionic platform, PHP, and Amazon AWS (EC2, Elasticsearch and RDS).

Outside of Happied, what are some programming languages you want to learn?

I'm always interested in new languages and tech stacks that arise. I've personally played in most of the core languages so I wouldn't necessarily say I'm looking to learn a new language, although it would be interesting to see if Flutter (Dart) will become a craze in the near future. As we all know, technology moves very fast. I've learned to not be so quick to adopt every shiny object, but I love that we are headed to a place where you can dream then simply do. All it takes is some grind.

Full disclosure: Engagement Coordinator Cary Betagole previously worked for Nextdoor as a community organizer.

The City of Philadelphia is trying to reach you. It hopes a social network will do the trick.

The city just launched a partnership with Nextdoor, a private social network with specific groups for each city neighborhood. Nextdoor, headquartered in San Francisco, has been live in Philadelphia for more than a year, but this partnership means that city staffers from a handful of departments will start using the network to communicate with Philadelphians. Those departments are the Office of Emergency Management, Streets, Licenses & Inspections and Town Watch Integrated Services.

Sign up for Nextdoor

City employees will not be able to see what is posted on the private neighborhood groups, only direct responses to their posts, according to the release.

It’s not the first time the city has tried using technology to communicate with its citizens. In the fall of 2013, the city launched a web app called myPhillyRising that resembled Nextdoor, except that it catered only to the handful of neighborhoods in which the city was running its PhillyRising program.

myPhillyRising is a bit of a ghost town right now.

As any entrepreneur will tell you, getting traction is hard. That’s why it makes sense that the city is partnering with Nextdoor, which already has something of a user base.

There is no money being exchanged between the city and Nextdoor for this partnership, city spokeswoman Jennifer Crandall said.

Projects: PhillyRising
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