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Opinion: What We Can Take Away From the Instagram OP-ED

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Disclaimer: In the interest of not being hypocritical, FemSTEM will NOT link the article in question (though the title will be mentioned), nor mention the author by name.  That information has gone around enough within the science community, and we do not want to unintentionally promote attacking the article and, more importantly, the author in question.

 

A lot of anger, confusion, and debate was stirred up in the science community on March 15th, 2018 when Science Magazine published an article entitled: “Why I Don’t use Instagram for Science Outreach”.  While the title sounded as though it would be a thoughtful opinion piece on why Instagram may not be the best avenue for science communication, the article instead read as a bitter attack peace for many.

 

It’s easy to see why this article was read that way.  The article compared women and suggested that one method of science communication was more valuable to another’s.  It also had bitter sentences throughout the paragraphs.  

 

The author even admits to her bitterness in the article by saying: “Instead of cheering on Instagram’s dynamic and vibrant #scicomm women, I felt an increasing bitterness with each post I came across […] I realized that I am not bitter toward the authors of these posts […]  I am annoyed that the majority of the posts seem to celebrate a very narrow representation of femininity, my real bitterness comes from the systemic challenges that these posts are working to address …”

 

As of March 17th, both the author and Science Magazine came out with statements apologizing for the article, though the article can still be readily found.  

 

With that said, there are things we can learn from the article and the surrounding controversy; it just might not be what the article initially intended.

 

 

Don’t Pit Women Against One Another

 

 

As mentioned previously, the article directly compared two women.  It compared popular online science communicator Samantha Yammine to an unnamed professor the author knew in person.  

 

“I liken the many hours that Science Sam spends on her Instagram content to the volunteer work a female professor in my department put into organizing a summer program to introduce teens from underrepresented communities to biomedical engineering.” — Direct Quote from Article

 

As far as any reader can tell, these women have similar mindsets and goals — they just go about their science outreach in different ways.  Even if this was not the case — there is nothing healthy about comparing two people and their achievements.  

 

 
 

Dr. Deborah Carr, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University, said in an article for Psychology Today: “If we use others as a benchmark to evaluate ourselves, that creeping twinge of jealousy may undermine our ability to truly cherish the good things that come to others.”  

 

Carr then goes on to remind her readers: “Over time, things may even out, and a friend’s success may enable him or her to support and make opportunities for others (including you).”

 

We want to remember that, instead of bringing someone else down, we want to raise one another up.  In the long run, that will provide better, more positive, and longer lasting effects in the community.  We want to remember, too, that this is all of our community.  Tearing someone down, intentionally or not, disrupts the system of the entire collective.  This was clear in the reaction to the Instagram op-ed on Twitter.  It created anger.

 

It is important to note, though, that out of that anger did come some good.  Many fellow scientists and science communicators came to Yammine’s defense and support in the wake of the article. 

 

 

It’s Okay To Have an Opinion, but How You Present it is Extremely Important

 

It is, by no means, a bad thing to have a negative opinion on Instagram or social media in general.  It can be argued (and has been) that social media can be bad for the general state of human health.  Of course, however, everyone reacts to social media differently, and everyone interacts with social media differently.  

 

There is no fault with the author for not thinking that social media is not an effective or good way to go about science communication.  The fault lies with how it was presented.

 

Samantha Yammine was used as an example of science communication through social media from the very first sentence of the Science article.  Afterwards, Yammine was mentioned by her social media persona three more times in the short, 600-word article.  The entire time, Yammine seemed to be presented in a negative light.  

 

Because this article portrayed a negative opinion of a harmless activity, the usage of one example, and outright naming that example, read as an attack.  If the article was otherwise well-written and thought out, it was overcast by what came across as an attack.  

 

On another note, the article never had evidence that backed any of the author’s claims.  There are no links to studies or sources, and there was no research conducted to see if the act of science communication on Instagram could produce positive effects on the public.  It came across as completely baseless, and as a result, purely pessimistic and assaulting to those who enjoy and find good results from their social media usage. 

 

The world needs differing opinions, but those opinions must have structure and foundations, and they must be presented in a professional way.

 

 

We Can Learn From Our Faulty Judgment and From Other’s Errors

 

The reality is that a reputable online magazine should never have posted this piece.  The reality is that this op-ed never should have been penned the way it was.  To call it a ‘mistake’ may be being generous, as the article had been thought out by the author, and then read and edited several times by the employees of Science Magazine.

 

However,  with every negative experience can come a lesson.  That doesn’t make this okay — none of it was.  With that said, us — as the readers, the reviewers, and the critics — can use this to help ourselves become more aware of our own actions.  To use this as an example of what NOT to do.  To look at this and examine ourselves, our own motives, and use this to teach us how to lift someone up rather than to take them down.

 

Hopefully, Science Magazine will do as they say and will “examine [their] editorial process for these pieces moving forward” in a thoughtful and profound way.  We cannot count on that, however.  The only thing we can count on is how we react to situations like this, and how we move past this.

 

Samantha Yammine, who says she will be writing and submitting her rebuttal to an unknown magazine, has taken the entire situation in stride.  

 

 
 

 

Let’s all look at this as an opportunity to learn, and let the science community as a whole become stronger as a result.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 

Interview: Harshita Arora and Her App Crypto Price Tracker

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Back in the last month of 2017, it felt like the only thing we were hearing about was the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Though it had started the year being worth $1,000, it had a huge spike in December that sparked the news media, having reached a worth of $17,000.

 

Bitcoin may be the most popular cryptocurrency (at least in the United States), but it is far from the only cryptocurrency in circulation.  It can be hard enough to keep track of Bitcoin, let alone the hundreds of other types of cryptocurrency around the world.  However, as the world starts to become interested in the world of cryptocurrency, and as the world begins to lean on it, it’s important to keep track of its real world worth.

 

Harshita Arora, a 16-year-old coder, created an application just for that.

 

 
 
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Crypto Price Tracker, which made it to Apple’s App Store Top Charts, was published just last month on January 28th, 2018.  Harshita, the mastermind behind the app, was kind enough to offer me a free version of the application in order to review it.*  Honestly, the app was incredible.  It was smooth; it functioned well; there were no crashes or bugs that I could see.  It’s a simple app, but it’s simplicity doesn’t take away from it’s beauty — in fact, it may just add to it.

 

DOWNLOAD THE APP FOR IOS

 

After viewing the app and playing around with it, I decided to ask if Harshita would be willing to answer some of my questions about the application.  She was completely willing to!

 

Q: First of all, I want to thank you for being willing to sit down and answer these questions! I think that our readers will throughly enjoy this! 

 

A: Thank you so much for having me! I hope my answers will help people! (: 

 

Q: What inspired you to design this application in the first place? And what got you interested in Cryptocurrency? 

 

A: I’ve shared my story of what inspired me to create Crypto Price Tracker here. In short, I was frustrated of using horribly-designed price tracking apps (not to mention, full of ads) with often inaccurate prices and alerts. I researched more and identified that there was a market need for a better and improved app. So I went ahead and created one :D


I remember the first time I came across the term cryptocurrency was in 2016. I read an article in a tech magazine (Digit) about Bitcoin and Bitcoin mining. Blockchain and building software on blockchain framework was a very interesting concept and business opportunity. Though, I never got around to building products in the field, as I was working on other projects. But in 2017, cryptos were just everywhere online. My Facebook and Quora feed were flooded with content related to cryptos and blockchain. So I started reading more online and got interested in cryptos. 

 

Q: What is the general goal of your application? 

 

A: Crypto Price Tracker helps users track prices of 1000+ cryptocurrencies from over 19 exchanges, set price alerts, manage crypto portfolio, and much more. The goal I had when I started out was to create one app where people can find and do everything they want to, to keep themselves up-to-date with cryptocurrencies and their prices, and manage their portfolio if they’ve invested in cryptos. 

 

 
 
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Q: How long did it take for you to code, design, and develop this application before it was ready to submit?

 

A: I started in November 2017 and I released the app on 28th January 2018. So it was a 2-3 months long journey from start to finish. It’s been an interesting ride! I’ve shared the journey until launch here in this post. I’m writing a post on launching, marketing, and getting feedback. 

 

 

Q: What was the beginning process of developing an application like this? Did you write the code from scratch, or use some sort of base? Was this for a classroom project, or just in your free time? 

 

A: The process started with having a product spec so that I know what features will go into the app. Then I began drawing user-flow diagrams and wireframes for each screen. I then designed all screens using Affinity Designer. That process took 3-4 weeks. I’ve shared my learnings and advice on how to design beautiful apps in this post. 

 

After designs were ready and imported in Xcode, that’s when I moved on to coding. Developing iOS apps is a lot of fun and the code was written from scratch. I used a lot of libraries, frameworks, and cocoapods. Mainly: SwiftyJSON, Alamofire, Charts, Popup Dialog, and CoreData. I couldn’t have developed the app without my mentors, Aviral and Bhavish. They were super critical in coding the app. And my friend, Harsh built the back-end on Firebase. 

 

It was not a classroom project since I do not go to school. I’ve been an unschooler for 1.5 years. Crypto Price Tracker is my first solo app. 

 

Q: How did you learn how to code, and what makes you so passionate about coding? 

 

A: I learned digital design and app design when I was 14 from my CS teacher. He’d assign really interesting projects to build, to give students real world design experience. He introduced me to Google’s Scratch and MIT App Inventor. I used to play around with them all day, for months, and that’s where I learnt basic programming concepts and built projects. Then I got the opportunity to intern at Salesforce in winter 2016 – which is where I got exposure to working in tech for the first time. 

 

I love designing and building products. And being able to build valuable software that solves a market need is a super fun and rewarding process. 

 

 
 

Q: Are you looking forward to creating new applications as well? And will they be long similar lines, or do you have new ideas that have nothing to do with Cryptocurrency? 

 

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A: Yes! I’ve recently started working on an AI app with a friend. It’s an app in Health and Fitness – so a completely different market. I’d be sharing more on this app on my Medium in a few weeks! 

 

Q: Have you received a lot of positive feedback and support from anyone in particular? Strangers reviewing the application, or family members and friends? 

 

A: Yes! When I started out with this app, 5-6 of my friends in crypto helped me understand a lot of terms and concepts in crypto and helped me a lot in figuring out the features that people/users want. When I had a prototype in Adobe XD, I asked my friends to test it out and they gave a lot of positive feedback and suggestions for improvements. ~50 of my friends tested the beta when it was on TestFlight, which was 1 week prior to planned submission. I never got any strangers to test the app until v1.0 release. After the release, my inbox was flooded with emails from happy users sharing feedback and things to work on. 

 

Q: Would you call the application an overall success and a driving point in your coding career? Why? 

 

A: I think Crypto Price Tracker has been pretty successful in acquiring users and retaining them. I’ve gotten 1,500+ downloads in 2 weeks. It was #2 app in Finance in the App Store top charts for paid apps within 24 hours of launch. It was featured on Product Hunt. A post about it on reddit got a lot of virality. And tons more good things have happened! I’m also getting acquisition offers right now. I’d say yes, it was definitely a driving point in my career in tech. 

 

Q: What would you say as a word of advice to anyone looking to get into coding themselves? 

 

A: Something I wish more people knew is that there’s a lot of resources online to ask questions if you get stuck. My favorite website is codementor.io. I’ve met a few of my coding mentors on the platform when I had questions. 

Another useful resource to ask questions (though you can’t get 1-on-1 mentoring) would be: Quora, reddit, StackOverflow. 

When learning to code, and especially if you’re self-learning with online courses and books, you will get stuck a lot. Knowing where to ask questions from more experience programmers and developers can help a lot! 

 

I cannot recommend downloading this application enough.  Even if you don’t know anything about cryptocurrency, it’s amazing to see this young woman excel at what she loves to do — and to help support her.  You can download the app on IOS devices here.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.