Embedding our values ​​and causes in our product

In late 2020, Buffer’s engineering team held a two-day hack event to explore ideas that are in line with our personal and company values. While we strive to bring our personal and company values ​​into the things we build, sometimes it’s good to take a step back and really focus on those things that are important to us. These two days of hacking allowed us to do just that, building a collection of projects that clearly embedded our values. ❤️

Going through the day, the team spent some time gathering ideas at Trell. Here we talked about ideas, found projects we wanted to work on and collaborators we could work on on those projects!

With the projects on display, we entered the hack days with a clear vision of what we would all be working on. A total of 14 projects were built. Some of them have already been delivered, while others need more work or will be left as proof of concepts. Let’s dive into these projects and see what the engineering team has built!

Emoji support for skin tone

Status: We sent this update to our engagement capabilities, but more work is still needed before we can add it to our publishing capabilities.
Within our publishing and engagement tools, we currently support the ability to select emojis to insert into content entry areas.

However, the existing implementation does not support the skin tone functionality used by the emoji ecosystem. In order to allow individuals to express themselves in the way they want, this seems to be an important aspect of the emoticon that needs to be supported.

During the day of hacking Ana and Hamish from the Publish team dived into adding this support to Publish Composer. The result looks great and adds full support to the emoji attribute of skin color.

In addition to entering this into our Publish Composer, Boris i Sol from the team working on our engagements added support to this in the composer on the engagement card. Now users in both of these areas can use emoji support for skin tone.

Hate speech detection

Status: We have not yet delivered this to any of our products, but we are researching technical details so we can do so.

When it comes to scheduling social media, there is a great responsibility for the content that our users can send to their networks. As for facilitating this content, there is a manual process in which accounts will be checked if they violate our policies. David,, Mike i Joe we’ve checked to see if there’s a way to automate some of these checks and prevent users from creating updates that violate certain of our policies.

For this, David created an endpoint in our API so that customers could check if the text content contained hate speech. This was done using HateSonar and Perspective. This endpoint would return a result that would show whether a text is considered offensive or hateful. Since this endpoint is available, Mike has included it in the process of creating posts for the composer in our publishing tool, which means that when a user tries to create an update that may contain hate text or offensive text, he will receive an error message.

Joe took the same endpoint and merged it into the flow of creating clips within our publishing tool. Now, if the user tries to create a group of snippets that contain offensive or hateful hashtags, an error message will be displayed and the group will not be created.

Status: We have not yet delivered this to any of our products, but we are researching technical details so we can do so.

Two of our charitable contributions last year were for climate-focused organizations, so it was to be expected that there would be a climate-focused project. Gisete,, Phil, i And looked at creating a page to display the carbon footprint of the server used by Buffer. This page shows not only a graph of emissions, but also an overview of server emissions and some calculated equivalents. With this in place, it gives us the data and foundation needed to start making changes to make our servers greener.

A variety of campaign color options

Status: We sent this update to our mobile publishing capabilities, but it still takes more work before we can add it to our web publishing features.

Within our publishing tool, users can create campaigns to collect upcoming posts. When creating a campaign, you can choose a color to join it, but this color palette did not include black. For campaigns that could focus on causes for blacks, this is a missed opportunity to get involved. To correct this, our internal tools engineer, Mick, added support for black in our publishing tool for both the web and Android apps. With one of our iOS engineers, Jordan, adding this to the iOS app.

Clip group suggestions

Status: We have no plans to deliver this to our publishing capabilities in the near future, it will remain as a prototype for now.

We currently offer the ability to create groups of hashtags in our publishing tool, allowing our clients to reuse hashtag collections on their posts. They are currently being asked to create these groups themselves, well Joe he looked at how we could align some of his values ​​with this feature. He added a new section to this feature that allows users to view a predefined collection of tagged groups. This change allows us to display groups for all current events, which allows us to support these causes and increase the visibility of posts for them.

Status: We have not yet delivered this to any of our products, but we are researching technical details so we can do so.

In our publishing tool, users have the ability to share external links directly to the compiler of our mobile applications. When these links are imported, the body of the composer is generated based on the contents of said link. Currently, all links could be shared with the composer, which could allow our users to become victims of sharing false information on their networks. As a solution to this, Prateek i Michael worked on a project that allows us to check the links that are imported into the composer of our publishing tool. This checks if the connection came from a source known to provide false information, and if so, the app notifies the user before adding content to the queue.

Brand Support Brands

Status: We have no plans to deliver this to our publishing capabilities in the near future, it will remain as a prototype for now.

Our Grid Shop feature allows brands to present multiple URLs to link to in the form of a shopping network. Although this feature is used by many different types of small businesses, Char wanted to consider how these brands would present their own values ​​directly on the Shop Grid page. Char made a quick prototype of what this might look like, by adding Support black-owned brands badge directly on the page. Not only would this allow stores to show support for black-owned businesses, but it could also be easily expanded to allow further values ​​to be displayed on the page. For example, a brand could show that they are owned by blacks or that they are carbon neutral.

Add replacement text to Facebook and LinkedIn media

Status: More work is needed before we can add it to our publishing capabilities.

At Buffer, we use our accessibility statement not only to share our accessibility value, but also to give us a clear direction as to how it is presented in our projects. In this regard, it’s not about accessibility within our own products, but about how we can support accessibility features that support the networks we share and with the content. Currently our composer supports adding alt-text to Twitter as it was available at the beginning of the Twitter API. For hack days, Amy-Lee added support for replacement text to images shared on Facebook and LinkedIn, a support that was recently added to APIs for these networks. With this job, alt-text will be available for addition to the three different networks we support, helping to make the content shared by our publishing tool more accessible.

Status: More work is needed before we can add it to our publishing capabilities.

Within the composer of our publishing tool, users can submit media attachments for posting to support networks. Once these media items are attached, we offer the ability to crop these images, but do not allow further customization. To offer some flexibility here and provide users with a way to express their own values, Andy implemented a sticker function for the iOS publishing tool application. This feature allows users to select the badge / watermark to be applied to the image before it is shared to the desired network.

Accessibility control panel

Status: This will be delivered soon as an internal tool, but will not be made public in the near future.

As mentioned earlier in this article, our accessibility statement defines and shares our accessibility value, along with some of the requirements we strive to meet our products. Joe we wanted to take a look at how we could monitor our accessibility errors and warnings for our web products, as this could help us track issues and spot any common features in our products. To that end, Joe used the pa11y dashboard to run an internal service for a set of pages in Buffer products that allow us to report daily on accessibility errors and alerts.

Running a federal social network

Status: We have no delivery plans, it will remain as a prototype.

Our business is built around social networks, these are complex applications that have many different moving parts. One key thing that often occurs around these networks is privacy and control over your data. With this in mind, Eduardo decided to explore creating our own social network with a clipboard, using Plemor for that. While this is something we could use for resorts and gatherings of other companies, creating our own internal social network allows us to control our own data, and exposes us to deeper concepts of social networks.

Status: This has been submitted and is available for use with our publishing capabilities.

Our publishing tool offers browser extensions that allow users to share the current browser page directly in the tool’s compiler, eliminating the need to manually copy and paste site URLs. To extend the safari, we supported only one icon theme; which means that the black clipboard logo has always been displayed. When you used a dark theme in the browser, this made the icon unavailable because the icon was barely visible on the dark background of the browser. To fix this, Andy added support for a light icon while using a dark theme, resulting in an available extension icon regardless of the browser theme you are using.

With these 14 projects, the engineering team was able to focus on our values ​​and explore how they can be presented in our products. As you can see, this is done in many different ways, while addressing many different goals.

It was really inspiring for me to see how everyone gets together and builds so many great features in such a short amount of time. While we strive to incorporate our values ​​into our daily work, it is refreshing to take that time to step back and really focus on what is important to us. This helps us foster proactive thinking when it comes to topics, as well as creating space for further education in those areas. With this, hack week continues to prove a valuable investment in our engineering team.

Are you getting involved in hacking weeks for your engineering team? We would love to hear what suits you if so! Send us a tweet anytime!! And you don’t have a hack of the week, it might be worth thinking about how this time could contribute to your team and product. ❤️

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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