When Apperture started as a PennApps hackathon project almost a year ago, Charlie Cheever was promoting his new platform Expo.io (a free, open-source development layer on top of React Native) during the event and encouraged everyone to give it a try. And although we developed our first prototype with Expo, we drifted away from it due to crucial unsupported features and the platform simply being at its very beginnings.

Even at the time, we had a bold and innovative idea that we knew had a great potential and just needed to be implemented correctly. We saw a need for a…


Part of a series of essays written for Building The Tech Startup

Figure 1. Intercom’s iconic bottom-right corner chat bubble

It is often argued that it is hard to succeed in the startup world without a disruptive idea or a product that belongs to a new category, however, it is sometimes enough to capitalize on better solutions for an existing problem and Intercom did just that. Known for its iconic 49$/month blue button that sits on the corner of more that 25,000 websites, Intercom has pioneered the business-to-client messaging business, providing live assistance via chat to the customers of multi-billion companies such as Yahoo!, Hootsuite and InVision. Intercom…


Part of a series of essays written for Building The Tech Startup

Nowadays, it has become extremely easy to spend a day shopping without cash. This “cashless lifestyle” is the result of years of evolution of credit and debit cards, combined with a huge market push towards the use of easier, faster and more secure cash alternatives such as debit cards and smartphones, motivated by a simple idea: Easier payments yield more transactions and thus more revenue. However, if we rewind to 2009, this has not always been the case: debit and credit cards were not as popular and only…


After scientists have suggested that the 97% non-coding sequences in our DNA is in fact alien code, and after Elon Musk argued that we are living in an alien video game, it might be time we reconsider our thoughts about what we think is the origin of our creation and it’s impact on our future.

As crazy as the idea might seem, if verified, it will bring stark implications on our ethical views of various scientific fields, especially the field of Artificial Intelligence. Now, we all know that non-coding DNA sequences are not unique to humans therefore the claim that…


It has recently become crystal clear that we are effectively living the Internet of Things (IoT) era and while this was predicted and planned years ago, the surge in “smart devices” is becoming more and more obvious. This stream of connected devices is accompanied by an absurd increase in the number of startups that I like to call “smartthing startups”.

The idea behind “smartthing startups” is very simple: You notice an object that is not connected to the internet (a.k.a. …


Since I started coding in PHP and web languages, I have developed the habit of creating small projects and proof-of-concepts in HTML/CSS/PHP. In most cases, those languages will do the trick and a native desktop app won’t be necessary (especially for basic applications).

However, when you want to develop a sharable offline app using web languages, you are usually faced with the problem of explaining to your client how to set-up an Apache-PHP-MySQL server (also known as xAMP as in XAMP, WAMP, MAMP, etc). …


Figure 1. The new Skillman Library

No one can deny that The 1960s was a very remarkable decade, a time of pivotal change at all levels. This is not only because of the Vietnam War, the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the first moon landing ever but also because the 1960s marked a fall of social taboos most notably through the war on racism and sexism that were widespread at the time. Meanwhile, Lafayette College was entering a new era of restless renovations and continuous protests in an effort to cope with the social, political and technological changes. …


Figure 1 : The Millenium Hilton Hotel and its plaza

Listening to 99%INVISIBLE’s “99%Private” podcast drew my attention to Privately Owned Public Spaces. Consequently, I paid extra attention to the spaces that are open to the public on my trip to New York City for the Thanksgiving holidays. To my surprise, I found that most of the publicly open areas in New York City were owned by companies, hotels and restaurants! This is mainly due to the sizable incentives that the Department of City Planning provides for developers of POPOS. Most notably, POPOS owners are granted additional floor space in exchange for the development and maintenance of plazas. One hotel…


Unless we are lost, rarely do we think about wayfinding and signage in the design of spaces and the role they play in guiding and orienting us. Listening to 99%INVISIBLE’s “Walk This Way” podcast made me think about how professional wayfinders can manipulate the user by guiding him to commercial spaces and persuading him to buy without him noticing. This sort of manipulation was very clear throughout the National Philadelphia Zoo’s layout and design: From the park’s plans to the location of restaurants around it, the Zoo’s wayfinding seems to be purely commercial rather than serviceable.

If you think that…


After listening to 99%INVISIBLE’s “Deaf Space” podcast, I took a look at my College’s main library to see how well its design handles accessibility. In fact, since its creation in 1961, the Skillman Library has been focusing on providing a constant universal experience for all of its users without exception. The library’s design choices are therefore oriented towards accessibility and inclusiveness. Wheelchair users, will certainly find it easy to explore the library and use its resources since the library’s design depicts a clear attention to wheelchair users in compliance with the APA accessible design guidelines. …

Wassim Gharbi

Software Engineer and Design Technologist

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