Resistbot, the little chatbot leading our resistance.

Resistbot is a simple tool to help Americans send letters to their elected officials. Created by Eric Ries (author of the Lean Startup) and Jason Putorti, Resistbot was born as part of the "Tech Against Trump" movement with the call to "text 'resist' to 50409." The chatbot identifies which precinct a constituent lives in via address, and then allows users to write letters to their congressmen, senators, governor, and even the White House which we deliver (for free) in 2 minutes or less. By Resistbot's first birthday on March 8th of 2018, we had over 4 million users who had sent over 10 million messages to their elected officials.

I was brought onto the volunteer team in April, within a month of launch, to update the placeholder-style branding, help with data visualization, and become the go-to for graphics.


"What's a chatbot?"

"Chatbot" isn't the most familiar term to those outside of tech. My primary objective while designing a character to represent Resistbot was to be approachable and friendly. Taking inspiration from BB-8, minions, and the Google self-driving car, I wanted the bot to be cute enough to disarm any lingering fears or hesitation on part of the user. Someday we'd like to animate the bot, so it was important that movement and speech were simple - Resistbot speaks via a text flag instead of a mouth, rolls via a wheel instead of legs, and we direct the users attention via a single giant eye.

I regularly update the bot's look to reflect current events and surprise users. It's also great to have "blue-screen-of-death bot" "bot on fire" and "snooze bot" around for days when bugs or message volume temporarily take us down.


Engaging with our users

Resistbot is a non-profit reliant on donations to support our operating cost and volunteers to build and maintain the bot. We saw an organic outpouring of user-created content celebrating the bot, and needed to organize that momentum towards the top of the funnel.

I was formally given the keys to our social media accounts in late 2017, and created a unified system of templates to share news about the bot, data on the resistance, and visuals demystifying how a chatbot works.

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Visualizing the Resistance

The Resistance is a movement that sprung up after the election of President Trump. Because it is relatively young, we are eager to see a reflection of ourselves outside marches and protests. Who are the types of people that write to their elected officials? What do we care about most? What age groups are interested in gun safety? What gender is most spurred to action by issues of healthcare? Which senators and congressmen are actually listening? Is there any way to get a message through to Ted Cruz? I work closely with another Resistbot volunteer, data scientist Sohan Murthy, to visualize data on the resistance. They're often our most shared pieces with high levels of engagement.

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Spreading the word

While most of our outreach efforts are online, I also designed flyers for university groups to share on campus.