Summer Series: Ponder

calvin-2016 Calvin, Computer Science, Internship, Work 0 Comments

Hello readers! This has been a pretty crazy summer for me, and also one of the most productive periods of my life. I’ve been working for startup company in Santa Monica (launching soon!), taking an Operating Systems class, and working on projects for some of the different student organizations I am a part of (Spark SC and HackSC). I decided that I want to share about all the things going on in my life, but couldn’t quite fit everything into one blog post. So, I am going to write a four part series on my summer of mega-awesome happenings. In this post, I want to talk a bit about my experience working for a startup in Santa Monica.

The startup I am working at is called Ponder, and we make a mobile application that aims to democratize social media (sounds fluffy, but stay with me). Like many other social media platforms, we allow our users to post photo and video content, and to overlay filters, text and other images over their content. These posts take the form of “cards”, and users see one card at a time.

Users get to make a simple decision about each card: they can either decided the content on the card is cool enough to share with their friends and local community and “push” the card up, or decide that the content is not really worth looking at and swipe the card down (we call that a “pass”). Our goal is always show users what the community has has decided is the “best” content, and this is where the buzz-wordy “democratization of social media” part starts to actually mean something.

We rank each card internally based how many users have “pushed” it, how many people have seen it, when and where it created, and who posted it. Then, we show each user the “hottest” content posted by their friends and in their local area. Because of the way we calculate each card’s “score”, everyone is actively contributing to the decision of what’s cool and what isn’t, and the best content rises to the top. This gives every user an opportunity to post something they think is funny, epic, or otherwise generally awesome without having to worry –– if the post isn’t great, not that many people will see it, but if other people like it the post it could be seen by a ton of people!

My job title is backend engineer. Basically, whenever users post content or want to view content, I help manage the storage, movement, and tracking of data from our servers (which are just sets of computers running our software and storing our data) to users’ phones (only iPhones for now!). I knew virtually nothing about any of the technology we use at Ponder when I started, and have learned a ridiculous amount. I couldn’t have asked for better engineering experience and am super excited for launch!

Also, for anyone interested in the tech side of what we do, we are using:

  • Flask, software built for software developers that helps us easily write python code to manage the data coming from our users’ iPhones
  • PostgreSQL, a tool that helps us store data in tables (it turns out tables are really, really awesome in computer science)
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS), which helps us “scale” (our code will, hopefully, still run quickly even when many people are using the app) among many other things
A high level diagram of the tech at Ponder.

A high level diagram of the tech at Ponder.

If you have any questions feel free to shoot an email to viterbi.student@usc.edu or comment on this post! I love chatting about both the Ponder product and our technology, so fire away.

Update: Ponder launched! You can find us in the app store (:

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Computer Science, Class of 2017, Learn more on his profile here!

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