Developing for Good: A Quick Look at MyLNK

The team at Don’t Panic Labs has worked on a lot of software over the years (10 years last month, by the way). We have stood up numerous new applications and platforms for our customers and have transformed many platforms into more modern and stable platforms to help customers grow their businesses.

But the single biggest splash I believe we have ever made with a project was one that involved our team and a few software development interns.

A Brief Origin Story

MyLNK is a joint effort between Don’t Panic Labs and a Leadership Lincoln volunteer team. The goal of the project was to replace catalogs that list available services in the city of Lincoln and Lancaster county. Before MyLNK was built, this printed and PDF’ed collection of resources would often go extended periods without being updated. Not only were they difficult to navigate, but they would sometimes contain incorrect information. And this affected more than just the people seeking services for themselves; many first responders and organizations rely on this list to provide quick assistance to those in need.

Development of MyLNK began in 2017 with a group of summer interns overseen by Senior Software Engineer Matt Will and Project Manager Lori McCarthy. The fruits of their efforts are a mobile app (iOS and Android) where users can search for services across a wide range of needs (such as Children and Family, Health, Senior Services, and Transportation).

In the years since, interns and several Don’t Panic Labs engineers have iterated on the MyLNK project to fine-tune various aspects of the app and build a website version of the app that lists resources in three additional languages.

Meeting Needs During Tough Times

I think it’s fair to say that when this project began, nobody could have imagined how essential this tool would be in the face of a worldwide pandemic.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, many people are stressed and may be struggling. People are turning increasingly to the MyLNK app to find help during this challenging time, and some of the stats we see bear this out.

Seeing the number of active users shows how vital the MyLNK app has been for many in our community. You can see a considerable spike around mid-March, which is when we were suddenly affected by COVID-19, and much of our city began self-isolating. It was this time of transition that MyLNK became an essential resource for many in Lincoln and Lancaster county. In addition, the app added a section of new resources available in response to COVID-19. While we are seeing a decline in usage during the past few weeks, it is still higher than what I would call “normal.”

Looking Ahead

The forward-thinking people behind making this project a priority should be commended (I’m looking at you Bryan Seck and Mick Hale). We’ve heard many anecdotal stories of how MyLNK has helped not just people in need by those first responders who regularly rely on it. For its developers, knowing that they’re making a difference in the world is super fuel. It’s an indescribable feeling.

And I can’t leave out our own Matt and Lori. They deserve a lot of credit for shepherding a project of this size using intern development. When we expose our interns to projects like this, it gives them a sense that they’re doing more than just building some software; it provides a challenging experience that also makes a difference in the lives of others.

Work continues on MyLNK, both interns and full-time staff are continually adding little features and squashing bugs. In 2019, we committed over 500 hours to this project – with most of those hours coming from full-time team members.

So what does the future look like? At the very least, MyLNK will continue serving our community by helping direct people in need to find the services they require. But I think it would be wonderful to see it used to support other communities.

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