2021 was once again an extremely busy time for The Hub's development. From dark-mode to local adverts, the plethora of features has been sprinkled across a multitude of different areas of the apps and website. I'm very proud of what has been achieved on The Hub, and even after 8 years of development it shows there is still lots more to do to improve the app/website and ensure it becomes the destination for undecided voters to explore further the reasons for voting for independence. Here is a run-down of what has been happening...
IMPROVING YES GROUPS REACH
If you run a Yes group you may well post something that other groups pick up on and re-post. This is great, however it is important to be able to credit the original author. If members of The Hub are sharing another Yes groups posts that has your content on it, then your original Yes Groups post will be pushed higher up the Popular & Trending areas giving credit where credit is due. It also means if people are linking to an article, then the article itself will be listed higher up in Popular & Trending areas for others to view.
LOCAL YES GROUP ADVERTS
Yes groups adverts have been live on The Hub for a while now. For those that didn't know, your Yes group can post an ad on the app & website for FREE. This can be about a fundraiser, event, a newly released podcast or an important article you think others should read. Adverts are a very powerful way to showcase your content. It can boost your contents view count by over 50%.
In February I coded a new feature that allowed you to target your advert to people within your Yes groups local area so only they would see it. Handy if you have a zoom meeting coming up or needed people for canvassing and wanted to get the message out!
LIVESTREAMS FROM YES GROUPS
v4.3 and it's successor - v5 of the Android & iOS apps came out in February and March this year, bringing a HUGE amount of new features such as improved events area, inline replies, threaded replies (like Twitter), smarter nearby events (showing online events from nearby Yes groups) but one of the biggest features was the addition of pulling in upcoming livestreams from Youtube. This means that groups such as Independence Live can schedule streams and The Hub will find them and let you know BEFORE they go live.
EMBED MORE ON YOUR WEBSITE
The Hub has long had the ability to embed events on your own website. Over time that has expanded to show fundraisers & livestreams, but this year I also added the ability to add the popular Fact Check area to your own website, even picking a specific area such as Pensions, Economy, Europe, Defence etc. Whenever The Hub adds new items to these areas, your website will automatically display them!
Later in the year, I added a "Search" embed function, allowing you to perform a granular search (e.g - find "podcasts" by "Lesley Riddoch") that will show the search results. If you wanted, you could list all articles about pensions made by Believe in Scotland. The Hub gives your website the power to display what you want. It's an incredibly powerful tool!
THE HUB ON WEAR OS
September saw the release of The Hub on Wear OS, bringing select area to your wrist. You can scroll through upcoming events, listen to the latest podcasts, stream pro-indy radio stations and find nearby groups, all from your watch screen. Tapping on an event or group will display more information on your mobile device.
IMPROVED SECURITY, PERFORMANCE & ANALYTICS
Over the last few months of the year I've been going through all the code to make sure security is strengthened for what I hope will be a very busy 2022 for the Yes movement. Along with this I've improved the data collected (all anonymous) on what posts are being viewed, what links are being tapped etc. in order to see what content visitors are consuming the most. This in turn will help fine-tune what sort of curated content The Hub will display to first time visitors of the website who are presented with an "Explore" area rather showing important/popular items.
Performance has also been greatly improved with faster loading times. I spent about 6 weeks going over Google's Core Web Vitals that gives websites a score out of 100 for things such as speed, readability & accessibility. I'm pleased to say The Hub achieved a perfect score. Why is this important? Google is beginning to rank websites and pages with higher scores further up the search results page. I believe every Yes group with a website has a duty to ensure we get our websites up on that first page of search results, higher than alternative Unionist views.
The Hub is an invaluable tool for the movement. Not just because of the features listed above, but because it has been built FOR the movement itself. It's a social media platform that gives space for other Yessers to converse with each other, to find content, to build our knowledge base. It gives a space for undecided voters to explore reasons for making that final step to Yes. There is nothing else like it out there. I'm looking forward to 2022 and pushing for Scotland to have a referendum on our future and I'm looking forward to many more pro-independence - and undecided - voters joining The Hub and making use of all it has to offer.