How can software developers help in the Coronavirus pandemic?

Thread to discuss ideas and thoughts on how developers might be able help in the Coronavirus pandemic.


One idea which I think could help is that supermarkets restrict supplies for customer’s based on their regular orders.

Most supermarkets (at least here in the UK) have shopper schemes where each shop is connected to a customer’s membership by way of them scanning their ‘points card’ with each shop. This means supermarkets know what a regular shop consists of per customer, which means they could restrict items sold on a weekly basis to reflect that. Could this prevent over-shopping/panic buying?

Makes you wonder why something like this wasn’t in place to begin with…


Then people don’t show their points card. And I think there is a big privacy concern here. I doubt those card providers know exactly what the customer has bought but rather know just the final price.


I’m pretty sure they record purchase history as this has always been reflected in the offers they send me - 90% of the time they are things I buy, but perhaps more importantly, almost never of things I don’t buy.

With regards to people withholding their cards, perhaps restricting several hours a day to card holders only would make people show them… or shut stores for online ordering only, with a small slot to accommodate those not online?


There is absolutely no way to do that 100% properly. First of all if someone buys 1x number of toilet paper in one shop then he could buy 0.1x in 10 shops easily. If there would be a global in country limit for every citizen then it’s even more worse. We in Poland had it … in PRL. I really do not recommend that and there would be a huge demonstrations.

You can say that it’s just a permanent solution, but smart people would still see it bad and that’s because of few things:

  1. It’s not a typical disaster - at least in Europe virus has mutated. Both infecting and killing people are on different level. Look that China is already going to be fine really soon while in Europe it’s still the top problem. Also look that people in Italy are not used for such epidemic as there is usually enough hot to chill which shows that’s not a typical virus problem.

  2. Lots of people are just stupid and I did not to say that just to say something bad about specific people, but we really should be avoiding such problems easily. That’s nothing new that in panic more people are hurt even if problem does not affect them directly and it’s not only about viruses.

    It’s definitely possible which show us that huge amount of people may at least discuss normally without anything weird. We do not even need army, police or huge amount of money, but only some awesome moderators. Such mechanisms similarly to software may be scalable, but we just need somebody to initialize it. That only shows how much our governments failed.

  3. Governments and again governments - as same as they need to take care of army as same they need to care about medicine in our countries. I’m repeating it, but that’s because more bad things come from governments than typical citizen even if they were chilling in huge groups. Events can be canceled, schools closed etc. Many governments did that … at the middle of epidemic. It’s like they does not have any plan for such scenario and they are working on something only when problem appears. That’s not how governments should work. That’s not something for what we are have huge taxes.

That would cause even more problems. I don’t have a card and I’m rarely buy things especially for daily life at internet. People want food now and not tomorrow. Nobody would agree to wait and even if … what if people delivering products would be infected? It would not solve anything. Not even saying that many people still do not have internet or still understand moving mouse on screen too directly. What if in some city there would be a network problem? And so on …

I think that software without marketing and especially without government support would not do much. It could delay problem and it would be amazing if that would be cooperated with good government movements, but I’m not that far optimistic. Even if software forces 10% of people (which is amazing without government support) what it would really change?

If there are only x products left and you know that 90% of people would buy everything no matter what you do then you have 2 choices: say to your children that they would not eat anything, because other people bough everything or make a bigger food savings so even if there would be no products for 1 month your family would still be fine and maybe you could even help your neighbors.

Therefore if we want to solve a problem using software then in fully optimistic scenario you would need to do something like:

  1. AI from dark scenarios in which it have `100%^ control of all people directly or by governments.
  2. Something which would begin a revolution and cause to kill all politics, so we would be able to create a completely new government full of really smart people.

1st is at least officially now impossible or extremely hard to do while doing 2nd in the middle of epidemic is also extremely crazy idea as most probably there would be just a chaos on streets.

If I would go for a good and realistic solution then I would group all interested developers, collecting money for buying island and create a country there. We would have amazing amounts of money per citizen. We could help each other much more. We could have the highest technology and the best software. Finally we could have a good government which would do what it’s supposed to. I really do not see any other way to have a truly good solution for such cases.


The most coordinated effort I have seen so far is: called ‘Helpful Engineering’.


Well … did not read all, but taking a look at proposals … For example some notifications or some helpful information - it’s only delaying/limiting problem. Still 99% of users (unless somebody forces them to) would not even get in touch with such software. Of course you can go with it to media, but for that you need a big funds. Look how many people may potentially receive extra $$$ because of panic and you will see how much $$$ you will need to pay.

As said I love communities like and they works awesome when they are somehow isolated. As in example if we could create a country on island with 100% developers population then there is a huge chance that 100% of population may do what they should, but this has nothing to do with a millions of people in panic seeing hungry children, because others (and they too) are buying everything. It’s a self-increasing problem and situation requires somebody “stronger” to take responsibility for whole situation and force some behavior on all people.

Look that expected behavior is to work remote and self-isolate, but we see how much it not work in practice as many people just can’t work remotely. Same applies to rest of things … we can inform 10%, 20% of people and this will not change anything as most/all of them most probably were searching for solution, so most probably they are enough smart to at least not cause a problem for others. In result you would help some percent of such 10% or 20% of people which does not makes sense. You need to reach 80% or 90% of people, but how would you force them to follow your rules without even a law and tools (weapons?) for doing that?

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I’m working on a new project called Paths, it’s still in beta.

But a couple of my team members put this together earlier this week. Basically we are using a subset of our Paths data to show new jobs related to COVID-19. The majority of these are in healthcare and research, but there are a few office and sanitation ones too.

Essentially, it is a dashboard with some neat visuals and tools to help you see what/where the most opportunities are available, trends, etc.


That looks great @justinjunodev :+1:

Wonder if we need a dedicated Frontend projects section. (In fact I think we can expand sections quite a lot now we are going to host portals… so will get on to it soon)


That would be cool. We could also take a reddit approach and have monthly post your projects topics. Like “Share Your Work - March 2020”, idk. I’m sure you could come up with a better name, lol.


We usually have a projects section - which could be a nice fit since here we’d actually benefit from individual threads per project as we can then use thread data to helps us determine where it shows in the portals :smiley:


There have been a few demonstrated projects on HN showing some tracking of the pandemic’s spread but I am not convinced they are at all representative of what’s really happening.

The current situation would be the perfect time for retail chains to revisit their software and make sure certain buying patterns aren’t allowed (more than 3x 40 rolls of toilet paper is plain insanity, and what’s the point of buying 5+ bread pieces? etc.) but alas, I am pretty sure no software will be updated to make things easier on that front. They are just waiting it out and nothing much will change.

If given the chance, I’d probably work with a corporation like Cloudflare on an [extension of] video conferencing software which utilises their numerous datacenters. Also peer-to-peer backup solutions and company chats.

But I don’t think anyone actually has spearheaded anything that made a true difference.


I have spent today less on a software development side but definitely on the engineering side by creating a variant of the recently released Prusa face shield that can hold A4 punched pockets that you can 3D print.

See their original blog post here.