Tipping Point

UI Design

Team of 4, Team Lead


the thing

Tipping Point is an interactive game designed for Facebook’s Messenger platform where players guess the missing word in headlines from major news outlets. In playing, users become more comfortable engaging with political news, more knowledgeable on current events, and more confident in using their knowledge to take political action. Tipping Point moves users through a framework coined the “Conveyor Belt Model,” in which a person reaches a “tipping point” where they feel they have enough knowledge on a topic to form a political opinion and act on that knowledge.

While playing the game, users can save news stories to the Tipping Point messenger bot that they want to read later, and based on this data, will be suggested Facebook events to attend.

back-end structure

In deciding which headlines to pull for the game’s questions, we cross-referenced three research studies from eBiz MBA, Pew Research, and Morning Consults, which compare the popularity and perceived objectiveness of various media outlets. Only 7 news sources were surveyed in all three lists and determined to be mostly trusted, frequented, and objective among young adults: Huffington Post, CNN, The New York Times, Fox News, NBC News, The Wall Street Journal, and ABC News.

From a coding perspective, headlines can be extracted by:

  1. Using news sites that provide RSS (Rich Site Summary) feeds.

  2. Selecting news genre (Top-Stories, Movies etc.) in the RSS feeds menu, and viewing the page source.

  3. Studying the XML pattern, which contains all the news within that page source.

  4. Making calls to the Internet from Tipping Point (or use existing Facebook Messenger standard algorithms) and SAXparsing (or XMLPullParsing) to extract data from page link.

  5. Displaying data in Tipping Point as block text box answers from which players can select.


Why do some students self-select out of political discussions? Is it a confidence issue? What does confidence mean in this context? And where do existing discussions play out? These questions inspired our team to research the political, gaming, and social media habits of American college students.

"I’m embarrassingly uninformed...Everyone was making fun of Gary Johnson for not knowing what Aleppo was and I was like s***."

- student


Interviews, surveys, observations, and journey mapping led us to some interesting findings:

  1. 81% of students surveyed have fewer than 3 mobile app games downloaded onto their phones.

  2. 50% of students surveyed usually hear about political news first on social media.

  3. 97.6% of students surveyed see political news articles on Facebook more than once a week.

  4. Students engage in political conversations with their friends but rarely other people - they self-select out of wider political conversations due to burnout.

  5. Students are generally informed, but don’t act upon that information.

  6. Students know they should be active citizens, but they aren’t because they prioritize other commitments (“I’m just too busy!”).

  7. Students tend to use short bursts of free time throughout the day to browse social media.

  8. Similarly, some students will play mobile games to take up this time.

  9. A significant barrier to political discussions is a sense of burnout attributable to previous poor interactions.

conveyor belt model

Insights suggested that there was a spectrum along which young people fall when engaging with politics. Some intentionally avoid politics, citing its complexities. Others feel guilty about being uninformed, but aren’t sure how to keep up with current events most efficiently. Some are on the opposite end of the spectrum: they participate in their university’s political clubs, and actively engage friends in discussions (although sometimes unsuccessfully). We identified a point - the tipping point - at which an individual feels equipped enough with knowledge to act on political opinion. We defined two realms of engagement:

Staying Informed:

- Asking questions

- Sharing information

- Voicing opinions

- Taking a stand in debate

Participating Outwardly:

- Sharing a post

- Voting

- Protesting

- Petitioning

- Attending Events

- Donating and Supporting

- Contacting political representatives

- Running for office

The resulting Conveyor Belt Model informed our ultimate design.

next steps

Design teams all over the world are thinking about issues in news, citizenship, and politics. If you have any thoughts on Tipping Point, or know of other concepts out there, reach out! Our team presented Tipping Point to members of the Facebook team in June 2017. Also, if you're interested, download the full Tipping Point Presentation