Those who feel that surfing thefacebook.com is a late-night procrastination aid may expect something different in WhoUp, the most recent addition to the multitude of online student directories.
Created by Anthony Pulice and George Michalopoulos, fourth-year students in the College, WhoUp was introduced on January 16 and has collected so far 300 members from six campuses in the Midwest. Although the site is still in a developmental stage, its creators have high expectations, hoping to increase connectivity not only between students, but between resources at various universities as well.
The function of WhoUp differs from that of The Facebook and other similar sites such as campusnetwork.com and connectu.com, which ultimately act as "self-updating address book[s]," Pulice said. "What WhoUp.com brings to the table is an earnest attempt to connect students that might not otherwise have met and to connect them to the events that interest them."
WhoUp was dreamed up by Michalopoulos, who was tired of playing the "telephone game" with friends every weekend. "[T]here was [also] word that students wanted to escape campus to break away from the monotony of Hyde Park," Pulice said. "Unless they had friends at a school in the area or were willing to drop a lot of money by going downtown, it was difficult to get out and do what they wanted to do away from school. In other words, the non-existent communication between [universities] and their students was frustrating. WhoUp.com was [our] answer to this frustration."
Pulice said he hopes that WhoUp will provide a solution to the problem of under-advertised events at universities. "Schools spend millions, if not collective billions of dollars, on events and resources that are poorly advertised and under-used. Working on [WhoUp] has really opened my eyes to some of the great resources our school has and the exceptional events that, to a large degree, go to waste through poor communication."
The motivation behind WhoUp has attracted students like Dmitri Sandbeck, a second-year in the College who is usually averse to joining such websites. He explained, "WhoUp seems to be geared more towards the informative than the trivial. It actually says in the mission statement that it is meant to connect and inform students of cultural, academic and political events on other campuses. So WhoUp is more of an inter-school calendar with a message board as a bonus, as opposed to what Thefacebook.com has becomea de facto dating service."
WhoUp has already enjoyed some success: Two members who met on the site are currently working to raise money for tsunami relief, despite the fact that one is a student here at Chicago and the other at Northwestern. "Both schools are geographically close," said Pulice, "but without WhoUp.com, seemingly very far away."
The response from Chicago students has been mixed, partly because WhoUp is such a new resource. Olu Rosanwo, a second-year in the College, was ambivalent. "It looks like WhoUp is still in the works because it doesn't seem like the names are in any sort of organization. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet," he said.
Students who were expecting a site like Thefacebook.com, however, were disappointed with what WhoUp has to offer. Gloria Estrada, a first-year in the College, explained, "The Facebook is also just a lot easier to use. [WhoUp] doesn't give you anyone's name, just the username they registered with," Estrada said. "For the most part, people like to get in touch with people they've already met and found to be interesting and they don't go looking for users who seem interesting off the website alone."
The Facebook-like aspect of WhoUp has prevented some from noticing its unique qualitiesmore specifically the "News and Events" section where student activities, lectures, movies and such are posted, an internal IM system for contacting users, and a built-in e-mail system.
Sarah Lyons, a second-year in the College, admitted that she is registered for WhoUp, but she hasn't spent any time exploring the site. "I don't really think it can do anything The Facebook can't; I am definitely still devoted to Thefacebook."
Daniel Worthen, also a second-year in the College, had a more positive reaction, acknowledging that the two sites do not fill the same niche: "I think that the search feature that WhoUp.com has is substantially better than that of The Facebook, and its layout looks a good deal more professional," Worthen said. "I don't honestly think that the websites fulfill the same function. I'd hazard to guess that WhoUp.com is going to become the province of singles almost exclusively, whereas The Facebook is more of a procrastination aid."