December 2, 2014

Ohey, Hootie: UChicago Crushes to launch apps

The team behind UChicago Crushes, a Facebook page that posts anonymously-submitted crushes by and about University students, will release two free apps this winter. The first—a discussion forum tentatively called Hootie—began a trial run yesterday.

The app features a discussion forum for a variety of topics. The other app, with a working name of Ohey, will connect people to their crushes and is planned for a late December or early January release.

The editors, who requested anonymity because of the nature of the site, use software they developed to publish roughly 100 posts per day and maintain similar sites worldwide. The UChicago Crushes page was launched in March 2013 under a different editorial team and has grown to more than 4,000 likes on Facebook.

The Hootie app will be a sort of online sounding board. “You talk about your dark secrets, you talk about your complaints, you’re seeking help, you’re asking questions, you’re posting announcements anonymously,” a member of the team behind the software said. With

Ohey, meanwhile, “you can connect with your missed connections, you can draw your friends some compliments, you can tag your friends,” he said.

The team member said that the team felt that the two apps serve different purposes and so need to be separated. “We realized that people just don’t need one thing….  They need two things. There are fancy Italian or French restaurants people can flirt, people can… talk about feelings, people connect. They also need strip clubs or nightclubs to make it rain, or, you know, to pump up the [EDM] music or whatnot,” the team member said.

He described how current technology isn’t fulfilling those two needs. “Yik Yak built this very nice interface, very nice French restaurant but they have strippers in it or they have EDM music in the background. People cannot really talk about their feelings nor [can they] actually make it rain, so it’s a very awkward situation. So what we want to do is we want to separate these two. That’s why we’re making two apps.”

The new apps will be trying out a new form of moderation that will seek input from both the editors and the app’s user community. The desire to test this new system is one of the reasons for creating the apps.

“We need a platform where we can better moderate in terms of censoring bullying posts, to categorize what people are interested in and stuff like that,” the tech team member said.

Under this new monitoring system, users will be able to upvote and downvote posts published on the apps. Each upvote will be worth a certain number of Karma points and each downvote will subtract a certain number of points. Users will be allowed to release posts without any screening by high Karma users or editors once they reach a certain threshold of Karma points. Moderators, either high Karma users or editors, approve the posts of any user who has not reached this threshold.

This system is based on Reddit, which utilizes a system that also uses Karma points, as determined by the overall scores of posts. On Reddit, a score is the number of upvotes minus the number of downvotes.

The new apps will be monitored by the current editors of UChicago Crushes, but the team expects to select new editors once they graduate.

UChicago Crushes announced the release of Hootie on its Facebook page yesterday. “We want to create a local bulletin board and an open course that are FREE of cyberbullies while ensuring the voice of the minority,” a post on the page read. “Our first app is going to be an improved version of Yik Yak that incorporate features from various Facebook Pages and Facebook Group.”

UChicago Crushes also announced it is recruiting beta testers for Hootie.