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A web of events

Students create an online social network of upcoming events

By Marielle Temkin
On January 30, 2012

With over 50 colleges and universities in metropolitan Boston, it seems impossible that any student who goes to school in the area would have trouble finding a party or concert or performance to attend on any given day. But we've all been there—the Friday-afternoon realization that "there's nothing to do," even though, given the aforementioned fact, that's probably not true. This common predicament stems from the fact that, more often than not, Brandeis students are not aware of what's happening on our campus, let alone what's going on at other campuses.

This is where comes into play. Created by Murtaza Jafferji '12, Yoni Sebag '13 and Dan Wertman, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, CampusBash is a user-driven, events-based website that aims to connect the social experiences of different campuses to a "central hub," according to Murtaza. In the three weeks since the site has gone live, it has logged over 19,000 hits and accrued over 800 Brandeis members and over 1,100 UPenn members.

During spring 2011, Sebag, a Business and English double major, realized there was a "need for finding out what's happening at other schools. … It would be nice [to know my options], because Boston has so many schools, to find out what's going on at their campuses without having to call a friend to see what's going on or be invited," he said.

His brother, the site's co-founder Wertman, attends school at UPenn. Through trying to coordinate visits on eventful weekends, Wertman and Sebag realized there was no site just for events. Sebag said that plans when his brother visited consisted of them saying, "Let's go to Harvard for the night and see if we can crash a party."

The brothers realized that they would need to find a programmer capable of reproducing a social networking site before they could continue with their plans.

Sebag sent out an email to the University's Computer Science listserv with a job description, and Jafferji responded. He interviewed with Sebag and Wertman and quickly became a part of the close-knit team as CampusBash's sole programmer.

Jafferji, a Computer Science and Math double major who has designed six other websites "just for fun," started programming on Nov. 1, 2011. "I probably was at the computer coding, actually working, for 12 hours a day, every day," until the site went live three weeks ago, he said.

He said he "owes a lot" to the summer 2010 Justice Brandeis Semester "Web Services and Mobile Applications," taught by Prof. Tim Hickey (COSI). "I had done nothing like this before the JBS, and our project for the JBS was to design a website," Jafferji said.

With their new site, vague, last-minute plans will be a thing of the past. Though CampusBash currently only has pages for two schools—Brandeis and UPenn—up and running, Sebag and Murtaza both agree that it will not be long before more schools go live.

Students from over 30 other schools have begun to pre-register, and once 20 percent of the student body at each school signs up, that school's CampusBash site will go live. As Murtaza said, the next school to be live on the site will be "the school that wants it the most."

The amount of work Murtaza put into coding is evident when you visit the site. The homepage's background changes depending on which school you attend—Brandeisians get a picture of Usen Castle. On each user's profile, there is a mockup of an ID card (which looks like your school's actual ID) onto which you can upload a profile picture and put in your major, birthday, graduation year, relationship status and anything about yourself.

Also found on your profile is what the creators called a BashCal. This is where users can see a visual representation of all the events they said they would be attending, which makes planning busy weekends easier. Users can also view their friends' BashCals, allowing them to coordinate plans with minimal effort.

Jafferji, Sebag and Wertman have also come up with a way of helping users figure out which events will be worth attending. Sebag said that about a month ago, the team came up with the idea of grading events.

Any person who attended an event or is currently at the event can grade it, and then the host of that event gets a GPA. Hosts with good GPAs get put on the dean's list, which any user can view. This way, you can check out a past host's event record to see if his or her upcoming party will be worth attending.

On CampusBash, events are filtered through a choice of three privacy settings: friends, campus or intercampus. So if you are hosting an event that you only want your friends to see, you can select that privacy setting, and it will only be visible to your friends.

On the other hand, if you are hosting an event to which you want as many people as possible to come, you can set the event at intercampus, and everyone on the site with access to Brandeis events can see it and attend if they wish. Sebag used the example of theater groups on campus that are "always looking for a larger audience to share their hard work with."

The way that users get access to other school's events is with a "Bash pass." Every user has a pass to the school they attend, and you receive passes to other schools by having just one friend who goes there.

So while you still have to have a connection in order to get invites to other campuses' events, you only need a single connection and you get access to every intercampus event anyone at the school hosts.

The Brandeisian members of the team said that the community here has been very supportive of their venture into social networking. Jafferji said that one of his professors sent an email asking students to "attend the event on CampusBash so they knew how many pizzas to order."

Sebag added that his friends on Student Events have said that the site is definitely something the group would use for advertising.

But when everything else is stripped away, the site's purpose is to meet the trio's goal of "trying to get you out of your room, making new friends, going to new events, experiencing new things, just basically realizing the potential you could have in college," as Sebag put it. "We're trying to broaden your whole social life," added Jafferji. 

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