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Louie Villanueva

New social networking app making waves at U of C

By Scott Strasser, February 8 2016 —

Move over Facebook — there’s a new social network on the University of Calgary campus. 

Chitter is a message board app exclusively for post-secondary students that is similar to Yik Yak. It is now available at several universities in western Canada. Around 3,000 U of C students have downloaded the app so far.

A team of five University of Alberta students and alumni came up with the idea in May 2015. After developing the app over the summer, the team launched Chitter in September 2015 at the University of Alberta.

“We had conversations about how it’s hard to meet people on campus,” said co-creator Sabby Choudhary. “There were apps for people to keep in touch with their friends, but there was no app for students to meet new people.”

With more than 1,000 downloads in the first week, the team quickly extended Chitter to other universities in Alberta and British Columbia. The group says their eventual goal is to expand to all of North America, but they want to perfect the app before they do so.

Students need a university e-mail address to sign up for Chitter. They can then anonymously post anything from jokes, stories, complaints or confessions to their school’s message board. Students can view other universities’ boards, but can only post to their own.

“The anonymity gives people the ability to put themselves out there and say what they’re really thinking,” said co-creator Kyle Kaiser.

Users can comment on the posts, but students’ names and Facebook profile pictures are displayed alongside comments. Only the original poster remains anonymous.

Two students “connect” when they like each other’s posts or comments. Once a connection is made, the pair can message each other privately.

“You see people chatting, getting to know each other, becoming friends and even becoming local celebrities. It’s pretty crazy to see the things that happen,” Kaiser said. “It has this feeling of making a very big university feel very small.”

Chitter modifies some features found on other popular apps and websites. The message board resembles those found on university confessions pages, while the app has an upvote/downvote system similar to Reddit. And like Tinder, users must connect before they can message privately.

Despite the similarities, Kaiser said Chitter offers students a unique experience.

“Tinder is the people around you meeting for dating. Reddit is for people with similar interests. We have a group of people with the commonality of going to the same school,” Kaiser said. “It’s the ability to connect with and be a part of your university community, which is something you don’t find on these other platforms.”

First-year biological sciences student Sarah Peacock downloaded Chitter in December and now uses the app every day. She has made 150 connections.

“I like the fact that even though people don’t know each other in person, there’s always a sense of community,” Peacock said. “If somebody posts something negative, there’s always somebody to have your back and be a friend to you, even if you don’t know them.”

Peacock said her only issue with Chitter is the lack of human moderation. The voting system currently deletes a post from the feed after five downvotes. But without a moderator, Peacock said the posts can become offensive.

“Sometimes it can get a little bit harsh. The humour can get inappropriate. I think that could be better managed,” she said.

Users can report posts to administrators, who are able ban users for trolling, spamming or posting offensive content.

Choudhary said the developers are currently working on these problems.

“In the next two to three weeks you’ll see a big difference with the app, because we’re taking everything into account,” Choudhary said. “We’re trying to create a positive environment – that’s what we’re focusing on.”


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