New app features a 'heat map' of social scenes on, off Grounds

University alumni, current students collaborate to design social app

Isabelle Lotocki | Cavalier Daily

A team of University students and alumni launched a new social app for students this past Thursday. The app, called Hoos Out, features a social map designed to give students an accurate portrayal of the most popular places on and off Grounds.

Hoos Out was conceptualized by Darden alumnus Tom Giedgowd and Engineering alumnus Kevin Owen. Over the past six months, Giedgowd and Owen have been developing the app through collaboration with second-year College students Teah Wyman and Zach Danz and third-year Education student Celina Amados. The students have been assisting with everything from publicity for the app to its construction.

“I basically got involved with Hoos Out because of a listserv email from my sorority president,” Wyman said. “She forwarded an email from Tom asking about anyone interested in a marketing internship position and I reached out to Tom about it. We met a couple times and then worked out a plan for working together on promoting the app.”

The app features a “Heat Map,” which allows users to see the locations of other users in Charlottesville. On the map, users can zoom in on specific locations or search by five categories: fraternity houses, on Grounds, bars, apartments or dorms.

“We are trying to provide U.Va. students with a view of what’s going around them,” Giedgowd said.

Though the Hoos Out team believes their app will be beneficial to all users, developers said the heat map will be especially useful for first-year students who are less knowledgeable about the layout of Grounds and social events at the University.

“You can look up the frat map on Google and it’s pretty inaccurate…it doesn't tell you anything that's going on now,” Danz said.

Although the Hoos Out team envisions most students using the app to find social events, the app can be used in diverse ways. For instance, users can use the app during exam periods to see which library is the least populated by fellow users or to find the best place to hand out fliers.

“[The app] goes beyond just social bounds…if someone is tabling for an event they want to promote, it gives them the ability to reach a widespread amount of people ,” Wyman said.

Other features of the app include “Hoots” and “Flocks.” “Hoots” are anonymous comments, like those found on Yik-Yak, except they are connected to a specific geographic location. The Hoos Out team created this dimension of the app to allow users to give anonymous updates about their current social scene.

“Flocks” are self-designated groups students can create in order to view the location of their friends. Students must voluntarily choose to add themselves to a flock, which protects the anonymity of users, the Hoos Out team said.

“You can be a member of up to three flocks, so you can cycle through seeing the members of your sorority, sports team or first-years, for example,” Owen said.

The biggest obstacle the Hoos Out team faced during the development of the app was creating a format simple enough for college students to use.

“It’s funny; people have the same 10 apps on their phone,” Wyman said. “The usability of those apps are simple…they’re so fun and easy to use.”

However, the creators of Hoos Out said they feel as though they have overcome this obstacle and developed an app with the capacity to hold over 10,000 users. The app will become more useful as more students download it, since the accuracy of “Heat Map” increases with a greater number of users.

“It takes a lot of work to create something that scales up to 10,000 users, and we are ready to scale it up,” Danz said.

As a way to encourage students to download the app, the Hoos Out team is hosting a contest among the University’s sororities to see which group can rally the most users. The sorority with the biggest flock will receive a $5,000 donation to their philanthropy.

If Hoos Out is successful at the University, the creators hope to design maps for other college campuses across the United States, with the next tier of schools including Virginia Tech, James Madison University, UNC Chapel Hill, Stanford and Duke.

“We would love this to be a major social app that launched at U.Va.…you can tell by the title, it’s a U.Va. thing,” Owen said.

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