April Fools has come and gone, but AddSeven—and the whirlwind of questions surrounding the website—remains.
Despite a rumor that the new social networking site AddSeven.com was an April Fools joke, the site has been gaining popularity on campus since it was launched on the weekend of March 26; on Monday alone, the site's homepage attracted over 5,000 hits.
AddSeven is the brainchild of seniors Yoni Ackerman and Noah Isaacson, who spent the entirety of Spring Break developing the project. The site is modeled after Senior Seven, the perennial senior week tradition that allows the graduating class seven final chances to realize outstanding hook-up dreams. As this issue went to press, 507 Bowdoin students had registered on the site—approximately 27 percent of the student body.
"Neither of us had made anything like this before," said Ackerman. While both had some experience with computer science, the two math majors spent "eight hours a day, every day" working on the site over break, according to Ackerman.
As of this morning, 142 seniors had registered for the site, along with 115 juniors, 105 sophomores and 145 first years. Isaacson also reported that the site has already generated 321 matches.
Upon registering for the site, each user is prompted to choose seven students with whom they would like to be matched. If a user chooses someone who has not yet registered for AddSeven, their pick is notified via email that he or she has been chosen and is prompted to join the site. Matches are compiled weekly and can be viewed starting on Thursdays at midnight. In anticipation of the publicity resulting from this article, match compilation has been pushed back to Saturday for this week only.
Isaacson reported that he and Ackerman told a few people of the site the weekend before classes started up following spring break, and when students returned to campus numerous posters for AddSeven.com graced the walls of dorms and common areas.
Those Isaacson spoke to about the site wondered "why haven't people done this before," he said. "A lot of people said it was a good idea."
"There's no reason that [things] should stay latent," added Ackerman. "Some people think it's hilarious. I haven't heard anyone say they hate it."
"I think it's kind of funny...I'm not opposed to it," said Martha Clarke '11. "I think people are kind of intrigued...[but] hesitant to follow through."
"I hope people use it...I hope people get matches; I really hope that people become friends," said Isaacson. "If even just one unrealized connection happens because of the site, I'll be happy."
Both Ackerman and Isaacson noted that though the site is based off Senior Seven, the indeterminate time scheme of matches makes AddSeven an entirely different animal.
"We didn't want it to just be like Senior Week," said Isaacson.
"You have to go about it in a different way," added Ackerman. "It's just as much about people meeting other people that they don't know."
Ackerman did state that he hopes to see a special AddSeven addition to this year's incarnation of Senior Seven, however.
"I don't think anyone goes into the site falling in love," he said. "We tried to avoid using the word hookup...a lot of people have just put in their friends."
Ackerman also noted some students were not aware that the site is Bowdoin-specific. Though the duo have entertained the thought of expanding to other schools, they have no concrete plans to do so as of now.
"If we get a good reaction here, I don't see why not," said Isaacson of potential expansion.
Similar sites, such as eduhookups.com, have launched at other colleges and universities. Formerly uchicagohookups.com, eduhookups.com serves Brown, Yale, Northwestern and Washington University in St. Louis, among others.
"They have a different perspective," said Ackerman of the University of Chicago site. "They have 400 people signed up and they have been in operation for a year." AddSeven, active for all of two weeks, has well outpaced their membership.
"We want it to not be skanky; our hope is that people don't force us to clamp down on what people can do on the site," said Ackerman. "If it turns out to be damaging to the Bowdoin community, then it's not in our interests."
Given the small size of the Bowdoin community, concerns have surfaced regarding AddSeven's security, specifically regarding the protection of users' seven preferences. Early Thursday morning, Hartley Brody '12 wrote in a blog post entitled "Bowdoin's AddSeven.com is a Scam Site" that a bug in the AddSeven code exposed the picks of several students.
While the names of a few of the selections were viewable, the identities of the students who made the picks remained concealed. Additionally, Brody warned that the AddSeven data is not encrypted and therefore could be easily viewed by site administrators.
Ackerman and Isaacson responded to Brody's concerns in an email to the Orient in which they denied that the bug compromised AddSeven's security and noted that they had since fixed the problem.
"The problem Hartley pointed us to was a page in which people's names were randomly appearing," wrote Ackerman and Isaacson. "The immediate reaction was that this information could be used to deduce someone's picks. This was not the case. The reaction was not totally unwarranted, as that is not information one would like to see. However, we do not believe it was a breach of the security of the site. It has since been taken care of."
Isaacson and Ackerman defended their authority to maintain some control over the site's data as administrators, and reported that they are continuing to modify the code to prevent anyone—users and administrators alike—from seeing sensitive information.
"Since this website is database-driven, it is vital that we have some access so as to make changes and maintain the integrity of the data," they wrote in the same email. "As far as access to the information goes, we can see numbers associated with other numbers (which of course correspond to people, but we have no idea who)."
"We encourage people to speak directly with us if they have any concerns about the site," the email continued. "We are extremely receptive to advice and scrutiny, [and] truly have Bowdoin students' best interests at heart."
Ackerman and Isaacson also noted new changes in response to the security concerns in a follow-up email.
"We changed our confidentiality program to include not only ID randomization, but also ID encryption," they wrote. "Now all the data concerning people's picks and matches has been made both anonymous and confidential using a high-level system of encryption with a secret key. This ensures that even if the database is compromised, no one will be able to make people's private information public."
"Despite all the controversy, no real data has been released to the public," continued the email. "No information regarding a user and his or her picks has ever been revealed."
Even in the face of alleged security concerns, students continue to register for AddSeven and the additional publicity may have even bolstered the site's popularity.
"I'm not that worried about the names," said Emily Neilson '11.
Isaacson noted that in addition to the security changes, the duo is considering adding elements to the site that would allow users to identify themselves more easily. For instance, matches are currently sent each others' full names, but this can present a problem when multiple students share the same full name. To remedy this issue, the duo is considering the use of email addresses and perhaps even student images.
"We're thinking about photos...but that would give it a very different feel," he said.
Both Ackerman and Isaacson are graduating seniors, but when asked if they would be taking AddSeven with them when they depart campus in May, Ackerman said only, "not if people like it."