The Orbit, which replaced the Student Digest last spring as the College's announcement network, is in flux once again.
The Student Web Advisory Team (SWAT) is in the process of creating the Orbit's newest feature which will allow students to create their own personalized feeds.
"There are going to be two feeds on your homepage," said Bowdoin Student Government President Derek Brooks '12. "A general one that will list all announcements and events, and then a personal feed, which will preference clubs that you're really involved with and things that you generally want more information about. Every semester you will update your preferences."
"It's part of a liberal arts college to be exposed to things we wouldn't expect to be," said Chair of the Student Organization Oversight Committee (SOOC) Dani Chediak '13, adding that the Orbit "won't allow you to block out everything. But the other feed will allow users to choose who they want to hear posts from."
Currently, the events calendar on the Bowdoin website serves as the only locus for general information. Club events only appear on the calendar when students reserve a room.
"We're hoping this will help the calendar problem—that we don't have a central place for data," said Chediak. "It will fix the overload problem of there being so many events, and it will let you keep track of those you're actually interested in."
The new feature will also facilitate the SOOC's job of managing clubs.
"Part of creating a personalized feed is creating a system to track club leaders; it's a mechanism that can track which clubs are doing what," said Chediak.
"It will also track the multilevel hierarchies of relationships to these clubs," said Brooks. "You have to log in to the Orbit with your ID, so your ID will also carry information about which clubs you're a part of and who the leaders are, and it will send this information more effectively."
Brooks explained that SWAT is still trying to work out certain details of the feature.
"We're not sure if it will start off blank and you'll have to choose what topics interest you, or if you'll start subscribed to everything and have to deselect," he said.
"We're trying to figure out the kinks," added Chediak. "Will you have to become a follower of a club like on Facebook? Are club meetings something that should be on the Orbit? These are questions that we are asking ourselves."
SWAT will continue to meet weekly for the rest of the year with the hope of answering most of these questions.
The team has been working with Internet Technology's (IT) Senior Software Developer Tad Macy, Associate Vice President for Communications Robert Kerr, and Mitch Davis, chief information officer.
"It's very hard work; we're really happy to have IT and Communications behind it," said Brooks. "We recognize the power of having computer science experience. We know what we want, but they tell us how possible it is. And the more complicated we make it, the more time it will take."
SWAT intends to launch the new feature in early April to make sure it is being fully utilized by the end of the month.
"We want it to come with the new [club] leaders," said Chediak. "Once we put this out, I will be meeting with club leaders and seeing what the new system means to them with the intent of training newly elected leaders on the system."
Brooks added that the process of modifying the Orbit is a gradual one, and expressed hope that the student body will adapt to the changes that are to come.
"There's always a shock in changing business practices," he said, "but we're hoping to make this tool useful enough that if the clubs start using it, others will follow."