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Students at UAlbany join the growing Yik Yak herd

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By Kassie Parisi

Managing Editor

production.asp@gmail.com

Oct 28, 2014

A recent popular string of Yik Yaks from the UAlbany feed. Photo from tumblr.com.
A recent popular string of Yik Yaks from the UAlbany feed. Photo from tumblr.com.

Yik Yak, the recently developed social networking application, is becoming more popular at the University at Albany. Yik Yak, which is sometimes referred to as an anonymous Twitter, is an application that allows people to post very brief and anonymous messages that can be read by anyone within a 1.5 mile radius.

   Lead Community Developer at Yik Yak Cam Mullen tracks the usage rate of Yik Yak at UAlbany, as well as 2200 other communities. Mullen said that people in Albany are posting Yaks nearly every 60 seconds. He also said that UAlbany is one of the most active regions in the state, with approximately 47 percent of student utilizing the application.

   “It’s a medium to large size school, with everyone living in close quarters,” Mullen said as to why the application is growing so popular on campus. According to him, the fact that students can go on Yik Yak and immediately understand and connect with what other students are saying contributes to the popularity.

   “Everyone can connect with everyone around them,” he said, pointing out that since the radius is only 1.5 miles, all of the people a student would connect with on Yik Yak would be experiencing the same weather, classes, campus dramas, and jokes.

   On the UAlbany campus, Yik Yak was used to orchestrate an illicit streaking event in the fountain. At approximately 12:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 27., Yaks were sent as a call-to-arms for streakers and an audience to meet in the fountain. A small crowd formed for the event, which university police eventually responded to. A video of the event showed an anonymous male student removing his clothes, to the whoops and hollers of a crowd.

   Students at other SUNY schools are utilizing the app as well. SUNY Buffalo has a 28-35 percent undergraduate usage rate and SUNY Binghamton has a 45-49 percent undergraduate usage rate.

   Some students were unclear as to whether or not Yik Yak took any personal information when they created a profile. Mullen clarified that absolutely no personal information about the user is collected by Yik Yak. The only information Yik Yak has is the IP address of the device and the location of the user. The fact there is no personal information involved with Yik Yak eliminates the risk of hacking.

   “We don’t take any personal information. We aren’t worried about the hacking of personal info because we don’t collect personal information. You can’t be hacked because no one has personal information. It keeps it an anonymous. All we have access to are your IP address and location. We know where you are so if we had to track you down we can,” Mullen explained. He also pointed out that Yik Yak was easier for people to get into than a social networking site like Twitter because Yik Yak users do not have to deal with the pressure of building a large following to become popular.

   Yik Yak was developed in 2013 by Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, both of whom graduated from Furman University. The app is currently available free for Android and iOS users. Six months after its release Yik Yak was rated as the 20th most downloaded social media app in the U.S. As of June 2014, Yik Yak had $11.5 million in funding, provided by various investors such as Vaizra Investments, DCM, Azure Capital Partners, and Renren Lianhe Holdings.

   However, despite it’s popularity, Yik Yak has recently been the target of media criticism. Yik Yak has been used for cyber-bullying in many high schools. To combat this issue Droll and Buffington made the decision to block the application from high schools and middle schools. More recently, a sophomore at SUNY Canton was charged with making a threat to campus over Yik Yak. Also recently was the attempt of cadets at Citadel (The Citadel, Military College of South Carolina) to organize a riot on campus by using Yik Yak. While school authorities were able to apprehend the perpetrators of the post before the riot occurred, it remains the case that the rumor as able to spread very quickly to everyone within the 1.5 mile radius.

   Mullen said that “with anonymity comes responsibility,” and that Yik Yak has a trained team in place to combat the misuse of the app. The team monitors posts around the clock and act quickly to remove posts that are racist, homophobic, or otherwise harmful. Mullen stated that the team of monitors is more than ready to expand with the growing popularity of the app.

   Despite the Yik Yak mishaps, Mullen is confident that the app is doing more good than harm. Since the application is completely anonymous and requires no personal information to use, any person can speak their mind, albeit in 180 characters or less. While this presents users with the opportunity to misuse the app, Mullen pointed out that someone would more likely be able to use the app to tell a joke that he or she would be too embarrassed or afraid to tell in person. He reminded that social standings and reputations have no place in the world of Yik Yak, and the content is judged simply by what it is.

   “Yik Yak is based on content alone. It doesn’t matter who you are. If something gets down-voted it’s because something isn’t funny, not because of who you are,”

   Mullen acknowledged that some people see Yik Yak as a forum for ridiculous jokes, but believes that at the end of the day, the application, while indeed ridiculous at times, offers shy and introverted people a chance to shine without the risk of embarrassment.

   “The shy kid in the back might be the funniest kid and Yik Yak gives him a chance to express himself. Yik Yak gives a voice to people who don’t have one,” he said.

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