Clique — Make Connections

In the Bucknell course CSCI 379, Human Computer Interaction, we were tasked with finding a problem on campus and developing a solution. Our problem arose from a common complaint among students on campus; people hate the ‘hook-up culture.’ The hook-up culture can be defined by a series of steps:

  • People go to a party and have a little too much to drink
  • Two people start engaging in flirtatious activities
  • Those two people go back to one of their rooms and engage in sexual activities
  • One person leaves early the next morning and the two people never speak again

The issue that people have with this is that it is difficult, and often times impossible, to build a meaningful relationship when this is the standard on campus. As we went about interviewing students about this problem, it became clear that many people would prefer to engage potential partners in a more natural setting and get to know them before having relations. However, many people participate in the hook-up culture anyway because it is easier to go with the flow.

After conducting eight interviews across a broad spectrum of Bucknell students, we decided that the main problem we had to fix was the initial barrier in meeting new people. It can be difficult or awkward to start a conversation with someone you hardly know but in whom you may be interested. Our interviewees wanted a way to reach out to people they see on a regular basis but have not directly interacted with before. The current methods of interacting with these people include talking to them in person or friending them on Facebook. The problem with these, however, is that they are very direct. Some people feel very awkward ‘making the first move’ and would prefer a more ‘low-expectation’ method of engaging new people.

Thus, our solution for this problem needed to include these features:

  • The app needs to be able to list people the user pass by during the day.
  • The app needs to offer the ability for users to ‘connect’ in a low-expectation format.
  • The app needs to allow people to start forming a relationship which can be taken to higher levels outside of the app.

With these constraints in mind, we set out to build our app. The first feature was solved using location services. As users cross in and our of predefined geofences, their phones send that information to the servers. Then, a list of people who were in the same space as the user at the same time would be sent back to the user’s phone. This allows the user to see a list of people they were in the same buildings as during the day. This solves the first problem of knowing who the user passed during the day, and allows them to make some kind of initial contact.

The next feature is to allow users to connect in some sort of low-expectation format. Because talking in person or friending someone on Facebook are seen as very direct and forward moves, we needed to implement a solution that is seen as a casual connection. Our app does not allow for ‘friending’ in a direct sense. Instead, when you go to message someone, they are automatically added to your ‘active message’ list. This list acts as a sort of friends list, but without having the label. Thus, users feel they have made a much more low-commitment connection and are more likely to feel less awkward about making such a connection.

Finally, this app needed to implement some sort of chat feature. To just have connections under some sort of list was obviously not enough. Users need to be able to make an easy connection but also have the option to start talking to that person. If a user accepts another user’s message request, the two users will have an open chat. The users can then start talking and eventually, if all goes well, take their conversation to a higher level, such as phone numbers or in person. Because the app offers low-expectation connections, users are less likely to feel awkward about making the first move with their conversations on the app. Because making a connection is not as personal as ‘friending’ someone, users are more likely to actually take that first step and message each other. The app relies on connecting users to people they have seen in real life, so as long as all users understand the expectations, there should be less of a problem with making the first move in this sort of setting.

Below is this functionality in action:

Switching between the main screens
What happens when you click on someone’s message request
Viewing a user’s profile

From these gifs, one can see how the application works. Smooth screen transitions make for a clean experience. We always made sure the user has a way to easily get back to their main screens, too. This helps with confusions when initially using the app. To see a demonstration for this application, check out this video!

The project was a collaborative effort by Li Li ’16, Kyle Raudensky ’16, Chris Shadek ’17, and Devon Wasson ’17. The app has been designed for iOS, and the repository with all code and supporting materials can be found at this public git repo.

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