Students Tap into Campus Blogs

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the wildly successful Facebook.com, a new means of online student networking and procrastination was officially unveiled last night at a launch party in the Mt. Auburn Street bar Daedalus.

CampusTap.com enables Harvard e-mail account holders to share ideas, communicate events, and increase campus-wide discussion through intricately linked blogs.

The website is the brainchild of Harry I. Ritter ’06, Adam J. Katz ’07, and Jeremiah L. Lowin ’07. If the blog-based venture is successful, it could spell doom for the large e-mail lists and list-servs that CampusTap’s creators call “incredibly inefficient and messy ways of communicating.”

More than 100 unique blogs had been created in advance of the CampusTap launch. Among them were the serious—including an Institute of Politics and a Curricular Review blog—but also the curious, such as a “Mary Poppins Wannabe” discussion site.

When Harvard.edu account holders complete the free registration process, they are given their own home page that features everything from a personalized daily planner to highlights of blogs that have recently mentioned their name. A “Blogcrastinate” button at the top of every page swiftly diverts the user to a completely random blog, and a “Campus Chatter” feature identifies the most common words and phrases showing up in posts. Just before the official launch, “campus chatter” was preoccupied with outgoing University President Lawrence H. Summers, Chuck Norris, and “Angelina Jolie’s bare breasts.”

“The idea is to develop a vibrant conversation on campus,” Ritter said in a pre-launch interview. “This is a place in the virtual world just for Harvard.”

Ritter and his team were ecstatic about the good fortune of their launch timing. As national news organizations and students scoured the Internet for information on the outgoing University president, CampusTap was booming.

“Summersville,” currently CampusTap’s most popular blog, demonstrated the new technology’s capability as it assembled dozens of student comments, news articles, and even “Larry’s farewell” photo albums. The blog received mention in the Washington Post-owned online magazine Slate yesterday afternoon.

Without divulging specifics, Ritter suggested that the CampusTap team was already looking to expand beyond Harvard.

“Eventually this is something we think could be useful at other schools,” said Ritter.

A handful of student organizations had signed onto CampusTap at its launch. Elizabeth M. Grosso ’08, communications director for the Institute of Politics’ Student Advisory Committee, said the scheduling and calendar tools of CampusTap could vastly improve her group’s communications strategies.

“As an organization that has dozens of events—even when we have people interested—they may not remember when things are happening,” she said.

Grosso also noted that the way CampusTap links related topics across blogs could encourage “cross-pollination” among student organizations.

“If the site takes off, we certainly hope to pick up some traffic from other groups that are relevant but may not know about our events,” she said.

That, according to Ritter, is what CampusTap is all about.

“Harvard groups are isolated,” he said. “This campus needs a better way of sharing ideas and communicating news.”