‘Speed Dating for Pre-Frosh’ Hits Web

Site started by sophomore pairs Class of ’10 admits in real-time online chats

Just in case the top spot on U.S. News and World Report’s college ranking is not enough to convince admitted high school seniors to matriculate at Harvard, Jonathan M. Hyman ’08 has designed a website that could add an extra incentive for high school seniors to matriculate.

B-Line is an online chat-room site designed specifically for ‘pre-frosh’ to form friendships before ever stepping foot on campus.

Hyman, with graphic design help from his roomate Shaan K. Hathiramani ’08, launched the program on Dec. 20 at palindromic.net/chat.

The site requires only basic information to register, and does not verify that users are admitted students.

Hyman, who likens B-Line to “speed dating for pre-frosh,” created the program because he felt the Admissions Office’s online chats, which often include over 400 people, were not efficient.

B-Line is different in several key ways from the official chat-rooms. After signing up, users are directed to the “Waiting Room.” Once there, users can participate in a group chat or play video games, such as Asteroids and Frogger. Then, starting every five minutes, users are redirected toward private chat rooms where they are paired up with one other person. Each user only sees the partner’s first name, hometown, interests, and picture. Chats then last as long as desired by the users.

“My idea with the site is that it would be a way to meet new people,” said Hyman. “I mean, once you get to the chat area, you’ll probably end up giving out your screen-name and chatting via AIM.”

Currently, B-Line has an official chat schedule that suggests that prefrosh come and use the website on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 9 P.M. This schedule is also advertised on prefrosh.net, an unofficial resource page for the Harvard Class of 2010.

Hyman said that he advertised the site in December using a group for Harvard Class of ’10 members on Yahoo! “I got about 77 people to sign up, and there have been a few hundred chat sessions,” he said.

Hyman has continued to advertise on Yahoo!, and he hopes the number of users will increase, alleviating the awkward tensions he remembered at the ice cream social when he was a freshman.

Reviews from the Class of ’10 were mixed.

“I used the B-Line once or twice and found it to be pretty neat,” said a prospective Class of ’10 member, Sam Purdy. “I was able to talk to [prefrosh] a little bit and I chatted with a current Harvard student who was on the B-Line facilitating things.”

Purdy said B-Line is good for Harvard because it shows that current undergrads are passionate enough to spend their time helping to attract new students to the school.

However, other prospective students said that the small number of registered users on B-Line is a drawback to using the service.

“I only used it once,” said prospective student Alex Duarte. “I think there were two other people on it when I used it, but they were current students. So pretty much I didn’t meet anyone new.”