WSO: daily news, campus information, online facebook and now dating services

The college guidebooks all make sure to comment on it. A quick glance around a dining hall filled with single-sex tables helps to support it. There isn’t a lot of dating at Williams. New additions to the Williams Students Online (WSO) facebook could help to alleviate this problem. Students can now post their interests and dating status directly below their flattering facebook picture and phone number. In the first nine days after the introduction of these features, 599 students logged on to update their information; sixty of them listed their dating status as “take me.” There may be hope after all.

Fritz Stabenau’s ’02 renovations to the facebook are only one aspect of the many new features offered by WSO. “The whole idea is to add projects that are interesting and address a technological need on campus, to add functionality,” says WSO member Todd Rogers ’01.

The major focus of WSO’s new features this semester is the “daily” page (wso.williams.edu/daily, which can also be reached from WSO’s main page). This web page, designed by Joe Masters ’02, along with Mike Chanin ’01 and Wayne Wight ’00, puts information such as the weather, news headlines, the Daily Advisor, the daily messages and the dining hall menu all in one place for easy access. In addition, students can access a business telephone directory for numbers of local businesses, as well as a student and faculty phone directory. “We’d really like this to be bookmarked as students’ homepage,” says Masters. “It’s designed to be the central place to get information, and we’re constantly adding more to it.”

WSO has been around for about five years and was originally started by John Kim ‘97 and Dewitt Clinton ’98, the current Director of Technology at Eziba.com, and it has been recognized as one of the best sites of its type. “Just the other day, someone from [web-review magazine] Yahoo! Internet Life called us – as far as both we and they know, we’re the only autonomous student organization like this in the nation,” says Rogers. Students from other colleges, such as Bowdoin, Carleton and Swarthmore, have also contacted WSO to get help starting their own organizations.

Since its beginnings, WSO has added many new features, among them maintaining campus listservers and email terminals and offering student homepages and alumni email addresses. The IMP webmail program has received accolades across the Internet community. Services such as Jose (online voting), housing plans and the new bookboard designed by Jeremy Redburn ’03, are also part of WSO.

At the beginning of the year, all Williams students received installation materials for the Mascot program, which “aimed to be an electronic campus center containing all of the information needed as a Williams student,” says David Ramos ’00. Mascot is free to Williams, but is currently under review regarding contract renewal. “At any given time, you’ll have maybe six students logged on to Mascot,” says Masters. Last year, as a means of comparison, 1300 students hit WSO from their rooms. Masters calculates, “we have at least 90 percent of students with computers accessing the site.” It seems that WSO, a site maintained and designed by Williams students, has a monopoly as an electronic campus center.

“We always want to hear suggestions. WSO meets Thursdays at 6 p.m. in Greylock Classroom B, and we’d like to stress that anyone can come,” notes Rogers. If students have projects in mind, they can attend these meetings or send them to wso@wso.williams.edu. Among WSO’s upcoming projects is an online faculty facebook, currently being designed in conjunction with the Office of Information & Technology. “There’s a lot of room to grow – we can always do more,” says Ramos. Masters adds, “we have lots of really talented freshmen as well. Last year, we had about seven people at meetings; this year, we’ve been having 15 plus. It’s a growing organization. We want to be accessible. Meetings aren’t just for people with a lot of computer background. We’re also looking for PR and design people to work with us.”