On the Hilltop, students seem to juggle dozens of different projects, some of which are never fully realized because of time constraints and other priorities. This year, Yatpang Cheung (MSB ’17) sought to break the mold and create his own iPhone app. With countless hours of planning and dedication, Cheung managed to bring his vision of a fun social networking tool to life.
What is the point of “Blurtalk?”
I was trying to create something like “Georgetown Confessions.” It’s a way for people to share what’s on their mind; to confess secrets, share their crushes, or just share their opinions about someone or something they’ve just always wanted to say. Because “Georgetown Confessions” is on Facebook and it’s rarely updated and is often behind schedule, I thought I’d create an app that mimics it and that people could check on a daily basis. People can post whenever a thought comes to their mind.
What kind of users are you targeting with this app?
It was designed to focus on Georgetown undergraduate students, but if the app grows, it can spread to other campuses. With this type of app, its content can easily be used for cyberbullying and abusing the power of anonymity among the younger generations. College campuses and undergraduate students are more mature about it.
So you talked about the dangers of anonymity. Did you take any steps to prevent those risks?
With other anonymous apps, you can’t really mention people’s names. They have a filter system or they report when something bad is mentioned or a threat is made. Basically there is a report option. With my app, you can set how many times your post can be viewed. After the view count is up, then that can no longer be viewed. It’s technically deleted. So that helps prevent any cyberbullying from spreading to a large audience.
What was your personal goal in making the app?
At first I created an app to test my coding skills. It took 200 hours of coding and 10,000 lines of code. Also, I just wanted to make something that the Georgetown community can bond over. I’m trying to create a new tool for all Georgetown students to use.
How did you balance all of those hours of work with your social life and school work?
Whenever I have something in mind, I just devote everything to it. The 200 hours of work are spread around less than two months. After classes, I’d come back, do my schoolwork, go to the gym, and then I’d just stay up from midnight all the way to 6 or 7 a.m. Then I’d wake up at 9 a.m. for class, so I’d get three hours of sleep just to get all the coding in.
What is the location radius of these users and posts?
The app finds users within a set two-mile radius of the post. I decided on that distance because it’s supposed to be something that’s local. On a Georgetown campus, it’s meant to be used by people within the campus, so the two-mile radius helps connect people that are easily reachable and that you know are around you.
It seems like this campus is overflowing with new ideas all the time. But what made you decide to actually sit down and start coding this app?
I was very motivated by all the other startups on campus, like Katrina Vassel’s “Nosh Delivery” and Rahul Desai’s “Trendify.” I was very inspired and thought, “Well, I’m going to create something of my own from my own idea.” My difference is that rather than getting someone else to do the coding for me, I did everything myself just for the experience. They hired outside sources to code for them. Everyone has their pros and cons. Those other people are very good at marketing and are very social. I, on the other hand, am more of a computer and inventive tech person — I’m not really the one to market something that way.
Did making this app change your perspective in any way?
The thing is, when I came to Georgetown, I was very set on majoring in finance and OPIM in the business school. Deep down, I’ve always wanted to do something with computer science, so I decided to minor in computer science to begin with. I started taking computer science classes and I thought, “Wow, this is so interesting, and I love it so much compared to the business classes I’m taking.” Because of that, I just went ahead and thought what the heck, I’ll just transfer to the college and flat-out major in computer science and take all computer science classes. So I did.
What would you say to students who are also trying to launch such innovative ideas?
Everyone has ideas. You can just walk down the campus and hear 10 different ideas from 10 different people. Practically everyone has ideas. But they’re just thoughts inside the brain until you materialize it. In order to materialize it, the steps seem pretty simple, but in practice they’re painstakingly hard; all you’ve got to do is put in the time, effort and dedication.