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Students create own social network site

Abi Hoverman | Friday, April 20, 2012

Planning the weekend just became a little bit easier with Inkle, a social networking site developed to coordinate college students’ evening events. Seniors Chad Heise and Jacob Wenger, both computer science majors, launched inkleit.com in February for Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students.

“People want to go and do things with their friends,” Heise said. “It’s about finding out what your larger group of friends is doing and putting it together in one place so that you can easily make decisions and plans on any given night.”

Heise said the frustrations of organizing the pair’s weekly “Trivia Night” at local restaurant Between the Buns served as inspiration for the website. They wanted a better tool for inviting friends to events than email, which resulted in a full inbox of “Yes” or “No” responses.

“Whenever we wanted to do something, we sent out mass texts or emails … We realized it was a really clunky, complicated way to organize events,” he said.

Students who open an Inkle account can post their plans for “Dinner”, “Pregame” and a “Main Event,” with drop-down options of local restaurants, bars, dorms and dining halls. Other users can be invited after an event is “inkled,” and only accepted followers can view the plans. Friends’ “inkles” can also be organized into “blots,” like a trivia group or dorm friends.

“We didn’t want to make another social network that did something we already had [access to],” Wenger said. “You won’t make a Facebook event to go to the dining hall or Between the Buns, but you will do that on Inkle,” Wenger said.

Although Inkle has a layout to organize weekend plans around parties, Heise and Wenger said the site helps the coordination of everyday events as well.

“We want to make it clear it’s not just for going out,” Heise said. “This is also useful if you want to get a group together to go to dinner, or if you want to go to the soccer or basketball game.”

Inkle’s creators said privacy is a priority, since students may not want their evening plans to be accessible on the Internet. They said Inkle uses a “following” and “followers” system, similar to Twitter, so only accepted followers can view Inkles.

“It’s not information you want the world to know … [so if a request to follow is] declined, I can’t see anything about where you’re going,” Heise said.

Inspired by Twitter’s unique terminology, Heise said the pair thought of the name Inkle, which has its roots in the word “inkling.”

“If you don’t know what your plans are, you have an inkling of what your friends are doing. The site takes those possibilities and allows you to make definite plans,” Heise said.

Heise said both he and Wenger are drawn to entrepreneurial careers. He said they created the site with skills learned in computer science classes.

“It’s all original code. We were able to set up pages and do the code ourselves,” Heise said.

After working on the site during the fall, the two launched Inkle in February. Heise said they use their friends’ feedback and advice to make improvements to the site.

“Initially, it started out well among our group of friends,” Heise said. ” We took feedback from them and were able to modify and tweak it to the stable version we have now.”

The pair is also developing an Inkle mobile app, which they hope to release soon.

“We think it’s going to increase usage of Inkle,” Wenger said. “If you go to a party off-campus, and then you’re going to a bar, but you don’t know which one [beforehand], you want to let people know of your plans, but you don’t have your computer on you.”

Wenger said he and Heise plan to continue the expansion of Inkle after graduation, while working software development jobs on the West Coast.

“We’re both graduating this year and we’ll both be in Seattle, so we’re thinking of launching it at the University of Washington, although of course we’ll continue to think of Notre Dame,” Wenger said. “We realize there are still developments we can make to make a better product.”