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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Student Government + Planga

Planga makes non-academic life better for students and campus leaders by providing a social, cutting-edge calendar platform.  Students can discover events to attend based on what's popular & what friends are doing, and can easily keep in touch with the clubs, teams, and societies they care about.  Group leaders can easily view their members & fan-bases, sync the group's events directly to interested students' calendars, keep students informed with timely updates, and manage discussion forums about the group and its events.

But there is another party that benefits tremendously from Planga, perhaps above all others, that is often overlooked: Student Government.  Managing campus organizations is no easy task as most schools, which have hundreds of groups across every conceivable type.  I was involved in Student Government at Cornell, and helped to manage some 600 campus organizations.  With the software tools provided to us, doing so was often a complete headache.

Planga makes life a whole lot easier for Student Government by providing the platform that organizes all campus organizations, and all campus events, into a single social system.  It's easy to sort through all campus groups, see who's involved in each, and who has control over each group.  All upcoming events, compiled from group calendars, are also in the system, and keeping tabs on everything is effortless. Maintaining control and in-contact with your campus is dramatically simplified with Planga.

Furthermore, Planga can be set up so that all group leaders are automatically a member of the student government group, which ensure that all Student-Government created events & deadlines automatically sync to group leader calendars, and that all announcements reach them.  Student government is itself a campus group, and all of the benefits to groups apply to them as well, but to an even greater degree.

Student government members can even be given administrative control over their school network, which allows them to create new groups, and easily manage all groups on campus.  Planga requires very little management on the part of student government, but we wanted to give control of the system to those most apt to manage it.

Furthermore, student government and Planga have the same goals: To provide a unified, organized, and enriching non-academic experience for all students.  Planga helps students to get more involved by being more informed about events, more easily following teams and groups, and more easily discovering like-minded students to group with.  I can proudly and confidently say that a campus using Planga to its potential will have happier, healthier, and more involved students, which can lead to improved retention and fewer at-risk student incidents.  I could think of no use of social technologies for a more worthy cause.

Planga provides student government leaders with a completely free, powerful tool that takes the best of every communication channel already on campus; And unlike the archaic extracurricular software schools license, Planga's social focus makes it something students truly want to use and are excited about.  We're looking forward to collaborating with student government leaders this semester.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How Facebook Events Fail

As a campus group leader, spreading the word about your on-campus event is no simple task.  It involves a combination of listserv emails, facebook event creation, flyer postings, chalking, google groups, updating your group website, and sometimes many others.  Of these, it seems that Facebook events have become the status-quo to make as many students as possible aware the event is taking place.  However, as many group leaders have found, Facebook events has three major shortcomings that prevent it from fulfilling its purpose:

1.) Facebook has no events directory.  If you're a student at MIT, how can you let the entire MIT community know an event is happening?  How can interested MIT students find out about your event if they're not close friends with others already going?  Well, you can't.  There's no centralized directory of events happening at MIT, or any other school for that matter.  Even if Facebook events could be tagged & searchable by geography that would be very useful; But they're not.  You just have to hope that one of your friends is attending via Facebook and you catch the News Feed entry.

2.) Event invites are limited to your personal network.   When you create a Facebook event to blast to your friends, you have to manually select every person who may be interested from your friends list, which is tedious and limits your event's reach.  If you're crafty enough to use JavaScript to blast it to ALL of your friends at once, then all your friends NOT at your school will be informed of your new event, and will be annoyed with you from halfway across the country.  The best way to do event invites is using the new-format Facebook Groups, which reaches those students who are part of the group.  However, students have a hard time even finding these groups to join, since they're mixed in with the other 948194891 groups on Facebook, which is why student groups often don't use them.  There just doesn't seem to be a right answer.

3.) Facebook has no calendar system.  Let's say that by sheer chance you do get an invite to an event.  You get a notification (and usually an e-mail) so that you're informed.  But then what?  Sure, you can choose "Yes" and let your friends know you're going, but that's about it.  Facebook has no way of organizing all the events you're going to.   It's entirely up to you to transcribe the event onto your personal calendar, and as we all know, that emails get overlooked or archived more often than not.

Wouldn't it be nice if Facebook had a calendar of all events happening on your campus?  What about a fully sortable, searchable database that ranks events on your campus by how popular they are, how many of your friends are going, or when they're happening?  What if the same were true of campus groups too?  How about automatically keeping your calendar synced with these groups so that you're always informed?

It is for these reasons that Planga was built.  We created a campus-inclusive system that lets students find any and all events happening in their communities, and to effortlessly stay in touch with the groups they care about.  We even went one step further by allowing students to view their friends shared calendars, so that they know where their friends are going at all times.

Planga is what Facebook events should have been.  We have some really groundbreaking features in the works that take these social concepts further than we ever imagined, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Need for Better Campus Calendaring

As a student at a typical university, the college years are at times overwhelming.  Students spend years exploring various disciplines, gaining knowledge and experience, and ultimately trying to decide what to do with their lives post-graduation.

With the stress of schoolwork ever-present, the last thing students need is confusion and ambiguity in their non-academic lives.  Most campuses offer a plethora of opportunities outside of classes for relaxation, pleasure, intellectual engagement, and debauchery.  These activities, and the time alotted to them, are what make the college years so great. However, with so many activities to choose from each day, even choosing how to have fun can be overwhelming.

There may be as many as 200 events happening on a campus any given day, hosted by various organizations, that encompass every conceivable activity.  On most campuses, there is no centralized place where campus events are listed.  Just finding out what's going on is a cumbersome chore that requires asking around and often guessing where your friends and acquaintances might be.

I graduated less than two years ago.  When I was in school, there was a single student center that was home to literally thousands of flyers each week.  Walls of colored paper, unsortable, uncategorized, and without any indication of their legitimacy or who might be going.  I found it to be useless.

Even keeping in touch with the clubs, teams, and fraternities I cared about was difficult.  I just wanted to be kept in the loop with the upcoming events from all these groups in a simple way, and to know who might be going to each.  To do so, we relied on e-mail lists called listservs, closed google groups, and a messy facebook events system.

Most of the time, if I got an e-mail or facebook invite about an event, I forgot (or was too lazy to) transcribe it to my calendar.  More often than not, I missed the event.  I wasn't so excited about them to begin with, because I had no idea who else was going, or what people were saying about it.

In building Planga, we sought so solve these problems by providing a centralized campus calendaring system.  Students can find out what's happening on a given day based on how many of their facebook friends are going to a given event, how popular it is, or by what people are saying about it.  They can also effortlessly stay in touch with the groups they care about by syncing calendars directly with these groups.  Lastly, it's easy to see what groups your friends are a part of and what events they have coming up.

We're really excited to go live with Planga this week, after nearly two years of development.  Stay tuned for updates.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Planga Going Live

Planga is going live at four new schools this week!  We are very excited to get Planga in the hands of students during these new launches.  Stay tuned for the latest news and updates.