Student-created ‘Who’s Down’ app promotes relationships in the COVID-19 era

by Yilin Huo | 9/28/20 2:05am

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'Who’s Down' became available on the App Store and Google Play on Sept. 15.

Source: Apple App Store

Students looking for a way to stay in the loop about on-campus happenings have a new option for finding events. On Sept. 15, Arjun Bhatt ’20 and his team of Dartmouth students and alumni launched Who’s Down, a new app that aims to connect students safely with campus events during the pandemic. The app, which has been downloaded to 264 devices through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, was funded by the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship and created with support from the Digital Applied Learning and Innovation Lab.

Who’s Down users can search for events on campus — both virtual and physical — organized by distance from one’s location, start time or geographically on a map of campus. Clubs, organizations and individuals can post events on the app. In order to promote COVID-19 safety, the app has implemented an RSVP system that hides events once the attendance limit has been reached. While event creators set the limit for events, the app currently has a universal limit of 10 attendees for in-person events, which Bhatt said was based on a guideline that was in place in his home state at the time that he coded the app. Dartmouth’s guidelines stipulate that gatherings of more than nine people are prohibited.

Bhatt noted that the app can help give informal events more exposure. For example, if a user is looking to assemble a group to play Frisbee on the Green, Who’s Down allows the user to reach a broader audience than one might by texting individual group chats. Bhatt also said that Who’s Down can help campus event organizers save time, since they can create an event on the app rather than posting flyers.

Bhatt said that he came up with the idea for the app when he noticed how inefficient  event promotion was at Dartmouth — specifically, the quantity of emails sent using the campus Listserv.

“It doesn’t make sense for a single person to get 80 emails a day,” Bhatt said. 

Additionally, Bhatt noted that due to COVID-19, social distancing and quarantine has created a “large gulf to bridge for anyone to build meaningful relationships,” making the app especially important.

Bhatt said that the app may be particularly useful for ’24s, who need a way to connect with each other and meet people from different houses and dorms.

The app has already been fairly popular among Dartmouth’s newest class, as 247 ’24s — roughly 25 percent of the class — have downloaded the app, according to Jennifer Qian ’22, a member of the Who’s Down team. The Who’s Down team is currently working with student clubs and Student Assembly to organize events for the ’24s and the rest of campus, Qian said.

Parth Amin ’24, a Who’s Down user, said he heard about the app through his floormates and downloaded it to try to find ways to meet up with new people.

“I got spammed by a lot of emails from blitz, but I used this app to filter through different clubs and interests,” he said. Now that quarantine has ended for most people, Amin said he expects to use the app to meet other ’24s.

Bhatt initially pitched the idea for Who’s Down in DALI Lab’s “The Pitch” competition in the winter of 2018. He won the competition, but the app did not come to fruition until this year because Bhatt said that he did not have all the skills necessary to complete the app development.

This spring, Bhatt took COSC 52, “Full-Stack Web Development,” and pitched Who’s Down as his final project, connecting with other members of the team, like Qian, who helped with marketing and developing the user interface over the summer, when the app received funding from the Magnuson Center. Additional members of the 10-person team include current students and alumni.

Qian said that she was excited to join the Who’s Down team because she is “always excited to meet new people every term [at Dartmouth], especially because we have a really fast-moving quarter system.” 

Bella Jacoby ’20, another member of the Who’s Down team, has worked on the design and the user experience aspects of the app, focusing on things like button functions and layout. Jacoby said she joined the team because she was impressed by how passionate Bhatt was about the app.

According to Jacoby, the team is hoping to step up user testing by running student focus groups now that the campus-wide arrival quarantine is over.

Bhatt also added that the team plans to cooperate with the College should there be a COVID-19 outbreak. If there were to be a breakout linked to a Who’s Down event, he said, the app would provide the RSVP list for the event if Dartmouth were to ask for it.

“While we certainly hope nothing like this happens, and we hold data privacy in the highest regard, for the safety of the Who's Down and Dartmouth communities we feel it's important to cooperate with the College for contact tracing efforts,” Bhatt said. “The last thing we want to do is endanger Dartmouth's students.”

Bhatt noted that the team plans to get a strong user base at Dartmouth before expanding to other college campuses.

Jacoby is a former member of The Dartmouth senior staff.