Inperson, a recently launched student website, is giving new meaning to talking to strangers. The site, talktosomeonenew.com, facilitates conversations between students who may otherwise never meet, said Evan Schwartz ’13, its developer.
Using the site is fairly simple — interested students can specify a time during which they are available for a conversation and provide a brief physical description and an idea of what they might like to talk about. If another student is available at the same time, both will receive emails about meeting up.
Schwartz said he thinks this kind of service is a way for students to expand their social interactions and have conversations in “very low pressure, low expectations” environments. He likened the interaction to “walking up to someone you don’t know in a cafe and just starting a conversation, but you know that the other person is at least in the mood to have a conversation.”
Inperson is currently in beta testing while Schwartz and collaborator Jonathan Schear ’15 are working on improving the system and adding new features.
The site’s design currently faces one central struggle — it requires high traffic to ensure that two students will be free simultaneously, Schwartz said. To remedy this, Schwartz and Schear plan on instituting a visual schedule where interested parties could see times when other students had already indicated availability.
Schwartz said he hopes to expand the project to potentially include students from the Rhode Island School of Design. He also said he would be interested in a deal with local businesses through which students meeting via Inperson at local cafes or restaurants could receive discounts.
The developers were recently contacted by a Northwestern University student who saw a link for Inperson on Facebook, and they are now working on expanding the project to the university.
Schwartz said he is still attempting to gauge interest in the project and has received a lot of positive feedback so far.
David Scofield ’13 said he had a positive experience using the website — he said he had a great conversation and would like to try Inperson again. He likes how the site “(plucks) people out of different spheres at Brown and (puts) them together,” giving users opportunities to meet people outside of their regular social circles, he said.
“I think what makes life great is all these serendipitous conversations, and a platform that facilitates this kind of interaction is really important in any society,” said Wayne Byun ’16, who attempted to sign up for a meeting on Inperson but was not matched with another student.
Matty Gallas ’16 said the open-mindedness of the student body at Brown made it a good place for this kind of service.
Manuel Lopez ’16 said he thought using Inperson might be slightly awkward but could still be enjoyable. “Whenever I meet someone new at Brown, I’m pleasantly surprised,” he said, “because there’s something cool to be discovered about them.”