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Mocha celebrates first year but looks ahead to uncertain future

It has been a year since five computer science concentrators decided to re-invent the Brown Online Course Announcement as Mocha.

"It started over winter break last year," said Daniel Leventhal '07, who created the site along with friends Dave Pacheco '07, Adam Cath '07, Dave Hirshberg '08 and Bill Pijewski '07. "We were just talking about how much BOCA sucks."

"I just remember looking over BOCA and thinking, 'This interface is so terrible, I bet I could spend a couple hours and make it way better,'" Pacheco said.

Hundreds of hours later, the team had created Mocha, a student-run alternative to BOCA that was initially hosted on Pacheco's computer before finding a permanent home on the Department of Computer Science's server as mocha.cs.brown.edu.

Creating the service ended up taking more time than any of the site's creators said they had ever imagined, and they are still working on it now. The team released an upgraded version of the site last week.

"(The site) looks better, makes more efficient use of screen real estate, it works in more browsers," Cath said, adding that many of the bugs corrected by the team were identified by user-submitted reports.

Mocha appears popular among students, and the site's creators estimate that as many as three-quarters of the undergraduate population has used the service, based on visitor tracking.

"I really like it," said Sally Grapin '09. "It's really useful for me, be cause it points out the conflicts" in course scheduling.

"Mocha's made shopping for classes much easier this semester," said Dave Gagnon '10. "I wish I knew about it last semester."

Some students use Mocha religiously.

"There's one kid in Andrews who has visited Mocha more than anyone else," Leventhal said, adding that the student has visited Mocha more than the site's creators. "This kid must just love shopping for classes."

But Mocha may not live past this year: Four of its five creators will graduate this spring, and its University-run rival BOCA is slated to be replaced by the University's new Banner program later this semester.

"Obviously, when Banner comes out, we'll have to take stock and decide what's the future of Mocha," Cath said. "If Banner comes out and it's good, then you don't need Mocha anymore, and that's great. Basically, we want an easy way to shop for courses, and whether we do that or the University does it, we don't really care. If Banner goes up and it's better, then we'll can Mocha."

As for impending graduations, the team members say they aren't thinking too far into the future.

"We're not that far in the process of handing over power," Cath explained. "We will talk about it later in the semester."




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