On Jan. 26, three University students launched a new, standalone Dear Blueno website. The site’s launch follows the November removal of the original Dear Blueno Facebook page.
The Dear Blueno Facebook page, which launched in 2018, served as an anonymous message board for University students until its removal by Facebook. The new website is similar to the Facebook page in functionality: Students can post messages anonymously, comment and react to posts.
Three developers, all current University students, built the site without involvement from the moderators of the original Dear Blueno page. The Herald spoke to two of the three developers responsible for the new Dear Blueno site on the condition of anonymity to uphold admin privacy.
According to one of the site’s developers, the Dear Blueno site was conceptualized soon after the Facebook page was unpublished.
“We were all quite big frequenters of Dear Blueno, so it was pretty sad to see it disappear,” the first developer said. “We saw a lot of people talking about how it would be cool if Dear Blueno could move to its own standalone platform, … so we decided that we (would) take this on as a passion project with no end goal in mind.”
According to the developers, the site was advertised through flyers posted across campus prior to its launch last Wednesday. By Monday afternoon, the site accumulated over 100 posts.
“We really didn’t have to do too much” to attract users, the first developer said. “A lot of students have been missing Dear Blueno as a resource, and so we just put up a few posters here and there.”
The development team scheduled the launch of Dear Blueno to coincide with the start of the spring semester.
“It was important to us that we launched on the first day of classes, as all of the developers remember how helpful Dear Blueno was during shopping period,” the developers wrote in an email to The Herald.
The new Dear Blueno site is an open source project and its code is available freely online. The developers hope the open-source code will help users feel secure that their messages are kept anonymous.
“You tell someone that (a submission) is going to be private and they’re not going to believe you,” the first developer explained. “That’s what drew us to make the code open-source, even at its launch. If someone is so inclined, they can go look at exactly how we’re handling user objects or messages.”
The site includes its own built-in form and two Google Forms — one exclusively for verified University emails and another open to the public — for users to submit messages. The developers explained that some students may feel more secure sending messages through a Google Form as they would for the former Dear Blueno Facebook page.
“It’s natural for someone to be a bit apprehensive about … a form built into the site,” the first developer explained. “That’s why we still provide support for Google Forms. We feel that it makes people feel more comfortable posting because they understand … (the information) is completely out of our hands.”
Nick Young ’23, a top fan of the Dear Blueno Facebook page, pointed out that because its messages are anonymous, Dear Blueno provides security that conventional question-and-answer pages cannot.
Dear Blueno “is a place for people to say whatever and ask … without having fear of judgment if the questions are difficult to ask,” he said.
At the same time, Dear Blueno “is nice because it has a wide reach, so you’re always going to reach someone that knows what they’re talking about,” he added.
Both Young and the developers noted that the standalone site may open the door to additional features that could not be implemented on a Facebook page. One such feature — anonymous comments — is already available to the site’s users.
“We added anonymous commenting to Dear Blueno because, while posting on the Facebook page, … it would be hard to have discussions in the comments,” the second developer said, “especially when the topics are sensitive.”
The developers hope to maintain the page for the duration of their time at Brown, after which time they plan on handing the site off to younger students.
“Our plans are to stick with this project and maintain it,” the first developer said. After graduating, “I can see myself taking a step back and saying, ‘This is the time for other students to take the reins.’”
Neil Mehta is a University News section editor covering Institutional Equity and Student Affinity at The Brown Daily Herald. He also serves as the 133rd Editorial Board's design chief. He is a sophomore from Stony Brook, NY studying public health. Outside the office, you can find Neil baking, reading YA fiction and playing Tetris.