Anonymoose – Exeter’s answer to YikYak

Anonymoose – Exeter’s answer to YikYak

Ben Assirati interviews the creator of Anonymoose, the new anonymous messaging website.

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Credit: Anonymoose

Disclaimer: the author of this article was an early adopter of Anonymoose.

  1. What is Anonymoose?

Anonymoose is an anonymous, location-based online message board. The website is designed with mobile in mind but it works on tablets and computers as well. Users write short text posts that are visible only in their local area. You can comment on other nearby posts, upvote posts you like and downvote ones you don’t. Posts can be viewed in order of most recent, highest rated and most commented. Everyone has a private profile where they can view their activity – posts, comments, upvoted and downvoted posts – and their Mooscore. The more active you are on the site the higher your Mooscore will rise. The user base is located mainly in Exeter at the moment but the site will work wherever you are in the world.

 

 

  1. What prompted you to make it?

Originally I was working on a site that read through Yaks on the Exeter YikYak feed and analysed the activity. It had graphs showing the busiest times, a wordcloud of most used words and phrases, and a hall of fame that would show the top Yaks of all time. Unfortunately, YikYak’s major changes over the summer made the app much less popular and rendered my website worthless. Removing anonymity was an unpopular decision, but the removal of ‘my herd’ in the middle of the holidays meant the majority of the Exeter user base was simply unable to access our feed. Herds were later re-enabled but the damage was done: YikYak had managed to destroy an awesome community here in Exeter. I wondered whether I could put together an alternative – something that would fill the gap old-style YikYak left behind. I began developing Anonymoose as a hobby project with no real expectations. As the site started to come together I decided to take the plunge and make it public.

Yikyak had managed to destroy an awesome community here

 

  1. Why do you think YikYak failed?

Ultimately YikYak was a combination of two ideas: anonymous posting and location-based posting. Remove one half of that combination and you remove your unique selling point. I think the YikYak developers must have felt the pressure to de-anonymise from another source, perhaps from their investors. Without adverts I have no idea how YikYak made any money to operate. Maybe that was the issue. Modern online advertising relies heavily on tracking user activities and knowing personal information in order to target ads. When you’ve got an anonymous user base you don’t know any of that information which makes effective advertising a lot more difficult. It was a sad downfall for a great app. YikYak attracted posts from people who perhaps didn’t want to post elsewhere. Raunchy secrets, scandalous gossip and risqué jokes are fair game when nobody knows who you are. Anonymity also gave people the confidence to reach out and ask for help about serious, private issues. Of course, this is a very optimistic view of anonymous message boards. YikYak had their fair share of controversies over the years – posts on YikYak have been likened to scribblings on a toilet cubicle wall. There have even been calls to get it banned on some campuses. Luckily, what I’ve been seeing on Anonymoose has been very reassuring so far. The overwhelming majority of the current user base is very friendly and with careful moderation I’m sure we can keep it that way. With the help of a supportive community I’m confident we can build up something great again.

Credit: YikYak
Credit: YikYak

 

4a. How will you ensure you avoid any copyright issues?

First and foremost Anonymoose is designed to be a YikYak alternative. This, of course, results in a familiar look and feel. However, I don’t want to create just a YikYak clone. I’m going to be updating the site with new features and styling tweaks, pushing Anonymoose forward with its own unique design and features. YikYak are doing a good job at moving far away from their original design. With new developments to both Anonymoose and YikYak our respective apps should end up comfortably different.

 

 

4b. What do you aim to do differently?

Most importantly I intend to keep the site anonymous! I also love getting to discuss design ideas with the Exeter community. There’s been tons of great suggestions and helpful bug reports that people have been posting. The end result is a collaborative effort between me and everyone using Anonymoose. There have been several user suggestions that have been added to the site already, which is something you wouldn’t see with YikYak. Examples include the Busy feed (most commented posts), what icons to use in the comments, and the ability to view upvoted / downvoted posts in your profile. In fact, the name ‘Anonymoose’ was actually suggested on Exeter YikYak when I first mentioned I was developing the site.

I intend to keep the site anonymous

 

  1. How will you manage a growing user base – are there plans to get more people involved?

For the moment I am just focusing on increasing the Exeter user base. I’m looking into ways to promote the site across the campus without breaking the bank. I’d love for the site to spread elsewhere but there are development goals I’m looking to achieve before this becomes a priority. Keeping the user base contained within Exeter gives a decent amount of room to grow while also keeping the user base contained enough to manage. Once the site grows beyond Exeter there’s additional considerations. I’ll need to be looking at more powerful servers, larger databases and more storage. Moderating duties will also increase. At this stage I may be looking at getting more people involved to help development.

I’m looking into ways to promote the site across the campus

  1. What are your future plans for Anonymoose- will there be an app?

I’m going to be giving parts of the code a bit of a rebuild soon to provide a smoother user experience for visitors and an easier development experience for me. I’m also going to be implementing a report feature. The community is currently very friendly and there’s not been any issues so far, but with continued growth there will come a point where this will be needed. These updates will pave the way for more exciting features that will help Anonymoose catch up and then move beyond the existing features of YikYak. I would love to allow people to share content other than just text, the most requested being images. Adding image posts will require a lot of additional moderation but it’s on the horizon. I think a private chat feature would be cool. This would be kept anonymous like the rest of the site, rather than enabling usernames like YikYak’s chat. I’d also like to add some small incentives to keep active on the site such as achievements. Finally, I have an idea to introduce a profile of sorts for certain verified accounts which could be used to post official updates. For example, imagine if the university could post short news updates or Unit 1 could tell you all about their latest club night right there in a section of your Anonymoose feed. I think this could be a great feature to keep the community updated on what’s going on around them and generate even more discussion. If all goes to plan there will be an app soon. At first I will be putting together a basic app that is essentially just a wrapper for the website with notification support (a much requested feature not possible with just a website). A fully-fledged, native app will come at a later date as development continues.

 

  1. What can Exeter students do to help?

Get on Anonymoose! The site is only as good as its users. Make posts, upvote things, invite your friends. The more users, the more content, the more activity, the better the site will become. Tell your friends to join, come and like the Facebook page, share posts you think are funny. Spread the word that it exists. If you’ve got an idea to make the site better then make sure to post it. I see good suggestions posted all the time and implement them when I can.

  1. Where can we contact you?

If you’ve got a bug report or a feature request that you don’t mind being public the easiest way is to post on the Exeter Anonymoosefeed. I check it constantly.

Anonymoose also has a Facebook for site updates and screenshots of popular posts.

facebook.com/anonymoose.co.uk

Otherwise, you can send me a good old fashioned email:

contact@anonymoose.co.uk

 

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