The University of Florida has partner with Yik Yak, an anonymous messaging app, to offer curated and customized content to campus students. Journalism students at the Innovation News Center produce news, alerts and other information and channel them in “Swamp Juice” as the news feed is called.
The idea is that students are already using technology and the media to stay informed and communicate, so the University is taking advantage of the opportunity to offer its content on such channels. The anonymous messaging app has a controversial history as many users have been using it for malevolent purposes, including bullying and spreading rumors.
The INC director Matt Sheehan says the app has potential and can be used for the creation and distribution of news, PBS’ Meagan Doll reports.
“We know Yik Yak and anonymous messaging is controversial and has been used in very negative and sometimes hostile ways. But we also believe there is a positive side that we would like to explore,” Sheehan said. “If our community is going to be using that platform, there really should be some sort of mechanism or some sort of effort to make sure what’s on there is true, correct and factually based.”
The feed is available as a “Peek”, a curated news feed to any Yik Yak user near the University of Florida campus, and is delivering local news, alerts and information relevant to campus life.
Whitney Lavaux, a graduate student involved in the Yik Yak experiment, believes more institutions can leverage the app’s power to offer factual and useful content, especially given the popularity of social media as the go-to information resource for young people:
“If you want to reach this kind of audience, you can’t keep doing the same kind of thing that you’ve been doing — you have to go where they are,” Lavaux notes. “They’re not going to follow you. Usually, you have to follow them.”
Swamp Juice, the curated news feed, is distinct from the normal anonymous feed Yik Yak users receive. The student journalists at UoF produce 10 to 20 post per day to keep the university community up to date.
Asked if he’s concerned that using an app that has been met with extensive criticism, Sheehan asserted that the community has in place an efficient self-policing community. Sheeran shared an anecdote during an interview for PBS and Meagan Doll on the positive impact of the app:
“I’ve seen, particularly around times of finals, a number of Yaks from students confessing that they are in crisis, and they are having trouble dealing with the stresses of life and school. And there is a community outpouring within minutes. There will be dozens of responses in support and sharing information of resources that are available on the campus, and if there are trolls, they quickly get downloaded and are chastised by the community. “
Yik Yak is the most downloaded app among college students across the US.