Greek directory social network relaunched
The website offers a directory and online forum for members of the Greek community
March 22, 2013, 12:07 am·
After a first attempt, a spinoff venture and a brief debacle with Facebook, the social networking site Greekdex is once again live across Penn’s campus.
The website, which is a combination directory and gossip forum for members of fraternities and sororities, was re-launched on March 13. Since then, about 340 users have registered and 40 percent were returning to the site daily, according to College senior Tony Diepenbrock, co-creator of Greekdex.
Greekdex links to users’ Facebook accounts, sharing their name, class year, Greek affiliation, profile pictures and any leadership positions they may hold. It also includes a discussion forum called the Banter Board, where users may post comments either with their names or anonymously.
Soon after its original launch in February of 2012, Greekdex faded out of use because users were not allowed to post anonymously on the Banter Board, Diepenbrock said. “At the end of the day, people were uncomfortable representing their entire house in a post,” he said, but the site has since been modified to now allow for anonymous posts.
The website uses an algorithm to analyze users’ lists of Facebook friends to determine who else is in their fraternity or sorority. Those other members are listed on Greekdex even if they don’t create an account, listing just their name and Greek organization.
College junior and Panhellenic Council President Jessica Stokes recently registered for an account, but said she is apprehensive about some of the possible functions of the website that may be added in the future, like the albums of Facebook photos that users are tagged in with other members of their fraternity or sorority. Although she doesn’t see it as a major issue, “the invasion of privacy thing was a little concerning to me,” she said.
That photo album feature is currently not a part of Greekdex, and Diepenbrock said it would only be included with the user’s explicit permission. “It would find pictures and then ask the user if they’d like to add the photos. If they say no, we wouldn’t add them,” he said.
Diepenbrock said that Greekdex is primarily intended as a directory of Greek students, and Stokes agreed that this function is very useful for planning events and connecting with other Greek students.
When Greekdex was originally launched last year, only a few students were using it regularly, so Diepenbrock and co-creator Charles Moyes, a 2012 graduate of Cornell University, shifted their focus to another application of their social algorithm in a spinoff venture called GraphMuse.
This is how Diepenbrock explained it: Each Facebook user has an individual “token,” which acts like a key to his personal information on Facebook. “Let’s say Zynga approaches us and asks us to help them improve their invitation system by encouraging users to invite close friends who are likely to sign up,” Diepenbrock said. “Zynga would pass us tokens to access their users’ data on Facebook, we’d analyze those users’ friend graphs, and then make the recommendations for Zynga.”
Facebook soon heard about GraphMuse, and two months after meeting with Diepenbrock and Moyes over last summer to discuss it, they began adjusting their invitation widget similarly.
“It’s hard to know if they truly copied it,” Diepenbrock said.
Then in February of 2013, Facebook updated its terms of agreement to include a clause prohibiting anyone from sharing their tokens with a third party, and GraphMuse was forced to shut down.
Greekdex, which had been on the back burner for Diepenbrock and Moyes, was revived, because it wasn’t affected by Facebook’s policy change. It only analyzes information from its own users, and doesn’t share tokens with third parties.
Greekdex is now live again across campus, and Diepenbrock said they are hoping to expand to 50 more colleges by the end of the month. Already 50 of the approximately 340 users are from other colleges like Vanderbilt University, Cornell University and the University of Southern California.
Diepenbrock also hopes to expand the site to include non-Greek student groups and alumni.
Within the next week, though, it will feature Spotify playlists so that DJs from different Greek chapters can share their music, which students can follow.
Stokes said that the addition of Spotify playlists is a good idea, but that Greekdex will likely “fizzle out” instead of having lasting impact on campus.
Greekdex hasn’t had time yet to spread throughout campus, but Wharton senior Patrick Leahy, who registered for an account last year, said the site is extremely effective even in its infancy stage. “The reality is that people want gossip sites, and the other side is people are curious [about] who’s in what fraternity or sorority, particularly after rush, and I think Greekdex definitely fulfills those two roles,” he said.