Popular app has 82 percent of SDSU campus “Yaking”

By Pat Bowden Reporter

Yik Yak, smartphone app, stormed campus and found its way into over 82 percent of students’ smart phones on campus, with students on average posting Yaks once every minute to the anonymous social media feed.  

Yik Yak allows students to post Yaks (similar to a Tweet) to a local feed that is based off of a one-mile radius location, which can then be read by, up voted, down voted or replied to by anybody with the app.

“Yik Yak was created to provide an open forum and give a voice to those who otherwise might not have one. It’s a way to level the playing field for everyone around you,” said Ben Popkin, the Yik Yak lead community manager. “It was marketed to college students because it gives you a live college campus feed of a one-mile radius that’s in a densly populated area of people that are all sharing the same experiences.”

While Yik Yak is mainly a local feed, there is a feature in the app that lets users “peek” into other college campuses around the country, which allowed the app developers in California to view the SDSU feed four states away and note the high usage the app gets here on campus.

According to Popkin, the anonymity of Yik Yak is purely beneficial, allowing users to immediately have an audience to post Yaks to without having a name tagged on to what they say.

“The pros are that your name isn’t attached to something so you can mess up a post or post something that people don’t necessarily agree with and people won’t laugh at you,” Popkin said. “With Yik Yak you can immediately start posting and engaging in conversations. You’re immediately plugged into a community, which is why people are very attached to it.”

Parallel to Popkins reasons for the app’s success, some students say they are encouraged to post Yaks that they might otherwise not post on other social media outlets like Twitter or Facebook.

“I think it’s a funny app to read through, you can say funny things that people would be too scared to say otherwise,” said sophomore pre-pharmacy major Robert Thies. “It’s just a funny joke compilation of crap, but otherwise if you complain about classes or people it’s going to get down voted immediately and kicked off.”

Another student agrees with Thies, and although she doesn’t claim to post any Yaks, she sees the benefits that it allows users who do post.

“I think it’s easier for people to say things when it’s anonymous,” said sophomore pre-pharmacy major Katie Gilmer.

Some concerns about cyberbullying have risen in the wake of this anonymous feed because the students have the ability to insult someone or something without taking ownership for it. However, Popkin claims that there are multiple systems of prevention that keep harsh or cruel Yaks off the feed.

“We don’t babysit the feeds but we have several algorithms that are triggered by certain words that go through a filter or if there is threatening language,” Popkin said. “We [also] depend heavily on our communities to down vote things or if something is reported it goes to our moderation team. It’s part of the Yik Yak community’s job to make it what they want.”

If a Yak receives 5 down votes and hits -5, the Yak then disappears and is removed from the local feed.

“If it has a hashtag in it, immediate down vote – it’s Yik Yak, not Twitter. If it complains about school, I [also] immediately down vote it,” Thies said.

Popkin admits that there are some abusers of the app’s anonymous feature, but attests the algorithms as the police of these abusers.

Yaks can also be helpful utility information in an area, according to Popkin. He says that what separates Yik Yak from any other social media is the aspect of location, which guarantees that if someone posts a Yak about a developing situation, they are truly there and not just discussing it.

“On Twitter it’s hashtag based, so you don’t know whether or not the person is actually there, and at Yik Yak you get more of a first hand account of what’s happening [because the people are actually there],” Popkin said. “It’s a hyperlocal app so it’s everyone around you, and it’s a very helpful news app for being able to peek into other areas where something is going on.”

While the app continues to face growing pains in its early stages (launched in November of 2013), Popkin pledges consistent maintenance on the app and promises even more improved user interface in time to come.