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/ April 28, 2011
Meet Other (Animated) NYU Students On Shaker

Ever want to meet people on NYU campus while technically not on NYU campus? If you haven’t seen their staff outside Stern yet, you can thank Shaker for their new Facebook app, which was recently launched exclusively to the NYU community. Try it and meet random strangers in Washington Square Park, but with one catch: they’re animated.

Yep, sign up for the Shaker app and immediately find yourself — or a walking, faceless avatar of yourself — in a cartoon version of NYU campus. For now, that means an animated WSP, complete with the fountain, arch, benches, and of course, other NYU students also on the app. Think of it as J-Sex’s expansion into The Sims.

As Shaker’s explanatory/biography video explains, the app is meant to “bring Facebook to life.” Indeed, each other user on the Shaker NYU campus is color coded by their relationship to you: people that you’re already Facebook friends with are blue, people you have mutual friends with are in yellow, and people you don’t know (yet!) are gray.

Your profile picture hovers above your head like a speech bubble, and you can click on a stranger’s avatar to pull up some device that flips through his or her profile pictures, shared interests and mutual friends — all potential gold mines to start a conversation with a soon-to-be friend, maybe even IRL.

Conversations with other users are proximity-based, meaning that you have to walk over to someone to be able to talk with them.  Everyone hears the same music, which has been sourced as much as possible from local NYU bands.

Inevitably, some familiar  social roles were reprised. When I went on last night, among the 30 or so other “shakers” were the wallflowers, sitting on the park benches waiting to be approached and the sharks, anxiously dancing around lone users.

For the past few weeks, the Shaker creators have been getting the word out with presentations to students and through student ambassadors, who have been blowing up their Facebook profile with statuses to create curious anticipation.

According to their CEO Yonatan Maor,  Shaker is meant to “bring the revolution of experience to the social network.”  In speaking with the founders, the analogy of the bar was a constant example, not surprising since the “bar experience” is woven tightly into their origin mythology. Like a bar, your experience in Shaker is largely dependent on the people there and on your willingness to start a new conversation.

Noticing the inability of Facebook and other social networks to effectively facilitate new social interactions, Maor is trying to bridge the gap between our friends and “friends.” Shaker wants to put you in touch with people you’d meet eventually anyway, at least in animated form.