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Olaf web developer releases free app, “CARLS”

May 27, 2018
By SEBASTIAN KIMBERK '20, Contributing Writer

On Friday, May 11, St. Olaf Web Developer Hawken Rives released a free app called “CARLS.” The app includes Carleton dining hall menus, building hours, bus itineraries, and a dictionary detailing Carleton slang, among other features. The app is a modified version of “All About Olaf,” a similar app which Rives helped develop for St. Olaf.

“I would say 85 percent of the app was already built,” said Rives. “The biggest things I had to build for ‘CARLS’ specifically were the Convo view and the calendar.”

Rives graduated from St. Olaf in 2016 and now works as a web developer as part of the St. Olaf IT Department. “I intend to continue working here for at least the next four years,” he said.

While he did not attend Carleton, Rives is no stranger to the college. “My mom was a Carl and my brother is going to Carleton next year. So I do have ties to the institution,” he said.

Rives started initial work on “CARLS” at CarlHacks, a hackathon put on by Carleton DevX, a group “dedicated to providing a collaborative space for students interested in developing their computer science, design, or marketing skills,” according to their student organization listing.

“Last spring I was working on something and the judges went off to do their judging thing,” he said. “I’d been working on ‘All About Olaf,’ which was started by my friend, for two years. So I decided to see how hard it would be to take ‘All About Olaf’ and make it work for Carls, since we share so much stuff. So within the hour that the judges took to judge, I had a basic version of ‘CARLS’ working.”

Rives showed the app to Grace Pipes ’18 at a Dacie Moses Sunday brunch this past summer, he said. “I was showing ‘All About Olaf’ to her and she was like ‘I want this for Carleton,’” he recounted.

“To preface that,” added Pipes, “our parents went to school together [at Carleton]. Our moms were roommates. So that’s how we know each other.

“My involvement has mostly been motivational and informational,” said Pipes. “The only credit I think I can take is telling him that StalkerNet exists, and that there’s things that we do, and making the app icon. So I guess I’m the Carleton information source.”

Looking forward, Rives is considering making the foundation of the app available to other schools.

“It would be kind of cool, given how flexible the base is, if it could expand,” said Rives. “If I could actually go around and sell it to Luther or Macalester. It’s not built for something like Yale or MIT or U of M with multiple schools and so many different audiences, but at a somewhat small liberal arts college I think it could work.”

“I think it’s harder for liberal arts colleges to put resources into making these apps,” added Pipes. “So I think Hawken’s idea of making something simple, beautiful, and centralized is brilliant. I don’t know why nobody else has done this.”

“We don’t want to replace the website,” said Rives, “because there’s so much on the website. It’s really hard to organize that in a way that actually makes sense, and it changes so often. But if you can select the things that students actually find valuable, it’s a quick access platform because it’s in your pocket, and if you want everything you can go to the website.”

“The news bulletins and all those types of things, I have never read those things,” said Pipes. “But as soon as you get this app you can look at the calendars very easily. I sat down with friends and they were like ‘Oh my god, there’s like twenty events I want to go to,’ so it’s in Carleton’s interest to support the app.”

“That’s really the core of where I want it to go,” said Rives. “Now that I’ve collected all this data in the app, how can I better surface it to people looking at the app? St. Olaf has the same problem. I think we have six concerts happening tomorrow but there’s also biology lectures, there’s chemistry speakers, there’s computer science people, there’s everything happening all around campus all the time. There’s just so much.”

“I think it does make all the information that Carleton tries to put out to students very central and very easy to access,” said Pipes. “So, in the long run, it will help the functioning of Carleton and the benefits you get from being a student at Carleton, because you know what’s going on and what you can take advantage of while you’re here.”

“Tell you friends,” said Rives. “Let me know if anyone has feedback or things they want it do or things they wish it did differently. I love hearing from people.”

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