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Web 2.0 gets schooled

Students at NYC's Cooper Union present their final projects from their Web 2.0 class.

Paul Pasquale and Nigel Brady present GeoCart at Cooper Union.
Caroline McCarthy/CNET Networks

This afternoon, I went over to NYC's Cooper Union to sit in on the final project presentations for the Web 2.0 Paradigms class, a hands-on course in the school's electrical engineering department taught by adjunct professor Sanford Dickert. In this course, the students--who were required to have software development experience--created their own Web applications from start to (very beta) launch, with a focus on the end user experience and what kinds of consumers would use such a service.

Here's Webware's recap of the four products that were demonstrated--a fifth team had been working on developing the ongoing Red Hen Spectral Analysis platform.

The first service, Sudoview, created by Brandon Wong ad Joseph Branez, is conceived as a way to make first-round job recruitment easier by using online video. The site aims to allow recruiters to create video versions of interview questions, which job candidates can then see and respond to with their own questions. Currently, that's the only feature of the service, though the creators expressed interest in adding resume and portfolio features as well.

Sudoview arguably received the most lukewarm reception of the bunch, if only because the feasibility of conducting job interviews through video-on-demand raised a few eyebrows. It just doesn't seem like it will ultimately speed up the process a whole lot, given potential for technical difficulties and the possible time lapse. Additionally, the fact that it's not conducted live (in person, over the phone, or in a video chat interface like Skype) means that there's a chance that videos might wind up pre-rehearsed or even altered--not exactly helpful for a job recruiter.

The second presentation came from seniors Nigel Brady and Paul Pasquale, who had created a site called GeoCart. GeoCart is a mashup-heavy application that displays where items sold on Amazon and eBay are shipped from. That way, the creators explained, they can reduce the cost of shipping and receive their orders sooner. The site is still using a very rough design, but does use Amazon and eBay APIs along with Google Maps rather impressively. Future plans involve integrating more sites, including Craigslist, for which geographic proximity certainly helps since you often have to go pick up products yourself.

I suggested to the students that, given today's trend of eco-friendliness, maybe the application could be marketed toward environmentally conscious consumers who are aiming to cut down on fuel costs by "buying locally." Obviously, a lot would have to be tweaked, but it's a thought.

Overall, GeoCart seemed to obtain a pretty good reception among the audience members.

The same was true for the third presentation, ForkOut, which is, to put it simply, a way to upload videos to multiple video-sharing sites simultaneously. Founders Grace Chen and Akshay Anand suggested that it could be used by people, companies, and organizations that are trying to get the maximum amount of exposure with the most efficiency--unsigned bands, for example, who might want to get their music videos out there. The audience generally seemed to think that this was a great idea--although they raised the issue that it might be tough to pin down a good revenue model, and could be abused by viral video spammers all too easily.

In its current form, ForkOut works with Google Video, Yahoo Video, Veoh, MotionBox, and Bolt--that's right, no YouTube (yet). The creators said they'd like to add more sites (when you upload a video, you can select which ones to use), as well as statistics and an improved interface.

The final of the four projects was Course Advisor, a site created by Andrew Wong and Alex Shen, which ambitiously tries to bring the headachey process of college course selection into the 21st century. The site contains an electronic version of a school's course catalog and allows students to filter it by professor, department, or user-generated rating. Students can also contribute to existing ratings for courses and professors--something that the creators would ultimately like to turn into a wiki. Then, the site generates a printable version of the school's paper course registration that can, presumably, be taken to the registrar's office and used as though it had been filled out by hand.

The audience seemed to think that Course Advisor was well-conceived, but simply not all that original. Many colleges already have their own electronic course catalogs and selection systems, and the creators seemed uninterested in outsourcing the product to schools' administrations anyway--they'd rather keep it independent, like Facebook. That, unfortunately, might not float too well with school administrators.

But who knows? These are projects that were conceived and launched in a span of six to eight weeks. The students clearly all knew what they were doing, development-wise. If they continue what they started, some of these could turn into interesting pieces of webware.