SOU is visited by the Yak
By Eli Stillman
If you didn’t see the person in a yak costume handing out beverage cozys and posing for pictures last week, you still might be unsure of what all the yip yap is about Yik Yak. Currently, it is in the top forty free downloads at the Apple Store and is considered an anonymous social media app that allows you to see all “yaks” within a mile and a half radius of your location.. Yaks are posts that can be up to 200 characters in length and contain whatever the poster feels like mentioning. The home feed is similar to Twitter, with posts rolling down according to newest. One home page option is to change the order of the feed between newest and most popular yaks of the last few days. Popularity of a yak is determined by allowing all users the ability to upvote or downvote yaks that they dislike or like. If a yak gets five downvotes it will be permanently deleted.
Southern Oregon was the most recent stop for a promotional team from the company on their “Ride The Yak Tour” which is traveling around to different campuses in the country advertising the app. Even before the company’s arrival, many SOU students already had the app downloaded and were avid participators. Fortunately, this breakout on our campus hasn’t brought with it threats of violence, as it has to a few other schools around the country.
On Saturday, A twenty year old Penn State student was arrested for posting a threat that there was going to be a shooting in a main campus building at the next start of weekly classes. Because registration for the app is through the user’s phone numbers, police and the FBI got involved and arrested the poster.
Additionally, In our age of technology, cyber bullying is big issue. While the aspect of anonymity comes into play differently than it has in others social forums like Facebook it can bring the same kind of trouble. But the ability to downvote and have posts removed along with a lack of pictures makes the bullying or specter of cyber stalking less likely, according to Yik Yak.
Yik Yak developers combat concerns with a technology called “geofencing.” This strategy is a selective perimeter over an area where the application is blocked out until users travel far enough away. The main places that have been fenced off include elementary schools and high schools because its creators say the app was designed primarily for college students. Many geofences in Chicago have been put up because the number of threats were becoming out of hand. It is also possible that the entire District of Columbia will fence out the application to promote security around some of the nations most confidential buildings.
Aside from A LOT of sexual content, The SOU yaks have consistently contained a good stream of positive thoughts with humor mixed in over the last two weeks. I have yet to notice threats or any real cases of cyber bullying. While creators admit plenty of mischievous activity has the ability to spawn from participators feeling anonymous, they urge individuals to govern themselves and help prevent cyberbullying. So far in our monitoring of the site most of the explicit posts are being downvoted quickly and removed.
With a majority of new students owning smartphones and having just moved into the close proximity dorms, it is plausible that freshman make up a large part of the Ashland Yik Yak community. Recurring trends on the feed that reinforce this theory include yaks about: missing pets or families back at home, social gatherings, and school pride during upcoming sporting events. Apps like this have a tendency to pop up then disappear around college campuses, but if simplicity and a twist of anonymity prove to remain entertaining, the yak might be here to stay.