Marauder’s map? There’s an app for that

Oct. 25, 2011, 3:02 a.m.
Marauder's map? There's an app for that
(SERENITY NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily)

All that could be seen was a sea of red at the Orange Bowl last winter. The cheers of attendees drowned out individual voices, and the roar of crowd was all that could be heard. Geoff Woo ‘11 lost his friend Jonathan Zhang ‘11 in the mass of people, and it was there that they wished for a device that would let them easily find each other–essentially, a virtual Marauder’s Map. Inspired, Woo, Zhang and their friend Jonathan Chang ‘11 created Glassmap, a location-tracking iPhone application.

The trio had never done any iPhone coding before but were determined to produce a working product. The first week of spring quarter last year, they blocked out time for coding and spent nights at La Maison Francaise to work on what would become Glassmap.

In three weeks, they created a very rough, battery-exhausting version of the application. Tracking applications require real-time updates, which drain the cell phone’s battery, they said. This turned out to be their greatest hurdle in developing the application.

Their original app could “only do something naïve like [send out a signal] once every few minutes, once every five minutes or once every two minutes,” Woo said.

So they dove back into their work. They wanted to create a novel relay framework that surpassed the efficiency of their competitors. To do that, they programmed the application to intelligently query the location of the user so that the time between signals was based on contextual clues. The modification, which they finished by June, allowed the application to run for hours without wasting power.

But they weren’t done yet. The founders wanted to perfect their application before launching it, so they rented a house in Palo Alto this past summer off of University Avenue. The three co-founders adhered to a self-imposed schedule, working up to 16 hours a day and often eating meals at their desks.

“It was pretty much eat, sleep, gym, code,” said Chang.

“I don’t want to make it sound too much like ‘The Social Network,’ but it was kind of like that,” said Woo.

Though their summer living arrangement begs a “Social Network” comparison, their partnership does not. They describe their relationship as without hierarchy or titles. For example, summer intern Xavier Falco ‘12 was allowed the same amount of input as everyone else. There were arguments, but in the end, they defaulted back to their philosophy that “the best idea wins,” all three co-founders said.

Glassmap launched in early October to Stanford students only. Ryan Brown ‘12 was brought on board to head campus outreach efforts and publicity, like the Glassmap Dorm Storm, which attracted almost 1,000 Glassmap users.

Though the co-founders have settled into niches, they have retained their original business model: the best idea wins. The three remain close friends and live in the same apartment complex off campus. They continue to spend upwards of 70 hours per week working on Glassmap, Woo said.

Now, Chang mainly handles servers, Zhang works on the iPhone application and Woo focuses on the integration with Facebook and the Android application.

With a simple idea, intense dedication and a lot of coding, the co-founders created an application that they believe has the potential to change communication.

When asked how they keep motivated to work on their application, Zhang invoked the philosophy of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, as articulated in his 2005 commencement speech: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

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