On-the-go, iPhone-tapping Sonoma State University students can now carry the university in their hands.
The Sonoma State Mobile iPhone app, developed by a former student who found a spare 250 to 300 hours to do it, launched this week to rave reviews.
"I'm very impressed, it's very professional," said Bryan Bell.
The senior uses the app to contact professors without doing all that so-yesterday stuff like "sitting down at a computer" or yester-decade stuff like consulting a syllabus.
Tap the headphone icon to tune in KSUN, the campus radio station. Hit the image of a phone (an old-fashioned, circular-dial version) to access campus resources from police to health services. Lost in SSU's 269 acres? Tap the map to get directions to your philosophy class.
The brains behind the free app, 2005 Montgomery High School graduate Jeff Neong, developed it because, well, it didn't exist.
"I though it was weird that SSU didn't have a dedicated student resource app," said Neong, 24, who built Sonoma State Mobile between the fall 2010 and spring 2011 semesters and graduated in June.
<NO1><NO>He created it in the freewheeling, ad-hoc manner typical of the flourishing wild west of app development, working around university administrators to get the information that the app delivers.
Rather than get permission and help from departments to access their databases, he built a server that searches the SSU website and "scrapes" it for exactly what app-users need.
"If I had started out asking for access, it wouldn't have gone anywhere," Neong said. "There's too many parties involved. I would have to ask someone, they would have to ask someone else, then it would have to go up the chain, then it would have to be signed in triplicate."
SSU administrators supported the app's development, but it made sense to go Neong's <NO1><NO>do-it-yourself route, said Ali Kooshesh, chairman of the computer science and engineering science departments.
"At that point, you would say, &‘I can do it, I don't need to get anybody else involved, we can do it, technically,'<TH>" said Kooshesh, who provided Neong with guidance and administrative support.
Sonoma State Mobile delivers all the information already available on the college's website. But it eliminates the need to search the website page by page and link by link, instead putting all the information a fingertip away.
"I definitely wish I had it when I was a freshman," Bell said.
Three computer science students created the concept for the application two years ago as a class project and developed its skeleton. Neong took it over and "just rewrote everything," to make it do what it does the way it does it, Kooshesh said.
"He's truly a talented student," he said.
Not only students use the app.
Gina Geck, in charge of SSU admissions and student recruitment, put it on her iPhone and sees it as a way to woo students considering SSU.
"If you were a prospective student, it gives you a little snippet of what Sonoma State has to offer," she said. "It gives you a good idea of the university."
Her department was considering creating its own app when she came across Neong's, Geck said.
"I thought, great, because you know the state budget, we didn't have the resources really available to do that," she said. Now she's working with Kooshesh's students to add features to the app.