Only at Tech (OaT) "is a site that allows Georgia Tech students to share the unique culture experienced on campus. Submitters post stories about funny or amusing things they see, and readers rate the stories they feel best represent Tech culture." The site has grown into a sort of social network for everyone at Georgia Tech, and is now considered part of Tech culture by students, faculty, and alumni alike.
After being assigned a group project in computer science, Georgia Tech students Andrew Ash, Holden Link, Kaliyana Finney, and David Turk were brainstorming ideas at lunch. Ash, who wrote the program for the website, recalls the moment he thought of Only at Tech, "I saw a man wearing a big green military jacket go to sit down, and a single chop stick and a plastic R/C controller falls out of his pocket. He just picks them up and puts them back in his pocket like nothing happened. I told everyone what happened and thought that only at Tech would something like this happen. That was the 'spark' that grew into the website."
Designer Holden Link commented that he "could see the entire website in his head, and fifteen minutes later they purchased the domain name." In the interview with WREK Radio, Link goes on to say "We knew we wanted to make a (site) similar to FMyLife(.com) ...." A week later, on November 4th, 2009, the website was launched and used for the class presentation. Kaliyana Finney, moderator, comments "... that within a few hours, we were getting over 1,000 unique visitors every hour." "One of the things that really struck us about how fast it spread was how fast it spread without any kind of advertising ... we launched the site was when we were giving a presentation in our Small Talk class, and we just added it on a slide at the end,” said Link. “Twenty-four hours later, to our complete surprise, we broke 1 million hits,” said Link. In only two weeks, at the time of publication of the Technique on November 20, "the site had over 5,000 fans on Facebook." As of October 2, 2010, the site has over 6,200 published stories, all of which have been voted on several times, and most have comments.
Only at Tech Hacked
At 11:30PM on March 30, 2010, site proprietors Andrew Ash and Holden Link discovered that "google searches of 'only at tech' led users to a pdf spam file." The team sprang into action. After several minutes of scouring the source codes of OaT, they discovered that "malicious code had been inserted into two of their files - a 'config' file and an 'include' file. Investigating the IP address using standard online DNS tools and WHOIS queries, we found that the server was registered to a user located in Luxembourg and hosted in the same country."
By 1AM, the malicious code was removed; however, the attacker did not escape empty-handed. Link and Ash admit, "... we have reason for concern because one of the infected files contained the log in information for the site’s database. This means the attacker(s) could have gained access to a list of our registered users’ email addresses and hashed passwords." After running virus scans, the staff discovered that "It does NOT appear that this code downloaded any sort of malware to our users’ computers."
Precautions had been taken to prevent attacks from occurring again, and are included below:
- permanently disabled FTP access to our webspace
- replaced all passwords with 32+ character passwords containing over 176 bits of entropy and all character classes
- set all files to read-only with minimal permissions
- ensured all software is fully patched
Tech students embraced Only at Tech with wide open arms. Within a few hours of launching the website, Only at Tech was receiving over 1,000 unique visitors per hour, every hour. Within a few days, the site had thousands of 'likes' and followers on Facebook and twitter. OaT's popularity exploded among students; stories were coming in faster than they could be posted, not to mention the immense amount of votes and comments each story has accumulated. In fact, because the site was doing so well, the OaT team agreed to create Only at U(sic)GA to stir up some hype before the GT vs. UGA game. This sister site is exactly the same as OaT in every aspect other than user impersonates a UGA student in a very mocking manner in their posts. The staff got together for a couple of late nights before 'hell week' to put everything together, and the site was launched early in the week. Ash commented in an e-mail, "Seeing the buzz on that change flood the Internet was really gratifying." After the game on November 28, 2009, the site was switched back to its original state.
Students have even began to turn to Only at Tech for campus news. Ash says in an interview, "When the stabbing happened last spring, I know the first place I look for information was OaT." The interviewers, Ameet and Charlie, who work in the library, say "that Only at Tech has become a sort of historical record, and at some point, should be added to the library archives." Doing so would 'officially' make the website part of campus history.
Only at Tech began as a typical school project, but has now evolved into an aspect of Georgia Tech's culture. Tech students can offload some stress by logging into the site and reading the hilarity that is Only at Tech.
The website is still going strong with several published stories every day, but remains relatively unchanged since its debut. Because the OaT staff have little spare time, the site rarely sees major changes. However, the staff still maintains the site so it may continue in its success. The moderators, Kaliyana Finney and David Turk, evaluate every submission to the website; while Ash and Link, programmer and designer, make sure the site stays up and working properly.
Although the site is not officially approved by the school, "the school has been really supportive of the website...." the team is working towards official affiliation with the school. However, it would require much more funding than they currently have and are able to make.
The staff will soon be graduating from Georgia Tech but that does not mean that they plan on abandoning their website. Link comments, "we were very surprised at how much activity there was on the commenting on the stories, there was a lot of back-and-forth discussion there that I don't think any of us were expecting." He goes on to explain how Onlyattech.net structure impedes upon interaction between users, and that "it is just a flat, no threading commenting structure." Link says, "we'd like to make (the site) so that it has a forum ability, with the ability to look at, hide, and like individual comments."
Before creating the site, the staff knew they wanted to create something similar to to FMyLife or Texts from Last Night. The website has a very flat and simple, non-threaded structure. The team used script purchased from FMyScript to create the framework for Onlyattech.net.
Andrew Ash (Programmer)
Andrew Ash just finished his third year at the Georgia Institute of Technology studying Computer Science. Looking at entering the field of security research, Andrew is pursuing the Information Internetworking, Theory, Platforms, and Intelligence threads to fulfill his major requirements. From delving into the internals of the Game Boy Advance to writing an implementation of malloc and free, he is passionate about all aspects of computer science. Fascinated by the bombshell of an Adobe Flash Exploit by Mark Dowd and intrigued by the classic Fast Inverse Square Root found in Quake, Andrew enjoys reading the best of computer scientists around the world. He has also worked in the teaching and research sides of academia, and has also spent every summer working in industry. A passion of his is to help train this upcoming generation of computer scientists, and Andrew has done that by working as a Teaching Assistant for Georgia Tech’s CS 1331 class for five semesters and being a mentor the Freshman class of 2010. In undergraduate research, he has been involved with the Indian CBR Group at the GT Center for Music Technology, working on the classic music-discovery problem. In his spare time, Andrew relaxes by playing piano and spending time with family. He shares a love of wanderlust photography with his father, everything computer with his younger brother Aaron, and all things nerdy with his friends at Georgia Tech." As the programmer for Only at Tech, Ash makes sure the site "stays up and running, and that it does what it should be doing."
Holden Link (Designer)
Holden Link is a junior at Georgia Tech, and is majoring in Computational Media. He hopes to land a job in the video game industry after graduating. His specialty is web design, having designed his first website at age 13: a Sonic the Hedgehog fan site. After managing the website for five years, he created a general gaming news blog called "D-pad News" as a hub to host websites created by my friends and I, based around games such as Katamari Damacy, Rock Band, and Metroid. I started up a general gaming news blog called “D-Pad News” and managed it for two more years. The network finally shut down in 2009. Holden designed the website, and is also responsible for keeping the site up and running.
Kaliyana Finney is a fifth-year computational media major at Georgia Tech. Being the only girl on the team, she gets a lot of harassment from male users on the site via e-mail. Being the moderator, she has the power to decide which stories get posted to the site.
David Turk (Moderator)
David Turkis is a fourth-year Discrete Math major. His previous majors include: Aerospace Engineering, International Relations / Modern Languages, Computational Media, and Electrical Engineering.
References and Notes
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Ash, Andrew. "Only at Tech." Andrew Ash. Andrew Ash, 2010. Web. 3 Oct 2010. <http://www.andrewash.com/projects/>
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 "Interview with Only at Tech Staff." Lost in the Stacks. WREK Atlanta 91.1FM: WREK, Atlanta, 10/01/2010. Web. 2 Oct 2010. <http://www.wrek.org/>
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Tattersfield, Rebecca. "Student site reflects unique Tech culture." Technique 95.17 (2009): 9-11. Web. 2 Oct 2010. <http://smartech.gatech.edu/bitstream/1853/31242/1/technique_2009-11-20.pdf>
- ↑ Jensen, Van. "Stories You’ll Hear ‘Only at Tech’." Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine 14 Apr 2010: n. pag. Web. 2 Oct 2010. <http://gtalumnimag.com/?p=2992>.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Link, Holden, and Andrew Ash. "Only at Tech Hacked." Holden Link| Blog/Online Portfolio. Holden Link, 31 Mar 2010. Web. 3 Oct 2010. <http://holdenlink.com/2010/03/only-at-tech-hacked/#more-728>
- ↑ Only at Tech. (6 December 2010). Retrieved 6 December 2010 from http://www.facebook.com/onlyattech
- ↑ Ash, Andrew. "Questions about the site." Message to Kevin Dease. 04 Oct 2010. E-mail
- ↑ Link, Holden. "About Me." Holden Link| Blog/Online Portfolio. Holden Link, Web. 03 Oct 2010. <http://holdenlink.com/about/>