After a long search for a new group of CourseTable developers, founders Peter Xu ’14 and Harry Yu ’14 are transitioning control of the popular course search tool to the Yale Computer Society, YCS.
First developed into a website in 2013, CourseTable was founded as “Yale Bluebook+” before rebranding in 2014, Yu said. Unlike Yale’s official tools for course search, CourseTable assigns each class numerical scores from 1 to 5 on three parameters based on past student feedback: class rating, professor rating and workload. According to Yu, the twin brothers looked to build a tool that would make it easier for them and others to discover interesting electives outside of their major. Since the website’s founding and well after their graduation from Yale, Xu and Yu have continued to maintain the site themselves on nights and weekends. Now, the two have begun the process of passing the baton to YCS, an undergraduate student group that looks to promote campus engagement with computer science, engineering and entrepreneurship.
“I don’t think I would be the person I am without taking many [Yale] courses … Honestly, the selection part is almost like dating,” Yu said. “If you get into a relationship, you’ve got to find a reasonable person to date, and then you’ve got to put a lot into the relationship. But the first part — the finding the reasonable person to date — is pretty valuable and very useful, and that’s why we think that something like CourseTable was hugely influential and just really helped us make the most out of our college experiences, so we would love to have somebody take this on.”
According to Yu, continuing to update course listings and evaluation information is relatively simple because of the structure of the site, but working on bug fixes could be a little more complicated. He added that introducing improvements to the site was not feasible for him and his brother due to time constraints.
The two brothers searched for potential successors among Yale’s computer science community last academic year and found several interested individuals, Yu said. But, he added, the pair had difficulty onboarding the interested students before the spring term came to an end, and a lack of defined projects to work on made it easy for the issue to fall by the wayside.
“I think we made a mistake in not transitioning maintenance of the site before we [graduated and] left campus,” Yu told the News last month. “As long as the site is useful and relevant, we hope that the future maintainers and owners will do their best to either maintain or transition ownership.”
Interest in taking over the website peaked late this summer, when someone posted in the Facebook group Overheard at Yale, “can somebody make a CourseTable app – thx.” Yu seized this opportunity to leave a comment on the post inviting students interested in taking over the website and potentially building an app to email him and Xu to express their interest.
Among the new wave of interested students were students from YCS, Yu said.
“Our main goal is to hand it to a group who could run with it and will likely continue to exist,” Yu wrote in a message to the News on Tuesday. “YCS was enthusiastic (they came to us with some product ideas) and has been around for a while, so we thought they would be a good fit!”
Since its founding four years ago, YCS has hosted many events, ranging from technology career workshops to speaker series.
The group aims to teach students practical skills they would not encounter in normal computer science classes at Yale.
“We haven’t actually written code as part of YCS, which is something that was surprising to me,” commented Harshal Sheth ’22. “People actually want to build something, and taking over CourseTable sounded like the perfect vehicle to do that.”
YCS created an eight-person development team to coordinate taking over the CourseTable site. Led by Sheth and Cody Lin ’21, the team was modeled after similar teams at real software development firms to create an accurate professional environment. They are currently working on an internal refactoring of CourseTable’s code base to create a more efficient and well-presented website.
YCS is also working to develop an app, which will include all the capabilities of the current CourseTable website, as well as features to quickly add classes to My List and view class locations.
“The mobile app feature is one of the first things we will try to update, and our goal is to finish that before the next shopping period in January 2020,” said Jun Kwak ’21, president of YCS.
The CourseTable website’s code is currently private and will remain so until major updates have been completed. However, YCS expressed interest in making it open-source.
“This will allow anyone to file bug reports or feature requests, as well as to directly edit the code,” explained Sheth. “The idea is that we can get more of the Yale community involved in this project rather than just a small group of people.”
CourseTable has 4,000 Yale course listings for the Fall 2019 semester.
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