Student-created website pits BU hallmarks head-to-head

Nia Pellone/Assistant Photo Editor

What began as a juvenile ploy to rank the attractiveness of female students at Binghamton University quickly evolved into Rank BU, a website that compares all things BU — from bars and fraternities to living communities and SA-chartered clubs — with a single stroke of the keyboard.

BU juniors Ethan Taubman and Michael McGuinn began developing ideas for the website Rank BU before Thanksgiving break. Since its Nov. 30 launch, the site has attracted more than 3,000 visitors from along the East Coast and roughly 10 countries in Europe.

McGuinn, who is majoring in mechanical engineering, said they designed the site to be “an insider’s guide to Binghamton.”

“When we came up with the idea, we were thinking about it in terms of freshmen,” McGuinn said. “It would be written by students, for students.”

The site allows students to compare various aspects of life at BU, including fraternities and sororities, club and Division I sports teams, and student groups, as well as bars and restaurants Downtown. Visitors to the site rank each category based on a variety of criteria, with questions ranging from “Which community is more studious?” to “Which sorority is easier?”

Taubman and McGuinn said the site could be useful for student groups to see how they compare with one another, but that it will mostly just spark some friendly competition.

“Some people may make informed decisions based on what parties to go to based on the rankings, or what bar to go to based on the rankings, but it’s mostly for entertainment,” McGuinn said.

The pair got the idea for the site from an equation Taubman wrote to rank girls based on looks and personalities, but they quickly grew tired of rating females based on arbitrary 10-point scales using “attractiveness” and “funness.”

“It was so that we could figure out why less attractive girls are more desirable,” said Taubman, who is majoring in economics.

Taubman and McGuinn originally considered using the equation to rank girls against one another, but scrapped that idea for one they thought would go over better.

“We didn’t want to become the most hated kids on campus,” McGuinn said.

Taubman and McGuinn used the algorithm from the movie “The Social Network,” called the Elo rating system, for the website. Taubman kept his answer clear and concise when asked if he thought that Rank BU could reach the same level of fame as Facebook: “No.”

Rank BU is not Taubman’s first run with website designing. He co-runs a web development company with his brother called Rochester Computer Consulting Company, which hires college students to do programming.

“I’ve been doing web development for a year and a half now, so I thought it was about time that I make something that a lot of people use,” Taubman said.

Taubman and McGuinn spent less than $20 on the domain name and hosting charges for the website, which has racked up more than 210,000 votes so far.

“We thought it was going to be a joke amongst our friends, but it spread like wildfire,” McGuinn said.

Sam Kozhebrodsky, a junior majoring in art history, thought the site represented the different categories well.

“Overall I think it’s set up pretty well,” Kozhebrodsky said. “Some of the questions/answers were hilarious and the ranks are pretty accurate.”

Andrew Sinelov, a junior majoring in economics and a member of BU Club Ice Hockey, said he was happy to see his team ranked as the No. 1 “Most Respected Club Sport” on campus.

“We work hard to have a good image around campus — we try to do things as professionally as possible” Sinelov said. “It makes me proud that people acknowledge the amount of work we put in both on and off the ice.”

Other students put less stake in the rankings’ accuracy.

“It blows because it arbitrarily ranks things based on stereotypes,” said Steve McKown, a senior majoring in anthropology. “Not enough diversity in the questions.”

Lisa Dillon, a sophomore majoring in biology, said she thought the majority of people who vote are the people and groups involved.

“I feel like the people at Binghamton are not the type to really care what the survey actually says,” Dillon said.

Taubman said he is open to feedback for Rank BU, and encouraged the site’s users to use its comments section to suggest additional categories to be ranked.