Students launch video networking site for UC community

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In an attempt to foster relationships oriented toward careers and academics, four California college students have launched a new video-chatting platform last week designed specifically for the UC community.
Using one-on-one video chats, UCMeTalk aims to encourage networking and collaboration between UC students, faculty and alumni and establish a unified and virtual front for the system, said Nazir Katbi, a senior at Purdue University. Katbi founded the site with UCLA senior Omar Hilmy, UC Irvine alum Anthony Liu and UC Riverside alum Siraj Soliman. The site went live Oct. 22 and already has over 350 users.
“The days (of) isolating yourself to your close group of friends without consequence are done,” said Katbi. “We see now in these tough economic times that even an immaculate resume isn’t always enough. Now, more than ever, our careers literally depend on who we know in what field.”
Katbi believes that using video chat as opposed to email or Facebook-based instant messaging allows users to foster more “organic” and personal relationships.

“There’s more of a connection with video, and that’s where networking happens,” he said.

The network helps users connect with individuals across the UC system through a random selection process. Members are first asked what characteristics they would like to see in an online conversation. Users can also search for other members based on a user’s campus, major, activities or academic position. After selecting preferences, individuals are matched up with other users.

Although slightly cautious about the randomization process, UC Berkeley senior Derek Sayler said that the chance to network with a vast array of professionals and peers across the state is something he would definitely use.

“Social networking stuff is the way to go,” he said.

Recently, the founders created an “online mixer” on the site for all members involved with social activism. By providing these themed online events, site members with similar interests can collaborate and share their individual experiences to pursue their common goals, Katbi said. On Nov. 13, the site will host a virtual Multicultural Networking Night.

This is not the first online network based upon a video component. Omegle, launched in 2008, and Chatroulette, launched in 2009, both use random selection processes to match users for one-on-one video conversations.

However, UC Davis senior Julia Chen, who began using the site shortly after its launch, said that because UCMeTalk primarily includes intellectual and career-driven individuals, the video-chatting network serves a different purpose than its competitors. When she does use Chatroulette or Omegle, she said she usually will close the video feed after just a few minutes.

“It’s nice to meet people on UCMeTalk because you know they’re UC students, not random creepers,” she said.

Contact Alex Berryhill at [email protected]