When looking for events and activities, Tufts students cast a wide net over a range of online sources, including the school’s official events page, students’ and organizations’ Twitter posts and club or class pages on Facebook. Upperclassmen may recall an older online source: Tuftslife.com, a student-run website that compiled campus news, events and listings, serving as an online information hub for all members of the Tufts community.
This summer, a small but growing group of students, led by Yotam Bentov, a computer science major and the president of the Tuftslife team, has been working to revamp the website. The site relaunched last week in time for the start of the fall semester.
Tuftslife is ancient, in internet terms. According to Bentov, a senior, the original version of the website launched in 2000, four years before Facebook started in February 2004, to immediate popularity.
“I understand the response to it was pretty warm,” Bentov said. “People were using it, which is the bottom line.”
The website reported up-to-the-minute news on campus, sometimes quicker than other outlets, Bentov said. He cited a 2013 school closure due to a snowstorm, which Tuftslife reported before the university officially announced it.
However, Bentov said the website has gone through several changes of leadership and bouts of inactivity since its founding. Its most recent iteration, created in 2015 by Alex Lenail (LA’16), has seen little traffic, according to a text overview of the site’s history provided by Bentov.
Bentov said that previous leaders of Tuftslife contacted him last fall, asking him to relaunch a new version of the site. The relaunched version will use the same online platform as the last one, with some adjustments.
It will host information about events posted by Tufts Community Union (TCU)-recognized student organizations, a listing section for wanted and for-sale advertisements and a homepage that will gather all the site’s sections into a more convenient portal, according to Bentov.
“The website right now, technologically, has actually been made,” Bentov said. “We’re adding improvements, and we’re tweaking a bit of the layout, but development is going well.”
The Tuftslife team also hopes to partner with TCU and members of the Tufts administration to enhance the quality of information available on the site.
“We hope we can, in the future, work with the Tufts administration to get more information to benefit the student body and the community as a whole,” Bentov said.
The primary reason for the site’s problems, according to Bentov, has been a lack of student use, especially after periods during which the site has shut down.
“As far as actually getting people to post on the site, most of the functionality of the site happens by giving students information about events that happen on campus,” Bentov said.
Ethan Geismar, a sophomore, is the marketing director for the Tuftslife team. He said the group is working to promote the site to the Tufts community, especially to underclassmen who may have never seen its earlier versions.
“I feel really good about where we’re heading with marketing and what our initiatives are,” Geismar said. “I think our main goal at this point is just to position ourselves as best we can for launch and to get as many people using it as quickly as we can after we launch.”
He added that Tuftslife is in contact with administrative and student organizations to encourage use of the website.
“We’re coordinating with the RAs and with the orientation program to get the name out there … relaying the information to another specific group or medium that’s spreading it out further … and making sure they all know about and are engaged with the platform,” Geismar said.
Cole Bond, a sophomore, is also part of Tuftslife’s marketing team, helping coordinate student outreach about Tuftslife and working on future website development. As an orientation leader, he is now working on spreading news of the launch to incoming first-years.
“[The Tuftslife team] is planning on integrating [the site] into orientation,” Bond said. “We’re planning on emailing orientation leaders, letting them know this is back, making sure they know what the product is before they sell it.”
One of Tuftslife’s priorities for the coming relaunch is to regain TCU recognition as a student organization, which they had initially obtained in 2000 but have since lost, according to Bentov.
Geismar said that TCU recognition is crucial to its success, and he envisions room for collaboration between TCU and Tuftslife. He added that he anticipates the group will have little trouble regaining TCU recognition.
“I think [TCU] is excited to have the site back at their disposal,” Geismar said. “We’re excited to have them back on the site because it’s a very mutually beneficial relationship.”
Although communication between Tufts students has changed dramatically since Tuftslife’s founding due to the rise of social media, the Tuftslife team believes their website can occupy a unique and necessary place among other media outlets, since it is readily available to the student body and broader Tufts community.
“I think our mission with Tuftslife is really to make it a central part of the experience of attending the university,” Geismar said. “And so, in that sense, we don’t think that a student can feel properly informed and aware of everything that is happening and all the opportunities that they have at their disposal at Tufts without a central hub to gain access to that information.”
Compared to current resources such as pages and Facebook groups, Bond said that Tuftslife is more dedicated to the needs of Tufts students. He referred to a Tuftslife textbook exchange service as a potential alternative to the multiple existing Facebook pages meant for selling and buying textbooks to and from fellow students.
“I think Tuftslife is going to provide a more unique, better online representation of what the Tufts community is,” Bond said. “We think this is going to be a more intuitive interface for it. We have all these services that are better than Facebook, on an interface that is [specifically] built for them.”
Both Bentov and Geismar said that, as opposed to current media outlets, Tuftslife will offer a more convenient and efficient means of obtaining information about the Tufts community by amalgamating the information available from other platforms.
“We very much also see Tuftslife not as competition to any other media outlet, but really as a way to bring them together and make them available to the student body, so people can use them for their maximum potential,” Geismar said.
Bentov said he thinks the website will reduce the current need for students to routinely check different social media and listing sources in order to stay informed about happenings around campus.
“It shouldn’t be that complicated,” Bentov said. “It’s not hard to make a page that just has [everything] … We think that there’s very much a need for a product like that, that considers the needs of the average Tufts students and is built around them, as opposed to a conglomeration of other services that kind of work, but aren’t complete.”