Students make connections through AddSeven.com

By Middlebury Campus

For Yoni Ackerman and Noah Isaacson, seniors at Bowdoin and creators of AddSeven.com, the premise of their project was simple.

“We wanted to create a site that people wanted to use and that was actually useful to them,” the pair wrote in an email.

According to the Middlebury site’s “About” page, “AddSeven is based on the belief that within small communities, such as small colleges like Middlebury, people tend to have interests in other community members that they will, for one reason or another, never get a chance to act upon.”

A user can enter a list of up to seven “people in their community who they are interested in.” If the interest is mutual (e.g., two users list one another), each is notified the following Friday. As of Monday, 727 Bowdoin students and 1,285 Middlebury students were registered on the site. At Bowdoin there have been 110 matches so far; at Middlebury, 312.

In their email, Ackerman and Isaacson explained the system from a behind-the-scenes standpoint.

“When the user logs into the site and enters his or her choices, those names and the name of the user are encrypted and stored in a database of all current ‘choices’ in the form (user, choice),” they wrote. “On Friday we run a script which searches this database and pulls any (user choice) pairs that indicate a match, that is, pairs of entries where (user A, user B) and (user B, user A) both exist in our database. If the user has a match when he or she logs in on Friday, this information is decrypted and displayed on their page.”

AddSeven was inspired by a preexisting tradition at Bowdoin known as the Bowdoin Senior Seven. Somewhat like the Middlebury Senior Crush list but on an online platform, the Senior Seven works the same way AddSeven does. However, it is limited to seniors during their final week at Bowdoin.

“We thought it would be interesting to create a similar service but make it for everyone and make it available all the time,” the founders wrote.

Based on the response at Bowdoin, they decided to try it out at other small New England colleges. So far, AddSeven is available to students at Bowdoin, Colby, Bates and Middlebury.When asked how the reality of the site compared to their expectations, the pair wrote, “We expected that, if nothing else, AddSeven would inspire some debate.”

Indeed, the site has elicited mixed reactions from Middlebury students.  While the idea of an anonymous confession combined with a lowered risk of rejection has a certain allure, some find it a problematic approach to making connections.

“I call it a cop-out,” Allison MacKay ’13 said flatly.

Dana Callahan ’13 finds the system lacking, as it eliminates the possibility of “matches” that are not mutual from the get-go.

“In a lot of relationships, one person initiates, and then mutual interest builds from there,” she said.

It is important to note that Ackerman and Isaacson never intended AddSeven to be a comprehensive dating service and in fact were fairly unconcerned with how the controversies would play out.

“We wanted to make a site students enjoyed,” they wrote, “so we figured that if people didn’t like it then we’d just take it down and walk away with some applicable new skills at our disposal.”

Though the founders make no guarantees, they assert that “regardless of the outcome [of a match], it is better that such mutual interests do not remain unrealized.”

The pair did not indicate any definitive plans for the future of AddSeven but would “like to find a way to keep the site going” after they have graduated. Though they initially intended to limit the service to schools of 3,000 or fewer students, they are “curious” as to how it would play out at a large university. Additionally, a Bowdoin professor suggested that they create a faculty version, which they are currently “considering (but with some modifications).”
Nicholas Hemerling ’14.5 has not noticed any significant change as a result of the site so far but can appreciate the effort behind it.

“It hasn’t been big news to me whether anyone actually got together Friday evening and hung out,” he said. “It’s kind of cool that they’re trying to address this non-dating issue. I don’t know that it’s the ideal way, but at least they’re doing something.”