Where Are They Now: Ian Jennings Jablonowski Will Soon Hack at Facebook

In this installment of our “Where Are They Now?” profiles, we talk to 2010 hackNY Fellow Ian Jennings Jablonowski, who is continuing to build out his project from the 2011 hackNY Spring Student Hackathon. Ian will be interning with Facebook this summer.

Ian, what are you up to these days?

I’m going to school working on products I did before the summer, and working on my major. Recently I’ve been working on b00st, the site I started after the Spring Hackathon. It’s a social news site like Reddit, but in real time. As votes come in, the numbers go up on new comments in real time. I want to move news into that area.

Can you tell us more about it?

I want to grow a large realtime community and see what possible features to introduce. It’s a newer idea of community and the forum is like modern forum. PHPbb is old school and you can’t really tell the difference between one forum and another. 4chan is similar to other image boards. Reddit and Digg look similar, too. I want to push the envelope a little bit, to innovate on that.

What are you studying at Rutgers?

I’m an information technology major. I’m more interested in how people use computers rather than how computers serve people.

I’m also into info visualization, making data look like art. I’m working on a cool project in one of my classes related to bus transit. It’s called NextBus and lets you see when the next bus is coming on campus. It shows you where they are and what the next stops are. The script runs every minute and shows how long it really takes for the bus to get there, as well as the average wait for each bus on campus by day.

I’m also minoring in digital communications. One of my most interesting classes for that this semester was on strategic presentation. We learn how to make videos go viral, creating projects for non-profits. I’m helping a non-profit radio station. We’re making videos and trying to get word out and find volunteers for them.

What have you been up to outside of classes?

Since last year I took up drums. I’m doing pretty good and have a kit in my room . I’m not in a band yet, but I’m pretty comfortable on them and am able to play a few songs. It’s only been a few months, so I don’t expect too much of myself.

I’ve also been working on Rutgers Reddit, which has exploded recently.

Recently I took part in and won a contest at Rutgers called Hat Chase where seven people in crazy hats walked around different parts of campus. Teams competed to broadcast the hats’ locations to as many people as possible and have those people broadcast the information to their networks. It was really about how people share things with their network, how to share information in real time about emergencies and how to report and organize. The project was part of CCICADA, a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence.

I started building a team by using Reddit and 2011 hackNY Fellow Abe Stanway stepped up to help lead the team. We used GroupMe as our main way to report information and had team members on each campus watching for the hats. I think we won because the goal was to see how information travels across social networks, and we had good documentation. The prize was $4,000, which we split between our team of 20.

Also I’ve been working as part of a research group for the past two years helping with code and data harvesting. One of the projects is a network for concerts to aggregate information like set lists and videos shot at the concerts and archive all of the new media that gets produced during the show.

Whatever happened to your Fall 2010 Hackathon winning project?

Rooster.am launched and it’s free to use. It’s a fun thing to keep up and running. People like it and use it. I haven’t been trying to monetize it, but I enter it in contests every now and then. It’s not something I’ve actively working on anymore, but people say it’s useful and that it works for them everyday. The biggest complaint is that the rooster sound is annoying, but it’s kind of fun, I feel.

What else have you learned since being a hackNY Fellow last summer?

I’ve changed from being an all-around person to specializing more in the front end and user experience field from where I was year ago, just trying to do everything. Now I’m trying to focus my talents on front end stuff.

I knew I was going this way because of the hacks I was doing. Hacks are either very technical or visual/cool. Most either show you data or a pretty finished Twitter clone or something. I was always trying the cooler, impressive-looking kinds of things rather than focusing on data crunching and performance. That’s what I liked to do in my spare time. Also, when I applied to intern at Facebook, one of my professors said, “I’m gonna send you to the UX people.” I asked him why and he said, “That’s where you’ll fit in, that’s exactly what you should do.” He knows what I’m good at and what I’m bad at.

I always liked doing design and creating ideas more than the actual execution. I used to be a LAMP stack guy and now I’m into Nodejitsu and just Javascript. That’s what I’ve been learning and focusing on now.

How has being a hackNY Fellow helped you?

I now have 20 friends in New York I see all the time. It definitely puts you in the scene. There’s no way I could’ve met all those people if didn’t do that program. I’m able to email moot and ask his opinion on something, and it’s easy for me to arrange a meeting with Chris Dixon and stay connected.

The program gave me guidance on where I want to go, and showed me the process of having a startup and what it takes. It didn’t preach, just took us out there, showed us what startups are like and let us meet people.

It was a much more hands-on, personal experience than telling us “this is right and this is how much equity you should take.” It prepared me to work at startup or start my own.