Brunonian Interfaces 2.0

Do you want to put your foot through the computer every time you’re forced to use 25Live? Does sifting through Critical Review turn your brain into Silly Putty because the colors remind you of Silly Putty? Does seeing the Ratty Menu immediately squelch your appetite, not because of the food, but because of the ugly layout?

You’re in luck: this semester, students from CSCI1300: User Interfaces, taught by Professor Jeff Huang, honed their prowess in user experience design for their final project presentations, redesigning well-known Brown University interfaces.

[Note: Comments are not actually from Christina Paxson, Barack Obama, or any of the mentioned names below.]

wtf* Brown


The best place to start fixing is to fix the place that takes suggestions about what should be fixed! When you’re done repeating that sentence 20 times in a row, see below for a revamped version of wtf*brown, designed by Joe Engelman ‘17, Nate Parrott ‘17.5, and Erica Oh ‘18. This team created a mobile version of wtf*brown so that when the unappeasable thirst to fix something hits you, you can enter it into the application immediately.

To make wtf*Brown more interactive, the designers also devised a system encouraging students to up-vote a fix that they support by writing the issue on a Post-it and sticking it to the problem area. In theory, other students who agree with it can take a photo of the sticker to vote.

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The Unsung Heroes of Pre-Registration: The Critical Review

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How do you pick what classes you take each semester? Do you check with your advisor to see what you need to do in order to finish your concentration? Do you ask your friends what their favorite class has been? What about your parents and pets? Do you post on Facebook, soliciting the opinion of all 1,484 of your friends? Or, do you click that link below the course description on Banner and check out The Critical Review? Though we haven’t done a scientific analysis of the answer to this question (yet), I can imagine the last option is an important part of your decision-making process.

Without much public acknowledgment, the men and women behind the website, perhaps even as much as Meiklejohns, faculty advisors, and friends, seriously influence what you do with your academic life at Brown. And with pre-registration continuing through Tuesday afternoon, the insights the website provides are again center stage for many Brown students. I would argue that few student groups have the reach of The Critical Review, yet their members rarely find themselves in the spotlight for their work.

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Pub Crawl: The classy Critical Review

Blog on Pubs debuts this semester with a significantly cooler (and punnier) name: Pub Crawl. At Brown there is, if you haven’t noticed, a healthy abundance of student publications. While you’re already reading one of the very best, this series aims to highlight other noteworthy pubs that may have otherwise escaped your valuable attention. (Email if you’d like your current student pub featured!) 

Still deciding between that hyped-up lecture and that apparently interesting but obscure seminar? During shopping period, you might feel overwhelmed by the tyranny of choice. Sure, you can turn to faculty/peer advisers, friends, crowd-sourcing comparison on Best of Brown (launched last semester and since updated), rando-stalking, or a Magic 8-Ball, but when it comes to real talk re: profs and assignments, first-years will quickly realize and Brown returnees should know by now that nothing beats Critical Review.

Since 1976, CR has compiled anonymous student responses to questionnaires distributed in participating classes at the end of each semester. It’s basically Zagat for Brown academics. Conveniently, you can search the site for courses and/or instructors, which is handy when you want to try out different sections. The written review covers curricular content, prereqs, teaching style, workload, and suggestions to shoppers based on collective opinion. Continue Reading