BBA: Behind Blueno’s Admins, EXCLUSIVE Interview

       This Sunday, I had the distinct honor of interviewing some of Brown’s most renowned: the Moderators of the Blueno Bears Admirers page. To maintain their anonymity, their names will not be mentioned during the course of the interview transcript. They will be referred to as Moderators 1 and 2 (numbers assigned by alphabetical order.)

This interview has been edited for clarity.

 

Why keep your identities a secret?

Moderator 2: To maintain the mystique of Blueno. We didn’t invent Blueno, and it’s not our symbol to define; we want people to have their own ideas of what Blueno means to them. It’s also easier to pour your heart out to a lovable, loving teddy bear instead of being self-conscious about the admins who run the page. And it’s harder to send us personalized hate mail when you don’t know who we are.

Moderator 1: On BBA, every post is anonymous, so to keep in style, we should be anonymous, too. We want to be cognizant that people of different backgrounds and identities can project themselves onto Blueno, and we don’t want to stand in front of that. We don’t want the dynamic to be swayed or changed by their perception of the people fronting everything, so we think we’ll stay behind the bear for now.

 

What made you decide to start Blueno?

Moderator 1: Because we’re a bunch of narcissists! Just kidding, there are other reasons, too. Our predecessor Brown Bears Admirers was like a little bit of magic on campus. It made people really happy. It was an important part of campus culture. There’s definitely still a need for that kind of a platform on campus. I had never received a BBA post about me, and I really wanted one, so I was like, hey guys, let’s make a platform for this.

Moderator 2: I really missed BBA after it disappeared in August. I find other online communities at Brown so interesting. They don’t just exist in isolation; people talk about them, and they shape the discourse on campus. They’re just Facebook pages, sure, but they can also legitimately affect people’s lives in a very tangible way. And of course, they’re always making people’s days a little brighter.

 

How did you start Blueno, and what was the process like?

Moderator 1: We’d been toying with the idea for a while. When Brown Bears Admirers disappeared, everyone on campus was like, “Where’d they go?” Including me. I wanted admiration posts. So, I started prototyping how people would submit things, the moderation process, all that. I ended up following the same tried-and-true Brown Bears Admirers model, primarily built on Google Forms, with a bunch of extra formulas and automation built into Google Sheets. I finished developing it around August, and our first post was on September 9 by (Moderator 2).

Moderator 2: I thought that was you!?

Moderator 1: No, I’m sure it was you.

Moderator 2: I remember the Blueno the Bear page already existed for years; you (Moderator 1) reached out to whoever ran it.

Moderator 1: Yeah, it was owned by a Brown student who graduated a few years ago. I decided to build the secret admirers page from the perspective of Blueno because I thought it would be cool. The Brown alum was down. I pulled the original BBA icon into Illustrator and Photoshop to make it look like Blueno, sort of a visual parody of the original, to communicate that we’re building from the original spirit of BBA.

 

What about the name?

Moderator 2: The page was initially just Blueno the Bear. But people referred to it as BBA, because it was easier and people knew that it meant the admirers page. So we changed the name to Blueno Bears Admirers.

 

What are some issues you face as moderators? What do you do with  controversial content? Do you ever receive any?

Moderator 1: We get controversial content every day. We have like hundreds, thousands of submissions, but we read and discuss every single one amongst the board of 8 undergraduate students. We spend so much time discussing and editorializing what we should post, and what we shouldn’t. The group chat is always rife with debate. Is this post being sex positive, or is it making an individual uncomfortable? Is this post celebrating an identity, or demeaning it?

Moderator 2: The point is, there’s a ton of social factors in play with everything we post—how does this post affect members of the community? If we censor it, how does that affect people with this identity?

Moderator 1: There’s this fascinating phenomenon where people dissociated from their own names and responsibilities suddenly talk about ethical matters they wouldn’t say out loud. For example, we had that recent controversy with TAs and RPLs “admiring” their students. A lot of people presume that it’s completely acceptable to be attracted to their students and post about it. This is ethically wrong, a potential abuse of power dynamics, and not to mention it directly violates Title IX. We instituted a rule against RPLs and TAs posting about their students in a sexual or romantic way since it was making people—myself especially—feel uncomfortable and unsafe. We got a really surprising amount of backlash for instituting that rule.

Moderator 2: We have some other rules that we’ve developed over time, for example, that it’s not okay to out people’s sexuality or gender without their explicit consent. We have a group chat where we check in five, ten times a day. So, yeah, we sometimes approve discourse-centric posts if they could lead to genuine productive conversations. We don’t want to silence discourse. The primary goal is to be a supportive, positive community. In terms of the discourse we choose to approve, there are a lot of negative outlooks. Sometimes we comment on posts right after we publish them, to directly respond to the post, set guidelines for the future, or to point toward helpful resources.

 

What do you do if you find a submission is addressed to you?

Moderator 1: I think I react the same way anyone else would. You feel warm and fuzzy, you smile a lot to yourself, then you message your friends, “Did you see this?” and “Who did this?” The only difference between my reaction and yours is that I then perform the narcissistic act of copying and pasting the post onto the page for all to see. Then there’s also the attacks. We censor attacks on other people, we don’t want people to feel hurt from this page. But some posts target us. We’re the only ones who have to see any hateful posts, but that’s sort of a negativity we set ourselves up for.

 

What are some perks of being a BBA moderator?

Moderator 2: Getting to see all the piping hot tea on campus first!

Moderator 1: You know how you open Facebook, and check if BBA updated? We open up a Google Sheet and see posts the second people click Submit. (To Moderator 2) Should I show her?

Moderator 2: Yeah, I think it’d be cool.

(Here, Moderator 1 demonstrated by posting a pending submission. The intake form was meticulously organised and color-coded.)

Moderator 1: We’re absolutely up to date with the drama on campus. I get to promote the voices of underrepresented identities on campus, especially narratives around LGBTQ people, people of colour – discourse people might shy away from if their names were attached to them.

 

When we messaged the original BBA, they said they’re “in transition.” Are they your competition? If so, what will you do when/if they resurface?

Moderator 1: It would be great if they came back. If people wanted to migrate back to them, that’s great! We can’t change that. I’d probably go back to using them. As long as there’s a social platform for positive, anonymous voices on campus, moderated in a socially responsible way, I’m happy. Until then, we’re going to keep having fun.

Moderator 2: We messaged them during the summer and asked if they wanted any help. They said they were “in transition and working on it”. They put out one round of posts in August, then nothing. Then we started Blueno to fill the void and we’ve been able to be much more active. So I’m not holding my breath.

 

What are Blueno’s opinions about Rodent versus Ratty?

Moderator 1: Blueno prefers The Ratty, but he forgives anyone who calls it the “Rodent” if—

Moderator 2: If they leave him a present in mailbox number **** (Moderator 2’s mailbox number censored for anonymity)

 

Does Blueno have any admirers? Who would he admire if he could?

Moderator 1: Everyone knows Blueno has a crush on the Nelson bear. Who doesn’t. He’s buff as hell.

Moderator 2: How could he not? There’s also a torrid past between Blueno and the rock tree, but why bring up history?

Moderator 1: And Marcus Aurelius on equestrian has been eyeing Blueno for quite some time, but who knows when he’ll make a move.

 

What does Blueno mean to you?

Moderator 2: Well, there was initially a lot of controversy about the statue, his funding.  And obviously, lots of schools have a bear as their mascot. But Blueno is his own thing, his own icon, he’s not just a generic teddy bear. Blueno is unique to Brown, Blueno is blue—

Moderator 1: Blueno is blue? Hot-take.

Moderator 2: Thank you. He’s quirky, a little weird, but we still love him. That says a lot about the Brown community. He’s gonna leave eventually,  and I’m sad about that. But Blueno’s legacy at Brown will be here a long time even after he’s gone – ideally, with Blueno Bears Admirers sticking around as long as people want it. Blueno sort of gives us a new life, especially if you consider student activities in his hollow interior.

Moderator 1: If BBA was responsible for your relationship, you’re welcome. If you get married to someone you found on BBA, you are contractually obliged to fly us out to your wedding. (Reporter’s note: The Blog was unable to verify this claim.)

Moderator 2: I think it’s fun how different Blueno is from the statue – he doesn’t stand for the same ideals, and he’s a fun piece of campus culture.

Moderator 1: It’s very representative of our generation, that we’re able to make light of and personify big, unchangeable things. He’s become a part of campus culture. We’ve had some amazing artwork come in from illustrators on College Hill; we had one for National Coming Out Day and one for Halloween—shoutout to Felix Summ and Julia Chu! The world seems really bleak right now, and I think we need more fun, happy things on campus. Untitled Lamp/Bear is going away in a few years, but we’re all creating Blueno, and there’s some permanence in that.


Life lessons from Dr. Jane Goodall: An overview and interview

On Monday, October 19, the Brown Lecture Board hosted Dr. Jane Goodall, the world-renowned primatologist and activist. Goodall, who began her work in Gombe Valley in Tanzania 50 years ago, has contributed immensely to the study of chimpanzees and the scientific understanding of animal behavior. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977 with the aim of inciting individual action to create global change.

Goodall imparted her wisdom and stories to a packed Salomon auditorium; we also had the opportunity to interview her, which appears below.

Goodall began the lecture by walking on stage with two companions—a stuffed cow and gorilla—and greeted the crowd in a language foreign to most: chimpanzee speak. After uttering her guttural sounds, she translated it for the audience: “This is me. This is Jane.”

She took the audience through her life, one story at a time. Throughout the talk, Goodall radiated with the same exuberance and fascination with the world that she described in many of her childhood stories. From hiding in a hen coup for four hours to find out where hen eggs came from, to leaving her family, friends, and country at the age of 23 to venture to a distant, then-less-known land, Goodall always followed her curiosity. She stressed the importance of her mother in her life, who always supported her endeavors and even traveled with Goodall to Tanzania so that she could pursue her dream.

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Student Musician Spotlight: DJs Chartreux and Mulga

bodega

This week, Blog will be spotlighting five Brown and RISD student musicians, all of whom will be performing this Saturday night at the Bodega Beats live session at The Spot Undeground. We’ll publishing an interview every day this week, one musician talking to another.

Today’s interview is with Raye Sosseh (Brown ’17) and Michael Moyal (RISD ’16), also known as DJs Chartreux and Mulga, respectively. You can check out their Soundcloud profiles by clicking above, and catch them DJing together Saturday night.

Michael is the co-founder of Bodega Beats, the music blog and community; he grew up playing instruments, but later found his calling in curating music and taste-making. Raye DJs and produces, using “dense hip-hop inspired beats with recognizable motifs and lyrics to emote an evolving emotion with every song.” Read on to find out how exactly a DJ picks a name, why they hate Top 40 songs, and how they came to be real life Zac Efrons (we’re kidding).

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Raye: What kind of tunes were you thinking for this event? It’s going to be an eclectic mix of sounds.

Michael: I think we should start easy, because we’re doing the first hour and half, and then the last hour and half just go break everything.

R: How do you hunt [for music]? Because I always have a very hard time — I feel like I fall into niches a lot with where I’m looking for music.

M: I know, I hate my Soundcloud right now. I hate it. Actually it’s weird–it goes in waves. A couple of weeks ago, my Soundcloud was unbelievable. This past week, it’s just been garbage.

I have a folder of all the websites I like to look at, and I’ll check them out from time to time. It’s hard, because people curate music on Soundcloud. My favorite thing is when I find a collective. Recently, I found these dudes, they’re called Blanc Label. They’re so good. Their sound is mostly electronic stuff, but they’ve got some really dark stuff and then some really lighthearted new disco shit.

R: I definitely feel like that’s a better way of going about it, seeing whole movements as they occur on the Internet, as opposed to honing in on eight or three people who repost things on Soundcloud.

M: I’ve been deleting people on Soundcloud. I unfollowed Diplo.

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A conversation with campus celebrity Russell C. Carey

Snowdays

Russell C. Carey might be running for president.

Russell C. Carey, Executive Vice President of Planning and Policy, doesn’t cancel school for a bit of snow, even if it comes with an 800-signature petition. This winter, though, a pair of blizzards have forced Carey to call two snow days, catapulting him into the spotlight and making him one of the most popular administrators on campus. I sat down with Carey to talk snow days and the possibility of a 2016 Presidential campaign.

BlogDH: What exactly is the job of the Executive Vice President, Planning and Policy?

Carey: I have responsibility for campus safety and chair the Core Crisis Tea. For example, public safety reports to me. I oversee the team that really manages and responds to major crises, including winter weather. And certainly the blizzard at the beginning of January was in that category.

BlogDH: How do you decide when to call a snow day?

Carey: We gather a lot of information. We subscribe to a weather service that gives us very accurate weather information. Even several days out from a storm people are watching those forecasts. A key priority is: Is it safe? The January blizzard was clearly a life-threatening situation, but it can vary a lot depending on timing and accumulation. There’s just basic set of considerations. Is it possible to operate? Is the weather such that people that have to commute to campus can do so? Is there a parking ban? What’s the ability of the staff to clear the campus before classes begin? It’s very weather and day specific.

BlogDH: Would say that student petitions, for example, have negligible impact on your decision to call a snow day?

Carey: [Laughs] Negligible. Less than negligible.

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An Interview with Hack@Brown Co-Directors Sharon Lo ’16 and Atty Eleti ’17

 

Hack@Brown

This upcoming weekend, 350 would-be hackers — designers, coders, and those with nothing more than an idea — will descend on Sayles and Wilson Hall for over 30 hours of lectures, activities, meals, and of course, hacking. It’s the second annual Hack@Brown, and this year’s hackathon with a Brown flavor promises to be even more exciting than its predecessor. Blog sat down with the organizers — Sharon Lo ’16 and Athyuttam (Atty) Eleti ’17 — to ask some questions about what will make this year’s Hack@Brown particularly special.

First off, this is the second annual Hack@Brown. What are the ways we can expect this year’s Hack@Brown to differ from last year’s?

Sharon: “At Hack@Brown, a lot of people think of hackathons as super intense, but it’s about having the confidence to commit to your idea. For example, this year we have an ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ workshop. Overall, we’re expecting the hackathon to be 350 students from about 70 different schools across the US, Mexico and Canada – a 25% increase from last year. We also have about 50 mentors to help students. It’s a lot about making the unfamiliar familiar to students.”

Atty: “Hack@Brown can be pretty intimidating for people because they think of hacking as green screens, drinking Red Bull, and eating pizza. But learning is the core of the Hackathon. Maybe you’ve never coded before; Hack@Brown is the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and build something new. Participant-wise, we’re expecting about 40% female attendance this year. 60% of all attendees are also first-time hackers. Plus it’s now a year-long thing; we’re also doing a workshop every two weeks.”

Having already gotten some experience with the first Hack@Brown, were there any unexpected challenges in organizing this year’s event?

Atty: “The biggest challenge is that Hack@Brown is now a year-long endeavor. Now we have the workshops – and what we’re really pushing for this year is use of things called APIs.”

Sharon: “What an API does is open up this data in machine-readable form. For example, this week we just finished an API for dining services; so for example if a student needs an app that uses Ratty data, it will be machine-readable. We’re also trying to make it a year-long event.”

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An interview with @GuyInYourMFA

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 11.10.46 AM

Since discovering the twitter @GuyInYourMFA, we over here at BlogDH have not been able to stop reading his all-too-familiar tweets. Those of you who aren’t up on your novel Twitter account game may be wondering who the heck this guy even is. But his 10.4K followers (the last time we checked), who include heavy hitters Michael Agger, Susan Orlean, and Mara Wilson, have come to know him as the pretentious, literary douchebag we all love to hate. So, naturally, when we found out he went to Brown, we began our quest to get a hold of him. After searching long and hard, we finally found this infamous guy in your MFA and asked him a few questions to help us better understand his complex mind.

BlogDH: Are you working on anything right now? 

@GuyInYourMFA: I’m working on a 400-thousand word manifesto on all the ways my parents failed me by not raising me in a creative environment.

BlogDH: What do you think is the hardest part of being a straight, white male in America? 

@GuyInYourMFA: Don’t get me started. It’s pretty hard to find a voice nowadays. I think that consumerism has really corrupted what it means to be an American. Back in the forties when we went to war, the draft really shaped a generation. Now, we’ve been lost. iPhones, computers…what is our generation, even? These are the types of questions we should be asking. That’s what I seek to do with my writing.

BlogDH: What exactly do you think it is that our generation is missing? 

@GuyInYourMFA: Typewriters, mostly. Nothing ruins writing more than doing it on a computer. That’s why I type all my tweets on a typewriter and send them off to a friend to upload to the internet. I don’t really understand the internet, I think it’s a distraction from real literature.

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