While there are definitely benefits to staying connected with people on social media, our networks are often cluttered with people whom we may be connected to, but with whom we don’t have genuine social relationships. It’s hard to sift through the clutter and find out what are closest friends are up to on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and mass texting can be a real pain. Noah Fradin ’15 and Isaac Blankensmith RISD ’13 saw the need to stay connected with large groups of people in real time, and started working to address that need. Together, they created Punch, a brand new app that allows you to connect and meet up with groups of friends instantaneously. The app has absolutely blown up and earned a huge following on campus since its launch, and can change the way you go about communicating with friends. BlogDH sat down with one of Punch’s co-creators, Noah Fradin ’15, to learn more about how Punch is revolutionizing the app world. Check out the interview after the jump.
BlogDailyHerald: How does Punch work?
Noah Fradin ’15: Punch is a way to create, share, and find activities with friends. The way it works: you “punch in” to an activity, let your friends know you’re there, and they can do the same. It’s a way of keeping your friends posted—you punch in to let them know what you’re up to, they punch in to let you know what they’re up to. If they choose to share what they’re doing, you can find things to do with your friends and they can also join you in whatever you’re doing, whether it’s grabbing a cup of coffee or raging on a rooftop. It ends up being a great way to keep in touch with your friends.
BlogDH: What’s the idea that’s driving the app?
Noah: Our main thesis behind Punch is that every major social media website of today spends all their time [working on] how to suck you in rather than working on its site or app. Facebook is actually optimizing on the time you spend on the site. They advertise the fact that people spend more time on their website, more time on their pages than anywhere else. We don’t think that that’s the purpose of staying connected. Sure, we think there’s something really great about being able to look back at those memories to see what you’re friends have been up to in the past. But we all have these computers in our pockets now. The cool thing we can do now is create a tool that helps us create those memories in the first place. It’s not optimized for keeping up in the app for a ton of time, but it’s optimized for allowing us to get in and out of the app as quickly as possible, and with all of the information we need. Our goal is to design the app to optimize on the least amount of time we can spend in the app so we can maximize the time we spend with the people we care about, and less with the tools that make us do it.
BlogDH: Why the name “Punch”?
Noah: Well, it actually started as “Punchbowl,” because the punch bowl is often the place where people congregate at a party. Punch is meant to be that digital equivalent. Unfortunately, Punchbowl is used by a party planning website, so we went away from Punchbowl to Punch… and I actually like the name “Punch” a lot more.
BlogDH: From concept to launch, how long did it take to develop the app?
Noah: As for the concept, I’ve been tinkering with this for a while. I’d say last school year was when I started to work a ton on it. So from concept to launch, it’s probably been a little more than a year. But the true work on it happened last semester … that was really when we were working on it the most.
BlogDH: Was there a certain moment or experience at Brown that made you realize that an app like this needed to exist?
Noah: Yeah, there were a bunch. There wasn’t just a single one. I think everyone can relate to sending a million “What are you up to?” texts, or receiving them, or trying to figure out what to do. Group texts have sort of devolved into, well, whatever it is they’ve devolved into. Whenever you’re wandering around at night trying to find something to do, there has to be a more efficient way to do that. This is the more efficient, more fun way of communicating rather than text messaging.
BlogDH: You say “efficient.” In what ways have you already seen the app affecting efficiency among students? Has it changed people’s behavior?
Noah: There have been cool examples of people who have gone to the Rock or the Ratty with one friend, but they already see that a bunch of their friends have already punched in there. You end up spending the time at the Rock or the Ratty with more people than the person you came with and more than just yourself. It makes your day-to-day activities more social than they would have been—you can stumble upon social activities, which is a lot of fun. It’s also a ton of fun to use even if it’s just with a few friends to keep each other posted throughout the day.
BlogDH: What type of feedback have you gotten on the app thus far?
Noah: People are really liking it. Actually, way more than I had anticipated. People are using it a ton—a lot of times in a lot of funny ways that I hadn’t even expected. People have tons of suggestions about how we can improve. We’re working on an update now that incorporates a lot of the feedback, and we plan on working on continuing to improve it for a while. We just really want it to be the ideal social utility.
BlogDH: How much do you expect Punch to grow?
Noah: Hundreds of users signed up the first day we launched, and since then, we’ve been growing faster than ever. People have punched in to thousands of activities, and it’s growing more every day. More people are continuing to sign up than on the day before and are continuing to use it. We’re expecting it to continue growing even more.
BlogDH: Are you working on this project with anyone else?
Noah: Mainly Isaac Blankensmith RISD ’13, the co-creator, and Andy Chen ’15, who’s sharing a chunk of the coding.
BlogDH: How has your Brown education helped you to build and maintain the app?
Noah: For one, I became a better programmer through the CS department, but I also was able to meet people who have varied passions, like Isaac. He went to RISD, but the fact that we have that College Hill connection allowed us to meet and get to work on this idea. The flexibility of Brown’s curriculum has allowed me to dedicate a lot of time to the app, which would be different if I were in a more rigid environment.
BlogDH: What’s the most important thing you’ve gotten out of this experience?
Noah: It’s been a lot of fun! That’s probably the most. But also seeing how much the app is gaining popularity around campus and changing the way people communicate. It’s really exciting.
BlogDH: And finally, no “Students who do cool things” interview could be complete without the essential question: Ratty or V-Dub?
Noah: So I was a Woolley freshman, but I’m going to have to say Ratty.
Punch has continued to gain traction on campus and is changing the way people interact with each other. Download the app from the App Store knowing it was specifically designed with the Brown student in mind, and be on the cutting edge of an app that’s ready to revolutionize the way we interact with one another.
Update: The original version of this post did not include that during the app’s development phase, Zach Korol-Gold ’15 worked on the front- and back-end programming, but is no longer involved with Punch.