RIT Students Launch Social Networking Web Site with Cross-Generational Appeal

mytimehero.com designed for Generation X, Y, Baby Boomers, seniors and more




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Move over MySpace and Facebook, there is a new player in the social networking game. This one, however, isn’t designed for teenyboppers and college students—but for their parents, grandparents, older siblings and anyone else that might be interested.

Rochester Institute of Technology students Josh Olin and Ian Paterson launched mytimehero.com March 29, a social networking Web site designed for people over the age of 30. And thus far, its popularity has exceeded the expectations of both students.

“We have surpassed all of our benchmarks so far,” says Olin, a software engineering major from Fairport, N.Y. “We’re really excited to see where this can go.”

The concept emerged over a lunch Olin shared with his father, Greg, last summer. They were discussing a Wall Street Journal article quoting someone who felt uncomfortable, at his age, creating a MySpace account. Greg Olin asked his son if any such sites existed for people over the age of 30.

Olin didn’t know of any and decided to do some research. While he did find a few sites, Olin felt they were underdeveloped. At his father’s urging, he began to pursue the concept. By the end of summer, he pitched the concept to Paterson, his roommate.

“I was excited,” says Paterson, who is a computer science major from Chardon, Ohio. “I had been waiting for a project that could really get my career going.”

Both felt it was important that the site not just be for those over 30. They wanted to break down barriers between the generations. They decided to encourage young people to nominate people in their lives who serve as a “time hero,” someone who has traveled through time, gained a lot of experience, and has shared those lessons with others.

“A lot of people want to be seen as a heroic figure to someone in their life,” Olin says. “We wanted to offer the ability for young people to make a simple gesture that recognizes those heroes. We wanted to pull on the emotional heartstrings.

“I compare it to, when you’re a kid, how your parents want you to draw them a birthday card instead of buying one. That gesture just means more.”

Nominations can be sent via email or in person. Each nomination comes with a certificate and a referral to the Web site, where they can create their own profile, post photos, share their interests, blog about their experiences and search the profiles of others.

The site keeps its target audience in mind. It makes sure to define terms, like ‘blogging,’ that its audience may not be familiar with. Plus, there is a clickable way to increase or decrease the site’s font size.

The site was launched, literally, out of the founders’ dorm room. They live in Computer Science House, which is one of eight special interest houses RIT offers to students who wish to live in an environment in which they can share their academic interests.

“Living in Computer Science House has been huge,” Olin says. “We can be working on things late at night and if a problem arises, we can talk about it and draw on the white board. Plus, there are a lot of smart people around. If we’re not sure how to do something, we can always go and ask one of the other members.”

After a year, the two hope to have more than one million users registered.

“We just want to see how far this can go,” Olin says. “I wanted to learn entrepreneurship, and I think we’re off to a real good start.”