Will Bunker founded the online dating service that became Match.com, the worldâ€™s largest personals site. Will designed the software and developed the hardware infrastructure for the site, which grew to 4.5 million monthly unique visitors and annualized subscription revenues of $14 million, outperforming Yahoo Personals and other competitors. In late 1999 they sold One-and-Only to Ticketmaster Online/City Search, where it was rebranded Match.com. Will Bunker is now the co-Founder and CEO of YoYoBrain.
Elizabeth Barnwell is a 2008 honors graduate from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She received the Meadows Exploration Grant for her research prospectus on the impact of creative learning in education. During her senior year, Elizabeth became an early adopter of YoYoBrain, and she organized a team of students to support the launch of YoYoBrainâ€™s beta at SMU. Elizabeth Barnwell is now the Marketing Director of YoYoBrain.
Satish Talim of RubyLearning talked to Will Bunker and Elizabeth Barnwell of YoYoBrain.com
Satish>> Could you tell us something about YoYoBrain.com?
YoYoBrain is a global community of learners that combines community-generated content and rankings with scientifically-proven methods for organizing and retaining knowledge. Our goal is to revolutionize the way people learn.
In daily learning drills, YoYoBrain will keep track of your progress, allowing you to concentrate on what you donâ€™t know. With lots of people adding notes and flashcards, combined with simple tools to teach you and help you remember material, users are able to share quality content, and build knowledge together in an unprecedented learning experience.
YoYoBrain was initially tested on college campuses, but itâ€™s designed to be used by all motivated learners. For example, we have found that it is particularly useful for helping web developers stay up to date with new programming languages.
Satish>>: Will, why did you choose Ruby / Ruby on Rails (RoR) for your product?
Will>> The last major project I did was over 7 years ago, so my major skills were pre-Open Source. I took a look at the industry, and made the decision to totally revamp my skill-set from Microsoft to open source. Then, after looking at the different platforms, I fell in love with Ruby. The main reason was the emphasis on testing that is built right into the system. When we scaled up my dating site in the late 90’s most of our time was spent on chasing down bugs and servicing the code. If we had had something like Ruby on Rails it would have really freed up our time to make forward progress instead of fighting code rot. Also, I love the trade-off that has been made with naming consistency that allows the different pieces to interact with each other without additional coding.
Satish>> Were there any surprises in working with Ruby / RoR?
Will>> The unbelievable richness of the code base that stems from the incredible user community. Every time I have discovered a real issue, there has been a posted solution with the code available. A great example was the non-HTML compliant links produced by the will_paginate plugin. Someone addressed it (the ampersands in links need to be uri Encoded) and posted an update. Unbelievable compared to the hoops we had to go through pre-open source.
Satish>> What advice would you give startups about platform choices?
Will>> A main issue is the strength of the software team. No matter how much better a new system will be, there is always an initial productivity drop to switch. Make sure that this is factored into the decision making process. Also, pick a system that embeds your core beliefs about how to write code. If you detest naming schemes and test driven development, then other software platforms might be a better fit. In the end, it is meant to be a tool that helps you work, not work you to death.
Satish>> Getting back to YoYoBrain, what are your future plans?
Elizabeth>> Now that we have developed the basic framework and functionality of YoYoBrain, we are looking forward to improving the user interface, and then scaling our user base this Fall. We already have a rich database of content on the site currently, with over 60,000 flashcards ranging in subjects from algebra, history, to Ruby and Ruby on Rails. Over 1,500 people are using the site; weâ€™ve been diligent about implementing their feedback, and want to continue to enhance our usersâ€™ experience. Eventually, we plan to refine our algorithms to understand the individual needs of each learner, so we can cater to their individual interests and learning-style, similar to the Netflix recommendation engine.
Thank you Will and Elizabeth. In case you have any queries, questions on this article, kindly post your questions here and Will and Elizabeth would be glad to answer.