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Student Is Sanctioned for Creating Class-Registration Web Site (ucouldfinish.com)
243 points by robertwalsh0 on Aug 3, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments

I especially enjoy the University's ludicrous overreaction (seriously, read the letters they sent this guy; specifically the one where they demand he do the job of the "myUCF" team and come up with how he would update the application -- wherein he is specifically forbidden from saying he'd write something like the app that people obviously found useful since, you know, they were using it.)

I also enjoy that he has to attend a 'coaching session' where they teach him that University policy is sacrosanct -- and he has to pay for it as well as write a "spelled-checked [sic]" research paper about his coaching session (WTF is there to 'research' about an hourlong chat?)

What's even more bizarre is why this app exists at all. PeopleSoft's "SA" module that UCF is using for registration includes a waitlist feature that already does all of this -- actually, it's better, because it just pops people off the stack when a spot becomes available.

So, let's be clear:

- UCF willfully refuses to enable the waitlist option in PS

- Student uses a public interface to replicate the functionality

- Star chamber declares the student broke a nebulous IT policy and that he has to write humiliating 'research papers' as contrition.

And people wonder why higher ed is less and less valued...

The best (worst) part of that letter is the last part of that "research paper" section:

"Be advised that the paper may not serve to justify your own actions, nor evaluate the actions of others"

They are basically asking him to be academically dishonest in the event that the logical conclusion from his cited sources either supports his actions or serve to make the IT department look bad.

Demanding that a student arrive upon a predetermined conclusion is not how university is supposed to work; that shit ends in primary school (or I suppose debate classes?).

Someone should call Dana Juntunen and ask for clarification about this. Since its a state university, I can think of a long list of other people who might have some ideas on this as well.

This is not a problem with higher ed, this is a problem with bureaucracies staffed with incompetent people who are so terrified of losing their jobs that they resort to things like this.

This is incredibly common in IT, not just at Ed institutions, but in corporations in general. If you've never worked anywhere except at a tech company, your view of the average IT experience will be skewed.

> this is a problem with bureaucracies staffed with incompetent people who are so terrified of losing their jobs that they resort to things like this

so... higher ed. sadly, that's what it has come to these days. and that's the problem with higher ed.

Although true that higher ed has its own set of problems as it resists adapting to contemporary realities; I felt compelled to point out that this incident is not surprising coming out of UCF. Through various interactions with UCF and its graduates I have come to understand that the institution is composed of low caliber people. I have no ties to UCF other than having come in contact with several of their "graduates" and I would be surprised if anyone else with a quality education didn't also get the same impression that UCF is nothing more than a Phoenix grade program. It is a borderline degree mill that primarily functions as a qualification for the poorly educated coming out of the Florida public education system and to slurp up GI Bill dollars providing degrees to the poorly educated coming out of the military.

The bigger problem with higher ed in this country is that it has no real standards. You can get a degree from UCF or from MIT, for all intents and purposes, it is the same degree. I have never understood why the Ivy League schools have not pushed for a distinguishing classification. It surprises me that even the higher and mid tier schools wouldn't want to distinguish themselves from the like so of UCF, Regent "Univ", Oral Roberts "Univ", the Pheonix, the Strayers, etc.

This guy really needs to just move on to a half-way decent program where his innovation and drive might even be welcomed. F doing all the bull he was sanctioned with. That is exactly the kind of nonsense I would have expected to come out of UCF. Go innovate somewhere where it's recognized and leave that UCF dump behind. I have yet to see anything good come out of UCF.

Don't ask me to substantiate what I said or any other such nonsense, they are observations.

This type of shortsighted paternalism is peculiar to higher education, not just any system bloated with bureaucracy.

The sanctimonious and patronizing reaction by UCF is a perfect example of why the model is ripe for disruption.

It reminds me very much of the MPAA right before bitTorrent's invention.

I hope that this entrepreneur will realize they are wasting his time and money and drop out, and start charting his own course.

This is so gross. It's basically extortion to provide free labor for the school.

A decent (morally) school should offer this kid a scholarship.

He "may not represent the university in any official capacity"... yeah don't use an industrious entrepeneur to reflect the school. Let their athletic department do that: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/football/ncaa/07/31/ce...

Was it a public interface? My read is that his app was logging in to the university system with his personal credentials.

It's not clear why there couldn't be a public read-only interface for that data, and it's a shame the U wasn't willing to work with him on it rather than slap him down reflexively. But it is reasonable for them to object to his use of his personal account to enable a for-profit project.

There was a guest access system for looking at class listings that his service used. It's mentioned in the slides.

I built a similar system once, with similar (but not nearly as ridiculous results. There was a public interface, but it was a few hours behind the private one.

It was guest access. No logging in required.

"PeopleSoft's "SA" module that UCF is using for registration includes a waitlist feature that already does all of this"

It isn't always enabled. Many classes for some odd reason have the waitlist feature turned off.

What prevents UCF from enabling it?

I built an equivalent program for the University of South Florida, except without charging for access. The most administrators did was request I disable the system. When I met with an administrator at USF, they were honestly more impressed than anything else.


Its amazing how charging for access changes the ramifications.

Depending on the polling method / frequency, he could have created some problems for them. As to automatically popping people off the stack registration is often a complex issue where I want the CS101 10am-12am session vs CS101 8am-10am session, but only if I can also move my Math 10am-12am to TR at 2pm - 5pm etc. (And that's a simple change vs some of the optimizations I did.)

It is embarrassing to see basic grammatical mistakes in a letter from a university:

Type a 5-6 research paper...

What is a "5-6" research paper? Even sadder is the officious and petty tone:

The paper must be in 12 point font, Times New Roman, double-spaced with one-inch margins...

I know what my response would be: two words, one page, 150 pt font.

Bam! I was thinking the exact two same words. That would be awesome if the dude did that. He could pay-per-view when he hands in the paper -- I'd pay to see those sanctimonious assclowns get owned by this guy. These are the kinds of students you want in your school -- creative, a little rebellious and intelligent. Of course, the admins want good little worker bees that adhere to proper margins and typography.

I would be tempted to even dust off the 'ol Comic Sans just for this. They definitely wouldn't deserve a real font.

Yes, I realize he'd likely get kicked out of school, but when Wired does a story on the guy, he won't have any problems getting into a better school.

In the spirit of assignment, since they don't specify the kerning, you could just s u b m i t y o u r .. you get the idea. (HTML is going to eat them, but pretend like there's a ton of space between each character.)

Heck, they don't specify the page size, merely the margins.

Feeding post-it notes through a printer might be difficult though.

They said 'type' not 'print.' He could use a manual typewriter.

Altough it's rather hard to find one that is writes in Times New.

You can probably find times new roman typeballs out there for IBM selectrics.

Print post-it-sized virtual pages on a regular sheet, cut them up, apply glue.

Once knew a bloke at Harvard who got in a bureaucratic situation where he had to hand in an essay for a class. Didn't have to be good or even pass, just had to be an essay.

So in a fit of rage, he wrote the worst essay he could. Bad sources, bad style of writing, bad grammar, stupid logic, insane conclusion, everything.

Other Harvard students who'd read it told me it was a comic masterpiece.

Go with landscape mode, and you can bump the point size up to 200.

That's about the only thing I'd do differently.

Or, better yet, bump the point size for all the periods in the doc up to 200.

I would print it with white text on a dark, thick background, using the Dean's office laser printer.

I've got a better idea. Transfer. Nobody should tolerate this level of self-aggrandizement (in the form of "punishment" from anybody, even if they broke some rules.

The student made the administration of the school look bad/made them uncomfortable and they're making him pay the price. You don't have to play their games. Just leave.

He can't. The veiled mentions of "holds" on his records prevent him from transferring, because the University will not release a transcript until he submits to their punishment. No transcript, no transfer.

If I were him I wouldn't bother with transferring my transcript. College education isn't worth a flip if you already know how to code and can demonstrate it by making a decent app like he did.

I dropped out of college because I made my own app and started getting two job offers a month from decent startups looking for developers. I'm sure this kid will be getting job offers from the press coverage of this.

If I were him I wouldn't waste time with school, especially from such a dated and ignorant institution when he could be getting better real life experience.

Long story short I'd hire him, and if I were him I'd leave that school without a single backward glance.

It looks like he outsourced the coding: http://ucouldfinish.com/conduct/

Regardless, this is a kid that can get things done.


Business as usual, unfortunately.

So he takes legal action. I'm sure the University will love the publicity that goes with that!

Yeah, but the Florida law is pretty clear. Schools can do this legally te court of public opinion might be a better strategy.

Given how poorly courses transfer between universities, he wouldn't need to be very far into his degree for the switching cost to be more far more ridiculous than the cost of his punishment.

Sure, and that's (very sad to say) where it ends. There's not much a student can do to a University administrator. They hold all the cards. Want an education? You gotta go through them. Have a grievance while in your program? You're already invested with time and money. Unsatisfied with your courses? They've already taken your money. In my opinion, the problems with higher education almost all trace back to the rotten-ness of the administrative section of higher education as a whole. Power corrupts, indeed.

It's not all bad. Sometimes they can be very accommodating and understanding. It's not all corruption.

The guy who made this app set up a timeline here: http://ucouldfinish.com/conduct/

Reading his side of the story it seems that the University IT blocked it first out of fear of being overwhelmed and then the University looked for some way to make it stick. I understand that charging for the service is the reason they have officially decided to keep it blocked.

Unless he has misrepresented the facts about how much data his service pulls it is trivial compared to daily use of the university service. He has invested significant time and money into creating a much more user-friendly interface to the course catalog. That is worth the amount he was charging. The problem, of course, is that he does not own the course listing, and the university has every right to offer it on their terms.

Better to ask forgiveness than permission the saying goes, but in this case it seems forgiveness is not forthcoming. Based on the free garage spot counting app he mentions in the presentation it looks like permission would not have been granted either. So while the university is within their rights, they do seem to be contradicting their own value statements.

His problem was that he kept on contacting the university forcing their hand. Once he was blocked, he should have backed off. Probably would have blown over.

It's always bothered me how (even state-funded) universities tend to act as autonomous legal bodies. It's especially disheartening to see them trample on the bill of rights (e.g. most universities will have a "policy" that you basically can't say anything bad about them). If you do break some arbitrary rule, you can expect an arbitrary punishment for it. When it comes down to it, they can make you do whatever they want you to until you are no longer a student.

Your comment hits close.

Some years ago I reported a domestic battery in progress to the Brown University police. They turned up and refused to arrest the perp even though state law obliges them to do so. As witness I made a statement to the police and dean's office. I was then intimidated by a dean for my "black and white thinking" and he demanded that I mind my own business.

About a year or two later he failed upward to Dartmouth where he is still employed.

I used to work for a student information system company. These systems are all ancient, designed around a time when a dozen people would connect to the server using their green screen terminals or, in a spate of massive innovation, Oracle Forms.

As a result, all of the web access must be done through a single db server. Any app (including the portal) tends to directly access the db, causing all sorts of stored procedures to run. Nothing is cached. The server is only busy twice a year, fall and spring semester registration, so there is a limited desire to spend more than they absolutely have to on it.

Over all, IT in higher education in an interesting mix. There is a decent percentage of really good people there, who love the environment and are willing to give up the salary as a result. Unfortunately, there are also at least as many people who are earning what they are worth. The less prestigious the school, the higher the percentage of the latter.

It glosses over it pretty quickly, but it sounds like he was charging a fee for frequency of checks for the classes. Part of the slide presentation shows that the school's policy surrounding their electronic services forbids commercial use or personal gain. Maybe that's part of the problem.

Edit: The conduct timeline makes this pretty cut and dried: http://ucouldfinish.com/conduct/ In the written statement of hearing determination (July 24, 2pm) they say specifically that he's in violation of their code by making unauthorized commercial use of their service. They then go on to talk about server loads, but the primary violation is the commercialization of their service.

He's also effectively selling preferred access to classes, which is something of an ethical issue.

And many universities handle waitlisting on a department or class level so they have leeway to deal with various factors as appropriate. Ever tried to implement university, departmental, program, and class policies simultaneously, while keeping them up-to-date, while handling who can override the computer under what amalgam of policies? No? Well, that's what you'd need to do in order to get automated waitlisting working at most universities.

The fact that there's not a university-level waitlisting feature isn't an excuse to hack around policy, especially not while violating ToS and misappropriating resources for commercial resale.

I'm just wondering how such an obviously intelligent and enterprising young man ends up studying at an institution with only marginally more academic credibility than Hamburger University.

It's not that uncommon for people this intelligent and enterprising to be completely bored out of their mind in high school and get mediocre grades. Prestigious schools, in general, don't accept "the best" but instead accept a certain type of student/personality.

That's one thing I think is good about the California state system. I know some very intelligent people who went to community college first and then transferred to a UC to finish, because they didn't have the high-school grades to get into a "good" school directly, but the public university system is designed for that kind of transfer to be possible (there is a specific transfer process, and in addition the 4-year college degree programs must be designed so that transferring in is possible, with prereqs fulfillable via community college courses).

I'm pretty sure it's like that most places, being a community college -> state university transfer myself (in Illinois), and knowing plenty of other people who went from community college to Northwestern and a few other nice private colleges. Anything out of your degree's core reqs. seems to usually be easy to transfer from community college, and that's usually what the first 2 years are. CC is also a good place for knocking out your math requirements, and a lot of the people in my math classes were traditional university students doing it to save money, or to get it done during a summer semester at home.

Problems might be more from not having a decent community college to go to, families that think community college is unacceptable, or just slacker inertia. I had an excellent community college, and went back to school as an adult over 10 years after dropping out of high school, so none of that stuff applied to me.

edit: better explanation at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4338579

I agree. I went to a community college before transferring to the University of California, San Diego. I had an excellent experience at my CC; smaller class sizes, dedicated teachers,ect..I felt I got more value out of it than the big classes at UCSD. Where, like most big universities, the teachers there were there mostly for research. I did get a lot of shit for it though. A lot of condescending people who jump to the conclusion that I was unmotivated and stupid because I went to a CC.

Especially if he's local. Florida's public schools are terrible and from what I've seen have gotten even worse since I graduated high school.

I was born in upstate New York, moved to Florida when I was 9, over the summer between 3rd and 4th grade. Everything I learned in 4th grade in Florida was a repeat of what I learned in 3rd grade in New York.

I am offended by your dismissal of the institution from which I graduated.

David Cohen, cofounder of Techstars, came out of UCF.

Alan Eustace, SVP of Knowledge at google, came out of UCF.

I came out of UCF, and I do pretty well.

UCF is a school that has an absurdly large sample size with vairous academic standards.

The spectrum of success is so wide-- you can be an incredibly successful programmer/scientist/businessman with all the opportunities available, or you can be a boozehound for seven years and graduate in the middle of your class in hospitality management.

It's like saying America is a bunch of rednecks-- that's true only for a portion of the population.

You may be right, but that's not a strong argument against the GP. "Academic credibility" is only somewhat correlated with graduate success.

I think it's more likely a failure on the part of the 'better' institutions. Whether through valuing something more than intelligence and an enterprising attitude, or through perception, or simply through old school mentality. There are a large number of reasons why this man would choose UCF over these other schools.

I think that's a bit much. It's hardly Hamburger University. Although, I do agree, the University is behaving childishly.

Actually, I know a couple of damned good coders who came out of UCF. Judging from a sample of two is risky, but these guys know their stuff.

they have a very competitive programming team. The school its self isn't special, but their CS program is probably the best in florida.

Safety school!

There has always been something wrong with these usage policies. Its a technical problem, no? If you don't want me to make more than X requests, tell your webserver to stop answering them. If you can't do that, then what the hell are you doing operating a webserver on the internet?

They did successfully block his requests. The issue is that he was charging for the service, and that was against their policy. That's why he was disciplined (though I find their response laughable and misguided).

Actually, it doesn't appear to have been against any policy, or it would have been cited as such.

This is basically what happens when bad administrators are made to look bad after they over-react to someone providing the community a service that the university chose not to. They find some flimsy excuse to punish the party they irrationally blame for their own actions.

Where's the information on this? Was he querying the myUCF dozens of times every second? Is he accused of bring the networking infrastructure to its knees?

Or is this simply the faculty attempting to make a student conform? "Watch this presentation to see our side of the story." What story?

Edit: so we have to click more links on the linked page to get any more context. My apologies for being lazy.

"University officials, however, said Arnold's software was tying up the campus computer network, claiming it accessed UCF's scheduling website 220,000 times, as often as every 60 seconds."

I want to know if the reporter bungled the information or if these officials are this clueless. If this thing accessed the server "as often as every 60 seconds," where's the problem? Was the student really that clueless that he wrote his service to query constantly?

There appears to be a more extensive PDF archive of hearing docs here: http://www.centralfloridafuture.com/polopoly_fs/7.52307!/Hea...

On the last page, an IT administrator testified that the application logged on every 15 minutes and checked the availability of every UCF course at each logon, which (according to the administrator) caused a total of around 14 minutes of query processing time.

That seems excessive, but if there are hundreds of courses and each course takes 15 seconds to check (presumably due to inefficient queries being run on legacy computer systems) then I could see real lag.

The hearing docs also say that the "YouCanFinish" service was a paid service and the on-campus IT agreement forbids building paid services on top of campus resources (in this case, the class registration service, not just the campus WiFi network). I can think of good arguments to object to a private service charging students for access to classes; it puts students who can't afford "YouCanFinish" at a disadvantage in class registration and (if competition emerges) there's a huge incentive to intentionally lag the registration servers so that students effectively have to use the private service to get classes.

Seems like the sort of service where the right path is to work with the school, not try to privately monetize class selection.

According to the student's slide deck, the service checked only courses users had signed up for, cached the information, and averaged 814 requests per day.

The monetization angle sounds like the only real problem with the entire situation.

However, the University themselves "monetize" every little thing. Lab fees for English classes, library fees, $20 transcript fees to print a document on a $0.25 piece of paper. Fees for registration, fees for athletics (even if you don't participate,) fees for the Student Health Center (even if you have private insurance) fees for everything.

This kid making some coin isn't a problem for me. He built a service, he should get paid. He accessed public data (apparently) and didn't crack into anything.

The real question is why are universities so bad with their money -- they can pay head football coaches million dollar contracts, yet most universities are chronically unable to offer enough sections of popular classes. I get it, football brings in revenue, but so does licensing technology innovations and alumni that strike it rich.

Higher education is important, but the industry of higher ed is a giant scam.

One parties shit behavior does not justify anothers.

Education is meant to be about more than free-market principles of making as much money as you can and screw who you hurt on the way. A system where people who pay more get a better shot at classes is unfair.

Tho I agree the uni's response is an over-reaction and wrong. The real problem here is the situation the uni set up and not the student's actions. But for me, I couldn't 100% support this student unless it was free.

A dollar isn't exactly a lot to ask in compensation for what seems like some significant effort.

> However, the University themselves "monetize" every little thing.

$15 coaching session fee...

The slides on the linked page give information about the (lack of) load placed on myUCF servers.

220,000 minutes is about 153 days. It doesn't sound like that adds up to me.

I love the part in the slide deck where he digs up a quote from the university's VP of IT talking up PeopleSoft's reliability.

“According to Joel Hartman, Vice Provost for Information Technologies and Resources at UCF, Sun really delivers in all regards. The Sun infrastructure for Oracle’s PeopleSoft applications at UCF provides outstanding reliability, investment protection, and performance”

- Joel, the initiator of this conduct case, stating how powerful the myUCF server network is in a technical brief for universities published by Sun Microsystems."

University policy like this isn't uncommon. Last semester, the campus police called me in and told me I was to receive a letter of warning for "bad behavior". When I asked what I did, they told me "we can't tell you because we need to protect privacy".

On an IT related incident, my school's IT department claimed that doubling the email inbox for every student (25mb to 50mb) would cost 4 million dollars.

Schools are terrible, and there's no solution in sight. Every university campus is like a mini dictatorship.

I know an undergrad the recently wrote a forkbomb on a programming Web server. The student thought he was a big time hacker and quickly sent out emails to faculty telling them how great he was and how nice it was for him to let them know about this problem.

Well, no one was very pleased with this, in fact, the issue was well known and the policy was for students to just not be jerks. The student was disciplined, but nothing even remotely close to how ridiculous this student at UCF was treated and this student here did nothing malicious, in fact, tried to provide a productive service.

I wonder if some of the fear here is caused by the fact that this kind of tool would tend to get its users into classes first, before users that manually checked the original website on a regular basis... which seems unfair, especially since it has a (nominal) fee, and it removes the vague link between enthusiasm and ability to get in that manual checking entails.

But perhaps that's better stated as that the tool exposes the fundamental brokenness and unfairness of a system that allocates limited space based on who presses the refresh button at the right time.

A nominal fee unfair? The "lab" fee for an ENGLISH class could pay that fee 20 times over. Colleges and university costs have risen faster than nearly every other "industry" -- including healthcare. I wouldn't say a nominal fee was unfair, not when a textbook can cost $150. What's unfair is a state university paying jackass administrators 6 figure salaries, yet it takes a kid to create a notification system that actually works. What the heck are all those IT administrators actually doing with their day? One would think class registration would be single most important IT task of a university. After all, if students aren't in classes, what's the point?

One unfair situation does not justify another.

Change is hard. Having any fee to get into classes "the best way" makes the university look bad, but for the university to change their code to work properly out of the box is too much work (after all, they didn't write it in the first place, and probably don't understand it). The result is fear. ;p

Yes, it's unfair. I think they were well within their rights to shut it down. But all this sanctions business is absolutely ridiculous.

The administration's reaction is clearly politically motivated. They're basically trying to hide their own incompetence in having a crap system.

It's incredibly stupid and frustrating for anyone who has an ounce of common sense, or cares about technology.

Hopefully this generates enough negative publicity to change the administration's point of view, because frankly, political pressure is the only kind of argument that toxic bureaucracies understand.

I doubt anyone is trying to cover up making a poor choice of SIS vendor. It is astonishing how absolutely terrible higher ed software offerings are.

That being said, the punishments are stupid. Cut off his app's access if charging money is a policy violation.

It's a shame that the University punished him for helping out students, though it certainly may have hammered the class registration servers as a side effect. Either way though, this is going to get a lot of publicity for a guy who's undoubtedly talented and motivated. Considering the effort he put in to both this and the parking app, it looks like the guy would have little difficulty getting a job in the Bay Area or other startup havens, even sans-degree. At this point, I'd probably leave the university if I were him. Employers will accept him with open arms.

I built an iOS app for my school (Simon Fraser University) that allowed students to view/share their schedule with their friends. One of the most frequent questions I get is if the school has tried to shut me down and it is exactly for reasons like this that other students don't build more apps like this.

We have the same student system that UCF uses. It's horrible and slow. Tools like this make it a little bit more manageable.

I am surprised more schools dont have simple API's that allow students to build services on top of them.

You shouldn't be surprised at all. The schools don't build these things - they buy generally large-scale systems that claim to do X things, but mainly perform a smaller percentage of X things competently, leaving other features slow/broken. But with only a relatively small handful of customers out there, and a generally long sales cycle, its primarily larger vendors who can engage with customers like universities, and smaller companies which are able to provide innovative functionality often don't get to market.

I've built a registration system for a moderately large school district - it handles about 20,000 students per semester, and while it's certainly not simple to handle everything that's needed, it's not that hard to make something perform decently enough. At peak, we have hundreds of people checking or making enrollments concurrently, which always involves doing waitlist checking (and, IIRC, different waitlist policies apply to different student types and courses). All of this is standard HTML interface - if we were to build an API to serve up just raw JSON, the load would likely be a bit less.

Back to the surprise - schools are mostly just businesses - they generally outsource their foodservice too - it'd be great if there was a lot more home cooking on most campuses, but they're often overrun with processed foods. Same thing with a lot of software infrastructure - it's outsourced/off-the-shelf stuff vs stuff built with on-campus skills. Faculty/staff/students developing more campus/school-related stuff could be a game changer, no? Is the idea that most of those students won't be there in 2-4 years a big hindrance to this approach?

"Is the idea that most of those students won't be there in 2-4 years a big hindrance to this approach?"

Yes. That's always the excuse in my experience, even when it doesn't make any sense. At my previous university job, my department used an ancient—and I really mean ancient—shopping cart system. This thing had been written in ColdFusion during the mid-90s and they were still running it in 2009. It required all kinds of hand-holding and manual labor that should've otherwise been automated. Even though the original (outsourced) developer had long since disappeared, management refused to consider a new shopping cart. Why?

"Because we can't risk losing the person who sets it up."

There are no words. I chalk up the attitude to extreme, unhealthy risk-aversion.

I wish more people were required to take a logic course before getting to work at a university.

They've already lost the person who set it up - there's zero "risk" involved - it already happened. The world didn't end. But life is painful for many people because of the current system.

"Unhealthy" is an understatement.

I actually wrote a tool to do this very same thing at my own university. Worked great and got me the classes I wanted as soon as they became available. I only shared the service with a few people though because I knew the administration would do something like this if I made it public. It's wrong, but it wouldn't have been worth my time to deal with.

I was actually just talking with a buddy about how even schools that promote entrepreneurship (with possibly the exception of Stanford) so constantly stifle and work against entrepreneurs.

At Berkeley, couple of students built a web app for generating schedules automatically (Ninja Courses[1]). Now, this isn't entirely analogous to this app: they didn't charge students for using the program and it only plans your schedule; you have to actually register yourself. However, it does access very similar information like how full classes and sections are.

Instead of shutting them down, the university licensed the technology and now provide a Berkeley-branded version [2].

[1]: http://ninjacourses.com [2]: http://schedulebuilder.berkeley.edu

A similar thing was done at Iowa State when I was there.

6 page research paper on why maintaining a system like myUCF is difficult

"Maintaining a system like myUCF is difficult because caching is hard, so let's go shopping. Furthermore, lorem ipsum dolor sit amit. (6 more pages) In conclusion, I'm very sorry your publicly-available program runs so slowly. Although I don't have a degree, I would happily repair it for $500,000."

They never said it had to be good.

(Incidentally, University IT policies tend to be quite silly. I stopped attending school after they wanted me to sign something giving the administrators the right to search my off-campus apartment for any reason. Ended up saving me quite a bit of money...)

Is there a contact number or email address where we can speak to the people in charge at the university? Even if it doesn't change the punishment, they should be aware of how they are portraying their institution.

I'll be starting my Freshman year at UCF in the Fall. I would have loved to use this as compared to myUCF when waiting for my preferred Calc I class to open up. It was a hassle even to just check it every time, and I was never given a clear answer half the time.

For those unfamiliar with the University of Central Florida, the site's name "You Could Finish" is not accidental.

"UCF" has long been said to stand for "You Can't Finish" since at least the early 1980's (i.e. shortly after the name change from FTU).


This is a complete joke. Ok, so it's legit that they are mad that he was monetizing it. That's fine. Why do they have to humiliate and sanction him? Block access to the service and tell him not to do it again. Are we really still in the dark ages where we decide to make examples of people for infractions like this?

I think the guy needs to contact F.I.R.E. http://thefire.org/

I suppose you could say that this sort of thing serves as a nice "education" in how the real world works sometimes.

I personally like to keep all my online work disconnected from my real-life identity.

If he'd written this app anonymously, since it only uses guest logins, the university would have no idea who wrote it. They might disable the guest access, but they couldn't have punished him personally.

Unless they were willing to commit to a lawsuit and managed to convince a judge to allow a subpoena of the app's financial records...

> I suppose you could say that this sort of thing serves as a nice "education" in how the real world works sometimes.

Yep. You can't make the University look incompetent and drag them through the mud and expect to win in the process. These institutions wield to tremendous power, and if you are dead set on exposing their flaws they will fight you to the death and you will lose.

Now, as a poor student, you can definitely do asymmetric damage. You could blitz them by dropping out of school with an open letter, going to startup school, and hiring the shit out of their brightest students.

That would be a calculated move though. It shouldn't be done out of emotion. If you actually want your college degree, it's better to make peace sooner than later. It sounds like this would have been possible well before the sanctions if the OA had swallowed his pride. You really don't need to prove anything to these bureaucrats, just look out for yourself, that's the larger lesson.

You deserve a scholarship.

Plus, you are obviously smart and capable enough to be fine if you didn't finish your degree. Better yet, as cantankerous mentioned, transfer.

I like it that according to https://my.ucf.edu/ their motto is "Stands for Opportunity".

This is ironic, as IIRC the computer science department at my alma mater (SJSU) had the creation of a class schedule finder as a requirement for all students in one of their core classes.

To think that another school would discipline one of their students for something that another school requires of some of their students is quite interesting.

I built one of these a couple years back as well. (I was going to be abroad and wasn't going to have internet.) I knew it had marketability. Glad to see someone come through with this! Bummer the school was so anal about it though.

The University idiot that sanctioned him should have to write a 12 page research paper on why it would have been better to buy this guy out and fold his product into the University website, so it could serve it's STUDENTS better!

That would be impossible; their software is leased from PeopleSoft - a monolithic company that charges the university an outrageous annual fee for the license to run it on University servers.

I wrote one of these for the course catalog at UH (Hawaii). Nobody cared.

What's the story?

I wrote a similar thing for Virginia Tech for private use. I definitely considered monetizing it but in the end I didn't.

Good luck.

But I think you're going about this all wrong. If you actually wanted to resolve this situation, you should have requested a meeting with the university provost or president and explained your service one-on-one -- with humility. I doubt they were trying to screw you over 'just because'.

It's probably already to late to do this though since you've gone to the media and have made it a big public issue. There's almost no chance that the administration is going to make any concession. The terms of service are written so vaguely they can do whatever they want.

The hacker rage is misplaced. The student is in the wrong. This is not a story of a bureaucracy run amok; this is a story of a student exploiting a university computer system and causing technical problems with their back end.

TL;DR: student creates a for-profit registration system that abusively scrapes the university's registration system, causing system slowdowns and preventing students who are not using the app from registering for classes. University policy bars any for profit applications from using the University's computer systems.

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