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Snapherd: Take your best shot

| Scene Reporter

We all know them: those people whose camera phones are an extension of their bodies, on hand at any point in time to aim and snap a photo of anything and everything that comes along. For camera phone-lovers everywhere comes, a new online game that caters to those who agree that a picture is worth a thousand words, or rather, one particular word.

Snapherd, which started out over the summer as a “small side project,” is the brainchild of Joshua Gross, a sophomore majoring in communications design in the Sam Fox School. It has since become a “full-fledged mobile photo game.”

In Gross’s own words, Snapherd is a “mobile Web game that uses catchwords to inspire users to take photos and compete with each others.”

Though it may sound confusing at first, the Web site and game are actually very simple. Every two days, a new catchword is posted on the Web site, and users are invited to send in a picture of whatever they think best illustrates the word.

Most photos are sent by multimedia messaging service (MMS), but they can also be uploaded to the site directly from a computer. The one rule is that the user must have taken the pictures that he or she submits.

Users can then rate and comment on the photos in relation to the catchword, and by the end of the two-day period, the user whose photo is the most popular wins a gift, currently a five dollar Amazon gift card.

The resulting game is not unlike a visual version of the popular game Apples to Apples, with all Snapherd users acting as judges.

The idea for the site came to Gross when his father received his first cell phone with a camera and went overboard taking pictures. Instead of being annoyed, Gross thought to channel the habit into an online game.

“He constantly would take pictures of everything in front of him,” said Gross. “I wanted to make it constructive, to make it a social activity.”

Snapherd has attracted more than 100 users since opening to the public two weeks ago and Gross is optimistic about its future.

“I can see people getting attracted to the game because it’s a casual game,” he said. “It doesn’t require massive amounts of your time.”

Creating Snapherd was by no means a simple task, but Gross managed to design and code the entire site in only eight weeks. Gross created everything the user experiences on Snapherd, from the appealing sheep logo to the underlying code running the Web site.

Not only does he run, maintain and moderate the Web site, but he also pays for it, with both hosting fees and prizes coming out of his own pocket. Gross stated that he is currently looking for sponsors.

While it is both impressive and unusual that such a project was developed by one of Wash. U.’s own students, even more impressive is the fact that Gross has not taken any computer science courses.

The young developer has been teaching himself programming since he was nine years old and Web development since he was 10. Despite his work in the field, Gross has very little interest in taking any computer science courses.

“It’s not practical knowledge. I don’t think I’ll learn anything better in a class that I can’t learn myself,” he said.

Regardless of his unconventional self-taught programming background, Gross has created a unique and worthwhile Web site in Snapherd. Participating only takes an e-mail address, username and password before users can start sending in photos and voting on them.

“I’m hoping people will try it out and take their best shot,” Gross said.

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