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November 8, 2011

Marketplace gets a makeover

The developers behind the popular “ScheduleSpy” class registration tool are designing the new version of student government’s (SG) online Marketplace.

Third-years Paul Kaplan and Sean Clemmer agreed to work on the new website last spring, when the current executive slate included an updated Marketplace into their election platform.

Kaplan and Clemmer began to upgrade Marketplace this summer, redesigning the layout and integrating it with social networking sites.

“Paul and I really liked the spirit of the old Marketplace, and we wanted to keep the simplicity and focus on some core features like search, images, and user accounts,” Clemmer said in an e-mail. “There was definitely some frustration with the old website; we’ve been complaining ourselves for years.”

Clemmer said that he and Kaplan are updating the code to Ruby on Rails 3.1, which should make the site more modern and the code easier to maintain. The two also are creating an application programming interface, which will allow software like Facebook or Apple’s iCal to integrate into the Marketplace, as they did for ScheduleSpy.

The new version is currently in beta testing, after the two worked through some minor problems in the code.

“We ran into a few problems with software dependencies—we programmed according to an as-of-then-unreleased version of our web framework,” Clemmer said. He said, however, that the site has been officially released now, and most of the problems have been resolved.

Marketplace was started by a member of the Chicago Weekly News (now Chicago Weekly) in 1999, but the site was hacked in 2001, according to Devon Ryan (A.B. ’02), who then stepped in to transfer the old Marketplace onto SG’s online servers.

Ryan added that the site, though certainly out-of-date by 2011’s standards, was a product of the times.

“Keep in mind that the site has been around for more than 10 years,” Ryan said. “If you look back at what websites looked like back around that time they tended to not be that fancy.”

Students can participate in the beta test of the new Marketplace here: http://marketplace.uchicago.edu:3000/

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