URoomSurf: FacebookGate 2010?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Community, Ethics, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts | Posted on 01-19-2010

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If you’ve searched for your school’s Class of 2014 group on Facebook, you might have noticed another group come up in the search results. The group has your institution’s name in the title, but it’s a “roommate finder” sponsored by URoomSurf.com. The logo for the group, a gigantic blue U.

When I first saw these groups popping up, I immediately thought back to the College Prowler / MatchU incident for the Class of 2009, or as you might know it better, FacebookGate.  And here are the two things I thought to myself:

  1. Whoever is behind this is fully aware of what happened with FacebookGate last year.
  2. Whoever is behind this learned that as a community, we weren’t big fans of them 1) using our official logos and 2) calling it an official group.
  3. Whoever is behind this learned that it’s best to be transparent about who is behind the group.

This year’s story starts with Scott Kilmer from Abilene Christian University, a BlueFuego client. He started with a general inquiry to URoomSurf asking for them to provide the contact on ACU’s campus that has purchased their services and/or given permission for URoomSurf to host a matching program with the indication that ACU’s residence halls would be able to fulfill the requests created there. After URoomSurf noted there is no affiliation, Scott asked that they remove the group, which URoomSurf would not. They did, however, change the name of the group from “Abilene Christian University 2014″ to “ACU 2014″. (Luckily, ACU owns the copyrights for both and Scott will now be pointing to 2 lines of the Facebook TOC: 3) We will provide you with tools to help you protect your intellectual property rights. 5) If you repeatedly infringe other people’s intellectual property rights, we will disable your account when appropriate.)

So this is where it gets interesting. I passed the email chain over to the rest of the BlueFuego team to keep them in the loop, and Joe comes back to me with a simple email.  ”Does this name ring a bell???” The WHOIS on URoomSurf.com brings up this name: Justin Gaither.

Either the person behind URoomSurf is so intimate with the details of FacebookGate that they even decided to register the domain name after one of the perpetrators, or it is indeed Justin Gaither who is again behind it, back for round 2.  The same Justin Gaither who owned a company last year called MatchU, which had no web presence and was left largely unremembered/unscathed through the whole incident as College Prowler took the majority of the PR hit.

I’m leaving it open as to whether it’s Justin Gaither behind this again, but here’s what we also know.  It certainly makes sense to forget the MatchU name all together and go with something else to match roommates, such as “URoomSurf.” It also lines up that there’s yet to be a website for URoomSurf.com, just as last year with MatchU.

So, here we go again. :) Here’s the spreadsheet of all of the groups and member names to date, feel free to chip in. We’re already seeing the same trends as last year, such as common names starting groups as admins.

http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AoR-2dTA7L87dGRlZVRNUFRHaFJXN3M4REtBYS0yQmc&hl=en

Here’s the list of 499 colleges and universities that URoomSurf intends to target (also listed on the 2nd tab of the Google Doc). Feel free to search schools and fill in the spreadsheet with the information.

Last year I mentioned that I thought this would be less of an issue if they had 1) not pretended to be official institution accounts, 2) used copyrighted images, and 3) had been transparent about who was behind the group.   They certainly listened to the community.  So now that you know the information at hand, what do you think?  What is the institution’s place? Discuss in the comments below.

And a huge thanks to Joe and Scott for kicking this off and making this post happen with their sleuthing!

UPDATE: Scott has successfully gotten the ACU and Abilene Christian University trademarks removed from the group name. It’s now called “Incoming students going to college in Abilene and looking for roommates!!” and no longer shows in a search for ACU 2014.  Nice work, Scott!

UPDATE 2: It’s nice to see they’ve actually put a placeholder on their .com site. We’ll see what happens from here.

UPDATE 3: I removed erroneous claims pointing to a Craigslist ad.  After last year’s Craigslist connection with hiring students to do the dirty work, I overlooked a sentence and did not fully read the Craiglist ad I posted.

Comments posted (74)

Is Justin Blackwell one of Justin Gaither’s aliases? Our housing department has a service called “Roommate Click.” I just found this post where he blatantly lies to students about our site and leads them to believe his is superior…even though it has no affiliation to the university.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=208524223661&ref=ts#/posted.php?id=208524223661&share_id=251714426824&comments=1#s251714426824

Great sleuthing in this post! I originally saw the URoomSurf groups popping up in December and tried to warn other Admissions offices: http://twitter.com/mikepetroff/status/6531730032

After I made that post, I received a FB message from Justin Blackwell…

“Hi Mike,

I saw you are the Web Manager @ EC and read your tweet a few minutes ago. I just wanted to reach out to see if there was any problem I should be aware of with creating the roommate finder group for incoming EC students.

Students interested in meeting potential roommates are welcome to join the group to be notified when our website launches. If there are any issues please let me know.

Have a great day,
- Justin”

So I responded with the following:

“Hi Justin – thanks for the message. The reason I express caution to other schools when I find groups created by companies rather than students or schools is mainly because of the “facebookgate” situation last year. Here’s more information if you are unfamiliar: http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=11315

Facebook took a strong stance when they noticed this by deleting those groups. I just wanted other schools to be aware of any widespread, school-associated groups that their students may join that are not considered ‘official’ school groups.”

Just as a reminder to all schools, it is important to get in touch with your legal department and find out exactly what your college holds as trademarks. For more information about how to go about taking down an unapproved use of your trademark in Facebook, I submitted a guest blog post to .eduGuru here: http://bit.ly/9n4Kj

Hello,

I am Dan Thibodeau, Co-Founder for URoomSurf.com

I came across your blog post and wanted to address the concerns and comments thus far.

First off I want to make sure that everyone understands that we do have a website in development and expect to launch on Feb. 1st. The Craigslist link that is posted is clearly from someone that saw our screenshot and wants to create a site that has a similar feel. How can we have a screenshot of the site if there is no site..? It also reads in all capital letters that “WE DO NOT OWN UROOMSURF” on the Craigslist ad. Please be sure to carefully read items before posting them in a public forum. Your sweeping assertion above which reads:
“URoomSurf is lying to every single student who asks when the site will be available. 4-6 days after posting a want ad on Craigslist for someone to develop the site by April, they are telling students that it should be up by the end of the month. They are leveraging these same students to grow the groups, pass it to friends, and more, when a site hasn’t even begun development.” is completely false and I ask that you update your blog to reflect that.

In order to spread awareness of our website we created these groups so that students that are interested in finding roommates may join and receive information about our upcoming site. Our intention is to reach out to students who plan to attend certain universities, and not to imply that we are affiliated with them.

Another misconception is that because we are not affiliated with these universities, students cannot use our services. Our website is a meeting place where students can find future classmates and be matched to potential roommates. They can do this on Facebook, Twitter, at the mall, at Starbucks, or on URoomSurf.com.

Lastly I want to respond to events from last year. Justin is working with us on this project and we are happy to be working with him. We are trying to make students aware of our website and are doing so transparently and with no ill intent, contrary to what this blog seems to imply. We are recently graduated from college and are trying to provide a service that we know students need and want.

If anyone would like to get in touch with me I can be reached at the following: contact@uroomsurf.com or 305-809-6612.

Anyone else noticing URoomSurf advertising in their student groups on Facebook?

We have established a group for admitted students, and I’ve had to delete their spam adverts a couple of times now…

[...] Ward wrote about URoomSurf today, pointing out the parallels to last year’s Facebookgate.  It’s probably not a bad idea [...]

We noticed that Brad decided to remove the part of his blog post that made a bogus claim that we were liars, and that we didn’t plan to launch our website until April. (Thanks for removing this incorrect information)

It would make sense to call yourself out on your incorrect assumption, so that it doesn’t confuse your readers.

It kind of makes us look like we’re crazy as you completely removed that part of your blog, making our previous post moot.

A simple “UPDATE 3: Sorry, I had incorrectly assumed that URoomSurf.com didn’t even have a site, after not fully reading the craigs list ad that I had previously posted in this blog” will do.

Thanks! Just trying to keep the flow of the conversation visible for all of your viewers.

Brad -

Great investigative work again. It’s amazing how some people don’t get it. The social web is built on a foundation of trust, transparency, and authenticity. If those prerequisites don’t exist, you will be called on it.

@ Mark,

Can you name one thing that isn’t transparent about anything we’ve done thus far?

We don’t really understand where your coming from or what we’re being called out on. Any clarification would be great!

Thanks

URoomSurf – The first thing I do when checking out a new company is to go to their website to learn more and make a decision about if they are a legitimate business. I want to see biographies of the officers and a general idea of the business plan of the service being offered.

You do not have a functioning website so there is no way to verify who you are. I don’t know of any legitimate business that launches an online service without having a website in place first. IMHO – this is not how you build trust.

@ Mark

Thanks for the clarification. If you visit our site you’ll find a countdown to our launch date (Feb 1st).

When the site is up you can visit it and view more information.

So until then, IMHO it would make sense to hold on drawing conclusions.

It’s like a new store opening in a town. They advertise in the newspapers to get people interested for their grand opening. You can’t go in the store and check things out before its ready, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t trustworthy.

Just some food for thought.

I did go to your site (http://uroomsurf.com/) and all it says is “template_not_found”.

Egg on our face!

Looks like our developer is making some changes. Anyhow, Brad points out our placeholder in his blog:

“UPDATE 2: It’s nice to see they’ve actually put a placeholder on their .com site. We’ll see what happens from here.”

Should back up soon. Its simply our logo with a countdown to our launch date.

I have been deleting this group’s spam posts from the Class of 2014 group I created for over a month.

I don’t have time to get into a discussion of the merits of this new company. At this time of year, I’m so busy that I’m just going to delete every spam comment and report every alias.

Dan and URoomSurf Team- Thanks for your comments, I’ve added an update 3 now that the day has settled down and I’ve had a moment to revisit. With all the reporters contacting me and looking at the post, it made sense to remove it with the spare moment I had today.

As far as credibility, your co-owner doesn’t take you too far. I have a similar process to Mark when a new site comes up. When a new site pops up in higher ed I ask myself 1) Is the student paying for it? or 2) Is the institution paying for it? If the answer is neither, 99 times out of 100 it’s heavily run by advertisements (perhaps not short term, but certainly in the long term) and doesn’t benefit anyone other than the people making money. Students end up with nothing more than a credit card offer and a high APR, and I’d rather them not be exposed to such ads.

“You do not have a functioning website so there is no way to verify who you are. I don’t know of any legitimate business that launches an online service without having a website in place first. IMHO – this is not how you build trust.” Dead on, Mark. I know you’ve been around long enough to see many operations like this come and go. (Such as… MatchU?)

That being said, I look forward to seeing what URoomSurf has to offer. You’ve certainly got a lot of people to prove wrong with your constant spamming of groups and pages, such as Dean J.

Hey Brad,

I appreciate that you’ve added the update 3, and moving forward we hope that you take the time to review information carefully before posting them. We all make that mistake but especially important when credibility is at stake.

When I saw your initial blog post, I knew that you didn’t even take a moment to read the ad. It seems you must have read a sentence or two, and assumed it was us posting an ad for a developer, therefore we must have been lying about our launch date to students. That kind of makes me think you just wanted it to be true.

As far as our marketing strategy, “I don’t know any legitimate business that launches without having a website in place first.” We haven’t launched anything, all we have done is spread awareness of our upcoming site. This was important for us to do because as our website needs an initial user base to work. No one wants to use a site that no one knows about. So, we’re letting everyone know.

We need to spread awareness, and the fact that our fan page grows at an average of 80 new fans per day with little to no advertising in the past week and a half tells me our strategy of pre-advertising is working just fine.

We definitely don’t have all the answers, but I do appreciate opposing view points or constructive criticism. If anyone wants to advise us on a better course of action that helps us meet our marketing goals, while satisfying any trustworthy issues please feel free to pick up the phone and give us a call.

305-809-6612

I am the assistant director for electronic communication at Hartford. After searching facebook I saw URoomSurf.com had a group with our University name in the title. If you Search URoomSurf.com on facebook you will see they have groups for almost 400 Higher Ed Institutions. Here is an example:

University of Minnesota Duluth Class of 2014 ROOMMATE FINDER: By URoomSurf

Under facebook’s statements of rights which can be found here http://www.facebook.com/terms.php?ref=pf

it clearly states:

1)You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.

2)You will not use your personal profile for your own commercial gain (such as selling your status update to an advertiser).

It appears that the company has removed our page after a brief phone argument with Justin Gaither who also goes by Justin Blakwell on facebook.

We have also requested that they remove our name from their advertising lists but have not seen any progress with that.

What they are doing is leading prospects to believe they can influence the roommate process. This is going to cause a lot of unneeded confusion in the Admission world.

@ Jonathan Hunt & anyone else following

We addressed these issues with Jonathan yesterday, but we have no problem putting facts on the table for the community to review.

We have made roommate groups for the future students of many universities. Your claim that we are “leading prospects to believe they can influence the roommate process” is false. We encourage anyone to follow this link to the Hartford’s roommate group titled “Future University of Hartford 2014 Students Looking for Roommates!” Link: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=131557507744

Reading the title, slowly. We don’t see any problem with the descriptive use of the University of Hartford name. It implies no affiliation. The text in the group does not state that we influence the roommate process, have any affiliation, or have anything to do with the housing process. If you visit our fan page, you will learn that we are a social networking website similar to Facebook, myspace, etc.. Students can use our website to identify potential roommates after taking a roommate survey, similar to what students have used in last year’s University of Hartford Class of 2013 Facebook Group (Link to Roommate Survey Discussion Post: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=41746267191&topic=7554). You can see similar discussions on hundreds of Class of 2012, 2013, and 2014 Facebook groups.

No where in our group(s) or fan page do we make the claim that we as a company actually pair students together officially. That is clearly something that is done through the university.

Now, a link to Hartford’s residential life FAQ clearly states that students may mutually request a roommate.
http://uhaweb.hartford.edu/reslife/students/faq.htm#q3

Hartford obviously can’t honor every request, and we URoomSurf has no hand in that process. We simply provide a place for students to identify compatible roommates, the request is clearly sent by students to Hartford, and therefore, handled by Hartford Res life.

In messages back in forth with Jonathan, we asked him to point out where it implies anywhere that we influence the roommate process so that we can address the situation and come up with a solution. We still haven’t heard back from him.

Here is Justin’s facebook page.

http://www.facebook.com/JBlack41

Hi Jonathan / Brad’s Followers:

It appears as though our comment was removed from earlier this morning. We are not going to make any unfair assumptions, however, this is Brad’s blog – so I hope Brad will look into this issue. We will take a screen shot of this comment for the record, and censorship in a public forum is something we will fight aggressively. It is only fair to allow us to respond to any issues when our company name is involved.

Below is what my post said before it was removed:

As I mentioned in my previous comment, we addressed Johnathan’s issues in a Facebook message on Friday afternoon.

His claim that “leading prospects to believe they can influence the roommate process” is false. No where on our group(s) or fan page do we lead students to believe we influence the official roommate procedure of that university.

All we do is provide a resource for students to identify potential roommates.

I encourage anyone following to read the title of the University of Hartford roommate group Jonathan refers to Link: (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=131557507744&ref=search&sid=10600040.668888776..1) “Future University of Hartford 2014 Students Looking for Roommates”

No where in the title do we imply any affiliation with Hartford. No where in the group do we mislead students. The use of the University of Hartford is clearly descriptive, and within fair use.

Secondly, Hartford’s own res life page clearly states that incoming students may request a roommate.

Link: (http://uhaweb.hartford.edu/reslife/students/faq.htm#q3)

Obviously Hartford cannot promise a roommate pairing. URoomsurf doesn’t promise that either. In fact, we have nothing to do with whether or not students are paired together as roommates for on campus housing, which we clearly explain on our group(s), page, and website (coming Feb 1st).

Thirdly, students are clearly trying to find roommates on Facebook as evidence by Hartford’s class of 2013 group:

http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=41746267191&topic=7554

So URoomSurf is basically providing, what we feel, is a better way to identify roommates than reading page after page of a Facebook discussion thread.

In our conversation with Jonathan, we asked for him to identify where in our group or page exactly what misleads students into thinking we have a hand in the university’s official roommate pairing process. We also stated that we would work with him to come up with a solution. Jonathan has yet to respond to us.

For the record, Jonathan’s Facebook Profile can be found at
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000675456018

Hi Jonathan / Brad’s Followers:

It appears as though our comment was removed from earlier this morning. We are not going to make any unfair assumptions, however, this is Brad’s blog – so I hope Brad will look into this issue. We will take a screen shot of this comment for the record, and censorship in a public forum is something we will fight aggressively. It is only fair to allow us to respond to any issues when our company name is involved.

Below is what my post said before it was removed:

As I mentioned in my previous comment, we addressed Johnathan’s issues in a Facebook message on Friday afternoon.

His claim that “leading prospects to believe they can influence the roommate process” is false. No where on our group(s) or fan page do we lead students to believe we influence the official roommate procedure of that university.

All we do is provide a resource for students to identify potential roommates.

I encourage anyone following to read the title of the University of Hartford roommate group Jonathan refers to Link: (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=131557507744&ref=search&sid=10600040.668888776..1) “Future University of Hartford 2014 Students Looking for Roommates”

No where in the title do we imply any affiliation with Hartford. No where in the group do we mislead students. The use of the University of Hartford is clearly descriptive, and within fair use.

Secondly, Hartford’s own res life page clearly states that incoming students may request a roommate.

Link: (http://uhaweb.hartford.edu/reslife/students/faq.htm#q3)

Obviously Hartford cannot promise a roommate pairing. URoomsurf doesn’t promise that either. In fact, we have nothing to do with whether or not students are paired together as roommates for on campus housing, which we clearly explain on our group(s), page, and website (coming Feb 1st).

Thirdly, students are clearly trying to find roommates on Facebook as evidence by Hartford’s class of 2013 group:

http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=41746267191&topic=7554

So URoomSurf is basically providing, what we feel, is a better way to identify roommates than reading page after page of a Facebook discussion thread.

In our conversation with Jonathan, we asked for him to identify where in our group or page exactly what misleads students into thinking we have a hand in the university’s official roommate pairing process. We also stated that we would work with him to come up with a solution. Jonathan has yet to respond to us.

For the record, Jonathan’s Facebook Profile can be found at
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000675456018

Please note that any comment with 2+ URLS will automatically go into a spam queue that needs to be manually pushed to the site. I do not review blog comments on the weekend, and all comments have been published in their entirety.

So Justin Gaither/Justin Blackwell is interesting. I think I’ll just call my contacts at Facebook with the info and let them decide how much of this falls under spam/copyright. If they agree, as last year, all accounts involved will be disabled.

I have responded to Justin numerous times. I requested that my suggested solution is to remove the University of Hartford from all his marketing schemes.

URoomSurf.com is soliciting our prospective students to a Non-functional website that claims to match roommates. This makes the company a SCAM and we have alerted our students.

So after poking around on some of our group pages I noticed Marketing Reps for URoomSurf.com. One profile was lurking in our 2014 group claiming to be a student and a Campus Rep for URoomSurf. We have statements from some admitted students claiming that they are receiving solicitations to join this none excising website that will match them to a roommate. The name was Alexandra Danielle. We looked her up and noticed she is not a student and has never submitted an application.

I am sure if many of you look through your groups you will find similar profiles. I believe all these profiles are alias for Justin Gaither/Blackwell. Here are a few more that I discovered and have reported to facebook.

Sarah Johnson

Alexandra Danielle
http://www.facebook.com/search/?ref=search&q=alexandra+danielle&init=quick#/profile.php?id=100000452825955&ref=search&sid=100000684967626.2980198159..1

Philip Kirkland

Something strange is going on with this Justin guy and I suppose we will see on February 1st if the website exists.

Regardless of it’s existence I’m sure everyone in Higher Ed can agree on one thing. Great! here is another third party marketing ploy to solicit prospects for finance gain. Just what we need!

Jonathan – Thanks for your great comments and research.

I have an interview with the Washington Post at 11am today to discuss the situation.

I’m from DePaul. I noticed something fishy with Alexandra Danielle’s profile too especially when she was the only admin of the 2014 group without a high school network. Thankfully, one of the student admin agreed to remove her as an admin.

We’ve made an effort to reach out to some of the students and let them know that this is a scam but who knows how much correspondence they’ve already sent out.

A scam is defined as a dishonest scheme; a fraud. Anyone with common sense can look at the definition of the word being thrown around here, and understand the implication about URoomSurf is false.

Libel is unacceptable without foundation.

A company or social website that needs a user base to deliver value to its users, that pre-markets its services to raise awareness prior to launch, is a (scam) fraud or scheme? Keep in mind, we provide a date that students can start using the website. How is that a fraud or scheme?

The names you list here are URoomSurf Reps, you can also find that they clearly state this in their profiles. When the site launches, you can even see some of the members of our team.

These reps joined groups to spread awareness of URoomSurf.com.

Brad – Keep us posted about the interview and all we can do is spread awareness of schemes like URoomSurf.com. Hopefully Facebook will intervene and shut the fictional groups and profiles down. I think if enough of us start reporting the groups we can rid this and move on to more important things like yield.

I completely agree with Jonathan’s above comment: “What they are doing is leading prospects to believe they can influence the roommate process. This is going to cause a lot of unneeded confusion in the admission world.”

That’s my issue as an admissions officer who’s trying to maintain an official FB presence. Stony Brook has an internal roommate matching process, and for an outside company not affiliated with the university to insinuate — regardless of what the fine print says — that they’ll have any impact on that process here is deliberately misleading and harmful to our students.

Right on Chris,

Just what we need is another obstacle in the way of the Admission and Housing process! Right?

“Regardless of what the fine print says.” – Do I need to say anything more? Probably… here we go:

I don’t think there is that much text that our message would get lost. Again, we never make the implication that we impact the process. We provide a place for students to identify potential roommates. We make no promise that the university can put them together.

Stony Brooks website says students may request roommates: http://www.studentaffairs.stonybrook.edu/faqs/index.php?action=artikel&cat=8&id=1&artlang=en


Your job is to help students with the admissions process. I don’t see how spending time posting on a blog has anything to do with that.

Some, (not all) of you are trying to argue that we are a scam with no foundation. Some are trying to bully us. We are yet to see anyone step up and make an actual statement with a solid foundation, that we are somehow a scam, committing fraud, a scheme, doing something illegal, immoral, or that we are bad people.

Its one thing if we make admissions feel uncomfortable. If you feel that way, you need to create a Facebook page, and effectively promote that page (Brad can help you) and manage that page so that you can censor what content you do and do not want students to view (though if students find our site useful and you decide to censor their link sharing, that would be a whole other issue that we won’t even begin to discuss).

But to spend your time as an admissions officer and come on a blog to complain about how there are obstacles for you, when you are using a 3rd party tool that you don’t control – like Facebook – is ridiculous. If students want to get official word from your institution(s) or contact you about something, they can go to your website for that.

We’ve said this before, and apparently we have to say it again:
1. The website does not claim to be endorsed by any school.
2. We have no hand in the schools pairing process. We make this clear in all of our literature.
3. Many schools let students pick roommates.
4. Many schools do no let students pick roommates, but these students may still find our site valuable.
5. We have over 3,000 fans, that clearly see some use in what we are launching next week.
6. A scam is by definition, a scheme; fraud. No one is yet to provide a foundation for such a statement that URoomsurf is any of these.
7. We have asked anyone to work with us to make our copy more clear in groups where they feel it leads to any confusion. No one is yet to step up to the plate.

Our focus is to deliver value to students. I would imagine admissions establishing a Facebook presence is for the same reason. Posting here, and providing little to no value is not contributing to society in any way, unless you have a solid argument. Students are counting on YOU to help them with the admissions process, address their questions and concerns, and prepare them for college life.

We have a common goal, though we approach it in different ways. So lets cut the crap, and get to work on helping students, because this is going no where.

I know some of you will post something here.. probably calling us a “scam” again, or something that we have already addressed. Responding to the same baseless claims is getting old and redundant, we have more important things to be doing as I know you all do.

Lets get to work.

Jonathan — Thanks for sharing those names. We had a “Lisa Cameron” posting on our group for URoomSurf – her FB profile seems to be gone now, but you can still find a cached version of it on Google. Also, this may be unrelated, but we’ve had a “Holly Markson” posting looking for AIM screennames. Some of our admits have complained about this, so we’ve removed her posts – she’s unaffiliated with us.

I fail to agree with that statement that blogging about this is a waste of time for Admission staffers. This whole scenario reeks of the Facebookgate from last year but in a new form.

1)Same Justin Gaither Blackwell

2)Fake profiles creating facebook groups with our University names in the title (currently over 530 groups)

3)The solicitation of information from our prospective students.

Blogging on this subject will hopefully create awareness across the web with the intent to protect our prospects from dishing out person info.

This is a very interesting thread. While I can’t comment on the motives of URoomSurf, this should be a great case study new businesses.

Because the fundamental objective of any business is to realize profit, it only makes sense that if a business is going to tap a community, especially an educational community, it’s best to have the respect and/or permission of the community first. Most importantly, make sure your business proposition is of great and you provide enough information to deem yourself a credible organization.

…and my apologies for the typos in the last post

That is a great point Brock,

Respect and trust is a two way road. URoomSurf has done nothing to gain either from Higher Ed Institutions. Creating facebook groups with our University names without consulting our communication teams sent the wrong message.

On top of that this is the same guy who tried to create 2013 pages for all our Universities last year. The simple solution to this would be to remove all groups and names from his marketing lists. He simply won’t do that. On top of that he has fake profiles lurking in our official group and fan pages. I’m not sure were he learned his marketing tactics but he must of missed the section on ethics.

I’m thinking… If he can create a group with our university’s name to describe a group of people why shouldn’t I do the same for his business. I think I might call my group.

URoomSurf.com has shady creators

and here is the link.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=285423617800&ref=mf

Enjoy Justin!

As a PROUD URoomSurf Campus Representative, I just want to let everyone know…

CHECK OUT http://WWW.UROOMSURF.COM

Are you still calling it a scam?

It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Have a Blessed Day.

Well Rahel, URoomSurf may have a Web site up and running, but that hasn’t helped the skepticism, at least not for me.

Especially considering these points:

1) It seems like some URoomSurf employees are blocking their Facebook profiles from Class of 2014 group administrators.

2) URoomSurf has contacted the Residential Life office at my institution without identifying themselves.

3) URoomSurf’s Justin Gaither continues to post in my institution’s Class of 2014 group, even when I have removed URoomSurf posts in the past, and made it clear (on this site and others) that I don’t want them advertising there.

More here: http://www.jdross.com/2010/02/03/more-uroomsurf-shenanigans/

The biggest problem I have with URoomSurf (and the part that screams “scam”) is that one of their reps, “Sarah”, contacted the admin for the Calvin College 2014 group (who is an incoming student) and represented herself as if she was affiliated with Calvin College. And excerpt from her message to him: “I’m a current student working as a campus rep for URoomSurf at Calvin College.”

Perhaps one could argue that she wasn’t actually claiming to be a Calvin student, or working with Calvin, but to me it is pretty clearly a deception. “Sarah” asked the student to make her an admin of the 2014 group, which he did, until we informed him that we were in no way affiliated with URoomSurf or Sarah.

I concur with many comments above. This is an issue of trust and respect and the tactics of URoomSurf seem to involve neither.

Hi everyone,

I’m kind of late to this whole topic, but I want to voice my opinion on the matter. Let me first introduce myself. My name is Steven Moseley. I’m the President of Transio – a web development company based in Miami.

I’ve been working with Dan and Justin from URoomSurf over the course of the last several months, and have gotten to know them very well while developing the current URoomSurf website with them. They’ve endured a lot of challenges in trying to develop this business, and yes, they may have made some judgement errors in how they approached their initial marketing of it, but they are very well-intentioned hard-working young men who believe in their service, and I have the utmost respect for them as individuals.

They’ve spent the better part of 2 years trying to realize their dream of creating this service for incoming college students, and they’ve finally accomplished their goal.

Despite what you may think of the founders you know virtually nothing, you cannot deny that the URoomSurf service speaks for itself. It works extremely well, and is a great tool for kids looking for a college roommate. I challenge anyone to make an argument that it’s not the best tool of its kind in existence.

Have you even tried it? Give these kids a break and step away from your prejudices and let them do their thing… (it’s a GOOD thing).

I think many of you are prejudging the company without basis, and as a result LOOKING for a scam. Erin, for example… you imply the service is a scam because a 19 year-old intern who works for them doesn’t know how to properly identify herself to a possibly hostile audience? Give me a break! Could you have done much better when you were a kid? These are not malicious people – they’re young and excited about the opportunity of having a popular service that could be something big, and nervous that all of the authority figures they’re involved with seem to want them to fail.

Personally, I find it APPALLING that University professionals – the very people who are supposed to be teaching us to succeed, would make it so difficult for young, smart, GOOD-SPIRITED, entrepreneurial people to do something special, even going so far as making borderline libelous claims against them to try to ensure their failure.

This is not the American Spirit my parents instilled in me. Step off your box for long enough to look around and see what URS really is before you knock it and hte people behind it.

And that’s all I have to say about that. :)

PS – I invite any of you to look me up – I’m a well respected professional in the Miami community, as well as in the Internet community. If you would like to talk to me directly, I also invite you to call me at my office – the number is on my website.

CORRECTION TO PREVIOUS COMMENT:

*the founders who you know virtually nothing **of**

The angry-sounding “you know virtually nothing” was not my intended meaning in that comment, and I’m well aware of the possibility of such a mistake to explode in this medium. :)

You know what would make the site even better. Could Steven Moseley, Justin Gathier and Dan Thibodeau add a feature that gives an explanation to the poor kids who meet on URoomSurf but the Universities are unable to meet their housing request.

Since they are interfering with the process and entering a world where they are not welcomed, I think it is only fair that they share the burden when half the students realize they got their hopes up for nothing.

If Justin and Dan are to young and can’t do it maybe they can just send Steve.

Joseph,

I would be happy to add that feature, except it’s already in the FAQ. That we’re aware of, there are exactly 15 schools of the almost 600 in the list that do not allow students to submit mutual roommate requests. We actually had a planning meeting earlier today to implement a system that would notify kids who register in those networks that they cannot submit such requests.

Besides that 2.5% of the schools, you imply that the URoomSurf service is “not welcomed”.

Ask yourself… “not welcomed” by WHOM? URoomSurf has been VERY graciously welcomed by the students, who were practically begging for such a thing, and who, even before the site existed, were trying to use rudimentary tools such as a Facebook group to find roommates who they would be compatible with. Certainly URoomSurf is not unwelcome with them!

So who, then, is it “not welcomed” with? You? The service isn’t FOR you. Maybe it’s not welcomed by University housing professionals because it does your job for you? I can certainly understand that one could become defensive if he feels his job is at risk.

But stop being closed minded and think of how such tools could HELP your job. Think of how it would improve the dynamic of college housing in general. You won’t have as many transfers. You won’t have people requesting placement with other roommates as often. In all, everything will be more zen if people can pick roommates they “meet” and get to know before hand, and with whom they’re MATCHED for compatibility.

I don’t see that as interference with the system. I see that as augmentation.

So… the feature in the FAQS already sends notices to students that have their roommate request turned down?

That’s the best FAQS function I ever heard of. How did you tie that in to every University. Truly a wizard you are!

How unclear was I? I said unwelcome by Universities. Of course 17 & 18 year old are going to like the service. Who wouldn’t like it at the age. You are preying on the young and impressionable.

Your moving away from home for the first time and you would like to know your roommate before hand. No disputing it is a great idea.

The down fall is…. If Colleges and Universities thought they could match and meet request than they would create the service on their own. Our University only met 50% of house request last year. So that leaves 1,000 kids unmatched.

So I was wondering if Justin and Dan have such a great product, please have them contact each member of your site who doesn’t get matched and explain why. This would save hours on our end, but you must already of known that with your past work experience in Higher Ed.

Thanks for your thoughts, Steven. Unfortunately you are incorrect when you say we know “virtually nothing” about the founders. I came to know the ethics and manner of Mr. Gaither quite well last year. :)

http://squaredpeg.com/index.php/2008/12/18/facebook-pay-attention/

The lack of professionalism from this company is what turns me off. Perhaps you can give some advice to these youngsters from your experience on how to run a company and be a part of a community.

Couldn’t agree with Brad anymore…..

The founders have no professionalism. I can’t even believe that Steven would tie his name to them on this blog. It is pathetic that he is even sticking up for them. It makes them appear to be little children. I personally wish they would just go away. Miami is a great school, you think that Justin and Dan could of found a respectable source of income.

Joseph,

Let’s address the meat of this. Your implication is that URoomSurf “preys” on kids because the Universities are unable to meet the demand.

No one at URS wants to do anything but provide a service. You admit in your own contention that the demand already exists – and would continue to exist – if URS ceased to exist.

The demand must indicate something to you. The system you’re currently using isn’t working for the kids. URS didn’t create the demand – it only attempts to assist kids in finding roommates they will enjoy living with.

I believe that your frustration stems from this demand – not from the service – URS is just the embodiment of that demand, and so you’re identifying it as the problem and trying to squash it so as not to have to disappoint your students.

That’s not a solution. That’s the equivalent of serving microwaved frozen food at a restaurant because you don’t have the systems in place to cook the fresh food your customers are begging you for. From the point of view of a businessman, that’s how you earn disloyal customers (ignoring their desires). Even though the oligarchial control a school maintains over its campus housing program affords you some level of totalitarian response to your customers (yes, students are your customers), believe me, it is not a good thing to force people into a living situation they may be miserable in.

What I BELIEVE is that URoomSurf is the first step towards the POSSIBILITY of how University housing could EVOLVE, if people such as yourself, who have the power to see it through, could adopt the vision and desire to make people’s lives better. It’s well within your power to choose to try to work with this vision and make it work.

I know for a fact that everyone at URS would welcome that opportunity to work with you and other schools. And I believe this is the perfect time to open a forum to discussions of the specifics of what your pains are in the process, and maybe how URS can help alleviate those pains so as to make everyone’s life better…

I can’t continue this discussion further online, but I would love to speak with you further on the phone if you have 15 minutes tomorrow. My office number is (305) 373-6000. I’m available all tomorrow afternoon (EST) and all day friday. Please call me at your convenience so we can discuss exactly what problems are arising on your end and let’s see if we can figure out a solution that works for everyone!

Best regards,

Steve

Professionalism is earned through the act of being a professional. We’re talking about two young, idealistic men, who have spent virtually every day and dollar they have since college to do something good and meaningful with their lives.

I personally feel that a little deficiency in business savvy is forgivable in light of that.

That is very nice suggestion.

I would rather shoot myself in the face than to work with you and URS.

Why would I willing talk to a 3rd party company that isn’t wanted in the Higher Ed circle.

There are so many problems with URoomSurf from the internal view of housing departments.

I can’t understand why the founders of URS continuing to argue about this. Isn’t it clear from a Higher Ed perspective that nobody wants the site around. Like I mentioned before, if it was such a great idea than schools would of done it ten years ago.

We just can’t simply match every request. If it was so easy, than trust me – we would do it. Why wouldn’t we want our students to be happy. We spend millions every year to get them here and be happy. Do you really think that is not our goal?

This conversation is really going nowhere. This is a Higher Ed blog and I am yet to hear anyone in Higher Ed that thinks this is a good idea. What does that tell you?

What it boils down to is this.

URoomSurf is a 3rd party vendor trying to make money off the college admission process. Clear and cut, that is who they are. They never approached our Universities to a sit down. They never consulted us or offered their services before putting our names on their site and in facebook groups. The founders are probably two of the worst business people I have seen in a long time. Usually when you enter a market, one would think about consulting first rather than sneakily starting facebook groups and fake profiles to solicit our students.

Now if I were a University in the Miami area I would probably stay clear of Steven Moseley as well. He is clearly affiliating with URoomSurf. I would say bad move on his part and for his business. You just linked yourself to Justin who has been annoying Higher Ed for the last two years with his “shenanigans”. I hope you don’t plan on getting any new Higher Ed clients in the future.

Joseph, Whatever mistakes were made in the process do not change the status quo. The demand exists, and has existed well before URS. URS exists today – despite what mistakes were made in its inception. I’m truly sorry that it makes your life difficult, but defaming me or URS won’t solve your problem. I wish you the best and hope everything works out in the end. Again, I welcome a conversation with you on the phone without the world as an audience, to discuss your pains in the process calmly and rationally. Thanks, and kind regards.

Once again, no thanks to the chat. I have no interest in you picking my brain for the financial profit of URS.

Take Care Steven and I am sorry that your two little prodigies have now smeared your name on this blog.

Live Well!

Steven,

A company that acts in a professional manner shouldn’t go around gloating on Twitter that they’ve found a way to work around the administrator of a Facebook group where their content is not wanted.

See: http://twitter.com/uroomsurf/status/8617945954

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