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Imgur creator and OU Student, Alan Schaaf Can Do (And Program) It All
November 8, 2009, 7:06 pm
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Being tech savvy is something we all would ideally like to be and often aspire to work toward (cough cough, me having this homely blog) but some people out there really make it happen. One such person is Alan Schaaf, an Ohio University senior. Pretty much always known as a technologically-apt dude, Alan really kicked things off last year when he created his own photo hosting site, Imgur. But of course, every such project starts with humble beginnings.

“In high school I was involved in this computer club/tech support thing,” Alan told me, as he explained how he first got into technology. “They didn’t actually have a full time tech person to work in all the labs and stuff, and so they got students to do it and so that is where I met a lot of tech friends. One person would make something cool and everyone else would want to beat them…sort of a competition going on there, but no one said anything about it. Once I got better my mom referred me to a couple of her business friends and I would create websites for their businesses, but I didn’t really like doing freelance web design because you are working for a client, and my hobby turned into work.”

But Alan continued to freelance until his sophomore year of college when he then focused more time on schoolwork and internet radio station ACRN, aka the All Campus Radio Network, where Alan hosts the radio show Tech Talk. He also recently re-designed the station’s website to include all kinds of multimedia and music content. But those hobbies alone only lasted until junior year, when school itself just got boring.

“The idea [for Imgur] popped into my head last winter quarter,” Alan said. “I was in this class, Anthropology 101, and it was the most boring thing ever. I would sit there and try to think of something to do and I started drawing designs on paper for a new website. And then I would work on it whenever I had a chance; it took me two months to actually get [Imgur] up and running. “

And out of sheer boredom, Imgur was born. Once Alan did get it up and running, he posted it to the user-generated news link site, Reddit. Its own mini online community, Reddit users liked Alan’s site and gave him helpful feedback on it.

“These sites are a big part of things going viral on the Internet,” Alan said. “You post something to a forum, like I posted my website onto Reddit, and everyone really enjoyed it. Once I realized how many people liked it and I realized there is a need for this kind of thing, I really got to work on it.”

That was at the end of last year’s winter quarter, and ever since then Alan dedicates a lot of time and money to Imgur…especially money.

“It originally started that I didn’t want ads, but then the reality set in that it was costing me money every month, so I had to put ads on there,” Alan said. “And since Reddit is more of a community than a place to submit links, people were giving me suggestions on how to do it and I followed what they said, so it is some thing everyone likes…but I was completely surprised at how well it did, just like everything that goes viral on the Internet.”

And Alan definitely realized how viral Imgur had become when the Comedy Central television show Tosh.0 posted an online interview with Alan about Imgur on their site…well, sort of.

“They didn’t even ask me to do that interview, or tell me about it afterward,” Alan revealed to me. “I just googled Imgur one day out of boredom and found it up there. I think Imgur is really transparent in what I do and what all goes into the site is mostly all through Reddit. That’s how the Tosh.0 thing started I guess, and that’s where he got all those quotes from and stuff.”

But aside from Comedy Central, Alan did have some real interviews—job interviews, that is—with Google and Facebook. While both interviews seemed okay, Alan explained that he would really rather just have Imgur be his job after graduation, and considers it a real possibility, considering that Imgur is one of the top 700 websites in the world based on traffic.

“Just based on that traffic rate I know I can make money off of it,” Alan said. “I’m not exactly sure how right now, but I know I can do it. People ask me to join their start-ups all the time, but I just want to work on Imgur, move to California and buy a sailboat. You can totally come party on my sailboat, Kelly.”

Hmm, graduate college and then go party on Alan Schaaf’s sailboat? I may just have to take him up on that.

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Alan Schaaf: Mild mannered student by day, Imgur mastermind by night.

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