Williams Students Online

Revision as of 13:13, May 20, 2005 by (talk) (History)

Williams Students Online, or WSO, is a student computer group that offers several computer- and internet-related services to members of the College community. In the past, WSO has maintained email terminals, email accounts, and a media lab; current projects include a multi-featured web site, this Wiki, listservers, and web hosting for students, student organizations, and alumni.


WSO was founded in January of 1995 by Jon Zeppieri, DeWitt Clinton, Jon Kim, and others. Originally, the servers were Apple Powermac 7100 machines running WebStar.

1996 saw the beginning of the Internet boom, and the arrival of many new recruits to WSO. With the strong UNIX background of Jon Zeppieri, Iein Valdez, Geoff Hutchison, and DeWitt Clinton and a blazingly-fast Pentium I 100MHz machine, WSO was migrated to a FreeBSD-based server. Meanwhile, WSO attracted the artistic talents of Kate Tan, Eric Smith, and Kenric Taylor. Others lending their computer expertise and love for technology included Matt Garland, Ken Fowler, and Christine Soarse. Finally, Jonah Wittkamper served as general all-around cheerleader for WSO.

The fall of 1996 saw the arrival of a new crop of freshman, including Chuck Hagenbuch (would would go on to design Horde/IMP, the Williams College Webmail system), Dan Mason (HTML coder extrordinaire), Chris Richards (security and FSH enthusiast), David Ramos (designer and typographer), and Jason Healy (future all-campus listserver nazi). By winter, the website had been overhauled (sporting a scan of Chuck's right hand), and new services were cropping up like crazy: the online Facebook, all-campus and dorm listservers, online DA and calendar announcements, and a small software archive.

WSO continued to grow at a rapid pace, as new services were added and members signed on for web and e-mail accounts. Free University HTML courses were taught to students and members of the community, and several clubs and organizations at the college created web pages about themselves.

As the use of technology grew, WSO acquired more and better equipment. Better funding was provided by the IT department of the college, and WSO soon got a new server. A new naming scheme was conceived for the servers: Scary Aunt Names. The new machine was christented "Ethel", and replaced the aging Pentium I ("Mabel"). In the years that followed, several new servers came on board: Gertrude, Spiker, Olga, Nancy (and others?).

In the fall of 2002, abuse of the WSO Forums continued. A thread entitled "Gays Suck" prompted the Queer Student Union to print out the thread and post it in Baxter Hall, inviting responses with paper and pen. Abuse escalated at the end of October, at which time there were several pornographic images, violent threats, and racist, sexist, and homophobic posts to be found in the forums. On October 30, the forums were removed.

But they were to return. Shimon Rura led a site re-write in the spring and summer of 2003. One goal of the re-write was to authenticate users, so that their postings and doings could be identified. The site was written with Apache PageKit. Shimon wrote the authentication system and the WSO Ride Board, Josh Ain wrote a new menu feed, Tom White re-wrote the WSO Forums, Evan Miller re-wrote some screen scrapers, and Topher Cyll re-wrote the WSO Facebook and wrote WSO Blogs from a hole in Scotland. The site went live in July of 2003 and has grown in features and popularity since then.

Toph, Tom, Brent, Jacob, and Steve graduated in the spring of 2004, and around that time Ben Cohen and Dan Weintraub were given root. During the summer, Evan and Dan converted WSO Plans from its standalone PHP/MySQL incarnation over to PageKit, so that students could access it from off-campus without setting up a proxy server. Also, they converted the Postgres database and the website over to UTF-8/Unicode. With the help of Masha Lifshin and Sam Dreeben, the duo made much-envied but never-imitated Quicktime VRs for their Facebook pictures.

In the fall of 2004, Kai Steverson rewrote Factrak for College Council to allow people to "agree" with comments left about professors. Kai also wrote My Survey that semester. Evan re-wrote the WSO Facebook (again) to include faculty and more information fields.

In February 2005, WSO was hacked by a group of Brazilians calling themselves Simiens Crew 2005.


WSO uses Mailman 2.1.5 to power its listservers. A complete list of WSO listservers is available from [1].