LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Bucknell computer science major Jeff Boulter, who will be the editor of the university's student newspaper next fall, wanted a quick and cheap way to keep up with the day's news.
"As a college student, it is easy to get isolated from the real world," Boulter said. "Besides, I'm too lazy to walk downhill to get a paper."
So he designed CRAYON (CReAte Your Own Newspaper) and posted it on the World Wide Web (WWW). Now almost anyone with access to the Internet can have his or her own individualized daily paper delivered to their computer.
"I hope CRAYON will provide a neat interface for obtaining dynamic news and information," said Boulter of Manchester, N.H. Creating the page did help him learn more Perl, a computer language, he said, and that was more interesting than studying "n-squared algorithms for recursive matrix multiplication."
"I wrote most of the basic stuff in a week, between classes, at night when I had time," Boulter said. Once he developed the page, he posted it on a few newsgroups. Then Netscape added it to the "What's Cool" section.
The Web page organizes and links the best free media sources available on the Web into lists: nation, world, weather, business, technology, entertainment, sports, comics, tabloid and WWW. Users select items under each section on the CRAYON form and after they customize their papers, they save them to their computer's hard drive.
More than 30,000 personal papers have been created since CRAYON was posted March 16. Most people name their papers after themselves, The John Doe Daily, but there are others out there, such as The Stitch In Times, The Lost Gonzo Gazette, The Sloshed Globe, The Roto Times.
Fellow computer science student Dave Maher of Arnold, Md., joined the effort after Boulter found he was "spending a ridiculous amount of time maintaining a data base, answering e-mail and adding new features."
The Bucknell juniors don't worry about updating the links since that's done by the host sites, such as the San Francisco Chronicle. However, their e-mail message box is full with questions from people who may have had trouble figuring out the concept and making it work or from people who suggest other sections or links.
"We try to respond to most of our messages, but there's this funny thing called classes," Boulter explains. In his thank-you's on the Web page, he credits his professors "for not failing me as I spend all the time I should spend studying, adding to CRAYON."
CRAYON has an eclectic mix of more than 100 items. Users can get up-to-the-minute stock quotes and last night's Top 10 List from David Letterman. The Raleigh News & Observer (The Nando Times on the net) offers world news as does This Week in Germany, which the user can read in either English or German. ESPNET has all the latest sports news, and Sports Illustrated's current cover story is available. If BUZZ the Fly isn't your kind of comic, then pick Marmaduke.
The nation's news section also includes The Bucknellian, the student newspaper. When Boulter was managing editor last year, he put the weekly paper online. That led to an area newspaper asking him to develop an online prototype system, he said. The CRAYON project resulted in summer job offers for both Maher and Boulter. Maher had already lined up a job, but Boulter has accepted a position working on a WWW service in California.
"I love doing this stuff, "Boulter said. "My vision of an ideal job is that people will want to pay me for coming with ideas and implementing them."
The CRAYON address (URL) is: http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~boulter/crayon/. ###