by January 5, 2011 0 comments



The last month of the last decade was the period of re-unions. India was brimming over with them: school, col-lege, even corporate reunions. I went through three of them in eight days: the St Stephen’sCollege reunion was followed by the annual St Xavier’s School,Delhi, alumni meet. But the smallest one, next Sunday, was thebiggest for me: the silver jubilee reunion of my school batch.Making this happen, and getting batchmates from all over theworld to fly down, was a half-year project… aided by the Inter-net.

My school batch was not connected… it had got scatteredover the decades. I had not met 95% of the 200+ batchmatesfor over 25 years. So where were they? How would we findthem?

Database:The batch database, from the school, was our base.

Social start: LinkedIn was next. We got a dozen hits-not sogreat. We would later realize that several of them had older, out-of-date contact information, and that many others had not men-tioned their school.

Branding and domain:A crisp and catchy project and domainname helped. We called it Project x85, for Xavier’s, Class of 1985.Website:We set up www.x85.in using WordPress. This siteevolved, to include a running blog, photos, a registration form, afunds-drive page, updated registration data. Batchmates postedtheir photos, and old class photos, on the site.

Mailing list:An easy “x85@x85.in” email list to which we keptadding names… made the difference. Apart from regular up-dates, its power was tested when a batchmate, somewhere in theworld, would meet someone else at a party, triggering a mem-ory, and send off a one-liner on his BlackBerry saying “Hey, Ihear Sanjay is in the US”… and others would pick up the threadand help track them down.

Crowdsourcing:As the website gained steam and the mail be-gan to spread, batchmates we hadn’t met for 25 years began topitch in. One in Hyderabad offered to let his agency handle alldesign, and went on to create a professional logo, invitation cardand tie design. Another in the apparel business got the tie made,in China. A doctor in Ohio took up the search for other batch-mates. Thirty people scattered across the globe pitched in-connected by a website and mailing list.

Collaboration: Apart from the website and list, we used instantmessaging, audio chat–and simple dial-up audio conferencing,enabled by the free sabsebolo.com service, for most meetings.

Facebook: We realized its power when we added the simple“Like Button” to the website. Any Facebook user clickingthe “Like” button on something on x85.in would auto-post that link back onto his Facebook wall, triggeringtraffic and registrations. And the “Facebook Connect”app let people log in to our site with a single click.

The Hunt: Led by the doctor in Ohio, the big hunt forbatchmates was completely online. It wasn’t as simple astyping names into Google. That worked with a few, un-usual names and where clear contact information, or aLinkedIn profile, came up. For many, it involved complex track-ing through social networks, phonebooks, and more, usingwhatever combination of supplementary info was available (seex85.in/hunt).

None of this is rocket science. But taken together, it’s the fu-ture of the collaborative ‘project’. What we finally put to-gether-a rocking, day-long gathering of batchmates from allover the world-was largely thanks to the Internet and what itlet us do.

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