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Oct. 21, 2008
CONTACT: Ward Mullens
ward.mullens@emich.edu 734.487.4400

EMU alums create Web widget that is getting good word of mouth

YPSILANTI — If you haven’t heard George Washington recite the preamble to the constitution or a hamster speak French, you probably don’t know about Blabberize.com.

Don’t worry, word of mouth is helping turn the Internet oddity, created by Eastern Michigan University graduate Mo Kakwan, into one of the most talked about Web widgets around.

“I wanted to make a talking picture you could send as a postcard,” said Kakwan, 25, of Ann Arbor.

The idea was unveiled at Yahoo! Hack Day in 2005. Computer “hackers” come from around the world to create “cool” Web applications in a 24-hour period.

Despite a rocky start, Kakwan came up with a picture of Captain Picard from Star Trek and made his mouth move.

“I figured that if I could just get the crowd to laugh, it would be okay,” said Kakwan of his presentation.

They did and it was the hit of the first Yahoo! Hack Day.

“I put it on You Tube and it spread like crazy because it stood on its own and it was funny,” he said.

Kakwan said he knew he had something and was joined by fellow EMU graduate Alex Peer from Ypsilanti.

“Three months after that, we put up our site and got a crazy amount of hits,” Kakwan said. “It just kept spreading further and further.”

Thus far, Blabberize has been featured on several Web tech sites including Techcrunch.com and has even been mentioned in PCWorld magazine.

While the buzz has been very positive, Kakwan admits that he hasn’t quite figured out how to make money from his idea.

“The way we have kept it afloat is by doing contract jobs for computer companies,” Kakwan said.

That has not slowed his fame or the popularity of Blabberize.com.

Thousands of users have posted their blabbers. Kakwan said that he has been surprised at the growing number of teachers using the application.

“A math teacher can make a parabola talk or a language teacher can have their students make a project and use French or Spanish. Kids find it interesting and fun,” he said.

Older users have some entertaining uses for the applications as well.

“A lot them use it to Blabberize their boss. It can be a very dangerous tool,” said Kakwan. Kakwan said that the postings on the site are monitored to remove inappropriate material.

“Our moms are teachers. So, if something gets put up that isn’t appropriate, we take it down because our moms are on the site,” Kakwan said.

Kakwan was invited back to this year’s Yahoo! Hack Day and was a bit of a celebrity.

“They were shooting a documentary about it (Hack Day) and asked if a film crew could follow me around,” Kakwan said with a laugh. “I shook hands with the founder of Yahoo! And he knew my name. I freaked out.”

Kakwan recently unveiled Blabberize 2.0, or Super Blabber, which allows users to have more than one character speaking.

As for the reason for the success, Kakwan said that it is simple.

“We just gave people a unique way to say what they wanted to say,” he said.

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Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.

Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.


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