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Planting the Flag

Sofia Panuelos/New University

Listening meets hobnobbing in a marriage of the original means of communication as the radio and websites that are part of the social-networking phenomena collide.

RadioFlag, a new tech start-up based in Irvine, takes the classic experience of radio time and combines it with aspects of sites like Twitter, allowing the enormous potential listener base to bridge the gap between modernity and tradition.

RadioFlag offers an interactive way to listen to music, interviews and share interests with other users. Downloading the  application also facilitates direct interaction with radio hosts featured on shows. Listeners “flag” certain guests, celebrities or topics; at this particular event, prizes were given to the first person who “flagged” the prizewinning buzzword.

RadioFlag went live on April 4, broadcasting their launch from noon to 4 p.m. in the UC Irvine Student Center  through KUCI 88.9FM. Special guests, including broadcaster Rich Marotta, Lakers announcer Mychal Thompson and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim commentator Mark Gubicza each interviewed one another, speaking on the launch event and sports in general.

“I feel like I’m participating in something very significant,” said Mychal Thompson last Monday, sitting on the student center stage amidst piles of cords and tangled wires. “I feel like I am here for the first flight, or the first inaugural ball!”

Indeed, the significance of the start-up company is great. The concept was formed based on the “Selective Listening” experience meant to connect listeners through interests in music, news topics and current issues. Once conceived, the company and technology was developed by a team of 18, including eight students, three of which are from UCI.

The celebrity aspect of the event did not stop at UCI — Thompson and Marotta spoke with UCI baseball player Brian Hernandez while Angels commentator Gubicza, Manny  Pacquiao’s  hall of fame boxing trainer  Freddie Roach  and even TV star Mario Lopez phoned in.

Although there was no enormous physical attendance, the number of listeners and people keeping up online was highly impressive.

Thousands of flags were “planted” by listeners; upon the announcement of prizes to be won, people replied within seconds.

For Ravind Kumar, one of the DJs on stage during the event, this is as, if not more important than a tangible audience.

“A lot of people were listening, and that is what matters. That’s what’s great,” he said.

Among other exciting prizes, winners received Lakers playoff tickets and gift certificates.

“Overall, the student center event was a great success,” said fourth year Devin Pigera, one of the founding members. “The event served as the official launch of RadioFlag as a service to the world and we were greatly aided by KUCI 88.9 FM. We wanted to have a fun-filled event, and get students involved in the concept of ‘flagging’ and interacting with users in the RadioFlag social network.”

The future of RadioFlag seems to be a bright one, especially given the high volume of active users thus far.

“It’s going to be a series of pushes,” Kumar said, commenting on the future of RadioFlag. “The goal now is to move the rest of the nation. As people join, the network will explode and the world will join it.”