Advertisement

Archive for Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lawrence software company Saavi Accountability helps monitor online addictions

Saavi Accountability founder Justen Wack briefly explains the concept behind his company's software program that aims to help people with online addictions.

January 16, 2011

Advertisement

As far as addictions go, this one is convenient.

There’s no need to go to a dark street corner and make a transaction with a dealer. No need for needles or pipes. No need to hop in a car to head to your local bar or liquor store.

No, as 26-year-old Justen Wack will tell you, all that’s needed to become an outstanding Internet porn addict is a computer and a little bit of time.

Oh sure, there’s some occasional pangs of guilt or shame, but nothing that can’t be overcome.

“When you’re sitting at home alone on a Friday night,” Wack said, “those consequences don’t seem that strong.”

A little more than eight years ago, Wack came from Cleveland to enroll at Olathe-based MidAmerica Nazarene University and to play on the school’s soccer team.

Somewhere along the way, he became a college male who spent a lot of time looking at online pornography. Wack won’t try to tell you some strung-out junkie story about his addiction. He didn’t end up living in a gutter, and he didn’t end up flunking out of school. But he did have an addiction, and he said it became obvious to him.

“I realized I had a problem when I wanted to stop doing it, but every time I tried to I couldn’t,” Wack said.

So Wack sought help. That’s predictable enough. But where this story has a twist is that Wack didn’t so much find help as much as he built it.

Now, he’s kicked the porn — and gained a business in the process.

•••

The slogan for online pornography very well could be “affordable and anonymous.”

By the time Wack reached his senior year, he had figured out that if he somehow could remove the anonymity from the equation he might be a step closer to shedding his problem.

What he came up with was a computer program. The concept behind it was easy. He would develop a software system that would recognize pornography sites. But instead of the program blocking his access to the sites, it would do something different. It would let him look all he wanted, but it also would send out an e-mail or text message to a friend, parent or someone else close to him. Within 20 seconds of logging onto the site, his “accountability partner” would know about it.

“I wanted to have a friend be able to call me up in the heat of the moment and say ‘What the heck are you doing?’” Wack said.

The system worked for Wack. He said knowing that he could get that uncomfortable call has helped him change his behavior.

Then Wack began wondering whether the program could help other people. After graduating with a degree in graphic design, he was working in a Gardner sign shop when a member of The Bristol Groupe — a Lawrence-based development company — overheard him talking about the idea.

A short time later, The Bristol Groupe had become an investor in Wack’s infant company. Now, Lawrence resident Greg DiVilbiss, a partner in The Bristol Groupe, has become the company’s chief operating officer.

Since August, the company, which has an office in both Gardner and in Lawrence near Bob Billings and Wakarusa Drive, has been selling the software under the brand name Saavi Accountability.

The Internet-based program sells on the company’s website, saaviaccountability.com, for $9 a month, which allows the software to run on up to four computers. In late December, the company released its second version of the software, and sales are growing, both Wack and DiVilbiss said.

“We feel like we’re on the cutting edge of Internet technology,” DiVilbiss said.

•••

Since its inception, the software has evolved. No longer is it just for online pornography problems. The company, which includes Wack, DiVilbiss and a software developer, has added online gambling, hate sites, sites that promote violence, YouTube videos and online gaming applications to the list of activities that can be detected and that would trigger a message to an accountability partner.

But the program is set up to let users decide what types of categories, or even specific sites, they find appropriate or inappropriate.

“We’re not in the business of being the morals police,” said Wack, who serves as the company’s founder and CEO.

The software seems to have two main user groups, Wack said. One is people like Wack who are looking for a tool to help them with their own problems. The second group is parents who want a unique way of teaching their children online responsibility.

The company thinks the parent market will be a growing one, especially as online gaming becomes a significant addiction problem, Wack said. The program allows parents to decide how long a child should be playing a particular game.

“If they think an hour a day is appropriate,” Wack said, “they can set it for that. But once they play for an hour and one minute, the parents are going to get a message.”

DiVilbiss also thinks other markets are emerging. He’s hoping to convince justice systems that the program would be a good tool for parole officers who monitor registered sex offenders. He also believes the program might be good for corporations that have grown weary of the traditional blocking and filtering programs.

“I used to work at a company in Wichita that had a filtering program, and it would block a lot of appropriate sites,” DiVilbiss said. “It might block the Journal-World site one day because it had a story about Fred Phelps on it.”

But Wack thinks the bulk of the company’s growth will come from users who appreciate the unique philosophy behind the software. Wack said he’s convinced the best way to overcome an online addiction is not to be stopped from seeing a site, but rather to convince yourself that you no longer want to see it.

“I realized, in my case, I had to address the problem from the inside out,” Wack said. “The heart of the problem was the heart. Our program helps you build the decision-making process. That’s important because one thing that is for sure these days is that you’re going to be exposed to the Internet.”

Comments

Budmeyer 3 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

0

WHY 3 years, 3 months ago

LJW must not have had time to ask independent questions about the product. Much better to advertise for a company making a defective product because it fits a popular social agenda.

0

Liberal 3 years, 3 months ago

Wow, lawrencenerd sounds like you really have an axe to grind. You doth protest too much...

What is your motivation somebody try to spy on you? Someone step on your toes? I would say 9 bucks a month to have it installed on four computers is pretty reasonable. There is a cost to everything, I am sure the company that you work for offers their services or product for free.

I noticed in the link you posted that one of the owners responded to the early release review and said they were taking care of the issues that were brought up in the review.

It almost sounds like you work for a competitor.

And it is completely clear that you have done zero research on online addictions and do not understand how they differ from alcohol or drug addictions.

0

lawrencenerd 3 years, 3 months ago

As I stated before, it seems that this program would be really easy to work around, costs too much, and would only be helpful to people who are technologically stunted. A quick search brought up a bunch of christian websites, this article, and a review that not only tells you how easy it is to work around it, but suggests cheaper or free programs that work better. It got 1.5 out of 5 stars.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2370390,00.asp

Again, I know you are just going to keep trying to sell people on an inferior product so you can make 9 bucks a month off of somebody who doesn't know they can get something much better for free. Enjoy your placebo.

0

Paul Hahn 3 years, 3 months ago

Many of these posts are turning this into a moral issue and a privacy issue. For some, keeping porn out of their homes is a matter of morality, but for others it's a matter of freedom from something that many, like myself, have found enslaving.

Think of it this way. I like french fries. No one would argue the morality of eating fries. We are all free to enjoy fries, if that is our choice. But what if I am a food addict, and my main weakness becomes french fries? Would anyone criticize me if I put an app on my iPhone that sends a text message to an accountability partner when I pull into the McDonald's parking lot? I'm now 500 lbs and my wife has left me because she can't stand to be in second place behind curly fries.

Would anyone criticize my decision to allow others to snoop on me so I can gain freedom from the siren call of fried foods? Would they make comments about privacy and self-righteous agendas, or would they empathize with my need for help?

Men who would like help with their porn problem can find help here: http://www.purehope.net/kcmenofvalor.asp

0

WHY 3 years, 3 months ago

I guess an honest discussion of porn is off the table LJW. Some of us like porn and don't think christian values should define our lives. Keep deleting my posts and indoctrinate away.

0

MSD 3 years, 3 months ago

Editor: headline makes no sense. Liability for what? Do you mean boosts "accountability?"

0

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

“It might block the Journal-World site one day because it had a story about Fred Phelps on it.”

Well of course! Have you seen the sign that they flagrantly display that is to obscene to describe?

0

toe 3 years, 3 months ago

Privacy is only an illusion.

0

shleppy 3 years, 3 months ago

Let me get this straight. Mr. Wack lets someone know whenever he's handling his business and looking at some naughty website? Should of saved this one for April first.

0

lawrencenerd 3 years, 3 months ago

Sounds like a silly idea to me. Also it wouldn't work for anybody that takes care of their own computer. You could simply disable the program whenever you are doing something it'd flag you for.

0

gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 3 months ago

Best unintentionally hilarious last name in a story ever.

0

insearchofauniqueid 3 years, 3 months ago

I think it is an excellent way of micromanaging your teens. Your phone can GPS them and let you know what they are up to online. Sounds like a win win to me.

0

WHY 3 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

0

Boston_Corbett 3 years, 3 months ago

So whom will the software call for Merrill's LJW forum posting addiction?

0

sputum 3 years, 3 months ago

I need an "accountability partner” to be notified when I am reading the ljw website. Especially the on-the-street q&a.

0

deec 3 years, 3 months ago

So you view porn as sort of like those National Geographic specials?

0

WHY 3 years, 3 months ago

It should be a crime not to look at porn. We are the first humans in history to have the power to see beautiful women and men of all types from across the globe engage in the most basic human instinct after self preservation. If you are not watching you are missing out on a great life experience. If you have a favorite maybe today you should branch out and seek other genres. There is no end to the excitement.

0

insearchofauniqueid 3 years, 3 months ago

LMAO pizzapete. I thought the same thing when I read that statement.

0

Paul Hahn 3 years, 3 months ago

Software like this is vitally important for those who are in bondage to sexually compulsive behaviors. I've used software like this and many of my clients have used tools like this. If you've never been enslaved to unwanted behaviors, then you can't appreciate how far you'd go to be free of something that you has such power over you.

I've never used Saavi, but I know men who have tried it and it seems to be pretty robust.

0

pizzapete 3 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

0

macon47 3 years, 3 months ago

some one once said if it wasnt for pornography most men would never touch a computor

0

nut_case 3 years, 3 months ago

This borders on being one of the dumbest things I have heard yet. But I guess that is what I thought about twitter, too. Though with a few slight mods, it might actually be useful:

“I wanted to have a [girl] friend be able to call me up in the heat of the moment and say ‘[Hey baby, how] are you doing, [mind if I come over for some fun]?'

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.