Mike Tanski
Ph.D. Candidate, UAlbany
Informatics Program

Absolutely Dumbstruck

By Carol Olechowski

UAlbany graduate

UAlbany graduate students Peter Allegretti, left, and Mike Tanski, right, created the Dumbstruck app. Photo Credit: Colleen Piccolino

Dumbstruck, the application Mike Tanski and Peter Allegretti created last year, also aptly describes the UAlbany doctoral students’ reaction to the popularity the app has achieved in a short time. 

“The idea of sending a funny photo or video to a friend, or posting something on social media, really boils down to one main concept: to get a reaction,” observed Tanski, 24. “We figured if there was a fast and easy way to capture those reactions, people would really engage with the content. Turns out we were right!”

The Dumbstruck user “enhances a video or photo with creative tools, such as stickers and memes, then sends it to friends. When the image is opened, the app records the viewer’s reaction and forwards it to the sender. The message and the reaction are fused into one new piece of content that can be shared to Facebook, Twitter and other social media,” Tanski explained.

Tanski and Allegretti, Siena College graduates, met at UAlbany, where they are enrolled in the doctoral program in informatics. They started Doctored Apps “as a mobile app-idea lab,” launching “the best ideas we had” as tech companies. “One of those ideas, Dumbstruck, is now its own company, with about 20 employees working in various capacities.” 

Dumbstruck is “a powerful idea,” added Tanski. “Historically, entertainers saw their audiences react. But radio, film and television separated entertainer and audience. Dumbstruck brings the audience back into the room. A few actors from the cast of ‘Glee’ shared just four reactions to their social media, and those reactions gained more than 126 days of viewing time. The engagement metrics for Dumbstruck are much higher, on average, than anything else these celebrities have ever posted to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.”

Naming the app took a while. “Peter really liked ‘Dumbstruck,’ but everyone else wanted a name that related more to reactions and videos. Finally, we put all of our suggestions into a hat, and Dumbstruck was the name we pulled out, so we went with it. Everyone loves the name; it’s very catchy. We used Peter’s hat, though – so I’m pretty convinced [the drawing] was rigged!” Tanski joked.    

The Dumbstruck team has “had multiple offers to move to California and New York City, but the resources in Albany are just as good as those elsewhere. Everyone at UAlbany was incredibly supportive, willing to help any way they could to get us off the ground. To do our part, we created internships that allow students to work and learn from some of the best talent in the area, and we have hired past interns to work with us full time. Others have taken the experience and connections they made during their time with us and gone on to get great jobs at top companies in the tech industry.”