Our Actions Now Effect Us Later: Antonella Barba, MySpace, Facebook

antonellabarba1459The blogosphere is abuzz with Antonella Barba, an American Idol contestant of Season 6. It appears that earlier this week some racy pictures (NSFW) of the fairly attractive Idol-wanna-be surfaced on the net ranging from college-fun-party pictures to wet t-shirt shots to porn. Now it’s important to note that most of these pictures – the nude/porn pictures and most likely the wet t-shirt photos – are doctored…outright fake.

MSNBC Writes in an interview with

Well, in the interim, another scandal, racy photos of a semifinalist on the Internet. But, wait there is more x-rated pictures possibly of the same semifinalist. The semifinalist Antonella Barba (ph), who survived the first round of eliminations from viewer voting, despite a tepid response from the judges.

Photographs of Miss Barba posing in a wet t-shirt or topless, or otherwise scantily clad, surfaced last Friday, as evidently did she. Many appear to be from her own website, though Miss Barba has not commented. But then several more pictures came out of someone engaged in a sexual act. We have cropped the photo. We can’t really describe what she is doing in there. Whether or not these images are also of Miss Barba, eliciting the analyst a friend named Amanda Collucio (ph), who tells the “Newark Star Ledger” that, quote, the really bad ones are not her. I have studied them. It is not her nose. She has never had acrylic nail tips in her life. She is the least slutty person I know.

MSNBC goes on to say

Listen, the comment from the show’s executive producer that he was unaware of these photos apparently preceded this stuff over the weekend. But Mr. Lithgow said, also, we have really good background checks everybody, and we deal with that every season. It’s sad, isn’t it, that your best friends are the ones that come forward with information that will go to Smoking Gun, or put your photographs on the web…

The college party pictures, however, are undoubtedly real and one photo that I’m sure is somewhat regrettable to the Idol contestant is one showing Antonella and her friends “topless” on the beach but ‘hiding’ the important bits with their hands. She’s 20. Antonella has a good time like hundreds of thousands of other teenagers in the world, is this so bad? Well, not the parties in and of themselves but the exposure of pictures and party habits that people have while young may very well influence our job prospects and privacy in the future. I’m not saying what Antonella did was necessarily wrong, she’s just an example what so many do without realizing it.

While teaching a Web Expressions class two years ago at Plymouth State University, I found out about Facebook, the social website that’s taken the college world by storm. I, curious, created an account and poked around. I was blown away by the number of students from our campus alone that were members of the site. What suprised me even more was the reckless abandon that those students posted pictures for all the world to see. What was even more surprising was the amount of party pictures being posted. Everything from scantily clad photos, to underaged drinking, to drug usage. Do these students have any idea that information posted on the web is heavily searched and findable by potential employers and co-workers?

As we leave our younger years, step over the fence into old-ville, and turn our minds towards more professional endeavors; our pasts will haunt us. Moreso than our parents’ past due to the ease of data transport and storage on the web. Those party pictures, those half-nude poses, those wild parties are extremely easy to track down these days and as we apply for jobs or attempt to join contests like American Idol that thrust us into the spotlight, things will inevitably surface. Our employers and co-workers are much more likely to Google “the new guy” to see what they’re all about.

So, if you are one of the many that has a Facebook or MySpace account…or, heck, know someone that does, be careful with those pictures!

World of Warcraft MySpace Layouts

WoW MySpace

Blizzard, in their infinite wisdom has blessed MySpace with its presence! Over the past few months I’ve received a number of requests for World of Warcraft MySpace layouts and I’m happy to say that Blizzard has created a number of those layouts for anyone to use!

They’ve got one for each WoW race. To get them, simply head over to the World of Warcraft MySpace account and scroll down to the Skin your MySpace section and click on the races…or grab them directly from these links:

School Punishes Student For Blogging From Home

School 8 Schools across the country are cracking down on student computer use; blocking social sites and proxy servers. Many schools are perfectly within their right to prevent teenagers from frequenting sites like MySpace, Facebook and Xanga while using school hardware. In all actuality, there is no real need for students to be on such social sites at school when it could impede on studying and perhaps pose a danger to the student (internet predators).

Do schools try to reach to far? This article seems to think so, as there is another school – Plainfield School District in Illinois – attempting to reach into the homes of its students and lay the smack down.

A 17-year-old student who posted on his blog site that he was being bullied and threatened by the Plainfield School District will face an expulsion hearing this week, a local attorney said.

Back in November, Pope John XXIII Regional Highschool decided to stretch their rights a little far and reach into the home of their students, threatening suspension to anyone that failed to delete their accounts on various social networking sites. My post – School Bans Social Websites – discusses this school’s attempt at control and has been met with a huge onslaught of student irritation.

Students are generally unhappy with this type of control – as well as the simple blocking of sites that many schools are doing – and are reacting in the only way they can…with their voice. They comment on my blog expressing their opinions (I’ve had 119 comments on that blog post as of this posting and they are still rolling in), they complain on their social sites, they blog. The 17 in this article blogged the following on May 2 (without mentioning the school the student wrote):

“I feel threatened by you, I cant even have a public Web page with out you bullying me and telling me what has to be removed. Where is this freedom of speech that this government is sworn to uphold? … Did you ever stop to think this will start a community backlash? The kids at Columbine did what the did because they were bullied. … In my opinion you are the real threat here. None of us ever put in our xanga’s that they were going to kill or bring harm to any one. We voiced our opinions. You are the real threat here. you are depriving us of our right to learn. now stick that in your pipe and smoke it.”

What are the school districts thinking? It is the parents job to police student’s internet usage at home, NOT the school’s. It doesn’t matter if the school doesn’t like the sites students visit or if a student says something bad about his school…they may be kids but don’t they get some level of free speech? The article states:

Superintendent John Harper, who cannot comment on student cases, said the district will take action if it believes there is a safety issue. Meanwhile a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union said school districts must be careful not to discipline students on matters that occur outside school. The student’s attorney believes Plainfield School District is overstepping its boundaries.

“The district is going to take away the student’s education for exercising his freedom of speech,” said attorney Carl Buck. “I feel like they are trying to control his freedom of speech. … He is saying, ‘You can’t bully people and we have a right to object and you can’t throw people out of school for voicing their opinions.’”

Schools simply need to wake up and smell the coffee. Block social sites at school if its impeding on school work, but don’t threaten and punish the kids for doing things at home. Educate them on the dangers of the internet and educate the families on the need for some policing of internet usage at home. I want schools to teach my kids (when I have them), not parent them.

In closing, here’s a line from the article sums up my opinions:

“It is not a crime to write things on the Internet – though we find them offensive, troubling and disheartening, it is not a crime[.]“

Subverting MySpace and Facebook Blocks With Proxies

In November I blogged about Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta New Jersey and their forcing of students to stop using sites like MySpace, Xanga, and Facebook. Over the past few months I have seen a number of comment come in regarding…well…not threats from schools, but blocking of such sites by educational institutions. Now, its important to note that the blocking of these social sites seem to be localized to Elementary and High Schools, not higher education institutions.

Blocking social sites like this has been met with heavy opposition by those users that are directly affected by such blocks. Lets face it. The web is extremely social and is growing more so as time progresses. My friend, Zach mentions (via our mutual friend Casey):

There are 3,975 registered [Facebook] users at Plymouth State University. Like the other schools on [Facebook], over 60% of them log in every 24 hours.

This type of following is not localized to just universities. The hordes of students frequenting these sites is truly amazing. To get an idea about how much High School students seem to be attached to social sites such as this, I’ll bring up the following article I found at WOAI via Wikipedia.

All but 400 of the 3,000 students at San Antonio Warren High School either didn’t show up or walked out of class today due to threats against the school posted on a popular teen web site, 1200 WOAI news reported today.

“About mid morning today we were able to confirm that the web site ‘MySpace-dot-com’ allowed several students to post threatening messages on it’s web site, messages threatening Warren High School,” Pascual Gonzales of the Northside School District said. “This message said two boys were planning to show up at school with guns.”

That example is not only a testament to the numbers of users, but both the benefits and the the drawbacks of such software. MySpace and similar sites help fuel the passing of information and breaks down social barriers…which is a great thing! But what the schools and many parents are seeing is that many people feel secure in the sites’ use and tend to post fairly revealing bits of information (e.g. provocative photos, under-aged drinking, etc). Schools attempt to stop this kind of behavior by forcefully blocking the sites. Wrong move, it teaches the students nothing. It causes them to continue to participate in posting risque information, blissfully ignorant of the damage it can cause to their reputation and/or the danger it poses to them due to stalkers. To subvert the blocks schools create, students are resorting to the use of Proxies.

These proxies allow users to browse sites under the guise of other sites’ addresses. Since the onset of schools blocking sites, there have been an eruption on proxy sites; free, signup required, ad fueled, etc. If you are curious what is being used by students, here are some that a few have posted here at Borkweb:

There are a crap ton more out there…simply search for myspace proxy or facebook proxy.

If you are student reading this (or anyone else for that matter), be careful what you post. Whatever goes on sites like that, its not closed to the outside world…It’s extremely public information. If you aren’t a student, well, its important to know that attempting to force students in a direction by brute force, it’ll cause them to long for it even more. Instead…educate, don’t dictate.

Another odd thing that seems to be heavily searched is hacking facebook and hacking myspace. A spin off from the heavy usage of such software and the goals of mischievous to deface/defame others’ profile. This I just don’t get.

School Bans Social Websites

This is week-and-a-half-old news, however it struck a nerve so I figured I’d post it. According to this article on App.com, Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta, NJ is threatening students to make them stop participating in social networking with websites such as MySpace, Facebook and Xanga. The article states:

Effective immediately, and over student complaints, the teens were told to dismantle their Myspace.com accounts or similar sites with personal profiles and blogs. Defy the order and face suspension, students were told.

While public and private schools routinely block access to noneducational Web sites on school computers, Pope John’s order reaches into students’ homes.

The primary impetus behind the ban is to protect students, McHugh said. The Web sites, popular forums for students to blog about their lives and feelings about their teachers and schools, are fertile ground for sexual predators to gather information about children, he said.

While it seems like the school is trying to protect its students, they are going about it the wrong way. Its a violation of free speech to police the students in this way. Educating the students about the dangers of a web presence would be a more reasonable approach.

Leetster

World of Warcraft, as I’ve mentioned before is a very popular game. WoW, however, is more than just the game aspect…it is extremely social. Players can create guilds – which are organizations in game – and participate in a variety of player created events and interactions with other players. Guilds typically create websites (like this one: Crimson Eagles) to allow these players to communicate, strategize, complain, and brag.

The websites are great…but the drawback is that those websites tend to be closed to those outside the guild, preventing others from seeing how players interact. Enter Leetster. The MySpace or Facebook of the WoW world. Leetster is a web based community site allowing players to create accounts and browse other users that play. Through the site, you can post screenshots, images, links, likes, dislikes, characters, etc. You can add friends and enemies and even use Leetster as a guild website!

The developers oaf and Pakhuda are from the Bleeding Hollow server and seem pretty savvy with JSP (their language of choice for the application) and have been using some pretty snazzy Ajax features for editing your data. Another sweet feature is the ability to completely customize your profile. Here’s mine.

A word of warning, this site is very open…so be aware that rough language may abound and flaming on the forums is typical…but overall its a pretty good time. Its nice to see the faces behind the characters! Since its creation, it has been open to the Bleeding Hollow server for testing but a day or so ago they opened it up to the rest of the WoW community. If you haven’t checked it out, do so! Its a good time!