Sunday Times: Colleges Put Stop to Craze

[Posting this from my Xbox.]

Mark Tighe wrote an article for today’s Sunday Times in Ireland (26th March 2006) about the craze and its banning in colleges around the country, including NUI Galway. I was interviewed for it on Thursday.


Colleges put stop to craze

Mark Tighe

RECRUITING 6,000 new Irish users a day, the latest internet craze to engulf Irish schools and campuses has become a victim of its own success. IT managers in colleges are blocking access to, the social networking website that claims more than 500,000 Irish users, because of the site’s unprecedented popularity.

NUI Galway, Carlow IT, Waterford IT, Dublin Business School and Queen’s University, Belfast, have all blocked access to the site after receiving complaints from students who were unable to access college computers for course-work due to hundreds of other students jamming PC suites to log on to their Bebo profiles.

“We had a significant number of students come in to our user support centre complaining that they couldn’t access a computer when they went into PC suites,” explained Kieran Loftus, director of computer services at NUI Galway.

“I’ve never seen anything that was as popular as this craze. And that’s what it is — a craze. It’s like Hula Hoops back ages ago, it’s a cultural phenomenon of our time. There were cases where 35 out of 40 students in a suite were logged into Bebo, which obviously is not defensible as an educational activity. We have to police the resources here and had to take action.”

Loftus said he recognised that Bebo was a popular site for students but blocking access was the only solution. “We aren’t China,” he said. “College is about being curious and we accept that. There are issues here but our job is to ensure facilities are available for educational purposes.”

Bebo is aimed at the “hard to reach” 13- to 24-year-old demographic beloved of advertisers. Its success — more than 22m users worldwide have signed up since it was founded in San Francisco last July — is due to the provision of free, fully customisable websites for users. Members can upload pictures and movie clips, draw pictures on friend’s pages (whiteboard) and create personal quizzes for their friends to take.

Bebo is one of a number of sites that aim to bring communities of like-minded individuals together and mirrors the success of MySpace, Friendster, Facebook and other virtual meeting places.

“All these social networks have this attractor of ‘how many friends do I have?’ ” said John Breslin, a postdoctoral researcher at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at NUI Galway. “When you go to these sites you see a little number beside someone’s picture that says they have 20 friends, (then) you want to have 20 friends as well. It’s almost like a viral thing.”

Jennifer O’Brien, a postgraduate student of the master’s in journalism course at NUI Galway, used Bebo to share her Father Ted clips and to keep in touch with friends. “I’m able to find out about my friends from primary school and secondary school. And I’m able to keep in touch with friends who graduated last year and are all over the country and all over the world now. It’s free and I’ve no money so it’s perfect.”

The popularity of Bebo reached epidemic proportions in colleges when the facility to pool users from Irish schools and colleges was added to the site. Donna Cummins, a second-year medical student in NUI Galway, said she checks her Bebo page when she wakes up. “I’m totally a Bebo-nut. I have a few exams coming up but I’m always on it. I’d definitely say about three hours a day, it’s pathetic. I think I’m getting competitive about how many friends I have. I’ve about 80 or 90. I think I know most of them but there are a few randomers that I’ve picked up along the way.

“The great thing is you can link through people from secondary school and see the profiles of friends of friends.”

Cummins is one of the lucky student Galway Beboers who has internet access at her home but despite this the blocking of Bebo in NUI Galway did not go down well with her. “At the beginning I was enraged. I was saying, ‘How dare Kieran Loftus and computer services . . .’ But the people who did complain had a very valid reason.”

Not all colleges are blocking Bebo. Sally-Ann Fisher, of Trinity College Dublin, said it does not censor or ban websites. “Although there is considerable usage of Bebo, our IS (information systems) services are working with the Students’ Union, asking them to act responsibly.”

Breslin says it is customary for members to publish their addresses and phone numbers on their profile but warned school children to make up a surname. “You might give your first name and some makey-up second name but you certainly shouldn’t give out your phone numbers. People over 18 should be able to do that if they want to but should be aware of who has been granted permission to view their profile.”

Jim Scheinman, vice-president of Bebo, said he is happy to discuss the issue with Irish colleges.


42 thoughts on “Sunday Times: Colleges Put Stop to Craze”

  1. This is no surprise – my friends and I have taken to referring to our College computer rooms as “Bebo Land”.

  2. Hi John. I gave a talk to Transition Year students from Galway schools at the Tostal na Gaeilge conference last Friday. Judging from that it’s not so big (yet) in some country schools, but one city school seemed to have 100% Bebo usage.

  3. Ugh! I’m a student at NUI Galway and I can’t say how GLAD I am that Bebo was blocked! I was shocked and very frustrated when I would go from computer lab to computer lab, searching just for one computer so I could check my campus email or print out a report. There were lines out the door of people waiting for a computer, and when you glanced at the screens, what did you see? Bebo!

    This was definitely a good move. For those who want to use Bebo and don’t have internet access of their own, there are always internet cafes. School computers are meant primarily for school work.

  4. This is not good bebo is fun an i dont no why collages and schools ban this because it is a brake from all the school work plz contect me

    Danielle black xx

  5. I just had to comment on the incoherency of the pro-bebo replies. Hilarious. plz contect me? Nice one Danielle. Think about it.

  6. i hate bebo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!its boring and everyone talks bou da fuckin thing 24/7!i personally cnt wait 4da day dat peodafails get st it!

  7. In my school high school students use it to put home movies of gross violations and the site allows it to be shown. When I went on there I never saw anything it was just a regular chat site. I realize the reason for its popularity.

    As many of my friends have been telling me they are sorry for not replying to me on bebo. The funny thing is I never sent them an invitation. Bebo has been sending programs to scan email address and solicite them to join there site IN YOUR NAME!

    Nice huh a great way to publicize your web site.


    These companies should be stopped from doing this. Some one should stand up to them and let all companies know they can not use our names without our permission. And send false information to our friends.

    I have been sucked in to this trap once. I hope the rest of you stay away from sites like bebo. and please read the terms and conditions of the company it is so hard to trust anyone anymore you never know what they are using your personal information for.


  8. noooo they cant block bebo! theyve done it at our school. we need access 2 the outside world, we have social lives!! this is taking it too far, we need freedom! does anyone know how you can access bebo without going through

  9. hh hh aaaa yy yy aaaa
    hh hh aa aa yy yy aa aa
    hh hh aa aa yy yy aa aa
    hh hh aa aa yy yy aa aa
    hhhhhhhh aaaaaaa yy aaaaaaa
    hhhhhhhh aaaaaaaa y aaaaaaa
    hh hh aa aa y aa aa
    hh hh aa aa y aa aa
    hh hh aa aa y aa aa

  10. you suck i hATE YOU
    IM GONNA SUE you ppl
    and alesha is gonna boy u
    so put it on know or else
    not really
    not relly

  11. heyh they hav blocked bebo at ma skool and there nowt to do now cud u find away to h=gt it bk plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  12. aaargh its so annoying!
    mark i tried all the websites and my schools blocked all of them! it sux man! i relllllllllllllly want 2 get on bebo but weneva i find a new site which helps, my skl just blocks it the next day! 😦

  13. Basically.. Dis Bebo Band is sooooo Pathetic!

    it really shouldn’t be banned, there’s nothing wrong with it..

    teachers and staff are bein ridiculouse and blocking un harmful sites!


  14. Bebo sucks the big one, y’all should crack open a spelling book now and then. What is it with vanity, self obsession and popularity contests. You know I work in a college IT dept and have not blocked Bebo, but if the usage gets anything like NUI Galway will have to.- Bebo- ‘Now you can keep in touch with people you never gave a shit about in the first place’. In the old days a college community was the people you shared the campus with, now your all sitting in front of PC’s collecting virtual friends- get on with your life! pm me, get me on Bebo, see ya on MySpace, send me a text……TALK to me!!

  15. Bebo sucks the big one, y’all should crack open a spelling book”

    pathetic you can’t even spell! haha or neither do you have propper grammer.

    i do not think bebo should be blocked, it is a hobby and if it is just a craze” it should be let run its course

  16. Hello, I have a new proxy that wil bypass all those countries,

    Browse the internet securely using TheRealProxy. You can unblock popular social networking sites such as MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, YouTube, Orkut, Friendster and many other sites.

    At you can surf the internet anonymously. You can browse the web at school without being blocked by the school’s filter. You can browse the web at work and not be blocked by your work’s filter.

  17. ive been looking for ways to get on but tha wankers have blockd dm all ! and try if bebos blockd at ur skewl or !!!!!


  19. i think its realli stupid tht they have blocked the site called bebo
    i think it shuld be unblocked!!!!!
    does any 1 have a site tht i can use to get on bebo???
    if so reply xxxx

  20. well have thay bloked all the ones on this site if thay have heres one that u shoud not tell no one and then if u do then the next site i give u it will be bloked so dont tell noone ok here it is http://WWW.ABC-RAG.COM make shore u dont tell not one any body i have to go to get in the bath naw makeshore DO NOT TELL NO ONE and it woude HELP if people put some more filted web sites on this web sit good buye hpe u all have fun with this site DO NOT TELL NO ONE MAKE SHOR U DONT TELL NO ONE OR IT WILL BE BLOKED LIKE ALL THE ATHER ONES THAT U HAVE TRYED BECAUSE U HAVE TOLED DIFFRENT PEOPLE BYE MY BATH IS DONE NAW GOOD BYE HAVE FUN.XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
    i am not in unie i am in year 7

  21. I use at school. It’s works… for now 😛

    My school surely will block any proxy after a few days. If the IT admin find out too many request and bandwidth usage for any website, they will surely check the website and block it. (except wikipedia and education site lol

    p/s: you also can try secure connection (https) by typing . Good luck anyway 😀

  22. Block it and block everything associated with it and similar sites, its a pitty there isnt even some-sort a time related ban between am and afternoon for schools and educational environements .

    These social networking sites should be more proactive, and potentially allow I.T admin staff the chance to submit to the host site and have it blocked from their ip at the hosts sites end – possibly even on a local time scale by request – so during class hours students do class work – no other option. Thought i would offer at least a suggestion, instead of just complaining.

    Alternatively the world will end up typing like txt messages in 10 or 20 years. Nothing will get done because everyone will be online and no one will be doing real work and productive to pay for pensions for the oldies that a retiring.

    I’m 38 by the way, in N.Z the level of english has dramtically fallen to the point where txt type responses are starting to be accepted as answers to major school exams..i dont want to think what the next issue along these lines is…i doubt it would be positive.

    Anyway thats my 2 cents worth.

    Chill out people youll live longer, its a proven fact.

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