Was delighted to hear that Mark Tighe won an award for best Student Journalist of the Year (National Press) in the Oxygen.ie – SMEDIAS Shortlist Category B awards. Mark’s award was for his recent (much plagiarised!) article on Bebo. Congratulations Mark!
Bebo is now attracting press for all the wrong reasons; on the RTÉ2 news last night there was a snippet about the use of Bebo for bullying and obtaining pornographic images. There was little mention of yesterday’s Irish Independent article (Teen student’s tragic hanging link on ‘cyber-bullying’ website), but some notes of caution were issued by Jerome Morrissey from the National Centre for Technology in Education.
You can download the news clip here (20060419a.avi, 2 minutes, 5 megabytes, XviD AVI).
In my NewsTalk 106 interview today, I referenced psychology student Gareth Stack‘s excellent article on Bebo for tuppenceworth.ie, where he compared the browsing and location of friends on the site to slot machine gambling. I thought it was a great quote, so had to mention it.
I followed up my previous media appearances this past week with a more serious interview about the advantages and disadvantages of social networks (and Bebo in particular) for “Lunchtime with Brendan O’Brien” on NewsTalk 106.
You can also download an MP3 of this interview here.
This topic has received such coverage this week there must be an increase in the pocket jingling noises in Bebo’s San Francisco HQ… Mark Tighe was interviewed on Dave Fanning’s Monday show, and our director of Computer Services Kieran Loftus was on Today FM’s The Last Word with Matt Cooper the same day. I also got a call from 2FM on Monday asking some questions about social networking – crazy!
Following on from the Sunday Times article about Bebo and various colleges blocking the site, I was interviewed for about 5 minutes by Jack and Ali on Dublin’s Spin 1038 at 1:10 PM today.
You can hear the clip from the show here.
Related to this is the fact that the Sunday Times article appeared in Monday’s Daily Mail Ireland, re-written by someone called Enda Feeney. From what I could see (apart from one extra bit tagged on near the end), it was almost entirely lifted from Mark Tighe’s Sunday Times article the previous day. Perhaps this plagiarism (or is there a special industry term for this I don’t know about?) explains why the tabloid is only 30 cents…
Edit: Mark talks about this and other stuff on his new blog RoboHack.
[Posting this from my Xbox.]
Mark Tighe wrote an article for today’s Sunday Times in Ireland (26th March 2006) about the Bebo.com craze and its banning in colleges around the country, including NUI Galway. I was interviewed for it on Thursday.
Colleges put stop to Bebo.com craze
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 Bebo.com, 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.”
Schools and colleges online social networking site Bebo has been blocked from student use on the NUI Galway campus network. The virally addictive site, which has over 2,500 registered users in the NUI Galway group alone, was blocked due to overusage by students resulting in computers being unavailable for academic purposes.
Director of Computer Services at NUI Galway, Kieran Loftus, released this bulletin:
Access to Bebo.com
Tuesday, 14th of March, 2006
Bebo.com is a website which facilitates the exchange of personal information between teenagers and other young persons. Access to Bebo.com from University computers was restricted last Friday afternoon Friday March 10th 2006 in response to an substantial number of requests to Computer Services from students. Since we took this action we have received positive feedback on it from students.
The substance of these complaints was that students were becoming unable to access computers in the suites to do academic work because of widespread use of bebo.com, particularly its whiteboard drawing facility. The complaints extend to the use of the shared resources provided by the University’s network including its wireless network.