Classmates.com, just like being back in school

I’ve had a running battle with Classmates.com for years. I originally joined up in order to reconnect with fellow Government School survivors, see if any of them have managed to pull it all together and make something of themselves.

Little did I know that the website is run by the same quality of petty little modo that they hire to administrate the average Texas School District. I’m surprised that the world continues to exist with the weight of so many soul-less creatures living on it.

Yepper, being on the classmates site is almost exactly like being back in school. Customer service reps like the average teacher, happy as can be until you question their judgment. The bullies have changed a bit. Now the nerds who program the site are the bullies (it’s probably revenge) setting up a confining little rats maze of questionnaires that are supposed to let everyone know who you are; but don’t let you give answers that actually describe yourself. And, of course, it wouldn’t be school without the in crowd. The in crowd is represented by the people so desperate to be loved that they pay the (over priced) subscription fee (revenge of the nerds!) so that they can hang out with all their in friends from yesteryear.

…if only there was a cafeteria stocked with greasy soyburgers and wrinkly green beans, I’d feel like I was back in that nightmare.

Luckily it’s still possible to slip a note in secret to a friend, or I’d have no use for the place, at all.


From the archive:

———-

From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Saturday, December 21, 2002 01:42 AM
To: Member Care
Subject: RE: Enter Profiles

The section on Politics is wholly inadequate.

It’s pointless to include the questions at all, if a full range of answers is not allowed. Specifically, I am a Libertarian, I have been one for more than ten years. If I continue to participate in politics, I will continue as a Libertarian. As such I am not able to complete the first of the profiles, and I’m not interested in filling out the rest unless some modification of the first is possible.

http://www.self-gov.org/wspq.html

The structure of the answers also leaves out the possibility of truthfully stating your politics if you are a Green or any other minor party.

I sincerely suggest a re-vamping of the entire structure for questions of politics.

Thanks,
R. Anthony Steele

———-

Dear Classmates Member,

Thank you for contacting Classmates. Our members are at the heart of our business, and it’s your involvement that helps us continue to grow and change to meet your needs. We appreciate and value your taking the time to provide feedback.

In response to your feedback, we will forward your message directly to a Product Manager for review. While Product Managers generally can’t respond to all feedback directly (with millions of members we get a lot of feedback), please know that member comments were responsible for the current change and have been responsible for many improvements in the Classmates site.

Again, thank you for your suggestion. We appreciate your help in making Classmates a better Web site.

Sincerely,

Kelly
Member Care Team

———-

Sounded promising. A few months later, they sent me an invite back to check out the ‘all new’ bio questions.

———-

From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Saturday, January 25, 2003 01:42 PM
To: membercare@mc.classmates.com
Subject: Enter Profiles

I got an e-mail today claiming the profiles were “all new”. However I still can’t get past the first three questions, because ‘Libertarian’ is not an answer that I can give.

So I’ll never know what the rest of the profile looks like.

-R Anthony Steele

———-

Dear Tony,

Thank you for contacting Classmates. You can only access the first 3 questions for a profile because you are a Basic member and not a Gold member.

If we may assist you further, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

Kitty
Member Care Team
Classmates Online
http://www.classmates.com

———-

Kitty is clearly a rocket scientist. She has stumbled across the coincidental facts that:

  1. I am a ‘free’ member, and
  2. free members are restricted from viewing the bio’s of other members past question three.
So she helpfully sends me a note. She has blithely ignored the obvious and relevant fact that don’t want to see other peoples bio’s, I simply wish to edit my own. She also calls me “Tony”. A bit familiar, don’t you think?

———-

From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Monday, January 27, 2003 09:24 PM
To: Member Care
Subject: RE: Enter Profiles

I’m sorry, but you’ve missed the point.

I’ll never get past question number two, because question number three’s choices preclude an accurate answer. There is no dichotomy of politics; no left/right liberal/conservative contrasting of political views.

I am a libertarian and an objectivist. As such I am clearly not encouraged to participate at Classmates, since the questions are designed to exclude me.

Why would I want to pay a membership fee to a website designed to exclude me?

-RAnthony Steele

PS. Tony is a nickname I reserve for friends and family. I don’t think ya’ll have earned the right to refer to me by that name. Mr. Steele would be acceptable.

———-

From: Member Care
Sent: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 2:23 PM
To: R. ANTHONY STEELE
Subject: RE:Enter Profiles

Mr. Steele,

Thank you for getting back to Classmates. This is not a political forum here at Classmates. It is about fun and reconnecting with old friends. If you would like for us to remove your registration for you we would be more than happy to comply with that request.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have created for you. If we may assist you further, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Sincerely,

Kitty
Member Care Team
Classmates Online
http://www.classmates.com

———-

From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 04:58 PM
To: Member Care
Subject: RE: Enter Profiles

If it’s not a political forum, then why am I REQUIRED to state what my politics are in the ‘profile’? Also, who says politics isn’t ‘fun’?

It’s a simple request. Make the question answerable by those who do not conform to mainstream politics, or remove the question all together. It makes no difference to me, as long as some action is taken.

To take no action at all is to state unequivocally that those who do not conform need not apply; and as I am quite active all over the web, you can be certain that I will let others who share my views know exactly where classmates stands on the issue.

You can consider this an escalation of the issue. Please forward this to someone in a management position; someone who cares more about the client base than the front line techs obviously do.

Sincerely,
-RAnthony Steele

———-

After that rant I got the “sending this to the product manager” canned answer again. Well that’s just spiffy-dandy, idnit? The next time they sent me an invite to check out new content, I had a better one for them…

———-

From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 07:44 PM
To: membercare@mc.classmates.com
Subject: Other

Ya’ll ‘spam’ me with the latest “come visit us” message so I wander by to have a gander at who has joined. Oh, here’s a name I don’t know, who is it? Let’s check the profile… Oh, I haven’t completed my profile yet, because of the unresolved issue of the required answer to the unanswerable political question… Which still hasn’t been changed (see below) can’t complete the profile without the question, can’t read up on who is new on the site.

Kind of reduces the usefulness of Classmates for me, don’t cha think? Not being willing to include my political views kind of gives me an incentive to *not* be a paying member (something my wife has wanted to do for awhile) Feel free to snub me again, your customer NO-service types have done so before. (also see below)

More than willing to leave my name up for free at this point. Won’t be paying for a thing until something changes in the profiles.

Sincerely,
-R. Anthony Steele

———-

I have sent that one each subsequent time that they have sent me a message to “check out” something on the Classmates site. ‘Clarice’ helpfully submitted my address for removal from the optional mailing list (apparently I missed that option. There’s only about 8 pages of options to wade through) The removal didn’t take, and I had a brief conversation with ‘Sam’…

———-

Hi R. Anthony,

Thank you for contacting Classmates.
There is a selection for the political views question that says “I prefer not to answer”.

In response to your feedback, we will forward your message directly to a Product Manager for review. While Product Managers generally can’t respond to all feedback directly (with millions of members we get a lot of feedback), please know that member comments were responsible for the current change and have been responsible for many improvements in the Classmates site.

Again, thank you for your suggestion. We appreciate your help in making Classmates a better Web site.

Sincerely,

Sam
Member Care Team
Classmates Online
http://www.classmates.com

———-

From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Friday, September 10, 2004 01:15 PM
To: Member Care
Subject: Re: Other

See, that’s the problem. I want to answer; I demand to be allowed to answer since ya’ll put the political question on the bloody thing in the first place. But, I can’t answer, because ‘libertarian’ isn’t one of the pre-set answers you can give, and I can’t just leave the question un-answered or I can’t get to the next page.

-RAnthony

———-

…and I get sent to the “product manager for review” again. They’ve since fixed the problem as far as they are concerned. The political question is no longer mandatory, you can leave it unanswered; and they quit sending me messages. I still want to answer the question. I enjoy a good political debate. Apparently I’m not the kind of person they want hanging out on Classmates. Which suits me, I was never one of the in crowd anyway…

What’s wrong with this picture?

This story has been making the rounds lately.

Austin ISD wants to fire an Austin High School teacher over nude photos posted on the Internet. 

The AISD school board Monday unanimously decided to begin the termination process for Tamara Hoover, who teaches art. The board said Hoover violated the terms of her employment contract. 

Hoover has been on paid administrative leave since May 19 after school officials found out about the images. 

She defended her actions in a blog by saying that the pictures are not pornography but “artistic photography.” 

According Hoover’s attorney, she never told students about the photographs, nor are they on her own Web site. The district learned about these pictures through another teacher. 

“The teacher who was there said, ‘Whoops, something’s happened here that shouldn’t.’ She shut down the computer and went and told the principal about it,” said Jay Brim, attorney. “What she (Hoover) did is leave herself vulnerable to this kind of problem. She did not do anything that I believe was violative of any of the districts standards or rules.”

The process to fire Hoover will take months, but her attorney thinks they have a good case and her photographer says this is about art.

“The definition of pornography is material with no artistic or aesthetic value — created for the sole purpose of stimulating sexual arousal. That’s not my intent at all,” said Celesta Danger, photographer.

I was talking to “the daughter” about it earlier (she’s an aspiring artist herself) She couldn’t figure out what the fuss was all about. Personally, I don’ know either. If you check out the photos here you may be just as mystified.

Flickr is a photo sharing site. The woman who posts the photos isn’t the teacher, she’s the teacher’s lover. Try browsing the photos; I did. I can’t find one objectionable photo in the group, unless you find lesbianism objectionable.

So what this is about isn’t the photos per se, it’s the fact that there is a gay teacher teaching art at Austin High School.

Aside from which, this isn’t a question for the school board; or rather, it shouldn’t be. It should be a question for the parents whose children attend this teacher’s classes. Do you or don’t you want her to teach? In any other city in Texas the answer would probably be ‘NO’. Until today I would have sworn that Austin was different.


She was eventually convinced to resign. While the photos were racey, I really don’t think they rated firing over. Didn’t rate firing over in the light of the behavior we now condone from congressmen and presidents alike. A local austin newspaper did an interview with the photographer which is archived here

Not Public School, Government School

If the schools were public, then the public (at large) would control them. This is clearly not the case with the schools we have now. They are government funded, with government mandated curriculum. They are run by quasi-governmental entities elected in the same fashion as government itself.

They are government schools.

As for what to do about it (at least here in Texas) see my earlier rant.

Texas school funding

This has been an issue for so long in Texas, it’s reached epic proportions. If it wasn’t so damned expensive, it might even be funny. I hear today that someone (who’s betting against it being the TEA funding this? Anyone?) ran a poll and ‘discovered’ that a majority of people would be willing to spend more in taxes if it went to schools.

As if “for the children” hasn’t been the mantra that they’ve asked us to shed blood for time and again in the past.

Once again, my name is firmly in the ‘nay’ category. Not just no, but, Hell No.

The government schools are twice as expensive to run as comparable private schools. Giving them more money will not improve the schools, because the increasing number of dollars that we’ve given them (that’s doubled and trebled over time) has not made the government schools function any better.

There is no way to earmark funds for a specific purpose, as should be painfully clear to anyone who remembers that the lottery money, the cigarette settlement money, virtually every new tax scheme proposed in the last 20 years has been “earmarked for education”, only to get dumped into the general fund.

School attendance is mandatory. This makes the government schools into something closer to prisons than they are to places where children learn. The curriculum is set at the state and/or federal level. This turns the schools into an ‘indoctrination center’, where the correct view of this or that event or behavior is sure to be the only one given. The buildings themselves are old and run down from years of neglect by administrators more interested in buying themselves nice lives than they are in seeing facilities modernized, or made less ‘oppressive’.

This leaves the teachers holding the bag, the thankless prison guard who isn’t even trusted with a gun to defend himself with, and is locked in with the inmates on a daily basis. No wonder they want more money.

Here’s a solution you won’t get from the powers that be. Remove the taxing authority from all the school districts. Fire every school district employee who isn’t actively teaching a class. Draft legislation creating vouchers equal to the current outlay per student, payable to each teacher that will be entrusted with the job to teach our children. Give them the authority to hire and fire administration that they choose to employ at their discretion, and out of their pockets.

Give parents the choice to either accept the vouchers, and have their children be tested at the end of the education process; or to do without the vouchers and the testing.

…And then see if the children end up learning more, or less. I’m betting on more.