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Prom enters digital age: Girls must email selfies to school for dress approval

A Texas school is requiring girls to email pictures of themselves (front and back) wearing their prom dress before purchase for approval, but why?

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eisenhower senior high school prom dress policy

eisenhower senior high school prom dress policy

High school prom policy could be problematic

Have you seen pictures of what some kids are wearing to prom these days? It’s like a contest to see who can dress the most inappropriately, and a huge portion of attendees are hellbent on winning. Schools nationwide are struggling with a number of issues for this off-site event to keep kids appropriate and safe – it’s a huge challenge nationally.

While none of this is new (I remember some pretty revealing prom outfits in the late 90s when I was in high school), technology has been injected into the equation as one high school in Texas is requiring female students to email photos of themselves in their prom dresses for approval (regardless of their age). Parents say no notice was sent out, this just appeared on the Eisenhower Senior High School website:

prom

All girls, Eisenhower student or not, must send in a photo of themselves in their prom dress (front & back) to be approved before they purchase it. The email must also include full name & student ID. They can send photos in to ikeprom@aldine-isd.org.

Why this policy?

We have reached out to the school for clarification, but some have told us that their assumption is to insure appropriateness.

Other schools in the past have enforced dress codes, turning girls away for low cut dresses or strapless dresses, and banning certain dance moves and even music degrading to women. Some schools have forbidden girls from wearing tuxedoes and boys from wearing dresses or even kilts.

This policy, however, introduces new questions about why the school is taking this stance:

  1. Are strapless dresses allowed? Can cleavage be shown? What about middriffs? Plain clothes? Hats? Combat boots or black jackets? Costumes or capes?
  2. Why not require male students to submit pictures of their outfits prior to the event? What if suits are overly baggy and underwear can be seen? What if it’s a batman costume?
  3. Are girls required to wear a dress? Are suits for girls be banned?
  4. Are there color restrictions to avoid gang warfare and keep kids safe?
  5. What is the purse policy? May someone bring a bag? Will purses or bags be subject to search? Will photos of accessories be required for approval as well?

As a parent of a daughter who just went to her second prom, the policy complicates the shopping process – if her school asked us to submit a photo and wait some amount of time, the dress may no longer be on hold and our daughter would be crushed at a lost opportunity. Also, we have forbidden her from taking photos of herself inside of a dressing room, which is most likely what these girls at Eisenhower will be doing – does someone at the school have a thing for feet or underage cleavage? As a parent, this email process would have me panicked.

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There may be a good reason, but there could be serious legal implications

There is probably a good reason for the district’s policy, but the ACLU is just thirsting for another school to ban anything perceived as discriminatory against students’ gender identity.

That aside, we are focused on some logistic and tech questions for the school:

  1. Who has access to the photos of underage girls (and only girls)?
  2. Are they obtaining parent permission prior to transmitting personal photos of a minor (that could potentially be explicit in nature)? What child pornography laws have been considered by the district regarding soliciting images of minors?
  3. What is the purging process for these images? What servers or computers (or staff phones) will these images be on, and do parents have the ability to request their removal?
  4. What are students (and parents) consenting to when submitting images – any reuse? Will they post the rejected images on Instagram? Will they print acceptable photos in the halls or post them online?
  5. After submitting the photos, how long until the approval or rejection is given to the student? What is the school’s policy for adults communicating with minors?
  6. E-commerce is at an all-time high, so what of girls buying their dresses online?
  7. Will the original images submitted be cross referenced at the door to insure the girl is wearing the dress approved? What technology will be used to make this happen, and if it is a third party application, do they allow transmission of images of minors?

THE SOLUTION

Like every other school in history, there are dress codes and behavior rules students must follow at prom, lest they be removed (or not allowed in). The solution is to make the rules clear in advance and refuse admittance should those rules not be met. Introducing transmission of images of minors into the mix makes the district and the students vulnerable and is unnecessary.

There are bigger fish to fry. Schools are battling with students inviting adults to prom, like celebrities (from football players to porn stars), alumni, or college boyfriend/girlfriends without background checks… in a room full of children. Schools are taking positions on whether or not singles can go to prom or if they’re required a date, and whether gay couples can take a same-sex date. Further, schools are struggling with how to keep kids safe after prom, reduce drug use and drunk driving, date rape, and an assortment of other issues.

Schools need to set policies, enforce them, and deal with the fallout – not introduce technology into the mix… it could be caustic.

#EisenhowerProm

Tech News

Nate app: $38M Series A fintech startup you should keep an eye on

(TECHNOLOGY) The nate app combines the best of social media and shopping into one platform, streamlining the check-out process for hassle-free purchases.

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African American woman holding iPhone scrolling through the Nate App homepage.

No one likes to hop around from store to store searching aimlessly in aisles for all of their necessary items. That’s why the big guys win, like Walmart, Amazon, and Target – they have all you need in one swoop! Users choosing to shop online feel the same way. Having to reenter payment, billing, and shipping information over and over again becomes a pain – or worse, a deterrent to purchase, resulting in cart abandonment- that’s where the nate app comes in.

Nate combines the best of social media and shopping into one platform.

The well-funded, series A startup utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to complete purchases seamlessly without all of the fluff a user discovers when checking out at various online retailers. Once a user inputs shipping and payment information into the app during sign-up, nate keeps the data on file for subsequent purchases, virtually eliminating the time-consuming check out process. If a user sees a product they like from an online merchant, they simply have to “share” the item to the nate app, and it will take care of the rest.

Unicorner’s startup analysis states, “In essence, nate is bringing the benefits of shopping on a centralized platform like Amazon to a decentralized shopping ecosystem.”

Brown leather wallet with tip of credit card sticking out next to a iPhone showing a shoe purchase on the Nate App.

With a nod to Pinterest and LikeToKnowIt, the platform allows for users to create visual product lists on a personal account that can be shared with followers. If a follower likes an item they see, they can purchase the item in-app in just a click or two.

In contrast to the big wigs of the social media world, the nate app hopes that users will purchase based on true inspiration and not a targeted algorithm suggesting what they should buy. Instead, the app runs its business model on a $1 fee for each transaction which covers the ability to issue virtual cards, protect online privacy, and apply available discounts.

The nate app simplifies gift giving as well. Users are able to select a gift item and enter the recipients phone number – if the recipient is a nate app user, it can be shipped directly – otherwise, they will receive a text asking them where to send their new gift! This makes it a perfect choice for the upcoming holidays (yes, 2021 is almost over…whew).

To stay up to date on everything nate, download it now on the App Store.

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Tech News

Facebook deletes developer over ironic browser extension invention

(TECHNOLOGY) Think a muted week for a nipple shadow is bad? Facebook just permabanned this inventor for…helping others to use the platform less.

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African American hand holding iphone on Facebook's login page.

It must be true that corporations are people because Facebook is pulling some seriously petulant moves.

In a stunt that goes beyond 24hr bans for harmless hyperbole, and chopping away at organic reach (still bitter from my stint in social media management), Facebook straight up permanently banned one of their users for the high crime of…aiming to get people to use the platform a little less.

Developer Louis Barclay came up with Unfollow Everything, an extension that basically instantly deleted your feed without having you unfriend anyone or unlike anything. Rather than have users manually go through and opt out of seeing posts, they’d now opt IN to keeping who they wanted front and center.

In his own words on Slate: “I still remember the feeling of unfollowing everything for the first time. It was near-miraculous. I had lost nothing, since I could still see my favorite friends and groups by going to them directly. But I had gained a staggering amount of control. I was no longer tempted to scroll down an infinite feed of content. The time I spent on Facebook decreased dramatically. Overnight, my Facebook addiction became manageable.”

Since more time spent on Facebook means more ads that you’re exposed to, means more you spend, the add-on started slowly making headway. I myself pretend to be a ranch owner to keep ads as irrelevant to me as possible (though my new addiction to hoof trimming videos is all too real), and Unfollow Everything probably would have been a great find for me if it hadn’t been killed by a cease and desist.

Law firm Perkins Coie, representing the internet giant, let Barclay know in their notice that Unfollow Everything violated the site’s rules on automated collection of user content, and was muscling in on Facebook trademarked IP.

They also added, in what I can only assume was a grade-school narc voice, that the add-on was “encouraging others to break Facebook’s rules.”

Barclay, not having the resources to fight a company with the finances of a small country, promptly ceased and desisted. Practical.

Officially speaking, Facebook might have actually have some ground to stand on vis-à-vis its Terms Of Service. The letter and legal team may have been warranted, not that we’ll ever truly know, since who’s taking Facebook to court? But then they followed up with a ‘neener neener’ deletion of Barclay’s 15 year old account – which was still very much in use.

Look, Facebook is the only way I connect with some of my friends. I don’t take enough pictures to make full use of Instagram, I fully hate Twitter, my Tumblr is inundated with R-rated fanfiction, and any other social media platform I’m happy to admit I’m too haggish and calcified to learn to use. So a complete WIPE of everything there with no notice would be pretty devastating to me. I can only imagine how Barclay felt.

And in light of the fact that the browser extension wasn’t hurting anyone, taking money, or spewing hateful rhetoric, there’s really only one thing to say about Facebook’s actions…they’re petty.

Sure, they may have the legal right to do what they did. It’s just that when you notice every fifth post is an unvetted advertisement, their high ground starts to sink a little. I mean nothing says ‘We’re being totally responsible with user information’ like the number of add ons and user tactics popping up to avoid seeing the unnecessary. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Facebook put up a fight against losing ad traffic.

We all know all those stores with amazing deals aren’t actually going out of business, or even using their own photos right? Right?

Barclay added in his article, “Facebook’s behavior isn’t just anti-competitive; it’s anti-consumer. We are being locked into platforms by virtue of their undeniable usefulness, and then prevented from making legitimate choices over how we use them—not just through the squashing of tools like Unfollow Everything, but through the highly manipulative designs and features platforms adopt in the first place. The loser here is the user, and the cost is counted in billions of wasted hours spent on Facebook.”

Agreed, Mr. Barclay.

Now I’m off to refresh my feed. Again.

 

Graffiti wall with image of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, with the saying "You've been Zucked."

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Tech News

Glowbom: Create a website, using just your voice

(TECH NEWS) Talk about futuristic! This app allows you to create quizzes, surveys, an online store, and even a website in minutes–without typing.

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Colleagues looking at Glowbom website homepage

In the past, we’ve discussed things like simplified coding and no-code app creation. Now, a San Francisco startup has taken the process a step further with no-type app creation.

Glowbom is a voice app that allows you to dictate steps to an AI – from adding information all the way to exporting code–in order to create a simple app, survey, or game. While the built-in options for now are limited to four simple categories, the power of the app itself is impressive: By asking the Glowbom AI to complete tasks, one is able to dictate an entire (if small) program.

It’s an impressive idea, and an even more impressive product. Glowbom founder and CEO Jacob Ilin showcases the power of Glowbom in a short demonstration video, and while he only uses it to create a simple survey, the entire process–up to and including the exportation of the API–is accomplished via voice commands.

Furthermore, Glowbom appears to process natural inputs–such as phrases like “Let’s get started”–in the context of an actual command rather than the colloquial disconnect one tends to expect in AI. This means that users won’t need to read a 700-page manual on phrases and buzzwords to use before jumping on board–something the Glowbom user base was probably hoping to avoid anyway.

As of now, the options one can use Glowbom to create include a quiz, a survey, an online store, and a website. It seems reasonable to expect that, as support for the app grows, those categories will expand to comprise a larger library.

Glowbom certainly opens a few doors for people looking to take their businesses or ideas from an offline medium into the digital marketplace. As coding becomes less centralized in computer language and more contingent on processes such as this, we can expect to see more products from folks who may have missed the coding boat.

Perhaps more importantly, Glowbom and products like it make coding more accessible to a wider base of disabled users, thus taking a notable step toward evening the playing field for a marginalized demographic. It’s not true equality, but it’s a start.

This story was first published here in October 2020.

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