Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
June 2nd, 2005
Planet Xavier


Seniors on Planet Xavier

As it currently stands, students from the Class of 2005 – that means the outgoing seniors, for the numerically dyslexic – make up about 44% of the Planet Xavier population. I’ve been asked many times about what I’m planning to do this summer, since the outgoing seniors have obviously ceased to be students at St. X as of last night.

So here’s my plan, still subject to change:

  1. I’m still working on the pX redesign. The general design has been worked out so far. New features will (hopefully) include user preferences, the ability to collapse posts that you’ve already read, and a few themes to choose from. I don’t have a preview ready yet, but I will sometime soon. Expect this project to be completed by mid-Summer.

  2. Sometime in August (probably), I’m going to take the ’05 blogs and split them into their own alumni Planet, tentatively called Planet Xavier ’05 (no surprise there). Entries by the Class of 2005 will appear on this Planet alone, and not the general pX listing. As always, any member of pX ’05 can request to be removed from the site. It will remain functional until there is general consensus that the community should be disbanded, or until so few members are left that the Planet will be pointless. (How useful would a Planet with two people be?)

    Taking the seniors out of the general listing will no doubt demolish the blog count that I’ve taken so much pride in building, but more ’08 blogs are beginning to show up as the upcoming sophomores are beginning to network. The trick will be to find all the ’09 blogs. That’ll be the daunting task of my successor; more on that later.

  3. Also this summer, I will be working with Peter Rother to create more alumni Planets. Very little of this project has been worked out so far, but I would like these alumni Planets to follow the future design and naming scheme of pX. Thus, the site for Peter’s class will be pX ’04.

    Peter has expressed interest in maintaining the alumni communities at his own domain. It’s unclear at the moment whether all of pX will be moved there. Hosting Planet on Peter’s servers will have the advantage of cronability, which means the Planets will be automatically updated at regular intervals – I already hear crowds cheering.

  4. With all that out of the way, I’ll hand over pX to my colleague Brad Haines, an upcoming junior. At that point, he will be in charge of the day-to-day affairs of the site. His responsibilities will include searching the Web for new student blogs to list, contacting them about their blogs (in person, via e-mail, etc.), processing hackergotchi requests, and responding to heated complaints. I will remain on hand to help out whenever needed.

  5. Brad, Peter, and I will then have to decide where to keep pX: where it is now, on Brad’s shiny new f2o account, or on Peter’s state-of-the-art servers.

    With both the design and domain finalized, we can finally take Planet Xavier out of beta and start advertising it around school. Brad and I have discussed possibilities including flyers on the main bulletin board and in individual classrooms, morning PA announcements, advertisements in the Blueprint, button-banners for people to link to us, and (of course) word-of-mouth.

    I’m a bit uneasy about some of these planned initiatives, since we’ll be pulling a USC by getting our word out so much. As I’ve mentioned to many people already, we risk catching the administration’s attention. Even if they don’t then start reading pX, the damage will’ve been done; there might be a “chilling effect”: students would be afraid to post something that their school administrators read. Hopefully it’ll turn out a lot better though; the stunning success of the Swordfighting Club on MusicFest, despite Mr. Odioso’s knowledge of the club, is a good sign.

    Another component of advertising pX will have to be something like a “get out the vote” campaign: since so many people are still apparently unaware of weblogs, we’re going to have to educate them about the medium and encourage them to start their own blogs.

There’ll be quite a lot of stuff going on this summer, and since I’m heading off to college come mid-September, there’s quite a bit of pressure for me to actually go through with my plans for once. I have no doubt that this service will be of use to at least someone, and I’m quite glad to have been a part of its creation.


  1. Over the summer, I’ve spent a large part of my time making plans for my personal projects (pX in particular), yet I’ve done very little in actually following those plans. Now that ...

  2. You might be wondering why it’s taken me so incredibly long to finally blog about Planet Xavier’s long-awaited and long-needed redesign. As usual, the answer is procrastination.


  1. John Ariosa

    I would be glad to offer services as far as graphics for the proposed themes, I need the practice in photoshop. Anyway if you want the help just email me.

  2. The themes are actually just going to be stylesheets. I’m going to have four themes of my own on there:

    • Earth, replete with (what else?) lots of Blue Marble goodness
    • Neptune, with a big picture of the blue planet
    • Beta Blue, in case anyone likes the current setup (like I do)
    • Snowstorm, which is just a plain stylesheet that keeps the layout

    When the new design launches, I’ll be happy to accept contributed stylesheets. If you don’t know CSS, just send me the images and a mockup – but please, no Photoshop images, since I don’t have a program to handle them; just export them to another format like PNG.

    It would probably be a good idea to wait until I have a preview ready, so you have an idea what kinds of stuff you need to theme. Well, thanks for your offer.

  3. If administration does find out about pX, what could they possibly do? The only thing I can think of is make you change the Xavier part, but otherwise, they are powerless. Everything that goes on here is done outside of school, and therefore the school has no power over it. Freedom of speech, or something like that.

  4. It’s an interesting situation: you see, it’s not that the administration would actually do anything about pX if they found out about it. Rather, the problem is that people would have the perception that the administration is watching, and that they could get in trouble for participating. And they could: many of the upcoming seniors on pX regularly post from school. That would be an obvious violation of the Computer Use Policy. Now, of course, there are worse things than posting to a Xanga, such as playing non-Jesuit-appropriate Flash games, so if the administration were to start clamping down on blogging activity at school, we could make the case that they’re being too selective.

    It’s interesting to contrast this predicament with Matt Weber’s last year, when the administration unsuccessfully attempted to keep the Gay Vultures out of the band competition. Basically, the administration had to back down when Matt managed to harness the suppport of both students and faculty. pX has no faculty support. In addition, Matt was ademant about keeping his band in the competition, because it was a big deal. But the majority of the students currently syndicated at pX frankly don’t care about their blogs enough to stand their ground.

    For that matter, many of the students don’t even know about pX yet. I’ve attempted to contact everyone I can so far, but I’ve had to rely on e-mailing them via Gaggle in many cases, and you know how much people check that service. In addition, many students won’t reveal their identities, except that they go to St. X, so there’s no hope of letting them know about the service, short of commenting on their blogs. (I don’t – and won’t – have a Xanga account.)

    Unfortunately, freedom of speech is an unreliable thing for us: as I understand it, our parents essentially waived away most of our freedom of speech when they enrolled us into St. X and signed the various forms and dotted lines that the school bombard us with at the beginning of every year. And we’re minors, so we aren’t yet given full standing among free-speaking adults.

    In any event, the mere perception that adults are keeping an eye on pX could create a severe “chilling effect” that would effectively silence the site, whether or not there’s really any threat of discipline.

  5. My senior year ('04), I did some pretty bad things, or so the administration thinks. First of all, for having some minor vulgarities in my signature for Gaggle I got 4 jugs. I did it in the first month of the year (and forgot to delete it) and then several months later they decided to look at my profile for whatever reason and see the sig. I really never used Gaggle and so I was shocked when I was called about it.

    Odioso was the one who I talked to for a few hours and I can recall him questioning my skills in computers. Specifically, he said something along the lines of, "Can you hack into our computer system, Mr. Rother?" I said, "yes." I think that's what got him all scared and wanting to give me detention time.

    Now, there was also a website in my profile pointing to a location on my server that hosted forums. There was a time when I wanted to get a bunch of St. X students together on some forums as a means of discussion. If I can recall correctly, the name of the forums was something like "St. Xavier Speak". Of course, Odioso went to visit the site, saw the name "St. Xavier" and said, "Okay, you're going to take the site down by tomorrow or else." I took it down.

    The biggest problem I see is with parents, as Minh mentioned. I know if my mom were to see flagrant use of the f-word on my blog two years ago, my computers would have been taken away indefinitely. Also saying things like I did this bad thing with friend A today and smoked B with friend C today will probably cause commotion. So I don't know, maybe there just needs to be some type of enforceable etiquette (to be a part of pX), however unwanted that may be. As I see it, write your blog as if you were sitting at the dinner table with family rather than chilling at a friend's house talking. Or just have two blogs. Or Ju5+ WR1+3 1n 1337, w3 4ll KNOw P4r3n+$ c4n'7 re@d 1337!

  6. I think the thing that hurts Gaggle’s usage most (and thus defeats its purpose entirely) is that people feel like Big Brother himself is watching. You can’t hope for communication if there’s the perception that someone is watching over you. And even though Mr. Odioso et al. might end up being nice folk to most of us, there’s still that authoritarian air that makes everyone queasy about speaking their own mind.

    I’ve really only used Gaggle for two things in my four years: to check names of bloggers against the student lists, to see if they were St. X students; and to (attempt to) e-mail students who left me no other way of getting in touch about pX.

    When I setup pX, I made a point of including an incredibly long disclaimer, knowing that I might have some kind of confrontation about the site. (The famous line from CLiki wikis reads, “Imagine a fearsomely comprehensive disclaimer of liability. Now fear, comprehensively.”) I should’ve made the disclaimer of affiliation much more prominent anyways, in response to Mr. Hopkins’ rant against me.

    I guess since I’m known to know something about computers, I’m always asked two things. Often, someone will (with their best puppy-dog face) come up to me and ask me, “Can you fix my computer?” [1] And often, when someone finds out that I’m somewhat experienced with Windows, their eyes light up and they ask me, “Can you hack into the school network?!!” I’m sorry, no, but I will install Firefox and reconfigure your desktop for you.

    A while back, a wonderfully accurate online publication, The Onion, published an article about a mom who unexpectedly discovers her son’s blog, and all that it confessed. The Onion now charges for the back issue, but you can still read Blogger’s response to it.

    I want to keep this service free from most kinds of restrictions. In the e-mails or instant messages that I send people, I tell them that “You don’t have to worry about what you post too much – just don’t break the law.” I provide pX as a service to the student body. To encumber it with too many rules would be forgetting the people I’m trying to serve here. These people include students who express themselves with choice expletives, etc. I want to take a laissez-faire approach to “governing” pX, and hopefully it’ll work out.

    That said, I hope that the simple rules of netiquette would be enough, and I strongly encourage all the students of pX to keep those “rules” in mind. And really, your “dinner table” test probably sums up all of netiquette in one sentence.

    You know, I really don’t want to condone leetspeak, which I consider somewhat abhorrent in its current everyday usage. I’ve even resorted to using a handly little bookmarklet to decode that stuff. And leet’s not worth the extra effort, especially since Microsoft is on a crusade to educate parents in that fine art. Instead, why don’t we all just use the three or four years of foreign language education that we’ve been given? I mean, most blogs don’t say much more than “Yo quiero un taco” anyways, right? :^P