Here are some frequently asked questions. Actually, they are only occasionally asked, but we thought it would be handy to not have to repeat our answers again and again.
An accounting of the folly. The original model for this site was opt-out. We thought we could simply build a database of all graduates of Sayville High, starting with their yearbooks, and then supplementing with info we could find online. This wasn’t a perfect process, because some of our friends did not graduate, or weren’t able to get their yearbook photos taken. And for most people, online information is sketchy. We set up mechanisms for anyone to edit what we’d created, and remove any info that they did not want others to see — but we imagined they would usually just correct errors and supplement the info with info that only they could provide, such as info on hobbies and kids. We did this out of a naivete that everyone was as comfortable with the exposure of their contact info as your webmaster is. (I grew up in an age when we didn’t have to lock our car doors or monitor our children at play or wear seatbelts or have security guards in the school.) During our first months, many many local authorities, including Library staff, High School Administrators and teachers, and classmates had an opportunity to review our plan by visiting the site. There were no objections to opt-out from most of those earlier reviewers — who were largely of your webmaster’s generation.
Opting to Opt-In. But then, two months after the site was launched, a few with privacy concern began to voice concerns. On February 25 your webmaster received a persuasive call from a classmate. Intelligent, thoughtful, and rational, she suggested a different model: opt-in rather than opt-out. Your fumbling webmaster was persuaded, and that is the new model now in place. As of the evening of Feb 25, here’s what information is available: name, graduation year, senior photo, and estimated age (estimated from graduation year). None of this information, however, is available to anyone to view unless they have registered, which requires entering name, class year, and valid email address. Upon registration, the provided email address also appears on your page.
Each model has its pros and cons. With opt-in, you won’t be able to look up your best friend in school and call or write them if they haven’t visited the site and placed that info here. With opt-out, you could do this at the risk that your friend did not want to be contacted by someone else. Prior to opt-in, information was definitely misused, with threatening calls to the webmaster in the middle of the night etc. So we have come down on the side of “better safe than sorry”. Opt-in is the new, permanent policy.
Confidentiality: Ben Franklin understood the fundamental problem of confidentiality: Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead. Once a secret is shared, it is no longer a secret. Contact information is a horse that is forever out of the barn. If you have a telephone or driver’s license, or pay an electric bill, your secret is gone.
The open nature of the Internet permits anyone to do about anything. This site regularly has registration attempts from users who supply false names or false email addresses, then come in and view your information. The anger and evil we find in this world will never go away. So we urge anyone to never pubish any information anywhere on the Internet if they do not want it read and used by others.
If this site were completely open, did not require registration, yet allowed anyone to modify the database in any way, it would become useless over night. If it were completely closed, and did not allow admission of new members, it would not be a site for Sayville High School, but for a few friends of your webmaster. We will try for some middle ground, in which registrants are scrutinized, and some are denied access.
As long as there is a way to register and join this site, the openness will invite efforts at destruction.
No information about anyone is available to unregistered users.
Photos: One or two have asked that their yearbook photo be removed. But these pictures were already published in yearbooks, and several hundred yearbooks were sold to each person’s classmates. Those yearbooks are now also located in the Public Library and Sayville High’s book shelves. There are no copyright notices in the yearbooks. The photos are in the public domain. We do not remove yearbook photos, but we are happy to replace them with others taken at the time of graduation. And soon we will have a system that will allow classmates to upload other photos to their home pages.
Age: If we do not know age, we estimate it from year of graduation. If it is estimated, we say so in the Sources section of each page.
Quality is an issue with both opt-in and opt-out. Now that information is only open to registered users, we’ve had a number who have tried to register under false names, or who thought they could provide bogus email addresses. We do what we can to prevent this, but there will always be someone gets by. Be aware that the child molester who lives down the street might be able to register and see your information.
To prevent users from trashing the database, registration creates a second record in the database. Review and editing reduces this to one record within a day or so.
We are non-profit. Membership in the Sayville Alumni Association is 100% free — no initiation fee, no dues. We don’t run ads. We don’t use our database for any commercial purpose.
We are inclusive. Those who graduated from Sayville High are members, but so are those who dropped out, or who moved away, or who died before graduation. Faculty are members, as are all staff, including secretarial, kitchen, security, and custodial staff.
We are rapidly becoming part of the community. We have liaisons to the High School, the Friends of Sayville Education Foundation, the Public Library, and to other community groups. The Suffolk County News recently rejoiced in our formation with a front page story. By the end of the year, I hope we can be contributing in more ways to the life of our home town.
We have community support. Our goal is to help those alumni who want to reconnect with old friends.
I hope you will visit again and again, and explore what we have done and are doing. Spend some time looking at our Sayville History page. Register on the site and provide what information you wish to share — info on your career, your hobbies, the name of your spouse, and any other info you want to share. And write if you have any questions.