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Missouri football team tracks racy words on social networks

Thursday, May 13, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA – It took a team of computer programmers and a year and a half of testing for Kevin Long to get his brainchild on the market.

But the gist of his patented and technologically sophisticated service, one that might eventually be in the hands of every college athletics department in the country, came from a much less likely source: A college fraternity.

Long, 39, asked a group of students from his college fraternity, Alpha Kappa Lambda at Purdue University, to come up with a list of racy words used by college-aged students.

College athletics departments or teams that buy Long’s service – called UDiligence – receive e-mail notifications when any of the words show up on one of their athletes’ Facebook, Twitter or MySpace pages.

Long asks the group to review and update the list at least once each semester. Now, after starting in 2008, it consists of 414 words.

The Missourian cannot print many of the tracked words because they are vulgar. A sampling of the milder words: alcohol, cocaine, cracker, beer, blitzed, doobie, Budweiser, inject, gangster, chains, drunk, gun, condoms, redneck, Jack Daniels, weed, pimp.

Some of the words are misspellings. In addition to explosion, for example, the list includes xploshun and exploshun. So maybe you can’t spell. Or maybe you’re smart enough to misspell a word on purpose. Either way, you’re screwed, which is also on the list.

Other words are obscure, requiring a trip to a site such as UrbanDictionary.com for a definition.

The words are grouped into five categories: alcohol, drugs, sex, violence and general/racial, which includes profane words.

Long also offers a similar service called YouDiligence, designed for parents to keep track of their children's social networking. It has an additional category named depression/bullying.

Missouri’s football team was one of UDiligence’s first clients. The team pays about $1,500 a year for the service, which Long said is the only one of its kind.

Dan Hopkins, Missouri’s director of football operations, receives about five to 10 e-mails a day from UDiligence notifying him that one of the search words has been found on a social network page belonging to a Missouri football player.

The notification also provides context and a link to the spot on the page where the word appeared. Hopkins can determine whether the flagged word was used inappropriately.

Hopkins would not discuss whether the team has disciplined a player for behavior on social networking sites or how the team would punish a player.

Long said a school has never asked him how UDiligence comes up with the list of words, which can be adjusted by someone such as Hopkins if he wants to add or delete words.

Based on UDiligence’s growing list of clients, several dozen schools including six from the Big 12 and several others from the six Bowl Championship Series conferences, the company picked the right dirty word experts.

“I remember what I was like when I was a college student in the fraternity, and if there was ever a group of people that would use this type of language and be familiar with what it was, I figured they were a very good select focus group that we could use to define this stuff in the beginning,” Long said. “It seems to have worked out pretty well so far.”


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Comments

Ellis Smith May 13, 2010 | 4:19 a.m.

It's comforting to discover that Big Brother is not only still alive but is apparently engaged in expansion.

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