Big Data keeps tabs on college students

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Institutions collect startling amounts of information on students. Do the students have a right to know how it’s being used, and should they be able to opt out?

As Big Data Comes to College, Officials Wrestle to Set New Ethical Norms – The Chronicle of Higher Education

[The linked article is behind a paywall, but here’s a PDF that will stay posted for a limited time.]

20160710.As Big Data Comes to College, Officials Wrestle to Set New Ethical Norms – The Chronicle of Higher Education (1)

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130 thoughts on “Big Data keeps tabs on college students

  1. The opening paragraph: ” A week before classes begin at the University of Maryland University College, students can start poking around the online course materials. Some do, looking over the syllabus and getting a feel for the subject, but others don’t bother. It turns out that with just a little number crunching of that pre-course behavior, university officials can make some surprisingly accurate predictions about who will flourish and who will flounder.”

    I don’t know why, but I found that depressing.

  2. The workout and nutrition apps I have on my apple watch and iPhone already do some analysis and prompts, and I wonder if the “customized” messages will continue to be effective over time once half the apps on your phone are reminding you of something.

    “Hi! We’ve noticed you haven’t logged your breakfast yet this morning – would you like to do so now?”
    +
    “Hey awesome runner, you have run for two days in a row. Let’s make it three!”
    +
    “Course materials for Chemisty 101b are now available. Please log in now to review.”
    +
    “It’s time to schedule your regular dental cleaning! Don’t forget to floss :)”
    =
    Annoying Nagging Mother

    After a while, everyone ignores the Nagging Mother.

    I ought to know :)

    I don’t mind the data collection that tells them that half the class couldn’t complete the practice drill correctly or stopped viewing the lecture by minute 13, but I do mind the use of that data to sell me something.

  3. My department is under heavy pressure from our administrators to do some kind of analytics project on the masses of data collected at my university.

  4. Also, the IBM Watson people did a meeting with us recently to try to give us some learning analytics platform. Why do they want to do that? Easy – they want our data

  5. I am currently using a subscription diet program that provides you a scale, and when you weigh the company immediately texts you with how you’re doing. Among other support things, If you skip weighing, it texts you. I get texts saying things like “it looks like rain is in the forecast today. Find another way to get exercise.” It sends other texts asking how many sugary drinks I drink, etc. Its all very weird.

  6. RMS, I find it encouraging that people who engage with the course material are likely to do well. Otherwise, the professors have gone to a great deal of time and trouble to prepare it, with no benefit.

    There is clearly a difference between a student who doesn’t engage with course material early due to lack of interest and one who doesn’t engage because (s)he has appendicitis, so predictions will never be perfect, but that’s true of any sort of statistical analysis.

    I think it will be good if “engages with course material” becomes a bigger factor than race and socioeconomic background in college success. I’d be much more likely to support additional student services for people who are unsuccessfully engaging with the course material in a timely manner.

  7. What do they want to do with your data?

    It seems both Trump and Clinton want to make schools more accountable for their student’s job prospects (or lack thereof). If the data can show that Dave isn’t going to graduate on time or at all and even if he does he won’t be able to pay back his loans then it’s best not to let him in.

  8. Rhett, they probably don’t even know right now, but data is considered to be a big business asset these days. In truth, that is what Google has that makes them so powerful – they have all our data.

  9. I think data analytics in guiding students is a great thing. You can’t bemoan low graduation rates and kids taking out onerous amounts of student loans because they take so long to graduate and not be in favor of this. I think if its helping kids stay on track (and a few places are doing this really well), graduate and find a good career fit it’s all good.

  10. The thing that freaked me out is when I found out that my iPhone was logging all the places that I go frequently. One Saturday morning, I looked at my screen & it said “traffic is light, it will take you 5 minutes to drive to X street” (which is where the grocery store is located). Then I discovered that they automatically turn on “frequent locations” and track all the places that you go regularly unless you opt out. I don’t know why that freaks me out more than Target being able to tell that someone is pregnant before they ever buy a pregnancy/baby item, but it does.

  11. I agree with Atlanta.

    However, I think using data internally for educational purposes is ok, but selling it, sharing it, or using it for research beyond its original intent without permission is not ok.

  12. “In truth, that is what Google has that makes them so powerful – they have all our data.”

    Totally agree. That’s why my ads are so odd after a “favorite things” post on this blog!

  13. In elementary school when students do online programs for math, vocabulary etc, lots of data is being collected by various companies. There is a trail much early on. It may not be great as the little rascals try to game the program into thinking they are spending hours solving Math problems when they are really texting their friends about Pokemon.

  14. Then I discovered that they automatically turn on “frequent locations” and track all the places that you go regularly unless you opt out.

    Why is that a problem? Google reads all my e-mail so when I google, for example, a flight or an airport it knows that I probably mean the airport I’m going to today and the flight I’m on. The technology can’t really be helpful unless it knows what you’re doing and can anticipate your needs.

  15. After I talked about it on here, I’ve been getting nothing but Kady Krogen ads at work and at home. But they’re the most beautiful pictures, it’s like this awesome screensaver or wallpaper has replaced what used to be ad bars. But Kady Krogen must be seriously over-estimating my purchasing abilities.

  16. I mostly turn off location services unless I need them for driving – I find they drain the battery more than I’d like.

  17. Slight hijack – I was having lunch with a friend who was telling me about her niece. Apparently, the niece took some course at community college while in high school and during the year she worked before transferring to her 4-year school. Some of the classes were just to see if she was interested in the subject. She figured out that in two classes her high school hadn’t prepared her very well to be taking the college level course and she received 2 C grades. Now, going into her Junior year, the department she is in will not accept her into Junior level classes as her overall GPA is not high enough, does not exceed 3.75 for ALL courses. After several discussions with the dean, the bottom line is no way to continue at her current school without changing majors. The “final” decision was given to her in late April.

    In the meantime, she applied to three other schools all of which are equivalent in rigor to the one she is leaving. Two of them accepted her, one told her she was applying out of cycle. She will now be transferring to the school that is also giving her a scholarship.

    My friend said that this “new” policy seems to be one to discourage kids from taking anything they don’t KNOW they will do well in and to be careful in counseling kids in the courses they take.

    Totebaggers, especially CoC, is this just a one-off kind of thing or is this becoming the norm?

  18. 3.75 across all courses??? That is quite a bar.

    It is common in CS departments to only allow students who make a C or better in their first two programming courses to continue. I think that policy makes sense and I wish we could do it. Getting a C or below in those first two courses is a strong predictor for failing future CS courses.

  19. @Rhett – I don’t really know why that bothered me more than other data collection, but it was a visceral reaction.

  20. 3.75 across all courses??? That is quite a bar.

    Even a 2.75 is like a B-. Are we sure she didn’t misstate the actual GPA requirement out of embarrassment?

  21. Yes. The parent thought that the DD had misstated the GPA and contacted the Dean. The DD (niece to my friend) was correct. Apparently, the department has a high demand and only so many slots.

    The concern my friend had was it seems more like a zero tolerance policy for any academic mistakes.

  22. Apparently, the department has a high demand and only so many slots.

    That sucks. You’d think they would at least let her retake the CC classes to get her grade up.

  23. “Apparently, the department has a high demand and only so many slots.”
    Is this a public university? If so, this is probably the main reason.

  24. “Apparently, the department has a high demand and only so many slots.”

    My old department at my alma mater ran into this problem. When I was there, classes were open to anyone at the U, and students would get weeded out by ability to handle the courses. But demand rose to the point that such an approach was not feasible, and they had to institute a gate to students taking classes in the department. I’m pretty sure the gate wasn’t as strict as a 3.75 GPA, but IIRC it included a minimum GPA on certain classes (e.g., calculus, physics) relevant to the major.

  25. “data is considered to be a big business asset these days.”

    I believe that’s the main asset Dick’s was after in the Sports Authority bankruptcy auction.

  26. “I mostly turn off location services unless I need them for driving”

    DW does this too, except when we’re traveling and she likes to have photos geotagged.

  27. Marketers like data, but so do academic researchers. DH and his colleagues are always looking for data, some of which is amazingly expensive and, depending upon the source, may come with serious identity-protecting limitations.
    Most college students eagerly disclose on FB or other social media considerably more sensitive data than is available from online course materials. This may be something about which consumer advocates care much more than the consumers.

  28. I mostly turn off location services unless I need them for driving – I find they drain the battery more than I’d like.

    Yeah, it kills the battery.

  29. Off-topic, but I think Finn will be interested based on his previous comments. Apparently Iceland is cracking down on unlicensed AirBNB rentals. We have 3 booked for our upcoming trip. I have confirmed with two of them that we are still good but I have not received a reply back from the other one after three days, so I’m getting a bit concerned. Last night I booked hotel rooms for those two nights with no-risk cancellation policies, so we are covered if this rental falls through. We’ll see what happens.

  30. Denver Dad, in the course of researching an upcoming trip to Quebec, I saw warnings on tripadvidor that Quebec is similarly cracking down on AirBnB hosts and to be careful when booking rentals.

  31. DD, yes, I’m interested in the topic. Thanks for posting that.

    It’s another reason to consider legality of AirBNB/VRBO/similar rentals when booking. The flip side is that it may not be easy to determine the legality of such a rental.

  32. Yeah, there’s no way to tell the legality. You can ask the host but you have no way to know if they are telling the truth.

  33. Locally, the County Department of Planning and Permitting’s Code Compliance Branch can provide a list of legal TVRs (transient vacation rentals). I believe that rentals less than 30 days are considered transient.

    Another hint: if the rental building was built after 1989, chances are it’s not a legal TVR. The current law, which does not allow for any new TVRs, was enacted then. TVRs already permitted at the time were grandfathered.

  34. Finn, how is someone who doesn’t live in the area supposed to know all that? Let’s be realistic – people aren’t going to spend the time looking up the local laws for vacation rentals when they are planning a trip, and they sure as heck aren’t going to do it for a foreign country.

  35. There’s also regulations within individual buildings. We stayed in a high rise once where when we “checked in” the host told us to tell the building security that we were his relatives visiting from out of town. While no one really questioned us while we were there, it was very uncomfortable, and it made me reluctant to use AirBNB/VRBO, etc in the future.

  36. Finn,

    What’s the issue with just building more transient rental units in HI? Just general NIMBYism?

  37. Rhett, IMO the illegal conversion of a large amount of housing stock to vacation rentals is a major contributor to a serious problem of homelessness, as well as to a dearth of ‘affordable’ housing (median price for a single family home is approaching $800k).

  38. “In elementary school when students do online programs for math, vocabulary etc, lots of data is being collected by various companies.”

    The teachers see this data, and I don’t always trust their judgement to use it effectively. Plus, as you mentioned, some students seem to be able to game the system.

    Generally, I think this data will inevitably be used to predict and make decisions about students. Sometimes it will be abused and sometimes the predictions will be wrong. We should just get used to it, right? Beyond school, this is the way of the future in many aspects of our lives. We cannot resist. [spoken in a robot voice]

  39. Finn,

    Then the obvious solution is to build more housing not restrict people’s property rights.

  40. Sometimes it will be abused and sometimes the predictions will be wrong.

    Will it be as wrong and abused as the current system? I highly doubt that.

  41. Rhett, I guess I didn’t answer your question.

    More transient rentals are being built here, with the trend seeming to be towards timeshares more than hotel rooms.

    However, the illegal conversion of housing to transient rentals has, IMO, suppressed the demand for such units.

  42. “the obvious solution is to build more housing not restrict people’s property rights.”

    It may solve that problem, but create many others.

  43. Generally, I think this data will inevitably be used to predict and make decisions about students. Sometimes it will be abused and sometimes the predictions will be wrong. We should just get used to it, right? Beyond school, this is the way of the future in many aspects of our lives. We cannot resist. [spoken in a robot voice]

    That was exactly my concern as well.

  44. However, the illegal conversion of housing to transient rentals has, IMO, suppressed the demand for such units.

    If people want to temporarily rent more single family homes than time shares then build more single family homes and fewer time shares. HI doesn’t have anything that 100k more homes couldn’t cure.

  45. but create many others.

    Such as? If you need more roads or power plants or runways then build them.

  46. “If you need more roads or power plants or runways then build them.”

    Where would you build them, and how would you pay for the construction and maintenance?

  47. “Such as? If you need more roads or power plants or runways then build them.

    Um, that requires taxpayer money?
    In some areas, too, the environment can only tolerate a certain density of infrastructure. I don’t know the situation in HI.

  48. CoC, a big problem in data analytics and machine learning is that unconscious bias can drift into the algorithms. So Big Data may not be as objective as we would like

  49. Where would you build them

    On land taken by eminent domain if necessary

    and how would you pay for the construction and maintenance?

    With the property taxes on all those new units.

  50. Big data might put us closer to a European-style system, where only people with demonstrated aptitude have the opportunity to attempt university educations. No statistical system will be perfectly predictive, and statistically predictive variables may be socially unjust.

  51. Finn – what do the young, new engineers at your company do for housing? I’m just curious if the median price is $800k.

  52. “price to rent ratio in Honolulu is 40:1”

    Is that for long-term rental, or TVR?

  53. “what do the young, new engineers at your company do for housing?”

    Many of the young engineers I know lived at home with their parents when they first got out of school and started working.

  54. A real quick back of the envelope calculation tells me the 40:1::price:rent is for long term rental.

    TVR rental rates are much higher, making the price/rent ration for properties rented that way much closer to the 15:1 cited. The high demand for such rentals thus drives up the price of housing.

  55. “statistically predictive variables may be socially unjust.”

    Good point, and seems related to a previous discussion based on a post about the difficulties of low SES students at HSS.

    OTOH, data analysis might predict such difficulties and inform the SES in advance of the need to take proactive measures to mitigate those difficulties.

  56. Finn,

    To your knowledge is tourist demand uniform thought the year? I assume the long term rentals are cheaper because the TVRs are vacant for much of the year. I know that’s the case in places like St. Thomas.

  57. By long-term rentals I mean rentals residential rentals, e.g., a one-year lease.

    Tourist demand is definitely not uniform throughout the year. But I think that is only one factor in the price difference. A vacationer, with price point comparisons of hotel rooms, might be willing and able to spend $2000 to rent a house for a week, but just for a week; that rate is not sustainable for the average residential renter.

  58. I don’t know if they use this sort of data analysis, but I’ve read that in Texas there is at least one program that tries to proactively predict the UT students who will have difficulty adjusting to college and provide them with support in adjusting.

  59. Yes, algorithms can contain biases, but aren’t people more biased than machines? I’ve read about the interesting costs and benefits of machine based screening of job applicants.

  60. I imagine programs like the one at UT might be more effective with better data and better analysis.

  61. might be willing and able to spend $2000 to rent a house for a week, but just for a week; that rate is not sustainable for the average residential rente

    Right, but a guaranteed $2000/week might be for the weeks of Christmas, New Years and Feburary and April vacation with other weeks renting for less and many weeks renting not not at all. A 12 month lease would ensure a steady and predictable income stream. There was a HGTV show a while back that explained the math from a landlords perspective.

  62. Then the obvious solution is to build more housing not restrict people’s property rights.
    ….
    On land taken by eminent domain if necessary

    Rhett, which is it? Don’t restrict property rights or take people’s land from them?

  63. I can’t speak to HI, but the situation in the mountain resort areas in Colorado is similar. The low-wage workers can’t afford housing, because most of the housing is used for vacation rentals. Why would a landlord rent a unit for $1,000 a month when they can get that (or more) for a week? And why would developers build and sell units for $200k when they can sell the same units for $400k?

  64. Don’t restrict property rights or take people’s land from them?

    Both. The good of the many outweighs the good of the one.

  65. “And why would developers build and sell units for $200k when they can sell the same units for $400k?”

    Yep, that’s pretty much what is happening here. Unless mandated, builders are building very expensive units not aimed at local buyers. Those units will not mitigate our homelessness or affordable housing problems.

  66. Those units will not mitigate our homelessness or affordable housing problems.

    Sure it will. If they built 25,000 brand new high end homes that would put substantial downward pressure on high end home prices. That would push the prices down of the level below all the way down to the bottom of the market.

  67. “Right, but a guaranteed $2000/week might be for the weeks of Christmas, New Years and Feburary and April vacation”

    Along with our discussion about how incredibly often people flake out, I’d now guess that a not-insignificant number of those weeks are collecting only the reservation deposit, so about half.

    My kid’s instructor was commenting about how many parents sign their kid up for something and just don’t show up, so she switched to requiring full payment ahead of time, and they’re STILL not showing up, and then they keep making appointments later.

  68. “If they built 25,000 brand new high end homes that would put substantial downward pressure on high end home prices.”

    Perhaps, but it will take a long time to build 25,000 brand new homes, so it will take a long time for all those homes to exert that downward pressure.

    My impression is that many of the high end homes being built now are bringing in buyers from elsewhere, buying them as vacation homes. Thus the market on which they will apply downward pressure is not so much local homes as worldwide vacation homes.

  69. We had a meeting out on the parking lot about dumpster solution, and the old people who bought when the complex opened up circa 1990 (and development had not yet given us a critter problem) said new residents were simply unsanitary. One lady explained to me how to put EVERYTHING down the garbage disposal (it involves cutting everything up very small and mixing meat and melon rinds and lettuce bits in proper proportion to keep the disposal from seizing up) and how to clean the cat food cans prior to recycling with a wire brush. I said, telling me to keep my garbage in the house all week is unsanitary. I got really hot under the collar, and they said, well you can pay my assessment (estimated at 200 per unit for new cans for units that they paid 180K for that are now worth 580K and that will end up enriching their heirs.) I rarely feel like I am on the receiving end of get off my lawn, but this time I was.

  70. I think a lot of homes will get a lot more than $2k/ week during peak periods like Xmas, and during those periods, the owners can probably require full payment in advance.

  71. “My kid’s instructor was commenting about how many parents sign their kid up for something and just don’t show up, so she switched to requiring full payment ahead of time, and they’re STILL not showing up”

    Nice way to make a living.

  72. Nice way to make a living.

    I think that’s the business model of every gym in America. You sell tons of memberships to the overly ambitious who got two or three times and never come again but keep paying.

  73. “Nice way to make a living.”

    Yeah, but in her case, she’s just covering costs to pursue her lifetime hobby.

  74. Rhett – that makes me think of the Friends episode where Chandler (I think) wants to quit the gym, and even takes Ross with him for support. Of course Ross ends up joining, and they are both stuck!

  75. Houston, re data being more objective than individuals, recall that people write the algorithms by which data is analyzed. If one tenth of the employees have a bias that should not be reflected in results of analysis that they conduct individually, then one tenth of subjects (students in this case) will be affected. But if one tenth of the people writing, rewriting, and adjusting an algorithm have that sort of bias, then that bias will be applied to 100% of the subjects.
    I’m glad to hear of the crackdown on AirBnB. There are numerous documented cases of people of color and mixed couple not being able to rent through them. That hasn’t happened with Home Away and VRBO, so I much prefer to go through them.
    WCE/Rocky, if tracking is done rigorously, it need not ignore social inequalities: students can be given points for things that have made it more difficult to get where they are.

  76. Meme – small particles or not, a plumber told us not to put food down our garbage disposal as it was clogging our pipes (not right away but over time). From then on, we dispose off all food waste in the trash. You had mentioned no pest control for the rats in your building. We have lots of greenery, a warm humid climate and potential for pests going for the garbage but we do pest control inside and outside our home and our city issued garbage cans must not be easy for critters to get in.

  77. Rhett, too many units will result in fewer tourists. Who wants to travel all the way from the mainland to Hawaii to see the same kind of developments they could see for much less? Also, there may be environmental reasons not to lay down more & more roads.

    On the recycling issue, one of these days…. We pay extra for recycling and trash pickup. But because neighbors throw trash into the recycling bins, the waste mgt people toss it all into the trash. This means we have to drive our recycling to the county recycling. Pisses me off.

  78. I would say, “People with xx profile have yy chance of graduating” and absorb loan costs for the (1-yy) of people who don’t graduate, for whatever reason. If we give points for hardship, we’re back to arguments about whether admissions should be based on merit. And xx would need to be updated annually.

    The question about how social status affects outcomes is a hard one. I remember when my physician, a huge fan of President Obama, was talking about how data would let medicine make better decisions about which patients will be helped by what treatment. My FIL was scheduled for stem cell therapy, and socioeconomic status is a big predictor of success with that treatment. My doctor blanched when I asked him if he thought stem cell therapy should be offered to people in the top decile of socioeconomic status but not the bottom, given that people in the bottom decile tend to be harmed and people in the top decile tend to be helped.

    It’s a tough problem.

  79. Rhett, your 6:33 comment is predicated on a steady population. The expensive units bring wealthy buyers from elsewhere, so there are more units, but also more people to house, and still a lack of affordable housing

  80. I think a lot of homes will get a lot more than $2k/ week during peak periods like Xmas, and during those periods, the owners can probably require full payment in advance.

    Every VRBO rental I’ve done has required the final payment 30 days in advance. So if someone flakes out, the owner has half the rental fee and a month to find another renter. I’m sure it’s not a problem on a peak week, especially since they now have the flexibility to lower the price because they have half of it in the bank already.

  81. On the recycling issue, one of these days…. We pay extra for recycling and trash pickup. But because neighbors throw trash into the recycling bins, the waste mgt people toss it all into the trash. This means we have to drive our recycling to the county recycling. Pisses me off.

    Has anyone talked to the neighbors about it? And of course the obvious solution is to stop paying extra for recycling pickup.

  82. S&M – does the trash/recycling company leave notes or flyers on the recycling bins of people who put the wrong stuff in? I see that here – my neighbor used to put plastic bags in her recycling and there was a tag put on their bin with the incorrect item circled. I think one time they didn’t even pick it up!

  83. a plumber told us not to put food down our garbage disposal as it was clogging our pipes

    Then what do you use it for? I’ve never heard of that being a problem even for people who have had disposals for decades.

  84. SSK, I wish they’d leave some of those kinds of flyers, or post notices!
    DD, it’s part of the rent. The mgt co pays for recycling pickup & costs are passed on to residents. Trash & recycling bins are communal, so the only way to do anything about it is to get everyone to cooperate. I’ve talked to a couple people, but rather than become that person who won’t shut up about a pet peeve, I should ask mgt to post or distribute the kinds of materials SSK mentioned. I was just blowing off steam on the current topic of conversation here.

  85. We have problems with people who don’t understand the arcane rules for what can go into the recycle bin. Nearby towns have different rules, so when someone buys a unit it takes a while to educate. But we also have old biddies who go through the bins and cluck cluck but remove the offending items. It creeps me out to think of them going through my trash. The food item that caused me to get hot under the collar today was some turkey cutlets that must not have been properly taken care of in transport to TJs in this heat – when I went to fix them for dinner they were “off” so I had to wrap them up in some grocery bags, label them SPOILED and stick them in the freezer until Tuesday after 7pm. I have never put raw meat down the disposal, other than the tiny bits that might cling to a cutting board. We can’t get a critter proof dumpster that can be lifted by the hauling company and also has a side door that the residents can reach. So we may try to get a separate receptacle in a cage for food waste. But I don’t care any more. If nothing happens and they want to harass us into keeping garbage in the house all week, I will simply purchase a sturdy metal waste can with a raccoon proof closure (rats can chew thru plastic, raccoons have hand like paws) and keeping it on my patio. We have four toddlers in the complex – and diapers even in the genie need disposal.

  86. We never had an issue with the pipes in our previous house but do in our current house. We use garbage disposal very little just if there are specks of food on our plates/pots & pans after disposing off food/kitchen waste in the trash.

  87. “I have never put raw meat down the disposal”

    Just to point out that nobody ever agrees on anything, our septic guy specifically recommends putting any spoiled raw meat down the disposal as a way to get helpful bacteria into the septic tank.

  88. Taxpayers spend over $30 billion a year in Pell Grants for students, many of them taking remediation college courses (no credit given) and with low graduation rates. (Those two factors correlate closely.) Many of those no-graduation students attend lousy schools where the overall graduation rate is low.

    We could spend both Pell and student loan funds much more efficiently if we applied some effective standards in deciding how to allocate resources. We don’t need Big Data for this, but if it does the job then on balance it would be a good thing. However, the issue of unfairness makes this unappealing to many people. IMO, the status quo is quite unfair, in its own way.

  89. “I will simply purchase a sturdy metal waste can with a raccoon proof closure (rats can chew thru plastic, raccoons have hand like paws) and keeping it on my patio. ”

    Would that make your patio unusable because of the stink emanating from the waste can? Even so, it sounds like the best solution.

    I’ve had waste disposals for years and never heard of problems putting food in. However, I have learned that using the most powerful disposal available makes almost everything go down with no problem. Cutting food up into smaller pieces would be a PITA. Just like rinsing off dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, which I’ve noticed is a habit for some people.

  90. “Just like rinsing off dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, which I’ve noticed is a habit for some people.”

    Definitely for us. Where do the big chunks of solid food go if you just leave them on the plates? Do they make it to the garbage disposal in the sink, or do they get trapped on some mesh screen or filter?

  91. I just scrape the big chunks off and into the garbage disposal. But apparently “scrape or rinse” is a controversial topic.

  92. We eat a lot of eggs, and used to put eggshells down the disposal. When the pipes clogged up, the plumber told us he found a three inch wall of ground up eggshells causing the blockage. So now eggshells go in the trash. We compost, so we use the disposal very little–just for tiny scraps.

  93. Weird about the eggshells. We put tons of eggshells down our disposal and have never had a problem.

    I am thinking about starting to compost, but it has to be easy. I have no idea how to do it. Should I get a small container to put in the patio corner? How long does composting typically take before a container can be emptied?

  94. I was thinking about food waste/composting/gardening. My aunt was introduced to this when she bought a house by her neighbor. She was an eager convert. In the summer she got so many vegetables that she had to freeze, can, pickle. Her neighbor would come over to help and she would go over to her neighbors. She kept it up for a few years but after a while, it all got to be too much (her kids were grown, husband passed on) so she quit.

  95. The old biddy who set me off said, well people are just unsanitary and instructed me to scrub the cellophane and styrofoam trays that my meat comes in and then wrap them in double heavy plastic before disposing of them. The Board chair was complaining that the garbage truck was early Wed am and she didn’t make it out on time and had to drive around the neighborhood to find a friend’s can to put in her garbage, because she was more righteous than the rest of us and would not put the garbage out the night before.

    We are not allowed to have trash cans on the patio. But something’s gotta give.

  96. CoC, I had also always heard not to rinse, but when our dishwasher clogged up, the repairman YELLED at us for not rinsing. He said that Consumer Reports is totally wrong and that you always have to rinse before putting dishes into the dishwasher, So now I rinse

  97. Meme, your neighbors are making my HOA seem like a reasonable bunch of people. No small accomplishment.

  98. I had to rinse as a kid and swore, as God is my witness, when I grow up I will never rinse again. To date I never have and I’ve never had a problem. Although I do scrape – obviously.

  99. Meme, maybe I missed something, but is your trash somehow traceable? What would happen if you wrapped it up securely and quietly slipped it into the bin?
    Our dishwasher has a filter to take care of larger food particles but it’s not accessible for us to clean it. We have to call a repairman and after the last visit I decided to scrape and rinse. The filter was pretty gross.
    I now have four compost bins plus a freestanding pile but only for grass clippings and leaves, and not even for all of those. Given the volume of yard waste, adding food scraps would be silly and more trouble than it’s worth especially in winter, when even if you trek through the snow the pile is frozen solid. Though I will take the coffee grounds from Starbucks if they are available. They don’t ever smell bad.

  100. Rhett – I miss the DW at the old house – scrape and it would be fine. This DW you have to rinse and even then, the stuff in the corners is still dirty. Also I think we have hard water bc everything comes out with spots.

    Meme – sorry! Why is it not possible to get a critter proof dumpster? That seems like a no-brainer if I were the chair of the board.

  101. Also I think we have hard water bc everything comes out with spots.

    Do you fill the rinse aid tank?

  102. Compared to the industriousness and civic mindedness shown by your communities – mine is very laid back. Young kids roaming around or playing in the neighborhood road, persons of color walking at odd times, no composting or growing of vegetables. We don’t have high standards at all, so keeping up with the Joneses is easy.

  103. L,

    I was going to say try Finish but it seems Finish and Jet-Dry are the same thing.

  104. Rhett – I think it’s also bc the top rack is rusty. I have ordered a new rack and will see if that helps.

  105. “The old biddy who set me off said, well people are just unsanitary and instructed me to scrub the cellophane and styrofoam trays that my meat comes in and then wrap them in double heavy plastic before disposing of them. ”

    That is a special kind of insanity.

    I don’t put eggshells down the disposal, but I definitely put food waste down it including coffee grinds (which I have also been told are bad for the disposal). DH ordered me to stop putting citrus rinds down there, and I complied to keep the peace in the house even though I disagree with the concept. 9 years, no plumbing problems with the kitchen pipes.

    I definitely wipe large food particles off dishes before loading the dishwasher and put them down the disposal! Otherwise they get caught in the filter & I have to dump that out. No thanks. IIRC from appliance shopping 5 or 6 years ago, some dishwashers have built-in disposal mechanisms so you can go ahead and put big chunks in there. But Bosch does not, which is part of the reason it is so quiet.

  106. There is an article in today’s Denver Post that has the totebag all over it, but I can’t find it online. It’s about how summer camps have instituted “no care package” policies because too many parents were going way over the top. Besides the issue of it turning into a big competition, parents would try to sneak contraband through, like hiding cell phones in shorts pockets and candy in shampoo bottles and such. And there were the requisite quotes from parents saying things like “I know it might be over the top, but I don’t want my daughter to be left out.”

    When I went to sleep away camp, we had the “candy trunk.” Whenever anyone got a care package, they got to have one item from it and the rest went into the candy trunk for the whole bunk to share, that way nobody was left out. It seemed to work well.

  107. We rinse our dishes, because I dislike cleaning out the filter. I agree with Scarlett–I find it gross.

  108. I have never had a dishwasher where I did not have to rinse, almost clean first.
    Our town sent around notice to avoid sending food down the sink as it is not environmentally sound and makes the water filtration plant work that much harder.
    We also have a tow home and our humongous garbage and recycling cans stay in our garage till garbage day. It’s really bad in summer and I have to do major spraying to keep the smell controlled. We too keep all our old meat and food in the refrigerator before throwing it out on garbage day.

    Costco carries these rather large composting bins that can take your food waste. I would totally do that if we had a backyard.

  109. I am in the habit of rinsing dishes before putting them in a dishwasher because I used to have a Bosch (and they don’t have food grinders; something to do with Europe not allowing food waste to be disposed of that way, I believe). I no longer use my disposal much. I broke it twice by putting too much down it. Once on Thanksgiving day with a house full of people.

    Meme – that woman sounds crazy! Who washes meat containers? That is a fantastic way to spread salmonella. No way!

  110. Denver – we’ve only been there a few weeks and I’d rather try the low-cost solutions before I shell out major cash. :)

  111. We scrape large food particles off our plates before loading the dishwasher, but we don’t rinse. We have a Miele, and I love how easy it is to clean out the filter. I’ve had a few things get stuck in the jets or underneath the filters, and I was impressed at how easy it was to fix. Their instructions are really easy to follow. I love this dishwasher but it is probably more due to the fact that our last one was awful – had to scrape and rinse (basically wash the dishes before putting in the dishwasher) and the filter was impossible to clean.

    Our city has rolled out composting as part of the garbage pick up, so we have 3 bins – trash, recycling, and composting. We have an old ice cream pail with a compostable bag liner sitting in the counter. We bring it out to the compost can once the bag is full. We have alleys and the cans sit out all the time. We used to compost on our own, but couldn’t do it in the winter. We would scrape the food into the trash as we don’t have a garbage disposal.

  112. “Our town sent around notice to avoid sending food down the sink as it is not environmentally sound and makes the water filtration plant work that much harder.”

    SIL is an environmental scientist & she says the same thing. But I still use it.

  113. Rhett @9:00 is the best laugh I’ve had all week. Maybe because I can relate a bit.

    Now I know what to check for when I shop for a new dishwasher — one that doesn’t need rinsing. The one we have now is old and loud, but it cleans fine for the most part. However, the filter is inaccessible except by a repairman and I dread to think what it looks like.

    We have a trash compactor and rarely have an odor problem. Raw chicken trays are the worst offender, but if I wrap them in plastic and spray with Lysol the smell usually goes away. We only empty the compactor about every 2 weeks, which might gross you out if you think of all that trash sitting there for that long.

  114. Thank you all. It took me two extra hours and a glass of wine to calm down and I thought I had overreacted. Now off to DC for five days to see DD the hobby aerialist perform, and some other stuff. It is going to be high 90s the whole time. I only miss my hometown six weeks a year in the spring. And Scarlett, all of the units face the common lot. I could do it after 11 pm, I suppose. But during a previous round of recycle mania, I used to get notes under my door personally addressed saying my boxes were not properly folded or accusing my cleaners of throwing trash out improperly. L – the bearaccuda dumpster design that is compatible with our trash hauler is 5 1/2 feet tall and has 17 lb steel doors on top only. No side doors. Not possible for the average resident to use at all.

  115. It was a Washington Post on Parenting article about camp packages.

    Our sleep away camp falls in the middle about packages. We can send two packages per summer in a box. Food is never allowed. They really check so I don’t even try to send any food.

    Today is the mid point for our camp. The summer is flying by.

  116. I’ve heard and read many times that eggshells are good for disposals, that they keep them clean by scraping off the crud that grows on the blades. I’ve also read, and verified, that disposing of lemon rinds in the disposal deodorizes it.

  117. You guys just inspired me to check out my dishwasher filter – not too bad. I found a little bit of gross gunk, several apple stickers, and a dime.

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