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June 2, 2006
Here's our lineup for this first little snippet of June:
- Web News Briefs: 'Video-snacking'; Users' Web; Police on MySpace; SN with a purpose; Wrong kind of support; UK porn-use study; Martha's social-networking; Your virtual tunes; Family-networking; Kids as pirates?; WindowsOneCare launched; Game addiction & escapism; Teen 'phisher'; Home espionage/counterespionage; Credit-card firms fight child porn; NYC schools' tough phone policy....
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Web News Briefs
- 'Video snacking': Current hot trend
Short, lightweight, tightly shot - maybe the McDonald's of TV programming, or moving eyecandy. That may be what TV on cellphones will look like. At least, the $64,000 (or $64 million?) question conventional TV programmers are looking at right now is how to do their thing on teeny screens and make money in the process. So far, "there are only about 3 million people out of the almost 200 million cellphone users in the United States who now watch video on their phones," the New York Times Magazine reports, but everybody knows that's changing fast, and video-enabled cellphones are already ubiquitous in Europe and Asia (with shows like the UK's "SeeMeTV").
The Times took an in-depth look, particularly at MTV's thinking and development process. MTV may be "most likely to succeed," as the youngest of the lot (at 25), but of course it's looking over its shoulder at young but popular "TV" aggregators like YouTube.com and Heavy.com (the other hot story these days, beginning to nudge aside social-networking). The thing that's interesting, here, is that - while TV producers are watching the competition to see how it does programming for mobile TV - they also need to watch what "regular people" (aka teen homemade video producers) are creating for YouTube.com and other video-sharing (or social-producing or media-networking!) sites. The kind of programming that results will probably be a lot more like the "video snacking" some observers are calling it. The Times says MTV looked at some of the competition's European programming, at best crude and in some cases downright pornographic, and knew it'd have to do something a little different - so far it's pretty much talking heads in the music world. It'll be interesting to see how PBS does mobile TV!
In other video-of-the-people news, Yahoo looks to be pointedly taking on YouTube and maybe going one better with "Yahoo! Studio," where "everyone can feature their work alongside some of the most well-known names in television and movies ... share a single video, or create a whole channel full of your work and be discovered by like-minded, artists, businesses, and fans," says Yahoo. The San Jose Mercury News reports on this. See also the BBC on "viral video" - looking specifically at YouTube.com, Break.com, and GetDemocracy.com, and how do-it-yourself video on the Web is taking off. And the San Jose Mercury News earlier in the week looked anecdotally at how teens and 20-somethings are using YouTube (as both consumers and producers).
- Users' Web: Study
If anyone's still in doubt that the Web is increasingly what its users are making it, the latest Pew Internet & American Life study might add some clarity. "User-Generated Content and Interactivity at the Cutting Edge" is one of the headlines, and another is "Home broadband adoption is going mainstream and that means user-generated content is coming from all kinds of internet users." Thirty-five percent of all Net users have posted content to the internet," the study found. For most of these (26%), it's something they've created - artwork, photos, stories, or videos; next it's their own Web page (14%); then a blog or Web page for friends, groups belonged to, or work (13%); finally, it's one's own online journal or blog (8%). In all, about 31 million people have posted content to the Internet, and this "user-generated" Web is driven by "young home high-speed Internet users" - people under 30. This highly creative, interactive Web 2.0 is clearly thriving and growing.
- Police on MySpace
Police officers "consider MySpace one of their best resources," reports the Sacramento Bee in one of the first articles I've seen that lay out just *how* they use MySpace in investigations. "Whether officers are dealing with serious crimes or with youngsters whose worst offenses are inappropriate insults, they travel a similar investigative path. Start with a name or an event or an area. Find a person connected to it and then drill down, through friends and friends of friends, visiting their sites, riffling through their pictures, reading the correspondence they display publicly, and making printouts of anything incriminating." Bullying is what they expect to see at the middle school level. As for high school, one officer is described as keeping "an eye out for parties that are announced to the world, letting patrol officers know where the big bashes will be." That officer "recently spotted a photo of a bong that led to a student's arrest on drug and weapons charges.... Even when youngsters use aliases, their pictures, their friends' sites or other details often make them easy to track down. And even when a student's own site is fairly innocent, his or her face can still turn up in someone else's photo album of raunchy parties or worse, captured in embarrassing or illegal moments." But if teen MySpacers aren't yet thinking about police surveillance, they are responding to all the news reports about sexual predation. The Miami Herald reports that teens, "who often flirt with an adult world by pretending to be older than they actually are, are slowly stepping back into their teenage reality by revealing their true age and turning on [MySpace's] privacy filters. Anyone under 15 [actually 15 and 14, the official minimum age] automatically receives such filters." One 14-year-old told the Herald she doesn't even have an account "because of all the dangers that the Web site has." Other teens told Gannett New Jersey that media reports about the dangers are "overblown."
- Social-networking with a purpose
This is a sign of things to come - purposeful online socializing, or niche social-networking. In this case, it's software that looks for expertise within a social group. According to the New York Times, each friend in a group installs the Illumio software on his/her computer. Then, when someone has a question about anything - e.g., "Who knows John Smith?" or "Who know the lyrics to (a particular song)?" - the software searches all the hard drives in the group with either MSN or Google desktop search technology, looking for the person who has the most references to that subject in email, documents, etc. Then it asks the person with the most info on the subject if it's ok to tell the group s/he knows the most. If the person says, yes, the questioner gets the results, if not, the software asks the next most knowledgeable person for permission, and so on down the line in what's called a "reverse auction systems," the Times reports. The other types of niche social-networking already in place revolved more around specific subjects (a genre of music, SN for a particular age groups like teens) rather than specific purposes.
It all seems to be moving toward what the MIT Media Lab and other academics have long called the "constructivist" approach, as in collaborative learning. "Web 2.0" is now making collaborative everything more possible than ever (it's also very quantum - flat collaborative - rather than Newtonian / top-down / hierarchical collaborative learning, production, publishing, communicating, etc.). A fascinating shift to be watching.
- Wrong kind of support
Depending on a user's intent, MySpace is "as wholesome as cheerleading and baseball, or as troubling as guns, sex and drugs," reports ABC's Primetime. It zooms in on 12-year-old Sarah, a middle school student in the Midwest, who was "desperate to belong, trying to cope with the typical insecurities and growing pains that come with being a preteen." She told Primetime she was friendless and wanted to be like the stoned kid in the back of the bus who didn't even care about what was going on around him. So she went online and "found plenty of outsiders like herself." She had "started experimenting with drugs before joining MySpace but getting online created a whole new world of possibilities. A simple search by ABC News on MySpace came up with tens of thousands of people talking about marijuana. Many more were in groups where sex was the topic, and nearly 55,000 people belonged to an online group called Drunks United." But this is not new to the Web - for years, bulimics and anorexics have found "support" in "pro-mia" and "pro-ana" community sites (see this New York Times article of 9/02). In fact, the sheer visibility of Web 2.0's version of socializing (and the way social-networking sites aggregate like-minded people so visibly) maybe actually help bring these communities out in the open more.
- UK porn use: Milestone study
It's Britain's "first major study of online pornography" use, The Independent reports. One in four UK adults - 9 million men, 1.4 million women - downloaded pornographic images last year, "making Britain the fastest-growing market in the world for the booming £20 billion [about $37 billion] adult Web site industry." The Independent says the 9 million figure - up from 2 million in 2000 - is about 40% of the UK's male population. Some questions come to mind.... Would the numbers look much different in a similar study in the US? Is there something to be learned, here, about the impact of convenience and accessibility?
- Martha's social-networking
Martha Stewart's next big party is a social-networking site for women 25-45. Scheduled to launch second half of 2007, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's "space" will "allow members to share photographs, scrapbooks, recipes and similar projects with one another and home design experts," Reuters reports. It'll be interesting to see how a company so much about taste and esthetics will handle giving up control over said in a Web 2.0-style, user-driven Web site - or will it not really be just like MySpace? Washington Post columnist Frank Ahrens had some fun pondering similar questions: "Why do I have a feeling it will be a lot more like Martha's Space than MySpace?" and "I bet a couple smart guys in a garage could set up a decent-looking social network site in about a month. By the time Stewart hangs her site, social networks could be so 2006. We may be into anti-social networks by then, which is what I'm looking forward to, as in, KeepOutOfMySpace.com." Of course, many others are looking to capitalize on MySpace's success. I just received an email about MyGoodFriends.com, a family social-networking site.
- Your very own virtual tunes
The idea is that we keep our music in a "central" virtual "CD case" on the Internet, rather than in a music player or case we carry around. Michael Robertson, founder of Oboe, one of these Web-based music "lockers," told CNET it's like the difference between "carrying around a pocketful of nickels" instead of accessing your money anywhere with a debit card. But "the concept isn't quite as simple as those trying to sell it might like. Music wrapped in certain types of digital rights management (DRM) technology - such as Apple Computer's Fairplay - can't be streamed from these lockers. Neither can tethered downloads acquired from subscription music services like Napster or Rhapsody," CNET adds. It mentions another music-locker company, Navio, that has deals with content companies (Sony, Fox Sports, Disney) that allow people basically to buy the rights to a song or program rather than the content itself. So the consumer "can get a new version of the still-copy-protected song [and play it on a player that recognizes different DRM] without having to repurchase it."
- Family-networking sites
Move over Martha, here comes a whole passel of family-networking sites. Martha Stewart's may be more about networking around crafts, entertaining, décor, cooking, etc., than about parenting, but there's a lot of what might already be called 2nd-generation social-networking competition beating her to the Web. "Since January, nearly a dozen family-networking portals have launched in test version, including Ourstory.com, Zamily.com, Amiglia.com, Families.com, Famoodle.com, Jotspot Family Site, Cingo.com, FamilyRoutes.com, [Minti.com] and Famundo.com," CNET reports. CNET also mentions the about-to-launch LiveHeritage.com, a "free facial recognition site offering photos and genealogy" features. Like MySpace, they're multimedia, allowing collaborative blogging, photo- and video-sharing, and calendar-sharing, but with more emphasis on (and user interest in) privacy. Then there are all those parenting groups on MySpace itself - see my "Parents on MySpace," 3/10.
- Turning kids into 'pirates'?
That's one of the concerns of Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig - that "this age of [copyright] prohibition" may be turning kids into "pirates," the BBC reports. Lessig - also founder of the Creative Commons, a system of copyright licensing that allows creators to share and protect their work with allowances for non-commercial use - is seeking a balance between "the rights of the artist and the creativity of Web users for re-using material," he said in a talk at the Hay Festival in Wales. I think, in other words, he doesn't want all the conventional-media fears of copyright theft and the digital-rights management and litigation associated with them to shut down all the creative thinking going into "mashups" (see "The age of remixes, mashups"). Lessig said "a war is being fought with law and technology to eliminate piracy, likened to using 'DDT to kill a gnat'," according to the BBC. Meanwhile, the UK-based IFPI (umbrella for recording industry associations around the world), said it may sue users of Moscow-based music retailer AllofMP3.com, Computeractive.co.uk reports, adding that AllofMP3.com is the UK's No. 2 music-sales site (after iTunes), representing 44% of that market. All of MP3.com sells digital tunes at steep discounts and says it's all legal. And in other anti-piracy news, "more than 50 Swedish law enforcement officials raided 10 locations" associated with ThePirateBay.org, a site "accused of directing users to pirated films, music and software," the BBC reports. The site described itself as the largest BitTorrent (file-sharing technology) search index.
- WindowsOneCare goes live
Microsoft's new PC security aid, which it describes as "all-in-one protection and maintenance service for your Windows XP PC," is now yours for $49.95/year (for up to three family PCs). Some may balk at paying that, but "there are plenty of users who will and probably should avail themselves of this product," according to Washington Post PC security columnist Brian Krebs. One plus: "Microsoft has said it will offer free phone, online chat or email support to all customers, a feature that is mostly lacking at the moment for consumer anti-virus products." According to the BBC, OneCare "is aimed at consumers and small businesses which currently have only the most basic protection against net-borne threats. Microsoft said up to 70% of consumers either have no security software on their PC or have programs that are no longer updated."
- Game addiction & escapism
"Unable to pass tough university entrance exams and under intense pressure from his parents to study harder, 20-year-old Kim Myung gradually retreated to the one place where he could still feel invincible," reports the Washington Post. That's online alternate-reality games, it adds, not saying which one Kim was into (he gained 10 pounds over four months of subsisting on a bowl of instant noodles a day). "Sociologists and psychiatrists have identified South Korea as the epicenter" of "a game addiction problem ... in many industrialized nations... in part because young people here suffer from acute stress as they face educational pressures said to far exceed those endured by their peers in other countries. The country opened its first game-addiction treatment center in 2002, according to the Post, and "hundreds of private hospitals and psychiatric clinics have opened units to treat the problem. Last month, Korea launched a "game addiction hotline." Meanwhile, Europe's first game addiction clinic is scheduled to open next month, Hexus.Gaming reports. It'll be an eight-bed residential unit in Amsterdam, according to the BBC.
- Teen 'phisher' arrested
This case could fall under cyberbullying and/or ID theft headings - Japan's first phishing case involving a minor. Japanese police arrested a 14-year-old in Nagoya "on suspicion of fraud," Agence France-Presse reported. He allegedly created a Web site (a "phishing site") that looked like a popular game site and, in that site, captured the email addresses and other personal info of 94 people. Police say he used the information to threaten the people if they didn't send him nude photos of themselves. Parents, tell your kids to be wary of phishing in popular social-networking sites - specifically, of prompts to log in again. This has been reported to happen MySpace: Someone logs in as usual, then a screen pops up prompting you to log in again, which people sometimes do unthinkingly. That "log-in" steals your username and password and can potentially take you to a Web page that can download malicious software code onto your computer.
- Espionage/counterespionage at home
We hear about monitoring software in the online-safety space, but we don't read much about it *in context* - with the countersurveillance being done by kids. The Washington Post takes a very anecdotal look at both sides of the story. Monitoring digital natives is not easy. They know stuff: like changing the text and background on a monitor to blue and black "making it harder ... to read the screen from across the room"; setting IM preferences to "invisible" so parents can't tell they're online; turning GPS-enabled phones off; making MySpace profiles (and searchable personal info) partially fictitious; neglecting to mention home-school connection parts of school Web sites; etc. But parents, though digital immigrants, are learning the ropes, USATODAY reports, learning to check blogs and to IM them to come down to dinner. One mother of five told USATODAY that "communicating over a screen has helped her and her son step out of their customary roles" and see each other as people.
- Financial firms help fight child porn
We now know a little more about how credit card companies and banks will help in the anti-child porn fight (find coverage of the announcement in my 3/17 issue). The Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography "will report child porn sites they discover on the Web to a central tip line, slated to expand next month to receive the information," USATODAY reports. That's the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CyberTipline that's expanding for this type of reporting (it has been accepting reports and talking with parents and other individuals since its inception). The coalition members - Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup, and PayPal - will also "block transactions for online child porn or, if law enforcement opens an investigation, help track sellers and buyers," USATODAY adds. All this is in addition to the reporting that Internet service providers such as AOL do. "Visa, MasterCard and American Express say they will identify sites accepting their cards to sell child porn but won't reveal customers unless subpoenaed."
- NYC schools' tough phone policy
The controversy around New York public schools' strict cellphone policy is growing. "Although most school districts across the country ban the use of cellphones in the classroom, New York has for years been a notch stricter. It mandates that students not even have cellphones - or other electronic devices - in their pockets or backpacks," the Los Angeles Times reports. The ban was pretty much ignored until last month, when "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg endorsed bringing portable scanners randomly into city schools to find unauthorized objects." Los Angeles schools allows phones if they're turned off and kept in a pocket, purse, or backpack except before and after school and during breaks. Some New York parents "say that if the mayor and schools Chancellor Joel Klein don't budge, they will send their children to school with the phones anyway and risk occasional confiscation, trusting local school officials to continue the 'don't ask, don't tell' practice that seems to have been in place over the years."
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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