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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Fresh videogame findings

Though eclipsed by the terrible news of violence in Virginia and Iraq last week, there has been some notable news in the videogame space of late, including findings from research on both sides of the Pond. Please find some highlights and links to them in this week's issue of my newsletter. In addition to these studies' findings, don't miss some insights from psychiatrist Dr. Jerald Block, who has worked with a lot of avid gamers, including "numerous players who have logged over 3,000 hours in a year on just one game [that's 57+ hours/week, 52 weeks/year]," and wrote a commentary in the Rocky Mountain News about some research he's done on the Columbine High shooters (I'm also linking you to an article of his about three cases of both therapeutic and pathological videogame use). Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Predator in phone chat

This commentary by Fox News legal specialist Lis Wiehl shows how predation is not restricted to any particular technology, which parents need to know. A Georgia 14-year-old “joined Quest Personals, a phone chat service, after seeing it advertised on television,” Wiehl reports in, adding that the site has a minimum age of 18 but has no security measures that enforce that minimum. So “Julie Doe” signed up and was approached by a number of men. She and a friend went to meet and had sex with one of them on two different nights. The mother found out from phone bills and finally answering the phone one night and hearing a man asking for “Julie.” She requested that Quest Personals delete her child’s voice-chat profile, and the company refused. The mother sued Quest Personals, and the lawsuit is still pending. Her daughter’s assailant was convicted of assault and is serving 20 years.

AIM's buddy tracker

It sounds ok, but law enforcement people are concerned about it, Channel 6 in Orlando reports. And to me, upon reading this article, it sounds more risky even than cellphone-based mobile social networking because it can pinpoint where an AIM user is on his or her home computer. AIM users, including kids, can download this feature but its creator, Skyhook, represented in a mobile social networking meeting I attended in Washington this morning, said there are some effective protections in place (local TV news isn’t known for in-depth research in tech reporting). I suggest that parents ask kids if they’ve downloaded this plug-in and, if not, go through the process together, talking about the pros and cons. How the technology works is, it finds the position of an AIM buddy by "using the continuous wireless pulses emitted by all Wi-Fi transmitters and Wi-Fi-enabled computers," according to Channel 6. The Associated Press explains further that, "when an AIM user installs [the service], the application gathers the identifying codes for all access points that are detected by the Wi-Fi card in the computer, then compares those with the database to identify the person's location. When connected via a non-Wi-Fi computer, a user can manually input a location." Here's the AIM Location page.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Moving to Vista...

…from Windows XP is not exactly plug-'n'-play, reports SafeKids'com's Larry Magid in the New York Times. "Buying a new computer is a lot like buying or renting a new home. First you have to pick it out and pay for it, and then you have to move your stuff." He recommends various kinds of software tools that can help you on "moving day" and suggests what you need to consider before you decide what tools you need. See also "Vista's parental controls."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Facebook's 'Twitter' traits

Facebook users now have all the cellphone-Web "talking points" that the very hot mobile-social-networking service Twitter has, a Wired News blog reports. Users can not only update their profiles via cellphone, they can also have their Facebook friends' pokes and comments sent directly to their phones. Wired News says "the improvements are not simply a case of Facebook copying Twitter since the Status Updates feature has been available to Facebook users for nearly a year, still, with the addition of SMS support, the featureset is now nearly identical to that of Twitter."

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5,000 calls to his cellphone

A young Massachusetts man with some time on his hands thought he'd give some of it to people seeking help. So he posted a video on showing his cellphone number on Friday and – apparently by Monday – had received 5,000 calls and text messages, the Associated Press reports. He said he "was inspired to act by a video of Juan Mann, whose 'Free Hugs' campaign became world famous after video clips of Mann hugging strangers appeared on YouTube," the Boston Globe reports. He may have to do some fund-raising to pay for all those minutes. He heard from people all over the US and Europe. "About 70% of the callers, he said, wanted to shoot the breeze for a few minutes about their plans for the day, and to inquire about his," the Globe adds (maybe they should get Twitter). For free help for established sites focusing on the subject, people might check out:,, and (the last one helps with a lot more than suicidal tendencies – see "The social Web's 'Lifeline'").

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Social sites surpassing Web porn?

X-rated Web content will probably always be on the Web, but it has some serious competition now, reportedly. "Web traffic attracted by social network sites such as MySpace and Facebook has begun to rival porn sites in recent months," the Toronto Star reports, citing research from traffic measurer Hitwise. But as a blogger at WebProNews suggests, that may not be the good news that it appears to be: "Does the fact that I have 15 social-networking accounts, mean that I represent 15 unique visitors?... Most social-networking sites have free membership. It’s also an ‘incentive’ to create tons of accounts, and only use one or two services. Does the report factor that some spam marketers are creating millions of MySpace and other accounts for spam purposes? Well, if it does, I wouldn’t be surprised that social networking is ‘overtaking’ porn sites!" The Economist suggests that porn has just shifted more to the file-sharing networks and reports that 30% of transactions on Second Life relate to sex or gambling.