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Friday, July 06, 2007

Facebook's growth spurt

Christopher Beam of Slate calls Facebook “the Volvo of social networking,” the kind of “comfy, sturdy, and attractive without being showy” social site “you’d bring home to Mom.” But that’s all changing, at least the Volvo part, since Facebook “tore down its walls and opened its pages” to outside widget providers allowing Facebookers to add to their pages little features like a Graffiti widget that allows visitors to doodle on your page, an “Honest Box” that lets your visitors say what they really think of you (anonymously – watch out, concerned-citizens-against-cyberbullying), or the very popular iLike that lets people share their favorite tunes (“growing at the rate of 200,000 people/day,” as of Beam’s posting, and Graffiti having been downloaded 3.3 million times). He cites the Wall Street Journal as saying Facebook itself added 3 million+ users in the few weeks since its big opening (see “Facebook’s big plans”). In its just-released figures, ComScore says Facebook’s “most dramatic growth occurred among 25-34 year olds (up 181%), while 12-17 year olds grew 149%” and users 35+ 98%. The smallest growth, understandably was among college-age users (38%), which demographic may already be saturated where Facebook’s concerned.

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Social stuff taking over Web - worldwide

Wherever you are in the world, parents, your teens’ social networking seems to be here to stay. Online video and social networking are outpacing all other uses of digital media worldwide, according to international market researchers Ipsos, and social networking “is quickly becoming the dominant online behavior globally." In terms of frequency of visits to social sites, South Korea leads the way, followed by Brazil, China, Mexico, US, UK, Canada, India, Germany, France, Japan, and Russia. “While 20% of regular Internet users worldwide had visited a social networking site in the previous 30 days, the figure was 55% in Korea and 24% in the U.S.,” according to’s report on the Ipsos study, “The Face of the Web.” And this study was just of people 18+. As for the UK, Nielsen/NetRatings has a more granular picture: MySpace is “well in the lead with 6.5 million UK users, compared with 4 million for Bebo and 3.2 million on Facebook,” the BBC reports, but the latter two are growing there much faster and could quite possibly catch up to MySpace in the fall, the BBC cites Nielsen as saying. Then there’s time spent: MySpace users “spent an average of 96 minutes on the site in May,” compared to 152 minutes for Bebo users and 143 minutes on Facebookers.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Social Web's class divide

Facebook is more like the suburbs and MySpace the inner city, according to a blogger’s interpretation of social media researcher danah boyd’s latest, fairly controversial paper on social networking. I think it’s controversial because, as an essay, it’s broad-brushed and uses teens’ own terms for their social groups, and because it’s based on danah’s qualitative research, not the quantitative kind of a sociologist (danah’s legal name is lower-cased). Note her liberal use of quotation marks: “The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other ‘good’ kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we'd call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities. MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, burnouts,’ ‘alternative kids,’ ‘art fags,’ punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school….” Isn’t it interesting, danah and commentators point out (I think it is too), that people are categorizing themselves in cyberspace as well as in RL (“real life”)? Don’t miss what danah says about “good kids” vs. “bad kids” under “Thoughts and meta thoughts” at the end.

I actually think that the two social sites’ populations largely reflect their origins: Facebook was exclusive right out of the gate, having gotten its start at Harvard and then taking other college and university campuses by storm, only later broadening out. MySpace, which was about individuality and diversity from its start with 20-somethings, then teens, also reflected the inclusiveness of the music scene that it was so tied to. Facebook was about networking and limited in the customization it allowed; MySpace was whatever anyone wanted it to be, allowing almost any sort of customization (the two have moved closer together since and away from those very divergent starts). Here’s the BBC on danah’s essay.

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Sibling found in MySpace

Hours after finding their 17-year-old sister on MySpace, from whom they’d been separated for 12 years, Josh (22), Jake (20), and their sister were reunited, ABC News reports. After all three had grown up in foster homes in Texas, the two brothers also found that their sister – who had been adopted by a different family - was now in Florida, as they were, and just 45 minutes away. The way they found her was, last August, “Jake had a revelation,” according to ABC. “Every 16-year-old girl he knew had a page on MySpace. But, he wasn't sure he knew his lost sister's name.” It was knowing their mother’s maiden name that helped him find her in MySpace.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Teens' videogaming time: Study

Teen boys and girls who play videogames spend less time on reading and homework than those who don’t play videogames, a new study found. The videogame players, however, “did not spend less time than non-video game players interacting with parents and friends,” according to the study in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, reports. The latter is *partly* good news for healthy development: "Particularly during adolescence, when social interactions and academic success lay the groundwork for health in adulthood, there is concern that video games will interfere with the development of skills needed to make a successful transition to adulthood." The survey respondents were given diaries in which they logged time spent playing video games, interacting with parents and friends, reading and doing homework, and engaging in sports and “active leisure.” Here’s Reuters’s coverage. Meanwhile, if you have an avid videogamer at your house, s/he may’ve already found this press release about how people can make $120/hour testing videogames: added incentive not to do one's homework?

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Infected game mod

It’s a handy, cutting-edge form of social engineering using terrible, 1986-style graphics. The “Hood Life” mod (short for modification, a bit of code that enhances or offers an add-on to a videogame) for Grand Theft Auto is demo’d in a YouTube video, but the graphics are “crudely rendered, not up to the high standards of the GTA game itself,” CNET reports, but even so 54 people have downloaded the mod. “Watching the You Tube video is safe. The danger comes at the end when the video displays a site where you can download the game mod itself. Should you download the file and install, your computer will be compromised upon reboot.” There are also videos on YouTube that teach people how to write and distribute viruses, according to CNET.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Teen news editor

His screenname is Gracenotes and, “after his homework is done,” he works on cleaning up breaking news stories on Wikipedia for six hours at a shot, the New York Times reports. We all know how popular Wikipedia has become as a source for term-paper research (the Times article takes you behind the scenes at Wikipedia so you can see how viable this actually is, as long as other sources are in the mix). Wikipedia has also become a very viable news source, the Times article illustrates. It’s like compressed real-time news, a blend of encyclopedic summarizing that keeps up with news as it breaks. Its writers’ sources are usually the wire services (e.g., AP and Reuters) in Yahoo and Google News, and the difference is a “constantly rewritten, constantly updated” summary of a breaking story (as in Wikipedia) vs. “a chronological series of articles, each reflecting new developments” (as with conventional news on paper and the Web). Gracenotes and his fellow editors expand and correct a one-liner “stub” (almost like a headline) that someone posts about a breaking story (such as the Virginia Tech shootings). They almost compete for the greatest accuracy and “N.P.O.V.” (“’neutral point of view,’ one of Wikipedia’s Five Pillars,” the Times reports. Note this comment at the article’s end, something very impressive to a baby-boomer journalist: “The Wikipedians, most of them born in the information age, have tasked themselves with weeding [the current culture of proud] subjectivity not just out of one another’s discourse but also out of their own. They may not be able to do any actual reporting from their bedrooms or dorm rooms or hotel rooms, but they can police bias, and they do it with a passion that’s no less impressive for its occasional excess of piety. Who taught them this? It’s a mystery; but they are teaching it to one another.”

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5 good tips for parents

…in a financial news site of all places - It’s a good sign that intelligent tech parenting is going mainstream. I like these online-safety tips because they’re simple and smart, and they promote parent-child communication. Points worth highlighting: author and dad Adam Thierer’s “layered approach” to online parenting, layering tech tools (like Google’s SafeSearch and maybe filtering or monitoring software) with open communication; reaching out to other parents (tech parenting does “take a village”); and keeping up on kid-tech news (I’m showing my bias).

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