Dear Subscribers:

Here's our lineup for this first week of March:

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Sarah's Page: the book, the Web site

Now here's an author who understands both media. The Detroit News has a great story about Anna Murray, high school teacher-cum-Web site designer and book author, who - with the help of her assistant - answers every single e-mail she gets from her readers (girls ages 9-16). The story of Sarah's Page unfolds as a series of e-mails from Sarah - who just moved from New York to Michigan (mirroring author Anna's experience) - to her friend Katie back home. It's always fun to read other people's diaries! (the Web site) includes Rainy Day Activities sent in by readers; a contest to win a "Sarah's Page Web Builder," by naming and describing a character for Anna's next book; a Fun 'n' Games page; a Pet Advice Column; Naughty Pet Stories; and samples of readers' "Terrific E-mail." All this is much more grassroots than the now-defunct Purple Moon and just about anything Mattel could put out, and that's why we think it's very smart. And it doesn't take much surfing around in to see that its constituents love it. We can't resist reprinting:

"Dear Sarah,
I am really touched by your story. [No... REALLY] :-) I hope you make other good stories soon! I am 9 years old and live in chicago. Bye!
- Ellen"

Also from the Detroit News, an article about and for those of us over 16: "Women Find Places of Their Own on the Web." It has background on and links to several women's sites, from tried 'n' true to startups and mergers. The piece says there are 45 million women online now, a figure that'll jump to 65 million within three years, according to Jupiter Communications research. And has a fun commentary, "If Women Made Computers".

Finally, for the very young, Lego is making a move into the girls category. In a thorough piece on this development and some controversy surrounding it, Wired News says Lego Media International "plans to target 5- to 10-year-old girls with [CD-ROMs from] its Lego Friends series." Critics are saying the material is a lot like that of the now-defunct Purple Moon. Wired News says, "The titles follow the adventures of four girls in a pop band, inviting players to help them write songs, choreograph dances, and navigate the treacherous waters of the pubescent social scene in order to put on a concert in their school hall."

If you have a daughter who surfs and chats, would you tell her we'd love to hear about her favorite Web site? She can e-mail

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Web News Briefs

The bright side of the e-rate.
The White House is championing the beleaguered e-rate this week, armed with Education Department statistics. Despite the challenges to the federal 'Net access subsidy for schools and libraries (here's our last report on its detractors), the Clinton administration says the e-rate brought $1.66 billion to schools and libraries last year (its first year), helping to wire more than half the US's classrooms. The report, in CNET's cites Education Department data showing the number of schools connected to the 'Net has gone from 3% in 1994 to 27% in '97 to more than 50% last year.

And while you're on that CNET page, take a look at a very nice service they offer - great for educators. They call it "The Big Picture." It places a story like this e-rate one in the context of CNET's other stories on the subject, going back at least six months. Hmmm. Reporters used to have to offer that context; now online technology and links do. Not sure what that says about journalism, but it does say a whole lot about the convenience of researching a story these days!

And now the Internet - gratis.
Last month free PCs, this month free Internet access. It's fun to contemplate what's next! Wired News has it that Gateway is now bundling free 'Net access into any computer it sells for over $1,000. Connections are via the PC maker's own ISP, At least, the first 150 hours of connecting each month is free; after that it's $1.50 an hour. Gateway has company in the United Kingdom, where a giant electronics retailer - Dixons Group - is offering a similar deal.

Help from a teen-age hacker.
A high school student in Pennsylvania found a security flaw in a brand of server hardware that's made for Internet service providers, Wired reports. What's interesting about this story is that it illustrates very well how helpful hackers can be. If manufacturers actually listen to hackers' exploits, computer makers and Web services can improve their products and services. Something to think about the third time your 11-year-old disables the filtering software you put on his computer! Which reminds us of a group you should know about:, the "Youth Alliance Against Internet Censorship." In the interest of supporting free speech for people under 18, Peacefire offers instructions in its Web site on how to disable many Web filtering products. In an e-mail, Peacefire suggested that, because we're parents, we must consider them a threat. We don't. Peacefire is only a threat to parents who rely solely on filtering software to keep their children away from the dark side of the 'Net, which is not a fail-safe family policy anyway. From the perspective of the software makers (which don't make much money on filtering software), Peacefire is probably providing a free product-improvement service. But don't take our word for it - check out yourselves. We'd love to get your thoughts (via

The Amazon grows.
You probably figured it out, but we've long wondered why the very smart guy who launched the Web's first major book retailer (Wired dubbed Jeff Bezos the "boy billionaire") called it "Amazon." Yes, it was - and is - a big bookstore, but what does "amazon" have to do with books? we puzzled. Well, is now moving beyond media (books, CDs, videos), even past the "Gifts" it began selling for the Christmas season, to a whole new category: drugs (prescription and non-), cosmetics, and other personal-care products. is buying, in what Wired News calls "its boldest move yet." Aha! Jeff Bezos never intended to sell just books. He intended to conquer and transform the world of e-commerce one category at a time. A fun, very long profile of him is in the March issue of Wired magazine; we can't link to it now, but it will be in the Web site March 16 (after the magazine's off the newsstands).

300 million 'Netizens by 2005!
That's the global figure for 'Net users reported by Bloomberg News, via Bloomberg's citing a survey by Datamonitor, a UK market research firm, which shows the fastest growth in Asia and Latin America. Meanwhile, in the US there will be 95 million people online and 88 million in Europe by 2005. Overall Internet traffic, they say, is increasing 1,000% a year. We can see that. We remember calling up AOL for an interview back in mid-'93, when it had 300,000 users!

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This week from CyberAngels:

Vital statistics.
We had a wonderful, wide-ranging conversation with our friend and partner Parry Aftab, executive director of CyberAngels, in her offices last week. Here's just a snapshot of the overview Parry gave us (this information is worth passing around):

A program of The Guardian Angels, which just celebrated their 20th anniversary, CA was formed in 1995 as the first "cyber-neighborhood watch program." It how has 70 CyberMoms and 420 active members patrolling Web sites, discussion boards, and chat rooms (Web and Internet Relay Chat). "Between our partners, SOC-UM, and us, we have 10 times as many hunt-and-track people as law enforcement does," Parry told us, referring to the Safeguarding Our Children-United Mothers watchdog organization. These are people who hunt and track cyberstalkers, sexual predators, and other child exploiters. They are helping between four and eight victims a day. They send an average of 1,000 child porn tips a month to law enforcement agencies. They have 17,000 pedophile sites on file, every one reported.

If you and your children get solicited by or run across a Web site involving child pornography CyberAngels or SOC-UM is the place to go because 1) they know what child pornography is (what can be legally prosecuted and shut down), and 2) they therefore have a direct line into the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies so that action can be taken quickly. And, as Parry reported in a recent issue, CyberAngels has also been chosen by UNESCO to help link together all cyberlaw enforcement agencies worldwide to form a Cyber-Tipline for reporting abuses and a Cyber-Hotline to help victims. E-mail Parry at with any concerns or tips you have about child exploitation on the Web.

On the lighter side of CA.
CyberAngels has announced its Kids' Best of the Web Awards. These are sites picked by kids, liked by moms, and signed off on (as safe and privacy-protective) by CyberAngels. They are:

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What do I want in my house: DSL or cable modem?

We've mentioned Robert before. His newsletter, Online Insider, is just plain fun to read - if you're into Internet trade rags. But this month he offers some extremely valuable, first-hand information for anyone considering getting a faster 'Net connection into their home. You'll want a second opinion, of course, but here's that all-important first one. We won't steal Robert's thunder; find out what he thinks about DSL (from your phone company) vs. cable modem (from your cable company) in "DSL: WOW!". He confirmed our own informed inclination.

And if you've tested either, do tell us what you think!

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Share with a Friend!! If you find the newsletter useful, won't you share that information with your friends and relatives? We would much appreciate your referral.

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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend.


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