Dear Subscribers:

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

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Meaty Web stuff for educators

Web resources for teachers are all the rage right now. That was brought home to us at a recent "Interactive Kids" conference. At a gathering all about Web publishing for children we kept hearing from presenters about their new sites for teachers. And these sites seem to represent a new phase for Web content targeting the classroom. Web publishers, it appears, are doing their homework. Some of them even talk about technology integration, standardized tests, and state requirements, acknowledging the increasing demands on teachers. We think you'll be seeing more and more "accountability" in this category of Web resources - material based on market research, tailored to curriculum requirements, learning standards, and even teachers' busy schedules.

Parents, you'll find many of these Web sites have sections dedicated to you - there is also a lot of talk about how the Web can support the home-school connection.

Each of the following sites has one or two things it does best. In our interviewing, we tried to sift through to those "differentiators" for you. Here are the highlights:

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Web News Briefs

  1. Focus on alcohol & tobacco

    The Center for Media Education sent out another one of its "wake-up calls" this week: Net filtering tools are not doing the job they should in protecting kids from alcohol and tobacco marketing on the Web, CME said. The nonprofit watchdog organization released a major study on the subject this week, "Youth Access to Alcohol and Tobacco Web Marketing: The Filtering and Rating Debate" (a link to a press release about is right at the top of CME's home page).

    "A lot of attention and resources are going toward protecting children from pornography on the Web," said CME president Kathryn Montgomery, "but alcohol and tobacco sites continue to woo young future consumers with clever games and spokespeople, recipes for sweet-tasting alcohol drinks, instructions on how to blow smoke rings - and the filtering and rating systems aren't blocking them out."

    Besides a lot of background on the issue itself, the 134-page report is packed with general online-safety information useful to parents, teachers, tech coordinators, and anyone else watching over online kids. Appendix II alone (pp. 52-70) provides a comprehensive list, dated August '99, of filtering and blocking software, filtered ISPs, browsers for children, child-friendly search engines, ratings systems, and monitoring software - complete with category and individual product/service descriptions and links to their Web sites for further information. Another appendix has the results of tests done on the six most popular filtering-software tools. The report itself includes histories and descriptions of various filtering technologies and arguments on both sides of debates about these technologies, including the recently renewed ratings debate. (The Center for Democracy and Technology recently released its analysis of - and argument against - the Bertelsmann Net ratings initiative this past September).

    The CME report recommends that software developers put more resources into identifying alcohol and tobacco-promoting sites, make their filtering criteria available to customers, and broaden their definition of "objectionable" content to include "other intrusive categories, such as marketing and advertising. Here's a Newsbytes News piece on the CME study via USAToday. We'd welcome your comments on this initiative and issue - via

  2. Online chat with Clinton

    It'll be the first live Net appearance by a US President. From 7 to 8:30 pm Monday night (11/8) President Clinton will take real-time questions in an online-chat format that will allow users to watch his responses on live video. According to, 15,000 users will be able to "fit" into the chat room on Excite. says the President "will respond verbally, not at a keyboard, but those whose computers lack video or audio capability will be able to read an up-to-date transcript."

  3. Porn spam

    This week Rep. Gary Miller (R) of California and some other members of the US Congress unveiled a report showing that 30% of spam (unsolicited commercial email) is pornographic. According to USAToday, Representative Miller used the report to stump for passage of H.R. 2162, the "Can Spam Act" that he proposed earlier this year. The survey was done by the Spam Recycling Center, run by the for-profit, which allows users to choose what companies can send them email marketing pieces (like picking who can send you junk mail).

  4. The power of the mall

    E-commerce sites targeting teens are scrambling to duplicate the mall experience online. In "E-biz races to lure kids", Wired News says one way they're trying to match the very social mall experience is by adding chat and discussion boards - to their sites. But some researchers say the strategy could be tricky because teens are wise to marketers. They don't appreciate being "fooled" into buying. See the Wired piece for data on the size of the teen e-commerce market and links to sites trying the community-plus-shopping equation.

    Much bigger numbers are being assigned to the "Internet economy" over all. According to USAToday, fresh research by International Data Corp. shows that the size of the worldwide Internet economy will exceed $1 trillion by the end of 2001 and reach $2.8 trillion by 2003. As for the US, the Center for Research in Electronic Commerce at the University of Texas estimated the size of the Internet economy (based on revenues) would reach $507 billion this year and already provides jobs for 2.3 million people.

  5. E-valuating schools

    It's another Internet milestone, we think: Parents in the Los Angeles Unified School District - one of the largest in the US - can now use the Web to evaluate schools. According to Wired News, the range of options within the LA school district's boundaries is tremendous. Now, with the help of what Wired calls the district's "online school performance meter", users can readily look up test scores, number of credentialed teachers, the amount of money spent per students, etc.

  6. Rating e-shops

    Consumer Reports, the magazine published by the non-profit Consumers Union, has begun rating Web sites today, the AOP Bulletin reports. "The first ratings, of the Web sites of 30 popular printed catalogs, found the highest scores of Web sites were four out of five points. Four-point sites included those of J. Crew, Land's End, Eddie Bauer, J&R Music and Computer World, Hammacher Schlemmer and REI." Sites are rated on ease of use, product information, privacy policies and disclosure of shipping costs, etc. On the next four Mondays the magazine will add new review categories, and the results will be published at Consumer Reports Online.


Privacy in the news (a lot!)

A whole passel of privacy stories broke this week, starting with a flap about a RealNetworks consumer-privacy snafu. According to the AOP Bulletin, "Privacy advocates and security experts voiced outrage this week over the revelation that RealNetworks, producer of the RealJukeBox software, has been monitoring the listening habits of users." RealNetworks apologized and released a "patch" on its Web site that stops its music player from collecting information about its users without their knowledge. AOP added, "Apology aside, the real loser in the incident may be TRUSTe, the privacy certification company whose logo the site carried."

Also on the subject…

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Feeding the hungry

A friend passed along an email praising The Hunger Site, which works with the United Nations World Food Program to distribute food to the world's hungry: "This is a really neat Web site. All you do is click a button, and somewhere in the world some hungry person gets a meal to eat at no cost to you. The food is paid for by corporate sponsors. All you do is go to the site and click. But, you're only allowed one click per day, so spread the word to others…. A link from the site's home page to the UN's World Food Program confirms that the site gives its donations to that program."

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


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