Thursday, October 28, 2004

Updating my feed link

I just found out that my Atom site feed offered by blogger is some how stuck pointing to the previous name of this blog "halfpublichalprivate" which is what I was using when I was experimenting. No amount of resetting, republiching or reindexing seems to have actually done anything so I had to manually force the link to the right feed.

If anyone is actually checking in, please use this link for your Atom feed.

I'll look into using feedburner for RSS at some point, but I admit it's not my highest priority.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Persuasion revisited

Funny, I just discovered Monkeymagic last week through some process I have utterly forgotten, but Piers Young's double-whammy posts of Sparklines and The Sting in the Tail made me add him to my "keep checking for good stuff" feed. Funny, I say because a few days later, he was kind enough to point to my first attempt at a worthwhile post and expanded my brief mention of Robert Cialdini's article.
We might need just-in-time relationship reminders too. It's not natural for us to see commonality, and as a result our reliance on neutral disinterested "facts" may rule out our noticing relationships.
This very accurately describes the dilemma that parents of children with learning problems face in every aspect of their lives. They are driven to find information to help their child (how does my child's brain work, what programs work best, what laws apply) to the point that sometimes they forget relationships with teachers, spouses and other parents. I already strive to inject a human touch in the work I do online because I think it has a positive influence on behavior. All too often have I seen the bad effects when people forget they are interacting with another person online. Once the other becomes an object, there is an expectation of control which will be frustrated and the reaction is usually an attempt to force control by virtually "killing" the other via flame wars, player killing, denial of service attacks or other stunts. Word by word, bit by bit, I'd like to mitigate as much of that as possible that before it happens.

To that end, Piers also points out that Cialdini wrote a Scientific American article on persuasion that calls out "six basic tendencies of human behavior [that] come into play in generating a positive response: reciprocation, consistency, social validation, liking, authority and scarcity." Piers applied these to blogs, and I am seeing ways to apply this to a variety of on and offline communites -- message boards, chat, virtual worlds, schools and civic engagement.

Blogging for kids under 13

Update Feb 2010: This blog post is really out of date and I have closed off the comments because this is not a topic I am following. I recommend folks check out the same question on | WikiAnswers: Are there blog sites for kids under 13? where anyone can add information and keep it up-to-date. Cheers, Scott

Original Post

One of the very cool projects supported by the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation is, a website for kids with learning and attention problems. One of the goals, to reduce the isolation this group of kids suffers by connecting them with kids going through similar problems. The rub is that the site is aimed at kids 8-12 making privacy and safety a constant concern.

I don't get to work directly on this uber cool site, but I get to be blessed with great conversations with the team about kids socializing online. Today, a break room chat came around the topic of kids, blogs and journals. We wondered if kids who are coming to would also blog. Then we immediately wondered if kids under 13 would be able to find a place to blog.

So I made a little survey of under 13 policies at blogging/journaling sites. My list of sites is by no means exhaustive, but I found enough variation that it seems worth posting. I was looking mainly for free services that allowed public viewing of entries. Only when I dug into the policies did I realize that I needed to call out the country where the domain is registered since US sites may fall under COPPA rules.

Domain registered in: US
Policy: under 13 not allowed to register
Policy Posted: At registration and in Terms of Service

If you enter an age under 13, they actually stop you from registering:

"Sorry, Xanga is intended for people who are at least 13 years old

Children under 13 are not permitted to join or participate in the Xanga Community. Sorry for any inconvenience... please feel free to come back on your thirteenth birthday :-)"

Live Journal
Domain registered in: US
Policy: under 13 not allowed to register
Policy Posted: At registration and in Terms of Service

"LiveJournal currently has a four-tier account structure. All accounts are available in accordance with local law including the Children's Online Protection Privacy Act (COPPA) which restricts children under the age of 13 from registering."

Journal Space
Domain registered in: US
Policy: Site "not intended" for children under 13
Policy Posted: Terms of Service

"This site is not intended for children under the age of 13." No means of enforcement is obvious.

Domain registered in: US
Policy: under 13 not allowed to register
Policy Posted: Terms of Service

Updated 06/26/07: "You must be at least thirteen (13) years of age to use the Service." I have not checked if this is enforced, yet.

Domain registered in: US
Policy: Not apparent
Policy Posted: No mention of an age policy found

Registration asks for name, location and year of birth, but it gave no notice to me when I signed up as a 10-year-old. I could not find anything in the terms of service or privacy policy about age restrictions.

Domain registered in: US (but through a European domain registrar)
Policy: Not apparent
Policy Posted: No mention of an age policy found

Registration required email and first name, but birthdate was optional. When I entered a date that put me at 10 yo, I got no special notice. I could not find anything in the terms of service or privacy policy about age restrictions.

Domain registered in: Belgium
Policy: Not apparent
Policy Posted: No mention of an age policy found

No mention of age in the Terms or Privacy Policy. It does ask for age, but I did not get any notice when I signed up as a 10 yr old.

Domain registered in: UK
Policy: Under 12 need parental/guardian permission
Policy Posted: Terms of Service

Registration required an email address, but nothing else. The service is based in the UK and, as such, is not held to COPPA. However, this line is in their Terms, "Members under the age of 12 years old must have permission from their parent or guardian before agreeing to these terms and conditions." though no means of enforcement is obvious.

It's important to point out that just because a site does not have a policy regarding children under 13 that it is not compliant with COPPA--see "How to Comply With The Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule". COPPA is concerned mainly with a business collecting personally identifiable information from children and not as much what happens if a child reveals such information as part of their journaling. The only conclusion that I am willing to draw based on what I found is that children under 13 can indeed find places to publicly post journal entries.

I should add that back in February 2004, Ross Mayfield, CEO of SocialText discussed kids and blogging, with mentions of Foe Romeo's Etech talk, Oracle's and his own 7yo daughter's enthusiasm for her (private) blog.

I need to see how much our kids team knows about which provides website, email, social networking and group collaboration tools and hosted space for free to primary and secondary schools with the aim of connecting students and classes across the country and the globe.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Internet demographics *not* from Pew Internet

FutureWire did a nice summary of the USC Annenberg School's Center for the Digital Future report trends associated with the Internet, "10 Years, 10 Trends". I haven't dug through the whole thing, but I really am interested in the new digital divides they see emerging and notice that there is a lack of mobile and IM data. But 10 years ago, whooda thunk?

Significant day

Ugh. What a day. Suffice to say that I will remember today as a turning point in some of my work.

On the upside, I had one of my moms write that she is applying for law school. She was asked to write an essay about her community work and wanted to include what she has been doing on our message board for several years, now. She was worried that she would sound like a flake spending all her time online. So I wrote back:
Some folks still consider using computers to communicate as "not real", but I think there are ways to present your work as very real.
  • You are serving the needs of parents who are otherwise isolated from local assistance
  • You have made local contacts and assisted parents via phone and in person based on initial connections developed online
  • You are able to spend time reading, comprehending and asking follow up questions before you craft carefully worded messages
  • Via the board, you are able to advocate for local and national actions across the country
The commonality of these is that you are bridging the online with the offline. What you do online has a very real and positive effect offline.
She was worried that she was imposing on me by asking, but it's really nice to take a moment to reflect on the good that is coming out of my work.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Community doesn't sell

Last week, I got an mass email from a virtual environment I once contracted with while they were just starting. I haven't really dropped in since they went public so I really don't consider myself a part of their community. But I am still on their mailing list.
From: The There Fun Times
Subject: Community Building In There!

Dear Scott,

Help build a stronger community by becoming more involved in the daily happenings in There! Welcome new members to our world or just do your part by nominating someone for the Member Advisory Board. It's a small world and you are a big part of it!
Unfortunately, I think this message misses the intended mark on several points. My point is not to pick on There, but to voice some thoughts I have on communicating about online communities.

Don't market the word "community" - community is a term that is subjective to the people who are participating in that "community". It's not up to the host of any social space to declare that someone else is or is not a part of the community. My recommendation to organizations hosting community spaces is to ban the use of the word community in all communications. We've followed this edict at for the four years I have been there. It's forced us to be direct about what we offer and what value it can have for parents.

When you can, target your audience - There knows that I haven't logged into the system for at least six months. It's obvious that they are trying to drum up visits to the service, but why ask people who have not been in the world for a while to come in and start welcoming new people? And since I haven't been around, how do I find out about this mysterious (to me) Member Advisory Board. The message seems targeted for people who haven't been in the service for a couple of weeks, not months. It would not take much to tailor three messages: one for people who are there all the time, one for people who haven't been back in a few weeks, and one for people who have been gone a very long time. Pull the mailing lists based on the last sign in date and send out three batches. No complicated systems needed. Just a little more effort.

Use inclusive language - The newsletter is all about me. What about them? Are the There Fun Times editors part of the community? Why even allow the distinction to be raised? It sounds like a good idea, but I've recently come across the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini who studies influence and persuasion at Arizona State University. His recent article, What Lovers Tell Us About Persuasion is aimed at the use of inclusive language by people in negotiation, but an earlier work, Crafting normative messages to protect the environment examines persuasive language in signage at national parks. These are probably worth a separate post at another time. For now, I offer that "Come visit us daily", "Join us in nominating people to the Members Advisory Board" are a little more inviting.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Giving Blogger another spin

I've thought about blogging for a while. I'm not much of a writer and I don't have the energy to mess around with setting up databases, editing HTML and what not. And I sure as hell don't want to pay for that privilige.

But after two days getting a chance to meet folks such as Lee Lefever, Tom Coates and Ross Mayfield, and I started getting the itch again. Take note--I bow easily to peer pressure.

I'm also a cheap bastard. I'm not yet willing to fork over the money to TypePad, though they do have categories. So, I'll give this another whirl privately, get that "hello world" and "hi mom" out of my system, delete all these posts and try a little serious writing.

I'm still not a writer.