Friday, May 30, 2008

Self publishing in the Kindle world

Now the Amazon Kindle price has dropped to $350 but not sure I want that getting lost at home. So far Kindle users are buying more than 2x more books with Kindle books. Whispernet brings the books to your Kindle and credit card in 60 seconds with a Sprint 3G EVDO backend. 125,000 books are available including textbooks.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Crowd Sourcing as Driver and Creator

How is crowdsourcing being used by family resources? Jeff Howe from Wired talked about his Aug. Crowdsourcing book discussion at Book Publishers Association. Fascinating -- I had missed his blog and a lot of the online discussion on the impact of "open calls" as societal drivers online.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

20 Search Tools -- Better Family Search Online

Lots of great options are there besides the top 5 search engines:

From our friends at

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Getting on the Same Page

Communicating -- 2008 style. So much press goes to either the kid gone awry, problems with the school system, or how our kids are multitasking. But how do we work with communicating with each other on making life happen? How do we do mundane things like share videos just with friends of our child's recital, planning for a field trip or reunion, or reminding our spouse that our daughter has a doctor's appointment coming up?

This is where the differences in communications expectations both trip us up and provide interesting opportunity:

-- In a world where tweens IM and may not email, it has been fascinating to work with three 14-year-old girl scouts on their Silver Award. I have been showing them basic uses of Excel for project management and using a Wiki ( to share information. We have gone to "old fashioned" snail mail as a backup to emailing, cell phone, and text to make sure that the girls adequately communicate with adults that they are working on the project with.
-- It has taken more than 12 months to get a group of moms in a middle-income community comfortable with Google Groups, and still one-third of the regional scout leaders won't sign up. It has taken until this year for all of them to check their e-mails more than 2x/month, if at all.
-- People in my business environment text my non-cell number at least once a week and are surprised I didn't get anything.
-- My home has tried 3 different family calendar programs -- and still has a paper calendar on the refrigerator.
-- We have to go down three screens on our cable system DVR to see what shows we have recorded and down another 3 screens to watch the show (thanks, Time Warner).
-- We had wildfires 3 miles from our house recently and watched the water dropping helicopters from our backyard -- and the only current news was on a.m. radio until the blaze got in the LA Times online 2 days later.

The pending richness of "Web 2.5" -- interactive + presence -- is the ability to improve our lives. Right now, a lot of this is great for single interactions, one-to-one immediate communications. Lots has been made of the overabundance of digital clutter...emails, Twittering, Facebook pokes, texting, unlimited Yahoo! mail, gigantic hard drives, and the like.

Where I am fascinated is the ability to group create, synthesize data, make immediate but insightful connections, touch our souls, and touch our lives. Right now, we are making interesting assumptions that other people are connecting like we are. Or we are carving out digital noise that we don't want and missing beats from connections from others.

The next big thing might be something to synthesize and connect. Two folks have sent me Mobile Tribe -- maybe that's a beat in the music here. Or blending in Copernic's computer search tool with the rest of my home media and family data. Or maybe that data/life/group integration is the real power of the Google empire going forward as their mobile search and Maps begins to creep into true mobile dominance.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Parental Divide -- between parents

We had an "incident" yesterday that was pointed. Pointed back at us!

Our house rules were intentionally simple. We were trying to build trust with our kids, ages 10-14, so didn't have digital barriers any more for about 6 months. The ground rules were you must talk to one of your parents before going to a new website.

Two challenges in this setup:
-- Both parents need to be at the same level of attentiveness, follow through, and online knowledge
-- The system needs to be actively supervised

Additional challenge -- I travel a lot and am not home many evenings.

So...I called my son and husband to my children's computer yesterday. It is in one of the bedrooms, but with the door always left open...but on another floor.

My son had been doing things that were ok if monitored and discussed ahead of time. But (a) he hadn't and (b) my husband had not been paying attention when he is home and I'm not. So my son had gotten a Yahoo email account that we didn't know about, used it to be IM'ing with friends, had signed up for YouTube, had created an account to set up his own website on Jimdo (but hadn't yet), and had left his email address with dozens of "free" online gaming sites that were sending him lots of email, offers, etc. And surprise, surprise was getting a bunch of SPAM.

He understood that he did what he was not supposed to do. He knows how to clear his History and had not done so, which he used a bit in his defense. It has me rethinking filters, but that doesn't face the fact that he needs to build trust with us...and he is at friends' houses a lot.

But it did get the heavy discussion going between my husband and me. As he lamented "why should he have to spend the time to watch our children's online behavior?" And he hadn't been noticing or checking at all. So when I'm home, the kids know to do what they are supposed to do and when only dad is home, they know he won't be around to check.

So do I need to design my family's Internet world around my husband's lack of participation?

Do other families have issues of very different perspectives on use of the Internet between parents? How do they get a central POV? Is it as good as the least experienced/interested parent?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Teens Pulling Online Tools Together to Create

I've had 3 13-year-olds in the past 2 days either show me their web pages or ask me how to build them. They aren't asking about Facebook, MySpace, or creating a Blog. They want to put up their art and graphics, as well as their thoughts on specific topics, in a web page. They are asking about the tools to create these things themselves.

In the mix of virtual worlds and fancy tools, one of the kids at our house this afternoon shared what he's working on. This 13 year old is musically inclined as well as into graphics, so combined the following resources:

-- Jimbo ( -- free webspace
-- G-force music visualizer ( -- free trial
-- Line Rider ( -- free but really irritating banner ads -- lots of YouTube videos with the resulting magic + music

He created this video (, which is quite interesting despite the illegal use of the music. From my feeble attempts to do create with Line Rider, it seems to be MUCH harder than it looks.

And on the Jimbo page ( shows fascinating Gforce art.

All free...

Sandbox Summit's New Board

One of the most interesting events I went to this year was the January 2008 Sandbox Summit at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It highlighted lots of interesting digital products for kids -- as well as lots of overmerchandised sponsors trying to get attention. The sales part was a bit overwhelming, but the variety was quite interesting.

They just announced their board for 2008 in preparation for the 2009 event.

-- Good group of experts with a variety of experiences -- especially good practical academics and non-profits. Individually interesting backgrounds -- feel free to check out the links below to each of their adventures.

I'm curious to see what their perspective will be for January 2009:
-- Everyone is East Coast -- and mostly from New York. That probably makes it easier to meet, but ignores the whole Midwest and West.
-- Should this be International to go with the International CES? No one is even included from Canada, let alone the rest of the world.
-- Only one media outlet was included -- owned by Disney -- and no parenting groups.
-- It seemed skewed to younger kids -- maybe just my read of it -- and seemed to not be including the virtual worlds and games. That's what every 6-12 year old I know is parked in front of instead of learning tools.

From this board, what type of audience are they designing this for? I'm eager to see.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Watching Kids Use Online

Another insight into online family use -- Warren Buckleitner, editor of the Children's Technology Review, recent released a ethnographic research report for Consumer Reports -- He worked with 10 families with 15 kids to record their children's consumption of digital media.

A bit sobering, funny, and not all that unusual from a parent's point of view. For example, a six-year old finding "Littlest Pet Shop" via Google -- -- isn't that unusual even for parents of older children.

He found that of the 21 websites they observed usage of, most were highly commercialized (3.47 out of a high of 5 on his scale) and were heavily focused on consumerism. The videos show the kids' savviness and confusion at the same time. They understand the game, but the free giveaways, nature of subscriptions, association of ads and banners, and registrations don't make sense. Having mommy's email address as a limit is shown to not be a good barrier, as most kids quickly are aware of that phrase -- Though one child did have a good idea -- how about

Do designers really look at how these youngsters use these products? When 6 year olds are falling into these online tools, how do we expect them to react?

Preaching to the Converted...and getting to the Rest

Parents and kids online. The "bad news" on parent beliefs about the web for social growth got a little press. The "good news" stayed in the room and to a small group of us on the webcast and SecondLife.

The "bad news" was in the press release issued May 8, released by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and Common Sense Media:

"Three out of four parents in the survey (75 percent) agreed that knowing how to use digital media is as beneficial for kids as traditional skills like reading and math, and 83 percent of parents said that digital media gives their children the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.

But parents expressed skepticism about the value of many digital media platforms, particularly when it came to whether digital media could teach kids how to communicate and collaborate, skills that are essential in a 21st-century workforce. For example:

• 67 percent of parents said they did not think the Web helped teach their kids how to communicate.

• 87 percent of parents said they did not believe the Web helped their kids learn how to work with others.

• Three out of four parents do not believe the Web can teach kids to be responsible in their communities."

The good news was the charming conference -- invitation only -- on May 9th that was broadcast on the web live, as well as on Second Life, at Global Kids. It was filled with all sorts of companies enabling healthy teaching products to our kids. Soon its tidbits should be available for further viewing -- they aren't yet up. But the day was missing:

1) Obvious press presence
2) Discussion that I heard (though I missed a bit of the event) on how these insights will be disseminated to parents and teachers.

So far, I have found that US News Dave's Download Blog, Broadcasting & Cable, World Screen, eSchool News, Fox Business Online (press release copy), Kidscreen, and Reuters UK Blogs covered the "bad news" pre-announcement. I'd like to see what was covered from the great stuff on Friday, but so far haven't seen anything from the event and webcast.

So how do we get these dialogs out to parents at large?