Zuckerberg said he wants younger kids to be allowed on social networking sites like Facebook. Currently, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that websites that collect information about users (like Facebook does) aren’t allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13. But Zuckerberg is determined to change this.
“That will be a fight we take on at some point,” he said. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.”
But just how would Facebook’s social features be used by younger children?
“Because of the restrictions we haven’t even begun this learning process,” Zuckerberg said. “If they’re lifted then we’d start to learn what works. We’d take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe.”
Here are my first thoughts.
1. PESSIMISM: Of course Mark Zuckerberg wants kids on Facebook – Facebook is a advertising & trend analysis GOLD MINE dressed as a happy, friend-connecting social network. Kids are the largest licensing group, and advertisers would LOVE to get their hands on that kind of market.
So much for the ENTIRE POINT OF COPPA – which wasn’t created for your immediate privacy, but created to PROTECT CHILDREN FROM MARKETERS STEALING OR SWINDLING PII.
Also see: Facebook Forced to Address Legal Gray Area of Kids and Advertising from AdAge.
2. FEAR: Oh, that’s a GREAT idea. Why not make more PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION ABOUT MINORS available? Tre sigh. Yes, education is VERY important – particularly about secret identities. But, children under the age of 13 DO NOT HAVE THE COGNITIVE CAPABILITIES TO BE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR PUBLIC PERSONA. Part of being young is that you’re protected and allowed to make mistakes – by allowing that on Facebook – a public platform that reaches far beyond the lunch room, and far beyond your mom telling your aunt about that stupid detention you got? BOO. Not ideal.
3. LOGISTICS & CONCERNS: MODERATION. SCALABILITY. COST. Even if Facebook DID man up and start pre-screening all content contributed by U13 sources, what a nightmare! Staff to cover something like that? Insane. And neither revenue nor cost efficient.
4. HOPE: Any sort of “educational program” that comes with U13 on Facebook would have to be an entire new entity. Think: Facebook Junior, profile training wheels. It would have to be limited, with tutorials and information, and educational guidance. Leverage the sort of YouTube content that SweetyHigh has created (worth checking out). But in no way, would Facebook be able to cruise right into allowing U13 without redesigning the fundamental/core use of Facebook.
4. REALITY: I deal EVERY SINGLE DAY with kid chat, and kid posts, and kid interactions, and behavior crises from U13. I worry about social networks for children that do NOT rely on fantastical role play or themed-content. Those two elements help protect direct attacks (or even mistaken, indirect attacks) on a sensitive and underdeveloped child by allowing creative persona & identity hiding (to a certain extent, of course – real friends playing in fantasy worlds blends that reality vs role play, and takes interaction to a different level). Children are still in the process of social learning. Social learning CAN be expanded – and I do applaud the idea of social network education… but tossing youth into the deep end, where there are daily Trojan attacks on accounts, stolen identity issues & account phishing, cyberbullying, advertising lures, and STRANGERS is not ideal. Think about it: not even normal, rational adults can successfully navigate Facebook accurately…
If there is a way for Zuckerberg to incorporate social networking education, with Facebook structure, I’m eager to see it – but there are quite a few MASSIVE problems in his path. And with this audience? Bowling through the ideals without proper guidance, understanding, or safety nets = not a safe agenda.
I hope Zuck collects his facts, has the necessary research concluded, and (excuse the phrase) gets his shizzz straight before he really dives into something like this. For as much as I applaud optimistic philosophy, I desire educated practicality.
This fine young man has a different type of impact on the community. He impacts more users … without his participation, about 2% of the community no longer participates. He does not impact the total oxygen of the community as much, in other words, he doesn’t impact the number of tweets or number of conversations. But he does bring along 2% of the community. And his impact lasts through the forecast cycle, meaning he impacts new participants as well.
This exercise can be run for every user in a community. We can easily forecast what impact each user has on the overall future of a community. By looking forward, we get to see what might happen, and we can take steps to change the future. When we simply look back into the past, we only measure what happened in the past.
In this simple example, when we remove just two users from a community of about four hundred weekly participants, we lose close to 8% of all future activity in this community. In spite of a ton of new users, these two folks, @michelehinojosa and @immeria, foster a wonderful and vibrant community. That’s a decent measure of influence, don’t you think?
Over the last year there have been THREE huge benefactors to understanding an audience that I feel like I can’t stress enough:
1. Avoiding the operational FAIL WHALE (oh man, do I have withheld rants on this)
2. Understanding that a competitive site in this industry must have diversity in everything (from gaming, to customizations, to approaching an audience)
3. SMART METRICS
For a few short minutes here, and I stress short, I simply must ramble about the importance of metrics and how our industry HAS to step to bat and start finding the value of users NOT just the abuse.
And when I say “our” industry – I mean specifically the CS, Moderation, and Community. We need to TOTALLY BFF-up our Metrics peeps… and if there aren’t metrics peeps at your biz, then you need to step up to bat and figure out enough of a base line understanding regarding metrics and analytics to be able to support what you do.
Why? WE’RE EXPENDABLE. That’s a lie. I know it, you know it, but there are many a board member who don’t understand why CS & Community & (more specifically) Moderation staffing/tools/practices are so important – POST launch, when the belt gets tighter and the big bucks are takin’ a bit longer to roll in.
We’re just people who manage people – anyone can do that… interns can do that, right? PUUUUUUUUUUUKE.
WRONG. UGh. Shudder. Frustration + fist at the sky with some sort of user engagement battle cry! Just because you have a background in marketing – that doesn’t mean you have that GUT understanding, nor ability to read a community. Marketing folks can spin statements and emphasize the value of advertising and approaching product, but it’s not the same [...feeling another tangent coming on. Must jump off this tangent path, my apologies].
What was I talking about? Oh yes, Metrics. Analytics. Whatever you wanna call it – basically, this day and age those of us people-people need to have back up. Stories are fun for conferences and for nailing a point home. Leaderboard-esque insight into top players is great to show your front-line knowledge of the audience’s ability. Social media platforms and conversations are great for keeping the product within fingertips of users everyday conscious. But when it comes to number crunching – dude bettah getz some backup. For realzies.
So far, metrics have been great for game designers and registration flows. It’s been great for microtrans and heatmaps (which, may I say – I love me some well developed heatmaps).
Blargh – OKAY, I’m biting off more than I can blog-chew at the moment. I’m going to kinda filter through my metrics conversation from the big point (overall metrics and their importance), and wittle it down to SPECIFICALLY moderation + community necessity.
- Individuals who abuse the system / community / experience
- What is the individual abuse (on a case by case, report, basis)
- Brings questions of WHY individuals abuse: is it the lack of game? Is it the drive of the content?
- Is it a growing group behavior?
- What exactly is the abuse of this growing group behavior?
- Brings again the questions of WHY individuals abuse: is it the lack of game? Is it the drive of the content? Is it the lack of appropriate competitive interaction? CAN YOU FIX THIS?
- Individuals who represent the best of the community
- Individuals who engage from within
- Individuals who lead by example
- *Individuals who seem to be the best of the best, but actually become somewhat cancerous in their righteousness and maybe should be used as a best case
- Groups who lead by example
- Groups who promote desired community efforts
- Areas that promote desired goals for game or specific area
- Individuals or areas that can help promote the MONETARY VALUE OF UPGRADING (via microtrans or subscription)
Remember – you want to gently lure and entice users into becoming monetary assets… and not just monetary assests but SUPER USERS. For as gross as statement from a “purest” perspective as that is… YOU CANNOT RUN A GAME WITHOUT INCOME. Just can’t.
Why would you just use metrics for landscapes and game agendas, or finding bad users? Dude – it’s the day and age of community! Of social media! Own it.
BALANCING THOSE OF ABUSE AND VALUE
Just as this AWESOME article above points out – not all users are just “good” or just “bad”… Use metrics and analytics from:
- Chat (a filter that reads positive chat and associates percentages, a chat filter that reads abusive chat and associates separate percentages)
- Interactions (Community event item clicking and purchasing metrics, guild-grouping, chat submissions, logins, time spent online, friending, time spent in social areas, time spent in gaming areas, time spent multiplayer gaming/interacting, leaderboards, time spent in “home” areas customizing, etc)
- Friending – viral quality outside of game, as well as inside the game.
If you are in the MMO or VW space… I would SERIOUSLY suggest taking a moment to have a solid “think” regarding understanding the bookends of your community, and the elements that drive the bulk middle either direction over the course of their experience. The more you can automate that process for your moderations, customer service reps, and community managers – the stronger / swifter / and better the process will be for you!! You will still need the insights and stories and multisocialmediaextravaganzamadskillz of community pro’s – naturally. But you also need number crunching and proof of pudding products.
So, my dears, in this slightly confusing, probably ADD fueled post – my point is this:
Community and Moderation and CS folks… go rogue for a moment, totally ninja-BFF any metrics/analytics people on staff. Make tools or practices that will help you to find the value, find the abuse, and back it up with the best kind of numbers you can find… AND THEN use your mad community skills to help understand why numbers show what they show, and improve your audience, your product, and the WORLD.
Make sense? Hope so. If not, as always, leave a comment at the beep……
Planet Cazmo is going to partner with Fox’s Teen Choice 2010 awards and entertainment mogul Tony Mottola to create a custom virtual environment called the Virtual Teen Choice Beach Party. The special virtual environment will be directly accessible from a link on the Teen Choice Website. The Teen Choice 2010 awards will air August 9 at 8 EST on Fox Users will be able to visit the virtual beach party after casting their votes online.
In the Virtual Teen Choice Beach Party, users will be able to design an avatar and a virtual home. In the virtual world, users can chat, play mini-games, virtually dance, and even purchase virtual goods. One of the goods for sale will be a branded good shaped like the award show’s signature Teen Choice Surfboard. This won’t be the first virtual event Planet Cazmo has developed for a major brand or celebrity partner. Previous projects developed by Planet Cazmo were primarily virtual concerts or music-themed, though.
Okay… So, wow.
First, I do find it absolutely RAD that Planet Cazmo has broken the start-up, non-uber-brand IP curse and managed to score such a marketing bonanza as TEEN CHOICE AWARDS on Fox. That’s kinda huge. Brings in the eyeballs – aka, sudden brand awareness.
For the last two years I’ve watched Planet Cazmo score quite a few influential contracts with big music peeps… They’re freakin’ email machines – no one sends as many newsletters as this site… seriously. There is always something going on it seems.
The art is easy, not too complex. The world is expansive (almost too expansive, but they try to pack everyone into the same server- providing the PARTY! feel of busy-busy).
Again, I’m still floored by their marketing department and promotions… well played for such high profile awesomeness.
PROBLEM: I just logged in as a minor and was able to share “my” phone number (or, ya know, the Empire Carpet guy’s number, five eight eight two three zero zero), “my” address (or, ya know, the white house), amongst other things. Then I created another account, logged in, and watched myself say the same content all over again (aka, the public can read it, its not just author-only jedi-mind-trickin’).
At least they caught “shadows are as dark as holes” – but as holes, for as swarthy a curse as it is in kid land, is NOT A LEGAL PROBLEM.
I can’t believe I just logged in, approved my “child” via email plus, and then passed out faux-personal information. What the what?! AND THEY’RE GOING UBER-PUBLIC WITH A TV SPONSORSHIP! It makes me very, very nervous for them.
Talk about disappointed. I’ve been dealing with several companies lately that are looking to ensure that they’re sponsorships/partnerships/etc with youth virtual worlds are LOCKED DOWN and safe… why the heck didn’t Fox check into the legal nature of Planet Cazmo?
I’m still absolutely astounded that I could give addresses and phone numbers. Baffled, even.
Virtual worlds are online spaces where kids create avatars (kind of like cartoon characters) through which they communicate, socialize, learn, shop, play games, and generally express themselves. There are hundreds of virtual worlds on the Web aimed at users of all ages. Some aimed at young children have controlled text chat, “profanity filters” to block offensive or sexually related chat, and staff or contractors moderating user behavior – you’ll want to check for these safety features. Parents also need to know that there are worlds kids can find and access which are not designed for them.
As with all kids’ online experiences, the No. 1 safety practice is routine parent-child communication. Keeping it low-key and frequent helps our kids come to us when stuff comes up. The most likely risks in kids’ virtual worlds, just like on school playgrounds, are cyberbullying or peer harassment and social-circle drama – including clubby behavior and kids playing “teenager” and talking about “boyfriends,” “girlfriends,” “breakups,” etc. The latter escalates and gets more sexually charged as they head into middle-school age. Language filters help, but kids can be creative with workarounds (see below). The main thing you need to know is that virtual worlds are user-driven: Positive experiences depend on users’ behavior toward each other and how well the space is supervised. Here are some pointers for safe, constructive in-world experiences.
I truly suggest you head over to Connect Safely’s tips for navigating kid virtual worlds as a parent (and kid).
Anne Collier, esteemed author, is amazing and is always watching these area with her eagle eye and brilliance.
The trends and behaviors of kids online are always changing, and yet not changing at all. It’s like a tag cloud – there are all sorts of behaviors a foot and they’re always floating around… they just take turns in the “who gets to be the biggest issue”. It’s never a stale world, my friends – probably more cyclical than anything else, but there you have it… kids. Lol.
I can’t stress to you HOW IMPORTANT it is to understand many of the safety tips that Anne points out. SHARE THEM. Seriously…. SO MANY PEOPLE ARE SEVERELY UNDEREDUCATED or MISEDUCATED regarding the crazy world of web social media. It’s easy, it’s hard, its crazy, and it’s exciting, and all shades of each.
Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease pass that link to any / all of your friends with kids, working with kids, etc.
One game, however, stood out among the rest as the Best Family Game of 2009. The nominees were:
- Club Penguin
- Free Realms
- Fusion Fall
- Wizard 101
The Winner: Wizard 101
Wizard 101 has been heralded as the kid’s MMO for adults. The game is geared toward a younger audience with its playful characters and cartoon graphics, but don’t be fooled by its exterior. Inside Wizard 101 is an intense MMO that uses great special effects for spells, daring and risky card game style combat, and a fun universe to explore for players.
The reason Wizard 101 takes home our Best Family Game of 2009 is because kids can play it with their parents and no one will be bored. Hardcore MMO players have come forward and said the game is fun and exciting to them as well.
LOOKIE LOOKIE, WHO HAS THE COOKIE!
YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I am really pleased with this out come. For as much as I still nod-in-appreciation to Club Penguin, this is really a well-deserved win.
Think about it:
Wizard101 came from an independent company without broadcast support (aka, no big dog marketing pushes, like Disney / Cartoon Network / MTV / Sony, etc). It was smart enough to find an IP that could be both independent in content & game play, but also capitalize on a desired-yet-missing brand (HARRY POTTER, PEOPLE).
It’s got boy game play, girl game play, school play, card play, and it effectively finds ways to suck a wallet drive (subscription only gets you so far – potions & rides/mounts are extra $$).
It’s the MMO I play as often as I can, and because I ENJOY playing it – not just for work / research.
What I’d like to see Wizard101 do in the next year?
1. Make houses more important – why do I care I’m in the Fire house? Why do I care others are in the Fire house? Give me reasons to be Fire-House-Evangelist in the game, please!
2. Change the chat set up. By “redding” out the words that I cannot use – you are giving me clues to work-arounds. OH, I can’t say “dork”? Well then, let me try “door k” DONE. Thanks red for telling me WHICH WORDS weren’t allowed, and confusing me other times when you’re not allowing me to say something I need to say (like “fizzling”).
Other than those two wee things – keep on keeping on, Wizard101. I’m psyched for you!!
ON a SIDE note… why the heck is MapleStory in there? Um, last time I played that game a guild named “Pedophile” was causing rukus through the servers… Kids swear like they’re afraid its going out of style, it’s Ad Mad, and it’s not family appropriate.
For most of the last decade the online gaming market has been
clearly divided between deep diversions for game-savvy adults like
World of Warcraft — which generally cost $15 a month — and cloying,
cutesy fare aimed at prepubescent children, especially girls, like Club
Penguin and Hello Kitty Online.
The sophistication in Free Realms
lies in how carefully it has been designed to appeal not only to both
of those audiences but also to the broad mass of entertainment
consumers who are discovering (or rediscovering) video games through
the likes of the Wii and Guitar Hero. Free Realms is a bit like a great
animated film: while its core audience may be children, it also retains
enough intelligence and depth to appeal to adults who can appreciate a
Almost everything about the Free Realms experience
is meant to be as unintimidating as possible. Instead of buying the
game at a store, you just go to FreeRealms.com
on your Windows PC and the client software begins downloading
automatically. The game’s visual style is similar to that of World of
Warcraft, which is to say stylized and colorfully animated rather than
highly detailed and realistic. Relatively simple graphics allow the
game to run on a broad range of PCs rather than forcing potential
players with old computers to upgrade (or, more likely, not play the
game at all).
Most role-playing games are built around the
concept of classes or archetypes, which determine what sort of
abilities players have at their disposal and what type of activities
they can engage in. A player can choose to be a sword-swinging
swashbuckler or a healing cleric or a sneaky rogue or a mystical
wizard. But those who want to experience different classes must make
separate characters for each one, which can be tedious and annoying.
great breakthrough in Free Realms is that your character can hold many
different jobs at once. You come into the game as an adventurer but
very quickly can assume different roles like medic, archer, warrior,
wizard, ninja or even pet trainer or postman. If you get tired of
racing as a kart driver, just switch over to brawler or chef mode and
try something entirely different. It’s an innovation that much more
complicated games would do well to emulate.
Each of the various
jobs entails a slightly different play style, often built around
mini-games. Mining and harvesting, for instance, involve engaging in a
match-three puzzle game (line up three or more items of the same color)
familiar to anyone who has played a game like Bejeweled. Combat, by
contrast, means using special abilities as one might in a game like
World of Warcraft or EverQuest. Game tables for checkers and chess are
scattered liberally around the countryside as are various additional
mini strategy games.
It’s funny, the one thing I found PERSONALLY (not professionally) discouraging about Free Realms when I played was that it seemed to try and be a fantasy world for any & everyone. I like my context to have some sort of over-arching god-like purpose, not a flimsy “of course there’s a professional looking motor-cross dude in this world of fairies” every-size-fits-all kinda existence… that feels too commercial, too salesy, too $$ in the eyes.
Remember, that’s my personal feelings.
Professionally? Yeah, it’s pretty smart. It’s yet another example of a starter MMO for the n00bs. It has play patterns for all – chess for gramps, checkers for that kid next door, pet taming for the tweens, bejeweled for mom, race cars for cousin joey, guitar hero graphics for the wii-jammers, card play for the pokemon crew, and war for the warriors (ahem, and some dads, ahem).
Oh yes, and did I mention… U13 – no chatty. None, zip, nada. U13 can join and play, speedchat yay! But no UGC communication. Nope. Not even for parents to unlock. Scalable solution in the meantime for proof of concept and low overhead on moderation (well, “lower”). But hey, sweet, right? And for those over 13 – ignore functions will help! From what I remember in my playing yesterday, I couldn’t figure out how to individually report a user. This creates two things (I was playing as an adult, fyi): a) Can’t tattle so i have to deal myself: getting your ADULT community to self regulate is pretty great once it WORKS… takes a bit tho, b) trolls/grieffers are going to be a problemo.
What I find interesting is that – this seems to be one of the first entries into this space that is one size fits all (one could argue Second Life, but I won’t). I think that Free Realms has the possibility of either spearheading (or being an inspirational nugget that sets off spearheading) a new generation of MMO’s… What I mean is this:
Most MMO/Virtual Worlds tend to BUILD life within the fantasty – it’s own network and community and fantastical existence. Free Realms is one that seems to USE life within the fantasy- the blend of fantasy with realistic passions on top. You’re a race car enthusiast wanting to be the circuits best… in a fairie virtual world. You’re a 5 star Chef… for pets and talking puppies. You’re a rockstar guitarest… for gremlins. Do you see what I mean?
Overall, it’s an exciting venture and TOTALLY work earmarking, eyeballing, examining, and forming opinions about… so go join Free Realms. I’d love to hear what you think.
Seriously – if you have an opinion PLEASE SHARE!!
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