The Conundrum that is Planet Cazmo

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.

Virtual Teen Choice Beach Party

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.

Blogged with the Flock Browser
  1. August 24, 2010 at 8:21 am

    The site has Safe Harbour from CARU. How come with numbers being allowed, they were granted it?

  2. August 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Hello. This is a post from the founder of Planet Cazmo, as I feel the need to defend ourselves against this one sided post.
    Planet Cazmo is a COPPA approved site with a CARU seal of approval. We have passed standards higher than most of our peers who chose not to even bother with COPPA, who clearly have children the same age as us playing their games. We moderate our world at all peak times, and are constantly banning and reprimanding players of the game. We have had no reportable incidents in our history, and our standards are identical to other major games with few exceptions. As far as chat goes, yes, we allow numbers to be spelled out, but we based this off standards we see other major sites setting, who have much bigger legal departments than we do. In reality, if a true comparison were done, our chat filter is far safer than most other games out there. We care about safety. We have children too. We have gone out of our way, as a very, very small and underfunded company to keep this site safe, where many in the space ignore the issue altogether. It is sad you would slam a site with this attitude. And I would like to point out, if your true intention was to make the internet more safe for kids, why is it that you have never once bothered to reach out to us? We are very receptive to our users and anyone who engages us and we would have been (and still are) very open to listening to what people feel would make the site safer. –Mike Levine

  3. August 25, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Apparently, yes. And as I mentioned, check Club Penguin or other sites – everyone allows this.

  4. August 25, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Hello BigDawg/Mr. Levine,

    First – sometimes on this wee blog of mine I get to hear the flip sides of my questions/statements/observations, and this is exactly one of those instances. Thank the Henson for social media.

    I apologize for you thinking I’m slamming your site – which is not the case. The filters? Yes, I was sorely and openly disappointed to find I could share information via numbers and identifiable words. As I mentioned – it scares me (I am a control freak in regards to the words/phrases/content shared on the sites I work with… because there are children in the mix, and their entertainment in a safe atmosphere is a balance and a goal that I would hope everyone has). But slamming your site? I am most impressed what what you have achieved for Planet Cazmo. It is clear there is a lot of time, passion, and energy going into the world your team has created. I am not saying this because you popped up on the radar – I’m saying this because I’ve watched your site grow from the start, and I’m impressed. I’ve worked at several startups (one at which was the little engine that could… if we only had a proper budget), and I understand the frustrations and battles needed to create something great. Look at the music you have on your site – that’s amazing, and perfect for the demo. And the Teen Choice Award partnership? Seriously, that is a big score and impressive to those of us who understand how hard it is to link smaller, non-household-name brands to such events. You’ve had great support (at least from a viewer’s eye) from musicians and personalities alike, and it’s been evident in your community events in the world. Well done.

    I would like to say – you make an EXCELLENT point about my approach. In the past, time and time again, I’ve ranted and railed about making a “united” front across the industry in protecting/entertaining kids online – APPROPRIATELY. It’s all about learning and sharing. This past year, I’ve seen many less-than-stellar approaches, and some almost out-right disgusting approaches to maintaining online safety at the expense of other people, toolsets, sites. Slowly, as the heat begins to bubble around re-thinking legislation that both protects and inhibits child online safety and entertainment… some voices have gotten saltier than others, and I am starting to feel the wear of my own ranting. Although, I do have a right to blog about frustrations, that’s not why I became a blogger – it’s, sad to say, become a frustration soap box since my muppet post. Pounding my fist on the table and crying out ‘WHYYYYY?’ isn’t going to help anyone. Over the past year I have sent exactly 12 emails to companies with “suggestions” and helpful observations about their safety. I’m not on a witchhunt, neither am I the neighborhood nosey neighbor coming over with a cup of sugar and time to gossip about the house next door… that’s not my job. I enjoy competitive analysis, and if I see something blaring, ie filters, I might mention it to them. I concede with perfect honesty – yes, I should have emailed your company with a good old fashioned “heads up” based on my own standards and wishes to help improve/empower the industry.

    I appreciate your frustrations and anger towards my blog post regarding your filters. It’s honestly good to see passion about something you build/create/own. I feel quite passionately about this industry, and learning/growing/building from the nuggets of inspiration and creation that form through new adventures all the time. Over the last few years, I have also adapted (perhaps more out of need than my own wish) a passionate defense of the people/tools/practices it takes to run a site – particularly filters, and their necessity, as well as the moderation of UGC by well trained staff. These things tend to be overlooked, and non-appreciated when they’re the things that help keep a good site going. I understand understaffing, and lack of funding. I understand toolsets are expensive, and so is 24/7 support. Heck… I feel that pinch every single day. But there is basically one piece of legislation that protects the young audience of our industry.

    It’s my job for the sites I work on to make sure we’re towing the line of safety. It’s not always easy, and sometimes down right frustrating – but it’s part and parcel of being within this particular market, with this particular audience. Worry? I do that often.

    Since I started bloggin’ several years ago – that was my aim… to talk about the things i see in the industry. To open up communication and shed light on the important stuff… like filters, staff, engagement, occasionally the muppets, pop culture, etc.

    You may be a small company – but you’re clearly edging forward to be a strong industry contender – which was noted particularly by Planet Cazmo’s partnership with the Teen Choice Awards. It’ll be very exciting to see where your company takes the site next, and how it continues to be push forward as a leader – both in name, but in practice.

    I thank you very much for taking the time to speak more about your site, and I also – sincerely – thank you for calling me out on my tactic.

    Many thanks,

  5. August 25, 2010 at 4:09 pm


    Thanks for the reply and your kind words. I think (as this discourse is proving) we are actually very much on the same page. We care and are committed to safety. We adhere to the guidelines by COPPA and watch what other sites owned by huge corporations do. We also make our own daily decisions to keep our site safe. Cazmo has a “safe chat only” server as well, and if parents want to, they can restrict their kids to it. I hope we can continue the discussion offline as we do truly care and do listen to opinions on how we can make our site better. –Mike

  6. August 25, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    No worries, we can definitely chat some time. Again – I am happy you popped up and chimed in! It’s good to have many perspectives, and insights.

    I do have to mention – Club Penguin does not allow numbers – and they “mask” (or what I like to call “jedi mind trick” numbers) so you think you’re typing them but no one in the room can see them (to lower the frustration of numbers). It’s interesting – Club Penguin only shows publicly about 1/2 of what you think you’re saying. It’s a cool tactic to lower chat frustration, yet protect too.

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