A note of advice to parents of teenagers

A note of advice to parents of teenagers: Like me, Marianne Richmond has an in-house focus group of long-time Facebookers. And they think letting parents onto Facebook is as weird as I do. She writes, “According to my kids, MySpace is for weidos, businesses and other adults. Facebook is for normal kids to hang out with their friends in a place where their parents or any other adults are not permitted. According to my in-home panel of experts, permitting parents on Facebook diminishes the attraction exponentially for kids; a complete lowering of standards. Perspective is a wonderful thing.”

Unlike Marriane, I have not informed my focus group that I have actually registered on Facebook “for research purposes.” The 16-year-old has previously informed me that he will put himself up for adoption if I did so. (Of course, I said, “I will help you fill out the papers.”)

Here’s my suggestion for parents of teenagers. If your old stand-by disciplinary threats are growing stale, try this one out: “Listen to me young man: If you don’t start [fill in the blank], I’ll make you friend me on Facebook.”

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Conflicting social contexts

Conflicting social contexts: Thanks to Susan Mernit’s link to this post by Danah Boyd, I am now able to articulate why I think (and this is an opinion shared by teenaged members of my family) it is a mistake for Facebook to allow me to join. I can understand the desire for Facebook founders/backers to expand beyond their initial audience: college, and then, high school students. And with MySpace (who will also let anyone join) venturing successfully beyond its indie music roots, I totally appreciate the pressure the Facebook folks must be under from their VCs to blow the top off membership. So, the only way to keep charging towards a stratospheric valuation is to allow anyone with Internet access to set up an account.

Danah provides the term I needed to articulate why I think one social network can’t be all things to all people: “Conflicting social contexts.” I believe that in addition to our desire to have public personas and to be members of the community at large, individuals also need to be members of walled-off, defined communities, families and extremely finite networks. Yes, despite my previous rantings to the contrary, people sometimes like their silos. We associate ourselves with specific brands and groups and clubs and societies and all manner of institutions in all aspects of our lives — so why online should there be one massive social network that is all things to all people?

Having just read a few books on the history of Scottish Highlands clans and having traveled the past couple weeks through their now depopulated ancestral homelands, I know their ultimate demise occurred for a wide range or reasons, but two in particular: the greed of the clan chiefs and the chance the “members” of the clans saw in North America, Australia and New Zealand to own land rather than to be serfs at the whim of the ever changing business-plans of the clan CEO and his venture backers. Lesson: When clan chiefs attempt to redefine the purpose of their clans (grazing sheep generate more revenue than grazing people), the result can be a “conflicting social context” for members of the clan, and before you know it, members of the clan are looking for a boat on which to sail off to Prince Edwards Island.

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A boom in magazine coverage of online video

A boom in magazine coverage of online video: Is this a “niche boom” leading indicator…or a lagging one? Wired does Eric Bauman of eBaum’s World and Forbes does a lot of stories about YouTube.

Quote from the Wired story about eBaum’s World:

“Viral media is all the rage these days, and Bauman runs one of the few viral sites actually making money. Without spending a penny on direct advertising, he’s turned the high school hobby he ran out of his bedroom into one of the Internet’s top-ranked humor sites, getting 1.2 million hits a day. There’s a television pilot in the can, a book deal in negotiation, and a potential pact to bring eBaum content to cell phones. Annual ad revenue has doubled over the past year to $10 million, and the only overhead is bandwidth and salaries: Bauman is becoming a rich man. He has 30 employees who handle the coding, marketing, financial affairs, and assorted office details. He drives a shiny black Porsche Carrera. Besides gobbling up real estate around town and gas wells in Kentucky, he sponsors heavyweight boxing champ Hasim “the Rock” Rahman.”

I don’t know. There’s just something dejavuee-sounding about all of this.

However, as I’ve noted, until some of these companies are in the publicly traded marketplace, we won’t get to witness any “bust” portion of this drama — at least as the term applies to the economic cycle of boom and bust. No doubt, there will be many, many failures of the 10th and 30th and 100th version of “YouTube” for pet owners, but early and venture money being blown by startups does not a bust make.

Or, perhaps a true, small business, cottage industry can emerge where videographers and niche media firms can generate healthy margins without having to reach a mass scale. I think that’s the more interesting possibility — and story. That a company like Bauman’s can generate that type of revenue with such a low overhead is a big deal. From my in-house research, I believe eBaum’s World is to a 12-15 year old boy today what Mad magazine was 40 years ago. Except Mad paid the talent…and then owned the content. I’m sure that means nothing to Bauman. He’s going “what, me worry?” all the way to the bank.

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Blogging means you can’t pretend bad stuff isn’t happening

Blogging means you can’t pretend bad stuff isn’t happening: My “best practices” role-model whenever asked at conferences, “What magazine uses blogs most effectively?” is BusinessWeek. I’ve blogged here many examples of how the magazine has integrated the tools of blogging into its editorial process and how many of its reporters have discovered stories from their blogging or helped to interpret and correct stories after the fact. However, BusinessWeek and its parent McGraw-Hill, face macro challenges that can’t be solved merely by allowing its reporters to use blogs. However, when the company takes steps in facing those challenges, Bloggers like Steven Baker must comment on what’s taking place or they’ll lose their credibility. Last night, he posted the following on the blog maintained by Heather Green and him:

“I got word that something was up in an e-mail. Then I called a friend, who it turned out had just gotten fired. This is 21st century life in our branch of mass media. Twelve staffers are gone. Many of them I’ve known and worked with and admired since arriving at BW nearly 20 years ago. It’s grim, and I don’t have new analysis on the throes of mass media, at least nothing that Jeff Jarvis and Tim Porter haven’t already written. I just didn’t want you to think that we were pretending the cuts hadn’t happened, or that we didn’t care.”

I will be blogging more in the coming weeks about where I see all of this heading.

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