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Or-Tal's Writings

entrepreneur/mother/education revolutionist/high tech addict

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social networking

Confession of a Social Networking Discriminator

I’m a social networking racist. I admit it. If you’re not there – you’re not. As simple as that. As I start browsing for business connections for my new startup, either service providers, potential employees, strategic partners – you’ve got to have an online presence, and a maintained and updated one.

Too often I am approached or connected with people who aren’t. Not online, or not updated, or think they can maintain their anonymity in this day and age, and still be looking for a job in hi tech, internet or marketing. I almost think it’s ridiculous. It’s like looking for a job as a life guard when you can’t swim. Really!

Thanks - http://politicalirony.com/

The common argument I hear is “I’m entitled to my privacy”, “I am a private person” and the best is “I don’t think the world should know when I have to go…”. -which proves my point exactly. These are not sentences a person who knows a thing or two about social networks would say.

For the benefit of those who don’t understand it yet, but want to, here are some replies and tips.

First of all – people can preserve their private lives to themselves even if they have a Facebook or Twitter active accounts. It’s your choice what you put up and what you don’t. You really should avoid reports on “when you have to go” – because no one cares.

Second – if you have any professional value, then you have content to share, and hopefully a valuable one. You don’t have to open a blog,  just join the conversation, one way or the other.

Joining Social Networking Stages
1. Share Knowledge You Came Across
Being a professional persona I bet you are exposed to professional knowledge which you can share. Assuming you haven’t started to write articles and blog posts yet – start by sharing links.
2. Share Your Opinion
Share comments on items you read. You can actually post your professional opinion on market news, even if you read them offline. Just don’t forget to mention what you are referring to.
3. Get Knowledge from Others
Look at other professionals in your area and see what links and opinions they are sharing.
4. Share Information by Others
If those links are valuable – then share them with your friends and followers too (retweet/share).
5. Converse, React
Reply to those who shared knowledge with yours, or with thanks. Don’t forget to reply to those who replied to you or thank your retweeters.

Privacy Preserved
All of those have nothing to do with your meals, children, spouse, sleeping habits, entertainment preferences, religion, or any other personal information which you would rather keep private.

Your online presence is yours. So avoid using the photos of your children instead of your own. Show online a simple photograph that would help potential business contacts find you in events.

Choice of networks
The most popular networks for business networking are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. There are other social networks of course, but I’d like to review my own choice of how I use those:

1. LinkedIn is a networked résumé. It is based on the same Curriculum Vitae one might submit when searching for a job. So it’s an important network to be on, but it’s beneficial only if you make sure your CV there is really kept up to date. Another benefit is the ability to collect recommendations from people you worked with in the past – colleagues or clients. These are usually traded for your recommendation, but do reflect positive working relations. You will eventually decide which connection you’d want to make on each network. On Linkedin I’d start with people you have worked with or done business with. This can evolve later to potential employees or partners. Remember the main benefit of connecting to someone on Linkedin is to be able to connect through them to someone else, who might be a useful connection. Obviously, in a similar way, you should be able to help your contacts connect through you.

2. Facebook can be both a work tool and a personal tool. You can use it for both; you can group your business and family connections in two different lists and choose which items posted are exposed to which group. But for those who fear the leak of their personal information let’s just discuss the business use.
Facebook is an excellent communications tool. You start by connecting to your business contacts, colleagues or clients and begin by following them. Except for links and updates that they share, some might be more interesting than the others, look at groups and pages they join and of course – events.

Groups and pages are in fact smaller communities within Facebook with shared interests (I’m referring to professional interests). Some of these groups meet on various events, which would give you a perfect opportunity to meet with those colleagues of yours and expand you networking relationships beyond. Who would you connect to on Facebook? For me Facebook is rather personal so I try to limit my connections to people I’ve met or done business with or am already connected and familiar with over a longer period of time (for international contacts). When people who I don’t know ask to be friends with me on Facebook I will try to find out what is their interest. I would rather offer my personal email for assistance, than add them to my list of contacts. By adding them to my list of friends their updates are in my feed (are they interesting connections for me? Is their feed relevant?), and also they get updates from me on their feed (do I want to share with them?). The other suggestion I make to those who want to follow my updates – is to follow my twitter.

3. Twitter is a different platform. It’s the easiest and in a way the smartest tool of all. As a default your twits are public. You can make them private, but what’s the point there? Quoting someone smart – “it’s like going to a nudist beach fully clothed”.
So what is the business use of twitter? It does 2 main things: on the first level it allows you to gather professional information from your preferred sources – be it your colleagues or international bloggers or any knowledgeable sources who are sharing their wisdom on this platform. If a couple of years ago I needed to perform a daily search to find my most relevant news items, then today I get the most relevant items from my preferred sources, which already sorted a lot more than I could have scanned.

The second use of Twitter is to get your word out there. Use it when you feel ready. As stated above, social networking is a conversational tool. You join the conversation when you have something valuable to contribute, and you follow simple rules of courtesy towards your connections there.

To social-net or not?
This is an existential question especially if you are in marketing or marketing related industries and in the internet related industries too. I feel this is where markets go to. If the masses could have influenced the choice of logo of the Gap (just an example), then anyone ignoring social networking in today’s world is attesting to their staying behind.

ADD – The Human Evolution

Are We All Acquiring ADD?

Last week I ran across a status update by a facebook friend who wrote “I think I won’t be able to complete this blog post without a dose of Ritalin”.
This floated at the same week I read some comments about the rising rates of ADD and ADHD among children and adults and how you can blame the web for everything wrong.
I don’t take Ritalin and it took me a lot longer then I had expected to finish this blog. My facebook friend had already completed and uploaded her great post titled -free translation from Hebrew: Attention Deficit Surprise. (Read it in Hebrew).

ADD is “Attention Deficit Disorder”. Ritalin is one of the more common drugs used to treat people who suffer from ADD. As one explained it to me once “Ritalin is like oiling the brain’s wheels so they won’t make a noise when they spin”. At the same time, if I use the same image, those Ritalin-oiled wheels slow down a lot, and go only straight, no sharp turns.

Which could be a problem.

But going back to the reality and the statistics – I won a “wow! You have serious ADD!” last week, as I was working with my partner on our startup’s verbal branding, while I gave him some advice regarding his wedding arrangements, took care of the kids’ lunch, schedule some doctor’s appointment and well, I don’t remember which other action items jumped in the list that morning.

His remark took me by surprise. I don’t think I have ADD. I think people often find it difficult to concentrate – that does not automatically award them with a disorder. I know I speak for many working mothers when I say we have many, many action items on our daily lists – and that also doesn’t amount to ADD or entitles us with a dose of Ritalin. It’s just a simple overload with no special order or dis.

I’ve been thinking about the ADD – the disorder, the definition and the perception – for a long time now. I have two boys diagnosed with ADD, who do not take Ritalin. And I have a brother and a sister diagnosed with it too. We assume that our parents have it, and science claims it’s hereditary. I still don’t think I have ADD.

But going back to the definition of ADD and recent statistics showing a rise in ADD and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder) as a percentage of the general population, especially, but not only, among children:

Some might attack the actual statistics, some might argue that the rise is due to better knowledge and understanding of this phenomena, but often people blame the world we live in, specifically digital communications age. Because, really, think about it: life has gone from being simple 1-2 channel activity to being multi-channel activity all the time!

Consider only the communications channels that we have accumulated over the past 120 years. Started with face to face conversation added letter writing, telegraph, then phones, email, then mobile phones, then instant messaging, SMS, forums, chat rooms, social networks and twitter. Who knows what lies ahead!

This means that we’d better start thinking how to wean the world of Ritalin, because – yes: we are all acquiring ADD and it’s going to be the next generation’s normal.
Or is it?

I feel that sometimes ADD does not present itself as an attention DEFICIT but rather as an attention EXCESS (and let’s leave the disorder for now). Consider how we divided our time only 30 years ago between face to face conversations and phone conversations, each would be a single channel activity. Now think of today’s teenager’s time divided between face to face conversation, phone conversation, SMS, chat, email all together with web browsing and TV, all at the same time. The reality requires the Attention Excess – and the result could become “disorder”, a mess, a chaos.

But is it really a mess or is it a phase in evolution?
I read today that “according to Fortune Magazine people with ADD/ADHD are 300% more likely to start their own company”. I also found this simple explanation: “The ADD/ADHD gene affects the brain’s relationship with dopamine. This difference causes one to crave stimulation just to feel alive…” and “while only about 10% of the general population has this gene, most of self-made rich & famous have the ADD/ADHD gene. This group includes most entrepreneurs, artists, inventors, geniuses, rock stars and billionaires.”

The real problem with ADD is the labeling system that’s attempting to treat this evolution as a disease that needs a cure – drugs, to be specific.

Of course some ADD people, who may use Ritalin successfully might disagree with what I write here. And to be fair I must make it clear: there are various levels of ADD. In most cases ADD people do not see their problem as an attention “Excess” because even though they can split their attention between multiple stimulations, they never get to maximize their attention to any of those channels, leaving them with a feeling of “missed something”. But that’s not the same in all ADD cases. Not even in all ADD days.

In the meantime I’ve been watching this 2 year old who’s playing with her iPad, first encounter. Looks like she’s born into the digital age. She can instantly do stuff with her iPad that her grandparents might take hours to grasp. She’s born into a world where she can work around multi channels of stimulation and once accustomed to it at this early age, her brain is beginning to constantly crave stimulation, just like the brain of an ADD child.

In 4 years she’ll go to school and be asked to sit still in a classroom, listen to a teacher talking for 45 minutes at a time, write with a pencil in her notebook, a paper notebook. Before you know it she’ll be labeled ADD. It’s like sending a kid to the moon then dropping them down from there to earth – to a hundred years ago earth.

Time to make a reality check:
I am sick and tired of all those magazine articles warning humanity against the horrible things technology, especially the Internet – is doing to our brains. Technology is NOT JUST here to stay, it keeps EVOLVING. It’s not going to go away and I suspect the middle ages will never come back. The question is not “how to prevent humanity from changing” but rather how to get humanity to embrace the change, work with it and start to benefit from it.

Follow Your Followers

Well, these two guys, veteran internet entrepreneurs, are starting a new web venture. Obviously I got curious. So I googled them up and found that each of them has about 3 pages: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. In that order. Their LinkedIn profiles seems relatively detailed, but I noticed for the first time that there’s no way to discover when they visited LinkedIn last or when was their profile updated. Their Facebook pages where private – which is understandable. OK, but their Twitter pages where the final straw: just a few twits, from about a year ago.

My instinctive reaction: these guys are talking about a new web venture? They don’t get the present day web at all!

Hey, I am open to your feedback on this one. Is it possible that because I am so very much connected and involved with a cloud of undefined worldwide web community that I am biased? It just feels to me like this is what the current web is all about, it’s a global conversation, and if you are not part of it – how can you make any offer to this web community, trying to sell a new web venture, product or service??

These guys are obviously not alone. I’ve recently came across several people who are similarly not “floating on the web current”. I divide them to two major groups: one is those who have never been involved in any type of online presence, and find the current personal openness and entangled involvement in this elusive community somewhere between overwhelming and intimidating.
The other group is actually people who were pretty much on top of things up to 5-10-15 years ago, but sort of let go in the recent years, to a point where they missed the big and still growing social revolution. At this point they are too embarrassed to admit they are no longer on top of things, and they claim they are either not interested, or don’t need it, or – those very important persona – don’t have time for it.

Well, just so you know – I too do not have time for social networking. Strangely enough I also don’t “make time for it”. Facebook and Twitter are present in my work day the same as my outlook, Firefox, post-it, my pens and pencils, my mobile phone and my coffee.

I found various tools that help me stay connected to my trade floor, that’s this odd social web community, with minimal time investment.

First of these tools is Digsby. This is an instant messaging program, but it also connects to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and my major online email accounts. It allows me to get streaming updates, and I don’t have to open any web page for this.

The second tool I use occasionally is Tweetdeck, which is of course useful when you create twitter lists. I only start Tweetdeck when I want to take an active role in a twitter conversation, like #edchat for example.

But really, the Twitter lists should be the topic of this post. I think each of us have several areas of interests and we follow people who belong to various groups of topics. When Twitter introduced the lists earlier this year it was one of the smartest things they have done. I can’t remember the prehistoric era. I’ve created several lists among them lists of educators, gamers, techies, entrepreneurs. If I do have some reading time allocated, I browse the lists, according to the most relevant topic to my work at the time.

Today I started to wonder how comes that Facebook, who allow grouping of contacts for ages, doesn’t enable sorting the news stream or recent updates, to group views. This would save so much time!

If you want to look for me online search for lemino. Just letting you know.

The Paradox of Online Privacy

Last night, at a diner party, people were discussing the latest online privacy issues concerning the recent changes by Facebook. One friend mentioned what she likes about people’s online presence is the fact that it is so easy to gather so much information about people. The other said she doesn’t have a Facebook account out of fear for her privacy, and mainly of loosing control over her information online.

This morning I found the latter’s personal details online: her name, position, home address, land line and mobile phone number, email, and at least one clear photo with her husbands on some non-profit organization’s newsletter.

Privacy is no longer.

Or at least it is re-defined.
If you live in this online era, you have to understand that defining your privacy on Facebook, even before the recent changes in the privacy settings, is like whispering to a friend when you are in a packed mall. You might think that only your friend heard what you whispered, but you can never be sure that a lip reader haven’t got you from the other end of the passage. You can also never be a hundred percent sure that this friend won’t repeat what you said and quote you.

Being online is being public. Being connected is being part of the public. I am not saying you can’t live without it, I’m just saying that chances are you are friends with someone who is online, and that means that a part of you, belongs to your friend, and is probably already online in a way. I think it’s valuable to gain control over your online presence. People can tag you in a photo even if you are not on Facebook or not connected to them. When you are, and the photo didn’t come out nice, you can remove your tag. If you are on Facebook and you want to see what people can see about you – use this tool. What ever is there – is available because you put it there.

The big commotion in the recent days concerns Facebook sharing your preferences and interests with advertisers, which are 3rd parties. The loss of control can justly freak us all out. Even though you are not obliged to fill out all this information – your preferences, favorites, activities and hobbies – many choose to do it, as a way of declaring their identities to their online friends, some of which don’t really know them closely. The only upside I see about the transfer of this information is that I might actually get to see some targeted advertising, and not irrelevant sometime offensive ads. If I chose to publish my interest to my hundreds, sometimes thousands, of Facebook friends, I see no problem in advertisers using this data. As long as they don’t get my personal data such as phone numbers or email or private address. There I would definitely draw the line, or start using fake data, which would back fire to Facebook.

The other thing is the Facebook “like” button populating other sites. Clicking it shows on this site, to your friends, that you liked the site or the post, and it shows on your profile too. The only difference from the previous share option is that the site may present its likers too. As a blog owner I want to use it too. Unfortunately, wordpress.com don’t enable this yet, and so I have to settle for the lesser version of “getsociallive” and present my likers on their servers.

The Young Problem

The main problem with online presence really concerns kids. Officially Facebook meets the COPPA laws by limiting the age of registered users to 14 and up. Practically, the average user age is dropping every day. Kids lie about their age without a blink, not thinking about it twice, and consider Facebook their own environment.

They connect with classmates, sometimes with older kids, sometimes with younger kids, but they also connect to their parents, or teachers, or guides, or friends of their parents, or older friends of the older sister… I hardly know any kids on Facebook who is not connected to adults.

The connection itself is OK. Sometimes even blessed. It leads to better relationship between youth and adults and opens a sort of a back channel of communications. But many of those kids, sometimes “friends collectors” aren’t fully aware of the face that each status may reach many circles. It’s pretty complicated for a child to manage his connections into groups and then choose each time who gets to see what.

In addition, when they submit information about themselves they often use humor and exaggeration, and not necessarily their true interests, which in turn might lead to exactly the wrong type of ads for them.
Facebook is ignoring this problem. Officially they have no data relating to kids. But at some point they will have to create a young Facebook, to enable safe and legal usage of Facebook by kids.

Free Online Account? Trust No One.

Ning deciding to gradually terminate their free service came as a serious shock to many of their users, especially those who established various free social networks based on the its platform.

If you are not familiar with it – Ning is offering a platform for quick and easy creation of social networks.

It seemed like Ning’s free service should have lasted forever: you open a network, recruit between tens to the hundreds and sometimes even thousands of members to your network, Ning plant ads on the network’s pages. Revenue goes to Ning.

However, since it’s totally free to create, not all the networks could bear profits. Some networks were created and then forsaken. It’s been sitting there for 2-3 years. Some photos, some blogs, poems, personal pages of 84 members, generating no real income as there are no visitors. However, this network costs. Someone has to maintain the data. It is stored somewhere. It’s taking space, resources.

Less then an hour after Ning has made their announcement the net was flooded with offers for backups, migrations and alternatives to the Ning platform, for educators or for any one. But the Network is now tainted for ever.

Trust no one!

What was accepted and perceived as a Free For Ever service – is not free any more. And if Ning can do it, why not Facebook, or Twitter? Or Gmail?

Leaving the business consideration aside for a moment what really bothers me is the question -what made them do it and why now? Is it the beginning of the content explosion?

I know several people who opened more than a single Facebook account. The most common reason is losing the password, but I know kids who opened several accounts so they can send themselves Farmville gifts, or people who opened separate accounts for connecting with family and connecting with business associates. Each account consumes system resources. Abandoned accounts don’t generate income. And double accounts, sometimes hosting double feeds or photos, take up a lot more space then the revenue they can generate.

And in the meantime we are all reading and writing and referencing and cross referencing and I see how the volume of contents keeps growing infinitely. In a presentation I watched recently the speaker revered about how our grandchildren will be able to share details from our lives in a much more vivid way then we can share our parents’, because all of this information is going to be stored online forever.

Really?

For free??

Nothing Much.

I’ve been so terribly preoccupied lately I didn’t get a chance to complete any of the blog posts I’ve started to write. Each paragraph bursting out of me in a rage of passion to this topic or that. But then I get all entangled with the actual doings, and the post gets abandoned.

Well not this time. This one is going up.

There is a mix of topics I am dealing with. If an outsider would have looked at my browser windows at any given point of time – they might consider a multiple personality disorder…

At this time, for example, I have a bunch of Facebook games I am trying out. Then several windows explaining about World of Warcraft and how to play it, and an additional bunch of windows all related to the use of World of Warcraft at school. There are many recommendations there. I’d start with Lucas Gillispie’s web site http://edurealms.com/.

Then I have another set of windows open and they relate to the efforts to bring some innovation into education in Israel. There is a list of 29 elementary schools in Israel that are considered “experimental”. 21 high schools and 34 nursery school classes. It’s a drop in the ocean really. Some of the experiments described do not present any education innovation at all. But some do, and I cling to then with hope it may hint of a positive direction.

Seems impossible to be online without some of my favorite networks: at this time it’s firesidelearning.ning.com, where I follow the discussion on NYTimes: “Building a Better Teacher” by Elizabeth Green and http://rezedhub.ning.com/ where I follow the wow-in-school group http://rezedhub.ning.com/group/wowinschools.

As a side kick I need to check out the weather in far away Thessaloníki in Greece, since my daughter would be traveling there tonight, to participate at a Model UN convention. There are some un-answered email messages about the Eurekamp unconference I am helping to organize. I also have to check out some sources regarding a TV documentary I am planning to do and …oops. My alarm clock just went off. Got to pick up the little one from school. Time for a break.

The Story about the Suspicious Man

“This is a suspicious man”, I told my partner as we were browsing through résumés of potential employees or co-founders for our startup. “How comes?”, said my brother, “he strikes me as an experienced techie, very impressive resume, mentions all the terms we need…”. “Yes, but I can’t find any social networking info about him. That’s suspicious”.

For a minute there was silence. If my brother was here, next to me, and not beyond the sea, in New York, he would probably be staring at me, with the look of “are you for real?” – one lifted eyebrow. But as he was at the other end of a transatlantic phone call I was spared the look.

The silence was disturbed as one of my Facebook contacts sent me an online message about a coming event. As I replied my brother said: “You know what, not everybody has the time to manage a proper online presence. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the professional for us”. “No way”, I said, “Our venture is all about social networking. If this person isn’t a social networking animal we are going to waste tons of time just explaining things to him”.

As this resume was dropped to the floor* and we moved to discuss the next candidate I started to think. Can someone looking for a job, especially technology or marketing related job, afford to not have a properly managed online presence? I can’t take seriously anyone from a tech related profession who isn’t taking part in any type of social networking. It’s like a thing of the past. Who wants a thing of the past when you are looking to move forward?

So here are some tips to job seekers, from someone who is a co-founder/CTO seeker, about some minimum social networking expectations and requirements:

1- LinkedIn – the number one professional social network. Put your résumé online, don’t forget to connect to colleagues, bosses, team members, clients and suppliers to create your work network. Make sure you connections are visible – what we look are mutual acquaintances. Make sure you do not connect with people who may speak badly of you. Try to get references from any connection who can speak nicely of you, first from those people who are widely connected and have strong network presence. Don’t forget to upload a photo. Yes, we do want to know how you look, so when we set up a meeting at a coffee place we can recognize you. The photo has to show your face clearly – a full body on a 40 pixel image is ridiculous – and it will better be up to date, not a 10 year old photo from when you were a lot thinner.

2. Facebook – yes the face photo is probably the first thing you should upload here. Your short version of a resume can also come here – but it’s not a must. The most important thing about Facebook is the connections, the social network you create. Don’t think “the more the merrier” because that’s not true. When I see people with more then 400 connection I doubt the quality of every connection on their list. Make sure you connect with those people who can reference you and even better – if you connect to people who can help you land that next job.

An important tool on Facebook is the events. If you haven’t been invited to any event yet, go into the events application and look for friends’ events. Some might be informal like parties, drinks, breakfasts. Other might be professional – conferences, unconferences, workshops, and others might be social networking events like meetups and group meetings. Choose only relevant groups. Ask your friends for their recommendations. You can start with free events. There are plenty of those and they are not any less effective then paid events.

3. Status updates and Twitter. If you are unfamiliar with social networking or feel you don’t have the time – don’t do it. No status updates, nor Twitter. It’s not necessary. Start by simply following, about once a day, the various updates of your friends and their friends – your relevant network.

What are status updates good for?

You will discover that potential employers publish their want ads first as a status update. Sometimes your friends will re-publish, or re-tweet, a want ad by a friend.

You will also learn how to publish your availability to the potential audience. But don’t rush into it. First follow others to learn what sounds right and what sounds out of place in this new medium called social networking.

**PS: the story is half fictional, for my own literary pleasure I tend to exaggerate. However the guide is 100% true.

The United State of Now

The “140 characters – The state of now” – a globally wondering conference by Jeff Pulver arrived in Tel-Aviv this week, and I was proud to be there, even if I couldn’t attend the full day.

As I was wandering about, saying a personal face to face hello to my work colleagues, people who I meet daily online, but only get to meet offline in such events, I thought about this thing that connects us all to this event. Teachers and students, marketing specialist and technology geeks of various sorts, journalists, writers and bloggers, artists and musicians – all were there to socially network about social networking.

Social networking, since status updates and twitter – had become indeed a “state of now” thing. The sense of immediate reach is intoxicating.

But here is the thing: the dimension of now is not really there. Now turns from “in a minute” to “a minute ago” faster then we can blink. We cling to our social networks in the constant pursuit of the illusive state of now.

Journalism is probably one of the first trades to be equally threatened and excited by this new development of the NOW. Old school journalism defined the reporter as a human channel through which the news flow from the happening to the readers, listeners or viewers. In this modern “state of now” we are all reporters.

We are creators of news, transmitters of news and consumers of news. We are also editors – having to choose from the enormous amounts of channels at our disposal. We don’t have to watch the news at 8 o’clock when they are aired in order to remain up to date. We get to watch the news sources hours earlier when someone posts a link or reveals a discussion on our networks. We get to choose when we want to consume our news, what topics really interest us, how much time to dedicate to each piece of information – and Oh! We get to talk back to the news, and not just make faces to the news anchor behind the screen.

Are we infantilizing? “We are like a very young child demanding to get our satisfaction NOW! Right NOW!”, Said Yoav Tsuker from TV channel 1. “If I need help in homework – I need it NOW!”, said Michael Matias, 13 years old, “Yesterday’s news won’t help me”.

And so the attempt to capture the moment continues.

It’s Kidsville!

It’s kidsville time!!

I admit it.  I gave in to my youngest child and let him get an account on Facebook. Farmville was the trigger, and though he is apparently the first among his 2nd grade classmates to play it I am not convinced he is the first one to have a Facebook account. He started by playing Farmville with his brother (6th grader) and sister (10th grader). But his network of neighboring farms is expanding to include their friends and more distant family members.

CNN titled it “Social networks and kids: How young is too young?”
They mention, among other things, Susan Greenfield who was quoted on “The Mail”, an article which I already covered in my February post. How young really? My daughter joined on 8th grade. My son at the beginning of his 5th grade. And then my youngest at the beginning of his 2nd grade. That’s probably as young as possible for a text based network.

But here are two new facts to consider:

First, the PEW report published a day after the CNN item. It’s titled “Social Isolation and New Technology” which “finds that Americans are not as isolated as has been previously reported. People’s use of the mobile phone and the Internet is associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks. And, when we examine people’s full personal network – their strong and weak ties – Internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with more diverse social networks.”

The second is this item, published on National Geographic about 2 weeks earlier, titled “Googling Fights Dementia, Study Suggests”.

So let’s stop and think for a moment.

What do kids find in social networks?

I think that … big surprise, the same as adults: Accessibility. Of people, of course. Why is it OK for me to use social networks to connect with colleagues who I never met and may never meet face to face in my life, from other parts of the planet, but it’s dangerous for kids to use social networks to connect to classmates or school mates or soccer team members who they cannot meet on a daily basis after school hours?

Well I am no fool. Some people jump at this question with the dangers theme. There are many dangers lurking around the cyber corner and these are more meaningful to innocent young kids then they are to adults with some life experience or to teens with some networking experience.

Yes, some teens are more network savvy then some adults I have met. They understand what details one never reveals, what information to present or not to present in the first place, how to block unwanted communications… They know the network’s right and wrong as well as they know the streets’ right and wrong and sometimes even better. Those streets that bear dangers to innocent young kids too – so what’s the difference?

The difference is that we know the streets, we feel that we can see the streets and imagine we can anticipate street behavior. However the network is perceived as not visible and unpredictable. Personally I might be a different mom. I fear I cannot see what is happening with my kids on their way home from school. It’s about 300 meters walk, through a path between trees, and it’s scarier in my view, then the time they spend online – either chatting or on social networks.

The Internet, as I see it, is a channel of communications which is here to stay. The question we are facing now is not how young is too young, or how to control the younger generation’s use of the network, but rather – how do we make it more visible and more predictable to us, their parents.

I keep remembering this “House on the Prairie” episode “Cross Connections” where they introduced the telephone and switchboard in the town. There will always be those who abuse the innovation, but can you imagine our world without a telephone connection??

hopcc

Mars, Venus and the Social Networks

I’ll start by saying this is good news. But Pete Cashmore on Mashable wants an explanation. “Are women just more social in general, or is there some other explanation? ” he asks, in response to the “Chicks Rule” new statistics published on Information is Beautiful.
To sum it: equal numbers of men and women use sites like LinkedIn, YouTube and DeviantArt. However in more social websites it looks like men are outnumbered. These are sites like Twitter, Facebook, Ning, Myspace, Friendfeed, Flickr, Bebo and more. In fact, of the leading social web sites, Digg is the only male dominated.

The thing that surprised me when I read this was how I rarely use Digg as opposed to most of the other web sites.

Had to dig into those networks to try and figure it out. With some I am already familiar. I am a heavy user of facebook, linkedin, twitter and ning.
Some of them I know but am not using very frequently. Some required new registration. After looking deeper into more of them I got the “Digg” answer.

But first I took out an old book of mine. I never read it through. I sort of got the gist of it from the first 20 pages. This is the famous “Men are from mars, Women are from Venus”, by John Gray. Reading only the chapter titles might produce the explanation Cashmore is looking for.

Chapter 2: Mr. Fix-it and the Home Improvement Committee
Chapter 3: Men go to the caves and Woman talk

Now think social networking: Really, if we apply the Venus-Mars motto, Social Networking is clearly a feminine phenomena.

First of all it’s talk. Away with the caves! Gray didn’t use the term “gossip” – because he referred to the different methods-of-unburdening that men and women use. Still, gossip is one way to do it. And social networks are institutionalized sharing and gossip establishments. Interesting enough, lots of men who use social networks actually use it to talk out, release frustrations and – going back to chapter 2 – try and fix things. Like opinions. However the feminine “home improvement committee” is a lot more dominant in social networking than the “fix-it” and the conversation between the two approaches improves communications by both men and women.

Going back to the Digg website I find the answer. Sorry folks, not enough conversation, not enough communications, not enough interaction nor socializing. It’s mainly a digging place for me, and less a fishing place. More a cave then an invitation to talk.

Beware the Social Networks!

About 12 hours ago “The Mail Online” has published an article titled: “Social websites harm children’s brains: Chilling warning to parents from top neuroscientist“.

The top neuroscientist quoted is Lady Susan Greenfield. She is an amazing 59 year old woman and a specialist on the physiology of the brain, a professor at the department of pharmacology at Oxford university in the UK.  A serious, serious academic.

I am dedicating this post to her achievements and to the Ada Lovelace day, and to this pledge.

I had to read the article several times to try and understand what she is saying. After all, she is a top neuroscientist. You can’t simply dismiss what she says. Being a mother of 3 children – I want to know.

I am already poisoning my kids with un-organic food, we live in a polluted city, there are cellular antennas in the neighborhood, not to mention their personal mobile phones. Am I doing some more damage to their brains by letting them have a Facebook account??

Anxiously I was looking for scientific hints in the article. The research conducted… the methods and subjects… anything to learn a little more. But the most scientific reference I found was: she “believes repeated exposure could effectively ‘rewire’ the brain”.

OK.

The article quotes her saying “Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo are said to shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centered” and then adds the quote “My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.”

Last month, the same lady, who is a member of the house of lords said “I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitized and easier screen dialogues…, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf,” arguing that exposure to computer games, instant messaging, chat rooms and social networking sites “could leave a generation with poor attention spans”.

Well, hello and welcome to E V O L U T I O N.

Indeed not all evolutions do well for the specie. Think Mammoth for instance. Perhaps we are doomed.

But, does this mean we have to exclude all new media and stick with the old ways? Is preserving the current wiring of the brain more important than developing and arriving at new, yet unknown, places?

Here is something to think of. My 9th grader told me about her new History text book. Text books are rarely noted or gaining any sort of comment from a teenager. But she actually pointed out that this is a rather good book to study from. The book’s uniqueness is by adding several different fields of information into each page. Allowing the students to follow the main text while absorbing other types of information, some are minor others are accented.

When I encountered this fantastic presentation by Sarah “Intellagirl” Robbins – things fit. I already wrote about it here.

I am not a scientist. But I believe that Lady Susan Greenfield is right. The young brains do go through some re-wiring. Sarah Robbins is right too. Students today are capable of handling a lot more information then students in the past. Call it “poor attention spans” if you like. I actually think it’s rich attention span.

I know that my Kids find it easier to absorb and process several sensory and information sources at once. They are certainly more successful at it than most adults I know and I believe they are better at it then I was as a student. Excuse me for not crediting social networking or penguin club with these achievements. I give most of the credit to the environment they are growing into and the future they are naturally preparing for.

Some of the many comments made to the article on “The Mail” try to dismiss everything as an oldie attacking the younger generation. Which makes you wonder really, about how society related to various media changes in the past century, or better yet – from print, through phones, to mass and digital media.

Still one question remains: can we really fight it, or should we find a way to use it to society’s advantage?

Control your info?? On the Internet??

I read Mark Zuckerberg’s blog titled “On Facebook, People Own and Control Their Information” and thought.

I remember a time when I regretted that my phone number appeared on the printed phone directory. Once the directory was printed and circulated there was nothing I could do to change it, delete it, retrieve it or make it go away. Hundreds of thousands of people had this private information at their disposal.
I waited a whole year till the next directory was published without my details, and hoped that people quickly dumped the older, out of date, copy.

But the online life actually awards us better opportunities to control our information, even if it’s slightly more complicated.

True, we cannot control information that was already circulated, distributed, copied or passed on to our friends and contacts, and their friends and contacts. But why not enable us full control on those items which we have published or uploaded and are identified with us? This control should be definitely ours.

Not according to Facebook. Here is the phrasing of their new terms of service, the problematic part only:
“You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.”

Facebook is assuming ownership of copyrighted material. How does that settle even with the friendliest CC? They think they have a right to use any information I put on Facebook for their own commercial gain – and to use it not only when I am using Facebook, but forever. It’s as if Flickr or Picasa will suddenly decide they own all the photos on their servers and can use them for commercial gain however they like.

To be honest, I can’t imagine giving up Facebook at the moment. I am using other networks too. Good old LinkedIn at the top, and Twitter, as one of the recent I joined. But Facebook somehow allows the mixed networking of formal and non formal, friends and family, business and fun. If you want to hear and be heard – Facebook is your main channel. You need to learn of events and happenings – this is the way. There isn’t a day I don’t visit my Facebook homepage at least once, mostly more.

But I must admit I will think twice before tagging images of myself, not to mention uploading any photos I’ve taken, adding notes or blogs or any other creations. I don’t mind very much, though, about my personal profile. Mainly because I carefully created this online profile and coordinated it with my profiles on other networks as well. I carefully chose the information I wanted to post and the information I should keep to myself. On a standard Facebook profile page one is asked, for example, on political views or religion – things that are definitely not for public sharing and eternal storing.

Back to print. I gave someone a business card. Actually, believe it or not, it was on an Internet World convention a thousand years ago. On the back I wrote my private Yahoo email address. I was recently contacted by this person. Looks like my business card survived “for ever”. But I didn’t mind the survival of such info forever. My yearbook photo also exists forever. So what?

However, if the poems I wrote to my high school sweetheart when I was 17 were suddenly published, because I was once a member of some club or network who chose to store and own it – I might have been slightly embarrassed. To some people their past creations, photos or publications can be even detrimental, financially or socially.

My suggestion? Think twice about the information you are donating to Facebook, oops, sorry, publishing on Facebook.

Surprise: a game developer on the house…

I like surprises. I am not easily excited by surprises. But here is one that did get to me: The Peace Game that my daughter suggested. Check out this link.

She took me by surprise my daughter. After only a single encounter with a debate lesson, no real interest in politics and a couple of weeks following the mepeace.org network, she is sailing away to creating better, or promising, places.

It’s unlike http://www.peacemakergame.com/ , the first middle-east peace game, which can clarify the complexity of the peace making process, but was finished by my kids in about 20 minutes once they “figures out the trick”. Her thinking plays along the lines of D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) and real-people social networking the way she knows it, to the very real troublesome reality we live in and our aching wish for peace.

Enjoying her thinking, naivety and daring I would like to challenge the games development community, including some personal friends on this industry, to show off their abilities by contributing to this so important game idea.

So here is what she wants to do, quoting:
Preparations:
Create two groups, one represents Israel, the 2nd the Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians etc. (changeable). It is advisable that the number of Players will be equal in both groups or at least nearly equal.

The Game:
Each group needs to collect information on the country it represent and about its relationship with the negotiating country so it will select goals and issues, on which it can or cannot compromise. Information collected must also include internal groups of each country. When the two groups are ready the negotiation starts.
Each group presents its positions and demands and tries to accomplish the maximum achievement with minimum concessions, without forgetting that the goal is a peace agreement.

Winning:
The game is over when you reach a peace agreement. But it won’t be a game without a winner. Who wins? Not groups! Every team selects a winner from the opposing team, according to the efforts this person did or a crucial step that helped reach the agreement. In other words, the winner is the one that can teach our politicians a thing or two.

Important remark:
It is desirable that Israelis will be in the Arab groups and vice versa, as it is important to understand the other side.
When you sign up for the game please state on which team you prefer to be. Country selection will be made once the participants list is full (at least 10 members per team).

Groups are set on the mepeace.org web site.

Socially yours…

I love social networking. Online and offline, virtual and real world networking. Over the past couple of weeks I have participated in several real life social networking events and enjoyed every minute of them. Reports will follow.

Here is an observation: social networking has always existed. In my life it has always played a major role. After all, I began my journalistic career at the age of 16, and what do journalists do? Network!

So what’s the big deal? Why do the 20-something walk around proudly as if their generation has invented social networking?

Well, the fact is they didn’t invent social networking, but social networking has been re-invented. First of all, it is not profession-dependent any more. You don’t need to be a journalist to network. Come to think of it, you don’t need to be a journalist to write…

Then, you do need the double channel for networking today. The online-offline go hand in hand. Online can allow a certain reach. Offline extends and enhances networking.

And here enter the 20-something. I started to type my stories, news and reports on a PC in 1990. That’s only 18 years ago. The 20-something were just about to start school. They started their reading and writing with the computer already present in their lives. Computer games, which were never present in my childhood, took a major bite in their childhood. If my better hours of childhood afternoons were socializing around the neighborhood, some of their better hours were already dedicated to solitary relationship with the computer. And yes, I know, you can socialize with friend around the PC too. I have a 10 year old son. Let me tell you something – it is not the same type of socializing, nor networking.

This generation was in the most desperate need for social networking. So when social networking finally arrived (did we mention web 2.0?), they claimed ownership, naturally.

Being a 40-something doesn’t mean I can’t benefit or I fit less. Au contraire! With my real-world social networking experience, the online-offline game is a true pleasure.

Next: Web 3.0 – semantic web, who is going to claim ownership for that??

Open their minds. Break the borders.

Jeff Pulver is an international seasoned business man, who travels for breakfast. He is also a social networking guru. He has almost 5000 contacts on Facebook. Two months ago I met Jeff at one of his Social Networking Breakfast, I think it was the first one he did in Tel-Aviv. The event was organized via Facebook. To prepare for the event Jeff sent to people the following Pulver Kit Video. The idea, if I am to simplify it, is to take tools that we know from web based social networking, into the real world. People tag themselves, and they tag other people they meet.

I decided to run a little experiment. I took three 8th graders (my daughter and 2 friends) with me to the event. They had to watch the Pulver Kit video first, and I also showed them how ning works. Then I let told them that their assignment is to tag others and get tagged. The event was a huge success. Jeff, said it was the largest breakfast event he ever held. More than 150 people attended the cafe at the port of Tel-Aviv. The girls were a little hesitant at the beginning but quickly understood the spirits and became a hit. Look at them here, interviewed by Jeff: Noa, Shaii & Keshet

06-Feb-14 09-06-33

At the end of the event I told them that I thought of throwing a similar event for all the 8th graders (finishing elementary and going to various hi-schools next year) and that this can serve as a good basis to create their own network, aimed at keep in touch.

The girls said that what they really enjoyed is meeting new and interesting people and they would rather do an event with the 7th graders or even an event with the 8th graders’ parents!

They have discovered the greatness of social networking. The ability to meet other people and talk to them like equals. The ability to learn of things one may never reach without the great borderless social networking.

On the way they back they were already discussing how to connect to teenagers like themselves from other cities and nationalities.

Now they are open!

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