New sites – welcome to the web

There are a few new web sites that we’d like to welcome to the web. We have been impressed with the new web sites being created with the open source blogging software from wordpress. With the various theme options and settings now available such as static front page and such, there are some great web sites being creating that look nothing like the standard default wordpress blog.

New sites like the TBS blog and Danny writes are coming together quickly, from people that just got their web sites started this year. With the themes and customization options available along with a plethora of plugins, people are making great fully functioning web sites with a simple server side script.

We have also been consulting with some web sites using the wordpress backend for multiple blog hosting and are really excited about the social network plugins that are being released for wordpress mu, upcoming social network sites massage groups and others will be pioneering a new generation of easy use, self hosted social networks. We are looking forward to the data portability possibilities and hope that these sites are hugely successful.

We will begin consulting with new clients who want to launch their own hosted social networks as soon as testing and upgrades are completely with our current projects. Look for custom profile and other buddypress themes to be made available from us in the near future as well. Looks like 2009 will be a great new year!

WordPress as social network backbone suggestions

Social networks and the software that runs them will continue to grow and evolve, and people like you sharing your comments about ways to improve will constantly make it better.

As Louis James points out in another of the comments there, flickr is already very social,

From the RSS feeds, we found a post from Matt linking to an article about one person’s suggestions for making wordpress.com more of a social network.

My comment on this post about wordpress fixes to make it more of a social network, from Rashmi.

There have been several wordpress MU sites that incorporate similar features, as dr mike pointed out in an earlier comment. There have even been a couple sets of plugins specifically made to turn a wordpress installation into more myspace like look.

I think there are a few single instance wordpresses running with multiple authors and contributors registered, that share similar pages to the ones you described aren’t there?

I do look forward to more unique blends of wordpress to shine across the internet for a while to come, it is constantly improving and there are many people using it in many different ways. I can’t wait to see what the community creates over the next couple of years, and I am sure you will see many more social networks using wordpress as a core. We are currently testing an MU based social network (or two 😉

I appreciate your points and suggestions for ways to make it function more like a facebook-like social network, I believe your ideas are valid.

The comments there have made me think what it would be like to create a custom page theme template (for the about page) that would add the author information into the top of the about page. This would be a simple easy way to get the author info shown, now to just get everyone to fill it all in.

As open Id and data portability continue to grow as well, I hope that it becomes easier for internet authors to fill in their info quickly, accurately, and with choice of which information to propagate and share.

Social networks and the software that runs them will continue to grow and evolve, and people like you sharing your comments about ways to improve will constantly make it better.

As Louis James points out in another of the comments there, flickr is already very social, I in fact recommended it in an email to an old friend just the other day, and sent her my flickr address. Flickr is an easy sell to people with it’s free photo sharing and the ability to mark some pictures just for friends and some pictures just for family. Of course you can also have some set for public, and you do have somewhat of a profile with flickr. Hadn’t quite looked at the profile that way, but it does have a lot of info there. neat observation Louis.

Finding a mentor via online social communities

Finding a mentor via online social communities
from yahoo news / Reuters

By Kate Holton Thu Feb 21, 3:44 PM ET

LONDON (Reuters) – “Lavenderblu” was a young girl when she got her first taste of domestic violence. After suffering at the hands of her father and witnessing repeated attacks on her mother, she ended up in a violent relationship of her own before finally managing to leave and find refuge with a women’s support group.

Now, at age 40, she is one of many mentors on the new social network Horsesmouth (www.horsesmouth.co.uk) which has been set up to connect mentors with those who are looking for advice.

Launched only about a month ago, the site already has over 20,000 users and offers up mentors to discuss a wide variety of topics, form how to set up a business to how it feels to wear the Muslim hijab for the first time.

In launching the service, the site’s creator, MT Rainey, set out to bring a sense of public purpose to the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon, which allows users to contribute their own content to the Internet.

“No one was creating a social network for a public benefit or for the public good,” she told Reuters in an interview. “I wanted to create somewhere that was safe and somewhere that was fit for purpose, for meaningful interchanges online.

“If you’ve accomplished something, if you’ve been through something and if you’ve got over something, then you have wisdom,” added Rainey, who previously worked in advertising.

She said that people going through a difficult process need to talk, often to someone familiar with the situation, who has been in their shoes before.

“I found that people wanted to give something back,” Rainey said. “You don’t have to be middle-aged or retired to feel that way.”

The Horsesmouth is one of many mentoring sites to spring up recently and the phenomenon could become more important as once-powerful traditional bodies such as the church or unions start to lose their sway in certain countries.

“Physical geographic communities are breaking down and people through the Web are creating communities of interest,” Rainey said.

A HELPING HAND

In the creative industries such as music, advertising, media and the arts, many are turning to the new social network set up by The Hospital Club group.

The private club opened in 2003 in a former London hospital and was based on the vision of musician Dave Stewart, who wanted a “creative melting pot” in the centre of the British capital where members could give something back to the industry.

Five years on, it has also launched a social network at thehospitalclub.com, where users from those industries can post ideas, blogs and their work to communicate with others on the site.

“The key was to create a low pressure environment where people could interact with one another based on their own expertise … and where it is acceptable to approach people to ask for assistance,” said David Marrinan-Hayes, the club’s online manager.

He said the site would allow those entering the industry to post profiles and examples of their work online, meaning the potential mentor would be able to make a qualified decision on whether to provide advice or not.

“Also, we often find that people … need different pieces of advice from a number of different people,” he said.

“For a musician, they could need production advice or legal advice or marketing advice, and that very often doesn’t come from the same person. So three or four people could work together and we’re trying to create a space to manage that whole process.”

There is no charge for using Horsesmouth and TheHospitalClub, but some other mentoring sites like Imantri (www.imantri.com) offer a choice as to whether you pay for the mentor or not.

Other sites offering mentors or advice include American-based score.org, micromentor.org and the business network linkedin.com.

Like Horsesmouth, Marrinan-Hayes said people were happy to help and impart their knowledge. And it can be rewarding for both sides.

“It just makes them feel good,” he said. “They feel like they have something to contribute.”

(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Gunna Dickson)

Google to sell display ads in Web videos

Google to sell display ads in Web videos

found via yahoo news / Reuters

Thu Feb 21, 1:35 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Web search leader Google Inc plans to start selling ads to appear in Web videos and has signed up 20 customers, as it aims to do for videos what it has done for text.

Partners include YuMe, an online video advertising network, Brightcove, an Internet TV platform, and comedy site MyDamnChannel.

Brightcove, whose customers include CBS Corp, Time Warner Inc and Discovery Communications Inc, will begin offering the technology to its clients.

YuMe, a Redwood City, California-based start-up, said on Thursday, it will serve InVideo overlay adverts as part of Google’s AdSense for video beta advertising program.

Google has traditionally used AdSense for text-only advertising but said the video program extends its offer to targeted, contextually relevant video graphical ads and text overlays.

Google has been working on ways of developing advertising revenue for online video since it bought YouTube, the video-sharing site, in November 2006.

As Internet access speeds become faster around the world more television and Hollywood-produced video content is moving to the Web on sites like Hulu.com, owned by News Corp and NBC Universal, and Fancast.com, owned by Comcast Corp.

YuMe said Google is one of the third-party feeds accepted by YuMe’s Adaptive Campaign Engine, which helps Web publishers in its network match each video ad impression with the best money-making ad placement in realtime.

(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke and Kenneth Li; editing by Greg Mahlich, Richard Chang)

Marketing Strategies with Social Networking Sites

Performaincing publishes an article explaining some of the benefits, and various ways to use social networking for marketing. An excerpt:twiiter logo

Unfortunately, the fact is that being “social” is becoming an absolute necessity for online success for web workers, including pro bloggers. (Business Week has an extensive article on how social media will change your business, whether or not you’re using blogs. A lot of this article is an assessment of how certain large corporations or even formerly offline consultants/ marketers are faring using various types of social media.)

Still, there’s only so much time in the day to get all the other work done. Where do you draw the line? Personally, I believe it’s better to hire an SMM (Social Media Marketer) who can focus on the promotions side

Read the entire article for more info and informative related links at performancing.

Facebook and MySpace is not necessarily private space

More people need to be talking about these issues. We’ve brought them up, and often try to educate people we meet everyday.
I always ask people about their kids online and video game usage, and ask if they are aware of these issues, and more. It amazes me how many people are just not aware of these issues.

from the Tennessean Newspaper

MySpace isn’t private space
Teens’ personal thoughts exposed to all eyes

By VIVI HOANG • Staff Writer • February 17, 2008

Franklin mom May-Ling Weitzman faked a Facebook page, creating an online alter ego with a different age, name and graduation date. Then she searched for her teen daughter’s page.

Her daughter wasn’t fooled by the subterfuge and spotted Weitzman, 48, from a mile off with great amusement. But mom made her point: Web privacy is, essentially, a myth.
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Kids these days can, with a touch of a finger, instantly post their thoughts online for all to see. But mix that with youthful impetuousness and the belief that only their friends can see their musings, and it’s a recipe for trouble and very real consequences, from embarrassment to more serious fallout such as failed friendship and missed job opportunities.

Parents can head off that problem by, like Weitzman, seeing what their kids are doing online — stressing that these virtual spaces are extensions of themselves, and to behave accordingly.

“I try to always tell my kids that being online, just because you’re sitting in your living room, it’s not private,” she said. “It’s as if you were in middle of a big city, in the middle of a large square.”

Then there’s the problem of other people’s kids. Coping with a snide comment, rumor-laden blog post or less-than-tasteful photos presents a parental challenge unheard of even 10 years ago.

Solving the problem may be as simple as sitting your teen down for a frank talk.

“They’re young and not realizing any repercussions in the future,” said Melissa Wert, technology integration specialist at Harpeth Hall. “These kids don’t even understand the power they have in their hands to destroy somebody or do harmless, fun, entertaining things.”
What kids are doing online

For the wired generation, pursuing real-world relationships into the cyber-realm by blogging, leaving comments and posting photos and videos comes as natural as breathing.

According to a December report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 64 percent of kids ages 12 to 17 who are online are crafting things to go on it.

But teens often treat their personal spaces online as if they’re playgrounds only their friends can enter. Up go their thoughts, their gripes, their photos from that last wild party.

A few years ago when Tammy Nash, a counselor at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School, heard that a student had posted a suicide note online, she checked out the youth’s site. Nash was able to help the teen but remembers being taken aback by some of the sexually provocative passages the student had published in such a public space.

“It’s like a diary,” Nash said. “Some of them are just getting into the shock-jock thing.”

Harpeth Hall sophomore Chelsea Stessel has seen spats flare up over something as innocuous as a boy leaving a flattering comment on a girl’s photo.

Stessel, 16, has staked out cyber real estate since she was in grade school, starting with the kid-centric Neopets and moving on to Xanga, MySpace and finally, Facebook. She’s so aware of the Internet’s influence she’s even joined her school’s chapter of Teenangels, a division of WiredSafety.org that educates parents and youth about online safety and privacy.

“I make sure I don’t post anything anyone would see and get offended by,” she said. “If I have a problem with someone, I deal with it in person or a call.”
Follow the Golden Rule

If everyone played by the rules, or at least the Golden Rule, this would be less of a problem.

Anya Weitzman, 18-year-old daughter of May-Ling Weitzman and a University School of Nashville senior, knows this is wishful thinking: A friend of hers in college skipped a big football game that everyone on her floor went to watch so she could study for an exam.

Schoolmates heckled the friend viciously online for the affront.

“You say a word, and it’s ephemeral, it’s gone,” Anya said, pointing out that conversely, what’s done online can become virtually permanent, easily saved and duplicated.

As far back as 2002, there was the Star Wars Kid, a hapless Quebec teen whose awkward light-saber slashings got leaked to the Internet and viewed by millions. It spawned several mocking remixes, including Matrix and Lord of the Rings versions. So extensive was the humiliation, the 10th grader dropped out of school and finished the semester at a children’s psychiatric ward.

Glencliff High teacher Philip Davis has had numerous conversations with students about how they carry themselves online. He uses analogies like, “Your room is not made of glass — why would you post things online for everyone to see?”

Sites such as Facebook and MySpace allow users to choose how private their profiles are, but teens sometimes aren’t aware or haven’t taken the time to do it, so their profiles remain public by default.

Chris Johnson, 17, a Glencliff senior, had his MySpace page set up by a friend, and didn’t realize he could configure the page to limit who could view it. But he’s savvy enough to censor what goes up on his profile. A photo he might consider harmless fun with his friends might produce far less humorous interpretations from others.

His page is a reflection of who he is, and Johnson wants it to be a positive one.

“These days, parents know how to get on,” he said. “And you don’t want younger kids to see. You want to set an example for them. They follow what you do.”
Many eyes are watching

But in the foggy bliss of youth, sometimes repercussions seem nebulous and far-off.

“They think people aren’t going to see that,” said Michael LoJacono, 17, a USN senior. “There are teachers who have Facebooks. There are a lot of chances for things to happen.”

And people are paying attention.

When Mike Saint, 58, asked while in the car with his 15-year-old daughter Molly, a Harpeth Hall sophomore, whether he should get a Facebook account, she nearly drove off the road.

“She was incredulous,” said Saint, who runs a management consultant firm. “But after a while, she thought it was kind of cool. She helped me set it up.”

He uses his access to Facebook for work but he also finds it is an easy, quick way of keeping up-to-date on what his daughter has going on.

“I used to say there’s nothing meaner in the world than a seventh-grade girl to another seventh-grade girl, whether it’s in person, over the phone, instant messaging or on Facebook,” Saint said. “You hope your children socialize with children whose parents are teaching them right from wrong and good from bad in dealing with other people.”

Molly, also a Teenangel, advises parents to work on an open relationship with children. “Know what your kids are doing. Most kids will let their parents see their Facebook.”

Not just friends and parents are paying attention, but teachers, college admissions counselors and employers. At the Career and Employment Center at Middle Tennessee State University, students are told employers can, and do, access social networking sites to check on prospective employees.

“We have a PowerPoint presentation that actually . . . has four pictures that were gotten off Facebook or MySpace and show students being students — just not very professional,” said center director Bill Fletcher. “What if an employer saw this? Would they want to hire you?”
Parents have options

If you discover inappropriate content related to your child online, you’ve got a few options.

First, if it was your own kid that posted it, use the circumstances as a teaching moment, said Anastasia Goodstein, author of Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online.

There are paid services like Reputation Defender that search out what information about your family can be found online and then endeavor to remove what’s inaccurate or slanderous.

“But if it is something that goes viral — say, it’s a topless photo of their daughter that was taken without the daughter realizing it was going to be spread around — you can’t do anything,” said Goodstein. “You have to soldier through it.”

Vivi Hoang can be reached at 259-8067 or vhoang@tennessean.com.

Your MySpace Web Browser Is Coming

Article found via digg

Your MySpace Web Browser Is Comingflock myspace browser

readwriteweb.com — Flock, the Mozilla-based social web browser has made the announcement that everyone has been waiting for: they will now integrate with MySpace. Building on the MySpace Developer Platform, Flock will allow users to surf the web with their MySpace friends in their sidebar. This integration will expose all of the . . .

Article is pointed to readwriteweb

comments at digg are always interesting of course.

I think this is an excellent idea, I am surprised it has taken so long to come out. I wonder if flock will have an exclusive with this, or if myspace will be opening up more and more and allow other browsers to do the same. Myspace at one time was disconnecting virtually everyone who started anything that pulled info from myspce. I remember when a program that would notify you when your myspace friends stalkies became single was sent off to the tech crunch deadpool because myspace was being so closed off.

Then facebook came out with some APIs to let developers use and integrate their social network, and google released it’s open source social apps, and now it seems that myspace is coming out of the closed off closet more and more. Good. Now if we can just get better data portability from all social networks, in a secure manner, along with more control over what is done with personal information and pictures etc, with these web sites.

Social network software rising

We’ve been consulting for several clients about social networks and keeping a close eye on the developments of various social network software and the niche sites that are springing up and using them. There have been some new developments in both areas, here’s a few we’d like to highlight.

Automattic (wordpress parent company, creators of BBpress and Akismet spam eliminator) has recently gotten 29 million dollars in funding. Automattic has decided to hold off on being bought out entirely and is looking to furtherit’s anti-spam, identity, wikis, forums, and more – small, open source pieces, loosely joined with the same approach and philosophy that has brought them this far. Today I stumbled upon a new theme for wordpress that makes it easy to use wordpress as a twitter like, many to many messaging system for groups, private or public. Can’t wait to see how people hack it up and what kind of cms social network mashups will be created using this functionality.

In other recent finds, we stumbled upon a list of 350 social networks listed at Mashable. We also found a social networking watch site with info about new social networking sites. We found several linked to articles at mahalo about a new adult social network type of site called zivity.

We also found a USA today article describing how it is very difficult to verify ages for those who sign up for social networks. an excerpt:

MySpace has recently implemented policies designed to better separate kids from adults. Among the changes, adult MySpace users must already know a 14- or 15-year-old user’s e-mail address or full name to initiate contact or view a profile containing personal information.

However, because age is self-reported, as it is at similar sites, adults could simply sign up as minors.

There are tools to verify age, but they work best for porn, wine-sales and other sites meant for adults only.

A credit card, for instance, could demonstrate that a user is of age, notwithstanding a teen’s ability to “borrow” a card from Dad’s wallet.

More robust techniques like those from IDology Inc. and Sentinel Tech Holding Corp.’s Sentry check addresses, birth dates and other information users provide against public databases, such as voting and property records.

But many social-networking sites cater to both adults and teens – and teens can be difficult to verify.

Minors “do not possess as many unique identifiers as adults do,” said Adam Thierer, a senior fellow with the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a technology think tank that shuns government regulation. “They are not voters yet. They don’t have home mortgages or car loans. Most don’t have drivers licenses until they are 16.”

Many states restrict the disclosure of drivers license data on minors, and school administrators guard their registration records fiercely.

“Do parents really want … that kind of information available on their children?” Collier asked.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said raising the minimum age to 16 from 14 would help because many teens have drivers licenses by then. He has called for federal incentives for sites like MySpace to perform age verification.

Attorneys General Jim Petro of Ohio and Greg Abbott of Texas, meanwhile, support verification via credit card, while Massachusetts’ Tom Reilly has called for unspecified “age and identity verification.”

“Don’t tell me it can’t be done,” Blumenthal said. “It’s a question of whether the company in good faith really wants to know those ages and sacrifice some of the excitement and coolness that comes with anonymity.”

Getting a reliable system developed could require expenditures and perhaps result in a smaller base of users, he said, “but if we can invent the Internet, … surely there are means to verify the ages of those individuals, or such means can be developed.”

Facebook takes a stab at verification by restricting access only to those with a valid e-mail address from a high school, college or participating company. It is happy to have 8 million registered users, less than 10% of MySpace’s.

Industrious Kid Inc.’s imbee, for kids 8 to 14, requires parents to submit credit cards to vouch for their children.

Of course, an adult may “vouch” for an alter ego and use that to chat with kids. Thus, all imbee profiles are initially private, and adults can’t do much without tricking a parent into letting them join a child’s network, said Tim Donovan, imbee’s vice president of marketing.

Zoey’s Room, a site for girls 10-14, has verified each of its 300 members with a school or youth group. It charges $15 a year.

“It does cost to create safe communities,” said Erin Reilly, co-founder of the organization that runs Zoey’s Room. “I would rather have a manageable population and keep them all safe … instead of looking for a million unique visitors.”

IDology believes its technology could help keep children safe. A verified adult could be given greater access and the ability to share profiles openly. Anyone not willing or able to be verified, including teens, would be left with limited access and private profiles.

But any technical solution tough enough to work would penalize legitimate users who cannot be verified, said John Cardillo, Sentry’s chief executive. Even 18- and 19-year-olds aren’t fully in public databases yet, he said.

MySpace, instead, has been trying to catch minors after the fact.

It has technology to scan for inconsistencies and teams of employees to investigate further. For example, a user who claims to be 18 might mention a sixth-grade class elsewhere in the profile, or feature a photo of a birthday cake with only 13 candles.

Safety experts warn that creating too many barriers could drive kids to another social-networking site with fewer controls, or perhaps free-for-all chat rooms.

And ineffective solutions, they say, could give parents and children a false sense of security, increasing the dangers.

Ron Teixeira, executive director for the National Cyber Security Alliance, said parents should teach children an online equivalent of “Don’t take candy from strangers.” That way, he said, kids will know what to do should social networking be replaced by the next big fad.

 It seems that social networks are increasingly in demand for communicating today, and there will continue to be new ways for users to share information. We had even seen a short video somewhere that talked about ways to use linkedin as a business networking social app. Certainly there will be much learning for everyone on the best ways to use these powerful communication tools, and there will undoubtedly be more technology coming to help keep everyone happier, more productive and in touch.

It is our hope that the openid standard will continue to flourish, and that it will be easier for people to take a certain amount of profile information from one network to another, so we don’t have to keep typing in tons of information for every social circle we want to participate in. Of course safe guarding data, privacy, ease of use, and data portability should be at the fore front of these emerging technologies.

We are getting there. There are many great ways for people to communicate and share today, there are certainly going to be some growing pains, but the numbers show that there is great need for millions of people to do more online together, and the companies that do it right stand to make millions happy.