Posted in kids, Safety/Privacy, web business

COPPA musings

The annual FOSI conference held in DC last week really helped to articulate for me some of the current ambiguity in the COPPA legislation, specifically with it’s intention and it’s enforcement.

Currently, the law is written in such a way that it clearly intends to protect childrens’ personally identifiable information (PII) from being used for nefarious purposes by the websites collecting it or their third party partners.  Some of the changes being proposed (public comments are due by the end of Nov) help to update and articulate this point and make the criteria points a bit more salient with todays tech climate (i.e adding geo-location, behavioral advertising, etc).

One point that is hotly debated is Email Plus.  Currently, sites can use this method (sending notification emails to a parent informing them of a child’s intent to share PII), but the FTC is trying to remove this.  The reason for this being that the sites should, by in large, not be soliciting PII from children in the first place and if they are, they should be complying with the more rigid parental verification models detailed in the law.  As Amy Pritchard from Metaverse Modsquad articulated to me, “Email plus is being eliminated as a way to collect PII and use it internally, as most sites had used it as a best practice parental notification method.  In order to allow sites to continue to do this, the proposed changes allow for sites to collect the parent email address for purposes of notifying the parent that the child has become a member of [or registered for] the site.”

The informal debates that I heard and participated in at the FOSI conference dealt mostly in the intent of the law.  Most of us agreed that the law should protect a child’s PII from being used for anything other than to make the game play better.  For the most part, the consensus is that, except for specific situations, like contests, DOB and gender are really the only 2 pieces of child PII a site needs to collect, and these are allowed currently under COPPA.

The finer point that I recognized in our sometimes spirited debates was between solicited PII and passively collected PII.   A site should not solicit PII from kids, such as in the registration process, as most of this information is not needed for normal game-play (unless, again, they get verifiable parental consent).   But what if kids give PII freely, such as in chat or on forums/boards?  What, if any, sanctions should be levied unto the site in these scenarios?  The informal consensus was that the site should at least employ means of screening and moderating such content so as to make sure that this PII is not easily given and read on the site – but that this should not be legislated as part of COPPA.

Anne Collier wrote about this recently (http://www.netfamilynews.org/?p=30775) – “The proposed [COPPA] changes respond to the advent of social media (social network sites, virtual worlds, online games, apps, etc.) in that sites can “allow children to participate in interactive communities without parental consent so long as the operators take reasonable measures to delete all or virtually all children’s personal information before it is made public,” and companies will also have to hold third parties such as app providers to the same privacy standards their services are held to.”

I do not think that the intention of the law should be about teaching and protecting kids to be safe with their PII.  While this is an ethical and moral imperative that companies that target this demographic should abide by, I fall pretty firmly on the side that this should not be federally mandated.  Many of us, myself included, believe that the free market, and hopefully vocal parent groups and watchdog organizations, should be more of the gauge as to whether this is being done on individual sites.  In theory, educating and protecting kids from sharing PII in chat is a great idea, but those of use who have to DO that work, realize how difficult and sometimes impossible it is to be 100% effective.  I do not see how the government could keep up with or track down how effectively sites are at keeping up with that.

This was the 5th Annual FOSI conference, and it was very good to see more representation from practitioners, rather than just lobbyists, marketers, safety advocates, researchers and bloggers.  Hopefully, those of us with real-world/front-line experience in implementing these sort of laws can gain influence in the conversations so laws can be amended or written practically the first time, rather than after the fact (or not at all).

Posted in marketing, online community, trends, virtual worlds, web business

The Social Network… meh

Just a short post to point out a conversation I have had with a bunch of friends about the movie, The Social Network.  After I watched it, I didn’t feel like I had watched a cinematic masterpiece.  I couldn’t see what everyone was freaking out about.  It was a fine couple hours, but really, what’s the big deal?

When I dug a bit deeper, I figured out that it was because I knew that story, really well.  Not just of Facebook, but of tons of late aughts start-ups and silicon valley gossip.  I read those stories in Valley Wag and Tech Crunch and all the other online rags as they happened.  I’ve eaten tacos with Twitter execs while discussing COPPA fines and defended multi-million dollar business plans to tech VCs.  I’ve felt the rush of hope with new bridge funding and the despair of multiple companies closing.  I’ve become jaded of this industry.  Almost bored with it’s dramas.

Maybe that’s why I have turned my focus to projects that have a little more “oompf” in the heart-department.  I want to be proud of my work on a societal level, not just career and/or bank account.  You would think children’s properties would be a fair choice, but oy!  don’t get me started on some of the Television Execs and Licensing people I’ve met. 😛

That’s not to say I don’t still pay attention a little.  I grew up a gal in America – I’ve been trained to absorb gossip, whether I like it or not.  At least I am getting better at the KIND of gossip I am absorbing (read: Please brain, less Kardashians!)

Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, kids, marketing, online advertising, online community, television, trends, tween, virtual worlds, web business, Webkinz

My talk at Pratt

Hi All,

I was asked to do a short talk at Pratt Institute, so I decided to share my slides.  Basically I wanted to have a short visual aid to a myriad of mainstream, large and successful properties and brands that did/do well interacting and connecting with their audience through online community and fan engagement .

Let me know if you would like more info or examples or if you have any questions.

Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, online community, Safety/Privacy, trends, virtual worlds

Oldy but goody links

So I was clearing out my favorites on Twitter and thought I would aggregate some of the random old articles I had saved to look at later….. way later.  Why not put them here, right? 😉

Learning

Big Thinkers: Henry Jenkins on New Media and Implications for Learning and Teaching

Why playing in the virtual world has an awful lot to teach children

Is Video Game School Training a Generation of Professional Princess Rescuers?

The Changing Views of the Online Experience – from Fears to Possibilities

Raising Future People (aka kids)

Commentary on: Are you raising a Douchebag? Your indulgent parenting is spawning a generation of entitled hipster brats

A Healthy Day Starts in the Classroom with School Breakfast Programs

Online Safety

Twitter Safety: Keeping young people safe on Twitter

Social Media etc

15 Ways to Measure Return on Engagement (ROE) of Social Media

Game Design for Social Networks

Why Community Management is still misunderstood

What is Social CRM? An Introduction

2010: The Year of the Community Manager

35 social media KPIs to help measure engagement

Play!

Playtime can teach us all

Backyard Adaptations Of Video Game Classics

Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, online community, Safety/Privacy, tween, virtual worlds

National Geographic Animal Jam – Open Beta!

Hey everyone!

The reason I haven’t posted in forever is because I am hard at work on our newly launched project (albeit in open beta) National Geographic Animal Jam!

The day is finally here to live wild with National Geographic Animal Jam™. Now you and your kids can be among the first to monkey around in this virtual world of discovery and fun. Combining the chance for kids to be the animal of their choice with access to National Geographic’s limitless libraries, National Geographic Animal Jam will open your child’s eyes to a world of adventure and exploration like no other virtual world out there. Your kids will soon realize that they’re having tons of fun in the coolest jungle around!

Two years in the making, National Geographic Animal Jam represents an ongoing creative collaboration between the great minds at National Geographic and the gaming gurus at Smart Bomb Interactive. The goal of this virtual world is to provide a fun, exciting, and safe environment for kids to play online, as well as inspire them to explore and protect the natural world outside their doors.

So come prowl around inside National Geographic Animal Jam. With lush tropical kingdoms, amazing adventures, and fascinating facts in store—plus the chance to live it up as your favorite animal—mommy and daddy bears (and their cubs alike) will find a wild world worth discovering!

National Geographic Animal Jam – Jump into the Jungle Today!

We are tweaking and polishing through the summer, and as such, it is completely free to play through the open beta! When we have our Grand Opening this fall, we will offer premium subscription content, but the game will always have free to play features.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Posted in online advertising, online community, trends

COMMUNITY 2.0: INTEGRATING SOCIAL DESIGN INTO THE PRODUCTION PIPELINE

SPEAKER/S: Nathan Fouts (Mommy’s Best Games), Brian Jarrard (Bungie Studios), Ryan Schneider (Insomniac Games, Inc.), Dan Hsu (Bitmob.com) and Christian Arca (Toy Studio)

Unfortunately walked into this one halfway thru. Interesting conversation, tho, about the value of adding community in the Gaming industry. So cool to see them have the same conversations as other media industries were having a couple years ago. But they deal with it on such a more empirical level than other entertainment marketing people. Their more tech/science/math backgrounds give them a solid basis for defending

“Community is all about #’s”
– registered, active, posts,
– make formulas that prove community
– clicking link, then following, then memebers of comm

Community day – bring them in your studio

Actually connected with one of the speakers, Christian Arca, on twitter and then offline (another Chicago community person!). He’s written some interesting stuff on trying to measure community engagement (including a formula!)

Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, virtual worlds

SOCIAL AND ONLINE GAMES LEGAL ROUND-UP

SPEAKER/S: Mark Methenitis (The Vernon Law Group, PLLC)

10 legal developments for 2010

1. What happen with “Glider?”
– EULA violations can be considered copyright infringement
– don’t be afraid to sue, but only for big ones
– What happen to Worlds.com
– patents case

2. Why should I care if kids are making content
– kids cant enter in a contract
– kids do have a valid copyright that is licensed
– prent is license – get permission
– cc’s are implied consent
– unclear stil
– assent to machinima rules
– does cc to service (xbox live) assent to all games
– user content when there is no parental license

3. You’ll never take me alive COPPA
– 13 is magic number
– must post privacy policy
– regulation on controls PII
– verifiable parental consent
– parents choose whether 3rd
– minimize pii collected and maintain
– COPPA 2.0 (little COPPAs) – extends to 17 and under
– NJ, NC, GA, IL, ME all have separate
– looking more like francise sale regulations, comply with the most stringent state
– COPPA ties into CAN-SPAM
– ecards and forwrd to friend
– requires an opt out list
– might have a issue with inviter and invitee emails

4. what is govt talking about
– COPPA 2.0
– FTC report on explicit content in VW for minors
– recommends age screenign and segregation
– more self-regualtion and possible lang filters
– No news on FTCs look into Dig Rights Management
– concerns over possible regulation on dig dist related to consumer protection
– Always worried about predators

5 Europe rules are different
– Server rules on privacy are complicated
– adequately protected data transfers – encrypted
– have to spell it all out in TOS

6. Cookies in Europe
– 11/24/09 – new rules in force by 2011
– cant use cookies unless the user consents after getting “clear and comprehensive info”
– or stictly necessary to provide services explicity requested by the user
– browser settings can be considered consent not clear

7. Biz model changes when taxed
– all income earned by US companies is taxed when it’s receieved
– only earn income when points are spent, even in wallet system
– income earned outside of US is taxable in both places
– get acct in intl taxes and attourney

8. What do you mean I might be a bank
– virtual currency considered bank
– anythign that can be bought with cash now and then cashed out later or as refund
– besides the poss implications in banking regs, you then may also be uner financial institution privacy regs

9 Hedging currency
– if you are running a global micro-transaction model, you should probably at least look at hedging currency
– buy insurance against price fluctuations
– micro-transaction model may find it especially beneficial b/c transaction volume can be erractic and over a long period of time

10. Zynga Poker
– subject of online gambling investigations
– gambling=
– consideration (payment of something to participate
– chance random element determines outcome
– prize – thing of value to be won
– sweepstakes are governed under gambling law
– take out consideration rule (no purchase ness)
– some states require bonds to insure sweepstakes
– check your rules, dont just cut and paste