Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, virtual worlds


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
– 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

Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, marketing, online community, Safety/Privacy, virtual worlds, Webkinz


Jessee Schell
– toy story mania ride
– pixie hollow
– toon town
– pirates

10 things to try to achieve:

1. You have to decide to design for both kids and parents

2. Find themes that both kids and parents care about

– Toon Town’s executives takeover theme – work/play tension
– Last child in the woods – nature – offline tasks
– Nostaligia bridges generation gap – children want to learn about their parent’s childhoods

3. Understand what family wants and provide it

– Families want shared experiences and shared accomplishments
– Parents want to feel that they provided meaningful and useful experiences
– Parents also just want to feel like they provided
– Kids want to be more emotionally connected to their families
– Both kids nad parents want to connect to distant relatives

4. Parents want to teach & kids want to learn

– Adult jokes are teaching/learning opportunities
– Need situations where kids are in over their head where the parents can save them
– Opportunities for kids to brag/show off

5. Co-opt existing roles for quick immersion

– Parent’s understand how to buy a doll, that’s why Webkinz had a big jump off

6. Reverse roles to delight everyone

– Everyone wants a break
– when child’s skills surpasses parent’s – it’s a landmark moment

7. Consider Gender Issues

– There are 12 POV in a 4 person household (Dad, Mom, Sis, Bro)
– Make play patterns to facilitate

8. Deciding to pay is collaborative

– Club Penguin – elastic Velvet rope – effectively teasing enough in a free-to-play situation
– Mailers in Toontown gave the impression of value add

9. Safety is paramount

This is where Mr Schell’s up-to-this-point wonderful talk went off the rails for me.  Instead, he decided to perpetuate the culture of fear mongering that is so popular to do nowadays when discussing children in the online space.  Instead of going off on the rant that this point caused from me, I will just leave this point as the title, and move on. grumble…

10. Design for the family as well as for the individual
– Design to let them connect with one another
– Families are busy now
– Connection btwn parents and kids is a stoong emotional bond.  Leverage it.

Posted in marketing, online advertising, trends

Marketing Impact

So I have been thinking alot lately on marketing impact and promotional goals, especially in online media buys.  It’s the constant double edged sword:

  • Do you spend your money on the high traffic site that cost more but you know you will get more click-thrus, and therefore, more traffic to your site?
  • Or do you spend that money on a lower traffic site that will allow you to have a deeper engagement with the members of that community?

The ideal answer is YES or BOTH!  If you have the money, you should totally go for it, as you will get the benefit of traffic AND engagement of your brand.

But the Iron Triangle of project management looms large:

You rarely are able to have all three points of the triangle in any project.

So what do you do?  If you are lacking in resources (money, usually) make up for it in features.  But before you get all tactical, make sure you are clear on your project objectives.  Figure out what is your ultimate goal?

  • Is it to get tons of traffic? If your goals are about building awareness and this is but one of your plans in a long term campaign, put an ad on one of the “big guns” for tween traffic  – TV networks, gaming sites, etc.  Traffic is great and the more people see your ad on other sites then the more people you can get to your destination, the more brand awareness you spread.
  • Is it to get some great quotes for sales packages, etc? Then go to a smaller community that will be able to build a deeper, more immersive experience for the users.  Many times you can organize a community or world event and get the players talking either directly to you or about your brand.
  • Is it to maximize your spend? A targeted ad network might be a better idea for you.  You might not get an ad on the heavy hitters and you won’t get the engagement you would from a smaller site, but you can spread your brand around to more sites.  There are some great options out there to help you target collections of site within the demographic you are looking at.
  • Have you thought about offline engagement? It’s funny, but ever since the web came around, it becomes the only thing people can think about.  But TV still dominates most peoples lives.  And don’t discount the level of engagement that a well planned event sponsorship/promotion can have.

Other factors to consider in your choice include whether this is a one time campaign or part of a larger strategy, what sorts of users you are looking for, whether you are looking for awareness, conversions or something else.

At the end of the day, it’s a question of priorities and choice.  It’s best to weigh all of your options and objectives before jumping into implementing tactics.

Turns out, this is good advice for your non-work situations as well. 🙂

Posted in gaming, kids, mobile, online community, Safety/Privacy, trends, virtual worlds, web business

Kids Online Unconference ’09

I helped promote the second Kids Online unconference again and am so happy with the conversations that we all had.  I wanted to share the conversations we had.

We used the hashtag #kidsonline if you want to check out the tweets.

I have a collaborative google doc of notes. Please feel free to check it out and/or add to it.

I also tried my first streamed video (audio is poor for many of the talks, but if you listen hard, you can hear us).  It’s broken into 3 videos, each rather long.  And the video sometimes doesn’t match with the audio.  But I tried, right?

I know there were talks at the end about having another one of these next year.  If you are interested, let me know and I can let the rest of the organizers know.

ALSO… I want to start roaming cocktail parties where we can all get together and talk shop about the kids online industry.  We have a listserv that you should signup for if you are interested in knowing when the next one is (or starting one of your own)

Posted in kids, marketing, online advertising, online community, Safety/Privacy, virtual worlds, web business

2 golden nuggets from Liisa’s firm

Maine Kid’s Privacy Law Takes Effect September 12

As we have previously reported, the Maine governor signed a new law that: (1) puts an absolute prohibition on using personal information of a minor to market to the minor or to promote any course of action regarding a product to a minor – whether parental permission has been obtained or not and whether you know the person’s age or not; and (2) prohibits knowingly collecting personal information from children in Maine under 18 for “marketing purposes,” without first obtaining parental consent. The prohibited activity of using a minor’s personal information seems to be broadly drafted, and may include not just email and text messages sent to children in Maine – including those between 13 and 17, but also marketing messages sent directly to a child through social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. It’s possible that it could also prohibit analyzing and internally using a minor’s personal information to determine how to market to individuals generally. The prohibition on collecting information for “marketing purpose” is similarly broad. Unfortunately, the exact meaning of the law is subject to multiple interpretations. The law allows not only for the Maine Attorney General to bring actions for violations, but also allows for a private right of action. Although many have objected to the law, an immediate delay or modification does not appear on the horizon. TIP: If you have an ongoing promotion, consider how you will address the eligibility requirements (for example, prohibiting all persons under 18, persons from the state of Maine who are under 18, voiding to Maine residents, or having a verifiable parental consent mechanism). If you do not currently collect date of birth for your marketing activities, consider doing so, or voiding Maine residents. For your existing database, consider separating out those who are under 18 and reside in Maine, and be sure not to send marketing materials to them.

For more tips, see our bulletin at:

Linking to a Non-Compliant Website Is a Violation of CARU Guidelines

The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (“CARU”) recently found that Kidz Bop LLC violated the CARU Guidelines when it contained a link on the Kidz Bop website to a website which allowed the collection of personally identifiable information from children without fully complying with CARU guidelines. The non-compliant website did not implement a neutral age-screening mechanism to filter children under 13, and various areas of the site collected personally identifiable information. CARU found that Kidz Bop could reasonably expect children under 13 to visit their website and CARU guidelines specifically provide that operators of websites which are for children or contain areas for children should not knowingly link to other websites that do not comply with CARU guidelines. In addition, the Kidz Bop website privacy policy did not include Kidz Bop’s contact information, as required by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

TIP: If you operate a website which is likely to appeal to children under the age of 13, ensure that your website is compliant with CARU Guidelines, including removing any links to websites which you know are not in compliance with the Guidelines.

Got these from The Winston & Strawn email newsletter.  To subscribe for yourself, go here:

Posted in marketing, online community, Safety/Privacy, traveling, web business

OCS09 – Are you going?

The Online Community Summit will be held October 8th & 9th in Sonoma, CA. It is hard to believe that the Online Community Summit is now in it’s eight year!

The Summit was originally convened by Jim Cashel of Forum One in October of 2001 as a unique invitation-based event, bringing together thought leaders from business, government, finance, academia and the media, who despite different positions share a keen interest in online group collaboration. Each year we gather a select group of senior online community professionals to discuss topics addressing business strategy, emerging technologies, key trends, as well as many tactical issues during the breakout sessions.

This year, I will be hosting the Summit, along with co-host Joi Podgorny, Head of Community at Mind Candy. Joi is an online community expert with areas of expertise in virtual worlds and online experiences for children.

Online Community Summit 2009 – Initial Topics & Session Leads

Really excited to be helping out with this this year.  Love this event and always leave excited and invigorated. 🙂

Posted in marketing, online community

Comcast DOES Care

Just a quick testimonial regarding a recent GREAT customer service SLASH social media experience I had.

I get back from a long trip to find my cable was turned off.  Strange clerical error, whatever, there are much worse things to stress about. I call, get it all taken care of and think I am all set.  But then days pass and my cable becomes increasingly more pixelated.  And then my internet goes down – and that’s just not ok.

I had heard of and seen people using the twitter @comcastcares account to help them with problems, so I thought I would try.  Not having internet in my house, I used my iPhone’s Twitterfon app and tweet my request for help.  Within minutes I had a reply saying that there weren’t any outages in the area and if I DM’d them my phone #, they could look into it further.  I dutifully complied and was then asked by another customer service rep from Comcast if they could help.  2 replies in 10 minutes!  I asked my first rep if I should get help from the 2nd rep and they went ahead and told them that they were on the case.

Within 15 minutes, I got a call form a local Chicago operator who then ran through some basic tech support and determined I needed an onsite person.  This was RIGHT before Memorial Day, so I wasn’t expecting an onsite person anytime soon, but the phone rep got someone to come ON MEMORIAL DAY.  And they actually came! And fixed it!

Now it sucks that it was messed up in the first place, but the fact that their tech support team was able to respond to my request using social media and then follow through with multiple other methods of communication REALLY impressed me. I am sure it’s not the last problem I will have with Comcast, but at least now I can have some faith that they can help me get it taken care of in the future.  Way to go Comcast!

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

Kids Online unconference – May 31

Hi all –

First of many plugs about the Kids Online Unconference that is happening the day before the Ypulse Youth Mashup. The whole thing is 5/31/09-6/2/09, but come to what you can.

We need to start getting a headcount, so if you could let myself or any of the other coordinators know if you are planning on attending, that would be great!

To sign up for the listserv we have set up, go to this link and click the “Subscribe” link.


Posted in gaming, marketing

GDC09 Notes: Designing Engaging Relationships

GDC09 presentation by Scott Rigby at Immersyve
Powerpoint deck and white paper available at:

– Fun can have negative aspects – not always positive
– work involved, stress, etc – all can be fun

– Collecting Behaviorial Data (telemetry)
– Outcome based rather than Causal

– The underpants Gnome Dilemma (South Park reference)
– 3 part business plan
– Collect Underpants
– Something
– Collect Profit
– We know that if we make the game fun then people will love it, but what is the middle part – how do we ensure fun

– Motivational Research is happening at the academic level

– Player Experience of Need Satisfaction (PENS) Model
– Competence – to grow in skill
– Autonomy – experience personal agency/choice
– Relatedness – meaningful connection to other players – real or NPC

– Just tracking fun is not an indicator of retention – using PENS is better
– long term and short term (they had data from their study to back claim)

– efficiency, growth, mastery
– High intention to outcome ratio
– Mastery in Moment-to-monent gameplay
– getting good feedback in wins and loses
– granular, sustained, cumulative
– w/i session, w/i game, global
– guitar hero is a good example of this
– Rewards
– not just happy things, but also info to get better works well as a reward
– Challenge
– stretch, don’t overwhelm
– watch for boring and anxiety extremes
– sustained challenge is high on fun, but low on PENS
– player gets exhausted if challenge is sustained too long
– being able to express mastery is key
– Shaming is not helpful

– sense of personal agency or volition
– I am the cause of my actions, not the game design
– Opportunities for Action (OFA)
– Interactive opportunities x Possible Actions = OFA
– Not about creating more, but about perceived opportunity
– density of choice
– Make sure schemas are met
– If in other situations things work a certain way, make sure that it consistent
– in one game when you shoot at a box on the wall it explodes, but in another level the box is just a texture on the wall and does nothing when shot
– player is reminded of his place in the game at that point and enjoyment decreases

– connected/mattering to other people, either real or NPC
– Give positive contextual feedback – especially in the case of NPC, don’t make them just filler
– Random dialogue and serious attitude in NPCs is demotivating to players

– Ask questions during game design phase
– How will overall or specific game play satisfy needs?
– Can I satisfy multiple needs simultaneously?
– Heat Maps in Game
– Push Short Surveys in game in different areas to gauge what needs are being met or not in what areas of the world

These concepts were found to be fundamental – across geography, age and game genre

Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, mobile

SXSW09 notes

better late than never, eh?… 🙂

Iphone gaming session
– There are 20-30million iphones/itouchs in market
– games and entertainment 1 to 3, account for more than half
– pinch media has great iphone usage stats in US
– There are over 600 paid family apps
– 70% of mobile market (people using their phone for web use) is from iphone – not the same as market share
– make less than $1 profit margin per app
– hoping for push notifications soon

– core
– free apps – maximize traffic
– platform – multiply traffic (ads incorporated)
– paid apps – direct to premium apps (native & awesome)

– ngmico average durations on games
– 22.6 min rolando,
– topple 11.3 minuutes,
– mazefinger 6.3 minutes

– distribution
– 27,000 apps, hard to get featured
– chronological listing is the only implicit feature area
– refresh every 2-3 days
– ads not cost effective – great clickthru, but not great rev
– youtube videos and reviews
– send out press releases to every media outlets
– get them free copies of the game
– as much info as possible
– once app in top 100, it is self sustaining
– pangea hired reverb communication to handle the pr
– the more you do to encourage viral marketing
– invite and challenge features help

– price points
– started at $10

  • *****************

– Learning and Gaming core conversation was a tense and interesting session. Mind Candie’s peeps headed it up and had tons prepared, but the crowd was not having it. Within the first 10 minutes a griefer in the back raised the tension stating that trying to determine how gaming in schools could ever happen with the strict educational standards in schools. A designation of learning versus educational was made, saying that while they may mean very similar things, the connotations are looser with the term “learning”. Then another griefer took it to an extremely tense moment bashing teachers for being horrible and that all of them should be gotten rid of as they were just getting worse. This caused the teachers of the room to get all riled up and many of us wondered who would bring it back to a professional conversation level. Many great applications of integrating learning into games and gaming into classrooms were given, but the topic kept coming back to the lack of a bridge to connect the developers to the educators. One gentleman offered to build such an application and was received with much fanfare a the end. All in all a very interesting session and positive outcome to know that the topic is so emotionally charged.

  • ******************

Tech Moms
– Lively conversations in the room and all very passionate
– Talked about the paradox of Paid Endorsements
– lost authenicity if you pay, but risk of negative feedback if you dont
– ROI vs SOI – Sphere of Influence
– Have to figure out where the moms are
– Many moms prefer local forums over blogs
– tons of moms on twitter now
– see the saturation of mom forums/communities, etc and use twitter as a catalyst tool
– “give me the tools” to engage with your brand
– twitter hashtags of #playoutdoors, #momsxsw, #techmoms, #momswhotech
– Rachel Silverman – NYT moms/tech columnist