Jul 31 2006

MySpace: The New Marketing Frontier

Category: Kids & Technology,Parenting,Sci/TechTim @ 9:49 am

The “MySpace phenomenon” has caught the eye of everyone; especially the marketers.

It appears that 2006 has become the year of social networking, since this phenomenon has led many to speculate on the value of such sites. It is the fact that Myspace, after only two and a half years operating, has surpassed Internet giants Google and Yahoo! that “social networking” has become this year’s hot topic. So hot, in fact, that some companies’ marketing departments are putting together social networking sites (SNS) specific to their brand.

Not only are they putting together their own sites, they are creating MySpace profiles:

MySpace is full of viral marketing campaigns in the form of profile pages; and according to eMarketer, MySpace has built hundreds of profiles for partners so far.

For example, Wendy’s has a profile page for a character named “Smart,” a 28-year-old male from New York whose interests include Angelina Jolie, hip-hop music, movies and Wendy’s Bacon Mushroom Melt. In the character’s “about me” section, it says, “it takes flair to be square. Do a square burger at Wendy’s and do what tastes right!” Smart has more than 80,000 friends.

Hmmm. Sounds a bit fishy to me. But, I’m not a 16-year-old kid.

Kids are especially at risk, critics say, because as a thriving group on social networks, many younger teens are not sophisticated enough to treat with skepticism this new, seductive form of advertising. For example, marketers behind movie characters like “Superman” and products like Wendy’s hamburgers pose as potential “friends” for kids to network with on MySpace.

Will company/brand specific social networking sites work? DMW doesn’t think so:

Another way in which brand-specific social networking sites miss the point is that much of the recent success of Myspace has been due to the large number of people that are currently members. At this point, so many are on-board that many teens just assume that their classmates are members; “What is your Myspace?” has in many cases replaced “What is your phone number?” In fact, Metcalfe’s Law is particularly relevant. The law, which pertains to telecommunications networks, states that the value of the system is proportionate to the number of the users of the system (i.e. “friends”) squared. With Myspace currently showing more than 97 million member accounts, no brand-specific SNS can hope to even scratch the value of the Myspace network. Although it is not necessary to compete with Myspace to create a successful SNS, it will be quite difficult to attain a number of members significant enough to give the site any value.

Well, what do the marketers think about social networks?

In the end, social networks are a growing opportunity for marketers interested in applying new techniques to reach consumers. They’re also places where marketers can get to know individual users; not in a personal sense, of course (they don’t have the granular data for this) but in the sense that clues to interests that exist within or are associated with a profile can be tapped when marketing to the profile’s owner.

Also blogging:

Jul 28 2006

Oh Glorious Day: Training Camp has Begun!

Category: Houston,Pro SportsTim @ 7:12 am

It’s almost over. The long, dark, and quiet time has nearly passed. That missing element is about to return to your life. Yes, NFL Training Camps have begun!

The start of training camp signals the return of the wonder that is football. Sorry, American Football; where we revere the ball enough to actually hold it in our hands. The sport that matches the strategy of master tacticians with the brute force of gladiators. All the raw energy one can handle; packaged in a nice little 3 hour box with 360 degree viewing and instant replay!

Training camp means thousands of hopeful men will be pushing their bodies to the limit with the hopes of grabbing one of the precious 53 roster spots. It’s the chance for this season’s “Rudy” to emerge.

I’ve donned my Texans polo, hung my flag, pulled my Texans lanyard out of the drawer, and feel the stirrings of possibilities again. After all, it can’t get any worse than last year!

Jul 28 2006

Too Fat for X-Rays

Category: HealthTim @ 6:29 am

More bad news for overweight Americans; we don’t get good x-ray results:

More and more obese people are unable to get full medical care because they are either too big to fit into scanners, or their fat is too dense for X-rays or sound waves to penetrate, radiologists reported on Tuesday.

So, is it just a problem for x-rays?

Ultrasounds are most affected, Uppot said.

“In an obese person, because the ultrasound beam does not get to the organs or get to them adequately enough, we cannot get a picture. It looks like a snowstorm — I don’t know if you have seen those televisions where it is just whiteout? It looks like that.”

An MRI can get a good picture if the patient can fit into the tube or get onto the table, Uppot said. Some manufacturers have started to make MRI machines with larger-bore holes, but with the cost in the millions of dollars per machine, only large groups or institutions can afford them.

This is not just a problem in the US, the UK is not far behind:

“The obesity rates in the US have been going up relentlessly. Sadly, in the UK we are following in their wake.

“The UK is now the fastest growing country in Europe for rising obesity.

Looks like it’s time to pass the burger joint and hit the treadmill.

For more, check out:

Jul 27 2006

Fun with a Backhoe

Category: Humor,VideoTim @ 9:57 pm

This is just wrong.

Jul 27 2006

MySpace a Target for Cyber Crime

Category: Kids & Technology,Parenting,Scams,Sci/TechTim @ 1:30 pm

MySpace has come under a lot of fire lately for concerns over user’s security and then power outages this past weekend, now it appears to be the target of cyber criminals as well.

From Silicon.com:

Social networking portal MySpace is becoming a major target for cyber criminals, with credit card fraud, phishing attacks and spyware all growing concerns for users of the site.

One reason for the problems arising is the overwhelming popularity of the site which has created an ecosystem ripe for the picking by criminals, according to one security expert.

Phishing, as the name implies, is when someone “baits” you to come to their web site and fill out a form with your personal information. These messages look legitimate, but are really scams designed to gather your personal information. With the explosion of “social network” sites, the phishing nets are getting bigger. Vnunet.com has this to add:

“With a global increase in the uptake of social networking portals such as MySpace we are seeing the bad guys increasingly target these sites,” said MessageLabs chief technology officer Mark Sunner.

“This clearly demonstrates the constant level of innovation by cyber-criminals to leverage new modes of internet level communication and capture a victim’s personal identity.”

IT Week is even more direct:

“We’re now in the midst of a new level of convergence triggered by the necessity [to make money] from targeted attacks,” Sunner explained. “In 12 months we’ll pinpoint this time as the moment spam and viruses converged with spyware.”

Great. So, how do we fight phishing? Panda Software has some advice:

The most basic security measure to bear in mind is simply to ignore email messages, etc. that, under whatever pretext, ask you to go to a web page and enter your login details.

Another practical piece of advice to avoid phishing attacks is not to click on links in order to access Internet services such as online banking, etc.

I guess the best advice is to remember what your mother told you; never accept candy from strangers.

Other’s Blogging/Resources:

Jul 27 2006

Houston 2016 Olympic Dream is Dead…Again

Category: Houston,Pro SportsTim @ 7:30 am

The dream of Houston hosting the Olympic Games in 2016 has died. The USOC has decided Houston is to be removed from consideration for the next US Olympic bid:

Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco were named as finalists for a potential U.S. bid for the 2016 Games. Houston and Philadelphia, the remaining candidates, “will step to the sidelines at this time,” committee board chairman Peter Ueberroth said during a news conference at a Denver airport hotel.

The USOC has plans for its sidelined suitors. Committee chief executive officer Jim Scherr will visit Houston this year to discuss its potential to bid for 2008 U.S. Olympic trials and world championships in 2009 and beyond, and Houston businessman George DeMontrond III floated the possibility that Houston will bid for the Pan American Games.

While this may seem like a bad thing, I’m actually quite relieved. Remember Houston 2012 and the costs?

Houston’s campaign for the 2012 Games lasted more than two years and was funded by $4 million in donations and $2 million worth of in-kind services donations, the 2016 bid lasted only a few weeks and required less than $35,000

A big thank you to the USOC for allowing Houston to escape of the dog-and-pony-show much earlier this time around.

Also blogging:

Jul 26 2006

Apology to Roger Clemens

Category: Houston,Pro SportsTim @ 9:07 am

Dear Roger,

On behalf of the thousands of Astros fans who helped convince you to come back for “one more season,” we are deeply sorry; sorry that your teammates have not treated you better. We are sorry that you have to carry the entire team. We are sorry that we convinced you to rejoin a sorry team.

It’s simply not enough to limit the other team to 1 or 2 runs, you must also drive in as many runs as you allow. Think about The Babe, a pitcher who also could hit for some power. I know it’s late in your storied career to become a home run hitter, but if it can be done, you can do it. Imagine the stories they would tell if you were to start depositing shots into the Crawford Boxes. Koby would be so jealous.

We know we are asking a lot, but we do so want our team to win. You have been the guide for this city by taking us all to places we had never imaged. Places like, a playoff series win, a National League Pennant, and a World Series appearance. We would like to add World Series Champion to that list as well if you please…

Again Roger, we are sorry. Sorry to ask too much of you.

-All Astros Fans

Jul 26 2006

Parent’s Guide to Social Networking Sites

Category: Kids & Technology,Parenting,Sci/TechTim @ 7:40 am

You’ve heard the names (MySpace, Xanga, Facebook, Hi5, Bebo, Tagged, Imbee) and heard the concerns (child molesters, identity theft, child pornography, stalkers, violence), but are social networking sites really bad for our kids?

I believe these sites are good for kids when used in moderation. We are seeing an explosion of “publishing” on the web and beginning to realize the true vision of the Internet that was promised in the 90s; interconnected indiviuduals sharing a wealth of information. Kids are flocking to these sites because they need outlets for their thoughts, interests, hobbies, etc. and they need to find a peer-group who shares those interests.

There are just two things parents need to do.

1. Remember to keep things in moderation by monitoring your children
2. Educate yourselves on the sites that are out there and help you children choose appropriate avenues

To help education us, Julia Angwin decided to test drive all the popular social networking sites and put together a fantastic article in the Wall Street Journal.

Teens aren’t much different today. It’s just that their yearbook equivalents are online at social-networking sites like MySpace.com. On their MySpace pages, teens list their favorite music and drinks, and add links to their friends’ pages. Instead of signing each other’s yearbooks, they post comments on each other’s pages.

But teens can also meet up with strangers on these sites — and that’s where the problems arise. Young girls in several states have been sexually assaulted by men they met on MySpace, according to law-enforcement officials. The family of one 14-year-old Texas girl who was assaulted is suing MySpace in Texas state court for not providing adequate safeguards. And the site’s sometimes-racy content is under fire generally for being an unsafe environment for teens.

Angwin conducts overviews of multiple sites and reviews each site’s features and security. For any parent of a teen or soon-to-be-teen, read this article is must read.

Also Blogging:

Tip from NetFamilyNews

Jul 24 2006

MySpace Outage

Category: Kids & Technology,Sci/TechTim @ 3:34 pm

The unthinkable has happened, MySpace went dark for nearly 12 hours due to power failures in California.

“Due to the record-breaking heat in Los Angeles over the weekend, the area where MySpace’s servers are stored had massive power outages,” a MySpace spokeswoman said. “The backup generators failed. With power resumed, the network is now up and running.”

Well, just how many users are we talking about? According to ABC News:

Driven largely by word of mouth, MySpace has rapidly risen to become the second-busiest site in the United States, behind Yahoo Inc., according to comScore Media Metrix. MySpace’s 96 million registered users can expand their circles of friends through profile pages, photo sharing and other tools provided by the free, ad-supported site.

As a sign of the times:

In order to pacify MySpace users who may be hungry for a procrastination fix, the “site down” notice was accompanied by a Flash game of “Pac-Man.”

Wow, I remember when Pac-Man was cool. I wonder what the MySpace users are thinking. Well, here’s one comment from shanebole.com:

At least Tom was thoughtful enough to put up a flash version of PacMan on the main page to tide us over until life becomes bearable again.

OK, but what about the failure. How can this happen? What will be the effect? Cybersoc.com says:

There is likely to be quite a backlash from myspace users who will be wondering why myspace doesn’t have redundent systems in place

GigaOM.com concurs and has a screen shot from the outage:

it is hard to believe that a service this large could just have one data center. Have they not heard of redundancy? I am pretty sure there is more to the story.

Jordan’s Blog cuts right to the point:

For christs sake, you’re the most widely used site on the planet, you’re worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and probably do hundreds of thousands of dollars of ad revenue a day, and you can’t afford to have maybe a backup facility? Maybe a few servers in LA, a few on the east coast? That’s just completely unbelievable. Maybe it really just is some half-wit named Tom with a few servers in a colocation facility. Wow.

Keep your helmet on; the fallout from this will be big.

Jul 24 2006

Incredible Evening with the Lion King

Category: Houston,ParentingTim @ 2:58 pm

Every now and then, I’m reminded why I love living in a big city. Sometime back in December or January, I jumped on Ticketmaster and ordered 4 tickets for the Lion King. After nearly choking on the $9.75 per ticket “convenience charge” from Ticketmaster, I hit submit. After all, balcony front row is perfect for a 3rd grader.

OK, I can’t let that go. I had to pay $39 for the convenience of buying my tickets online; a process that actually saves Ticketmaster time and money. When you buy things on the Internet, we generally expect to pay less than brick-and-mortar stores because they don’t need bricks and mortar to sell online! What happened to capitalism? Will someone please explain why a company is allowed to behave this way and why we have not called anti-trust on them?

Fortunately, after several months to forget the Ticketmaster “pillaging” fee, the night of the show finally arrived.

We started with dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy. Fabulous restaurant. Great food, great service, and all the Frank Sinatra you can handle. If you have not dined there, you really should. One word of warning, “half-orders” are the way to go. I believe Maggiano’s full orders require additional table supports.

Being well-fed and content, we headed toward downtown by way of Memorial Drive. For those who don’t know Houston, Memorial Drive snakes through Memorial Park (our version of Central Park) and down along Buffalo Bayou. A very nice ride indeed. Trees and green on every side and a stunning view of our skyline in front. Also, surprisingly little traffic.

We arrived at the Hobby Center and were delighted to pay $5 to park at the building. Try that in Chicago or New York! Parking was good, the walk-way was covered, and the lobby was spacious and inviting. All around, a very nice facility.

Then came time for the “mane” event. Our seats afforded us a spectacular view of opening procession of animals into the theater; a breathtaking sight that produced a thunderous ovation. This opening started a two hour and 45 minute feast for the senses that included unbelievable staging, music, and even aerial maneuvers. The time passed instantly.

On the way home, our family spoke of our favorite moments; the opening scene, Scar’s song, the songs that were not in the movie, and the final battle. The show provided something for all members of my family and was an event that will be remembered for some time to come.

If you have the opportunity, go see this show.

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