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Microsoft Vine: A Social Dashboard for Your Digital Life

Looks like the folks up in Redmond are getting ready to throw their hat into the social messaging ring with a new service called Vine. Vine is designed to make it easy for people to exchange information and stay in touch with friends and family during an emergency. Here's the official scoop:

"Microsoft Vine Beta connects you to the people and places you care about most, when it matters. Stay in touch with family and friends, be informed when someone needs help. Get involved to create great communities. Use alerts, reports and your personal dashboard to stay in touch, informed and involved."

Currently Vine is in closed beta and not yet open to the public. I took a look at the demo and I have to say it's pretty slick. It goes way beyond the 140 character text and link posting on Twitter.

Vine has a pretty slick mash up of Live Maps and News---effectively creating a very customized social news tool. But wait--there's more. MS Vine is also has integration with Facebook, email, as well as your mobile phone.

For example, I live in California and we are prone to a little shaking of the earth every once in awhile. Say we had a quake. I'd want to check in with all the members of my family.

I could use Vine to send a text to my sister, an email to my parents, and Facebook message to my cousin--all at the same time. Since Vine aggregates news, I can easily get the latest information on road closures, damage & other breaking news.

While the tech crowd will be quick to point out all the services that already exist that offer the same features as Vine, it's important to remember that outside Silicon Valley (aka the "real world"), there are lots of people who don't have the time, inclination or technical aptitude to seek out and learn how to use those tools.

There are also tons of opportunities for integration with Yahoo! properties if/when that deal ever goes through. It seems like Flickr, for one, would be an excellent addition to Vine. (Heck, just add Flickr now, not later!) I also think that, like Twitter, there are lots of interesting ways that educators could use Vine in an educational or mobile learning environment.

One other note to the fine folks at Microsoft. You've put together four fine video's showing how people can use Vine. However, you haven't included any way for people to share them with anyone else. Why not include the "Share This" button and allow folks to email, embed, post to Facebook, Digg, Stumble, Y! Buzz or Tweet about Vine with their friends? 

Vine is a pretty impressive effort. There will be those who, because it's a Microsoft product, won't give it a chance. But a good tool is a good tool. I don't care who makes it. I think Vine has real potential to be a popular choice for lots of people, organizations and families. I'm looking forward to taking a deeper look at it soon (hint! hint!).

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Weekly Wrap: Twitter King Ashton, Oprah Backlash, Social TV, Music Pirates, EuroITV2009, Glee Buzz & iPhone EDU

Did Ashton Get Punk'd? Simon Dumenco from AdAge explains how the mainstream media -- and Kutcher himself -- got wrong about his "win."

High School Musical(s): An evangelical, anti-gay Kansas-based church plans to protest the staging of the musical "Rent" at a Newport Beach, California high school. Also, Ypulse reports that "Spring Awakening" is moving from Broadway to the Sliver Screen. And Fox's Glee hasn't aired yet, but it's already getting lots of buzz--both good and bad (ouch!).

Wonder if the RIAA Got This Memo? According to research, those who download 'free' music are also the industry's largest audience for digital sales and are actually 10 times more likely to purchase music.

Social TV & Multiplatform Media Consumption: New research from IMM finds that "watching TV" is no longer a one-way, passive experience--viewers are increasingly surfing the web while they watch TV and demanding more social networking features.

Conference on Social & Interactive TV: In June EuroITV2009, an international forum for media professionals from all over the world who are interested in, work with and do research on all aspects of interactive and mobile television, will hold their annual conference in Leuven, Belgium, from June 3-5, 2009. Also of interest is a workshop at the conference that will examine ways to integrate social game play into the TV viewing experience.

What's up with the anti-Oprah Twitter Backlash? A great Mashable post by Pete Cashmore on the strange Twitterverse backlash after Oprah introduced Twitter to the masses.

College Life, MTV Style: The interns over at, the uber cool college review site, share their thoughts on the new MTV reality series College Life. Oh, be sure to follow @Unigo on Twitter! Also, with the economy in shambles new college grads flocking to national service programs.

iPhoneEDU: Here's a great list of free or really cheap iPhone Apps for educators. Thanks to Ben Wilkoff, 2007 Ypulse Totally Wired Teacher, for sharing this link. Don't forget: Nominations for the 2009 Ypulse Totally Wired Teacher Award are due by May 15th!

Chirping about Twitter: More ways you can use Twitter in an educational setting. Features my pal Josie Fraser -- the brains behind lots of educational & social technology projects including Digizen. Follow @josiefraser on Twitter.

Another Yahoo! Bites the Dust: Yahoo! is closing its very cool video editing and hosting service Jumpcut. This is really sad. Jumpcut had a great following in the education community as a free alternative to iMovie. RIP Jumpcut, RIP.

The Soloist: Putting a Face on Homelessness

For about 7 years, in a previous career incarnation, I worked with the homeless. Our company placed homeless men and women in jobs and connected them with social services at the local food and shelter coalition.

At first, for this kid raised in the coastal suburbs of 'the OC', it was a bit overwhelming. I had never seen a homeless person, let alone talked to one. But as time passed, I gained their trust and they began to share their stories with me.

Take "Old Man" Brinker. Yes, that was his name. He was in his 70s, had a great sense of humor and was a really hard worker. He used to come to my office about once a week to shoot the breeze. He'd also give me the scoop on the goings on at the homeless shelter.

One afternoon I leaned across my desk and quietly asked him how he ended up in a homeless shelter. He thought about it for a few minutes, wiped a small tear out of his eye and told me the story.

A Nightmare Journey From the American Dream to a Homeless Shelter

Back in the late 1960s, Old Man Brinker was working in the natural gas fields in Sweetwater County, Wyoming. It was hard work, but he had steady work, a devoted wife and a baby girl. For the Brinker's, life was good. One day, after a particularly grueling and hot summer day in the gas fields, Old Man Brinker came home to an unusually quiet house.

He peeked in the kitchen and was surprised to find it empty. He went down the hall and found the baby's room empty too. As he walked into the master bedroom, he discovered the lifeless and bloody bodies of his wife and baby. His whole world instantly shattered around him.

Consumed with grief and overflowing with pain, he sought relief first with alcohol, moved on to cocaine, and then heroin. The next twenty years were a blur of arrests, drug busts and gaps in time. Finally, when he had hit rock bottom, he decided enough was enough. He entered a free drug rehab center, got back to work and has stayed clean.

He told me that he could, if he wanted, get an apartment and live like everyone else. But, he's afraid that if he did, if he took that jump back into the "real world", it could all come crashing down like it did so many years ago.

This time he couldn't, he wouldn't survive. For him, being homeless was the "safe" choice. As he put it, "When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose."

Everyone Has a Story

But Old Man Brinker was just one of a daily cast of characters that went in and out of my office. There was Beauford, who was always one step away from his three ex-wives and the wage garnishment for unpaid alimony. There was a woman who said her name was God. No last name, just God.

Most of the homeless folks were gentle, doing their best to keep their head above water, battle their respective demons, and make it to another day. That's not to say that there weren't some scary times.

One time there was a guy named Comanche, a really big guy, a guy who would make John Wayne look wimpy, who pulled a knife out of his boot when I told him that I didn't have any work for him and wouldn't give him any money. Truth be told, I was beyond scared.

I had to embrace my inner Don Corleone and shout him out of the building, locking the door and quickly dialing 911. Later that day I learned from the police that Comanche had been arrested by the FBI for murder.

So, yeah. Some scary moments. But for the most part I wouldn't change the experience for the world.

Close Your Eyes, Clear Your Heart

All in all the experience taught me that, despite what we think, we are all living on the razor's edge. A single event can turn our world upside down. Most importantly, it taught me to always look beyond what our eyes can see.

Under the ragged clothing, beyond the shopping cart or the seemingly incoherent babble could lurk a Harvard trained physicist, a man like Old Man Brinker trying to escape great personal tragedy, or in the case of The Soloist--a musical prodigy.

In the film, opening on Friday, which was based on a true story, Journalist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) discovers Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a former classical music prodigy, playing his violin on the streets of L.A. As Lopez endeavors to help the homeless man find his way back, a unique friendship is formed, one that transforms both their lives.

I deeply believe in the power of film to engage, educate and enlighten people on issues around social justice. I really hope that this film will help change the way that our society view the homeless.

Moreover, I hope that people will see this movie as a call to action, that more people will be motivated to donate clothing, money or their time to their local homeless shelter. You might not think that your community has a homeless shelter or any homeless at all, but a quick Yahoo! Search is likely to prove otherwise.

A Call To Action: Help 1 Million Homeless Teens

In October at the 2008 Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup East, Ron Faris from Virgin Mobile USA gave a really fantastic presentation on the various Virgin Mobile Pro-Social Initiatives. Virgin Mobile, and the Virgin brand, have done some really innovative, creative and interesting work in the music, pro-social, marketing and branding space.

At the end of his presentation on the mobile and texting habits of Gen Y, he talked about the Virgin Mobile awareness campaign to shed a light on the issue of homeless teens.

Want to hear something shocking? According to research conducted by Virgin Mobile, there are approximately 1 million homeless teens in the United States of America. 

Yes....1 million.

These teens are homeless for a variety of reasons ranging from being kicked out by their parents due to sexual orientation, abusive parents
or being abandoned. This figure just floored me.

I've spent a lot of time working with homeless adults, but I was woefully ignorant on the subject of homeless teens. To me this is unacceptable. Even in our current national economic situation, we still have the resources to get our kids off the streets. It's about priorities. It's about kids.

Virgin Mobile has compiled a list of resources and actions that you can take to help help homeless teens. But here's the thing. If you stop what you're doing and text "Karma" to "68405" Virgin Mobile and American Eagle will donate a hoodie sweatshirt to a homeless youth.

The power to help homeless teens is literally at your fingertips.

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Gen Y, Social TV & Multiplatform Media Consumption

image from

It's no secret that younger viewers are more inclined to watch their favorite television shows online or time shifted via the Internet or DVR rather than sit in front of the television.

Remember, this is a hyper-connected generation and to them sitting in front of the TV is a really passive, boring and disconnected media experience.

For younger viewers, television is a much more interesting and socially interactive experience when they can watch a show and discuss it in real time online with their friends.

In addition to being able to choose when (synchronizing viewing with friends across disparate time zones) and where online (Hulu, YouTube,, FFWD) they view television content, younger viewers value the web because it allows them to simultaneously watch and exchange IM's with friends, participate in multiplayer online games related to their program, do homework, download music they hear on a show, check text messages, Tweet and/or update their Facebook status.

New research published this week by Integrated Media Management (IMM), points to the increasingly blurred lines between TV and the web. In their survey, IMM found that "viewers were online during roughly 9.3 percent of their prime-time viewing."

Other key findings from IMM on TV and the web:

  • Simultaneous consumption of both television and web viewing doubles as the week progresses (5.8% on Monday to a high of 15.9% on Thursday);
  • Women spend more time surfing the web while watching television (13% of women vs. 9% men);
  • Twenty-somethings were more likely (20%) to watch tv and surf than thirty-somethings (6%);

As I blogged a few weeks ago, research from Park Associates found that over one-fourth of broadband users ages 18-24 are interested in having social media features integrated on their TV. The report, Social Media & User-Generated Content, found that  multiplayer gaming, in-program chat, and “most watched” lists were among the most desired social extensions sought out by Gen Y respondents.

Networks like MTV and CNN are keenly aware of these trends and have responded by creating interactive  multiplatform opportunities for viewers to connect and snark together. For example, every Monday, 10,000 superfans play MTV's Backchannel, a multiplayer online game based on the popular reality show The Hills

Want a glimpse of this hybrid social networking-TV model of media consumption? Check out how Rick Sanchez over at CNN has created a real time, interactive mash-up between social networking sites, Twitter and television. And oh yeah, his show is drawing a younger demographic and blowing the ratings through the roof.

CBS has created Social Rooms a virtual environment where viewers can "join family, friends and fellow fans and watch your favorite episodes of your favorite shows together." The hit CBS comedy, How I Met Your Mother weaves real blogs into their storyline, further blurring the lines between TV and the web.

Yahoo! Connected TV is working on lots of TV widgets, including Twitter, that allows you to literally bring the web to your TV. And one need only look at Twitter to see perhaps the most basic and immediate social TV viewing experience.

On any given night, the "Trending Topics" on Twitter provide ample opportunities for viewers to actively participate in a shared social experience revolving around a television program or news event.

Twitter also moves multiplatform media consumption and social TV to a whole other level--mobile. In addition to SMS, there are dozens of mobile clients for Twitter that allow you to send Tweets from your smart phone via the mobile web.

Since people have their mobile phones with them at all times, this allows consumers to watch a mobile TV or news program to create a spontaneous, real time and instant mobile social networking experience via Twitter.

Jan 2010 Update: Samsung to Launch App Store for HDTVs

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Meet the Tweenbots

No, not those Tweet Bots.

Tweenbots is a social experiment conducted on the streets of New York City where a robot tries to navigate between (tween) one coordinate to another. It's also a study of human-robot social interaction.

The experiment is the brain child of Kacie Kinzer, a graduate student in the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) in the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.

I'll let Kacie explain more about the project:

"In New York, we are very occupied with getting from one place to another. I wondered: could a human-like object traverse sidewalks and streets along with us, and in so doing, create a narrative about our relationship to space and our willingness to interact with what we find in it?

More importantly, how could our actions be seen within a larger context of human connection that emerges from the complexity of the city itself? To answer these questions, I built robots.

Tweenbots are human-dependent robots that navigate the city with the help of pedestrians they encounter. Rolling at a constant speed, in a straight line, Tweenbots have a destination displayed on a flag, and rely on people they meet to read this flag and to aim them in the right direction to reach their goal."

I think this is both fascinating and brilliant. In graduate school I focused a big chunk of my research on how people respond to the spatial architecture of virtual spaces--online classroom, virtual worlds, and social networking communities.

I see a lot of parallels between how the Tweenbots interacted with people, space and their "community" and the way that we humans navigate the virtual spaces of the social web. When I watch this video, it's amazing to me how truly social and interactive people are with these robots.

I'm keeping tabs on this project and can't wait to learn about the Tweenbots next adventure in New York City. Go robots! These robot's don't bark, but they sure are cute!

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Weekly Wrap: Billabong Moves Beyond Surfing, Boston for Kids, Public Media 2.0, Youth Work Online, Oprah Joins Twitter

Billabong is a Media Company, Not Just a Surf Brand: Great post by youth guru Dan Pankraz. "Billabong really get it. They create content, not ads. 40hrs of it a week actually, distributed via Fuel TV, mobile phones and the web." Dan's blog focused on youth culture is a must read.

Cool Stuff for Kids in Beantown: This is a super site full of fun and educational activities for parents and kids in Boston.

Kids Motivated By TV to Visit Web: "According to MRI's 2008 American Kids Study, children ages 6-11 are increasingly using the Internet  to check out products they see in advertisements. 46.3% of kids visited a Web site that they saw or heard about in a commercial or advertisement." (AdAge)

Support the Brothers Flannery: The Flannery Brothers, a kid's band from Maine, are finalists in the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Competition in the children’s music category.

How to Weather a Twitterstorm: "Motrin Moms. "Dove Onslaught(er)." Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, all sorts of new critics and activists are finding their voices amplified online. So what's a marketer to do when an online firestorm erupts?" (AdAge)

Bullied 11-year Old Commits Suicide: An 11-year-old Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hung himself Monday after being bullied at school despite his mother’s pleas to the school to address the problem. So, so sad. Check my blog post from earlier this week for tips and resources on bullying. (TakePart)

The Center for Social Media at American University has published a new white paper titled Public Media 2.0: Dynamic Engaged Publics. Wanna get a quick synopsis? Check out this five minute clip on YouTube or this powerpoint on Slideshare.

2009 Totally Wired Teacher Award: The Ypulse 2009 Totally Wired Teacher Award (sponsored by Dell) will honor a trailblazing teacher who has successfully pioneered the innovative and educational use of technology, mobile technology, social media (blogs, wikis, social networking, photo/video sharing) in the classroom.

Youth Work Online: This is an online community dedicated to exploring how youth work and informal education professionals can support young people in a digital world. The site was launched and continues to be moderated by the brilliant Tim Davies.

I'm Just Not That Into You Facebooking With My KidAuthor and parenting guru Sharon Cindrich blogs about Parental Faux Pas on Facebook – "written by a real parent (me) of a real teen (my 14 year old daughter) as I watch my real friends (without teens) send my child friend requests on Facebook (weird)." Hey Sharon--I agree. Weird.

Twitter Gets Mad Props: Oprah, yes *that* Oprah is joining the Tweetosphere. @oprah welcome!

Scholastic Launches Virtual World: Scholastic has partnered with SC Johnson to create a "green" virtual world for kids. The Virtual Forest Challenge is tied into the product launch of SC Johnson's new line of green cleaning supplies, Nature's Source. The site also includes some very lightweight "lesson plans" and other edutainment learning materials.

Global Youth: Meet Alex, Australian Gen Y


Dan Pankraz, a youth culture and brand strategist, gives us a peek into the life of a twenty-something Gen Y living in Sydney, Australia. Who is Alex? What's his story?

"Alex is the typical Sydney Gen C’er. He’s a creative guy working in the communications industry and is super savvy when it comes to technology. He is also a bit of a muso and is a self confessed ’snooper’ on Facebook, as he constantly needs to be in the know as to what is on."

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Photo Credit: Dan Pankraz

Ypulse 2009 Totally Wired Teacher Award

The Ypulse 2009 Totally Wired Teacher Award (sponsored by Dell) will honor a trailblazing teacher who has successfully pioneered the innovative and educational use of technology, mobile technology, social media (blogs, wikis, social networking, photo/video sharing) in the classroom.

The award is inspired by Ypulse founder Anastasia Goodstein’s book, Totally Wired: What Teens & Tweens Are Really Doing Online, and the challenges she observed around integrating technology into public school classrooms. We will recognize a teacher who has overcome these challenges and is inspiring both students and other educators.

The award-winner likely had to overcome challenges from parents and administrators in order to use the technology, but because they understand how students use social media outside of school, they persevered with their initiative and worked collaboratively with students, ultimately sharing their insight and knowledge with the larger teaching community.

Representatives from Ypulse and Dell will choose three finalists to interview by phone. The selected teacher will be honored in person at the Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup June 1-2 in San Francisco.

All three finalists will receive a IT solution from Dell to use in their respective schools. Teachers can nominate themselves. You can get all of the details about how to nominate a teacher (or if you're a teacher, how to nominate yourself!) over on Ypulse.

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Anti-Bullying Resources for Parents, Teachers & Students  Last week my friend Dominic Campbell, one of the leading voices in the U.K. Gov 2.0 community, pointed me to Bullying U.K.--a top destination for parents, students and teachers looking for bullying advice on the internet.

The organization was founded by journalist Liz Carnell and her son John, as a direct result of their experience of dealing with school bullying, which included taking successful legal action against an education authority.
Whether it's mobile phones, social sites or school bus teasing--Bullying UK has a vast treasure load of content for just about any type of bullying situation. They've also partnered with the (always fantastic) folks and produced a series of videos on student-student bullying, as well as teacher-teacher bullying as well.

All in all a really wonderful resource for anyone involved in working with youth. I strongly urge you to drop by Bullying UK and take a look at all the wonderful resources they have curated on their site.

Thanks Dom!

Back here in the states, celebrities Lance Bass, Taylor Swift and Hillary Duff have added their voice of support for the 2009 Day of Silence on April 17th. The goal of The National Day of Silence goal is to bring awareness to the anti-LGBT bullying in schools.

As part of the program, members of the Twitter community are being encouraged to "Tweet the Silence" and encourage people to take a stand against bullying of LGBT students.

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Global Youth: Miley Cyrus & Youth Service Day 2009

Miley Cyrus (aka 'Hannah Montana') has teamed up with Youth Service America to promote community service for the 21st annual Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) on April 24-26, 2009.

Global Youth Service Day is the largest service event in the world and draws the world’s attention to the amazing contributions young people make to their communities every day. 

Millions of youth in more than 100 countries will organize community service projects that address problems in health, education, human service, and the environment.

The online community gives kids the opportunity to  take action, share results, and support the YSA's goal of encouraging youth to get involved in their communities through service.

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New Research: Teens (Heart) iTunes, iPod & iPhone

The 17th semi-annual "Taking Stock With Teens" survey published by Piper Jaffray is out and it has a couple interesting findings in regards to teens and digital music:

"In digital music, 86% of students who own an MP3 player indicated that they own an iPod - up from 84% last fall. iTunes share also rose to 97% from 93% last fall. In addition, 8% of students indicate they own an Apple iPhone (up from 6% year-on-year), while 16% of students expect to buy an iPhone in the next 6 months."

All of this is, of course, music to Steve Job's ears...

Related Links

Weekly Wrap: Experts Want TV Banned, Ypulse Uncovers What Teens Want, Chris Brown Gets Dissed, Aussie Youth Love Their Mobile Phones, AllyKatzz Announces the National Tween Summit & the Mobile Boom in India

Experts Say Ban TV from Children's Bedrooms: Is TV responsible for the "breakdown" of the family unit? UK Gen Y parenting expert Sarah Newton says "No" and adds, "...Please, stop criticising the TV. I am getting quite annoyed with academics telling us how to parent. I mean, have they really tried to remove a TV from a 15-year-old’s bedroom?"

Youth Guru Josh Shipp is hosting a youth speaker seminar in California (July 18 & 19) for folks serious about a full time career getting their message out to teens. Click here to learn more.

Boston Teens Say Rhianna is Responsible: A survey conducted in Boston finds that "many teens say teen idol Rihanna was “responsible” for what happened between her and boyfriend." Blaming the victim of domestic abuse? Uh, no. Clearly this is a teachable moment for parents and Redbook and Liz Claiborne have put together some resources to help get the conversation started. Another great resource is the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline. In other news, Chris Brown gets dissed by music industry peers in a rap song.

Youths go for mobiles; drop landlines: Australian youth moving out of the nest aren't signing up for landlines---they're choosing to use their mobile phone as their primary phone service.

Congrats! Anne Collier, the force behind NetFamilyNews, has been has just been appointed to the NTIA's (Commerce Dept.'s) Online Safety and Technology Working Group.

What Teens Want in a Website: Great recap from Anastasia Goodstein, founder of Ypulse, on her YPulse Youth Panel at the 2009 SXSW Interactive Festival. Speaking of Ypulse, the 2009 Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup is just around the corner. Readers of this blog can get 10% off registration by using the discount code "BAIRD." Be sure to follow Ypulse and Anastasia on Twitter!

Stop Killing Students with PowerPoint: This is an excellent SlideShare presentation on the do's and don'ts of using the ubiquitous (and mostly dreaded) PowerPoint preso. Speaking of presentations: Prezi, a new presentation tool that allows you to easily create an interactive presentation slides, has launched!

Mobile Wars in India: Graham Brown, co-founder of mobileYouth, tweeted an interesting article about the explosion of mobile phones in India and how youth are at the center of the wireless telcos battle to win the hearts and rupee's of subscribers. Thanks Graham! By the way, Graham will be speaking at the 2009 Ypulse Mashup in San Francisco!

2009 National Tween Summit: AllyKatzz, the popular online community for tween girls, has announced that they will host the Inaugural National Tween Summit, "Can't Vote, Can Change" to be held October 2009 in Washington, D.C. No word yet whether the First Tweens, Sasha and Malia, will make an appearance! Follow AllyKatzz on Twitter!