Archive for the 'young people' Category

Guy Kawasaki’s VC Aptitude Test

Even if you are not drawn to the allure of the venture capital industry, Guy Kawasaki’s aptitude test is worth reading for the amusement value. A few gems from the test:

  • Been kicked in the groin by a major, long-lasting economic downturn, so that you know how powerless you are. (add 1 point)

  • Worked at a failed startup, so that you understand three things: first, how hard it is to achieve success; second, that the world doesn’t owe you a thing; and third, what it’s like to be fired or laid off. (add 3 points)

  • What is your background? Management consulting (subtract 5 points)

The MySpace Migration aka The Death of MySpace?

The Washington Post claims that “In Teens’ Web World, MySpace Is So Last Year.”

“I think it’s definitely going down — a lot of my friends have deleted their MySpaces and are more into Facebook now,” said Birnbaum, a junior who spends more time on her Facebook profile, where she messages and shares photos with other students in her network.

From the other side of the classroom, E.J. Kim chimes in that in the past three months, she’s gone from slaving over her MySpace profile up to four hours a day — decorating it, posting notes and pictures to her friends’ pages — to deleting the whole thing.

“I’ve grown out of it,” Kim said. “I thought it was kind of pointless.”

Such is the social life of teens on the Internet: Powerful but fickle. Within several months’ time, a site can garner tens of millions of users who, just as quickly, might flock to the next place, making it hard for corporate America to make lasting investments in whatever’s hot now.

The high school English class cites several reasons for backing off of MySpace: Creepy people proposition them. Teachers and parents monitor them. New, more alluring free services comes along, so they collectively jump ship. (Quote from The Washington Post)

I can attest to the creepiness. I have received “friend” requests from all sorts of creepy people to the point where I cringe when getting ready to look at a request to see whether I know the person in real life, and I do not spend much time on the site. Younger girls may be even less equipped to handle these situations, and by spending more time on the site, they probably see many more of these requests than I do.

With all of the press around MySpace drawing parents, teachers, and prospective employers to view MySpace pages, young people must feel like they are under a microscope instead of hanging out with friends in a casual environment. As a teen, this might drive me to switch to another social networking site.

It will be interesting to see if Facebook continues to grow to become the dominant social networking site for teens / college students. It will also be interesting to see if Facebook users entering the professional workforce after college continue to use it or whether they migrate to another social networking site or give up the idea of social networking entirely (doubtful).

Teens have always been a fickle crowd. What is hot one day becomes uncool the next. Cynthia Brumfield compares the switching behavior of teens in social networking to television shows:

This meteroic rise and ultimate dwindling puts me in mind of hit TV shows. At their best, hot TV shows can dominate the cultural consciousness, generating huge (although that’s a relative term given the increasingly fractionalized) audiences and scads of ad revenue. If it weren’t for the artificially (i.e. regulation-induced) complex nature of the TV programming marketplace, with most producer profits earned in the back-end during syndication, a hit TV show that soars and then fizzles (remember “Twin Peaks”) could be a very profitable enterprise. In other words, a TV show that becomes a hit but doesn’t stay a hit could make lots of money.

Moreover, hit TV shows can become the springboard for more money-making ventures, even when they fade (“Cheers” spawned “Frasier”). The trick for any given TV production company is to keep the creativity and business ingenuity going, and not rest on past successes.

The same thing holds true for hot web properties such as MySpace. MySpace is bound to fade—the Internet is a very contestable market, as economists say, and rivals can step in at any time, particularly for something as technically simple as social networking. But there’s little doubt that News Corp. has a chance to make money with MySpace while it’s still popular and the company is doing everything it can to exploit MySpace while it’s still warm.

The trick for News Corp., or Google, which just paid $1.65 billion for YouTube (another site highly vulnerable to competition) or any other entertainment business on the Internet is figuring out where they go from here. They can’t just sit back and expect to rake in the dough, hoping that their hit sites stay hot. They have to move forward and leverage their hits to create the next big thing. (Quote from Cynthia Brumfield on the IP Democracy blog)

This could be a sign that MySpace is fading into oblivion; however, I am not ready to predict the death of MySpace yet. Despite the migration of some teens to other sites, MySpace still has quite a bit of momentum. I expect that MySpace can continue to ride this momentum for a while before heading into a death spiral. It is also conceivable that News Corp could find a different, and profitable, niche for MySpace around music, other age groups, or some other aspect of social networking.

Are MySpace Users Getting Old?

According to the latest comScore report, over half of MySpace users are the in 35 and older age range.

“The most significant shift has occurred among teens 12-17, who accounted for 24.7 percent of the MySpace audience in August 2005, but today represent a much lower 11.9 percent of the site’s total audience. Conversely, Internet users between the ages of 35-54 now account for 40.6 percent of the MySpace visitor base, an 8.2 percentage point increase during the past year.” (Quote from comScore)

According to Liz Gannes at GigaOm, they called “Fox Interactive spokesperson Ann Burkart to ask if comScore is off the deep end on this one, and she said the numbers are actually totally accurate with what MySpace is seeing internally.”

Because the press release only has percentages, it is really hard to tell what drives these numbers. Keep in mind that the report also shows a dramatic decrease in MySpace users in the 12-17 age range making it difficult to tell how fast the over 35 age range is really growing. Increasing as a “percentage” relative to other age ranges can also be caused by dramatic decreases in another group.

Assuming that the over 35 crowd is driven by real growth, I have a number of ideas about what could cause this growth.

  • 99 year olds: MySpace has a large number of 99 year old participants, which typically fall into a couple of camps: the “too young to be allowed” group and the “old enough not admit a real age group”.

  • Parents: With the recent press coverage over the past year focused on the dark side of MySpace (exploitation, sexual predators, etc.), I know quite a few parents of teenagers who use MySpace to better understand it and to keep an eye on their teenagers who use the site. Most parents of teenagers would fit into the 35-54 age range.

  • Bloggers, Techies, and Journalists: I am 35, and I have a MySpace page. I created it as a way to better understand social networking for the purpose of blogging and other writing, but I have found that it helps me keep in touch with a few of my younger friends.

  • Perverts: I assume there are also a few wackos in the over 35 age group that join for less than honorable reasons.

It would be great if some ambitious social networking researcher could do an in depth study to figure out what exactly is driving this change in the MySpace demographics.

MySpace is #1 … on the Worst Web Sites List

PC World just rated the 25 worst web sites with several classic oldies, like BonziBuddy, Rentmychest.com, and The Dancing Baby, making the list along with several modern sites including Hotmail and Microsoft Windows Update.

I was a bit surprised to see MySpace at the top of the list, but the MySpace site has its share of problems. I previously blogged about how MySpace could make better use of web 2.0 technologies and better leverage the MySpace community to improve their online help functions, but PC World has some different concerns.

PC World had several concerns about MySpace. First, the use of MySpace by online predators fuels politicians who can leverage parental fears about the Internet to win votes and promote other actions that impact our use of the Internet (net neutrality, VoIP wiretapping, etc.) Second, PC World suggests that many MySpace pages “look like a teenager’s bedroom after a tornado–a swirl of clashing backgrounds, boxes stacked inside other boxes, massive photos, and sonic disturbance” in addition to hogging your CPU and being a haven for spyware. Third, MySpace could take more actions to protect minors.

I’m not sure that these are really fair concerns. First, if the politicians didn’t have MySpace to fuel parental concerns to get more votes, there are plenty of other sites they could use as the poster child for why they should regulate more of the Internet. Second, of course it looks like a teenager’s bedroom. These are teenagers, and MySpace is the online equivalent of their bedroom. It is their online haven complete with the typical mess and hazards akin to finding a slice of leftover pizza forgotten under the bed. The best that parents can do to alleviate their fears with online (and offline) concerns is to educate their children and give them the guidance and support to help them make the right decisions.

PC World wraps up their analysis with this:


“Is MySpace totally bad? Not at all. Are we old farts? Yeah, probably. But the Web’s most popular site needs a serious security reboot. And probably a makeover. Until then, MySpace won’t ever be OurSpace.” (Quote from PC World)

As an ancient MySpace user (at the age of 35), my page looks clean and tidy (like my house), and yes, I get annoyed by the busy pages that you can barely read due to clashing backgrounds combined with poor text color choices playing music I would never choose to listen to while taking forever to load. However, I know that teenagers will be teenagers, and this is their space, too.

The Younger Generation and an Evolving Technological Culture

I am sitting in the Portland airport on the way to Foo Camp, and I just watched the guy sitting across from me with his laptop (maybe mid-forties) call his 10-12 year old son over to help him connect to the free wireless network. Kids today grew up with high speed and wireless technologies and have never lived in the pre-Internet age or even the dial-up era. This is a key reason for the success of sites like MySpace where these kids can interact in an online environment that is just as natural to them as interacting in the physical world.

The airport is also an interesting study in how people interact with technology. I am watching an older man peck at his Apple laptop keyboard with two fingers while simultaneously completing a newspaper crossword puzzle. Is this the ultimate in multi-tasking or is he cheating?

Gadgets are everywhere at the airport … laptops, cell phones, iPods, BlackBerries, cameras, and more. Even ten years ago, people reading books, magazines, and newspapers would have greatly outnumbered those using gadgets to pass the time. It is interesting to look around and observe how our culture is evolving toward technology-related pursuits over their low-tech counterparts. The airport seems to be an interesting location for this reflection.

Either I am particularly reflective today, or I just got to the airport WAY too early and have too much time on my hands (grin).