Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Day 13 : the focus group hack the nanny-ware

Something different today. 9/10 young people turned up to the A.N. Web Workshop (I have a couple a year) and I asked them, where do you live on the internet?

Only two laughed and said they didn't live anywhere on the Internet, and, on further questioning, one of them turned out to be trying to hide his blog. A couple were on one-note joke sites like sloganizer -- which they had great fun typing my name into. Workshop leader, please leave your dignity at the door. The blogspot I mentioned, a couple of myspacers who didn't want to show off their profiles and a couple of bebo babies who did, a home-made homepage, a favourite shopping site and Tagged, the mere mention of which made the rest of the room groan.

My idea was that we'd look at the sites and assess what made them appeal to the young people, but my borrowed office environment had blocked all non-work-related sites and done their damnedest to disable the browser on the sawn-off laptop they grudgingly provided (to a background mumble which augered ill for whoever had told us having an internet connection in a meeting room would be "no problem"). While the adults are sharing site-blocking funnies (did you hear the one about the legal department having all emails about sexual harassment blocked?) the young people are on the laptop, finding a proxy site that isn't blocked. It takes them less than 30s.

Of course, the proxy site is teeming with nasty adverts and toxic pop-ups but the young people don't give it a second glance. They're here to check their messages, see if anyone has left them "love" (a Bebo thing) and count their myspace friends. Then they remember that they're not supposed to be showing us their myspace pages and we end up on mine instead. "Only 19 friends in two years? That's rubbish, that is."

As the borrowed laptop disappears under a torrent of spyware (I try to fix it, but discover I don't even have enough privileges to bookmark pages) and I haul the last young person off its twitching corpse, I feel weirdly gratified. They really are all online, just like the future promised. They're keeping in touch with friends in different towns, swapping music recommendations and providing each other with emotional support. This is madness!

.. and this is Tagged, the only unfamiliar name to come up all day. It's another video posting site, and I suspect its popularity with the group may be to do with none of the blocking programs knowing about it. Another I'm not going to join, I fear -- but then, I don't spend my life in a world where Youtube is eternally locked behind a wall of nannyware.

Californians may wish to know that Tagged is currently looking for a Director of Advertising Sales, an Online Sales Ad Executive, a Senior Software Developer and a Software Developer - Release Manager, and that if you join their team, you can expect a competitive salary, performance bonuses, generous pre-IPO stock options, full health benefits, 401(K) plan, and perks like a well-stocked kitchen, gym membership, monthly massages and various offsite activities.

I get a cheese and pickle sandwich and some terrifying jelly sweets, shuffle together my research and the new design notes, and hop the bus home. They want the site to look tasteful.

Truly, times have changed.

Verdict: I'm going to post a cat video because I can.

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