Confessions of a Virgin Meebo User at YPulse…

Youth mobile activism? Media mashups? M-commerce? M-trends?

Heads up…I’d say keep your eyes peeled on Meebo for starters, as this live instant message platform is coming out with all kinds of new interactive integration, right down to iphone chat on the go…

Last year at the YPulse National Mashup, Virgin Mobile’s Homeless Youth Awareness caught my eye with their widgets and advocacy pairing outreach to youth with cellphone mobilization in their ReGeneration partnerships…

THIS year my YPulse experience was “less Virgin Mobile, more virgin MEEBO” as I logged into the ‘back end chatroom’ using the name “multitasking mama” to get a taste of using a real time feedback forum for presentations taking place on stage…

What is Meebo? At YPulse, the role was akin to “passing notes to someone while the teacher is talking”But Meebo is much more than that…

I was eager to jump into the YPulse Meebo chatroom to “follow the feedback” and give it a whirl, because SXSW buzz has it that Meebo “barriers to entry” are few…

It’s fun, easy, and convenient which makes it ripe for teens to jump aboard all too eagerly without any media literacy.

(As evidenced by this ALA transcript between a gamer/librarian and a ‘buddy list’ child who gave up tons of personal info in under 5 minutes to her!–Visual credit to the ALA at left)

In just a couple of years more than 30 million people have used Meebo to the tune of 5 billion messages, and in today’s San Jose Mercury News article Meebo just announced it could potentially ADD 55 million users to their live chat IM capabilities…

Yowza.

Most of these Meebo partners were on site at YPulse, yet I didn’t see this one comin’, or I would’ve tried to snag ’em for an interview to see where this is headed…

New Meebo partners include PopSugar AddictingGames, MyYearbook, (teenage social network) DanceJam, (founded by hip-hop star MC Hammer) who, btw, was awesome in his presentation, very passionate about his purpose, and creating the ‘largest dance floor on the planet’ all user-generated content in rate the video style!) and Flixster, (rate and share site for cinema)

Frankly, for all I know, this could’ve all transpired during a YPulse cookie break!

Needless to say, I’ve shifted the first of my series of many ‘mashup’ stories to Meebo as the lead…

Right now, Meebo’s not even ON most tween/teen radar yet (in terms of our own Shaping Youth advisors that I polled)…plain ol’ text messages still reign supreme there…But as CNET reports, “For teens the future is mobile”…So to me, the onslaught is comin’!

Meebo’s new cross-site online community unites their instant messaging network (AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, Google Talk, Jabber etc.) into a central source for live IM conversations with anyone, anytime, anywhere across other social networking platforms…and that’s bound to rock the youth sphere, so I’m determined to get up to speed, fast.

The LA Times blog quotes Meebo’s 29-year old CEO,

“What we are really doing is turning people’s lists of friends into an IM network,” said Sternberg…”The goal for the user is to make it so they have the most up-to-date buddy list” that spans all the places they hang out. Users can stay current on what’s happening on all the sites they like to frequent.”

Red flags?

Plenty of ’em, ads, access, anonymity. One kids’ live chat convenience of a universal instant messaging platform is another kids’ snarky one-liner sans forethought…

So it bears circumspect awareness, based on the maturity and bully pulpit potential.

Still, early adopters of Meebo swear by it for ease of use and ‘instant access to friends’ which as we all know, kids love…(hey, forewarned is forearmed!)

Meebo also offers multiple chat room opportunities, with customizable interest hubs (e.g. sports, school, homework, music, celeb fan sites, or as they say anything from ‘aardvark to Zoolander’)

Think about it…real time feedback on anything from a substitute teacher to a new band discovery? A lousy product to a hot new release? A concert performance or a football game score? You can see where I’m goin’ with this…

Buzz central…massive reach, instantly. And now with eight partner sites? Whew.

Meebo Rooms (see sample gallery at left) can be created to be public or private, with various safety levels of access/moderation…

Plus, there’s MeeboMe (an embeddable instant message window that allows you to chat with anyone on your personal homepage…sample widget here).

And though it’s an interesting way to interact with readers, (we’ll no doubt embed it once our nonprofit’s site is live) it ALSO opens that same ‘backdoor channel’ requiring more sophisticated media literacy and moderation settings…especially if it takes hold too early with young teens…Advertising is just one of the many ‘inside the chat’ issues…

Meebo’s a valuable tool, entertaining as a communication adjunct to boot…but as one with a chatty ’13 going on 30′ teen myself, it’s a huge ‘heads up’ for me…

In middle school circles, peer to peer chatting (IM, MySpace, friend of a friend, whatever) translates into “real time rawness”—After all…Kids can be both helpful and harmful in their candor…

Depends on the chat room ambience, ‘buddy filters’, safety/moderation, etc. YPulse is hardly a benchmark for kids’ usability, being a professional forum…Still, it was an important Meebo snapshot. (see left for Meebo map reach/scope/sample environs)

Even in the YPulse professional peer to peer setting, the ‘say anything’ anonymity seems to be a good indicator as to how Meebo might translate into kids’ venues where chat can shift from fun to flame in a flash…

You can log in anonymously, or with a username (mine was ‘multitasking mama’ seen here) so I experimented with it in real time to test how much the YPulse forum was moderated, redirected, or let loose to authentically share criticism and kudos. (sorry Anastasia, didn’t mean to ‘guinea pig’ your forum!)

YPulse moderators did a solid job of allowing authentic frustrations and feedback to surface sans censorship while reining in personal conversations that would light up peer to peer between just a couple of parties, reminding them it was an ‘open chat’ room and personal conversations should go offline.

They used Meebo for automatic feedback and information sharing as an engaging, helpful way that the audience could add questions, get context, clarify what’s being said on stage (or dispute it) drop in links of relevance, supplement with ‘what ifs’ and even redirect the focus by reflecting upon what’s being said on stage and how it translates to a given audience.

Beginning to see how this can translate beyond techno teens, Twitterers and YPulse savvy people into mainstream media’s trickle down to kids?

Some people used the YPulse/Meebo backroom to keep in touch with the panel while they ran out to take care of other business, others logged in as ‘lurkers’ mostly when their attention span drifted, some used it to further their own agenda, or clarify content in real time…some got sarcastic and pithy with a few snipes and ‘snores’ about presenters. (see flame-baiting, trolling, social media motivations) Point?

Like most digital developments, adoption and success depends on how the ‘user-generated content’ (UGC) is embraced/moderation is handled…

It’s always a fine line between too much freedom and ‘not enough’…with safety, settings, respect and use…

And as with most new media, parents are often the last to get a clue, yet the first to “need to know” in terms of who/what/how these new gizmos work.

As I’d hoped, this mini-Meebo session gave me a real world snapshot of the various ways kids and marketers can leverage the conversation…There’s a seesaw-like balance that can send either end of this user-driven media into catapult mode at any given time if you get off too fast or make a clunky move…

YPulse (or Meebo?) very wisely lobbed a disclaimer about midway into some sarcasm surging forth in the first keynote when the founder of Blyk was speaking. It popped up in italics,

“Meebo Message: Conversations are logged and will be publicly available on the Web. Remember to not share private or sensitive information!”

Ah…brilliant counter-strike/safeguard.

It serves to refocus conversational threads (for those of us adding superfluous addendums or drifting off topic) helps narrowcast policy to avoid minutiae (pass the gum, meet me outside, etc.) and still remains open-ended enough to share concerns and relevant criticism that doesn’t merit a full public dialogue. (i.e. seeding a different point of view)

Brava, YPulse, well done!

It’s much more ‘free form’ to say what’s on your mind if it’s not going to ‘stick’ in public record, and this maneuver alone served as an enlightening teaching tool of using transparency as a deterrent to keep folks in check at ANY age.

On the flip side, I suppose it also inhibits scathing authenticity in favor of civility, but I’d argue that’s a positive outcome. 😉

Personally, I loved using the live chat aspect of Meebo in forum style for instant feedback, but it’s not without a ‘color me conflicted’ element when it comes to youth.

What say you, readers?

How many of you have ever used Meebo chatrooms in your personal or professional web worlds?

How does Meebo ‘live web’ instant chat compare with what the new Google Lively avatar chatrooms are trying to achieve? Or does it at all? And what about portability and internet safety with these cross platform IM kids’ conversations? Teens? Librarians? Parents? Professors? Collegiate crew?

Share your best practices on internet safety with us…

What should we know before we Meebo?

Next up? Blyk, (pronounced ‘blick’) the quid pro quo of trading free cell minutes for marketing messages with teens…(blech…sorry, editorial comment)

Yah, I know, I can see why freebies appeal if served up on a finely tuned interest-driven platter, but that means mortgaging your privacy soul to give up the goods to have ’em target you to a gnat’s eyebrow. Ah, trade-offs…

More on youth mobile activism, healthy media messaging in virtual worlds, geek chic and hip-hop chess, what to watch for in cyberbullying prevention, and more…Anyone seen Dark Knight yet? Do tell…

There’s probably a Meebo group to fill in folks on first round feedback…

Related Resources:

Classroom 2.0 wiki: Digital Safety/Meebo

YALSA: (Young Adult Library Svcs. Assoc) Teachable Moments in Internet Safety/Meebo Live Chat

Meebo: New Safety Features: IM Catcher Message Organizer/AIM

Meebo Forum: Meebo Rooms Safety for Teens?

PC Magazine: Meebo Safety, Kids Watch, Net Nanny, Safe Chat/Meebo

YPulse Mashup on Meebo/(yours truly as ‘multitasking mama’)

LATimes 7-16-08: Meebo Wants to Get the Web Chatting

Nickelodeon’s Addicting Games Makes Social Network Play/Meebo

Safety Issues re: Live Chat/Cyberbullying Issues

Adina’s Deck on Shaping Youth

Totally Wired: Most Teens ‘Not Bothered’ by Cyberbullying per YPulse

NetFamily News on Shaping Youth: Connect Safely.org Forum Helpful to Stop Cyberbullying

Harris Interactive Research: Cyberbullying Shaping Youth Savvy

6 Things You Need To Know About Cyberbullying: On Teens Today

Shaping Youth on Stop Cyberbullying Group/Andy Carvin’s PBS Teachers Group

16-Year Old Tom Wood’s Complete Aussie Guide to Stop Cyberbullying

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Comments

  1. Thanks for inspiring me to take a closer look at video game ethics! I just followed up with a post on how The Karate Kid is a great way to show kids what happens when you adopt a win-at-all-costs philosophy.

    And, thanks also for the Meebo heads-up. We hadn’t discovered it yet, but it’s exactly what we’re looking for – a way to chat accross IM platforms. My daughter is going to love it, and I’m going to have to check it out first.

  2. Hi Sandra, feel exactly the same…My daughter would absolutely love it too, but probably even more for the various ‘rooms’ which I just don’t have a handle on in terms of moderation, verification, who’s who, etc…so I’m planning on pinging the ConnectSafely.org folks on this and opening up a forum topic there for queries.

    Also, I’ll check w/Izzy Neis, who is a wonderful resource on the internet safety side of online communities…back atcha soon.

    p.s. I’ll check out the Karate Kid post!

  3. p.s. Any idea why my own gravatar isn’t working here? sigh. I’m such a neophyte…

  4. Oddly enough, my gravatar IS working on Izzy’s site; how strange. Anyway, wanted to add a heads-up on this CNET article I found about Meebo’s big ‘ad play’ coming into chatrooms and/or embedding into the chat itself with what they call SparkAds…hmn.

    Check out this screenshot: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-9965883-2.html

    Still seeking more info in terms of ‘rooms’ and safety issues as well…ttyl, A.

  5. I also use Meebo somtimes and well, happy enough about it’s favorable new features with facebook and myspace. I hope that Meebo could add some more perks on it’s new tools.

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