Physical, Digital, Categories, Tags, Experts… [en]

[fr] Le numérique révolutionne la façon dont nous organisons l'information. "Une place pour chaque chose, et chaque chose à sa place" vaut pour les objects physiques. Cette excellente petite vidéo démontre ces changements. C'est en anglais, mais il n'y a rien à écouter (sauf de la musique) -- il suffit de lire.

If you’re still a bit in a fuzz about how exactly the internet is revolutionizing the way we store and retrieve information, this great little video should help. It’s pretty fast-paced (watch it twice if necessary) and the music is very nice.

Thanks to [Euan Semple]( for pointing it out.

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A Book on Teenagers and the Internet [en]

[fr] Malgré l'excellent travail de danah boyd et le livre d'Anastasia Goodstein ("Totally Wired"), je pense que mon projet de livre sur les adolescents et internet tient encore la route. Une petite argumentation à ce sujet.

*// After complaining for weeks that I wasn’t making any progress in writing my [book]( proposal in preparation for the [Frankfurt Book Fair]( I’m leaving for tomorrow, I finally started writing on the journey back home from London. Here’s some stuff in English. Your comments and suggestions are welcome, as always.*

I know of a couple of people in the English-speaking world who are doing great work on teenagers and the internet. One of them is [danah boyd]( She has traveled all over the US and interviewed dozens of teens for her PHD. Another is [Anastasia Goodstein](, who has written the excellent book “[Totally Wired](”, aimed at parents of today’s connected teenagers.

While reading “Totally Wired”, I have to admit I started rethinking my book project. I took the decision to write “The Book” because I noticed a huge void in the French-speaking world. No danah or Anastasia that I know of. Parents and educators need a sane book in French on teenagers and the internet, written by somebody who actually knows and understand the online world. Why not simply translate Anastasia’s book?

I’ve thought about it. For personal reasons, I do want to write a book, and this seems a good and useful subject for one. But is my personal desire to be a published author getting in the way of doing what makes most sense, and putting my energy where it will really be useful? I see two reasons for which this is not the case:

1. Anastasia’s book is US-centric. Although I believe that “internet culture” does not change radically from one part of the world to another, there are differences between the US and French-speaking Europe that need to be taken into account. I could provide this “European perspective”.

2. As a friend of mine told me, “this is important enough that we need more than one good book on the topic”. I can’t, of course, guarantee that my book will be “good”, but I promise that I’ll do my best. 😉

Parents and educators of Francophonia need a guide to their teenagers’ internet. And beyond that, we need to understand the impact all these technological spaces are having on the way we build relationships and relate to each other.

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Ethics and Privacy in the Digital Age [en]

[fr] Même si tout le contenu numérique que nous produisons court le risque de se retrouver un jour sur l'internet public, cela ne veut pas dire pour autant qu'il est acceptable de rendre public des informations qui ne le sont pas.

En l'occurrence, les réseaux sociaux comme Facebook permettent uniquement aux amis ou contacts d'un utilisateur d'avoir accès à leur profil. On n'y pense souvent pas, mais de plus en plus, ce qu'on peut voir sur le web dépend de qui nous sommes, et des relations (enregistrées) que l'on entretient avec d'autres utilisateurs.

Il convient donc d'être vigilant, sous peine de commettre des erreurs diplomatiques. Un ami à moi a ainsi rendu public aux 10'000 lecteurs d'IBcom une partie de mon profil Facebook, en illustration d'un article qu'il a écrit. Pas de gros désastre heureusement, mais s'il m'avait demandé, j'aurais tout de même fait un peu le ménage avant qu'il fasse sa saisie d'écran.

Over the last year, I’ve repeatedly asked for finer privacy control in the social tools I’m using (see [here](, [here](, [here](, [here]( and [here](

To summarize, tools need to let users add **structure** to their social networks, which in turn will allow privacy management of data made available in or through the tool: “let people I tagged X see everything, let people I tagged Y see this and that, and let people I tagged Z see everything apart from that.”

If you think of how relationships and social networks function offline, this makes perfect sense: some people are part of your friends circle, some people are close friends, some people are co-workers, some people are acquaintances, others are business contacts, judo pals, people you meet up with to play cards. And you don’t say the same things about yourself to all those people.

Your “social network” is not homogeneous. It’s a collection of little sub-communities (which can be as small as one person), with fuzzy edges, overlapping, ever-changing. Why on earth an online social network should place all the people I’m connected to on one level (or even two, or three levels) is beyond me.

Were getting there (but way too slowly). [Pownce]( and [Viddler]( allow you to tag your contacts and use those tags to control privacy (though with interface issues). [Facebook](, [Flickr](, and probably various others don’t allow you to tag your contacts, but do provide a few (insufficient) levels of privacy. [Twitter]( lets you choose if you want to protect your updates.

What I’m getting to is that in today’s web of social tools, what you get to see is more and more personalized. And **the information you can access about other people is often the result of your relationship to those people**, and what they decided to give you access to. **Just like in offline relationships.** This means that you, as the person with access to the data, **have an ethical responsibility towards the person who made some of his/her personal information available to you**.

**Because you have access to it, does that mean you have the right to publish it in a more public space? Well, I’d say the answer is most obviously “no”. By doing that, you’re betraying the trust of the person who made the data available to you.**

Now, of course, I’m the first to say that [you cannot control digital stuff you create]( and should be aware that you run the risk of seeing your private digital data ending up on the public internet at some point. “Even if it’s in a private setting, anybody can copy it and make it public.” Sure. But that doesn’t mean it’s *right* to do so.

So, why am I writing this? Somebody just brought to my attention that [IB com]( published an article about Facebook in their latest issue. And **to illustrate that article, a screenshot of my Facebook profile was used**. The article was written by a friend of mine (“friendly-business-acquaintance” friend), who obviously had access to my “friends only” Facebook profile.

He didn’t ask me if it was OK to publish my Facebook profile in print. If he had, I might have said “no”, but I might also have simply sanitized my profile so that he could take a screenshot I would have felt comfortable showing to the public.

He didn’t realize that by publishing my Facebook profile or showing it to others outside my friends’ circle, he is making information I would like to keep somewhat private available to people I would not necessarily choose to give it to. In this case, it’s not disastrous, because I *am* pretty conservative about what I put online, even on my Facebook profile (and I’m more transparent then most, so there aren’t *many* things I keep private). But there are at times things there I would rather keep for people I know — not the 10’000 readers of IBcom.

Just like most bloggers do not consider everything said in a conversation over a glass of beer “fair game” for blogging (when in doubt, ask, unless you’re ready to jeopardize your relationships over this kind of stuff), not everything you access in social networks is fair game for publication.

As social networks get smarter about privacy, I think we’re going to bump into this kind of problem more. For the moment, it’s up to each of us to be vigilant about what we take of others’ content and make available elsewhere. And maybe we need tools that can help us keep track of privacy settings better, and warn us when we’re about to make such a “faux pas”.

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Informations et prévention: adolescents et internet [fr]

[en] An overview of the different talks and trainings I can do regarding teenagers on the internet. I can do them in English too, but most of my clients here are French-speaking. If you'd like more information about this in English, please leave a comment or drop me a line.

Alors qu’un ami me raconte un épisode désastreux de conférence consacrée aux “dangers d’internet”, je me dis qu’il est temps que je récrive à la directrice d'[Action Innocence](, avec qui j’ai eu une discussion tout à fait sympathique et intéressante il y a quelques semaines.

“Déçue en bien”, comme on dit par ici. Si [nos avis]( [divergent]( quant au risque réel que courent les enfants et adolescents d’être victimes de pédophiles à cause de leurs activités en ligne (chat, diffusions d’informations personnelles) nous sommes assez sur la même longueur d’onde pour le reste, ce qui me réjouit, vu l’important travail de prévention que fait Action Innocence dans les écoles de la région. (Après, on peut discuter des détails. Je n’aime personnellement pas trop leur matériel, par exemple, que je trouve alarmiste, mais dans le fond, on cherche la même chose: informer et prévenir sans diaboliser internet.)

Le mail que j’ai envoyé contient des informations sur le travail que j’accomplis dans le domaine “adolescents et internet”. Comme c’est une assez bonne synthèse et que [mon site professionnel]( n’est plus trop à jour (quand je dis que [la meilleure formule de site professionnel c’est le blog](, je ne rigole pas!), je vais reproduire-adapter tout ça ici.

Donc, voici quelques informations sur les services que je fournis dans le contexte “éducatif” ou “adolescents et internet”, et mes tarifs. Je suis toujours ouverte à d’autres propositions — je n’ai pas de “liste de prestations” fixe dont je ne dévie pas.

#### Conférences

Généralement dans des écoles/associations. Approche information-prévention. Contenu adapté aux besoins du client (général, accent sur les blogs, accent sur le chat, la permanence des contenus numériques), et même si nécessaire en réaction spécifique à des “problèmes” concrets qui ont été rencontrés.

**Parents**: visite guidée de l’internet social, discussion des risques et difficultés rencontrés par les ados en ligne (environ 1h30)

**Enseignants, Educateurs**: présentation des différents outils de l’internet social, utilisation par les adolescents (+risques), ouvertures pédagogiques (45-90 minutes)

**Adolescents, Elèves (dès la 5ème)**: adapté à la tranche d’âge, en groupes de 2-3 classes max. (environ 50 élèves), sensibilisation aux différents enjeux d’une présence active en ligne, prévention contre les risques qu’ils peuvent y rencontrer (45-75 minutes)

#### Formations

Diverses formations sont possibles, contenu précis à négocier au cas par cas. Exemples:

– formation plus spécifique de responsables informatique, médiateurs, animateurs santé aux enjeux liés à la socialisation sur internet
– formation d’intervenants “prévention/information” (générale ou spécifique, théorique ou pratique)
– comprendre les mondes virtuels (Second Life) et les dynamiques relationnelles dans les relations “online”
– technique: ouvrir un blog et l’alimenter
– applications pédagogiques du blog, du wiki, et des outils associés
– accompagnement lors de projets pédagogiques utilisant internet

#### Tarifs

Mes tarifs évoluent, mais au jour d’aujourd’hui, ils sont les suivants pour les écoles et autres clients “éducatifs-non-lucratifs”: dès CHF 500 par demi-journée, minimum une demi-journée (+ frais).

Par exemple, si je viens à midi, que je fais deux conférences pour des élèves l’après-midi, et une pour les parents le soir, on arrive à deux demi-journées = CHF 1000

Une conférence isolée compte comme demi-journée, donc CHF 500. Mais si je fais une conférence + une réunion dans la même demi-journée, c’est le même prix.

Pour les mandats plus complexes ou longs (formation, accompagnement de projet), les tarifs sont à discuter et fixer pour le mandat dans sa globalité.

#### A mon propos

– une [collection de “bios”]( si jamais c’est nécessaire
– [mes coordonnées](
– [page d’infos “conférences”]( (a besoin d’une mise à jour, mais ça donne une idée)
– le [matériel “thème internet”]( rédigé pour
– la liste (d’une longueur effrayante) de [mes interventions dans la presse]( (pas toutes au sujet des ados et internet)

J’approche internet comme une culture étrangère avec laquelle il faut se familiariser, afin de la connaître et de la comprendre. Je suis immergée dans cette culture depuis maintenant bientôt dix ans, et je la comprends en profondeur aussi bien de l’intérieur que de l’extérieur, avec le recul que me donne ma formation universitaire en sciences humaines.

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We Need Structured Portable Social Networks (SPSN) [en]

[fr] Nous avons besoin de réseaux sociaux que l'on peut importer/exporter d'un outil/service à l'autre. Nous avons également besoin de pouvoir structurer ces réseaux sociaux qui contiennent souvent un nombre important de personnes. Nous avons besoin de réseaux sociaux portables structurés.

Christophe Ducamp s'est lancé dans une traduction de cet article. Allez donner un coup de main ou bien en profiter, selon vos compétences! Je n'ai pas lu cette traduction, mais je suis certaine qu'elle est utile. Merci Christophe!

Scrolling through my “trash” e-mail address to report spam, I spotted (quite by chance, I have to say) a nice e-mail from Barney, who works at [Lijit]( Barney asked me if I had any feedback, [which I’ll give in my next post](, because I need to digress a bit here.

Lijit is a really fun and smart search tool which allows to [search through a person’s complete online presence]( “See mine.”), a remedy, in a way, to the increasing [fragmentation of online identity]( that’s bothering me so much these days. Actually, it was already bothering me quite a few months ago, when I wrote [Please Make Holes in My Buckets](

>So, here’s a hole in the buckets that I really like: I’ve seen this in many services, but the first time I saw it was on Myspace. “Let us peek in your GMail contacts, and we’ll tell you who already has an account — and let you invite the others.” When I saw that, it scared me (”OMG! Myspace sticking its nose in my e-mail!”) but I also found it really exciting. Now, it would be even better if I could say “import friends and family from Flickr” or “let me choose amongst my IM buddies”, but it’s a good start. Yes, there’s a danger: no, I don’t want to spam invitations to your service to the 450 unknown adresses you found in my contacts, thankyouverymuch. Plaxo is a way to do this (I’ve seen it criticised but I can’t precisely remember why). Facebook does it, which means that within 2 minutes you can already have friends in the network. Twitter doesn’t, which means you have to painstakingly go through your friends of friends lists to get started. I think coComment and any “friend-powered” service should allow us to import contacts like that by now. And yes, sure, privacy issues.

One thing the 2.0 world needs urgently is a way to abstract (to some extent) the social network users create for themselves from the particular *service* it is linked to. **We need portable social networks.** More than that, actually, we need **structured portable social networks** (SPSNs). I’ve already written that being able to give one’s “contact list” a structure (through “contact groups” or “buddy groups”) is vital if we want to manage privacy efficiently (in my horrendously long but — from my point of view of course — really important post “[Groups, Groupings, and Taming My Buddy List. And Twitter.](”):

> I personally think that it is also the key to managing many privacy issues intelligently. How do I organise the people in my world? Well, of course, it’s fuzzy, shifting, changing. But if I look at my IM buddy list, I might notice that I have classified the people on it to some point: I might have “close friends”, “co-workers”, “blog friends”, “offline friends”, “IRC friends”, “girlfriends”, “ex-clients”, “boring stalkers”, “other people”, “tech support”… I might not want to make public which groups my buddies belong to, or worse, let them know (especially if I’ve put them in “boring stalkers” or “tech support” and suspect that they might have placed me in “best friends” or “love interests”… yes, human relationships can be complicated…)

> Flickr offers a half-baked version of this. […]

> A more useful way to let a user organise his contacts is simply to let him tag them. Xing does that. Unfortunately, it does not allow one to do much with the contact groups thus defined, besides displaying contacts by tag […].

In fact, we need structured social networks not only to deal with privacy issues, but also (and it’s related, if you think of it) to deal with social network fatigue that seems to be hitting many of us. I actually have been holding off writing a rather detailed post in response to [danah](’s post explaining that [Facebook is loosing its context for her]( — something that, in my words, I would describe as “Facebook is becoming impossible to manage in a way that makes sense with my life and relationships.” Here’s what she says:

> Le sigh. I lost control over my Facebook tonight. Or rather, the context got destroyed. For months, I’ve been ignoring most friend requests. Tonight, I gave up and accepted most of them. I have been facing the precise dilemma that I write about in my articles: what constitutes a “friend”? Where’s the line? For Facebook, I had been only accepting friend requests from people that I went to school with and folks who have socialized at my house. But what about people that I enjoy talking with at conferences? What about people who so kindly read and comment on this blog? What about people I respect? What about people who appreciate my research but whom I have not yet met? I started feeling guilty as people poked me and emailed me to ask why I hadn’t accepted their friend request. My personal boundaries didn’t matter – my act of ignorance was deemed rude by those that didn’t share my social expectations.

danah boyd, loss of context for me on Facebook

I think that what danah is expressing here is one possible explanation to why people are first really excited about new social networking sites/services/tools/whatevers (YASNs) and then abandon them: at one point, or “contact list” becomes unmanageable. At the beginning, not everybody is on the YASN: just us geeky early adopters — and at the beginning, just a few of us. We have a dozen contacts or so. Then it grows: 30, 50, 60… We’re highly connected people. Like danah, many of us are somewhat public figures. From “friends of our heart”, we start getting requests from **people who are part of our network but don’t fit in *segment* we want to reserve this YASN to**. We start refusing requests, and then give in, and then a lot of the value the YASN could have for us is lost.

Unless YASNs offer us an easy way to structure our social network, this is going to happen over and over and over again. For the moment, [Pownce]( and [Viddler]( allow me to structure my social network. A lot of work still needs to be done in the interface department for this kind of feature. (Yes, [Twitter](, I’m looking at you. You said “soon”.)

So, to summarize, we need **tools and services** which make our **social networks**

– **portable**: so that we can import and export our relationships to other people from one service to another
– **structured**: so that we can manage the huge number of relationships, of varying and very personal degrees of intimacy, that highly connected online people have.

**Update, an hour or so later:** [Kevin Marks]( points me to [social network portability]( on the microformats wiki. Yeah, should have done my homework, but remember, this post started out as a quick reply to an e-mail. Anyway, this is good. There is hope.

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Parents, Teenagers, Internet, Predators, Fear… [en]

[fr] Conseils aux parents (après mon interview à la BBC ce soir au sujet des "sex offenders" bannis de MySpace):

  • pas de panique, les prédateurs sexuels tels que nous les présentent les médias ne sont pas légion, votre enfant ne court pas des risques immodérés en étant sur internet;
  • dialoguez avec votre enfant; intéressez-vous à ce qu'il fait en ligne;
  • souvenez-vous que fournir des informations personnelles n'est pas un très grand risque; par contre, s'engager dans des relations de séduction avec des inconnus ou des amis adultes en ligne l'est.

J'ai écrit relativement peu en anglais à ce sujet jusqu'à maintenant. En français, lisez Adolescents, MySpace, internet: citations de danah boyd et Henry Jenkins, De la “prévention internet”, les billets en rapport avec mon projet de livre sur les adolescents et internet, et la documentation à l'attention des ados que j'ai rédigée pour

**Update:** [radio stream is up]( and will be so until next Wednesday. MySpace piece starts at 29:30, and I start talking shortly after 34:00. Use the right-facing arrow at the top of the player to move forwards. Sorry you can’t go backwards.

I was just interviewed by [BBC World Have Your Say]( (radio, links will come) about the [MySpace banning sex offenders]( story. (They didn’t find me, though, I sent them a note pointing to my blog post through the form on their site.) Here’s a bit of follow-up information for people who might just have arrived here around this issue.

First, I’m often asked what advice I give to parents regarding the safety of their children online (the BBC asked this question but I didn’t get to answer). So here’s my basic advice, and a few things to keep in mind:

– don’t panic — the media make the whole online sexual predator issue sound much worse than it is; (they might even be more at risk offline than online if they’re “normal” kids who do not generally engage in risky behaviour, given that most perpetrators of sex crimes against minors are family members or ‘known people’)
– **talk** with your kids about what they do online; **dialog is essential, as in many educational situations;** show interest, it’s part of their lives, and it might be an important one; start early, by introducing them to the internet yourself, rather than letting them loose on it to fend for themselves from day one;
– keep in mind that sharing personal information is not the greater risk: engaging in talk of a sexual nature with strangers/adult friends is, however <insert something about proper sexual education here>;

I regularly give talks in schools, and I speak to students, teachers, and parents — all three if possible, but not at the same time, because the message is not the same, of course. When I talk to parents, I see a lot of very scared/concerned parents who understand very little about the *living internet* their kids spend so much time in. But they read the mainstream media, and they’ve heard how the internet is this horrible place teeming with sexual predators, lurking in chatrooms and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, on the look-out for their next victim.

I may be dramatizing a little, but this is basically the state of mind I find parents in. I’ll jump on this occasion to introduce a piece by [Anastasia Goodstein]( [Dangers Overblown for Teens Using Social Media]( I’m quite ashamed to say I only discovered Anastasia and her work about a month ago — we seem to cover similar ground, and I’m really impressed by what I see of her online (for example, she’s actually [published a book about teens online]( whereas I’m stuck-stalled in the process of trying to get started writing mine — in French). She also [reacted to the MySpace Sex Offender Saga](

Anyway, my job when I’m talking to parents is usually:

– **play “tourist guide”** to introduce them to this strange internet culture (my background in Indian culture clearly helps me manage the cross-cultural internet/offline dialogue) — I encourage them to try chatting (find a friend who chats and can help you sign up to MSN to chat with her/him) and blogging (head off to []( and write about random stuff you’re interested in for a couple of months)
– **de-dramatize** the whole “internet predator” thing so they’re not as tense when it comes to having their kids online, or being online themselves, and put forward the positive aspects of having an online life too.

What am I concerned about, when it comes to teens online? A bunch of things, but not really sick old men in raincoats posing as little girls in chatrooms or MySpace profiles.

– their blissful unawareness of how permanent digital media is; photos, videos, text etc. are all out of your control once they’ve left your hands; easy to multiply and distribute, they could very well be there for ever; they also don’t realize that all their digital interactions (particularly webcam stuff) is recordable, and that nothing is *really* private;
– their perception of the online world as “uncharted territories” where all is allowed, where there are no rules, no laws, no adult presence; for that, I blame adults who do not accompany their young children online at first, who do not show any interest in what’s going on online for their kids, and who do not *go online* to be there too; teens need adult presence online to help them learn to become responsible internet citizens, just as they do offline; our fear of predators is resulting in teenager-only spaces which I’m not sure are really that great;
– their certainty that one can evade rules/law/morals by being anonymous online and hiding; we’ve told them so much to stay hidden (from predators), and that one can be anonymous online (like predators) that they think they can hide (from parents, guardians, teachers);
– their idea that what is online is up for grabs (I’m not going to stand up against what the record companies call “piracy” — that’s for another blog post — but I do feel very strongly about crediting people for their work, and respecting terms individuals or small businesses set for their work).

There are other things which are important, but discussed so little, because “online predators” is such a scary issue that it makes everything else seem unimportant: the “chat effect” (why is it easy to “fall in love over chat”?), findability of online stuff (yeah, by parents, teachers, future bosses), what to say and what not to say online (“what am I comfortable with?”), gaming environments like WoW…

One thing we need to remember is that kids/teens are not passive victims. Some teens are actively seeking certain types of relationships online, and when they do, chances are they’ll find them (proof the “catch a predator” operations in which “normal people” or policemen pose as lusty/consenting teens to trap dirty predators… sure it works, but most teens aren’t like that!)

I remember getting in touch with a kid who had an account on Xanga. He had lifted some HTML code from my site, and visits to his page were showing up in my stats. I asked him to remove it (“hey, lifting code like that isn’t cool!”) and he didn’t react. I found his ICQ number and messaged him, and he was outright obnoxious. A few days later, he started messaging me vulgar messages out of the blue (“I want to f*** you, b****!”). We finally trapped him, a friend of mine posing as a Xanga official who scared him a bit so he’d remove the code from his site, and who actually had a long, long talk with him. He was 9 years old.

If you came here via the BBC, leave a comment to let me know what you think about these issues, or what your experience is!

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MySpace Banning Sex Offenders: Online Predator Paranoia [en]

**Update:** If you’re a parent looking for advice, you’ll probably find [my next post]( more interesting.

[MySpace has removed profiles of 29’000 registered sex offenders]( from their site.

> In a statement, MySpace said: “We’re pleased that we’ve successfully identified and removed registered sex offenders from our site and hope that other social networking sites follow our lead.”

BBC News, MySpace bars 29,000 sex offenders, July 2007

Sounds like a good move, doesn’t it?

Maybe not so.

First, what is a sex offender? A sex offender is somebody on the state registry of people who have been convicted of sex crimes. A sex offender is not necessarily a pedophile. And in some states… a sex offender might not have done anything really offensive.

Listen to [Regina Lynn](, author of the popular [Wired column Sex Drive]( and the book [The Sexual Revolution 2.0](

> Lately I’ve been wondering if I’ll end up on the sex offender registry. Not because I have any intention of harming anyone, but because it has recently come to my attention that in a flurry of joie de vivre I might have broken a sex law.

> You see, I keep hearing these stories of mild infractions that led to listing on the sex-offender registry alongside child molesters, rapists and abusive spouses. There’s the girl who bared her ass out a bus window in college and pled guilty to indecent exposure — and then couldn’t become an elementary school teacher because of her sex offense. Then there’s the guy who peed on a bush in a park and was convicted of public lewdness, a sex offender because he couldn’t find a bathroom.

> […]

> But sometimes I do skirt the edge of the law when it comes to sex. And if you’ve ever ducked into the bushes for a little al fresco fondling, so have you.

> Unfortunately, even in California, it’s not technically legal to make discreet love in public spaces, even in your truck, even if it has a camper shell with dark windows and Liberator furniture, even if no one can see you without pressing his nose to the glass or hoisting her children up over her head.

> And if a passerby does intrude on your personal moment, it’s no longer a matter of “OK kids, pack it up and get out of here.” A witness’s cell-phone video could be on the internet within five minutes. A busybody might even feel justified in calling the police.

> “If someone saw something that offended them and they wanted to sign a citizen’s arrest, the officer is obliged to take the citizen’s arrest,” says Inspector Poelstra of the Sexual Offender Unit of the San Francisco Police Department, who spoke with me by phone.

Regina Lynn, Could You End Up on a Sex Offender Registry?, April 2007

[Critics of Megan’s Law](’s_Law#Criticism), which requires convicted sex offenders to register with the state, have also put forward that the registries include people it would be rather far-fetched to consider a threat to our children’s safety.

> But the laws have unexpected implications. Consider California, whose 1996 Megan’s Law requires creating a CD-ROM database of convicted sex offenders, available to the public. (The state has had a registry of sex offenders since 1944.) The Los Angeles Times reports that this new database is turning up many ancient cases of men arrested for consensual gay sex in public or semi-public places, some of them youthful experiments of men who went on to long married lives. One man, arrested in 1944 for touching the knee of another man in a parked car, was surprised when his wife collected the mail containing an envelope, stamped “sex crime” in red ink, telling him he needed to register as a sex offender. Many of these men are going through humiliating confrontations with long-forgotten aspects of their past, and complicated and expensive legal maneuverings to get themselves off the list. “It’s a real concern,” says Suzanne Goldberg of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, which works on legal issues involving gays. “These laws have the potential to sweep in more people than they should. Laws requiring registration of people engaging in consensual sex are far beyond the pale. Those requirements can have devastating effects on people’s lives.”

Brian Doherty, Megan’s Flaws?, June 1997

These concerns about indiscriminate lumping together of “sex offenders” in the light of the online predator paranoia were already raised in January when MySpace handed over a database containing information about sex offenders to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, on [Violet Blue::Open Source Sex]( and [Sex Drive Daily]( *(As an aside, I now find myself wondering if this post is going to get me blacklisted by internet security filters left and right… How ironic that would be.)*

> These are state registries, and depending on the state you’re in, you’re a “sex offender” under Megan’s Law if you get caught urinating in public, mooning, skinny dipping, or if you get busted having consensual sex in public. Think of how lopsided these charges must be in homophobic states. Also, it’s a lesson in what sites like MySpace can and will do with personal information. I’m definitely an advocate for speeding up natural selection when it comes to rapists and pedophiles, but I worry about what could happen to individuals and personal privacy when a questionably informed company casts a wide net, and turns it over to anyone who asks.

Violet Blue, MySpace and the Sex Offenders, Jan. 2007

In addition to that, we need to totally rethink the views we have on how sexual predators act online. The old pervert lurking in chatrooms is more a media construct and a product of [the culture of fear]( we live in than a reality our kids are likely to bump into, [as I said recently in an interview on BBC News]( “Watch the short video.”). Remember kids are way more likely to be abused by a person they know (family, friends) than by a random stranger. I’ll assume you don’t have the time to read through [the whole 34-page transcript]( of the [panel danah boyd participated in]( a few months ago, so here are the most significant excerpt about this issue (yes, I’m excerpting a lot in this post, but this is an important issue and I know people read better if they don’t need to click away). Here is what Dr. David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against
Children Research Center and the codirector of the Family Research
Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, has to say:

> Now, on the case of internet sex crimes against kids, I’m concerned
that we’re already off to a bad start here. The public and the
professional impression about what’s going on in these kinds of
crimes is not in sync with the reality, at least so far as we can
ascertain it on the basis of research that we’ve done. And this
research has really been based on some large national studies of
cases coming to the attention of law enforcement as well as to large
national surveys of youth.

> If you think about what the public impression is about this crime,
it’s really that we have these internet pedophiles who’ve moved
from the playground into your living room through the internet
connection, who are targeting young children by pretending to be
other children who are lying about their ages and their identities and
their motives, who are tricking kids into disclosing personal
information about themselves or harvesting that information from
blogs or websites or social networking sites. Then armed with this
information, these criminals stalk children. They abduct them.
They rape them, or even worse.

>But actually, the research in the cases that we’ve gleaned from
actual law enforcement files, for example, suggests a different
reality for these crimes. So first fact is that the predominant online
sex crime victims are not young children. They are teenagers.
There’s almost no victims in the sample that we collected from – a
representative sample of law enforcement cases that involved the
child under the age of 13.

> In the predominant sex crime scenario, doesn’t involve violence,
stranger molesters posing online as other children in order to set up
an abduction or assault. Only five percent of these cases actually
involved violence. Only three percent involved an abduction. It’s
also interesting that deception does not seem to be a major factor.
Only five percent of the offenders concealed the fact that they were
adults from their victims. Eighty percent were quite explicit about
their sexual intentions with the youth that they were communicating

> So these are not mostly violence sex crimes, but they are criminal
seductions that take advantage of teenage, common teenage
vulnerabilities. The offenders lure teens after weeks of
conversations with them, they play on teens’ desires for romance,
adventure, sexual information, understanding, and they lure them to
encounters that the teams know are sexual in nature with people who
are considerably older than themselves.

> So for example, Jenna – this is a pretty typical case – 13-year-old
girl from a divorced family, frequented sex-oriented chat rooms, had
the screen name “Evil Girl.” There she met a guy who, after a
number of conversations, admitted he was 45. He flattered her, gave
– sent her gifts, jewelry. They talked about intimate things. And
eventually, he drove across several states to meet her for sex on
several occasions in motel rooms. When he was arrested in her
company, she was reluctant to cooperate with the law enforcement

David Finkelhor, in panel Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths, May 2007

Let me summarize the important facts and figures from this excerpt and the next few pages. The numbers are based on a sample of law enforcement cases which Finkelhor et al. performed research upon:

– most victims of “online predators” are teenagers, not young children
– only 5% of cases involved violence
– only 3% involved abduction
– deception does not seem to be a major factor
– 5% of offenders concealed the fact they were adults from their victimes
– 80% of offenders were quite explicit about their sexual intentions
– these crimes are “criminal seductions”, sexual relationships between teenagers and older adults
– 73% of cases include multiple sexual encounters
– in half the cases, victims are described as being in love with the offender or feeling close friendship
– in a quarter of the cases, victims had actually ran away from home to be with the person they met online
– only 7% of arrests for statutory rape in 2000 were internet-initiated

I find these figures very sobering. Basically, our kids are more at risk offline than online. No reason to panic! About this last figure, listen to Dr. Michele Ybarra, president of Internet
Solutions for Kids:

> One victimization is
one too many. We watch the television, however, and it makes it
seem as if the internet is so unsafe that it’s impossible for young
people to engage on the internet without being victimized. Yet
based upon data compiled by Dr. Finkelhor’s group, of all the arrests
made in 2000 for statutory rape, it appears that seven percent were
internet initiated. So that means that the overwhelming majority are
still initiated offline.

Michele Ybarra, in panel Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths, May 2007

I digress a little, but all this shows us that we need to go way beyond “don’t give out personal information, don’t chat with strangers” to keep teenagers safe from the small (but real, yes) number of sexual predators online:

> Our research, actually looking at what puts kids at risk for receiving
the most serious kinds of sexual solicitation online, suggests that it’s
not giving out personal information that puts kid at risk. It’s not
having a blog or a personal website that does that either. What puts
kids in danger is being willing to talk about sex online with
strangers or having a pattern of multiple risky activities on the web
like going to sex sites and chat rooms, meeting lots of people there,
kind of behaving in what we call like an internet daredevil.

> We think that in order to address these crimes and prevent them,
we’re gonna have to take on a lot more awkward and complicated
topics that start with an acceptance of the fact that some teens are
curious about sex and are looking for romance and adventure and
take risks when they do that. We have to talk to them about their
decision making if they are doing things like that.

David Finkelhor, in panel Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths, May 2007

So, bottom line — what do I think? I think that MySpace’s announcement is more of a PR stunt than anything. This kind of action is the result of the ambient paranoia around sexual predators online, but it also fuels it. If MySpace are doing that, it must mean that we are right to be afraid, doesn’t it? I think it is a great pity that the media systematically jump on the fear-mongering bandwagon. We need more sane voices in the mainstream press.

Here is a collection of links related to this issue. Some I have mentioned in the body of the post, some I have not.

MySpace bars 29,000 sex offenders
Could You End Up on a Sex Offender Registry?
MySpace and the Sex Offenders
Megan’s Flaws?
Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths ([see danah’s post for YouTube video](
– [Video: BBC Interview (Teenagers, Facebook)](
– [Adolescents, MySpace, internet: citations de danah boyd et Henry Jenkins]( (quotes are in English)
– [De la “prévention internet”](

*note: comments are moderated for first-time commenters.*

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My Twitter Usage Answers [en]

[fr] Voici les réponses que j'ai données à danah boyd (chercheuse dans le domaine des espaces numériques) suite au questionnaire sur Twitter qu'elle a envoyé à ses "Twitter-friends". Le questionnaire est ouvert à tous si vous désirez lui envoyer vos réponses (mais en anglais, elle ne parle pas français!)

Yesterday, [danah]( sent me and a bunch of other Twitter users [a few questions to answer about our Twitter usage]( Here are my answers to her questions.

**1 Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?**

Twitter helps me stay connected to my “tribe”. I get little snippets
from them about what’s going on in their lives or minds, and they get
the same from me. It gives me the same kind of “in touch” feeling as
hanging out in an IRC channel, but with the added bonus that it’s “an
IRC channel populated by my IM buddylist” (well, not exactly of
course, not everybody is on Twitter, but close enough). And it’s IRC
with permalinks.

I can dump thoughts of the moment into it which are two short for a
blog post, and find them again later (micro-blogging). It’s an easy
way to let people know what I’m upto, as I publish my feed on my blog.

I like the people who hang out on Twitter. Most of “my important
online people” (people I like, those who count, in my world) are
there. I like being able to send messages to Twitter whether I’m
online or offline. I like the 140 character limit.

I don’t like the current “all or nothing” way of dealing with people
you follow. It makes getting twitters on my phone impossible, there
are too many of them. I’d like to be able to define groups, and
follow/unfollow certain groups easily on my phone. I don’t really like
the “all or nothing” privacy system: sometimes there is one message
I’d like to show only my friends, and not publish on my website like
the rest of my twitter stream. Or show a group of friends.

Oh, and I don’t like that direct twitters almost systematically come
up as two text messages on my phone.

But these things are are missing are “nice to haves” for me. What I
like most is that twitter sets out to do one thing (let you send short
status messages), and does it (in my opinion) pretty well.

**2 Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.**

At the beginning I kept my twitters/Tweets private. It felt too
IRC-like for me to make public. But then I realised that I wanted to
include the feed on my site, and that for that I had to go public. I
had a good think about this, also because I realised that if I started
out private, I was going to put private stuff in Twitter, and that
would prevent me from going public in future, as it would reveal my
past private twitters. So I decided the “safer” option was to go
public straight away (make sense?)

So, my main, most active audience is the people who are following me
on Twitter. I know many of them (my “friends”) but there are also many
I don’t know (“fans”?!). As my Twitter feed is published on my blog, I
know anybody who reads my blog or lands there can read them.

My attitude towards twittering (what do I twitter? what don’t I?) is
the same as with blogging: I assume everyone and anyone can read my
twitters, or is likely to at some point, whether friend, stranger, or
as-of-today-offline-person. So I make sure I’m reasonably comfortable
with anybody reading what I twitter, and balance risks when I’m saying
things about people. I’m aware that things I send to twitter have less
visibility for the “non 2.0” crowd, so I know I can get away with
certain things, even though the risk of being read is there.

I’m more “personal” in my Facebook status, for example — because I
know that (normally) future clients are not my friends on Facebook.
But I assume future clients read my blog 😉

As I mentioned in reply to your first question, I think selective
privacy would be a great thing for Twitter. Maybe I’d like my twitters
to be public by default, but every once in a while I’d like to send a
twitter which is visible only to my friends, or (if there is some kind
of [grouping feature]( to the group of [people I’ve tagged “my

**3 How do you read others’ Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?**

I skim twitters of the people I’m following, at regular intervals
during the day. Sometimes, I’ll click on a single person’s Twitter
page and read the last 10-20 they sent. There are a few people I’m
very close to for which I’ll do that a few times a day.

I usually follow people I know (and not strangers), though by the
magic of one-sided conversations on Twitter, I have come to add people
who were friends with a friend of mine (one could say we were
twitter-introduced), and who have since then become “my friends”.
There are a few people I follow “as a fan” — I wouldn’t expect them
to follow me back — but those are not the most important people in my

**4 What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?**

I guess my answer to the second question is also relevant here. My
twitters are public, so I’m not going to twitter stuff I would not
generally consider “blog-safe” (ie, I don’t speak about my love life,
I don’t comment on arguments I might be having with people who are
close to me, I’m quite careful when speaking of others in general, and
I don’t usually give details of my last visit at the doctor’s).

So, yes, of course I’ve found myself wanting to send something to
twitter and deciding against it — just like it happens every now and
again with blogging, on IRC, or in a conversation with a friend.
Sometimes I decide it is best not to say what I am tempted to say,
because it is not appropriate for this situation/relationship/medium.
But it’s not an attitude I relate to Twitter as such.

**5 Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don’t know coming across them? What about people you do know?**

They’re public, for the reasons I explained in answer to question 2. I
adapt my twittering so that I’ll be comfortable with the audience it
technically makes available (ie, “everyone”, strangers and friends —
online or off — alike). Just as with my blogging.

**6 What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?**

I’ve heard quite a few complaints about people who twitter a lot
(which can be me, on some days). I think the ability to be more
selective about whose twitters one receives on phone/im could help
with that (it’s already possible to unfollow a person from the phone,
but it’s a rather drastic “general” action, instead of saying “I’m
following him, but don’t give me his twitters on my phone, thanks”.

I think it works because it’s simple.

I think it “doesn’t work” for many people before they ever start using
it because it’s hard to “get”. Many people out there don’t “get it”,
because they reduce it to some kind of totally egocentric
micro-blogging spewing messages which have no value to the world. So
it can be rather hard to bring in people who are not familiar with
online presence.

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D'où vient cette idée de livre? [en]

[fr] An attempt to start book-writing. How I came to the field of teenagers and online culture, and what questions the book will try to address.

L’obstacle majeur pour l’accomplissement d’une tâche est souvent simplement de se mettre au travail. Il en va de même pour l’écriture. Il m’a fallu près d’un an pour commencer à écrire mon mémoire, et un peu plus d’un mois pour en achever la rédaction lorsque je m’y suis finalement mise. J’ai appris et compris, à cette occasion, qu’écrire n’importe quoi c’est déjà commencer. En particulier, raconter comment on est bloqué et ce dont on voudrait parler si on parvenait seulement à écrire, c’est déjà un excellent pas en avant.

Au milieu du mois d’octobre passé, j’ai réalisé que j’avais la matière nécessaire pour écrire ce fameux livre dont j’avais toujours dit que je l’écrirais un jour, mais que je n’avais aucune idée de quoi il parlerait et que dans tous les cas, je n’étais pas prête à me lancer dans une opération de cette envergure. Depuis, j’ai fait un plan, j’y ai beaucoup pensé, j’en ai beaucoup parlé, j’ai pris la décision ferme de l’écrire, et je l’ai annoncé [sur mon blog]( Mais je n’ai pas écrit une seule ligne.

Oh, c’est clair : début d’une vie professionnelle indépendante, les [mains qui font mal](/tms/), quarante-six mille autres projets… Plein de bonnes raisons objectives, mais surtout, il faut bien l’avouer, une bonne vieille trouille de me jeter à l’eau. Maintenant, [le Dragon est installé sur mon Mac](, je suis en Angleterre pendant deux semaines, et il n’y a donc aucune raison objective de ne pas commencer.

Donc, je commence. Et je commence par vous expliquer ce qui m’a mené à écrire ce livre, dans l’espoir que cela éclairera — et me permettra de clarifier — la problématique que je désire aborder et le traitement que j’en ferai.

Début 2004, suite à mon apparition à l’émission télévisée Mise au Point, on m’a demandé pour la première fois de venir faire une conférence dans une école. Il s’agissait de parler à une classe d’élèves et de leur expliquer ce qu’étaient les blogs, à quoi ils pouvaient servir et surtout, de les rendre attentifs au fait qu’il y a des limites à ce que l’on peut publier sur Internet. L’école en question s’était en effet retrouvée confrontée à quelques débordements de ce côté-là et à l’incompréhension des élèves (leurs protestations vigoureuses, même) lorsqu’il lui avait fallu intervenir.

Durant les mois qui précédaient, jeune enseignante, j’avais en effet découvert les élans blogueurs de mes élèves, et par extension, ceux de toute une population adolescente que j’avais largement ignorée jusque-là. J’avais commencé à m’y intéresser et j’avais déjà tiré quelques conclusions concernant les causes des incidents dont les médias se régalaient, et qui impliquaient des publications d’adolescents sur des blogs. Quelques problèmes de cette nature auxquels j’avais été directement confrontée avec mes élèves de l’époque m’avaient aussi donné une expérience personnelle de la situation.

Ma première [conférence en milieu scolaire]( a été extrêmement bien reçue. On m’a demandé d’en faire une deuxième, puis une troisième. D’autres établissements scolaires m’ont contactée. J’ai commencé à parler non seulement aux élèves, mais également aux enseignants et aux parents. Et les conférences, ça va dans les deux sens. Je viens pour donner quelque chose, mais en retour, il y a toujours des conversations, de nouvelles personnes à rencontrer, des histoires à entendre, bref, des choses à apprendre pour moi.

En parallèle, [les médias ont commencé à faire appel à moi]( régulièrement pour toutes sortes de sujets touchant aux blogs, mais principalement (au début en tout cas) dès qu’il s’agissait de blogs et d’adolescents. Prof et blogueuse assez en vue, c’était visiblement un mélange détonnant.

Au fil de mes contacts avec le monde des gens qui connaissent mal les blogs, j’ai pris conscience que beaucoup de choses qui pour moi relevaient du sens commun n’allaient en fait pas du tout de soi. J’ai réalisé que j’avais des choses à dire, et même des tas de choses à dire, et que ces choses étaient utiles à autrui. En fait, j’ai pris conscience que nous étions face à un problème à grande échelle, touchant une génération d’adolescents et de parents, ainsi que les éducateurs, et que j’étais en train d’y proposer des solutions. Les solutions que je proposais étaient bien modestes : il s’agissait simplement d’informer chacun selon ses besoins et préoccupations, de leur communiquer ce que je savais et j’avais compris de cette culture numérique, celle des blogs, du chat, de l’Internet vivant, et de l’impact que cette culture était en train d’avoir sur notre société.

Voilà donc de quoi je veux parler dans ce livre. Quel est ce problème exactement ? Que peut-on dire de ses causes ? Quelles sont les conséquences que nous voyons aujourd’hui ? Que peut-on faire, que doit-on faire pour y remédier ? Je vais essayer de répondre à ces questions dans les grandes lignes lors de mon prochain billet.

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Couverture presse: contente! [fr]

[en] Two press appearances I'm really happy about. One is a radio interview about the usefulness of blogs in a corporate environment. The other is a half-page article covering the talk I gave about the internet to parents of teenagers in Porrentruy.

Là, franchement, chapeau bas à [Jean-Olivier Pain]( (RSR1) et Sébastien Fasnacht (LQJ). Je suis absolument ravie [des résultats]( de la [fameuse (double) capsule]( et de la [couverture (une bonne demi-page si je vois juste!)]( de ma [conférence pour parents d’adolescents]( à [Porrentruy]( Bon, ça fait beaucoup trop de liens, ça. Ne vous prenez pas le chou et allez voir ailleurs:

– [Blogs et entreprises I & II]( à écouter directement sur le blog de M. Pain.
– [Bien connaître internet pour mieux fixer des limites aux adolescents]( de Sébastien Fasnacht sur le site du Quotidien Jurassien.

Ça me fait très, très plaisir. Si en règle générale mes [contacts avec les journalistes](/about/presse/) sont tout à fait plaisants, il est rare que je sois carrément épatée par le résultat final, comme ici!

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