Features
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Why don't teens tweet?

Lifestyle/Technology | Twitter's openness to strangers makes Facebook reign in young minds

Issue: "New faces of New Orleans," Aug. 15, 2009

According to an analysis posted on the technology website TechCrunch, teens are resisting use of Twitter, the hot new social networking site. Daniel Brusilovsky, 16, wrote that teens are huge users of iPhones and iPods, BlackBerries and Palms, MySpace and Facebook-but only 11 percent of Twitter users are teens. Since teens are usually first adopters, why is that percentage so small? "Because Twitter is a different type of social network than Facebook."

As Brusilovsky puts it, "Facebook is about connecting people, and sharing information with each other. The way my friends and I see it, Facebook is a closed network. It's a network of people and friends that you trust to be connected to, and to share information like your email address, AIM screen name, and phone number. You know who's getting your status messages, because you either approved or added each person to your network. With Twitter, it's the exact opposite. Anyone can follow your status updates. It's a completely open network that makes teenagers feel 'unsafe' about posting their content there, because who knows who will read it."

Brusilovsky also notes that Twitter can be expensive: "In an economy like this, most parents don't want to spend the extra money on unlimited texting to total strangers. So why spend money on sending SMS updates to Twitter, when you can send updates to someone you know will read it and reply?"

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Brusilovsky's favoring of Facebook reflects its surge over the past year. According to Nielsen Online, users spent 83 percent more time on social networking sites in April 2009 than they did in April 2008. Facebook minutes went up 700 percent, from 1.7 billion minutes to 13.9 billion. MySpace usage declined 31 percent.

But Facebook users need to watch developments -carefully: Facebook is revamping its privacy policy and testing the changes on a sample of users. The changes will open up information to people outside of Facebook unless users opt in to tighter privacy settings. It's not clear from descriptions whether users will have to designate a privacy setting for every post, or whether they will be able to establish settings that apply all the time, as is -currently the case.

Numbers game

Baseball is a playground for statisticians. Instead of just measuring offense by batting average, homeruns, and runs batted in, a vast array of new analytical tools is available, and OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) is making its way into even newspaper box scores. Defense, though, has remained an analytical black hole: The number of errors shows what happens when a player gets to a ball and misplays it, but what about balls never reached by a lumbering left fielder?

Enter a new camera and software system that will soon provide data to analysts who want to identify the best defensive players in baseball, and the worst. The system, developed by the same company that gave TV football the yellow first down line, has been tested in San Francisco this season. According to The New York Times, the system should be installed in all major league parks in 2010 and begin providing data for coaching staffs and analysts after that. It's not yet clear how much data, and at what price, will be available to fans.

According to the Times, "In San Francisco, four high-resolution cameras sit on light towers 162 feet up, capturing everything that happens on the field in three dimensions and wiring it to a control room below. Software tools determine which movements are the ball, which are fielders and runners, and which are passing seagulls. More than 2 million meaningful location points are recorded per game." All that data will allow analysts to determine which fielders get to balls faster and throw harder.

Scamming by text Cisco reports that bad guys have used text messaging to steal information

Cisco reports that bad guys have used text messaging to steal information from unwary consumers. The scam in Fargo, N.D., sent text messages that appeared to come from a legitimate bank. The text asked the user to call a phone number. When the user did, an automated message asked for account and log-in information. So far scammers have targeted cell phone users in Fargo and members of several credit unions in New York and Pennsylvania. Other security issues are detailed in Cisco System's mid-year security report: cisco.com/en/US/prod/vpndevc/annual_security_report.html.

Name that lobbyist

If Congress passes a healthcare bill, it will affect one-sixth of the economy. Lots of money is at stake, and that explains why hundreds of lobbyists showed up for a congressional hearing on reform. A National Public Radio photographer took panoramic photos of the audience and posted them on the NPR website, along with an invitation to readers to help identify the people pictured, many of whom are lobbyists: "Know someone in these photos? Let us know who that someone is-e-mail dollarpolitics@npr.org." The picture uses small thought bubbles with a lower case i inside to identify lobbyists by name, organization, and total lobbying budget or earnings from health-related groups (npr.org/news/specials/2009/hearing-pano).

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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