Can Social Networking Bridge the ‘Digital Divide’?

Technology has always moved fast and the Internet has made the pace even quicker.

This has raised the question whether the digital divide is growing bigger as those who can afford to stay updated with the latest technological know-how and those who can’t are left ever behind.

However new research from an American university shows that exactly the opposite is happening. It shows social networking is popular for students from all backgrounds and not just those who are well-to-do. With access to the Internet becoming increasingly cheaper more and more students are able to ‘socialize’ on the ‘net.
This means that students across the board are picking up key technological skills, those skills they’ll need to help them be successful today and tomorrow.

Further reading…

Facebook is “educational” says US uni

Digital divide has not disappeared

Childnet International website teaches Parents about the Internet to help keep Children safe online

Childnet International is a non-profit organization whose main objective is to keep children safe when using the Internet.

The open-ness and accessibility of the Internet by anyone from anywhere unfortunately means the Internet has become the hunting ground for those who prey on children.

One way in which children can be protected when using the Internet is adult supervision, however this doesn’t always happen since there are may parents who have very little experience of using the Internet and are not aware of how to keep their children away from the ‘dark alleys’.

This is where Childnet International steps in; Their web site is full of useful information for kids as well as parents and I highly recommend that anyone who has kids using the Internet check it out.

The Childnet International web site here

DreamHost introduces Drupal as a one-click Install

This month DreamHost announced the addition of Drupal to their software suite of  1-click installs. Their one-click install system makes it as easy as is possible to add all kinds of web software to your web site like WordPress, Joomla, phpBB, Zen Cart and now Drupal.

Drupal is a PHP/MySQL based content management system, and arguably almost as popular as Joomla.

The architecture of Drupal is similar to that of Joomla in that additional functionality can be added to any site through the installation of modules. Being Open Source, modules are widely available to add all kinds of functionality to a Drupal site and if you’re comfortable with PHP programming you can create/build your own modules.

Check out DreamHost’s very reasonable web hosting pricing…

Locate – the new travel service from the UK’s Foreign Office

Research has found that many Britons don’t know where their loved ones are traveling to and have no way to get in touch with them in case of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

The UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office has launched a new service called Locate where Britons traveling abroad can register details of their trip as well as emergency contact numbers and this information is passed on to the local British Embassy or High Commission.

On the flip side, those Britons who don’t know whereabouts their loved ones are can also register on the site and the Foreign Office will get in touch when they have located them.

From the Locate home page:

Use our new LOCATE service to tell us where you’re travelling to so our embassy and crisis staff can provide better assistance in an emergency such as a tsunami or terrorist attack.

It only takes a few minutes to register your contact details and travel plans online and the local British embassy will know you’re coming. There’s no need to contact them directly.

Going on another trip? Simply, login and update your Locate account and we’ll let the next British embassy know.

British Standards Institution produces a new Standard for web site development (PAS124)

As anyone who has had a web site designed and developed can tell you, the process, from the technology required to what exactly the designer and developer actually do, is hazy at best. For a business to determine the Return on Investment (ROI) is near enough impossible.

Web site design and development is almost an art form and coupled with the fact that the technology employed by web site designers and developers sees marked advancement practically on a monthly basis, it has been very hard to ‘regulate’ in any form.

However, the British Standards Institution has set out to do just that with the development of a set of best-practice guidelines called Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 124 to help businesses get a better understanding before they delve into the actively into the process.

Read more about PAS 124 here… – find out the value of your UK property

A new site, still in Beta, I read about in today’s Times newspaper is property web site Zoopla! The home page proudly states:

FREE value estimates and more on over 26 million homes
Creating a more transparent marketplace for property through community participation

I had a play about with the site and it certainly seems to be accurate, however I’m not sure how much more accurate it could be than an experienced property agent with knowledge of the area. Giving the home-owner an opportunity to ‘refine’ the property details, like number of bedrooms etc, provides a valuation as well the price homes on your street have gone for recently.

The site is built around the popular ‘social network’ theme and the idea is to get users involved in providing useful area information as well as buying/selling opportunities even if the property is not actually up for sale; a good way to gauge what your home could be sold for if you’re thinking about it.

Give it a try at

Queeen Elizabeth & the Royal Family go Digital with their very own YouTube Channel

“Welcome to Official YouTube Channel for the British Monarchy” reads the introductory header of the Royal Family’s YouTube Channel.

Traditionally  the Queen’s Christmas message is televised on Christmas Day and has been since 1957; the move to show the address on a YouTube channel marks the 50th anniversary.

This also marks a shift in the way the Monarchy will choose to connect with the British people from hereon. Internet browsing has shot past TV as the pass-time of choice and recent research has shown that fewer and fewer people watch the Queen’s Christmas message on TV. With so much time spent on social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube it’s no wonder that the Monarchy feels a move to an Internet channel is needed.

Considering that it takes very little time and effort to set up a YouTube channel, there’s no reason why businesses too cannot take advantage of this great marketing tool. Many top universities already use YouTube to host videos of their courses  and it’s possible to find marketing videos for all sorts of things on YouTube and across the Internet.

One of the best uses of a service like YouTube is to host videos on it and then display them on your own web-site or blog. This has a few advantages:

  1. The video now appears in more than one location on the Internet giving it better exposure;
  2. Video takes up a lot more server space than static images and if you’re likely to be displaying many videos on your site it’s wise to ‘host’ them elsewhere and ’embed’ them on your site;
  3. You can use videos hosted on YouTube, or any other similar service, to improve the Search Engine Marketing for your business.

Can your business profit by using YouTube to host promotional and marketing videos? – X-Factor Winner Leverages the power of the ‘Instant Digital Download’

Leon Jackson was crowned the winner of the 2007 X-Factor competition last night. Winning a 1 million pound recording contract, his music single, a cover version of the song “When You Believe”, originally recorded by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey for the animated movie “Alladin”, is released on CD on Monday to give it a chance of making it to the Christmas No.1 chart position.

However, the song is already available from the official Leon Jackson website ( for download. For the first time X-Factor has leveraged the power of the “Instant Download” by taking advantage of the obvious frenzy that surrounds the finals of such competitions. Marketing the website and the available download in the final show ensures that the masses of fans that voted for Leon Jackson can immediately satiate their need for his first single before the single even hits the stands on CD!

The Instant Download is one of the most important advantages the Internet brings to a business, especially a business that deals primarily in digital products, or even physical products that can be digitised in some way, for example e-books are digital versions of books, music and interviews can be digitised into MP3s, etc.

If your business can digitise its products then giving your customers access to the digital versions from your web site is a critical revenue channel. Once a product is digitised there are practically no further overheads involved and that single digital product can be sold millions of times and through dozens of partner websites.

Can you leverage the power of the Instant Download for your business?

Dragons from Dragons’ Den Invest In

Last night’s episode of the BBC programme Dragons’ Den was of particular interest to me as it featured a company called, a web site to make ordering takeaway-food easier, which needed investment to expand their operation across the UK.

Having successfully run the Dragons’ Den gauntlet, partnered with two of the Dragons, Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan, who agreed to invest £100,000 for a total equity stake of 25%.

The site has partnered with restaurants in various parts of the UK and provides the user with a single point of access by offering restaurant choice by area and the ability to place orders with the selected restaurant via the site. This does away with the drawer full of takeaway menus and means that a user, presumably, will have access to the latest menus.

It’s a great idea, especially considering more than 100 million takeaways are ordered in the UK annually, however what I wanted to stress here is that the investment was required primarily for off-line marketing, to recruit more restaurants to join the site and grow the coverage.
This is a point many ‘web-entrepreneurs’ fail to take into account. Many believe that just having a web site will generate enough interest in the market and lead to revenue generation. Not so. Off-line marketing is still as important as it ever was especially since it’s fairly easy to get a website up and running, meaning competition is ever increasing.

So, when you’re putting together your business plan for a web-business, don’t forget to consider all the marketing channels available to you, off and on-line.

Has Facebook Crossed The Line With It’s New Ad Strategy?

I don’t think too many of the 5-million-plus members of Facebook were impressed when it sold a 1.6% stake to Microsoft a couple of weeks ago, but the announcement of their new ad strategy will impress even fewer if not actually enrage them!

So what’s the problem with ads being displayed on Facebook pages? It’s free to use after all, and Facebook needs to generate income somehow. Advertising is the obvious route to take. What, then, is the problem?

What has users up in arms is the fact that the new ads displayed will carry the profile-pictures of members as if to say “try this product, I recommend it”. The problem here is that the pictures/photos of members don’t belong to Facebook to use in this way. The legality of this strategy is being hotly debated by privacy advocates and Facebook.

Could a move like this spell the end of Facebook? Probably not. Too many Internet users exist who don’t seem to care about putting their lives on digital display and the fact that their photos will accompany ads may just spur many of them to join up if they aren’t already members.

However, this kind of user will reduce the quality of a network like Facebook and could lead to more ‘responsible’ users going someplace else to socialise.

Read “Will Facebook survive past 2008” for more…

SAGA Zone – The Social Network for Over-50s

If you thought social networking was only for the young, you’re wrong. Today sees the launch of SAGA Zone, a social network for over-50s, created by the insurance and travel company SAGA.

In a four month trial, over 13,000 users signed up to SAGA Zone signifying that the Internet is not only the domain of the young. In fact in the UK the elderly make up 30% of all time spent on the Internet, a study by OfCom has shown.

Click here to visit SAGA Zone and be sure to pass this on to any 50+ person who enjoys using the Internet – this will right up their street.

Is Google Phone On The Way?

Google PhoneI’m a big fan of Google and especially its attitude toward making its services accessible to all so I’m getting pretty excited about the rumour going around the Internet that the Google Phone is due out in the first quarter of 2008. Google has already made the web largely accessible to computer users and is now extending their ethos to mobile phones.

But, what is the Google Phone all about? From what I gather, Google will first release software that will be compatible with the hardware from phone vendors before actually releasing it’s own range of phones. This last bit is still a bit foggy but it seems the software release is imminent.

The software will bundle Google Mail, Google Maps, Search and YouTube for video-sharing. However, the best part of this software is that it will be ‘open’ so that developers can actually build additional phone features.

What does this mean for you and me? Just that we’ll get access to some of the best free web applications on our mobile phones.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets – The Viral Games Web Site

National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the new Nicholas Cage movie, is the sequel to the 2004 movie National Treasure and is due out later this year.

The official website is packed with the movie trailers, info about the story about the movie but the better site is the games site sponsored by Mercedes Benz here. However, rather than the usual dull advertising banners, Mercedes Benz have advertised within the games.

For example, there are 2 games based in London; in one, the action game called Thames River Race, you drive a Mercedes Benz along the Victoria Embankment avoiding buses, black-cabs and other obstacles.
The puzzle game called Break Into Buckingham, a game very much like Tetris, involves destroying symbols to unlock the gates to Buckingham Palace. One of these symbols is the Mercedes Benz star.

The prizes are impressive, with a chance to win $50,000 in the London games and for all 5 city games the chance to win the $50,00 plus a Mercedes Benz!
The site is viral as one of the other cities is unlocked every week, revealing the games specific to that location. This week, running to the 24th of October, is London and the other cities are Cairo, Paris, New York and Washington D.C.

All in all, a great fun site packed with fairly unobtrusive branding and great viral games.

Let us know if you win the Merc!

Byron Review – UK Government to Review Internet Risk to Kids

Young kids today face a completely different world to that experienced by their parents. In fact, even only a short time as 10 years ago kids weren’t exposed to the kind of media they now have easy access to.

Always-on access to the Internet has brought many risks to children and these are now to be assessed under the Byron Review here in the U.K. Dr Tyra Byron, a clinical psychologist, will head the review process that will also look at other media including video games.

To learn more visit The Byron Review site and get involved in the Call for Evidence by clicking here (closing date 30th Nov 2007).

.mobi Domain Auction Generates Over £400,000

The .mobi domain is now only about a year old and many didn’t take it seriously on launch, especially considering that its meant to address the mobile-website market and it really didn’t make sense that a user would have to key in 4 letters on their mobile phone keypad for the domain as compared to the 3 letters of all the other Top-Level-Domains (TLD), like .com, .net .biz etc.

However, dotMobi, the company managing .mobi domains, has just auctioned 5,500 ‘premium’ .mobi domains like,,, and others for over $850,000!

Seems .mobi is being taken very seriously now.

Microsoft reveals Office Live Workspace (OLW)

Microsoft extended its web strategy by unveiling Office Live Workspace (beta), an online sharing repository for Office documents. Not what many thought would be Microsoft’s answer to Google Docs, this service actually extends Office to the online space.

To use OLW, you need to have a registered version of MS Office 2003 or 2007. The site provides 250MB of space to share documents with other users, though does not have the ability for the user to create or edit documents. Microsoft says OLW will play nice with other office suites too, though there probably will be some compatibility issues.

It’s a smart play by MS as users will still need to own a registered copy of Office as will any other users who they may want to share documents with.

Personally I think OpenOffice used together with Google Docs can do the same job with these added advantages over OLW:

  1. Neither I nor the users I share docs with have to pay anything as both OpenOffice and Google Docs are free to use
  2. Google Docs doesn’t have a cap on space as opposed to OLW’s 250MB which won’t be enough for serious users.

Which would you use and why: MS Office/OLW or OpenOffice/Google Docs for your business? Post your comments below…