Friday, June 10, 2005

Skype Fisher Price Communication 

Martin wrote about a gadget he wants (I think basically for himself to play with) - a Skype toy-phone with five coloured buttons and Patrizia was shocked ;-)

She did not want young children already to be the same pain in the a** than older kids up to the age of 80 I experience everyday in the commuter train being forced to listen to completely useless hot air communications, such as: "I am now in the S-Bahn at station such-and-such (we all see) and soon will be whocares, where are you? (luckily we do not hear the response), yesterday I was there and tomorrow I will be there, it is starting raining, ... Only very rarely the whole car is involved in really interesting things e.g. in a life divorce by phone and similar soaps.

The old "kids" are definitely the worst because they think if they have hearing problems the other side must be deaf too and are shouting like mad. I always tell them if they would open the window they could save the phone charges. You are not even save in the underground because it is connected also.

Sometimes I start making comments to the conversation in front of me, and if I am lucky, I get a response like: "This is none of your business!", so I can reply: "That's exactly my point!" I am afraid of the day when mobile phones will be allowed on planes.

Patriza, stay calm, relax, this will not happen, gadget freaks like Martin are not a big enough market and you cannot sell this to kids. Why?

Some mobile phone companies tried to launch exactly the same gadget - a five button cell phone with pre-set numbers - approx. 3 years ago, and similar concerns where raised, but it did not fly anyway. Kids simply did not want it, because it is not cool. Even in kindergarten if one shows up with such a phone the other kids (featuring sleek Samsung phones) are ROTFL about this whimp. No way!

On the other hand, being obviously the same generation as Patriza, I often ask myself how to deal regarding the kids with communications and the Internet.

Basically kids are always doing things parents do not like them to do. Parents like their kids to do useful things, and kids want to do interesting things and things other kids do or deem interesting. Also the understanding of "useful" may vary extremely, also over time.

My grandparents told my parents not to ruin their eyes with reading books, they should go out and play with other kids on the street (at this time you could do this, even in a city), my parents told me not to watch movies but to read a "good" book, and I tell my kids not to play these stupid computer games, but to watch a "good" movie.

Also the understanding of "good" books or movies vary. To make it short, what parents consider "good" is considered "boring" by kids. It took myself nearly 50 years until I was able to read and enjoy Musils "Mann ohne Eigenschaften".

Having 4 kids with quite a spread of age I have learned some basic things:
  1. All my kids got the same education, but they all are very different. If we assume (not to get in to this discussion) that 50% is genetics and gender, and 50% environmental influence, consisting of parents, friends, school and general environment, the parental influence is about 40% at age 3 and reduced below 10 % at age 15. So do not expect too much anyway.
  2. Do not waste your time arguing about things they will do anyway, because ALL the friends are doing it.
  3. It is not a waste of time telling your kids what you think they should do, even if at the moment you have the impression your words are entering one ear and leaving the other without even touching a single brain cell. On the contrary, you recognize this at least when the older kids start to educate the younger ones. They remember every word you said. BTW, this saves you a lot of hazzle, you just have to go in between sometimes because they tend to be more strict then you would be (e.g. "I cannot stand this any longer, you are eating like a swine").
  4. All hypes go away sooner or later.
Computer games is one thing, but using the Internet? Especially my younger kids have grown up using electronic devices, PC and being always on, which is my fault. My younger daughter is able to use any electronic device without ever reading a manual. (BTW, my wife on the contrary has the capability to break any device within 5 minutes and get stuck, sometimes beyond repair. I do not know why, she is doing nothing special, devices just stop working. She does even need to touch them, e.g if I wnat to show her something on my laptop, and she is just looking over my shoulder, things break.

So my kids use the Internet and the PC daily, for gaming, chatting, talking (all "useless" things), but also for writing school work (teachers love this, because they can finally read what the kids are writing) and investigations of all sorts (useful and useless). So basically in the long run they use the Internet how it should be used, a tool to entertain, to investigate, to work and to relax.

Sex, crime and other nonsense? Ok, if you overhear kids talking with each other in the bus, or watch TV (at any time), I prefer them to be on the Internet.

And I always keep in mind a presentation I heard some years ago when sociologist talked to product managers:
If you want to know which products will fly in three or five years, watch what the kids with 15 are doing.
So my kids are also kind of a testbed for me.

I always have a blue fit if I hear a product manager especially from an incumbent telco saying:
I do not need this and I would never use this.
Neither do I, but this was not the question. Could you imagine a senior incumbent telco manager using a location-based dating service or a real-time game involving a smart-mob clique roaming around the city?

Good observations. I'd kind of envisaged a big ugly device sitting on the floor, not a hand-held one. Heavy alkaline batteries, chunky plastic for being attacked by marauding infants. Think "talk station" rather than "phone". You're right that as soon as it gets to be a symbol of social prowess, it's gonna be something completely different.

A friend's daughter has a toy rotary phone. Now that _is_ funny! Then again, if my daughter can be persuaded that a donkey, cat, dog and hen went to Bremen to become musicians, she might just stretch her beliefs to accommodate the idea of a rotary phone, too. As long as it has downloadable ringtones and interchangeable faceplates. (Didn't phones always do that, daddy?)
Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?