Debunking Baby Einstein

When I wrote about "marketing to your reptilian brain" on Tuesday, I was just hearing the news breaking about the new study that suggests that babies' viewing of Baby Einstein videos may hamper rather than accelerate language acquisition. Since I was writing about unconscious marketing techniques, I ran with the McDonald's Wrapper research rather than the Baby Einstein findings.

The runaway reporting of the Baby Einstein story caught me by surprise, because I had assumed that on some level we all knew these videos were just a crutch we used to keep the kids occupied while we … Read more

Marketing to your reptilian brain

Marketing can take many forms, from appealing to higher values such as education--think Baby Einstein--to persuasion in the form of clever, sticky messaging.

But it seems lately that many online advertisers are dropping any attempt to appeal to our higher cerebral functions and are aiming straight for the reptilian brain. News sites like CNN,, and The New York Times are peppered with banner ads that feature attention-getting but meaningless animated characters that dance on the edges of the screen. What fascinates me as a former neuroscientist is that these images are crafted to be irresistible. … Read more

ROK, scissors, paper

Our daughter has reached the developmental milestone of trying to create for herself working models of objects she observes in her everyday life. Last year she drew pictures of houses; this year she's trying to make actual houses. Of course, modeling clay is a great material for her constructive tendencies. But modeling clay has its limits--anything that's more than an inch thick doesn't bake very well in the oven. It's difficult to really appreciate the house-ness of something about the size of a small carrot, red roof or otherwise.… Read more

Women are blogging; why isn't the media listening?

The BlogHer '07 conference met in Chicago last weekend, bringing together 800 women of the 13,000 members of this vibrant online community. If you didn't hear about it, it's because the national media didn't bother to report it.

Jennifer Pozner, founder of Women in Media & News (WIMN), writes a scathing analysis of this oversight on the Women's Media Center blog, reporting that "only three Chicago newspapers covered the conference, as if this national assemblage of women writers and videographers were simply a local story. Not one national network or cable news broadcast deigned to mention it."… Read more

Facebook and journalism

First it was Friendster, then it was MySpace; now Facebook seems to be the center of every other conversation on the Internet. Several of the writers at Poynter Online (a resource that puports to be "Everything you need to be a better journalist") have recently been focusing on the possibilities for Facebook in terms of the news business.

In one article Pat Walters reports on how he created the Facebook group, Journalists and Facebook as a sort of experiment. What better way to report on Facebook, than to use Facebook? We invited about 25 journalists to join the group, posted a few questions to the discussion board and waited.

Seemed to make perfect sense.

By the time we posted this story on Poynter Online, the group had mushroomed to more than 800 members, journalists and non-journalists from all over the world. At this moment there are almost 1,800 members, but only 57 wall posts, and 22 discussion threads. In his article, Walters points out that this limited participation in the group isn't unusual and he references an article by Jakob Nielsen to illustrate this phenomena. In his article, Nielsen predicts that only one percent of any given group will create most of the content, and after a cursory glance at the Journalists and Facebook group that estimate appears to be roughly on target.

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A PTA for the 21st Century

Over the past several years I have watched in dismay as the budgetary consequences of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) force schools to adopt zero-tolerance policies toward education. I have seen in my own neighborhood a "successful" school reduce its science instruction down to 20 minutes a week for 1st-3rd graders because of fears that a single child's lack of performance on a standardized test might result in a budgetary take-down. Mr. Holland's Opus was a poignant and sadly prescient story of a bureaucracy that had its sites set far too low when it came to … Read more

Work, Life, Vacation. When worlds collide.

The (parent.thesis) blog is coming to you this week from the lakeside woods of Northern Michigan. Family vacations used to mean getting away to what felt like an alternate universe, a place that seemed to materialize only in the summer, and disappeared from consciousness the rest of the year. We used to feel cut off from the rest of the world up here. There was no TV, and if we didn't get the newspaper we could miss out on a whole week of news.

But now the online world has bridged these two universes. I checked the upcoming week's vacation weather from home, before we left. Using the Microsoft Virtual Earth map on, I zoomed in down to the level where I could see my family's house. I know we've probably all done search on own houses at some point, but to see the vacation house from home gave me a true though-the-looking-glass-feeling.

We're still not exactly high tech up here. We don't have an internet connection in the house, but we are allowed to connect to the house next door's network. So I am sitting in the woods, on a plastic chair, blogging on my laptop. This experience crystallizes the best and worst of remote connection for me. … Read more

What does MySpace news about removing 29,000 sex offenders mean for parents?

MySpace has quadrupled its estimated number of registered sex offenders posting profiles on the site, from its May estimate of 7,000 to a current tally of 29,000. The pages of identified offenders have been deleted. What does this news mean for parents? How do we assess risk and keep it in perspective, and what best practices should be implemented on family, corporate and societal levels to keep kids safe?… Read more

Minisodes: For those who find 30-minute sitcoms too deep and drawn out

The average half hour sitcom runs about 22 minutes, but for some people that's simply too long. Most successful web videos average between 2 and 5 minutes, and the folks at Sony Pictures Television have found a new way to deliver classic television to this shortened-attention-span set. As highlighted in a recent story by CNN, The The Minisode Network is presented on Myspace and offers a swath of retro television episodes that have been carefully edited down to five minutes in an effort to update the old shows for the post millennium web format.

The network offers a variety of programming from Dilbert to Diff'rent Strokes, but is something lost in translation as the video editors slice and dice everything from the original that is considered not essential? Are these mostly ancient sitcoms even worth watching today in either form? While I can't be certain whether it's a result of the hack jobs or the dated material, most of the mini-episodes I watched felt incomplete and not really worth watching. The editing was clean and seamless, but the stories lacked any real development (something that's already a problem with the sitcom genre). The jokes were still there and the punchlines were also kept intact, but the timing was wrong and the humor was all but lost on me.

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