Monday, December 17, 2007

Program pairs experienced execs with start-up entrepreneurs,1,4245138.story


Program pairs experienced execs with start-up entrepreneurs


December 17, 2007


When approaching the Valley of Death, most entrepreneurs don't seek comfort from the Psalms. They prefer cash.

The valley is what start-up companies call the period when their original "angel" investor cash begins to run out, but the young firms haven't matured to the point where venture capitalists or others are prepared to invest.

"Almost any young entrepreneur you ask will have the same answer to the question of what they need to succeed," said Tom Churchwell, managing director of the Chicago-based ARCH Development Partners venture fund. "They say it's money."

That's inexperience talking, he said. While money is essential to fueling a start-up, sound management, good planning and smart execution of a strong business plan not only will put a young firm on the path to success but also will attract funding from savvy investors.

To impart these lessons, several experienced chief executives have joined together to offer a mentoring program for Chicago-area firms. After a competition among several young firms, three have been selected to receive intense mentoring for the next six months.

The firms are RevStor LLC, a Schaumburg-based data storage firm; ParkWhiz LLC, a Chicago-based firm that uses the Internet to match people wanting to rent out parking spaces with motorists needing a place to park; and PrepMe Inc., a Chicago firm that helps people prepare to take standardized tests.

"We see this as a pilot program," said Churchwell, president-elect of TiE Midwest, the group sponsoring the project. "After six months, we'll see how well this scales up."

The effort is tailored after experiences of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who take their firms to success, make bundles of money and jump back into the fray either by starting other firms or investing with young innovators while acting as mentors, said Churchwell.

"Serial entrepreneurs know pitfalls they can help younger guys avoid," he said. "They also recognize and avoid blind alleys."

Knowing how the game is played can be more helpful than being handed a bag of money, Churchwell said. To pave the way for future investment once initial funding runs low, an experienced entrepreneur plans ahead.

"You contact potential investors way before you're ready to ask for money," he said. "You explain your business plan and tell them the milestones you intend to hit over the next six months. When you go back, if you can say you hit those milestones, plus some other accomplishments, an investor appreciates that. You'll get serious consideration."

Even though most entrepreneurs are in love with the bright idea that causes them to start a new company and the technology behind it, Churchwell said, investors aren't impressed. Instead of listening to descriptions of slick technology and rosy sales projections, they look for solid management with a proven success record.

"When you put up your money, it's always about the management team," Churchwell said.

Brickhouse: Yahoo's Innovation Incubator

anyone had any interaction with this?
 Brickhouse: Yahoo's Innovation Incubator
By Reena Jana
November 20, 2007 9:42AM

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How does Yahoo's Brickhouse model work? Any of Yahoo's 13,000 employees can submit proposals for possible new products. Up to 200 ideas are submitted each month. With boosts from Brickhouse, the pace of innovation at Yahoo may be accelerating -- but will it be fast enough to catch Valley rival Google?  

Within Silicon Valley, Yahoo has a reputation for being bureaucratic and slow to innovate, especially in contrast to rival Google. To infuse itself with startup energy, Yahoo began an offsite incubator late last year called Brickhouse.

Its job is to shorten the time it takes to bring new ideas to market. "The goal is to take the idea, develop it, and make sure it's seen by senior management quickly," says Salim Ismail, whose business card reads, simply, "Head of Brickhouse." "We need to iterate, see customer reactions, and launch fast," he says.

In the rapidly moving world of search, that's the way to go. Various Yahoo researchers voiced similar ideas for a fast-paced product-development incubator over the years, but it took an outsider's initiative to make it real. Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr, the photo-sharing site acquired by Yahoo in 2005, is credited with doing so. She wanted to keep Flickr's startup culture alive inside the bigger, slower parent company. Now it's up to Yahoo to make that culture its own.

Brickhouse is located in the South of Market district, where the hip digerati live and work in San Francisco, more than 40 miles from Yahoo's Sunnyvale (Calif.) campus. There are the cliched trappings of geeky culture: beanbag chairs, a foosball table, and Nerf darts. One wall has a huge sheet of paper covered with countless iterations of a lightbulb, the symbol of a great idea. Cheap shoji screens separate different areas of the large, loft-like office. "It's deliberately low-budget," says Ismail.

Brickhouse employees share space with other divisions of Yahoo, such as Yahoo! Video, which develops software applications for Web-based video, and Yhaus, which focuses on user-interface design. But the shop also opens its conference room to Bay Area entrepreneurs for large meetings. And Brickhouse holds "Wii Wednesdays" when friends of Yahoo workers gather to play video games. The idea is to build informal social contacts with other startups.

How does the Brickhouse model work? Any of Yahoo's 13,000 employees can submit proposals for possible new products. Up to 200 ideas are submitted each month. A council of five top company executives, including CEO Jerry Yang and his co-founder, David Filo, vets only the best five to 10. Before Brickhouse began, there were far fewer suggestions and they tended to be brief one-liners. Now, says Ismail, "employees post screenshots, create mock-ups, present cases, and describe potential hurdles."

In February, Brickhouse unveiled its first product, Pipes, a free software tool that lets users gather and mix RSS feeds from many Web sites. Pipes received critical raves by bloggers for its ease of use. The site was so busy its first day that it crashed. But how Yahoo will monetize the venture is unclear.

Next up is Fire Eagle, set for this fall. It's a Web-based software platform that, for example, lets people meet up with co-workers and friends more easily by broadcasting their whereabouts, often tracked by GPS, in online posts or cell-phone text messages. Fire Eagle took only three months to develop -- about 65% less time than the fastest development of typical Yahoo products. With boosts from Brickhouse, the pace of innovation at Yahoo may be accelerating -- but will it be fast enough to catch Valley rival Google?

Meeting Miser

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Jewish teens get early start on life of philanthropy

Jewish teens get early start on life of philanthropy
  Dec 4, 2007 Arizona Daily Star  

By Stephanie Innes

For Hanukkah this year, 16-year-old Erin Olitzky asked for a "Save Darfur" bracelet and a sweat shirt from her favorite charity, Oceana.

The Catalina Foothills High School sophomore has been giving philanthropy a lot of thought lately. On the eighth night of Hanukkah, she'll be donating $34 to Oceana, a Washington, D.C.-based group that campaigns to protect and restore the world's oceans.

"I'm really big on the environment, so I knew this was where I wanted my money to go," said Olitzky, who learned about Oceana in a magazine article.

The money represents 5 percent of Olitzky's B'nai Tzedek fund -- money she began raising last year through the B'nai Tzedek Tucson philanthropy program. B'nai Tzedek literally means "people of justice."

The Jewish Community Foundation administers the teens' endowment funds and gives them a 5 percent interest rate. Each year the teens are expected to donate at least $18 or up to 5 percent of their fund.

B'nai Tzedek isn't just about money. Students attend at least four B'nai Tzedek sessions per year to talk about their values, what they care about and social responsibility.

Sixty-one teens currently are in B'nai Tzedek Tucson, 28 of whom are making their first payouts during Hanukkah this year. Hanukkah, often known as the Jewish festival of lights, begins at sundown today.

"Tzedek" comes from the Hebrew word "Tzedakah," which means righteous giving -- in other words, giving as an obligation to create a just world.

Tzedakah is mentioned several times in the Torah and is one of Judaism's 613 mitzvot, the paths for serving God. "Mitzvot" is the plural of "mitzvah," which is a commandment under Jewish biblical law for individuals to make the world a more sacred and just place. Some focus on ritual and others on ethical considerations such as caring for the elderly and visiting the sick.

"Many of the sages really considered Tzedakah the most important mitzvah," said Abigail Foss, coordinator of B'nai Tzedek Tucson. "We wanted to change the notion that to be a philanthropist you have to be grown up and fairily affluent. We want the kids to see themselves as givers who can and must give."

It's a concept that Foss and the teenagers have compared to the story in Jon J. Muth's children's book "Stone Soup." The group read the book together at one of its first gatherings.

The book describes how three monks enter a village, only to find hard-hearted villagers who lock their windows and doors and don't welcome the three. When the monks begin preparing a big pot of stone soup, they pique the villagers' curiosity, and soon everyone wants to provide ingredients. As each villager opens his or her heart to give, the next person gives more.

The teens generally contribute $180 to begin their funds, and the program kicks in the difference to make $500, giving them a start. The number $180 is used because of the significance of 18 in Judaism: The Hebrew word for "life" is "chai" and has a numerical value of 18.

Youths such as Olitzky typically use money they've received as gifts, as well as getting donations from friends and family members to start their funds.

If the teens' funds haven't reached $1,000 by the time they are 18 years old, the money will be returned to help other teens' funds in B'nai Tzedek. If the funds are at $1,000, the teens may continue adding to them through the foundation, with a goal of reaching $5,000 by the time they are 30. The hope is that they will continue to maintain the funds and give throughout their lives.

Between them, the 28 teenagers will be giving money to 13 non-profit groups, including Doctors Without Borders, the American Jewish World Service and Tu Nidito, a local agency that helps children and their families as they deal with serious illness and death.

Sara Hofstadter's dog, Lilly, inspired her philanthropy of choice -- the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. Eight years ago, Sara, a 14-year-old freshman at Catalina Foothills High School, adopted the Australian shepherd mix from the local Humane Society.

A lifelong love of soccer motivated Josh Landau, a 15-year-old sophomore at Catalina Foothills, to donate his money to Grassroot Soccer, a Vermont-based charity that helps African youths to play soccer while also educating them about HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The charity was co-founded by Ethan Zohn, who was the winner of CBS' television program "Survivor -- Africa."

"In Third World countries, kids are playing soccer barefoot, and with whatever they can. I thought this was a perfect organization because it uses the power of soccer to teach about AIDS and HIV. I heard about it and looked it up online," Landau said.

"If I have the money, I'll be giving to charity when I'm older, too. It's important to give to people who aren't as fortunate as me -- to give them a better life."

Tucson High Magnet School sophomore David Richelson chose a charity close to home and close to his heart -- Congregation Bet Shalom, the Conservative Jewish synagogue in the Foothills area where he grew up and continues to attend services. Because the synagogue, its members and its leaders have given him so much, Richelson said he wanted to give something back.

B'nai Tzedek Tucson, one of 37 such programs in the United States and Canada, is funded by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, the Massachusetts-based Harold Grinspoon Foundation and private donors.

Foss said that ideally, the teens will be creating relationships with the charities they support, offering not only financial help but also some of their time. The group recently brought food Downtown to the Giving Tree Feeding Project and later talked about the experience.

"The whole point is an orientation toward the world, regardless of where they end up socio-economically," Foss said. "Judaism empowers people -- everyone has to give, and you can give. It's an important notion. We don't leave the responsibility to people who are affluent. We all can and should give."

Jewish celebrations of Hanukkah begin at sundown today.

One of the Hebrew meanings of the word Hanukkah (Chanukah) is "dedication" -- a birth of life from darkness, referring to a time when Jews regained freedom of worship.

According to the Talmud (Jewish civic and religious law), the celebration dates back more than 2,000 years. The eight-day holiday celebrates the Maccabees' victory over the Syrians in the second century B.C. The Maccabees were a first- and second-century B.C. Jewish family that brought about the restoration of Jewish religious and political life.

According to Jewish belief, the Greek-Syrian Empire, also called the Seleucid Dynasty, had oppressed Jewish religious practices and defiled most of the pressed, ritually pure olive oil necessary to light the sacred eternal flame inside the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Jewish teaching says that when the temple was recaptured from the empire, the remaining oil was enough to last for only one day.

But the oil in the small jar miraculously burned for a full eight days -- long enough for the gathering of a fresh supply of olive oil and rededication of the temple. The story is commemorated each night of Hanukkah with the lighting of menorahs, which have eight lights plus one helper light. They are lighted one light at a time on each night of the celebration. The Hanukkah menorah is lighted only after nightfall, which signifies the Jews' purpose to illuminate the darkness of the world until a time when the world will be filled with the knowledge of God.

About 3 percent of the Tucson-area population is Jewish, which works out to about 30,000 people. Nationwide, about 2 percent of the population is Jewish.


Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at

Thursday, September 6, 2007

NYT: Big Gifts, Tax Breaks and a Debate on Charity

September 6, 2007
Age of Riches

Big Gifts, Tax Breaks and a Debate on Charity

Eli Broad, a billionaire businessman, has given away more than $650 million over the last five years, to Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to establish a medical research institute, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and to programs to improve the administration of urban schools and public education.

The rich are giving more to charity than ever, but people like Mr. Broad are not the only ones footing the bill for such generosity. For every three dollars they give away, the federal government typically gives up a dollar or more in tax revenue, because of the charitable tax deduction and by not collecting estate taxes.

Mr. Broad (rhymes with road) says his gifts provide a greater public benefit than if the money goes to taxes for the government to spend. “I believe the public benefit is significantly greater than the tax benefit an individual receives,” Mr. Broad said. “I think there’s a multiplier effect. What smart, entrepreneurial philanthropists and their foundations do is get greater value for how they invest their money than if the government were doing it.”

It is an argument made by many of the nation’s richest people. But not all of them. Take the investor William H. Gross, also a billionaire. Mr. Gross vigorously dismisses the notion that the wealthy are helping society more effectively and efficiently than government.

“When millions of people are dying of AIDS and malaria in Africa, it is hard to justify the umpteenth society gala held for the benefit of a performing arts center or an art museum,” he wrote in his investment commentary this month. “A $30 million gift to a concert hall is not philanthropy, it is a Napoleonic coronation.”

Elaborating in an interview, Mr. Gross said he did not think the public benefits from philanthropy were commensurate with the tax breaks that givers receive. “I don’t think we’re getting the bang for the buck for gifts to build football stadiums and concert halls, with all due respect to Carnegie Hall and other institutions,” he said. “I don’t think the public would vote for spending tax dollars on those things.”

The billionaires’ differing views epitomize a growing debate over what philanthropy is achieving at a time when the wealthiest Americans control a rising share of the national income and, because of sharp cuts in personal taxes, give up less to government.

Familiar Recipients

A common perception of philanthropy is that one of its central purposes is to alleviate the suffering of society’s least fortunate and therefore promote greater equality, taking some of the burden off government. In exchange, the United States is one of a handful of countries to allow givers a tax deduction. In essence, the public is letting private individuals decide how to allocate money on their behalf.

What qualifies for that tax deduction has broadened over the 90 years since its creation to include everything from university golf teams to puppet theaters — even an organization established after Hurricane Katrina to help practitioners of sadomasochism obtain gear they had lost in the storm.

Roughly three-quarters of charitable gifts of $50 million and more from 2002 through March 31 went to universities, private foundations, hospitals and art museums, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Of the rest, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation accounted for half on the center’s list. That money went primarily to improve the lives of the poor in developing countries. Valuable as that may be, it also meant that the American public effectively underwrote several billion dollars worth of foreign aid by private individuals, even though poll after poll shows Americans are at best ambivalent about using tax dollars in such assistance.

In contrast, few gifts of that size are made to organizations like the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and America’s Second Harvest, whose main goals are to help the poor in this country. Research shows that less than 10 percent of the money Americans give to charity addresses basic human needs, like sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry and caring for the indigent sick, and that the wealthiest typically devote an even smaller portion of their giving to such causes than everyone else.

“Donors give to organizations they are close to,” said H. Art Taylor, president and chief executive of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “So they give to their college or university, or maybe someone close to them died of a particular disease so they make a big gift to medical research aimed at that disease. How many of the superrich have that kind of a relationship with a soup kitchen? Or a homeless shelter?”

Philanthropists like Mr. Broad say that looking at philanthropy solely as a means of ameliorating need is too narrow. “If you look historically at what Carnegie did with creating a library system and the Rockefellers in creating Rockefeller University, I think it does a lot more for society than simply supporting those in need,” Mr. Broad said.

About 2 percent of the money Mr. Broad has given away through his two foundations over the last five years, or $15 million, went to support organizations like the United Way and the United Jewish Fund, which serve needy people as well as the middle class. The foundations also have given money to groups that help homeless children, and the International Rescue Committee.

Still, Mr. Broad dedicates his biggest gifts to areas he thinks lack government support, like the $25 million he gave to the University of Southern California last year to found an institute for integrative biology and stem cell research, or the tens of millions he dedicated to complete the new Disney concert hall in Los Angeles.

Like many major philanthropists, Mr. Broad said he considered such gifts an illustration of the Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” The argument is that simply taking care of the poor does nothing to eliminate poverty and that they will ultimately benefit more from efforts to, say, find cures for the diseases that afflict them or improve public education.

As for Mr. Gross, despite his uncharacteristically fiery criticism of what he calls “philanthropic ego gratification,” some of the large gifts he and his wife, Sue, have made are not so different from those made by other billionaires. He has given millions to a local hospital, for example, and for stem cell research.

And in 2005 the couple gave roughly $25 million to Duke, Mr. Gross’s alma mater.

But the Duke gift illustrates Mr. Gross’s priorities. The money is almost exclusively for scholarships.

“Universities have their own thing going — they want to build infrastructure and endowments and perpetuate their system, which isn’t necessarily in the social interest,” Mr. Gross said. “Scholarships get a little more down to the ground level.”

Taking Aim at the Tax Code

The investor Warren E. Buffett also voices strong feelings about how donations are used.

When Mr. Buffett pledged $30 billion to the Gates Foundation, he included a little-noted requirement that the foundation spend each increment of the gift he hands over, in addition to its own annual legally mandated spending. If Mr. Buffett transfers $1.3 billion of stock to it, it must spend every nickel within a year.

“I wanted to make sure,” he said, “that to the extent I was providing extra money to them, it didn’t just go to build up the foundation size further but that it was put to use.”

The Gates Foundation’s work is largely international, although a portion of its spending supports efforts to improve urban education and access to college, so Mr. Buffett’s money is unlikely to be used to address basic needs in this country.

“I think the government ought to make sure that all the people here who drew short straws have a decent minimum,” Mr. Buffett said. “We moved toward that with Social Security, but we could go a lot further now.”

He does not regard his gift as charitable and expects no tax benefit from it, in part because he has credit for past donations that he has not used.

Rather, he calls his sister, Doris Buffett, the “real philanthropist” in the family. Ms. Buffett runs an organization, the Sunshine Lady Foundation, that helps the needy pay for college, medical expenses, mortgages, glasses and cars.

Mr. Buffett recently has brought attention to himself as a critic of inequities in the nation’s tax system, which offers the wealthy better tax breaks for charitable giving than it does the average taxpayer. Deductions for charitable giving can be claimed only by the fewer than half of all taxpayers who itemize, and those falling in higher tax brackets get bigger deductions for cash gifts.

The charitable deduction cost the government $40 billion in lost tax revenue last year, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, more than the government spends altogether on managing public lands, protecting the environment and developing new energy sources.

Rob Reich, an assistant professor of political science and ethics in society at Stanford, goes so far as to say that the tax code promotes inequities through the breaks it provides for charitable giving.

Take schools. The Woodside Elementary School in Woodside, Calif., where the median family income is $196,505, raised $7,065 a pupil in 1998 from charitable contributions to a foundation it created, according to Professor Reich’s research. Across the San Francisco Bay, a similar foundation to support the Oakland Unified School District, where the median family income is $44,384, raised $138 a pupil that year.

In effect, the government is subsidizing a system that enhances inequities between poor and wealthy public schools, Professor Reich said.

Raising Questions

Legislators, regulators and others are asking more questions about exactly what charities do with the money they are given.

“When foundations, corporations and individuals give money to the opera,” said Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee who represents a district in Los Angeles populated largely by young working-class immigrant families, “my folks are very unlikely to benefit from those forgone tax dollars that could have been used for health care, for after-school programs for kids, for help in getting access to college education.”

Yet Mr. Becerra himself is a beneficiary of one of the country’s wealthiest charities, Stanford, which has a $15.2 billion endowment and gave him a scholarship. “There is no way my parents could have afforded for me to go there without the generous financial aid the university gave me,” he said.

At the other end of the political spectrum, Grover G. Norquist, whose Americans for Tax Reform lobbies for lower taxes, suggests taxing nonprofit hospitals that cannot demonstrate that they provide significant care for the poor.

“I’m not aware of anything they do that a for-profit hospital doesn’t do in terms of providing free care,” Mr. Norquist said.

Like other billionaire philanthropists, Thomas M. Siebel, founder of Siebel Systems, has given his largest gifts to his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1999, he donated $32 million for a computer science center bearing his name, and he pledged $100 million this year to support basic research that he hopes will reduce dependency on carbon-based fuels.

But when the university suggested using some of that gift to put up another new building named for him and hire new professors, he said no.

“I told them to use the basement of an existing building and some of the really smart people they already have,” Mr. Siebel said.

Attracting philanthropic support to fight substance abuse is one of the biggest challenges in fund-raising, but Mr. Siebel has donated more than $15 million to the Meth Project, an organization he created. “I think we’ll save a lot of lives in the end,” Mr. Siebel said. “Isn’t that what philanthropy is supposed to be about?”

He has also given the Salvation Army more than $18 million over the last six years, mostly to support services for the homeless. He said he gives to the organization because of its low administrative costs and lack of frills.

“When I first started doing this, I made a contribution to some organization, Harvest something or other, I think, that was working on homelessness,” Mr. Siebel said. “The next thing I knew, I got a plaque in the mail and an invitation to an awards ceremony.”

He added: “I never gave them another nickel. What were they spending money on plaques for?”


Friday, August 31, 2007

China kung fu monks seek apology for ninja affront

China kung fu monks seek apology for ninja affront

China's Shaolin Temple, the cradle of Chinese kung fu, is demanding an apology from an Internet user who said its monks had once been beaten in unarmed combat by a Japanese ninja, Chinese media reported on Friday.

Shaolin Temple, in the northern province of Henan, became famous in the West as the training ground for Kwai Chang "Grasshopper" Caine in the 1970s "Kung Fu" TV series.

Ninjas -- professional assassins trained in martial arts -- date back to mediaeval Japan.

"The so-called defeat is purely fabricated, and we demand the Internet user to apologize to the whole nation for the wrongs he or she did," the Beijing News said, citing a notice announced by a lawyer for the Shaolin monks.

Relations between Chinese and Japanese are sensitive at the best of times, with emotions still running high over Japan's invasion and occupation of parts of China in the first half of the 20th Century.

The Internet user, calling themselves "Five Minutes Every Day," said on an online forum last week that a Japanese ninja came to Shaolin, asked for a fight and many monks failed to beat him, the newspaper said.

"The facts that the monks could not defeat a Japanese ninja showed that they were named as kung fu masters in vain," the Internet user was quoted as saying in the post.

The Shaolin temple "strongly condemned the horrible deeds" of the user, the newspaper said.

"It is not only extremely irresponsible behavior with respect to the Shaolin temple and its monks, but also to the whole martial art and Chinese nation," it quoted the monks as saying.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Chicago GSB adds powerpoint to application

Top Business School Announces Creative Way for Applicants to Present Themselves Print
Written by EditorsChoice   
Wednesday, 01 August 2007

MBA students to present to submit up to four slides with application. A departure from text-only applications of past.

Chicago, Illinois (PRWEB) July 16, 2007 -- To enable prospective full-time MBA students to present a more complete picture of their candidacy, applicants to the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, one of the top business schools in the world, will now submit up to four slides about themselves with their application, the school announced. (


In announcing the new requirement, the school noted that prospective students are asked to supply facts about themselves throughout the application, but the slides will allow applicants to be creative and tell the admissions committee about themselves using a medium that parallels the communication tools used for professional and social networking.


"This is a departure from the text-only application that we used in the past because under the old format we were unable to capture important information showing how prospective students define themselves," said Stacey Kole, deputy dean at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.


The slides may contain pictures, graphs, text or anything else that prospective students want to include, according to the school.     


The requirement applies to students seeking to start the MBA program in September 2008. Applicants must still submit two traditional essays as part of the application process in addition to a maximum of four slides. More information about the school's full-time MBA program is available at


"There is no right or wrong way to satisfy the new requirement," said Rosemaria Martinelli, associate dean for student recruitment and admissions for the school's full-time MBA program. "The important thing is that applicants can express themselves in ways they could not before in essay form," she said.


In today's business environment, communication is fast and concise, Martinelli said. "Whether it be e-mail, PowerPoint or a two-minute elevator speech, successful businesspeople need to learn how to express their full ideas in very restrictive formats. We feel the new application requirement represents this very common challenge," she said. "But instead of using this tool to sell a product or request new business, applicants are using it to present themselves."


In addition to the slides, applicants for next year's entering class must also answer two essay questions. The first essay, limited to 1,500 words, is: "Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career? What are your personal and professional goals and the role an MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business plays in your plans to reach these goals?"


The second essay, limited to 500 words, asks: "If you could step into someone else's shoes for a day, who would it be and why?"


"Feedback from our current students shows that one of the unique things about our MBA program is that it challenges people to think in different ways and to be prepared for the unexpected," Martinelli said. "We keep that in mind as we select our essay questions. The new requirement for slides just takes that to another level."


The slides submitted with the application will not be judged on technical ability but rather the self-expression that is revealed, the school said. "Slides allow people to stretch beyond just the written word and one inch margins into a different space where an applicant can be much more expressive," Martinelli said.


"The slides will be printed and placed in each applicant's file for review, which means all the bells and whistles such as Flash, video clips, embedded music and hyperlinks won't be considered in the evaluation process," she said. "This clearly levels the playing field for everyone."





Fewer Mexicans seen sending money home from U.S.

Fewer Mexicans seen sending money home from U.S.

Wed Aug 8, 2007 6:52PM EDT

By Adriana Garcia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A lower percentage of Latin American workers living in the United States is sending money to family members back home, a report showed on Wednesday.

The percentage of Mexicans living in the United States who regularly sent remittances home fell to 64 percent in the first half of 2007, from 71 percent in the same period last year, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) said in a study of remittance patterns.

The reduction was deepest in 40 U.S. states where Latin American immigration is a more recent trend, such as Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where it plunged to 56 percent this year from the average 80 percent in 2006.

"In the new destination states, around half a million migrants have stopped sending money home," said Donald F. Terry, the IADB's Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) official who commissioned the survey.

"This means that over the past years two million people in Mexico have lost a vital lifeline," he added. Mexico is the primary destination for U.S. immigrant remittances.

Remittances to Mexico grew 23 percent from January to June of last year, but grew by only 0.6 per cent on the same period of 2007, according to the Central Bank of Mexico.

Remittances sent by Central American immigrants, meanwhile, grew at 11 percent in the same period.

A major difference between them is that almost all Central American immigrants live in traditional destination states, like California or Texas, while about 18 percent of Mexicans have spread to the "new destination" states.

"They have been more adventurous and more aggressive in the search for new jobs," said pollster Sergio Bendixen of Bendixen Associates, a Miami-based firm that conducted the survey.

Bendixen says this group of Mexicans is facing difficulties that have made them less optimistic, such as the lack of well-paying jobs, education and proficiency in English, and lack of legal immigration documents.

He also suggested that immigrants might be saving more money, instead of sending it abroad because they feel uncertainty about their own future.

About half of the 900 immigrants, both Mexican and Central American, were interviewed for the survey were illegal immigrants, he added.

"They just don't feel welcome in the United States any longer," Bendixen said.

About one in three of the Mexicans living in the "new states" thinks they will go back to Mexico in the next five years, against one in four in more traditional states, according to the survey.

The same proportion of Mexicans think that discrimination is the main problem they face now in the United States, while Bendixen said fewer than 10 percent of Hispanics used to think that discrimination was their chief problem here.

The survey was done in June by telephone in 50 U.S. states, the margin of error is +- 3 percentage points.

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"McFood" Better Than Food, Kids Say

"McFood" Better Than Food, Kids Say
Aug 6, 2007
(WebMD) Whether it's french fries or carrots, preschoolers say food tastes better when it comes in a McDonald's wrapper.

It's not the food, it's the brand name. Marketing strongly affects 4-year-olds' food preferences, find Stanford University pediatrics researcher Thomas N. Robinson, M.D., and colleagues.

Robinson and colleagues studied 63 low-income children enrolled in Head Start centers in California. The kids ranged in age from 3 years to 5 years.

Told they were playing a food-tasting game, the kids sat at a table with a screen across the middle. A researcher reached around either side of the screen to put out two identical food samples: slices of a hamburger, french fries, chicken nuggets, milk, or baby carrots.

The only difference between the pairs of food samples was that one came in a plain wrapper, cup, or bag, and the other came in a clean, unused McDonald's wrapper, cup, or bag. The kids were asked whether they liked one of the foods best, or whether they tasted the same.

In all cases, the majority of the kids said the "best" foods were those linked to the McDonald's brand, even though the only differences between the bags were the McDonald's logos (no special advertising materials were used).

  • 77 percent of the kids said the same french fries, from McDonald's, were better in a McDonald's bag than in a plain bag (13 percent liked the ones in the plain bag; 10 percent could tell they were the same).
  • 61 percent of the kids said milk tasted better in a McDonald's cup (21 percent liked milk in a plain cup; 18 percent could tell it was the same).
  • 59 percent of the kids said chicken nuggets tasted better in a McDonald's bag (18 percent liked them in a plain bag; 23 percent could tell they were the same).
  • 54 percent of the kids said carrots tasted better in a McDonald's bag (23 percent liked them in a plain bag; another 23 percent could tell they were the same).
  • 48 percent of the kids liked hamburgers better in a McDonald's wrapper (37 percent liked them in a plain wrapper; 15 percent could tell they were the same).

    Kids who preferred "McFood" tended to live in homes with a greater number of television sets and tended to eat at McDonald's more often than kids not influenced by the McDonald's brand name.

    "Children preferred the taste of carrots and milk if they thought they were from McDonald's," Robinson and colleagues conclude. "This is an opportunity for heavily marketed brands to respond to rising rates of childhood obesity by changing their product offerings."

    McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker says McDonald's is doing just that.

    "McDonald's is only advertising Happy Meals with white meat McNuggets, fresh apple slices, and low-fat milk, a right-sized meal of only 375 calories," Riker tells WebMD. "Additionally, our recent program with 'Shrek' was our biggest-ever promotion of fruits, vegetables, and milk, another indication of our progressive approach to responsible marketing."

    Riker says McDonald's own research "confirms that we've earned [parents'] trust as a responsible marketer based on decades of delivering the safest food, the highest quality toys, and the kind of choice and variety today's families are looking for."

    In December 2005, the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a CDC-funded study on food marketing to children. The study found that advertisers used highly sophisticated techniques to target children who are too young to know the difference between advertising claims and truth.

    As a result, the IOM study showed, companies succeed in getting children to eat ever more high-calorie, low-nutrient, and high-profit, junk food.

    The Robinson study appears in the August issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The journal last year published a series of studies linking media messages to harmful effects on children's health, including child obesity.

    Three-year-olds, one of the studies found, are three times more likely to be overweight if they spend two or more hours a day in a room with a TV on.

    "Past studies have shown that the content of children's TV commercials is overwhelmingly about junk food," University of Michigan researcher Julie C. Lumeng, M.D., told WebMD last year. "And if you show kids commercials, they ask for the junk food. So it may be the TV, even at this early age, is shaping their food preferences."

  • By Daniel DeNoon
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D.
    ©2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Monday, August 6, 2007

    FW: Interesting Boston Globe Article on Diversity and Civic Life

    The downside of diversity

    A Harvard political scientist finds that diversity hurts civic life. What happens when a liberal scholar unearths an inconvenient truth?

    IT HAS BECOME increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.

    But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

    "The extent of the effect is shocking," says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist.

    The study comes at a time when the future of the American melting pot is the focus of intense political debate, from immigration to race-based admissions to schools, and it poses challenges to advocates on all sides of the issues. The study is already being cited by some conservatives as proof of the harm large-scale immigration causes to the nation's social fabric. But with demographic trends already pushing the nation inexorably toward greater diversity, the real question may yet lie ahead: how to handle the unsettling social changes that Putnam's research predicts.

    "We can't ignore the findings," says Ali Noorani, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. "The big question we have to ask ourselves is, what do we do about it; what are the next steps?"

    The study is part of a fascinating new portrait of diversity emerging from recent scholarship. Diversity, it shows, makes us uncomfortable -- but discomfort, it turns out, isn't always a bad thing. Unease with differences helps explain why teams of engineers from different cultures may be ideally suited to solve a vexing problem. Culture clashes can produce a dynamic give-and-take, generating a solution that may have eluded a group of people with more similar backgrounds and approaches. At the same time, though, Putnam's work adds to a growing body of research indicating that more diverse populations seem to extend themselves less on behalf of collective needs and goals.

    His findings on the downsides of diversity have also posed a challenge for Putnam, a liberal academic whose own values put him squarely in the pro-diversity camp. Suddenly finding himself the bearer of bad news, Putnam has struggled with how to present his work. He gathered the initial raw data in 2000 and issued a press release the following year outlining the results. He then spent several years testing other possible explanations.

    When he finally published a detailed scholarly analysis in June in the journal Scandinavian Political Studies, he faced criticism for straying from data into advocacy. His paper argues strongly that the negative effects of diversity can be remedied, and says history suggests that ethnic diversity may eventually fade as a sharp line of social demarcation.

    "Having aligned himself with the central planners intent on sustaining such social engineering, Putnam concludes the facts with a stern pep talk," wrote conservative commentator Ilana Mercer, in a recent Orange County Register op-ed titled "Greater diversity equals more misery."

    Putnam has long staked out ground as both a researcher and a civic player, someone willing to describe social problems and then have a hand in addressing them. He says social science should be "simultaneously rigorous and relevant," meeting high research standards while also "speaking to concerns of our fellow citizens." But on a topic as charged as ethnicity and race, Putnam worries that many people hear only what they want to.

    "It would be unfortunate if a politically correct progressivism were to deny the reality of the challenge to social solidarity posed by diversity," he writes in the new report. "It would be equally unfortunate if an ahistorical and ethnocentric conservatism were to deny that addressing that challenge is both feasible and desirable."

    . . .

    Putnam is the nation's premier guru of civic engagement. After studying civic life in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s, Putnam turned his attention to the US, publishing an influential journal article on civic engagement in 1995 that he expanded five years later into the best-selling "Bowling Alone." The book sounded a national wake-up call on what Putnam called a sharp drop in civic connections among Americans. It won him audiences with presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and made him one of the country's best known social scientists.

    Putnam claims the US has experienced a pronounced decline in "social capital," a term he helped popularize. Social capital refers to the social networks -- whether friendships or religious congregations or neighborhood associations -- that he says are key indicators of civic well-being. When social capital is high, says Putnam, communities are better places to live. Neighborhoods are safer; people are healthier; and more citizens vote.

    The results of his new study come from a survey Putnam directed among residents in 41 US communities, including Boston. Residents were sorted into the four principal categories used by the US Census: black, white, Hispanic, and Asian. They were asked how much they trusted their neighbors and those of each racial category, and questioned about a long list of civic attitudes and practices, including their views on local government, their involvement in community projects, and their friendships. What emerged in more diverse communities was a bleak picture of civic desolation, affecting everything from political engagement to the state of social ties.

    Putnam knew he had provocative findings on his hands. He worried about coming under some of the same liberal attacks that greeted Daniel Patrick Moynihan's landmark 1965 report on the social costs associated with the breakdown of the black family. There is always the risk of being pilloried as the bearer of "an inconvenient truth," says Putnam.

    After releasing the initial results in 2001, Putnam says he spent time "kicking the tires really hard" to be sure the study had it right. Putnam realized, for instance, that more diverse communities tended to be larger, have greater income ranges, higher crime rates, and more mobility among their residents -- all factors that could depress social capital independent of any impact ethnic diversity might have.

    "People would say, 'I bet you forgot about X,'" Putnam says of the string of suggestions from colleagues. "There were 20 or 30 X's."

    But even after statistically taking them all into account, the connection remained strong: Higher diversity meant lower social capital. In his findings, Putnam writes that those in more diverse communities tend to "distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television."

    "People living in ethnically diverse settings appear to 'hunker down' -- that is, to pull in like a turtle," Putnam writes.

    In documenting that hunkering down, Putnam challenged the two dominant schools of thought on ethnic and racial diversity, the "contact" theory and the "conflict" theory. Under the contact theory, more time spent with those of other backgrounds leads to greater understanding and harmony between groups. Under the conflict theory, that proximity produces tension and discord.

    Putnam's findings reject both theories. In more diverse communities, he says, there were neither great bonds formed across group lines nor heightened ethnic tensions, but a general civic malaise. And in perhaps the most surprising result of all, levels of trust were not only lower between groups in more diverse settings, but even among members of the same group.

    "Diversity, at least in the short run," he writes, "seems to bring out the turtle in all of us."

    The overall findings may be jarring during a time when it's become commonplace to sing the praises of diverse communities, but researchers in the field say they shouldn't be.

    "It's an important addition to a growing body of evidence on the challenges created by diversity," says Harvard economist Edward Glaeser.

    In a recent study, Glaeser and colleague Alberto Alesina demonstrated that roughly half the difference in social welfare spending between the US and Europe -- Europe spends far more -- can be attributed to the greater ethnic diversity of the US population. Glaeser says lower national social welfare spending in the US is a "macro" version of the decreased civic engagement Putnam found in more diverse communities within the country.

    Economists Matthew Kahn of UCLA and Dora Costa of MIT reviewed 15 recent studies in a 2003 paper, all of which linked diversity with lower levels of social capital. Greater ethnic diversity was linked, for example, to lower school funding, census response rates, and trust in others. Kahn and Costa's own research documented higher desertion rates in the Civil War among Union Army soldiers serving in companies whose soldiers varied more by age, occupation, and birthplace.

    Birds of different feathers may sometimes flock together, but they are also less likely to look out for one another. "Everyone is a little self-conscious that this is not politically correct stuff," says Kahn.

    . . .

    So how to explain New York, London, Rio de Janiero, Los Angeles -- the great melting-pot cities that drive the world's creative and financial economies?

    The image of civic lassitude dragging down more diverse communities is at odds with the vigor often associated with urban centers, where ethnic diversity is greatest. It turns out there is a flip side to the discomfort diversity can cause. If ethnic diversity, at least in the short run, is a liability for social connectedness, a parallel line of emerging research suggests it can be a big asset when it comes to driving productivity and innovation. In high-skill workplace settings, says Scott Page, the University of Michigan political scientist, the different ways of thinking among people from different cultures can be a boon.

    "Because they see the world and think about the world differently than you, that's challenging," says Page, author of "The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies." "But by hanging out with people different than you, you're likely to get more insights. Diverse teams tend to be more productive."

    In other words, those in more diverse communities may do more bowling alone, but the creative tensions unleashed by those differences in the workplace may vault those same places to the cutting edge of the economy and of creative culture.

    Page calls it the "diversity paradox." He thinks the contrasting positive and negative effects of diversity can coexist in communities, but "there's got to be a limit." If civic engagement falls off too far, he says, it's easy to imagine the positive effects of diversity beginning to wane as well. "That's what's unsettling about his findings," Page says of Putnam's new work.

    Meanwhile, by drawing a portrait of civic engagement in which more homogeneous communities seem much healthier, some of Putnam's worst fears about how his results could be used have been realized. A stream of conservative commentary has begun -- from places like the Manhattan Institute and "The American Conservative" -- highlighting the harm the study suggests will come from large-scale immigration. But Putnam says he's also received hundreds of complimentary emails laced with bigoted language. "It certainly is not pleasant when David Duke's website hails me as the guy who found out racism is good," he says.

    In the final quarter of his paper, Putnam puts the diversity challenge in a broader context by describing how social identity can change over time. Experience shows that social divisions can eventually give way to "more encompassing identities" that create a "new, more capacious sense of 'we,'" he writes.

    Growing up in the 1950s in small Midwestern town, Putnam knew the religion of virtually every member of his high school graduating class because, he says, such information was crucial to the question of "who was a possible mate or date." The importance of marrying within one's faith, he says, has largely faded since then, at least among many mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.

    While acknowledging that racial and ethnic divisions may prove more stubborn, Putnam argues that such examples bode well for the long-term prospects for social capital in a multiethnic America.

    In his paper, Putnam cites the work done by Page and others, and uses it to help frame his conclusion that increasing diversity in America is not only inevitable, but ultimately valuable and enriching. As for smoothing over the divisions that hinder civic engagement, Putnam argues that Americans can help that process along through targeted efforts. He suggests expanding support for English-language instruction and investing in community centers and other places that allow for "meaningful interaction across ethnic lines."

    Some critics have found his prescriptions underwhelming. And in offering ideas for mitigating his findings, Putnam has drawn scorn for stepping out of the role of dispassionate researcher. "You're just supposed to tell your peers what you found," says John Leo, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. "I don't expect academics to fret about these matters."

    But fretting about the state of American civic health is exactly what Putnam has spent more than a decade doing. While continuing to research questions involving social capital, he has directed the Saguaro Seminar, a project he started at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government that promotes efforts throughout the country to increase civic connections in communities.

    "Social scientists are both scientists and citizens," says Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, who sees nothing wrong in Putnam's efforts to affect some of the phenomena he studies.

    Wolfe says what is unusual is that Putnam has published findings as a social scientist that are not the ones he would have wished for as a civic leader. There are plenty of social scientists, says Wolfe, who never produce research results at odds with their own worldview.

    "The problem too often," says Wolfe, "is people are never uncomfortable about their findings."

    Michael Jonas is acting editor of CommonWealth magazine, published by MassINC, a nonpartisan public-policy think tank in Boston. 

    © Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
    Allison B. Clark
    Program Officer
    Program Related Investments
    MacArthur Foundation
    140 S. Dearborn St.
    Chicago , IL  60603

    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    Most ruthless foreclosure states


    Most ruthless foreclosure states

    Laws vary widely from state to state. Do you know what kind of mortgage you have?

    By Les Christie, staff writer

    NEW YORK ( -- In Alabama, late-paying homeowners can lose their properties to foreclosure at breathtaking speed - as little as 30 days after a delinquency notice is published.

    In New York State, the process can drag on for well more than a year.

    With foreclosures spiking around the nation, homeowners should learn the foreclosure laws in their states - what you don't know can hurt you.

    "The foreclosure laws tend to be very parochial," said Lawrence Jacobson, a real estate attorney in Los Angeles.

    One major divide is whether the principal instrument securing the loan is a conventional mortgage or a "deed of trust." They are not the same even though everybody uses the term "mortgage" interchangeably.

    In fact, deeds of trust are the more common of the two, used in 34 states either mostly or exclusively.

    The difference is this: Mortgages involve two parties, borrowers and lenders, while deeds of trust have third parties, called trustees, who hold temporary title to the properties until borrowers pay off their loans.

    That difference can be crucial when a borrower falls behind in payments. With deeds of trust, the trustees don't have to go to court to initiate a foreclosure; with a mortgage, the lender almost always does, which slows down the process.

    In states where deeds of trust are an option, lenders almost always choose them over mortgages, because they are "non-judicial" - and quick.

    California, where foreclosure might come as soon as 120 days following the delinquency notice, is one of them. Said Jacobson: "I've been a real estate attorney nearly 40 years and I have yet to see a mortgage in California."

    In many states, the process can be even quicker. At 30 days, Alabama may be the speed champ but other states with deeds of trust are not far behind. In New Hampshire, Mississippi and others, it takes as little as 60 days. All these states use deeds of trust.

    (To see how long it generally takes in your home state, go to and click on a state.)

    In contrast, judicial foreclosure, which is the usual procedure when a mortgage is involved, can be slow. First a lawsuit must be filed. Then, there's a period of discovery and a court date must be set. And courts can grant delays to prepare cases. All told, it can take many months.

    States with long time frames include Vermont (210 days), Florida and Nebraska (180 days). New York, at 12 to 19 months, is the state with the longest typical time frame.

    Although home owners do lose their properties much quicker in most deed-in-trust states, they may enjoy one advantage: liberal "rights of redemption" are more common than in mortgage-only states.

    That means even if your home is foreclosed on and auctioned off, there is a time period when you can pay the debt and get the home back.

    The window is usually very brief, but can last for as long as a year after the property is sold at auction.

    According to Alexis McGee, author of "The Guide to Making Huge Profits Investing in Pre-Foreclosures Without Selling Your Soul," the right of redemption can be tough on foreclosure buyers. "The state gives the owner the right to buy back the property for the price [the auction bidder] paid for it," McGee said. Any additional expenses buyers paid, such as for repairs or maintenance, is lost.

    Foreclosures: Hardest hit zip codes.

    One more wrinkle for home owners to note is that simply because they've lost their properties to foreclosure, it does not always mean they're completely off the hook for their debts. If the auction sale brings less than the amount owed to the lender, it may still go after the borrower for the balance.

    That's called a "deficiency judgment," and it's a right that lenders do not enjoy in every state. As a practical matter, deficiency judgments rarely occur, but Jacobson knew of at least one case where it was invoked.

    A couple owned a home that was totally destroyed in an earthquake. Its value to the lender fell to near zero and the owners had no insurance. The lender asked for a deficiency judgment - and won. Top of page

    Tuesday, July 24, 2007

    Reuters: Young keep it simple in high-tech world: survey

    Young keep it simple in high-tech world: survey

    Tue Jul 24, 8:22 AM ET

    While young people embrace the Web with real or virtual friends and their cell phone is never far away, relatively few like technology and those that do tend to be in Brazil, India and China, according to a survey.

    Only a handful think of technology as a concept, and just 16 percent use terms like "social networking," said two combined surveys covering 8- to 24-year-olds published on Tuesday by Microsoft and Viacom units MTV Networks and Nickelodeon.

    "Young people don't see "tech" as a separate entity - it's an organic part of their lives," said Andrew Davidson, vice president of MTV's VBS International Insight unit.

    "Talking to them about the role of technology in their lifestyle would be like talking to kids in the 1980s about the role the park swing or the telephone played in their social lives -- it's invisible."

    The surveys involved 18,000 young people in 16 countries including the UK, U.S., China, Japan, Canada and Mexico.

    Terms most frequently used by the young when talking about technology related to accessing content for free, notably "download and "burn."

    The surveyors found the average Chinese computer user has 37 online friends they have never met, Indian youth are most likely to see cell phones as a status symbol, while one-in-three UK and U.S. teenagers say they cannot live without games consoles.

    "The way each technology is adopted and adapted throughout the world depends as much on local cultural and social factors as on the technology itself," said Davidson.

    For example, the key digital device for Japan's young is the cell phone because of the privacy and portability it offers those who live in small homes with limited privacy.

    They found Japanese children aged eight to 14 have only one online friend they have not met, compared to a global average of five. Some 93 percent of Chinese computer users aged 8-14 have more than one friend online they have never met.

    Davidson said this was encouraging those aged 8-14 in China to select online over television -- a trend not seen in any other market in that age group.

    The changes in how the youth market engages with technology is keenly followed by advertisers and content firms.

    "Traditional youth marketing considered opinion formers and influencers to be a small elite, but these days the elite has become much larger," said Davidson.

    For parents worried about what their children are getting up to amid the wave of gadgets, little has changed in a generation.

    The surveyors found the most popular activities the under-14s enjoy were watching TV, listening to music and being with friends. The rankings for those older was similar although listening to music was top.

    Monday, July 16, 2007

    Reuters: "Casual" the new video game buzzword

    "Casual" the new video game buzzword

    By Scott Hillis Fri Jul 13, 5:28 PM ET

    Video game companies are hungrily eyeing the millions of people for whom mowing down alien invaders or battling ninjas holds limited appeal.

    The video game industry's annual expo is always a showcase for testosterone-filled fighting and driving titles, but this year the word on the lips of many executives is 'casual.'

    Driven by the runaway success of Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s (7974.OS) motion-controlled Wii console, makers are pumping out games to play for a few minutes or on the run, such as puzzles and virtual card games -- to the extent that some analysts worry the industry may be spreading itself too thinly.

    "There may be a 'casual' glut by 2008," UBS analyst Ben Schachter wrote in a note to clients.

    Kathy Vrabeck, head of the newly formed casual games unit at top publisher Electronic Arts Inc. (Nasdaq:ERTS - news), said in an interview that "it's a very difficult business model," given a variety of platforms, from cell phones to consoles, for instance.

    But EA devoted almost its entire media briefing at the E3 expo in Santa Monica, California this week to showing off new casual games such as Wii rhythm title "Boogie."

    "We believe it's going to be the fastest-growing area within all of gaming," Vrabeck said.

    UbiSoft, Europe's biggest publisher known for its slate of realistic military games, also lingered on the casual theme, showing off titles meant to appeal to women, such as "My Life Coach" for Nintendo's DS handheld.

    The company expects casual games to account for 20 percent of its revenue this year, double last year's figure.

    "It's not the better graphics, it's not the fancy controllers. What we're talking about is widening the nets, bringing more people into our industry," said Tony Key, UbiSoft's vice president of U.S. marketing.

    The industry, whose global revenue topped $30 billion last year, has tried for years to shake the stereotype that its consumers consist chiefly of teen-age boys with too few social skills and too much leisure time.

    Yet the Entertainment Software Association puts the age of the average game player at 33 years, and says 24 percent of players are over the age of 50. That's almost as much as the portion under the age of 18 -- 28 percent.

    The surge of interest in casual games is partly the result of shifting economics that have pressured the bottom lines of many firms.

    An A-list title for new gaming consoles from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT - news) and Sony Corp. (6758.T) can now take four years to make and cost $30 million, two to three times the cost of games for the previous generation of machines.

    Yet retail prices have only risen 20 percent, to $60 for a newly released top title.

    Moreover, publishers' hopes that gamers would rush to adopt new hardware were dashed by the high cost of the consoles. Fewer consoles in homes meant a smaller base of potential game buyers, and thus weaker sales of those costly new games.

    By contrast, casual games, with their simpler graphics and controls, can cost well under $1 million and take just a few months to make. Although they might sell for as little as $5 to $30, they appeal to a broader audience.

    Casual games also have their own set of challenges. While much of the focus has been on the Wii and DS due to their popularity, mobile phone and online games strongly appeal to women and older players.

    A single mobile phone game may need to be tweaked to run on up to 300 different handset models, and unlike hard-core gamers who don't blink at spending hundreds of dollars a year on the newest games, the casual audience may not become repeat customers.

    "Nintendo seems to be the one company that's expanding the gaming market, but there's some cause for concern there because who they're attracting is the casual gamer," said Van Baker, an analyst with research firm Gartner.

    "That's something that someone picks up and does for 15 to 20 minutes and then they put it aside. The question is, in three months or six months, is the Wii going to be sitting in the corner forgotten?"

    The Good and Bad of Tagalong Technology

    I thought this was topical given our last discussion about IT. -Jerry

    BusinessWeek Online
    The Good and Bad of Tagalong Technology
    Monday July 16, 8:08 am ET
    By Rachael King

    American Airlines employees sporting iPhones may be disappointed when they bring the slick new gadgets to work. The airline recently updated its list of mobile devices allowed to synch with the company's IT systems, and the Apple (NasdaqGS:AAPL - News) device didn't make the cut. "We'll only let certain things connect to our network," says American Airlines (NYSE:AMR - News) Chief Information Officer Monte Ford. His main concern is ensuring outside electronics don't undermine the company's data security.

    That preoccupation is widespread among Ford's peers. IT departments at companies as varied as Qwest Communications International (NYSE:Q - News), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC - News), and BusinessWeek parent The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE:MHP - News) aren't supporting the iPhone. And worries over consumer tech span a raft of technology -- from iPods to USB drives, to Google (NasdaqGS:GOOG - News) Gmail, even to gaming consoles such as Nintendo's Wii -- wending their way into the workplace.

    While many consumer gadgets and software applications can benefit a company -- for instance, by helping employees get their jobs done more efficiently -- the security implications are legion, says Ken Silva, chief security officer at VeriSign (NasdaqGS:VRSN - News), which specializes in network security software. "When we bolt those things onto corporate networks, we open up holes in the environment."

    Ban the Interlopers?

    Drugmaker Pfizer (NYSE:PFE - News) found this out the hard way. An employee's spouse loaded file-sharing software onto her Pfizer laptop at home, creating a security hole that appears to have compromised the names and Social Security numbers of 17,000 current and former Pfizer employees, according to a letter Pfizer sent to state attorneys general on May 30. Pfizer's investigation showed that 15,700 of those employees actually had their data accessed and copied.

    So why not curb the encroachment by banning outside software and hardware altogether? The fact is, much technology aimed at consumers is more innovative and cheaper than products made for companies and just makes good business sense, says Douglas Neal, a research fellow at Computer Sciences' (NYSE:CSC - News) Leading Edge Forum Executive Program. Some workers have a difficult time understanding why they've got a 100-megabyte limit on their corporate e-mail account when they can get 2.5 gigabytes with Gmail, says Steve Prentice, chief of research at Gartner (NYSE:IT - News).

    "With few exceptions, people don't do it because they want to be awkward or break security or be a pain in the backside," he says of the tendency to use consumer tech at work. "They do it because of frustration, or a problem or limitation with the IT services provided by the organization."

    Airline Goes with Google

    In a recent study conducted by the Financial Times newspaper and researchers at the Leading Edge Forum, which brings together researchers and executives to explore IT-related subjects, two-thirds of surveyed U.S. and British FT subscribers said they had equipment at home that was as good as or better than the equipment they had at work.

    KLM (NYSE:AKH - News) knows those shortcomings all too well. When the airline wanted to put a search function on its corporate intranet, it spent much time and money testing a costly conventional corporate tool that simply didn't work well. The answer finally came in the form of the Google Mini search appliance that cost all of 2,995 ($4,128).

    KLM is one of several companies that have formed the Consumerization Working Group to find ways to use consumer technologies more securely in the workplace. Other participants include DuPont (NYSE:DD - News), Dow (NYSE:DOW - News), Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY - News), and BP (NYSE:BP - News). "There is a huge set of opportunities here," says Neal, who also heads the Consumerization Working Group.

    Much More Comfortable

    Those opportunities are created by an increasingly tech-savvy workforce whose personal and professional lives are more intertwined than ever. "Sunday morning and Tuesday afternoon are becoming completely the same," says KLM Chief Information Officer Boet Kreiken. At the same time, employees throughout organizations are becoming much more comfortable with a range of technologies.

    In years past, employees might have had only a PC at home, notes Prentice at Gartner. Today they may juggle a network linking several PCs, printers, and backup devices connected to a high-speed Internet connection -- in addition to a set-top box, gaming console, high-definition TV, and all manner of other Web-based services such as YouTube and News Corp.'s (NYSE:NWS - News) MySpace.

    Research by Gartner shows that employees' personal devices have already made inroads into corporate networks. The trend shows no sign of abating. As of September, 2005, 29% of employees and 24% of contractors were using noncompany-owned equipment on company networks, according to a Gartner survey of 404 IT managers in the U.S. and four European countries. Those managers expected use of noncompany-owned hardware to grow to 42% of employees and 32% of contractors by 2008.

    Creative Risk Avoidance

    Rather than fight the trend, some companies are experimenting with giving employees more choice regarding the technology they use -- so long as they accept more responsibility for it. In 2005, BP began a pilot project that gives employees about $1,000 to spend on productivity-enhancing tools in addition to standard-issue equipment, according to an April report by the Leading Edge Forum's Neal. But before they can participate, employees need to pass the International Computer Driver License test, designed to test a person's computer literacy skills. BP declined to comment on the program.

    The company takes other steps to give employees free rein while mitigating risk. BP cordons off its network by letting employees link to the Internet via consumer connections, from outside the firewall, in the case of its 18,000 laptops. At the same time it beefs up security on those machines. This lets employees safely experiment with software such as Amazon's on-demand computing and storage services.

    Moving employees outside the firewall is an example of de-perimeterization, a growing movement to change the way corporations address technology security. In a business world where many employees are off-site, or on the road, or where businesses increasingly must collaborate with partners and customers, some say it's not practical to rely on a hardened perimeter of firewalls. Instead, proponents of de-perimeterization say companies should focus on beefing up security in end-user devices and an organization's critical information assets.

    Freedom Breeds Inspiration

    So a group of companies got together to figure out how to redesign corporate security to accommodate more fluid boundaries and officially formed the Jericho Forum in 2004. Members include Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG - News), Boeing (NYSE:BA - News), and Dresdner Kleinwort.

    The hope among many companies is that a little bit of technological freedom will inspire employees to innovate and find new ways of becoming more productive. Already, employees are experimenting with new Web technologies such as wikis, without the explicit permission of the IT department. In 2005, for instance, Intel engineer Josh Bancroft started a wiki because he thought it would be a good idea to have a central place to share information. That wiki, called Intelpedia, has caught on throughout the company and now has more than 5,000 pages of content (see, 3/12/07, "No Rest for the Wiki").

    Bottom Up

    And even though Monte Ford at American Airlines isn't letting the iPhone into his network, he still wants to foster an environment where innovation can occur without compromising security. His employees came up with the idea of putting the company's instant-messaging system on customized laptops for employees who have to complete a checklist at each plane before each takeoff.

    Previously, the mechanics had to go back and forth between the plane and a computer room to look up information about systems and parts or to communicate with pilots. Now all that can be done at the plane. "You have to be willing to reward those things that bubble up from the bottom and expect people to come up with ideas," Ford says. "We're much better off as a company if very few things come from the top, other than direction."