The Digital Family Summit: A Weekend Devoted to Tech, Video, Social Media for Tweens and Teens!

At KidzVuz we believe that technology is not the enemy, and that our kids need the right tools and knowledge to become creative, responsible digital citizens.  That’s why we are so excited to be part of the first ever Digital Family Summit in Philadelphia from June 29th-July 1st.  The Digital Family Summit is an interactive, hands-on conference for teen and tween digital media creators and their families.  If you or your kid is interested in blogging, entrepreneurship, creating videos, games or animations this conference will help build skills and make connections that will take him or her to the next level.

We also believe that the Digital Family Summit is the perfect way to kick off your family’s summer so that your kids can apply the amazing skills they learn over the weekend all summer long, and have a technological leg up starting the new school year.  Plus, we hope that your kids will take this new-found video making and editing savvy and become a member of KidzVuz.com where they can safely create and share their videos with other like-minded kids from all over the country!  We will certainly be looking for future star reviewers in this fabulous crowd.

Now the fun part.  You can get a 25% discount on a family pass right now using code KIDZVUZ at checkout.  Even more exciting, we are giving away a Digital Family Summit Family Pass for you and your kids to attend!  Just click on over to KidzVuz Parents Blog and enter to win!

Taking the Motorola Xoom to BlogHer and Beyond

Motorola provided me with a Xoom Tablet to test, review and keep as well as compensating me for my participation in the Xoom ambassadorship program.  I did not, however get an embassy or other diplomatic perks.

For the past few weeks I’ve been toting around a Motorola Xoom.  And I truly mean “toting.”  At only a little over a pound and .5 inches thin it has been easy to include in my regular handbag as I walked around the city, flew to San Diego (didn’t even have to take it out of its case for security!), ran from meeting to event to meeting at BlogHer and finally kept my kids entertained while I met with subcontractors and other vendors at my apartment renovation.  Overall, it’s given me freedom I don’t have when carrying around my laptop or relying only on a smartphone.

I have never owned an Android device.  My husband immediately switched from his Blackberry to a Droid the moment he was eligible for an upgrade, but I was hooked into the iphone – and then the windows phone – then back to the iphone – but that’s a whole other story.  So, using the Xoom was my first foray into the Android app marketplace.  I guess it was perfect timing because according to my husband the marketplace recently underwent a huge redesign and facelift.  Initially I found it really easy to navigate – but I also knew exactly what I needed – Kindle, WordPress and Hoot Suite for me.  Angry Birds for my daughters.  Basics covered.  Things got much trickier when I wanted to browse.  The Android app marketplace is not intuitive and I couldn’t get past the “top” apps windows into anything else per category.  Also, just because something is available for one Android device doesn’t mean it works on other Android devices.  What is up with that?

The next thing I did was check out the browser and see how this blog, Beccarama, looked on the Xoom and then how my KidzVuz site looked.  Both were gorgeous.  Since we are going to develop an Android app for KidzVuz in the coming months getting a feel for how apps work on the Xoom was important.  I found the interface to be fairly intuitive and customizable.  The home icon, back buttons, gmail integration, battery and network display are clear, easy to find and easily accessible.  It takes some getting used to taking pics and videos with a tablet.  It’s almost like being a filmmaker in the 1930s with some monster camera, on the other hand framing everything within a 10 inch screen is pretty cool.  As a vlogger I love the ability to switch to the forward facing camera and see myself while I record so I can make sure it looks good, I have nothing in my teeth or crazy dark circles under my eyes.  I also love the keyboard.  It’s big and easy to type on, though I would need a bluetooth keyboard for any serious work.

My own big downside is that I am using the wifi model and for a mom on the go that is problematic.  For a blogger on the go it’s a work killer.  Not being able to tweet and microblog at events is basically like having no hands for me so while I loved having the Xoom with me I can’t use it as I’d want to because I need that instant ability to share and post.  And the share function is really great on the photo and video app on the Xoom where it automatically pulls up sharing outputs like WordPress, gmail, twitter and more.  I love that.

For business meetings I need to be able to pull up KidzVuz and show it off to potential sponsors and partners – asking to log on to their wifi network is just too amateurish.  So, I may purchase a Verizon Wireless or Time Warner MiFi to give me that flexibility.  But, my recommendation would be to buy the Xoom directly through Verizon Wireless with the data plan – and now they’ve lowered the price to $499.99 if you are looking to really work with it and not just use it as a leisure device.

I will continue to test out the Xoom over the next few weeks and see how it integrates with my work/home life.  I still haven’t tested out podcasting, or watching movies with and without the dock.  I will be posting videos and photos from the Xoom soon.  And look out for a kids’ review on KidzVuz made on the Xoom!

No One Puts Women Bloggers in a Corner – Except Women Bloggers?

Earlier this week Susannah Breslin wrote a post on Forbes Women titled, Why Women Shouldn’t Go to Tech Conferences.  In a nutshell, she was upset about the frivolous and seemingly non-tech way that women were presented, and chosen to present, at Tech Week.  Having just spoken on a panel at CE Week in New York a few weeks ago I gave this article a serious reading – and commented accordingly.  But, I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Something about what Susannah touched upon is all too true – and with BlogHer just a week away I haven’t been able to shake the thought that women are being put into tech “lite” panels more often than not.  I have complained quite publicly that many panels and conferences aimed at women are incredibly lacking in real data, concrete takeaways and information and are often full of generalizations and “feelings.”  But, looking back on all of the panels and conferences this year I also felt that way about many of the panels that had men on them too.  Maybe the truth is that few people are actually experts, that many conference agendas are packed with people who know someone, or have an entertaining power point presentation or a huge twitter personality that is fun to be a part of in person but doesn’t give you a whole lot to work on when you leave the room.

I don’t want to see the ghetto-ization of women at tech conferences.  I hate the idea that women need a separate “mommy” track or that all they want to do is gab about being better at social media because hey, women like to talk!  On the other hand, who can hold forth on a panel about how brands should and could work with mom bloggers other than mom bloggers?  The goal is to have women talk about SEO, programming, coding, sales, raising capital, growing a business and social media, marketing, PR and more.  When women are fully integrated into all programming, the specialized “women” tracks won’t seem so precious.  That should be the goal – not that women should just forget about being a part of tech conferences, but that women should get their geek on and fully embrace aspects of the technology they are using everyday – not just be a conduit to the coveted female consumer.  There is power in that influence for sure but there’s even more power in not being pigeonholed.

I will be heading to BlogHer next week, and make no mistake about it I am thrilled to connect with so many brands I love, I use and I hope to have sponsorship and campaign partnerships with in the future – for Beccarama, the Blogging Angels and most importantly for me now as the co-founder of my internet start-up, KidzVuz.com.  My focus is on building a business – and I will take all of the information, guidance and resources I can get.  That’s what I look to get out of every conference I go to and that I’m a part of – no matter what the gender make-up of the panels and workshops.   Maybe it’s hypocritical to demand parity at tech conferences and yet celebrate that BlogHer is for women only – I can live with that.  As I’ve said before, I’m thrilled that BlogHer is for and by women.  I will be hanging out at the Geek Bar to learn from some very tech savvy women and then I will turn right around and have an awesome day sponsored by Sony, getting new profile pics and my hair and makeup done, because I for one won’t be put into a virtual corner.

Avatar Kinect: My Avatar is Ready for Her Close-Up

Last week The Blogging Angels went on their first top-secret mission.  The location: The NYC Microsoft offices.  The Background: To learn all about the new Avatar Kinect and demo the technology.  The Mission: To create our own Avatar Kinect project and show it off to the world today – July 25th, official launch day.

I have owned an XBox and Kinect since the Kinect debuted late last year.  My daughters love it and though our downstairs neighbors might not be so enthralled with the fact that they ARE the controller – jumping, running, stomping – I think it’s amazing.  The Kinect is truly one of those technologies that makes you feel like the future is now.  It’s every science fiction film turned into reality.  And that is even more true with the Avatar Kinect.

We decided to film an intro to our podcast using Avatar Kinect.  The four of us, each in our own homes in and around NYC, created avatars – styled, dressed and primped them.  Though I had to change out of my original fab outfit when Amy and I showed up on our virtual talk show set wearing the same red dress.  A virtual fashion horror!

We had to rehearse our timing to land in the talk show set in order.  It took a few rounds of practice to get our schtick together.  We are used to talking over one another – that’s part of our charm – and the Avatar Kinect is like an etiquette teacher, it doesn’t like that.  But, luckily for us, it is all for girls that raise their eyebrows and talk with their hands as much as their mouths.  We had a ball trying out the various sets – I think gabbing in space was our fave.  I can only imagine where this is going to lead.  The potential for creating an avatar and having these pseudo face to face discussions is endless.   It really is a new horizon.

Check out our new podcast intro and let me know what you think!

Tech Mom Bloggers Take On CE Week

The CEA Line Shows hit NYC last week and this year mom bloggers had their own day at the show sponsored by Techlicious.  It seemed like the whole city was taken over by CE Week with events every night and meetings every day.  But the highlight for me was speaking on a panel with 2 of my Blogging Angels co-hosts, Nancy Friedman and Amy Oztan.  Our 4th Angel, Heidi Leder was busy organizing the event and making sure it all went as planned.

Our panel, moderated by Suzanne Kantra, Co-founder and Editor in Chief of Techlicious, was entitled How to Work With Mom Bloggers.  I was thrilled to see such a large crowd and we had a jam packed 1/2 hour of giving the low down on how to pitch, work and follow through with mom bloggers, and how not to.   It got some great press and hopefully a lot of PR reps and business owners walked out with real, practical information – at the very least they should know that they’ll have to pay for any real sort of campaign and start an email with “Dear Mommy Blogger.”

We got some great press coverage of the event which you can see here in Dealerscope and CEA Digital Dialogue.

We spent the day at the Techlicious events – from Suzanne’s great presentation on the best audio and video tools for bloggers.  (I need to check out the iRig microphone first hand and the Zoom Q3HD video camera) to a very informative and truthful discussion with Chad Latz of Cohn & Wolfe about how they are approaching the mom influencer community.  Then we hit the floor to see all the latest gadgets and tech products.  Nothing terribly new to report since most of these products we saw at CES, now some of them have come to fruition.  The Toshiba Thrive Tablet was a highlight since it’s got loads of connectivity options like an HDMI, USB and mini USB ports as well as SD card slot.

But otherwise the product that elicited the most oohs and cameras flashing was the iGuy from Speck Products.  There’s something about personifying your tech that is always ridiculously appealing.  Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Check out this video all about the iGuy…

CES – Hookers, 3D TVs and Dancing Mops: You Have to Hear it to Believe It

The Blogging Angels and Chris Brogan at CES 2011

While the Consumer Electronics Show may be over the rehashing has just begun.  The Blogging Angels recorded a podcast every night of the show – and because we like our tech reporting with a side dish of gossip and laughter we give you the honest truth about what it’s like to be women at a tech trade show in Las Vegas.  It ain’t pretty.

We had some serious highlights – being sponsored by Microsoft Windows 7 and getting to hang out and work with the wonderfully smart and talented Lisa Worthington and other fab Microsoft mavens was one of the best experiences we could have asked for.  We were given Windows Phone 7 (the HTC HD7) to try out for the month starting at CES.  I am personally loving the phone but you can hear all about why on our podcasts.  And, a big one for me since I do the post editing for our podcast we were loaned a gorgeous Yeti Mic courtesy of Blue Microphone.  We were one of the first people to try out the new Yeti outside of the company – and we didn’t have to lug our mixing board and individual mics to Vegas.  And editing was a breeze.

We also had an interview with Social Media guru extraordinaire Chris Brogan.   Haven’t seen the final version yet – but it was so great to meet him and have a chance to schmooze about women in tech and the whole mommy-blogging thing.  You know how we love to talk about moms, brands and getting paid.  Of course it’s Vegas so we also talked about bad toupees and booth babes – we’re well rounded like that.

So listen in to the 3 CES Blogging Angels podcasts to learn what’s hot in tech, what you should be on the look out for in the coming months and what we think is worth buying or using now.  Plus dancing Swiffer mops!  For Real.

The Consumer Electronics Show: Days 1 & 2 Quick and Dirty Recap

Consumer Electronics Show

Image via Wikipedia

Right now I’m writing from my swanky Las Vegas hotel room in between attending the world’s second largest trade show – The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – and heading out to dinner with my fabulous conference sponsor Microsoft Windows 7.   It’s not easy to fit in writing and reporting with all the booth touring, miles of walking and endless waits for shuttle buses to haul the over 125, 000 attendees back and forth to the convention center.  If you really want to know what an 8 hour day inside a massive structure, deprived of sunlight and under the glare of endless flat screen panel displays can do to you listen to our Blogging Angels Podcast for our exhausted, half-demented round up of day one.

As for me, I’m focusing on the brands I know and love and use as a mom and as a blogger.  (And as a tech geekess)  I arrived here with a new Windows Phone on loan from Microsoft. I’ve been playing with it for a about a week and so far I love the  intereface.  As a long time iPhone user I appreciate the very different look of the Windows Phone, the large tiles that allow for easy access and readability, the way you can customize the interface, the integration of Facebook with your contacts and the smart search functions.  Plus, the HTC phone I’m using has a huge screen.  At a show where tech is everywhere and everything it’s been fun to have a phone not many people have really seen or played with – a real conversation starter.

Booth Tours:

I’ve been to Kodak, Panasonic, Raw Talent Guitar, Neer Life and working the Microsoft Windows 7 booth at Mommy Tech.  Here’s my Twitter Feed from the last day and a half to give you an idea of everything I saw today.  There will a more detailed post after CES when I’ve had time to absorb the enormity of it all…

Excuse the typos – trying to tweet and listen and report on a phone doesn’t make for well checked tweets

Just Dance Kids! Another Great UbiSoft Game Giveaway!

One of my fears as a mom is that as winter approaches my daughters will spend more and more time indoors being sedentary with unspent energy making all of us a little nuts.  So, I love Wii games that get my girls moving.  Just Dance Kids is one of those games.  First of all my 8 year old daughters are very wary of games that could seem too young.  Just Dance Kids has two modes – older and younger kid, which instantly put them at ease and garnered some “cool” points.  On the mom-of-the-80′s plus side there are songs like Holiday and Mickey in the dance list – though not sung by Madonna or Toni Basil unfortunately – but still some songs for a mom who remembers wearing leggings the first time around!

Just Dance Kids is not easy – and best of all not easy to cheat.  My daughters found out long ago that they could cheat the Wii by just moving the remote and not their whole body.  That’s hard to do with this game.  You’ve got to keep up and keep your body moving to get the remote going the right way and earn your points.  The only downside is that there is no practice or learning session, you just jump right and in and try to follow the lead dancer.  It’s not that easy to pick up even on the easy level.  Some rehearsing would have been nice.  But, overall the game kept them dancing, and moving.  On a cold, rainy day it was just the thing to work off those Turkey Day leftovers and keep cabin fever at bay.

Want to win your very own copy of Just Dance Kids for the Wii?  Just leave a comment below telling me your (or your kids’) favorite dance hit!  Want an extra entry?  Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you did!

This contest is now closed.

Want to win even more?  Check out my UbiSoft Petz Nursery 2 Ninetendo DS giveaway too!

While Ubisoft sponsored this review, the opinions I’ve expressed here are solely my own and represent my honest viewpoint. Ubisoft, Clever Girls Collective and I promote Blog With Integrity.


It’s a LEGO Universe – And My Whole Family’s Living In It

I love LEGO and I suppose it’s in my DNA because my daughters, particularly one of them, are LEGO building fanatics.  Give her a giant bucket of multicolored bricks and she’s off constructing every animal, structure and vehicle she can dream up.  My daughters also inherited my gamer geek gene (and their dad’s – I really shouldn’t take all the credit blame here).  So, LEGO Universe seemed like the dream game experience for our family – imagination, building, multi-player collaboration and challenge.  My daughters beta-tested the game for several months and have been playing the full fledged version for free this past month.  As have I – in the name of research of course.  You can read all the nitty gritty details about LEGO Universe and check out the Trailer, but

Here are my (Geek)Mom Top 5 Things I Love About LEGO Universe:

  1. It captures the spirit of real world LEGO in all the best ways – creative, inventive, somewhat challenging but also rewarding
  2. It has an amazingly whimsical sense of humor.  That might not be what most people look for in an online game but I seriously appreciate the small witty touches from the MiniFig who covers his eyes while you type in your password to the way guy who lost his pants outside the rock venue that’s hiding in a barrel.  Just funny.
  3. Piece of mind when it comes to the online safety of my kids.  The moderation is woven into every level of the game, from chat to character naming to on-site patrol of the game.  I know it’s a world where the real life creeps will be crushed by the Maelstrom.
  4. The ability to engage with others, determine levels of friendship or go it alone and build your own property.  Let’s hear it for imagination and the building of LEGO structures brick by brick in ways they can’t do in real life.
  5. LEGO Universe ignited my daughters’ imagination off-line too.  After logging off of LEGO Universe my daughters went on a building binge in real life and a bit of a buying spree at the LEGO Rockefeller Center Store.  It’s a habit I don’t mind feeding.

Here Are the Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

  1. This is not an easy game for younger kids.  It is rated 10+ and unless you have a very experienced little gamer on your hands you should heed that age.  Or be prepared to offer assistance and play along with them
  2. It’s Not Entirely Intuitive.  The game doesn’t offer a ton of hints or help along the way but once you get the hang of how to complete missions and where to look for clues it becomes much easier to navigate.
  3. The price.  This is a much richer, deeper and creative experience than a Club Penguin or Fantage but it costs $39.99 plus the yearly membership of $89.99 compared to their cost of around $58.00.  You get 4 MiniFig Players with your account so you can share among siblings and family members but in my house that’s not the best option because my twin daughters like to go into these online games at the same time and play together.  So $260 for 2 kids for that first year breaks down to over $20/month which doesn’t seem like a lot for hours of entertainment (my daughters get 1 -1/2 hours of computer time on Saturday and Sunday – sometimes it’s more if we’re especially tired!) but in the scheme of a family budget it’s something to consider.  Though I think we will be incorporating it into allowance and they will have to pay 50% themselves.

And I should mention that you get a month free when you purchase the game so you have time to make sure your child is going to stick with it.  You can also purchase month to month if you have a finicky kid who tends to get obsessed for a month or two and then moves on to the next thing.

It’s not in my nature or my blog’s nature to do this kind of straight up review but I really do love LEGO (and NetDevil) as companies and brands.  They’ve not only been some of the most passionate, creative and thoughtful people I’ve ever met but I have to love a company that values the power of imagination above all else.  That’s a trait I’m happy to pass on to my daughters right alongside all that other geekified DNA.

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Emily Post is Rolling in Her Grave – The Low Down on Twitter Etiquette

This week The Blogging Angels are back and we’re tackling the ins and outs of Twitter and social media etiquette.  What do you do about nasty (or sociopathic) commenters?  Do you have to thank everyone who retweets you?  Or Follow Friday reciprocate all the time?   What do you do with twitter bullies?  And is the 140 character restriction a recipe for blunt, tactless repartee? All of these topics and much more are hashed out this week.   Even if you’ve never been on Twitter join us this week as we try to figure out how etiquette is evolving in a social media world.

Listen up at The Blogging Angels blog or on itunes!