My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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why i love my sidekick

I ran into a skater kid on the BART yesterday who was sporting the newest Sidekick. I peered over with envy. He told me it was fucking rad and that a friend of his worked at T-mobile and snagged him one before it came out.

I keep seeing kids wearing their sidekicks around their neck on chains. At the X-Games this summer, there were tons of sidekicks. The Hiptop is definitely appealing to the hip-hop youth crowd. And for good reason.

First, look at the device. It looks like a gaming device. It says: you will use me for play and textual communication. Forget the phone – who talks on the phone anyhow? Certainly not you… you don’t want to shove a piece of toast up against your ear now do you? And besides, if you want to talk, you’ll use an earpiece.

Next, look at the interface. There are no horrible menus, no poorly named programs. It’s simple: scroll on the right and find everything you need. AIM is obvious. Email is obvious. SMS is obvious. Everything you need with simple scrolls. The feedback mechanism is purrfect – little icons in the upper corner no matter what screen you’re on. And if you’re away from the device, it’ll buzz for certain messages and turn pretty colors for others. Feedback. Constant feedback.

Three things would make it beyond perfect for me: a longer battery, a retractable ear piece (i always forget mine) and the ability to add programs to the ones available. I hear synching is improved with the latest version, but i haven’t tried it out. That was previously on my list.

But the fact is that using the Sidekick makes me feel like a subculture kid. And even as the mainstream kids are picking up on them, only a few adults are. Adults don’t get the importance of text, particularly AIM text. And the Sidekick understands that American kids are mostly on AIM and it’s a central feature, not a pain in the ass add-on. This is what texting looks like in the States. Turning AIM texting into a gameboy and voila!

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20 comments to why i love my sidekick

  • ryan

    hmm… the demographics of hiptop users were published by an officer of danger at one point.. but i cant find them now… will keep on looking – my understanding was that it was just a perception that its used by mostly kids, not a fact… hmmm, ill look for it later (i think it was referenced on hiptop.com/forums)

    anywho, i bought the sidekick ii — used it for a few minutes, then called to return it — the quality of service inside buildings just didnt cut it… i had absolutely no service in my office – (ive heard rumors that this is a general gsm qos problem)

    verizon has several bars of service in my office, but no hiptop — ended up going with a treo and really like it – not nearly as good of keyboard, but programs galore, perfect service and reasonable to use as a phone – data service is about double the price, however, but you can do a lot more with it (such as use the treo as a modem attached to your laptop while on the go)

    -ry

  • Ry – i would actually love to see this report, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. Adults are definitely buying them but they aren’t using them as rabidly as the 24 and under crowd. The public display of use is a youth and geek thing from what i’ve seen. The crackberries and treos appeal more to the senses of business people – i have yet to see a non-techy youth use one of those devices. Also, i think perception definitely matters here. Tehehe.

  • Why danah loves her Sidekick

    Ever-trenchant technosociologist danah boyd makes some interesting cultural observations about why some segments of American youth love their Sidekicks I keep seeing kids wearing their sidekicks around their neck on chains. At the X-Games this summer, …

  • Why danah loves her Sidekick

    Ever-trenchant technosociologist danah boyd makes some interesting cultural observations about why some segments of American youth love their Sidekicks I keep seeing kids wearing their sidekicks around their neck on chains. At the X-Games this summer, …

  • billg

    AT&T’s Ogo aims (no pun intended) at the same market….it’s all about being ‘always on; always connected’

  • billg

    AT&T’s Ogo aims (no pun intended) at the same market….it’s all about being ‘always on; always connected’

  • Precisely. Always on intimate communities!

  • opticon

    any thoughts on nokia’s n-gage qd? this trade article refers to nokia’s ambitions, which is hardly surprising given the huge stakes involved in tapping into vgaming and mobilemediaries. the design & targeting appear to be the same demogs as the sidekick but i’ve never been thrilled by nokia products and their clunky interfaces. must admit that the sidekick ii has its appeal, as i still fumble with texting on a numeric keypad.

  • Dude, every exec at my firm is addicted to the Treo. They are constantly texting/emailing in meetings, they’re like a pack of junior high-school girls.

  • stefanos

    about to go to that man of the crowd thing in nyc: have a pocket pc, but i have photos of a secretary using one of the earlier devices; i am curious about these MP3 files.

    i have about 250 medical files on a jumpdrive and am self surfing to find patterns of medication perscribing. I think this side kick could do some serious things with file management and social networking towards reduction of med errors: the med school students of the future will understand this.

    hey, by the way, i found an old picture of you from a year ago with a pierced tongue: child, how could you do that to yourself!

    i guess my poem will start:

    keychain tongue perceptions
    upon the nighted
    steel of persons hidden:

    concepts of crowds
    as the imagined wanderings
    of poets becomes
    a real flock of
    foot steps gathered

    so poems as text messages: hmmmm

    by the way, you are quoted on smart mobs this am.
    but your site is not accepting pingbacks and persons who are following your blog cannot see what the pingbacks that are registered.

    the unbearable poet

    stef

  • On T-mobile…

    “The Hiptop is definitely appealing to the hip-hop youth crowd.”- danah boyd

  • d, the SMS i tried to send you last night: indeed, hiptops have been appropriated by hiphop / euro dance culture. i saw a video last night for “move your body,” a hiphop-styled dance track by the up-and-coming nina skye, and it prominently features both a sidekick (v1) and an n-gage. unfortunately i couldn’t find it online, she’s up-and-coming enough that her video hasn’t yet been ripped and posted…

  • My own experience with teenagers these days is, apparently, with the non-technical crowd. They tend to be anarchists who are proud of not having gizmos. They tend to know little about computers. I’d love to have an accurate picture of teen culture but it seems hard to come by. My own experience tells me that youth tends to be non-technical, but I keep reading newspaper stories, and blog entries like this one, that suggest chat is now central to teen culture. It’s hard to know what the right balance is, what weight I should give to what I’ve seen and what weight I should give to what I’ve read.

  • danah On “Why I Love My Sidekick”

    danah boyd[from apophenia: why i love my sidekick] I ran into a skater kid on the BART yesterday who was sporting the newest Sidekick. I peered over with envy. He told me it was fucking rad and that a friend…

  • danah On “Why I Love My Sidekick”

    danah boyd[from apophenia: why i love my sidekick] I ran into a skater kid on the BART yesterday who was sporting the newest Sidekick. I peered over with envy. He told me it was fucking rad and that a friend…

  • My old first-generation Sidekick has finally bitten the dust. I feel so, so disconnected. But that just means I get to upgrade to the new one – yay! I yearn for a Treo, but I really like the full Sidekick keyboard and access to the real Web, all the time.

    Wearing a Sidekick around your neck? That’s like wearing a brick necklace. Oh these kids.

  • I ran into

    danah boyd[from apophenia: why i love my sidekick] I ran into a skater kid on the BART yesterday who was sporting the newest Sidekick. I peered over with envy. He told me it was fucking rad and that a friend…

  • danah On “Why I Love My Sidekick”

    danah boyd[from apophenia: why i love my sidekick] I ran into a skater kid on the BART yesterday who was sporting the newest Sidekick. I peered over with envy. He told me it was fucking rad and that a friend…

  • George from Florida

    well , well , well , Sidekick Rules !!!..sez who ? a baby boomer…born in 1959 … and living in Florida … after 3 hurricanes … and NO Electricity … could not even check my emails on my powerful compaq 5k,512 MB,40 GIG HD with most of the bells and whistles…never mind cook on my electric range …felt like there has to be an answer…YES, There IS …Its called a SIDEKICK…couldn’t be happier than a pig in slop,or so they say…not only could I get to my emails…and surf the web…I could text friends and family on AIM…Holy HIPTOP BATMAN !!!…cant go wrong with this thing…only drawback is the inability to swing into Javascript…and I really thought SIDEKICK II would come trough but Maybe on the III’rd generation…we hope…and pray…well let me tell you I am sooo HAPPY with my sidekick that most people can’t even believe I am on the web while in a diner having lunch…Really happy to be born in 1959 cause now I can afford neat toys I would never have imagined…long way from pong and the commadore…remember the TI-994a from texas instruments …coleco vision,then sega…now we got X-Box,Gamecube ect…but when the power goes out…SIDEKICK RULES…AND with ASTROIDS they make me cry just thinking the were thinking of my favorite game … Thanks Danger…you make this Ol’Man very happy…yet not over the HILL…;)

  • George from Florida

    well , well , well , Sidekick Rules !!!..sez who ? a baby boomer…born in 1959 … and living in Florida … after 3 hurricanes … and NO Electricity … could not even check my emails on my powerful compaq 5k,512 MB,40 GIG HD with most of the bells and whistles…never mind cook on my electric range …felt like there has to be an answer…YES, There IS …Its called a SIDEKICK…couldn’t be happier than a pig in slop,or so they say…not only could I get to my emails…and surf the web…I could text friends and family on AIM…Holy HIPTOP BATMAN !!!…cant go wrong with this thing…only drawback is the inability to swing into Javascript…and I really thought SIDEKICK II would come trough but Maybe on the III’rd generation…we hope…and pray…well let me tell you I am sooo HAPPY with my sidekick that most people can’t even believe I am on the web while in a diner having lunch…Really happy to be born in 1959 cause now I can afford neat toys I would never have imagined…long way from pong and the commadore…remember the TI-994a from texas instruments …coleco vision,then sega…now we got X-Box,Gamecube ect…but when the power goes out…SIDEKICK RULES…AND with ASTROIDS they make me cry just thinking the were thinking of my favorite game … Thanks Danger…you make this Ol’Man very happy…yet not over the HILL…;)