New party spot: foreclosed McMansions

Curbed National hints at a new possibility: foreclosed McMansions could become party spots for teenagers.

Certain youngsters in certain parts of the country have turned their attention to foreclosed McMansions, which prove better accommodations than, say, dorm rooms and are generally really great places to throw parties. This is kind of on par with that burgeoning trend, except the mansion in question here is not foreclosed, nor is deserve the preface “Mc”: recently more than 100 local teenagers threw a raging party at the Marin County home of imprisoned former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, trashing the place and making off with silver candlesticks, leather coats, laptop computers, and a Pablo Picasso lithograph worth $30K. Apparently police were called to the sprawling home as early as 10 p.m. on the night of the festivities, despite its remote location down a private lane, at which point attendees scattered into the surrounding countryside. The nine-bedroom, 19,500-square-foot house, where Eddie Murphy once stayed during filming, belongs to an LLC tied to the disgraced former Ukrainian P.M., who is currently imprisoned in Marin while seeking asylum to avoid money laundering. That left the place wide open for the party of the century.

Is the Picasso the party favor? Here are a few more details on the story:

The caretaker, who has not been identified, returned a day later to discover three teens, including two boys and a girl in the backyard, Riddell said. The three fled, and the caretaker discovered that a glass coffee table in the house was broken and a fire extinguisher was inside.

The nine-bedroom, 19,500-square-foot house was acquired by Dugsbery Inc. a Novato entity prosecutors have linked to Lazarenko in 1998, just months before the former head of state was arrested in Switzerland on suspicion of money laundering.

Two quick points. First, I don’t envy the task of lending institutions, municipalities, and homeowners in trying to keep foreclosed and/or abandoned homes secure. However, it seems like some low-level security, such as a home security system or occasional checking-in, would help in avoiding these situations which could get out-of-hand or even dangerous. Second, this is a mansion at 19,500 square feet, not a McMansion.

But perhaps the occasional teen party is better than finding that a squatter has claimed the McMansion through “adverse possession”

Can Google incentivize being social?

There is no question that Google would like to be more prominent in the social networking (SNS) phenomenon. Apparently, Google has tied an incentive for employees, a yearly bonus, to how well the employees help the company move forward in this area:

[Your bonus] can range from 0.75 to 1.25 depending on how well we perform against our strategy to integrate relationships, sharing and identity across our products.” Social.

And yes, you read that correctly, the bonus can go up or down based upon Google’s performance in the social realm. The critics are already jumping all over this one, noting that it looks like all Google employees will be losing bonus money this year. And given the decided lack of success from products like Wave, Buzz, and to a broader extent, Orkut, who can blame them?

But on a higher level, it’s the strategy itself that may be the most interesting thing here. Mathew Ingram notes that you can’t threaten people into being social. While Mike Elgan calls this Larry Page’s first blunder (as CEO). I actually have a slightly different take on this. I think that on paper, this is actually a good idea and strategy. But in practice, I think it will ultimately be looked upon as a bad thing and may even directly backfire.

I’m not sure that I really think the headline on this story captures what is going on (“I’m Having A Party. Here’s $50. Bring Cool People — Or You Owe Me $100.”): being social online is different than incentivizing employees to walk up to people they don’t know on the street and push products. In order to be social online, one needs only to make links between people (“friends” in Facebook terms) and then provide some content (which the user gets to pick and choose). Since I would guess that many Google employees are already operating privately in these SNS realms, how hard would it be to transfer some of that activity into a Google product? While this activity is still personal and requires effort from individuals, it doesn’t seem like it would take much to be social online with a new product.

Now it is a more interesting question to ponder whether such a strategy would actually help a fledgling SNS product get off the ground. This writer suggests other SNS launches were “organic” and a push from Google’s employees would only work if the product was really good. This might be the case – but the argument here is that we know for sure how SNS products take off. Could Google do something new with this kind of incentive and with its large number of employees (and their contacts), could they get a new program/app/platform up and running? If Google employees started even a decent online party, wouldn’t some other people want to get involved?

(On a side note, it would be interesting to think more about this incentive. What do Google employees think of this? By virtue of possibly losing some of their bonus, will workers operate as homo economicus and help make something happen?)

Why you should have had a Super Bowl party: to reinforce deep human bonds

A communication professor suggests that going to a Super Bowl party with friends is more than just eating food and hanging out: it is about building human bonds, particularly after tough times.

Sparks said there’s a wealth of medical evidence that human contact — particularly in social situations — can be therapeutic, reducing stress and giving people a comforting sense of belonging.

“It sounds silly in a way when we’re talking about Super Bowl parties, but I don’t think events like this should be underestimated,” Sparks said. “These are important social occasions that really have the potential to reinforce our deep human bonds. And the timing of this year’s Super Bowl is really quite nice. People are going to be wanting to come out and share stories about their experiences.”

From blizzards in the Midwest to Super Bowl parties. If people needed more reasons to have a party, this seems like a good justification.