15th Feb2011

Social Media Week – New York; Musings.

by Dorothy

I’ve touched down right smack before Social Media Week New York starts. Jet lag could not keep me away from this. The cold at night, unfortunately occasionally won.

Too many good sessions, too little time, coupled with an inability to divide and clone oneself meant that one had to be selective about the entire week’s events in New York. The level of discussion was amazing, and listening to people who were really into what they did is always highly inspirational.

 

Several themes that surfaced across various talks that were of interest:

 

1. Culture & Digital Identities:

  • Don’t confuse Anonymity with Privacy
  • Mentions of the shift from hiding behind avatars, even in traditionally privacy obsessed cultures such as Japan
  • The question of the impact of culture on adoption?

I love how bits of culture still filter through online. As interactions become increasingly digital, there must be some discount to the 30-70% rule that body language contributes predominantly to non verbal communication. In my work, having a feel of the various digital conversations on the ground also helps – I’ve noticed that posts from India tend to be 2-3 times longer than other regions. Some social media landscapes are much more politically charged than others. We’ve found that there might be higher levels of sarcasm in certain markets than others. A huge bulk of Singaporean netizens might not haVe ReAchEd ThE sAMe MatUriTy LevEl of otheR PlacEs WorXX.~ (Note to self: If someone types like that to you. Run. Do not hesitate.)

Purely digital text conversation is full of nuances. How people behave and participate online is full of nuances. There is all this talk about digital plumage and how people create their identities online, and even how responses might vary to different avatars online (important for all those customer service folk). It’s been 2 years, I am still interested in how research in this field is developing.

The question posed was then, How can brands help people shape their identities, and share? Those who successfully tap into this would become part of the conversation, gain valuable mind space in this attention driven economy.

Another aspect of culture to take note of – organizational culture. Social media empowers a small number of people to change the culture of an entire organization. Like most change, time is needed, but now, all the tools are at your disposal. This is equally fascinating to me about how a dominant culture usually permeates those from a particular organization.

 

2. A Time Sensitive Idea Economy

One interesting thing about cloning was raised, about how the USA could learn from Chinese innovations. A mature culture will equate to more innovation, and it will not be the first time that copy and paste culture exists.

3. Platforms

 

  • Birth of Hyper relevance- Opengraph, the semantic web. Location based advertising and marketing.
  • Facebook positioning as a company to power the next generation of web.
  • Question: Who’s going to be the open graph of China? Since Facebook is not in china. Ans: Localized versions of Chinese platforms? They have the money and resources.

 

4.  Infrastructure, Government & Politics

Big Government and politics also constantly surfaced.  How people used social media to organize themselves in times of unrest.

  • Social media is now permeating up especially where government is concerned
  • Freedom of Speech – With the law finally catching on to the game and laying down the rules, I’m really not too sure of the extent of this anymore.
  • When mobile lines are cut, should an internet “kill switch” actually exist?
  • When platforms like Twitter are blocked – How to use other tools to mobilize people?

 

We heard first person accounts of how some used public phones to stay anonymous, when the sharing of information became their daily goal when dealing with the situation unfolding in Egypt then.

Infrastructure always plays a huge role in communications (do not get me started about the lack of reception underground in the MTA subways.)

  • In India, even the roadside florists are implementing mobile orders for their businesses. Free Wifi is increasingly common.
  • The Delhi Traffic Police Facebook Fanpage allows citizens to upload traffic offences (hopefully the posters were not committing one themselves when documenting this.)

….and many have never even gone to school.

 

Interesting discussions & amazing people aside, this should be the beginning of a good trip.

 

And now, allow me to indulge in some #iphoneography.

Hues of the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

 

Iconic.

NYC,Times Square

 

Advertisement v.s Consumer Sentiments:

Photobucket

 

Horses @ Central Park

Photobucket

 

Flag.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

 

NYSE; Wall Street.

new york,NYC

 

 

22nd Mar2009

Avatars: Virtual environments & Liquid Identities

by Dorothy

For a psychology module I am doing, I have spent the last couple of weeks trawling through an insane number of academic journals and research on computer mediated communication (CMC), in particular, focusing on Avatars. Lots of very interesting and recent research on the topic!

For a brief introduction, CMC can be both fully text-based (MIRC or Internet Relay Chat), graphic avatar-based, or a mixture of both.

Avatars can be both static (photographs/still images in chat programs like MSN) or dynamic (2D/3D virtual characters like in games or Second Life).

The general trend of thought during the early days of the Internet was that it allowed for a certain amount of anonymity so that people could become “someone else”. Interestingly, the research shows that people are likely to pick or modify Avatars to be “like” themselves, in terms of gender and type (aka human), which might extend to picking avatars that have other characteristics that are closely matched to their own, e.g hobbies, hair colour, race, personality and dressing.

In a nutshell, avatars allow one to maintain a sense of privacy (without divulging your true identity), and yet let you have complete control over the expression of your online identity. This expression is almost complete when you think about the level of control over your physique, features like eye colour, hair, lips and nose, right down to the length and size of your limbs in virtual worlds like Second Life.

Some cool Avatar facts!

  • The selection of Avatars is context dependent. Males have been known to select a female avatar to represent themselves in online gaming spaces because they find that they receive more help and hints from other players. They also receive more attention as a “girl”.
  • This probably means that the same person could choose very different kinds of avatars in different online spaces to represent themselves. e.g on dating sites, work related sites, gaming sites and so on.
  • Anthropomorphic (human-like) avatars were perceived to be more credible.
  • Participants strongly preferred avatars that were both human and of the same gender as themselves. Only a small percentage of subjects preferred androgynous avatars.
  • Choices choices choices (in terms of character design): Some studies report that given entirely pre-created avatars, and allowing people to mix and match their avatars, people were more likely to take the time to customize their own avatars. They hardly opted to pick the lazy way out and just select the “default” characters. (Cheng, Farnham, & Stone, 2002; Taylor, 2002)
  • There is even a Declaration of the Rights of Avatar, by Raph Koster. ‘‘Foremost among these rights is the right
    to be treated as people and not as disembodied, meaningless, soulless puppets. Inherent in this right are therefore the natural and inalienable rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression’’. Far out!

On that note, I’m missing Google’s Lively as it is. Walk through my exploration of that here!

Everyone has their days… when they have no idea how to control their avatars, and you drive yourself up the wall, literally.

And this goes for default sitting positions too… (why they programed it as such, I can never fanthom)

Pimp my Lively home! Before v.s After

I guess this comic pretty much sums up Avatars on the Internet! On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog

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21st Dec2008

“Tag, You’re it!”

by Dorothy

Facebook Tag

I thought it would be interesting to dedicate a post to tagging behaviour that I’ve observed over the past year and a half or so of being on Facebook…so here it is!

  • The Ghost tagger – Tagging people who promised to show at the gathering but didn’t. Tagging people who are part of your clique but couldn’t show.
  • The Accidental tagger – Tagging the wrong person because you have a couple of people sharing the same first name and surname. And having to leave a comment asking the album owner to “Please remove the wrong tag, sorry!”.
  • The Lazy tagger – Tagging only one person once in the entire album so that they know of the album’s existence. And crossing your fingers that the crowd will come and tag the rest of the photos themselves.
  • The Obsessive Compulsive tagger – Tags each and EVERY single photo in the millions of albums, including arms and limbs and random shoes and objects that belong to the person.
  • The Non tagger – Does not do tags. At all. Typical attitude -If people want their photos, they can just monitor the news feed or click to my profile because tags are “so not my style”.
  • “Wish you were here” tags – Waking up and finding that your friend who is traveling at some exotic location has amazingly (or not so amazingly) managed to find something (like the local fire hydrant) that reminds him of you, and as such, has tagged you.
  • The De-Tagger – Having woken up and finding that your well meaning friend likens the local fire hydrant to you (see “wish you were here” tag), you promptly de-tag it so that no awkward questioning can come from people who don’t know the story behind the curious tag. De-tagging occurs also in cases where you think you look like you just rolled out of bed. Or similar.
  • “You are what you eat” tags- Tagging people’s favourite foods in a food shot, because who else could that plate of chicken rice represent but… you? Works also for spoils of war from shopping, party drinks, etc.
  • “Where’s Wally” tags – Eagle-eyed taggers who just simply cannot miss you, that pixelated blob in the background mob and tag you accurately. “How on earth did you manage to spot me?” moment ensues.
  • Random better-late-than-never tags – Linked to the Lazy tagger mentioned above. Going through old albums uploaded eons ago may trigger tagging behaviour.
  • Just too many tags! – I recently found that the limit for photo tagging is 30 people. There is a limit? You ask. Yes, there is. Almost everything has a limit. Maybe in future, tagging can also allow for the size of the square to be controlled by the person tagging.

Have I missed out any other quirky tag behaviours? Do share!

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07th Dec2008

What will the web be like for future users?

by Dorothy

The Strip-Mall Effect
I recently came across an interesting perspective on how the Strip-Mall effect could “destroy the web”.
It’s a pretty American analogy. The huge strip mall appears, the one stop destination for all your purchasing or grocery needs. This basically causes the little mom and pop stores to go out of business, simply because they cannot compete with the likes of anchors in huge chains like Target or Walmart. I never really thought about the fact they actually built roadways to make these malls unavoidable. Then again, I guess that was a huge theme in Pixar’s Cars…

So here’s how this analogy applies to the web:
…the next generation of Internet users will grow up with a different understanding of the Web. To them, it won’t be the odd, wild, vital place it is today, but instead a smaller pool of big sites that reinforce each other’s traffic and wield heavy influence in purchases and tastes. The next generation will be able to access most of what they need – news, entertainment, shopping, comedy – through the hub of their social network, or even hubs that pool all their social networks. That leaves them removed by several degrees from the go-anywhere Web of today. They’ll have little reason to mosey up to the address bar and type in anything else.

Consolidation and the Likes
The article above was largely focused and based on an assumption that websites online depend on advertising to sustain themselves. Issues about advertising and trying to monetize what’s on the web aside, fundamentally, there is that underlying theme of aggregation and consolidation. And then the loss of any opinions that are peripheral to the “main” viewpoint that most in the group hold.

I feel Seth Godin alludes to this in his post, Death of the Personal Blog, in which he talks about how the world’s ‘top’ blogs are written by groups of people. True, this means that updates are frequent but this may mean a less diverse opinion, especially if the groups decide to simply reinforce the general opinion/perspective held by the team.

The music industry has gone through a similar evolution, only to have the internet and digital initiatives handing the power to produce and distribute back to the masses. The communications industry is still arguably controlled by the major holding companies. I guess this simply means that the landscape is constantly evolving, it is going to be pretty difficult to say that the emergence of a certain phenomenon (e.g masses all congregating at social networks and not visiting individual sites anymore) is the end.

Thoughts
It seems pretty harsh to use the phrase that the web will be “destroyed”. That raises a few questions for me.
1. What exactly is meant by “destroyed”? If the web still serves a function for people, regardless of the diversity of content, it still exists. The word “destroyed” is a bit too apocalyptic, too terminal for me.

In addition, the future looks to remain digital, if findings from reports such as this are anything to go by. Haven’t had the chance to read the actual content, but the abstract is pretty concise.
About The Pop Culture Trend Report – While icons like Barbie and LEGO continue to captivate people, global pop culture has become highly defined by the internet. Only by translating these brands into the digital world, and establishing an online presence, have they managed to sustain their appeal. New brands can also be more easily discovered if they appeal to online consumers.

If anything, people will become increasingly dependent on the web to carry out their daily chores and communication.

2. What is “the web”?
Is this just something that you consume off an internet browser? Or basically anything that you do online, say, Skype or emailing? In which case all you need is an internet connection and a computer or a handheld device that does the same job.

3. Will there be a day when internet connection is going to be 24/7, completely affordable, universal, and accessible to all? We’ve already moved from dial up, to cable and broadband. Perhaps the question is not will there be a day, but rather, when?

4. Does it really mean the demise of the web?
Sure, maybe most of the people are going to be concentrated on those “hubs” that the first article mentioned. But the tools to produce and distribute on the internet still remain in control of the users. Increased homogenization yes, but total? I don’t think so. At least not so soon, and not so easy.

Nevertheless, it will be pretty interesting to watch how all this panders out.
Actually, lets not just watch, let’s be a part of it as well. 🙂

Update: Some cool stuff about what experts are predicting for Web 2.0 in 2009.

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04th Oct2008

Social Media Brunch (SMB 4): Thoughts and Photos!

by Dorothy

Social Media Brunch 4: The lowdown

It’s time for another SMB post! I really wonder if the Social Media Breakfast/SMB title will go the way of Kentucky Fried Chicken/KFC (and all the conspiracy theories that no one ever uses the full name anymore, because what they’re selling is not chicken.) For the record, really, I think the real reason was that KFC wanted to take away the emphasis on the word “fried”. But I’m digressing.

Derrick was throwing up a concept that he and Nadia had talked about. He basically joked that the next SMB could be a Social Media Beer, since it would probably coincide with his coming of age and birthday. Social Media Breakfast, Brunch, what not… I was thinking, going along those lines, the next SMB could easily be anything from a Social Media Beach (power issues?) to Social Media Bash, etc. The feminists are going to kill me for even suggesting Social Media Babes. And the list goes on…

So SMB4, a brunch this time, saw a really good turnout. Held at the URA building, it was obvious that the crowd demographic had shifted slightly again. And really, as with all the SMB events so far, you never know what you’re going to get in terms of attendees.

It came up during discussions with Enning who suggested that there ought to be two separate events for SMB, one catered to the corporate folks, and another for the more casual bloggers out there. I actually think that if the event gets big enough, it would be great to have different breakout sessions, rather than dividing the event up. Right now, the numbers don’t really warrant that yet, but it’s all about constant adjustment and tweaking.

For myself, it was quite a different perspective because I had been live blogging the event, which was pretty much something I had never done before. It turned out to be a pretty fun experience nonetheless! Trying new stuff is always good.

Here are some photos from the event from the folks at Livestudios!


Derrick, Kim, Willy, Me, Claudia and Sherms!


Group shot

…. and the inaugural live blogging shot.

If you’re curious to find out more about SMB events in future, leave a comment, join our Facebook group or visit the SMB Singapore Forum!

Thoughts

I suppose a huge portion of what I think can already be found on the Socialmediabreakfast.sg site post. If I could expand on any point, I guess I truly believe that with social media,

“There isn’t a single formula that fits everyone.”

Perhaps it is not so important to clearly define what social media is, but just to recognize the mere fact that it affects everyone, and to varying degrees. What social media is will probably change over time, what social media is to you will probably change over time.

This really got me thinking. It occurred to me that a lot of the conversation at SMB4 was skewed towards the corporate side of things. It just so happened that things turned out that way, since SMB3 had been a lot more blogger-centric. The word “sincerity” was thrown around a lot during the panel discussions at SMB4, and I couldn’t agree more. I value sincerity in my real life interactions, and there is no reason for me to deviate from this when things are translated to the digital realm.

What is social media to me? At the end of the day, it isn’t just some magic bullet to address the concerns of marketing and PR folks. It isn’t just a (recently) convenient channel where corporations can “reach” their targeted consumers.

It’s a tool that I use to connect with the people that matter to me. It is a space where I can talk to my friends. It is an outlet for me to pen down my thoughts. It is a school where I can learn about what is going on all over the world.

Why I am interested in this, is because it helps me keep in contact with people all over the globe, regardless of our schedules, workload or geographical location.

Why I am interested in this, is because I love thinking about issues, and often, I express myself best through the written word.

Why I am interested in this, is because the social media space is the best book/textbook anyone could ever have due to it’s ever changing nature.

At present, I am not interested in unwanted intrusions into my conversations. If you’re going to talk to me, talk to me as a person and not as another potential “customer”. Corporations need to understand that sincerity and enthusiasm can be smelt a mile away, and likewise, a lack of either simply turns most people off. We may not have a universal remote control to “switch TV channels” like we used to, but we are sure going to make full use of the privacy functions on any platform to tune out unwanted messages.
Short of turning the entire social media space into a giant proverbial Tupperware party (viewed from its most basic concept, where friends promote products/services to other people they know), I am not quite convinced that the true power of social media can be harnessed in any other way right now.

Your thoughts?

P.S : If you were at SMB 4, we’d love it if you could fill out this short survey so we can improve on future sessions!

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Other links:

Tech65’s Audio Recording of the 1st part of the panel discussion
Daryl’s thoughts on SMB4

Benjamin’s thoughts on SMB4
Claudia’s glad SMB4 happened!

16th Aug2008

Social Media Breakfast 3, Singapore: The third; My first.

by Dorothy

The event
I attended my first ever Social Media Breakfast today, having missed the first two… being overseas and all. I hear it’s been getting better and better, so kudos to the team, especially Daryl and Claudia for holding the fort this weekend! Have I missed out any hidden backstage heroes? Give a shoutout and that will be rectified, fast!

I guess it is always nice to be able to put a face to all the online characters that we converse with daily, because face-to face interaction still remains top priority for me at the end of the day. The internet and all it’s connectivity is just a tool for me to sustain certain relationships that are important for me, but certainly no substitute.


Bringing online communities offline
I thought it was pretty timely then, that I came across this post- Why Bringing Your Online Community Offline is So Crucial“, because it is true. At the end of the day, we are all social beings (Online social media geeks or not, ha!) and getting to meet like minded people who believe in what you do is basically analogous to having a gym buddy. We all need that periodic encouragement and boost, someone we are “accountable” to or someone to motivate us to keep going, and vise versa of course!

Personally, I’ve always found it easier to sustain friendships that were cultivated offline first, then taken online, rather than vise versa. Of course, I attribute this to the older ways of interaction that we are all accustomed to, and I would not be surprised if there would be (or already is) a directional change in the flow of interactions.

Perhaps this is different in working relationships. Many of the people I work with now, I either have never met, or have only interacted with online, or mostly online. And at the end of the day, the job still gets done. The beauty of technology (when it works!).


Feedback?

My only comment about the event would be about the slightly disruptive “announcements” that occurred in the middle of the introductions and brunch, in which people had already started to mingle and chat. Everyone sat down to listen, and I had been expecting some sort of guided discussion, since they had put out a topic…but I did feel a little “lost” when we all realized after the announcements, that we could still go on with our own conversations.

I guess it was because everyone gathered and sat around the little separate islands of chairs around the ballroom, and something in the dynamics just changed there and then for me.

Other than that, food was great, central location, comfortable ambiance and wonderful hosts who made sure that everyone was comfortable as promised! It was fun. Pictures coming in next post!