Tangled Web We Weave

A Better Way To Ask (Part 2)

Previously:

However, there are two other possible ways the social graph can be used to help an individual get information. The first way requires search – a search engine understands the social graph of a site like Facebook and helps us find the best person to ask the question to. This way is similar to how Google understood the web with structural analysis and PageRank – websites and people are the nodes; profiles are similar to content on the page; relationships and links are the edges.

This way of trying to use the social graph prevents us from seeing that the nodes of a social graph can be interacted with – after all, these nodes represent people. The second way I would suggest the social graph can be used does not need an algorithm to try to figure out who is the best person to ask a question because the nodes in the social graph already know that answer. So why not just ask the nodes?

The second way would be to just ask the people, who you are connected to, in the social graph (i.e. your ‘friends’) most likely to be able to answer your question. This question is the message. Your friends might not know the answer to that question but they probably might know a few people who do. What is needed in this second way is a mechanism to propagate that message easily through the social graph; each node redirecting a question to a few other nodes who might know the answer. The mechanism is able to keep track of the chains forming and finally send the answers back to the originating user and whichever other users along the chain interested in the answer.

I would probably not be too presumptuous to say that this way of using the social graph is already being done by most of us, albeit there isn’t some Web 2.0 site helping us do it. We simply do it by forwarding emails, smsing or calling friends who might know the answer to the query of another friend, or passing the contacts of people who might be able to help to a friend.

Aardvark’s system of message propagation is based primarily on first passing the message to a central location which is then responsible for the algorithmic determination of who will be the next to receive the question. Aardvark as a system facilitates the transmission of messages as well as the intelligent routing of these messages.

* Post from 2009/07/08, please meet Jelly

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The Future of Organizations

In NUS, while taking business courses, one of the buzz phrases was “Flat organization“. It was like a magic phrase, that if uttered during boardroom meetings will transform any organisation.

Recently, I began to think that what we really need are networked organisations after hearing Meng share about matchmaking within an organisation: go to Department A, find someone interesting and then introduce said person to another interesting person in Department B.

Ignore the phrase ‘networked organization’ for a moment; I don’t even know what a networked organization is supposed to be like. But it is interesting how organizations are finding different ways to run.

1. Valve’s Handbook for new employees.

2. Somali Pirate Business

3. Buffer Open Salaries.

* This post sat in my drafts until I learned of Holacracy from the article announcing “Zappos Is Getting Rid Of All Titles And Managers“.

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The New Paper New Face 2011 Top 20

Today, the 11th profile for the The New Paper New Face 2011 top 20 has been released.

New Face 2011 Top 20

Working on the The New Paper New Face 2011 Top 20 site has been a great learning experience because it is giving us the chance to actually learn from the customer the features that are needed for the main project we have been working on.

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AppleTV

Would be cool if its announced along with two new features:

1. Control the TV with any iOS device. An API to allow development of applications that utilize this new way of controlling the TV.

2. Everything that is on the TV can be easily streamed to any iOS device. Anything on the screen of an iOS device can easily be ‘projected’ onto the TV. API to allow development of such applications.

Not familiar with the current state of the SDK to know if this is already possible. Even if it is, would be cool if these two features were the focus of whatever is being announced tomorrow.

ideas
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Paying To Pitch

SGEntrepreneurs seemed to be schizophrenic yesterday. A couple of months ago, our founder Bernard Leong wrote an article against the ‘pay to pitch’ business model in the funding ecosystem. Personally, most, if not all of us at SGEntrepreneurs agree with his position against this model of obtaining funding. And yet, an event organized by the very entity that operates on a business model we loathe was publicized on SGEntrepreneurs.com.

Why?

SGEntrepreneurs is a site that posts information about events. The tension in the decision to post about such events is analogous to that of a grocery store owner who might sell cigarettes and alcohol even if he was a teetotalling individual, one key difference being that SGEntrepreneurs does not make money from the posting of such events. So to what extent do you protect the people who may visit your store, or in this case blog. To what extent should the team at SGEntrepreneurs be gatekeepers? Do we always indulge in self-censorship. Do we present noteworthy information even if we disagree with the premise of that information.

And yes, we do believe that the Angels Den Speedfunding event is noteworthy.

What was probably lacking in the initial announcement of the event was a ‘Caveat emptor‘ warning.

I say ‘probably’ because SGEntrepreneurs has rarely, probably even have not, editorialize event listings. In a perfect world, the ‘Related Posts’ plugin would have shown Bernard’s earlier post. In a perfect world, people learning about the event would have done their research, learned lots more information about the event and ‘paying to pitch’ and be equipped to make an informed decision about participating.

We don’t live in a perfect world. Which begs the question, how to balance gate-keeping with breadth of coverage. This is a process we at SGEntrepreneurs are continually working on and this incident is a good reminder on the need to establish clear policies.

Lastly, it is naive to think that no one pays when a start-up pitches to investors.

Someone is always left with the bill.

Those free pitching sessions aren’t free. Well, at least free for the start-ups. Most of the time, the potential investors don’t bear any of the cost. The ones who bear the cost are the sponsors and the government bodies.

Let’s look at government bodies bearing the cost. It is in fact tax payer’s money furthering the dreams of a few. It is tax payer’s money that is paying for access to these investors. Access not only the start-ups benefit from, but access that the bureaucrats can benefit from for their own future private endeavors after leaving government service.

Someone always pay.

I don’t think it should be the start-ups. I don’t think it should be government bodies.

Left as an exercise to the reader to figure out who I think should be paying.

On Singapore
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Creating Memories

Marc over at Creative Spark about the creation of memories:

This is just a personal unscientific theory I’m playing with, but I have a hypothesis that our time online has a tough time actually forming itself into memories, in the way that other experiences do.

Perhaps it’s a prerequisite that all five senses are engaged before something will become a memory?

When reading Marc’s post, I was thinking about a counter-example from my life, how my gaming friends and I have awesome memories formed together around the online games we have played. And I realized that while we might still be recounting stories of our flawless online victories a few days after the fact, the memories that really survive are the ones where we physically meet to play the games together. The days we gather at our unofficial clubhouse, eat tons of meat and pawn noobs online.

So, yeah, I failed to find 1 moment that could dispute Marc’s observation.

And no, it does not seem like either of us would be going cold turkey like the Slate guy.

Over the last several years, the Internet has evolved from being a distraction to something that feels more sinister. Even when I am away from the computer I am aware that I AM AWAY FROM MY COMPUTER and am scheming about how to GET BACK ON THE COMPUTER. I’ve tried various strategies to limit my time online: leaving my laptop at my studio when I go home, leaving it at home when I go to my studio, a Saturday moratorium on usage. But nothing has worked for long. More and more hours of my life evaporate in front of YouTube. Supposedly addiction isn’t a moral failing, but it feels as if it is.

Musing about Life
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New Media & The Beating Of Their Chest

The Temasek Review was the first internet news site to report on the news, well before any of the newspapers owned by SPH and Mediacorp (read our article here)

The matter would have been kept under wraps if not for the wild speculations and rumors circulating in cyberspace after we published the news which finally forced Straits Times and Channel News Asia to report on it two days later.

The writers for Singaporean online sites that purport to be alternative source of news, opinions and analysis should really try to tone down the beating of the chest every time they think they have trumped the mainstream media owned by SPH and MediaCorp.

They really should stop defining themselves in terms of the other.

They really also should stop thinking of themselves as ‘alternative’. They should just focus on being a credible source of news, opinions and analysis.

Maybe then, they can start being the mainstream.

On Singapore
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The Problem With WordPress

I love WordPress but its popularity and simplicity is a problem (to some people).

Why?

Let’s just say I love WordPress as a blogging tool. It is easy to use, easy to extend with plugins and is the venerable Swiss Army Knife of blogging tools.

The problem starts when people start using it as a CMS. The truth is, WordPress needs to do more contortions than a Cirque du Soleil performer for it to be an effective CMS.

To be fair, WordPress has never pretended to be a CMS. From its site:

WordPress is a state-of-the-art publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.

The problem actually has much deeper roots than developers trying to fit WordPress into a hole that it was not made for. The problem begins because when it comes to the web, people conflate the following activities:

1. Content Generation
2. Content Publishing
3. Content Management

Let’s think about this with an example.

Say I work for a site that publishes posts on interesting stuff that happen in Singapore.

Say I want to write a post about birds in Singapore. I will go out and take photos. Do some research. Write up a post. Find some related sites. Link to those sites in my post. Associate relevant photos with the post.

I’m generating my content.

Now, in WordPress, when I am generating this content, as the writer, I am generally responsible for arranging where the photos appear in the post. If there is a colleague who finally decides where the photos are placed relative to the text, the same interface used to write the text is used (i.e. either the Visual or HTML editor).

In fact, the person publishing the post (the final action before the content can be seen by readers) should be responsible for where the photos are. To have a coherent site design, the layout of every post needs to be taken into account. The current post editors (i.e. Visual and HTML) for WordPress allows the designer to control the look of a post, however it needs the designer to know the existing code (i.e. CSS) for the site. Also, WordPress allows the writer to control the look of a post with no consideration for the look of the site.

Content Management occurs when an information architect decides on how to categorize and tag the published post making it easily available to readers and search engines.

With regards to Content Generation, I believe the current Visual and HTML editors used by WordPress (and other similar tools) is stuck in the Microsoft Office era. The tools are not fitting the way we actually work when producing content for the web.

Tangled Web We Weave

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Creating A Job Board For Programmers and Designers

For the last few months, I’ve been working on creating a job board for programmers and designers.

The design for the site was heavily influenced by 37signals’ job board. Right before launching, something about our site’s look still didn’t feel right. For want of a better phrase, I felt the site ‘wasn’t us’, where ‘us’ referred to Gwen and me.

One of the changes was to add the photo of the Lego figures taken by Ansik with a quote by Steve Jobs to the site’s design.

Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?

The quote resonated with us, especially me, because there are just so many great companies trying, or rather doing, great things that it doesn’t make sense to be stuck in a job you’re not satisfied with or a mundane job where you’re just a cog in the wheel.

So, if you know that you can make a difference, do check out the available jobs over at Triple Point’s Job Board.

2 other considerations were made when designing the front page of the site. The first was not to group the job listings by category. The other was not to include the ‘standard’ categories found in other Singapore job sites. This was done to prevent a ‘ghost-town’ effect where there are too many categories with little or not job listings for them.

The job board is still a work in progress. If you have any comments on how to make it better or what is lacking in the current job boards, do share it.

The influence and the result:


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The JooJoo

One thing I don’t get about the current marketing of the JooJoo is how little attention is paid to the concerns of the market.

Take the above screen-shot of the home page. It uses an image of the JooJoo where the screen has a greenish tint.

If you have been following the news, you would have noticed that one of the concerns from people following the product is that the screen seemed to have a greenish tint in the videos demoing the product. The CEO was dismissive when asked about this, attributing the tint to the camera. Fair enough. During a live demo, lighting and filming conditions may not be sufficiently controlled and certain distortions may affect how the product looks.

But when the product displays the same greenish tint in a photo on the company’s site, then I do believe the question about the quality of the display is a valid one. Under what conditions will the greenish tint appear? If the answer is under abnormally rare conditions, then surely the photographer of the product could have simulated a best case condition to capture the screen content displayed in all its full non-greenish tint glory.

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Living Stories

Principles of Living Stories:

1. Unified Coverage
2. Story Summary
3. Story Developments
4. Various levels of detail
5. Prioritization of story developments
6. Remembering what the user has read

Links Watch
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Welcome To Singapore … Here’s How We Don’t Do Business

Apparently, the CrunchPad is over.

Michael Arrington from TechCrunch has written about it and the initial overreaction by the denizens of the Internet has made Singapore looked a little bad just because Fusion Garage is from Singapore.

Damn fucking shit.

Here’s a lesson. Next time Singapore wants to claim any little kid as our own, even though it may be an illegitimate child spawned after a drunken orgy, just because the little kid looks like he has promised potential, let’s wait until the child survives to adulthood with no signs of any character or physical defects.

Now, everyone thinks that’s how the father does business. Fucking people over.

Which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Cos you see, Singapore companies have historically been the ones getting fucked.

Think Suzhou Industrial Park. Think of some of the recent investments by Singapore’s investment arms.

In any case, it would be wise to wait for Fusion Garage’s response before jumping on any bandwagon with your pitchforks.

Never known to be wise though.

Personally, I don’t think the name is all that important but you seem to be somewhat attached to the name.

If this line was indeed said, and not taken superbly out of content, then, this is should be an instant classic quote.

Brings to mind one of the themes that was touched on at the Infocomm Industry Forum 2009.

It isn’t just about the tech. It is about the marketing, selling and collection of payments and to minimize the impact of TechCrunch and the CrunchPad name, well, that just seems like classic Singapore – all focused on the hard.

Which explains why the shareholders might have gotten a boner and decided to poke Michael Arrington in the ass.

Or so it seems (classic cop-out, comment on an issue with little facts, join in the cacophony of suspect opinions, and end with a line that protects the backside).

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Clicknetwork.tv – I See Boobies

Almost like a pimp warning parents about the dangers of teenage sex, well, because young boys shouldn’t be having sex with teenage girls but with the pimp’s whores, New Paper, Singapore’s paragon of journalistic endeavors devoted about 3 pages on Clicknetwork.tv’s scandalicious babes last weekend for their Sunday edition (at least I think it was Sunday).

The articles online:

Even the way they talk seems slutty: Mum of 3
Can’t figure out ‘For-bees’ (Forbes) magazine
Too smut for their own good?
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea

I have only heartfelt gratitude to TNP for sharing the assets of these ladies, brightening up my gloomy Sunday morning.

The thing that really interests me is that beyond all the faux moral & intellectual outrage about the quality and content of these shows, if you study Clicknetwork.tv as an online video network, you’ll see the company is doing a pretty good job with their site. Let’s compare their site with another favorite of mine – Razor.tv.

Warning: Long post.

Down the rabbit hole

Razor.tv’s main page:

The first two things you notice:

1. Latest Video or at least to me, hey, random video. Might not be relevant to me at all, but who cares!
2. Most recent videos. Again. Just pulled from the top of the pile with no relevance to me at all.

Lower down the page, you see the latest episodes from their different channels.

Here you notice how Razor.tv is stuck in a certain stone age. Or least in the age where video killed the radio star. Channels. Channels. Channels. Instead of focusing on shows. Sure, you see a horizontal line of banners promoting some of the series like ‘The Elite Challenge’ but it is clear they are still very channel-centric.

What do I mean?

Let’s look at the ‘Current Affairs’ channel:

Did you know that there are many segments for this channel? One of them is ‘Ground Zero’ which isn’t highlighted in the sidebar of the above page.

Trying to navigate around the main current affairs page to find a segment you like is almost like trying to find the mythical g-spot.

Clicknetwork.tv’s main page:

I confess. I’m bias. The whole site just looks nicer. What I also really like is how the site doesn’t just bombard me with a random video that just so happens to be the most recent one. Sure, they do emphasize the most recent videos, but at the same eye level, I can easily navigate to find the most viewed this month, the most viewed of all time (at least since the inception of the network) and the most discussed.

Above the fold

To see the most commented and most popular videos on Razor.tv, you would have to scroll down a little bit more on an average screen. Does this matter a lot? Maybe not for everyone, but it sure helps the experience to be able to see all these navigation tools for videos based on stats at the same horizontal level.

Back to channels

Clicknetwork.tv emphasis is on their shows. Sure, they do group the shows into categories (i.e. channels) but it is always about the show. On the main page, descriptions for the shows are given.

Look at Razor.tv, do you get the sense from the main page that they have any sort of regular shows? Do you get the sense which link you click will lead you to a regular show? How about what each series is about? Any descriptions?

Before talking about two series on Razor.tv, let’s compliment Clicknetwork.tv for giving the web surfer decent descriptions of each of their series on the main page.

From the main page, I know that,

Bored in Bikinis is about:

What happens when 2 bikini babes get bored? A lot of random frivolous nonsense. Featuring Sonia and Xue Sha from ‘S Factor’.

Numbnuts is about:

Hutch and Mike face-off in crazy challenges where the loser suffers a shitty penalty.

I already feel safe clicking the links. I know I won’t be entering a dark room where I’ll be clobbered on the back, stuffed into a sack and brought to a shallow grave.

How about Razor.tv? Let’s look at two series ‘The Elite Challenge’ & ‘A Starry Night’. I know that ‘A Starry Night’ is Singapore’s first subway drama. Ok. First. In. Something. Got to be good right. But what the fuck is the show about. People trapped in a subway? People who like to eat sandwiches at night?

How about ‘The Elite Challenge’? Something to do with our Civil Defense Force. But what about?

Now, let’s look at the respective pages for these two series:

The Elite Challenge:

I still don’t know what the show is about. And of all places, this is the place to emphasize the latest video, by, you know, putting a video player at the prime location. What do you get instead? Choices. Choose which video you want to watch. WTF. Seriously. I’m already here. What do you think I want to watch? Make a guess. Maybe the latest episode.

A Starry Night:

Now you tell me what this whole show is about. Instead, of you know, showing the latest episode. Think about it. How am I supposed to know I want to come to this channel if I only get information about this channel on this channel? Genius.

‘Chick versus Dick’ on Clicknetwork.tv:

We already told you what this show is all about, on the main page, so since you’re here. Let’s get down to business. Shall we? Ta-Dah! The latest episode. And the individual page for each of their shows – Classy. With the effort invested, you would have thought these shows were on prime-time TV.

Breaking Up of Episodes:

Look, quality content is quality content. If I love it, I’ll watch it. Till the end. To possibly try to inflate views and clinks, Razor.tv has broken up individual episodes in clip.1, clip.2, clip.3 … What the hell? Do they think they are releasing software? Episode 1 is Episode 1. Let me watch the whole episode on 1 page.

Clicknetwork.tv respects the viewer. Sure, who doesn’t want more clicks. More views. But there is the right way to do it, and then there is the Razor.tv way of doing it.

And you made it to the end, so, boobies for you!

Disclosure: I know someone who knows someone that works for Clicknetwork.tv. That someone I know has bought me a bottle of beer. This post was not written under the influence of that bottle of beer.

Tangled Web We Weave
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Why Aren’t There Hot Girls Dancing At Singapore Tech Events?

This shouldn’t be the image of Hack Day:

Our industry is still young. If we want an all-encompassing technology scene, we need to actively work to cultivate an inclusive environment. This means a zero tolerance approach to this kind of entertainment. Booth babes, tequila girls, and scantily clad gyrating women simply set the wrong tone, here or abroad. Heck, this isn’t just about offending women—many guy geeks I know would be mortified by this kind of thing.

I call bullshit.

Many geeks would love to see booth babes, tequila girls and scantily clad gyrating women, BUT maybe not at a technology event because it would be politically incorrect NOT because they don’t get attracted by such stuff.

And for people who are slamming Yahoo, there are a host of tech companies (mostly dealing in hardware stuff) and gaming companies who are more deserving targets of your wrath.

The only question I really have is why Singapore’s tech events don’t have such hot babes dancing.

Further discussion here.

Some further more serious thoughts:

The fact that these girls were present at the event does not make the technology environment more exclusive to women. It is because the environment is already exclusive to women that such dance items are even considered.

Generally, such events are already seen as quasi-male-bonding sessions.

Getting more women into the industry is the solution to such misplaced occurrences at tech events. Removal of such occurrences is not the solution to getting more women into the industry.

What then is the solution? That’s a much longer post for a later time.

Another thing -

Nerd/Geek culture is becoming mainstream not because of the laudable principles and drivers behind being a nerd/geek – the thirst for knowledge, the love of experimentation, the never-ending quest to pursue truth, the joy that comes from being passionate about a subject – but because we see now how being a nerd/geek can bring money, status and, yes, sex.

These are the 3 Gs that matter to humanity – Gold, Glory & Girls.

Some other photos of the event:

Links Watch
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What I Do After Every Event

Not in any particular order, the things I do after an event.

1. Look for (snarky) comments about the event on Twitter.
2. Look for blog posts about the event.
3. Look for photos of the event.
4. Look-up the profiles of the people who spoke during the event (or took center-stage).
5. Look for videos of the event.

6. Have a beer.
7. Clean myself of filthy filthy buzzwords.

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GymFu

GymFu:

At GymFu, we’ve made a series of unique motion-detecting iPhone apps which will help you make progress wherever and whenever you want.

The apps:

* PushupFu – our flagship application, attach it to your upper arm and train on the way to achieving 100 consecutive pushups

* CrunchFu – hold it to your chest and gain feedback and support as you train towards a 200 crunch goal

* SquatFu – put it in your pocket then see how many squats you can do. Improve your fitness and work towards 200 reps

* PullupFu – our newest app extends our collection to include our most hardcore of muscle workouts yet. Show off to your friends by achieving 50 pullups in a row

What I love about this app is that it highlights a way of thinking that programmers should shift to. When designing a way for users to enter data into an app, is the ubiquitous form the only way to get data in? What data is the app actually trying to record? Is there a way to capture this data with the new capabilities found in phones?

Removing the extra step of users having to manually record data will probably greatly increase an application’s usage because of the removal of friction.

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How We Pass It Along

Some quick thoughts on tracking of shared items:

Track the nature of the content user A shares to user B.

This seems the most obvious way of tracking shared items. Over time, it might be possible to guess whether user A will share an item to user B based on the content type. It is also possible to determine the type of content user A is most likely to share.

Does the source affect how I share content?

But what if the content user A shares with user B is less dependent on the nature of the content but more on how user A received the content.

Is it possible that user A is more likely to share a piece of content with user B if the content came from user C regardless of its nature.

And what if user A is more likely to share a piece of content with user D and not user B if the content came from user E even though the nature of that content is more likely to appeal to user B – content that user A would have shared with user B if user A had discovered it independently.

Does the source(e.g. website) the content is discovered on impact what is shared and to whom?

Is it possible to ascertain the relationship between user A, B, C, D and E based on this ‘abnormal’ behavior?

… now I know my ABC next time won’t you sing with me?

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Google And Viacom Indirectly Contribute To Spread Of Malware

Kanye West disrupted Taylor Swift’s winning speech. The video is making its rounds. The follow-up story, the story that is nicer and really should be getting more attention is the class act by Beyonce who, after winning Video of the Year, gave Taylor Swift her moment at the VMA. Both videos are below (with an additional note about how you are getting to see them).

Picture 3

But this post is really about how Google’s speed at indexing sites, Viacom’s takedown policy and highly savvy evildoers are inadvertently collaborating to spread malware in a world where the hunger for instant gratification on the latest ‘news’ is insatiable.

When I first heard about Beyonce’s touch of class, I googled for the video. I was sick of seeing Kanye’s hissy tantrum and wanted something positive. The first link I found was to a video on YouTube. Sadly, the video had been taken down. I’m assuming it had to do with Viacom’s copyright claim.

Fine. So let’s continue googling. The results of one of my search:

Something interesting about the results – the 3rd, 4th and 5th results all linked to potentially dangerous sites. This was the warning I got from Firefox when clicking through on the links:

So what’s the problem. Evildoers are also paying attention to what’s the hottest news on the net. It seems they have learned to effectively game Google’s ranking of results for the hottest news (as evidenced in this instance). Companies like Viacom that go after sites like YouTube prevent consumers from viewing videos on a ‘safe’ site. There has to be a better way to give companies like Viacom juice so they won’t feel threatened and shortchanged when the companys’ videos are on sites like YouTube. If not, consumers are going to wander off the beaten track to get their fixes and stumble into traps laid by evildoers of the malware world.

Wait, so why don’t you try watching the video directly on MTV’s site. Fair enough. But the video isn’t available in my region. Strange…Then why can I view them when they are embedded on other sites I visit. Hmmmm… more on this after the videos below.

Notes: How I got the embedded videos to work.

Visitors from Singapore would not be able to see the videos on MTV’s site. Trying to embed them on your own blog would also not work….

unlesss …

You change the code for embedding the videos. I took a look at the code used to embed the videos on other sites and realized that some parameters were different. Making a guess that changing these parameters might allow videos to be viewed, I copied over the embed code from Buzzfeed and change the source of the video.

It works.

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Once A Game Has Financial Benefits, Can It Be Fun?

FOURSQUARE FOR BUSINESSES:

In the past few months we’ve seen local businesses encouraging users to show their phones to servers and cashiers as a way to prove their loyalty to a particular place.
“Foursquare says you’ve been here 10x? That’s a free drink for you!”

“Foursquare has deemed you the mayor (aka you’ve been here more than any other user)? Enjoy this free order of french fries.”

I wonder, if there are real world monetary benefits in ‘winning’ a game, will that encourage more ‘cheating’. I can think of many ways foursquare the game can be ‘cheated’. How will the dynamics change once businesses offer layered incentives to top-performers of a game versus those given to participants.

I think foursquare will end up not being a game, or even a way for friends to connect with each other on a night out, but something else – a business tool that Twitter could have been or might be trying to be. The game was just a way to get people to use their platform to say where they have been or rather where they are at.

Something like what Twitter was in the beginning when it asked just 1 question:

“What are you doing?”

Foursquare’s – Where are you at?

It is amazing how a social platform and a business can be built just by getting people to answer just 1 simple question.

Another case in point:

Dopplr (which helps add some serendipity in our lives): Where will you be?

5 Ws and 1 H:

Who? Who was involved?
What? What happened (what’s the story)?
When? When did it take place?
Where? Where did it take place?
Why? Why did it happen?
How? How did it happen?

So what other questions has not been answered?

Note:

I don’t understand why businesses would surrender the monopoly on information of who has been to their establishments by encouraging patrons to log into an external system they have to then pay for the data.

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Possibly Being Spammed by Brew Creative & Charity Isn’t a Business

Ok, I got spammed by this Singapore company Brew Creative. Apparently, I might not be the only one getting spammed.

Twitter status

Twitter status

Now, I took a closer look and tried to figure out who was responsible for the mail:

Mail

And realized who this Vicki Lew of Brew Creative was. She is the lady behind the infamous AWARE EOGM T-Shirts.

So, that might be the connection. I followed the AWARE saga quite keenly, and probably added my email somewhere during the whole period for some X show of support for the old AWARE guard, or during the aftermath, foolishly added my email on a list that I thought was affiliated with AWARE and related charities.

Oh, wait, so that’s why I might have got the email. Because this email is about raising funds for a charity.

Or is it?

Let’s look at the mail:

60% of the profits for each t-shirt sold will be donated to the CCF.

Look, volunteering to help a charity is a commendable effort. Giving money to a charity deserves a hearty pat on the back if the warm fuzzy feeling you have inside you isn’t enough.

But trying to make money off your efforts to help a charity. This stinks of NKF-entitlement complex. 40% of the profits go to the designer. WTF.

A charity isn’t a marketing tool to hawk your products. We aren’t asking you to make a loss. The printing company should be compensated for cost. And maybe, I’m being generous here of course, the printing company can make money. But if the designer (I’m assuming Vicki is the designer here) is going to put her name out there and saying she is going to help raise funds, then, seriously, there is something wrong with this picture here.

It is perfectly fine to say, look, I’m running a business. That business is designing T-shirts. I’m going to design a shirt for Singapore’s first Twestival (why why why am I think Twatival) and I’m going to sell it. I hope to make some money. After I make some money, I’m going to give a part of that amount to a charity.

But you start with,

Brew Creative and Printeet.com are lending a hand at Singapore’s very first Twestival, where the Twitter community gets together to aide a charity.

Singapore Twestival 2009 aims to raise $5000 for the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF).

And only in the last line of the 3 paragraph do you disclose your profit-making intentions on the back of a charity,

To help raise the money, Brew has specially-designed 3 Twitter-related tees. 60% of the profits for each t-shirt sold will be donated to the CCF.

If you (whoever is reading this) can’t tell the difference, you shouldn’t be in marketing.

Oh wait, maybe you should. And that is how our sad pathetic world rolls.

Update:

Vicki has left a comment in reply:

Profit from each t-shirt:
$29.90 – $19.90 = $10
60% to CCF:
$6 per T-shirt
40% to Brew:
$4 per T-shirt

What does this $4 go into? It goes into covering our operational costs. We are, after all, a small studio and running a T-shirt campaign has us on Twitter and Facebook a lot of the time, answering enquiries and requests. We will also be manning a T-shirt booth at the TwestivalSG so there will be some logistic costs that need to be covered.

That $4 looks like a (valid) cost to me. So this is really about the wording. Do check out the sites, and if you do want to support the cause, get the tickets for the festival here and/or buy the shirts here.

Putting my inner cynic aside, the $4 seems fair (of course, if they sell like a thousand T-shirts, the absolute amount does seem big). The questions really boils down to these:

1. If I am volunteering to raise funds, how much financial cost should I bear?

2. Can the time spent be quantified to a monetary amount?

3. Should I be compensated for my time?

Put it another way, if the CCF paid Brew Creative $4000 to raise $10,000, would we be comfortable with this arrangement?

Tough questions all around.

I know where I stand but what do you guys think?

On Singapore
Tangled Web We Weave

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Augmented Reality

The overlaying of information on top of the physical world. The additional information is viewed through another device. The device needs to be able to determine the coordinates of a point in the real world. Markers were initially used to ‘cheat’ the system by explicitly identifying a point. Cameras are one way the device sees the world. GPS and compass functionalities are other ways for a device to ‘see’ the world.

What are the other ways a device can ‘see’ the world? The use of audio – capturing sounds made at a locale.

How to present the data? On a screen? Project it out?

During my last year in NUS, I took a module which allowed us to explore AR technologies. It has been 3 years since and now, with webcams being more obiquitous and mobile phones getting better hardware, augmented reality related software and systems might be gearing up to be the next buzzwords for 2010.

The questions are:

1. How to push data out to the physical world.
2. How to pull data in from the physical world.

I sense a change coming.

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How NOT To Beat Craigslist

Trying to build a craigslist killer:

But practical people will find his (the consultant to the newspapers) excuse almost as damning as the evidence that provokes it, for a truly excellent strategy will tolerate myriad failures in execution, while a weak strategy reveals its weakness in the very fact that it is impossible to execute correctly.

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How Craigslist Beat Ebay

Unbrand, Uncompete, Demonetize:

As long as craigslist can support its 30 employees on “merely” an estimated $100 million in revenue, there simply isn’t enough cash in this space to keep a giant-sized competitor interested over the long term. When I first saw Jim Buckmaster talk, in 2004, he described his strategy in three words: unbrand, uncompete and demonetize. His victory over eBay illustrates the paradoxical power of demonetization.

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The Secret Of Craigslist

The secret of craigslist:

By eliminating marketing, sales, and business development, craigslist’s programmers have cut out all the cushioning layers that separate them from the users they serve, and any right they have to teach lessons in public service comes from the odd situation of running a company that is directly subservient only to the public. Here’s the lesson: The public is a motherfucker.

Craig Newmark says that craigslist works because people are good, and he has stuck to this point of view without wavering. Whether you accept it as true will depend on your standard of goodness.

Yet it seems,

And just as people who run technical companies are reaching an apex of confidence in their ability to invent new forms of community based on sharing everything, craigslist still treats social life as dangerously complex, deserving the most jaded caution. Corporate isolation, user anonymity, refusal of excessive profit, glacial adoption of new features: These all signal Newmark and Buckmaster’s wariness about what humans, including themselves, might do if given the chance. There may be a peace sign on every page, but the implicit political philosophy of craigslist has a deeply conservative, even a tragic cast. Every day the choristers of the social web chirp their advice about openness and trust; craigslist follows none of it, and every day it grows.

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Seriously, What’s The Point Of A Blogathon?

Firstly, congrats to Nadnut and Geekonomics for winning the blogathon.

Now…what was its point?

Some time mid-way through the competition, a troll appeared on Twitter.

Picture 4

John Kerr, head of Edelman Digital Asia, mentioned the event rather unflattering in his blog post ‘No money, no social media honey?‘.

There are also grumbles against events like a Blogathon in Singapore, where high-value prizes are being given out to selected participating bloggers and the creeping realization that the event is about hardcore brand promotion, rather than promoting blogging or raising money for charity, which is the well-known focus for a ‘Blogathon.’ I don’t know many journalists who would get involved under a structure like this – celebrities yes, media no.

Firstly – bloggers can be journalists, celebrities, or maybe, horror of horrors, even both. So yeah, maybe journalists won’t take part in a blogathon, but hey, if they wanted journalists, they might have called it a journathon. Blogging is a medium. Bloggers are people who write and distribute their content using a certain medium.

Secondly, for a post lamenting the state of disclosure and transparency with regards to the relationship between bloggers and companies, I find it funny that John Kerr would actually take issue with an event that is being so clear and upfront that it is being sponsored by certain brands and that there is going to be some (hardcore) brand promotion. Although, frankly, I was at the event, and I didn’t really see how it was more ‘hardcore’ than any other sort of event promoting any other brands. Maybe John Kerr prefers his movies stamped with meaningless ratings, with cutaways, lots of allusion to sex scenes, maybe a few silhouette shots thrown in, which does nothing for the movie plot instead of just maybe 1 good scene which while uncensored, exposes the dynamics of the relationship between the characters clearly (and yes, sex scenes don’t always need to be for gratuitous titillation).

The question that should be asked is, “What’s the point of sponsoring any sort of competition ?”

Like, what’s the point of the Subaru Challenge, which if you ask me, and even if you didn’t, I think is way more of an abuse on the contestants’ bodies than what the bloggers were put through.

Borrowed an image from Keropok because he had the nicest shot of the challenge. He also covered the blogathon here.
subaru4

People who think the blogathon violates the spirit of blogging, whatever this spirit might be and the only kind of spirit I really think anyone should NEVER violate is the kind that come in bottles and taste a little smoky ( i.e. drinking whiskey with coke as a mixer – now, that’s a violation of spirit that should never happen), should just take their head out of their ass and realize that the blogathon is just a format.

Just like a marathon can be run as a competition or just as a way to spend time with friends (yes, I have some wickedly ‘sick’ friends who run marathons as a way to hangout) or a way to raise funds for charity or just a way to exercise, a blogation as a format can be used for many purposes.

This time it was used as a competition where the contestants happened to be bloggers. Simple enough? Let’s break it down some more. Contestants (who happened to be bloggers) do some sort of activity (blog) to win prizes. This blogathon is really just beginning to look like any other sort of competition. How boring.

Now to the existential question – is it only bloggers who can take part in a blogathon? But if you never blogged before, and you take part in a blogathon as a contestant, have you now become a blogger?

But I’m really digressing.

So, the question that should be answered is “What’s the point of organizing or sponsoring any sort of competition?”

I can’t speak for the team from Ogilvy, and I would never have the audacity to, but I shall share 7 (because 7 is the number of completeness) points on how this blogathon might have, well, just achieved some sort of ROI at least with a supporter of the competition like me.

1. People learned about the Tangs website. Did you know there was a Tangs website? Well, now you and I do. And it isn’t some ugly looking corporate website from last century like the one for Ngee Ann City.

TANGS (20090719)

2. I was unconsciously introduced to the ‘Fashion Spy’ feature section of Tangs’ website. When I first visited the site, I zeroed in on that section. Why? Because the bloggers had earlier been blogging using a similar format.

fashion_spy

Now, if you are wondering how blogging can help brand awareness, imagine if you request bloggers to blog in a certain way. That certain format could become easily identifiable on your own site or easily identified as related to your site. SCORE! 1 point to social media.

fashion_spy_two

3. This isn’t exactly a product of the blogathon but more of Lenovo’s continued involvement in Singapore’s social media scene. When someone asked me what sort of Vista-based laptop he should get, my immediate answer was a Lenovo ThinkPad. Which is surprising considering that I use a DELL at work (then again, maybe not).

4. I haven’t been using facial wash (because the tube is empty) for a couple of weeks now, and coupled with the stress at work, my face is really showing the effects which Nadnut so honestly pointed out. Why no facial wash? I haven’t been buying my own facial wash for some time. I usually use whatever is found lying around in the toilet or whatever the gf buys for me because, well, guys aren’t supposed to bother about such frivolous stuff like toiletries. Anyway, now the brand Kiehl is stuck in my head, and the next time I get dragged along for shopping, I’ll probably only check that brand out cos seriously I know shit about such stuff and spending a couple of hours being exposed to good looking guys touting that brand, well, it must work for me too…right…right? Weak-minded I am.

5. Mainstream buzz.

6. Why are there activities held at that big empty space outside Ngee Ann City? Well, to make the shopping center a hub of activities. Why have road-shows? Why have give-away contests? Why have mini concerts? One doesn’t need much imagination to see how the blogathon as an event temporarily turned that little corner of Orchard Road into the hub of activities for that day. Get people near the store, they might just enter the store. Pure Genius. Almost diabolical.

7. Lastly, and I think this is the killer way the blogathon might have succeeded. The bloggers were placed in a display window. What’s the point of a display window. Err..duh, to display things. But short of putting naked women in a display window, how do you get people to actually look at what’s in it. Putting the bloggers there got people to look into the display windows. And if Tangs have merchandizing, marketing and window-dressing people worth their salt, 3 months down the road, when I’m shopping for something, somewhere in my unconscious brain, things are going to start kicking in and I’ll be drawn to some shiny object whispering seductively ‘buy me, buy me’ and I wouldn’t even know why. Although I’ll guess and say I might have seen in displayed somewhere, somewhere close to friends.

Anyway, recap.

1. Competitions – Not new.
2. Awarding sponsored prizes for competitions – Not new.
3. Getting contestants to do things to win prizes – Not new.

Lastly, the blogathon was a little like a reality TV show. One of the main reasons for the success of any reality TV show is the casting of the contestants. If you want drama, you got to cast properly – place the pretentious vicious school belle in the same room as the nerdy, kind, never-been-kissed social outcast.

In the case of the blogathon, I think the team scored with casting or at least with the bloggers nadnut, dk, claudia and aaron. I follow these 4 bloggers rather regularly and from what they usually write about products on their blogs, I know that they do not embellish. They will try to find something good to say, and usually they can, because good, can always be found (not all products are made evil) but they won’t say more than what they can.

For a blogathon, if you want trust, if you want promotion with any shred of credibility (and in this case, I think the bloggers had pages load of that), then casting is important.

You can write the script. Allow improvisation. Build the stage. Get great lighting. Find excellent props. In the end, it is the actors who deliver the lines that really matter. This time, I think they deserve a standing ovation. It was an honest performance.

On Singapore
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