Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

theorycast.66 :: On 938Live’s Raw & Ready with Sarah Cheng

On 938Live's Raw & Ready with Sarah Cheng-De Winne
theorycast.66 :: On 938Live’s Raw & Ready with Sarah Cheng by brainopera

Thanks to digerati Preetam Rai, I was recently introduced to 938Live’s multi-talented radio presenter, Sarah Cheng-De Winne (aka @SarahCDW).

As part of her youth talkshow, Raw & Ready, she interviewed me as a blogger, social cyborg, cyberculturalist, and on my most recent role at The National Art Gallery, Singapore.

This interview was recorded in MediaCorp’s 938Live radio studio on 5th August 2011. You’re invited to take a listen!

FYI: This week on Raw & Ready, it’ll be Juicy & Delicious’ turn!

Download theorycast.66 :: On 938Live’s Raw & Ready with Sarah Cheng (.m4a / 7.8mb) from the Internet Archive, or listen to it on SoundCloud. Feel free to subscribe to theorycast on iTunes.

Seth Gordin’s The Dip… Singapore style

Over on the Google Buzz side of my joblessness story, friends have been reminding me of A Singapore Taxi Driver’s Diary, probably the only taxi driver in this world with a PhD from Stanford.

I called him a genius because he’s managed to turn a downfall into an upturn (i.e. Seth Gordin’s The Dip)… he’s just published his blog into a book! Storytelling is such a crucial art.

My PhD buddy @MrBigLive then pointed out Amanda Marshall’sEverybody’s Got A Story” where back in 2002, the amazing singer had already called out academic inflation, with her lyrics which included “…and that taxi-driver’s got a Ph.D”. Don’t believe me? Take a listen…

the3six5 project… or how I learned to embrace the emergent

the3six5 project

Around the start of 2010, I began hearing about this idea dubbed the3six5 project. A bunch of transmedia and emerging media folks discussed it with great fervor.

So I took a look…
then asked…
“What’s the big effing deal?”

Every day, a different person would step in and write a journal entry of what was going on around him or her. There are rules of course, like being assigned a day insignificant to the author (i.e. no birthdays, anniversaries), writing a reflection of life that very day from the author’s location (i.e. the stark reality), limits to the number of words, and finally, zero blatant self promotion.

Everywhere Magazine: a crowdsourced travel mag Yes, it’s crowdsourc-ive, it’s storytelling, it’s experimental, but is it too simplistic and too random?

Prior to the3six5, we’ve seen very well curated examples that have even been put to print, such as user-generated magazines Everywhere and JPG. In other words, this isn’t new… so what’s really going on here?

Thinking back at the3six5, I even tried to suggest connectivity between stories…

So I wrote to the3six5 co-founder, Len Kendall

“While some of the twitterati I follow seem to like this project a lot, I beg to differ. I value the experimental (back to personal writing) nature of it, like how it provides a “snapshot” of our world from different perspectives, but find the articles all too disconnected from one another. I feel that it lacks connectivity, a kind of holistic purpose behind it. Perhaps I need to be unhinged to the idea of a plot? That said, I admire the difficult simplicity, consistency and diligence behind this project.”

To which Len calmly replied…

“Your reaction makes sense. There is certainly a disconnect between people. But I think that people’s minds often try to get non-fiction to mirror fiction. But that’s not how life operates. It’s very random, and this chronology reflects that. What makes it flow is that once every few days some folks with mention a “checkpoint” in time. Haiti’s earthquake, Obama’s spead, Apple’s ipad, etc. So that 10 years from now, if you read this story, you’ll have some sense of what was taking place at that time and when that time was.”

At this point I’m widening my sights to treat the theme as a giant chronological expression. Len explained that enforcing a theme pressures fiction around our non-fictional world. Thanks to our increasingly politicalized news media, perhaps it’s our learned reaction to pigeon-hole social reality. I have the sensation that what some storytellers are seeing, that isn’t apparent at face value, are qualities which will emerge from both the process and product of this particular sousveillance literature. The fiction will eventually appear because we will implicitly, and punitively, place it there.

As Len blogged, within the first 30 days of this year-long work, we’re already seeing a string of patterns emerge:

The web can be a really messy place. On creating order from chaos, Len writes how “Crowdsourcing ain’t easy”. Maintaining 365 authors for 365 days is pretty intense work, which makes me wonder if this project could ever work as an entirely community-governed iteration.

The number of views, comments and retweets act like an invisible leaderboard. There’s growing competition, or as BBHLab’s Ben Malbon puts it, “God help those writing in November…”. Throw in a few celebrity writers (ZeFrank!), and it looks like I’m pretty much screwed.

And on forcing fiction upon non-fiction: Margo Gremmler said “[…] you brought us all together in an author mosaic”. While I can’t wait to see the big picture, I thought that Gennefer’s tweet was rather poignant for the3six5’s journey…

Twitter / Gennefer Snowfield: @brainopera I'd add we're ...

Almost everyone contributing to this project agreed that “the case study for this project is going to be just as interesting as the project itself.”

To appreciate the3six5 experience, I asked if I could contribute, and was kindly given the day of 24th November 2010. It’s weird… but I suddenly feel like I own that day. It becomes both my honor, and my burden.

For a better idea of the3six5 project, be sure to read Ben Malbon’s “Interview with the3six5 project founders: 365 days, 365 perspectives

theorycast 61 & 62 :: Imagining Classroom 2.0 – John Larkin & Kevin Lim @ NTU

John Larkin & me @ NTU talk
Me, my papa and John Larkin at NTU. See photo slideshow.

Alex Halavais, John Hendron, and AcademicDave are just some of the education folks who have been exploring the future of learning, and how schools as institutions are going to have to adapt to stay relevant in an increasingly participatory media age.

On 14th Oct 2009, as part of the edUtorium series at the Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Aussie educator John Larkin and I delivered a comprehensive look at the ways social web tools have been implemented within our classes in order to enhance learning interaction among students. I did a pre-talk synopsis here and so did John.

theorycast.61 :: Imagining Classroom 2.0 @ NTU (Part 1 by John Larkin)

theorycast.62 :: Imagining Classroom 2.0 @ NTU (Part 2 by Kevin Lim)
BTW, here are my slides…

Presentation Overview:
The democratic nature of the social web means that the ability to learn and produce meaningful work can now happen at any level – from the independent student, to the individual teacher, to the entire education institution. Now, more than ever, instructors are able to motivate active learning among students, by empowering them with relevant online tools that allow for more creative approaches to go beyond the traditional class-based education.

In this two hour session, we showed instructors how they could…

  • cultivate learning beyond the classroom
  • encourage participation in the class conversation
  • inspire student pride through greater sense of ownership of their work
  • include new literacies in research, organization, and synthesis of ideas
  • support multiple learning styles
  • create exemplars by raising the bar of student achievement
  • archive learning by creating a record for both you and the students

John Larkin & me @ NTU
Kevin, Hazman, Carolyn @ NTU talk
Hazman and Carolyn Lim came by too!

Big thanks to cameraman Christopher Tan of Singapore Polytechnic for coming down, capturing the event, and providing us with video footage. Very thoughtful fella!

How I survived MediaTemple’s thousand dollar invoice

MediaTemple's Thousand Dollar Bill
This weekend was a real shocker…

As some of you already know, I received a $1084.40 GPU overage charge from Media Temple last week. Quite an adventure this turned out to be… one that I was fortunate enough to walk away from scot-free.

This whole incident really showed me how lucky I am to have great friends. Not only were they empathetic, some were ready to offer donations, while a few went above and beyond. For your benefit, I’d like to share my story with you. Continue reading ‘How I survived MediaTemple’s thousand dollar invoice’

On Tiananmen’s 20th anniversary: How China is becoming a Giant Singapore

Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
The Tank Man: Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 – Jeff Widener (The Associated Press). Also see NY Times “Behind the Scenes: Tank Man of Tiananmen

You might be aware that I’ve been on a blog hiatus since I writing on my dissertation on Cyberactivism in China. With the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square this week, I’d like to brain dump what I’ve come across so far. Please let me know what you think.

When veteran filmmaker Antony Thomas went to China in search of “The Tank Man“, he showed this iconic picture to undergraduates at the Peking University. Back in 1989, this university served as the nerve center of the Tiananmen Square protests.

None of the students recognized the photograph.

Lacking any context, the four Chinese students mustered their best effort and proposed that it was some kind of military parade (watch 1 minute into video). Continue reading ‘On Tiananmen’s 20th anniversary: How China is becoming a Giant Singapore’

Starting the social media journey for communication agencies

Social Media Primer @ Travers Collins & Company (panorama)
Click to see full-size panorama

Looking back at the emergence of popular social networks, I’m quite convinced that much of their success happened not through incredible planning and foresight, but by accident and adaptation. Youtube was supposed to be a video-based, Flickr was spawned off a MMORPG multiuser chat service with real-time photo exchange (called FlickrLive; I was there), and Twitter was meant to be a “livelier”

As serendipitous as this may be, we can still take time to observe the tendencies of social networks. Explaining this at Buffalo PRSA back in February, Kate Torok kindly invited me to give a social media primer for her colleagues at Travers Collins & Company (TC&C) on Tuesday morning.

The night before, I spent some time examining their online network presence, by checking out their professional group blog TC&C insights, their twitter @TraversCollins, as well as their LinkedIn company profile page which neatly displays their employee roster.

Social Media Primer @ Travers Collins & Company By around 8.45am, twenty-two friendly faces had descended around me at the TC&C conference room. Surveying the room, I was delighted to know that they all had experience with twitter as well as Google Reader. Soon after, I noticed that John Pitts @Pitts88 and @schoenorn tweeted in while I presented. I wished more of them did the same, so we’d have a backchannel for sustaining post-session discussion.

Since Travers Collins & Company is an all-rounded communication agency handling advertising, public relations as well as investor relations, I showcased my Phelps vs. Kellogg’s case study (as seen at Buffalo PRSA), with a few extensions towards user engagement and social media tracking tools.

Technology actually comes last
I kicked off the session by showing an explosion of social web services out there. While there are @#^$-tons of social networking platforms already available, I reinforced the idea that that strategy should always come before tools. A better way to understand this, would be to see Forrester’s POST (People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology) method where, ironic to many, the technology component comes last in the online social engagement effort.

The POST Method: A systematic approach to social strategy

Listening actually comes first
For organization embarking on the social web journey, there’s the temptation to broadcast and focus on getting as much eyeballs as possible. I’d argue that this method simply bootstraps traditional communication limitations onto the new media of social networks, which actually offers us new ways of engaging individuals. Instead, I’d recommend listening as the primary method of engagement. It’s the most natural (and respectful) way to start a conversation, create strong relationships and build advocacy. Particularly since we live in a much noisier online environment today, someone who actually takes the time to listen becomes a big deal. We’re more receptive of people who empathize with us.

Twitter / Thomas At UPS: @brainopera Good Afternoon ... For instance: For the past week, I’ve been trying to resolve a “delivered” package via UPS… the problem being, I never received it. Checking between the shipper and UPS, it seems that someone “took” the package left at my door. It’s strange since I usually get InfoNotices whenever I miss a delivery.

While I might have to file a police report, along comes @ThomasAtUPS offering an ear. It’s obvious that he watches “UPS” related tweets. While he couldn’t do anything to help me then, it’s nice to know that I have a real person inside UPS to rely on, instead of talking to random service reps over the phone. Think about it: Never before in communication history have organizations ever been afforded such precise omniscience and omnipresence over their namesake as today.

Media Monitoring the Social Web
From my previous internship with PR agency, Weber Shandwick Worldwide, I had first-hand experience with the tedious aspect of mass media monitoring. Add the surveillance of social networks, and what could be relatively interesting can quickly turn into pure drudgery. Thankfully, with more news and conversations being shared online, I showed that it is getting easier for us to track what mainstream media as well as individual users are saying about particular ideas. At the basic level, there are free tracking tools on the web such as Google Alerts and SocialMention. On the higher level, there are intelligence gathering services which would index the raw keyword search results into measures of online sentiment (e.g. ScoutLabs, JamiQ).

Scoutlabs: sentiment analysis tool

Taking online tracking even further, the ability to predict future events might no longer be stuck in the realm of science fiction. Horizon scanning, as defined by UK government scientific advisors, involves “the systematic examination of potential threats, opportunities and likely future developments, which are at the margins of current thinking and planning. Horizon scanning may explore novel and unexpected issues, as well as persistent problems or trends” (Sept 2004). While governments have long realized the value of horizon scanning, a recent example included the fairly accurate prediction of the H1N1 flu epidemic by Northwestern University and Indiana University (New York Times, May 2009). Imagine if we had such predictive powers to watch over our interests.

History of Individual-Authority Relationships
Beyond listening, organizations can also engage and enlist users/fans in a more proactive way. I shared a historic overview of the stages of relationships and interactions individuals have had with organizations, going from Ladder of Citizen Participation (Sherry Arnstein, 1969), to Forrester Research’s Social Technographics reports (Charlene Li, 2008). I also highlighted Mike Arauz’s infamous “Spectrum of Online Friendship” to illustrate the idea of friending in the online space, and how such friends could be measured in terms of personal investment.

Where do we find the time?
Towards the end of my presentation, most of the questions pertained to finding the time for social media. There might never be enough time, let alone people, to manage multiple client accounts and their relevant social media endeavors. The short answer is that we should come upon the social web as natural extensions for our cause. Once again, the technology should come last, as it should aid, not detract from, the larger strategy of our cause.

One possible and quite commonly cited workaround which participants suggested included paying bloggers to write about their clients. First and foremost, there’s the danger of turning blog campaigns into nothing more than the act of shilling, or worst case scenario, astroturfing. I warned that with so many pairs of eyes on the Internet, it would almost be unavoidable for someone spot or even whistle-blow such an affair online, thereby damaging the client’s reputation.

I suggested looking for alternative ways to encouraging participation. This includes looking for the experts or influencers in fields relevant to the campaign, then approaching them with information which would be of interest to them. If it’s worthwhile, sponsoring bloggers for a period of time would be a better idea than simply paying for blog posts (e.g. PayPerPost), so long as bloggers know to be honest by disclosing their sponsorship in the post. A good example given by Courtney Quattrini (correct me if I’m wrong) was how she noticed that rapper 50 Cent had his ghost-twitterers sign off with initials, so fans wouldn’t feel short-changed thinking that it’s actually him tweeting. For most fans, it’s simply about the principle of showing respect.

From Communicating to Socializing
Finally, I got to sit-down with TC&C’s social media team, consisting of Kathy Burns, Alyssa Mayer, Caitlin Waas, and Courtney Quattrini. This four-woman team manages TC&C’s blog and twitter account. They are also responsible for advising colleagues and clients on the inclusion of social media practices into their communication mix. They wanted me to be brutally honest with how they could improve in the social web front. For new entrants to social media, I could think of three quick points for them to consider:

1. Link, and Link Widely
While TC&C’s company blog was professionally written, with individual writers’ personality showing through, I noted that great content might not be enough to be noticed. I believe that being on the web, we would really have to link and cite others as widely as possible, not simply to make an educated case, but to recognize other personalities online. Done modestly, most professional bloggers would see inbound links to their site, and might even reciprocate with a comment or a link back as well. It’s a conversation starter.

2. Riding the Brain Waves
As Malcolm Gladwell once noted, there are essentially two kinds of geniuses out there: The Precocious (or born genius) and the Late Bloomer. He noted that while being born genius is amazing in itself, it is far more efficient to consider developing many more late bloomers. In effect, not all of us might be able to create a sensation on our own, but many more of us know how to ride it and hopefully learn from it. Done in moderation, understanding the ebb and flow of conversations online and participating in them would be a way for new comers be introduced in new social circles. The idea is not to write simply in void, but to situate our own personality and creations in a common space with others. It’s a give and take situations, and humility can be a powerful, recognizable virtue. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh made sense when he said that “People relate to people, not companies“.

3. The Perpetual Beta
Most organizations might get hooked on the idea that they have to look perfect right from the start. Those of us in the web world know that unlike the mainstream media where you publish once and disseminate, the web is more like an organic space where ideas survive by being continuously adaptive. Unlike traditional media, the web is a space where you can actually hold multiple conversations. Understanding this means shifting the paradigm of communications towards the idea where speed and humility rules over perfectionism and authority. I’d even argue that imperfection gives people the sense that you’re as human as them, which is why some of the more interesting bloggers are those who share their best and worst of times. It’s the journey tells the story, not simply the success. On a related note, there’s an interesting documentary being produced by Melissa Pierce called “Life in Perpetual Beta” which I hope to catch.

Telling it like it is…
I don’t profess to be a social media expert, so these are brief heartfelt thoughts I have to share. There are many more developed ideas worth exploring from many others worth following, but I do hope these points provide a rough guide on how to think about the social web. The bottomline is that we can’t simply bootstrap traditional communication practices onto the social web if we wish to make the best from it. We’re going back to basics, working with real people who share our interests, so we ought to make our adventures a mutual investment.

Presentation: The Obama Way – Using Online Social Networks to Promote Your Cause

For Fundraising Day 2009 (which coincides with Earth Day), I gave a primer on how President Obama used online social networks (among many communication tools) to empower supporters and raise an incredible amount of public funding for his 2008 election campaign.

In particular, I focused on the idea of producing remixable media, so fans/supporters can produce their own variations, take ownership of the idea and ultimately help spread the cause.

AFP social networking panel
Click to see high-res panorama of our fundraising through social media session @ Statler Tower

KaraKane of Medaille College kicked things off with some social media definitions and concepts (see her slides), while AJ, founder of, talked about how organizations could establish presence online and integrate social media practices with their marketing communication mix. I’ve put some of the audience questions at the end of my Slideshare presentation for future reference.

This event was kindly hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professional (WNY Chapter).

BarcampBuffalo:’s Kevin Purdy on “How to write smarter & faster for the web” (Texter)

Nice to see Senior Editor of, Kevin Purdy, make a trip back to Buffalo to join in our first ever Barcamp Buffalo.

Kevin tells us how he transitioned from a newspaper journalist to a Lifehacker editor. Waking up 5am every morning, I overheard that he reads about 1,000 feeds a day. As part of his transition to the online realm, he shows us the way he writes smarter and faster for the web by using Texter.

Watch carefully… Texter’s ability to correct your “fuck you boss” statement is god-sent! [skip frame to 03:30]

You can download texter here.

Update: This video is now featured on!

SOLsummit2009: Mindmelding with fellow edu-digeratis…

I’ll probably share the audio or video after I’ve actually presented this…

Thanks to Alexandra Pickett, Associate Director at SUNY Learning Network, I’ve been sponsored to speak at SLN SOLsummit 2009 held in Syracuse, NY (a good 2hr 21mins drive).

What’s SOLsummit about?
The SLN SOLSummit, sponsored by the SUNY Learning Network (SLN), is an annual SUNY-wide conference specifically for online instructional designers, directors of online learning, and those interested in online learning environment support, services, and best practices.

What will I be doing?
Besides listening to edu-digeratis including Alex Reid, Shannon Ritter, and George Siemens, I’ll be giving a visual journey through “Leveling Up Students with Blogs: Engineering Active Learning through Game Mechanics”, which I’ve previously only written about. Here’s my talk’s abstract:

Feb 26th, 2:30 – 3:30 SUNY Campus Showcase III:
Kevin Lim, Cyberculturalist, doctoral student in Communication at the University at Buffalo

Leveling Up Students With Blogs: Motivating Active Learning Through Game Mechanics
One challenge of using blogs as educational tools is encouraging students to engage in these public forms of active participation. For students to receive the full benefits of the class blogging experience, they must internalize the goal of intellectual interaction.

To encourage these social interactions, an innovative pedagogical approach in the form of Amy Jo Kim’s game mechanics (2006) can be applied as a viable framework to student blogging communities. This framework also allows educators to achieve both specific and emergent learning outcomes.

This presentation presents the authors’ implementation of gaming mechanics with blogging pedagogy, and will allow educators to observe how learning outcomes were met.

As both authors (Derek Lackaff and I) were each instructors of similar introductory Communication courses (COM125) held on different continents within the same semester, this experience provided for a unique opportunity to compare the adoption of blogs and game mechanics under different cultural contexts.

But wait, there’s something for you…
It’s obvious that not everyone who’s interested in online learning design can be here, so Alexandra has made it a point to be very visible with our pedagogical exchanges.

First, there’s the agenda online, then there’s the @SLNSOLsummit on twitter, photos on flickr tagged summit2009, and best of all… our presentations will all be shared online via this public SOLsummit2009 Slideshare group. Enjoy!

Update: Alexandra is also streaming live video from SOLsummit 2009 via Mogulus.