Archive for the 'HowTo' Category

Speaking on ‘Productive Games’ at TertiaryTech, 18th Sept @ SMU

How To Add Fun To Traditional Labour @ Tertiary Tech Conference 2010

Game mechanics is quite the rage across disciplines and industries. Since 2009, I’ve delivered variations of my talk at SOLsummit 2009 (Syracuse, NY), Barcamp Buffalo, ICA 2010 conference, WebSG meetup, IGDA Pecha Kucha Night III, and soon, SingTel Accelerate conference.

This Saturday at TertiaryTech I’ll be helping interested students understand the basic psychological hooks that make games addictive, and consequently how we could apply these rules to make traditional labor fun.

TertiaryTech tickets are $15 for students, but I have three tickets to give away for the first three passionate students who drop me their contact details in the comments. The organizers tell me that another way to score free tickets is to contribute to their IdeaBoard. They just want a good reason to give tickets away!

If you’re interested, I speak from 11.00am-11.30am at Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium, SMU School of Accountancy. Here’s the abstract below…

How To Add Fun To Traditional Labour

In our daily lives, we do our shopping at the usual stores, buy a meal at our favourite fast food chain or visit our usual watering holes. We are rewarded by being loyal customers and we know when and how to get things at a cheaper price. Turning our attention online to social networking services like Facebook and LinkedIn, you’ll see the number of friends you have implicitly considered as a scoreboard, while the profile completion progress meter would look like feedback in the leveling process, all of which are game mechanics that tease our psychological urges. Casual games hosted on these platforms like Farmville and Mafia Wars are making us go back and play them every 30 minutes or so.

These forces, or what we refer to as game dynamics or mechanics, are what influence us into subconsciously performing actions or completing certain tasks. As usage and engagement becomes the focus of many technology services today, there is a demand and need to infuse game mechanics in these products.

Find out from Kevin Lim, our local friendly social cyborg and tech blogger at Theory is the Reason, on how to harness the addictive elements of video games and embed these game mechanics into a traditional system or product to make it fun and to encourage prolonged and frequent use.

Kevin has been experimenting with the concept of productive games in the classroom environment, by using Amy Jo Kim’s game mechanics as a means of steering user motivations. He has also been invited to present his research papers and also to speak at numerous corporate and academic conferences. Be sure not to miss him by registering for the Tertiary Tech Conference today!

Additional video resources

Seth Priebatsch: The Game Layer on top of the World

Jesse Schell: When Games Invade Real Life

For details, head to

UPDATE: Tertiarytech Conference access for students now FREE! Professionals pay a token sum of $25. Do it for the kids ;)

Waking up with nothing… is it really exhilarating?

Up in the Air (2009)

1st month: Couldn’t get over the fact that I finally graduated.
2nd month: Glad that I was really a doctor (of philosophy).
3rd month: Slapped in the face: PhDs don’t mean as much nowadays.
4th month: Became an uncreative slob. Remained hidden from society.

I’m jobless. I’ve been at it for about four months now.

When I finally graduated, I thought that I had all the time in the world to do everything I ever wanted. On the contrary, being jobless and financially bleeding made it hard to get motivated. I realized that my most creative endeavors were when I was busy with some form of routine.

During the lulls of my previous job, I would sneak out a blog article, experiment with video, or do something out of line as a form of escapism. Usually this personal innovation time off (aka Google’s 20% time) later became extremely useful for me (e.g. watch social cyborg project trailer).

Being too free felt as if I had a limitless blank canvas… at some point I realize that I needed some constraints in order to kick off creatively (see Boring + Boring = Pleasant?!). Now I feel like I have nothing to escape from… a prison without walls (see Kerala’s open prison).

I recently watched Up in the Air (2009), where George Clooney’s jet-setting character was designed to expertly lay-off employees across the country. In our bleak economic climate, that translated to a lot of business (and air miles) for him. To every employee he laid off, he’d say the following, “Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it’s *because* they sat there that they were able to do it.”

It’s a chance for rebirth.
As they say, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Serendipitously, I discovered a short film entitled Lemonade (2009), which was about ad-folks whose lives had changed for the better since losing their ad jobs. When 37 year-old copywriter, Erik Proulx, was laid off from a large agency in Boston, it was the third time he’d been terminated in less than 10 years. He started a blog, Please Feed the Animals, to serve as a support group for other unemployed ad professionals. According to his movie’s synopsis, some 70,000 advertising professionals have lost their jobs during this recession.

As enlightening and delightful as it was for some to discover their true passion, I believe that most of us have not located our pleasure centers, and might never will. Understandably, it’s not that easy for everyone… we’re scared.

Before I entered university, I was actively being the life of the party. In the early 90s, when the Internet was first publicly accessible in Singapore, I started a web publishing business to combine my trifecta interest in what my dad appropriately dubbed ATM (Art + Technology = Money).

My mantra was to make friendships productive, by calling upon classmates, training them in basic HTML coding while working with them on building client relationships. Related side projects were born from this, including online music communities and

I sometimes do wonder if all this education had ruined my drive… after all, the more I generally knew, the more I felt paralyzed. The realization of how little I was relative to my peers humbled me to the point of fear and self-loathing.

Almost sharing my dilemma, Lemonade’s producer Erik Proulx recently responded to a lady named Lisa, who had been laid off in 2008 after a 14-year career in broadcast journalism. She sought an answer to her plight, so he told her “[d]on’t be the person out there looking for the job. Be the person out there doing something interesting.” What followed from her were a series of “but, but, but” responses, a situation we’re all too familiar with. Paralysis.

Seth Gordin's Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Digging deeper, Erik quotes Seth Godin’s Linchpin (2010, currently #1 Amazon book on careers), where Steven Pressfield’s “the resistance” comes into play. According to Pressfield, the brain naturally wants to retreat to the comfort of normalcy and inaction. There are so many reasons to not do something. But the biggest is that the voice that asks “what if?” is usually drowned out by the voice that screams “it’s too scary.” Erik and Gordin both believe that the answer lies in a high tolerance for fear, where you have to see failure not just as a possibility, but a certainty.

As Erik puts it, “If you’ve failed at something, it also means you attempted something. You’re alive.”

Ironically, while I started by explaining how I had become routine-less while being jobless, I realized that there was a larger routine at work. I believe that I would get back into the game if I changed something in my life… such as moving somewhere else. Nine years in a place without family nor friends (most have left Buffalo) isn’t socially conducive to me in any way. After all, we’re more mobile than ever.

I remind myself what I’ve shared with friends before, that we have to keep experimenting until we find our groove. Then when we’ve worn that out, we have to find yet another beat to dance to.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Richard Nelson Bolles preached career self-reliance, or at least career self-direction, in “What Color Is Your Parachute?“.

“If you don’t take time to figure out what you want to do with your life, you will be at the mercy of all those forces out there today,” Bolles explained.

Job-hunting, or more ubiquitously, finding our passion, is a continuous, never-ending process. We have to keep being curious about ourselves. It’s not a luxury anymore; it’s a matter of survival.

Aside: As a segway, Tara Hunt investigates the conundrum of love vs. greatness. I think it’s great that there isn’t a best option. We chose our own beliefs, and the bottomline is to always work hard at it.

Update 1: Carolyn Lim suggested I watch Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. It’s aptly titled “How to live before you die“.

Update 2: From an email conversation, I’m reminded of a book title which fits what we’re experiencing. For folks like us whose lives seem to be in limbo, my favorite line has always been from the title of a book about earthquakes: The Myth of Solid Ground. While it’s an intriguing book which discusses “earthquakes, prediction, and the fault line between reason and faith”, the title also seems meaningful to how we are now living in an era where everything seems less constant than ever before.

Update 3: Friends are sharing their interesting personal stories on routine-breaking and joblessness via Google Buzz.

theorycast.57 :: Social Media – Strategy Instead Of Tools @ PRSA Buffalo (Part 2)

As promised, here’s a video of the talk I gave yesterday at PRSA Buffalo/Niagara to kick off their Sunrise Seminar series.

Since it’s hard to see the slides in the video, view or download them from while watching me take fifty communication professionals on a thinking journey through the strategic uses of social media.

You can read the full background story and grab links to references from the talk in Part 1 of this blog series. Also see what others had to say via #PRSAtalk on twitter.

Meanwhile, here are some of the fine folks I got to meet yesterday…

Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo
PRSA’s Jennifer on the left, while the girl closest to me is Jess Manocchio. Jess has been awesome for connecting me with the local PRSA chapter.

Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo
Finally got to meet the amazing Rebecca Bernstein (@virtualr), mastermind behind the award-winning UB Web Team. I also got to meet Joe Brennan, Associate Vice President for University Communications at University at Buffalo. They plan to get UB more involved in the social media realm.

Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo
@LarryRoth is president at BrandLogic Interactive, located in Rochester. He’s a swell guy on twitter too. :)

Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo
Barbara Keough is Vice President of Operations at advertising agency Flynn & Friends, Inc. She’s invited me to join in one of their agency’s LOTs meetings (Learn On Thursdays).

Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo
Kevin Manne (@k3v2) works for Catholic Charities as a Communications and Public Relations Specialist. He’s worked on all kinds of media, from print, to billboards, to television, and now he’s venturing into the realm of social media.

Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo
Tessa Walker and Amy White chatted with me in length about how they were involved with the Obama campaign on the social web. They do great work at the Planned Parenthood of Western New York, which they explained had helped out on the campaign. I hope to learn more about their first-hand experience in what I’d believe is the most elaborate social media empowered national campaigns ever.

As I’ve mentioned over twitter (which got decent retweets): “Being rewarded for doing what you love is the best feeling in the world”. I love giving these talks because it’s a visceral, self-actualizing process. My lingering thoughts aren’t just shared, but fashioned by those willing to listen and talk to me about what they see as well. We’re essentially making sense of our crazy world together. :)

Speaking @ PRSA Buffalo: Social Media – Strategy Over Tools (Part 1)

PRSA: SocialMedia - Strategy instead of Tools
You can now download the slides (.pdf) directly from

Thanks to Jess Manocchio, I’ve been re-invited to speak at PRSA Buffalo, kicking off their Sunrise Seminar series on social media.

While my previous talk in February focused on listening in social media (Part 1 & Part 2), this time I’ll be bringing folks on a journey through how social media strategies are created. Along the way, I’ll recommend the use of conversation filtering and analysis tools such as cotweet and JamiQ. You should be able to follow along 8am EST today (Aug 5th) via twitter #PRSAtalk.

For your convenience, the must-have books I’ve mentioned in my talk today include:
Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (2008) by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Community Building on the Web : Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities (2000) by Amy Jo Kim
Designing for the Social Web (2008) by Joshua Porter

UPDATE 1: Jess told me that we had around 50 happy participants today! I’ve added the my presentation slideshow at the top of this post, and you can download the slides (.pdf) from (easier) or Please share these slides if you see fit, and do let me know what your colleagues think about it.

UPDATE 2: Part 2 is now available and it features the video from this talk. Enjoy! :)

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’

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).

UB tweetup #1: University at Buffalo folks on Twitter

UB Tweetup #1

With more of us from the University at Buffalo now on twitter, a UB tweetup was in order. Everyone met each other for the first time, and we exchanged ideas on how we used it for our various causes.

There are currently about 10 twitter accounts affiliated to the University at Buffalo. After our tweetup, these accounts were aggregated via CrowdStatus. This is the official list of UB faculty/staff on twitter, so feel free to follow them!

UB Tweetup #1UB Tweetup #1

Folks present at our first UB tweetup included:
@UBcfa – Joanne from UB Center for the Arts
@UBcommunity – Jessica from UB Community Relations
@UB_Alumni – Barbara & Gina from UB Alumni Relations
@UBLaw + @UBLawLib – Jim Milles & Kristina from UB Law Library
As well as Bridget (@bschu1022) from UB Libraries whose official twitter presence should be coming soon.

Those who couldn’t make it included:
@UB_SAS – UB Student advising services
@UBAcademies – Undergrad development beyond the university
@BuffaloBulls – our UB sports teams
@UBGreen – UB’s Green Initiative
@UBCitAlerts@jhsu‘s CIT computing network alerts

Watch our self-introduction video, as well as notes after the jump… Continue reading ‘UB tweetup #1: University at Buffalo folks on Twitter’

Notice to all employees (memo)

I’ve been stressed at work while my dissertation progress lingered back home. Supervisor Robin sends out the following email…

– – – – –
Notice to all employees:

Workloads getting to you?
Feeling stressed?
Too many priorities and assignments?

Due to the hard economic times and otherwise depressing state of the world today, all personnel will now be required to at least look happy while working.

Company-approved supplies will be provided to each employee at little or no cost. Here is the new low-cost, company-approved solution to cope with multiple priorities and assignments!

Each employee will be supplied 2 paper clips and rubber bands as shown in Fig 1 below:

Notice to all employees (memo)
Figure 1. Company-issued smiling contraption
– – – – -

The DIY Phuket Simulator

The Phuket Simulator

I’m strolling along sunny Phuket beach in Thailand remotely from Buffalo, New York. Approximately 8651 true miles away, my holiday experience is mediated via

I asked friends to come along, by twittering where I was (via URL). @Prissyhan sent me a coconut to drink, but since it was viscerally lacking, I closed the loop by picking up a can of coconut juice for that buttery liquid flavor.

All I’m missing now is the feeling of warm sand and sea water flowing between my toes. Perhaps I should get a wash tub from Walmart…

Aside: “The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth–it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.” – Poster, Mark; Baudrillard, Jean (1988)