Monthly Archive for June, 2007

Our “Web 2.0 in South East Asia” panel @ Microsoft ReMIX 2007

Microsoft ReMIX 2007 @ Singapore

Last Friday, a few of us bloggers were invited to panel a Web 2.0 session at Microsoft’s ReMIX conference held at The Art House at the Old Parliament building. With conference fees topping S$199, the event was intended for web developers, designers, as well as business professionals. Here’s what went down…

Microsoft's ReMIX @ The Art House - 7

On our panel on “Web 2.0 in South-East Asia” were James Seng (Investor / Tomorrow.sg), Jeff Ooi (prominent Malaysian blogger), Choon Keat (developer of SharedCopy and RSSfwd), Lucian Teo (designer / developer of WebSG.org) and me (trendspotter / researcher). Incidentally, Nic Fillingham named it State of Play, which is actually the name of a huge academic conference on gaming coming to Singapore later this year (19th to 22nd August) :P

Prominent Malaysian Blogger: Jeff Ooi

Since I’m quite familiar with my fellow Singaporean bloggers, meeting Jeff Ooi was of particular honor to me, since he is well regarded for writing about politics and technology in Malaysia. As you can guess, he’s had his fair share of challenges relating to his efforts. His Screenshots blog even won the Asia category of the Freedom Blogs Awards given by Reporters Without Borders in 2005. To many, he’s seen as a pioneer in Malaysian’s blogosphere.

With Microsoft evangelist Nic Fillingham setting the stage for us, James took over as moderator and started by informing the audience that in “Web 2.0″ fashion, they too should have a say in how the session went, by adding on to the discussion, rather than feeling excluded from the panel.

Given our diverse backgrounds, the first question was thrown regarding our interpretation of Web 2.0 (or whatever you call it). Jeff Ooi gave his take that it’s really about the ability for the layman to use sophisticated media easily. For instance, Youtube lets bloggers simply embed codes to share videos on their blogs. There’s an overarching term we use for this called the democratization of technology.

At this point, a question came from the audience. Lynn of ZDnet Asia asked about where the money is made from all these free services, such as blogs and video sharing web sites. I chimed in because I had recently faced a similar question from my “Youtube and beyond” talk. Most corporations are concerned with the bottomline (where’s the money) because social media is filled with intangible benefits (as well as pitfalls), but they need something concrete to track their efforts with.

I explained this in three ways: 1) Valuable content can be monetarized (thanks to Jeremiah Owyang), 2) Web services can make money without charging users (think marketing, co-branding), 3) Web startups focus on building communities (thereafter huge user base = massive business opportunities). James then arrowed Jennifer Lewis (Editor of Straits Times STOMP) to try answer the question to which I believe she replied that they do try to woe more young readers to the site first, then consider making money later. Rightfully said, having a community is at the heart of everything STOMP does.

Lucian of WebSG then took to the mic and simplified this notion by translating the idea of community into users. Web services can only exist when there are users. He added that for STOMP, their value lies in the aggregation of Singaporean content, which would otherwise be difficult for the average person to find for themselves. For web services, he said that if it’s something good, he’d gladly pay for it (e.g. Flickr Pro account).

Choon Keat’s turn came when he made known that there was a lot of representation for content, so he wanted to share the technological innovation end of it. His take on Web 2.0 was one of humility, where he knows that he as a service provider could not possibly know everything a user wants, thus the need to open and share his web service such that users themselves can participate in the development process, by building on useful applications on top of what he provides. James added to this by explaining how Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Google has APIs which savvy users could use to build custom apps to better serve their needs.

Creative Commons audience guy

Since we were talking about opening and sharing online services, a guy from the audience (Nic says he’s Paul Soon from XM Asia) made a wonderful segway into the issue of copyright and the jurisdiction of Creative Commons in South East Asia. James wanted Peter Du (of The Digital Movement) to answer his question, so Peter explained the unique attribute which Creative Commons affords to the creative netizen.

Lucian remarked that software piracy is infamous in Asia (Jeff Ooi joked that Microsoft Vista could be found as low as $5 Ringgit). He believed that because of this awareness, Asians tend to be protective over their work, not wanting to share in the creative culture (of mashups and remixes). He noted a negative environment where corporations would rather hoard content and services so that they could profit from it, rather than to let someone else out there take that chance.

Jeff Ooi spoke as a photographer about the significance of Creative Commons and how we shouldn’t lean toward greater control, but with every step, figure out a way to make rights more liberal, yet respect fair use. James added that there’s an effort being made in Singapore to establish the Creative Commons locally. I added my proclamation that there is no such thing as an original idea (see Intertextuality), and while such a concept might be debatable, my goal was to have everyone reconsider these prior notions of where ideas originate from and how the human race could benefit by sharing instead of hoarding information.

Nic Fillingham moved the agenda forward by asking each of us to share any personal projects we were working on and how it is related to Web 2.0. In my case, he wanted me to explain my sousveillance backpack. I gave my elevator pitch about lifecasting, but ended with the participatory element by saying that I’m sharing my life just as anyone else could, thus offering people another window to the world (Preetam Rai’s quote about the voyeuristic nature of Youtube). Lucian spoke from a web designer’s standpoint, where he focused on web standards which allow for content to sit separate from code, so that either could be changed without mudding each other. On a bigger level, standards such as microformats then allows us to share information more ubiquitously on the Internet. Choon Keat spoke from his web developer perspective by explaining how Web 2.0 to him was about giving users more control of his web services, thereby allowing users to innovate on it. Jeff Ooi noted how consumer awareness has immensely increased thanks to blogs. A single blog post which featured a personal account of public service dispute had led to the news media picking it up, and eventually by the government themselves. Web 2.0 would mean having powerful feedback mechanisms, which is what Jeff sees as a useful tool for citizens.

As you’ve notice, we covered a lot of ground at the panel session. However, there were a few more interesting questions raised, though the above were the main highlights. I have a video feed from my sousveillance backpack, but uploading it is such a pain especially from Singapore. Hopefully Nic will share the conference videos on his Microsoft’s Channel 10 blog so you can see what else I missed out. In the meantime, you can see the rest of my photos.

Note: Having been invited to speak at a decent number of blog-related events this year, I’ve told my peers how weird it feels to speak as if I were some social media expert. How would I know that I’m qualified? My favorite answer came where Coleman said that no one is qualified. If I share my personal experiences and they make sense to you, then perhaps that’s all one needs. I am no expert, just someone who deeply enjoys what he does.

Video: “Youtube and beyond” @ National Library (director’s cut)

If you missed the “Youtube and beyond” talk I gave at the National Library or simply want a recap, here’s my director’s cut of the online video sharing session. It’s 1hr 50mins long, but I’m tagging it so you can skip to the parts you like.

This talk was presented as a personal story of my quest for pushing online video to its limits, so I covered the different video sharing services out there, when to use what, how to encode good-looking online videos as well as demonstrations on the future of online video (e.g. in-video search, hyperlinking keyframes, lifecasting).

As an experiment, I simulcasted the talk on my blog, but the internet connection so wonky that it cut off half way. Still worth a watch as it gives a “behind the scenes” look at what happened before the talk (from 6.30pm onwards).

Anyway, I also shared a wiki page showing everything I was presenting, so viewers at home or office could follow along by browsing through the actual web pages or charts I was talking about. I wanted to have remote viewers twitter me questions, but it would be too much for me at that point in time.

After checking with library officials, about 60 people attended the event. And to think I was said 30 would show up while Ivan said at least 50. It’s a hot topic for sure. They came from various industries, from national education, to journalism, to software developers. There were drop-ins from the public too, and I only wish I had time to meet them all face to face.

Response to the event has been pretty positive, as seen in this illustrated post by the Rambling Librarian, a usability-related post by Lucian of WebSG, a discussion of why videoblogging hasn’t taken off by DK, an assessment of my performance by Siva (aka Otterman) who incidentally helped me with the Skitch demo for the early birds. I read the comments on their blogs for more or less unbiased thoughts.

Generally, it’s hard to please a large crowd, since I had to be more broad than in-depth in my talk to make sure people leave satisfied. Some wanted deeper discussion into Creative Commons (which is a HUGE topic), while others wanted more tech talk such as learning even more about video encoding.

I enjoyed sharing what I know. Giving is perhaps the best gift anyone could ever have, so this was the perfect thing for my to do for my 30th birthday… to give something back to society. Before you go, don’t forget the wikified cliff notes I mentioned.

BTW: Here are photos from the event taken by Lucian, Ivan and Siva.

Video Review: Waterfield Nintendo DS Lite case (for classy gamers)

The Nintendo DS lite is well-recognized as a cleverly designed portable gaming console appealing to the young and old. Still, if you’re a working professional and you love playing with your DS lite during your downtime, how are you going to have your colleagues take you seriously?

Consider this… Waterfield’s been making classy yet study Apple Powerbook bags back in the day and their traditional styling lives on. Consider upping your ante with one of their classy Waterfield’s Nintendo DS Lite cases.

As detailed in my review, the design features:
– Ballistic Nylon exterior
– Double layer leather flap
– Super soft lining to keep the DS Lite scratch free
– Storage for 6 DS Games
– Stylus holder
– Rear back pocket w/ Self Locking Zipper
– Pull strap (to ease removing your unit from the case)

At US$39, I know it’s a little pricey, but watch the video review to see the level of detail that goes into the case design. If you’ve got doubts, check out the SFbags FAQ or see Alec’s photo gallery of his DS lite case.

If you’re interested, you can order one online at SFbags.com.

Thanks: Heidi Marzke of SFbags for providing the product for review.

“I Heart My Library” gone wild…

"I Heart My Library" gone wrong... - 1
This is my favorite… there are plenty more to see over here.

Why do I love our libraries?
Everyday life gets interesting when you let anyone through your doors.

In addition to people watching, you’ll see plenty of these “I Heart My Library” post-it notes whenever you visit the local library. It’s twitter, mind-reading, disturbing, micro-blogging, graffiti, artistic expression, literary gaming, anonymous, revealing, quirky, and everything in between. Ironically, these love-notes are part of a campaign on respecting your library. I love it simply because it’s a subversive channel of expression for library users in Singapore.

I’ve found plenty more. If you find interesting ones yourself, flickr tag it “iheartmylibrary“.

Whatever… when choices become a modernist’s dilemma

I recently had my dad try the Whatever can drinks while having lunch at a food court in Clementi. This video is his review of the concept drink, which is really a random drink in a can.

Whatever would feature a random range of non-carbonated drinks, while Anything would be a carbonated range. The ad campaigns ranged from controversial bus stop ads to funny television commercials (see commercials for Anything and Whatever).

While we might laugh at the idea of it and wonder how long before the idea would fade (or even get picked up by other drink manufacturers such as F&N), it’s stuff like these that show us how having too many choices can sometimes be more trouble than its worth.

Last year, ZeFrank introduced this idea in his show where he reviewed a book by psychologist Dan Gilbert called Stumbling on Happiness. In it, Dan talks about stuff that really makes an impact on your long-term happiness. Apparently it’s not the major stuff, but the small things in life which matter most. Choices, in fact, are things that affect us constantly.

Citing ZeFrank’s show transcript:
We live in a society that places a high value on being able to make choices. All the different kinds of tomato sauce… those badass buffets at Friday’s… and no arranged marriages.

We agonize about the choices we make and simultaneously hold on to the ability to choose for as long as possible. Things on “final sale” or “the point of no return” kind of freak us out.

But Gilbert suggests that we’re pretty damn bad at predicting the degree to which things will make us happy.

Those shoes, that girl, that job. It’ll make you happy, but probably not as happy as you think.

But the reverse is also true! The things you worry are going to devastate you aren’t going to be that bad. Those shoes, that girl, that job. The actual decision that you make doesn’t really matter to the degree that you think it does.

But the stress and anxiety that you feel when you think that you have a choice does matter. It makes you less happy.

It appears that you’re best at getting back to your baseline happiness when you’re stuck in a given circumstance. The perception of having a choice interferes with that synthesized happiness.

So in the long run, you’ll more likely be happy with that pair of shoes you got stuck with in a final sale than you will be with that pair of shoes that you have thirty days to exchange.

It seems like the best thing that you can do is just keep moving forward. Make a choice, and stick with it. Don’t keep the other catalogues around after you buy that car. And toss the receipt on those pair of shoes.

In the long run, it’ll work out.

Don’t get it? Maybe you need to watch ZeFrank explain it in person…

Idea: TwitterStory where everyone contributes…

Internet Dating story @ PageOne
A book I found at PageOne which has nothing to do with this post, except for the little pixel folks representing us.

Back in April, I set forth a literary game friends could play via Twitter. It was pretty spontaneous and intuitive, though a more concerted approach might have made this into an epic meme.

It’s stuff like these which tosses aside the ludology / narratolgy debate about the relative importance of gameplay versus plot, since users create both as they go along. It’s not that different from role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.

Is this how a free-flowing crowdsourced story looks like? I’m brainopera and this was how it went down…

brainopera RulesForTwitterGame: I’ll start a funny story. Each of you @ me with your continuation of it. Hilariousness results. Ready? Set? Go!

brainopera Vanessa was sitting by the Singapore river, contemplating about her life and her broken keyboard when a familiar ringing sound was heard…

conniereece @brainopera Vanessa grabbed her cell phone and noted with dismay that the screen showed the number of her ex-boyfriend. Ex as of yesterday.

ridz84 @brainopera: she thought it was her phone…it didn’t take long to remember that it was the terminal ring-o-citis she was diagnosed with…

vantan @brainopera It was Vanessa’s imaginary iPhone, which she plans to buy in 2008. She tapped her Bluetooth headset. The music faded out…

brainopera …and in came a video on Vanessa’s imaginary iPhone. Steve Jobs had just sent her unreleased imaged of the supposed WiFi iPod. What’s next?

vantan @brainopera …Oh, the humanity! Not only a video of Wifi iPod but also Steve was filming it while naked in the bathroom.

How would you have continued this? Join in by:
1. Adding TwitterStory as a friend
2. Reading what’s posted so far in TwitterStory
3. Contributing your part to the quirky storyline

Just in today: And so the story never ends…
jyew @brainopera … as Steve was slowly panning across the contours of his alabaster skin, Vanessa was jolted out of her reverie by a loud bang

Photos: iX Conference’s “Chillout 2.0″ Party (who’s SPG?)

iX Conference 2007: Chillout 2.0
Click to see entire photo album…

Held at Paulaner Bräuhaus along Millenia Walk, the beer establishment was home to the chillout party for iX conference participants, which was running just across the street at Suntec City Convention Center.

We had a glorious German fare, with Coleman stuffing himself with thick sausages as usual. While we see the usual bloggers and web developers at the event, one person which took my particular attention was SPG, aka Sarong Party Girl.

If you don’t already know…

In 2005, a 19-year-old Singaporean blogger known as Isabella X wrote first under the alias “Sarong Party Girl” and then later as “Miss Izzy.” She received attention in the local press after posting nude photographs of herself on her webpage. Her blog, which began in 2004, often discusses the politics of sexuality, religion and controversial issues such as the death penalty; in addition to documenting her often tragic/comic encounters with white expatriates. As of 2007, she continued to post provocative photos of herself on the site and write articles for Today and a monthly column for FHM Singapore.

Anyway, I bumped into Coleman at the eLearning track of the conference, where we saw two speakers talking about gaming and pedagogy. After the tea break, most of the participants left so we both moved to the available tables towards the front. One of the paper pads left behind had hand-drawn fashion illustrations of ladies.

“SPG was here”, said Coleman.
Looking around, I went “really?”

She draws quite well, and if you google her, you’ll find at least three of her blogs which she’s transitioned over time. The latest of which shows her handiwork. Moving away from sex columns, Isabella (yes, that’s her name) has gone into the business of social media and has even joined the folks at The Digital Movement. I was standing right there it happened. :P

Anyway enjoy the photos, it’s probably one of the last few chances I get to snap pictures with almost everyone in our blogosphere. Being my birthday also helps in rounding up folks. I’ve annotated the photos to show who’s who for your benefit.

Here you go…

Anyone fancy the M500 Wrist Phone?

M500 Watch Phone by SMS Technology Australia

According to the official site:
The M500 takes mobile communications to a whole new level. With over 80 hours standby time, full sms functionality, Touch Screen, full blue tooth compatibility, Dial Up Networking, Games, Mp4 Player, 128 Mb Memory, USB connectivity for software uploads, downloads, 199 number memory storage, 40 embedded real tones and its sleek sophisticated design make this the world’s first truly mobile wristwatch.

If you look carefully on their site, you’ll spot an iPhone-like theme on the wrist phone. Rumored to be about US$1k and ships from Australia. Haven’t found any videos to prove its authenticity. As my friend Nelson says, “Dick Tracy anyone?”

See the official site at mymobilewatch.com

Video: Jeremiah’s interview with the Social Cyborg

Let’s see:
Brennan calls me the “Universal Soldier / Six Million Dollar Man“.
Vantan and the media socialists call me “Inspector Gadget“.
The neighborhood Ah-Bengs call me “steady
A screaming vegetable-seller auntie calls me “siow” (= mad)

But really… depending on your geekness, you can be a social cyborg (see new name card).

Thanks to Jeremiah for the fun interview. You can see all his other videos here. (Hat tip to Yohannes)

Happy Birthday to me…

Japanese Birthday Cake
My mum brought this in as she wished me Happy Birthday…

Woke up this morning, realizing I was now thirty… and that there’s nothing I could do about it.

Having spent just over six years in Buffalo, birthdays flew by and I never took notice. Being there felt like being in a capsule, where time was irrelevant and you were somehow safe from the world. Now as I turn much older and temporarily residing in a super-dense city (Singapore), I’ve only started to realize how much time has flown by.

If my six months stay in Singapore has taught me anything, it’s that for everyone I’ve met, age makes no difference to them. MrBrown is much older than me, and when I visited his office filled with collectible toys and video games, I asked him if he was living his second childhood. He thought “yes” at first, then he said he never really grew up. Ironically, Ming of Nuffnang (Singapore) is only 24, and while he looks older, I wonder if corporations know to take his blog advertising business seriously. Last night at the iX conference dinner party (i.e. Chillout 2.0), most of the eligible geek ladies I knew were younger than me, yet it’d be hard pressed for anyone to guess if all they saw were their blogs.

Relating to this, I understand that more of my peers are quitting their day jobs to pursue their dream of building a startup. For aspiring web 2.0 folks out there… “Don’t think too much. Shoot first, Ask questions later”. Be it work or love life, I find that the typical Singaporean over-analyzes things. Play is becoming a rare commodity from our everyday lives… joys are often discovered by accident, something you’d never find by standing on the sidelines pondering.

Just think about it… this was how Youtube and Flickr were accidentally born.

At thirty, I’m definitely still playing. Or haven’t you noticed?

Update: The Rambling Librarian composes an Enya-like song for me called “Happiness Is“.