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New camera - Canon PowerShot G10

After getting my camera stolen a couple of months ago, I have finally got a camera again and feel like a real blogger again! 8-)

It was weird going to a blogmeet without a camera, and I would find myself reaching for my belt but grabbing thin air...

I'm no expert in cameras, but I liked my previous one (PowerShot S80) because it had quite a lot of manual options which means you can control the aperture and shutter speed; in particular, what I really liked was that the LCD screen would give you a preview of the picture with slower shutter, etc. So even an ignoramus like me could occasionally do some nice night shots and the like.

I don't want a dSLR, although they do good pictures I find them too much hassle to carry round - so although they have got pretty cheap, I was still looking for a 'prosumer' compact. After reading DPReview I found out that my best choices were either the Canon PowerShot G10, or the Lumix LX3; and ShaolinTiger confirmed this, with some extra useful information, as well as prices in Malaysia.

The general consensus is that they are both pretty good, although DPReview recommended the LX3 in the end
"If you want more SLR like controls and a longer zoom - and don't mind the bulk - go for the Canon G10. Me personally? By that point I'm using an SLR. For a carry anywhere 'walk around' camera I'd go for the LX3 every time" (DPReview)

I went and had a look at them: in Low Yat the LX3 was going for RM1550 (but a lot of places were 'stock finish already'), and the G10 was 1750 (cash prices). The G10 is definitely bulky, and the LX3 much more portable, but in the end I went for the G10 anyway because:
• It still has that 'preview' function when using the manual mode
• The lens cap is an automatic close-by-itself one, the LX3 is one that you have to take off and hold it or something (and then lose it)
• There's a three year guarantee on the current promotion, and I had good experience with the Canon service centre here before

So, here are a few photos - first, Lucky looking completely unimpressed with my new camera...
unimpressed bored dog

Gambit, however, is practising his best profile
happy dog posing
(why do dogs get 'green eye' and not 'red eye' with the flash??)

and this is a random shot of some pastis :-)
pastis in a homer simpson glass

What is a Twitter network?

As I have learnt to use Twitter better, I have understood that one of the key things to keeping it useful is to follow the right person - for example, I like to follow various Malaysian politicians (e.g. @limkitsiang, @Khairykj, or @elizabethwong, amongst others) because when important political things are happening, they will be tweeting about it.

I installed TweetDeck recently, mainly because I found out it has a way of grouping the tweeters you follow - so now I have three groups: 'All Friends' (the default group), 'Academics', 'SoPo', and Facebook updates. Another thing that encouraged me to get TweetDeck was the realisation that much chatter amongst the academics probably happens while I'm asleep, due to timezones.

Anyway, this post is the second (the first was Social networks and commenting) that was sparked off by Would the real social network please stand up?

Thinking about Twitter, I agree with a commenter on the 'real social network...?' post (Adrian Chan) that a list of the people one follows would be more of a behavioural network: e.g. the groups I mentioned above are people I share interests with, but may never meet.

A Twitter network is also 'publicly articulated' in the sense that it's consciously expressed (i.e. through choosing people to follow) and people can see who you are following; in addition one can retweet in a name-dropping fashion, and people organising to meet up may display all the others who are in on the conversation. If you were to ask a tweeter who her 'personal network' was it would probably include some of those she follows, but her personal network would include many who are not also tweeters. If one were to trace all the 'followees' (i.e. those who are being followed) a group of people have, one could probably infer as to personal and behavioural networks - the personal would probably be denser. A 'Twitter network' is apparently multivalent, and seems to support the argument that networks depend what you're trying to measure, and how you go about doing it.
Facebook social network analysis visualisation
A Facebook publicly articulated network
Bernie Hogan

Some recent discussion amongst Malaysian bloggers about a soon-to-be-launched Malaysian Twitter monetisation service, Churp Churp (it is run by Nuffnang) makes me wonder about how their responses could relate to the different types of social networks.

The discussions has tended to centre around the inherent property of tweeting, that the tweet comes to you directly, whether you want to see it or not - as opposed to a blog, where you can choose to not read an advertorial (in fact, this is rather 'old media' in a way - like television; which must make it attractive to advertisers). So, Colin Charles (aka @bytebot) recommends that tweeters do not use the service, asking "do you want to alienate your followers?"; ShaolinTiger (@ShaolinTiger) argues that followers should be able to opt out of the sponsored tweets, but not have to unfollow the tweeter; David Lian (@davidlian) asks "Can you purchase conversation?" and argues that advertisers need to become part of the conversation, rather than pushing a message out through paid tweeters.

The symbolic aspect of tweeting, the exchange of pleasantries and informational titbits, is important to consider. Jeremy Woolf in Hong Kong makes an similar point to David Lian in talking about "gunners" who are paid to "seed" forums and the like - the process is like this:
"You identify a forum like Uwants or DiscussHk as an influential channel where discussions relevant to your brand, product or service are taking place. People care enough (or, at least are passionate enough) to share their feelings and ask probing questions. Instead of joining the conversation in a meaningful way by replying to posts or establishing a contributing and helpful role within the community, you instead hire a gunner to spam inappropriate comments at this influential audience." (Dear spammers – can we have our social media back?)

One of key difficulties of social network analysis is understanding the relative meaning of the different ties, and the classification of different types of networks helps in some measure to address this. To become part of a social network means that others need to derive positive meaning from associating with you; that meaning will derive both from their personal reaction, and the interrelated association with commonly valued practices. For the examples of social media, one needs to display commitment, relevance, and integrity. The latter does not preclude being a paid operator with vested interests, but only as long as disclosure is made; the motivation for participation is a central marker of authenticity and integrity.

With this in mind, we may speculate that tweeters may unfollow, or continue to follow, someone for reasons associated with the different types of networks. For behavioural social networks, if the content of the tweets starts being irrelevant to the initial interest, the tweeter will probably end up being unfollowed. So, if a politician starts telling everyone to buy cheap air tickets, he will probably be unfollowed. However, including a certain amount of personal, non-political tweets, is a good way to show commitment to the casual, conversational ethos of Twitter.

For the publicly articulated social networks (and assuming followees will realise when they've been unfollowed), there may be a delicate balance to be negotiated. For a personal friend with whom one has stronger ties, it would probably be easier to unfollow them (and explain via another channel why) than to unfollow someone with whom one has weaker ties, but not weak enough to not care about their reaction altogether.

OK I've rambled on, and thanks for getting this far. What I'm trying to say is that by understanding what objections people have to sponsored tweets, we may understand more about why people tweet in the first place. It's related to:
1. Both building and maintaining personal networks that operate on meanings developed through relational practices. Social and cultural capital are generated here.
--> For example: I keep in contact with some offline friends, and we develop a mutual understanding about how much to tweet, and what kind of stuff to tweet about. This strengthens our social ties (social capital), and we learn more about each other's preferences and ideas (cultural capital).
2. Developing more functional informational networks directed at increasing cultural literacy and capital.
--> For example: I start to follow various academics in order to have an idea of what they're doing and talking about; I learn new buzz words, read recent articles they tweet about, and so on.

Coming up soon - how do blog networks and Twitter networks differ, and what are the consequences for monetisation strategies?

Advertlets Malaysian Bloggers Evening

I went to another blogger party last Thursday (participant observation is such a drag sometimes... ;-)) - for once it was not a Nuffnang party, but one organised by Advertlets (I didn't have a camera, so I'm borrowing some pics from others - sources indicated)

The event was at Envie - a nice little club, with an 'interactive dance floor'. This is the best picture I could find

But actually it's more interesting than that - it's a 'touch sensitive' dance floor, and each square is like a 'pixel' and there are games possible. We played 'Musical chairs' on it (I got a Google t-shirt - uber geek!) - but that was the only game I saw, and I would have liked to see more. They're also a bit sensitive about the RM250K dance floor, and you're not allowed to be holding your drink while on it.

The emcees were the stars of the 8TV series Blogger Boy (I think you can watch the episodes online too) - there was free flow until 10, and lots of bloggers partying, camwhoring, drinking, doing silly things for prizes, and generally messing about :-) I met a few bloggers I know already: kruel74 (who put me on the guest list, thanks!), Tian Chad, and Dustyhawk - and of course the founder/CEO/etc. of Advertlets himself - birthday boy Josh Lim :-)

I also met the sole employee of Google in Malaysia (who provided the Google t-shirts) - he told me that you can now get Blogger in BM, which was news for me. However, a lot of people prefer to use the English version because that's what they're used to already, even if they blog in BM.
Blogger in Bahasa Malaysia, Malay language

It was a nice evening, smaller than the usual Nuffnang event - but with nice people and a good atmosphere as well. There were very few 'Nuffnangers' there - this fits in with previous observations of other meets I've been too: AMBP, All-Blogs, etc. Generally, most bloggers seem to stick with one group: this leads to questions about the 'blogosphere' as whole... Some bloggers have said to me that there is no real 'blogosphere' - what do you think?

Other blog posts about the event (please tell me if I've missed any):
• Bitchy Mitchy: Thursdays full of rainbow
• Let there be chaos: Hatin' On the Club
• Life's Journey: How are we, my Friday feathered friends?
• Mai Tomyam: Malaysian Bloggers Evening 2009: Super Party Time for Bloggers
• nadea.maradana's blog: Malaysian Blogger Evening by Josh Lim
• RowYourBoat Blog: Party @ Envie Lounge
• Stephen's Blogs: Malaysian Blogger's Evening - Party Like A Blogstar!
• Tian Chad @ ???: Envie Club With A Little Surprise!
• Yantz.Yanttie lif3st0ry: EVeninG p@rty for bl0ggErs

Some random thoughts on sociotechnology

Did you know that it was not Gutenberg who invented moveable type – known as 'printing' to most of us? Actually, it was the Chinese who first thought of it in 1040 CE using wood and later ceramic, and the Koreans improved it in 1324 by using metal type; Gutenberg developed it later, "around 1450" (thanks Wikipedia, oh fount of all knowledge).

Interestingly, with regards to sociotechnological analyses, although a Korean king developed a phonetic alphabet of 24 characters which would have made printing a lot easier (otherwise they had to use thousands of Chinese characters. But, "Adoption of the new alphabet was stifled by the inertia of Korea's cultural elite, who were '...appalled at the idea of losing Chinese, the badge of their elitism.'"; in addition, there was also a "Confucian prohibition on the commercialization of printing" which restricted the use of printing to the state.

These examples highlight the ways in which technologies never automatically drive social change, but interact with existing social practices and come up against entrenched social hierarchies and so on.

On a vaguely related other random thought, these news stories seem to be examples of what Adam Greenfield meant when talking about a shift from "wayfinding to wayshowing" (the first story is the most amusing)
Swedes miss Capri after GPS gaffe
Sat-nav dead end at crematorium
Sat nav misdirects football fans

As we are increasingly given means to guide us around geographical space – GPS for the moment mostly, the example he gave (in a talk at QUT) of apps that can guide you to the right exit in Tokyo subways, and in future one can imagine devices to lead you around malls to a shop, guided tours for tourists, etc. – he argues that our awareness of the environment may change. Instead of finding our way ('wayfinding'), by picking out landmarks and spotting random things on the way, we are more likely to move around by staring at our 'steering device' - being shown the way ('wayshowing'). It's an interesting point, and reminds me of something my sister brought up recently – how when travelling using a GPS you don't read a map anymore, and thus find out less about the landscape you're moving through.

Social networks and commenting

A recent post by danah boyd (and Bernie Hogan) called Would the real social network please stand up? makes some interesting points about the dangers of assuming all social networks are comparable and concludes
"The truth of the matter is that there is no "real" social network. It all depends on what you're trying to measure, what you're trying to do with those measurements."

She outlines three types of networks:
• "Sociological 'personal' networks": measured in different ways, these would be 'ego networks' with the person in the centre choosing to associate themselves with all the others - e.g. by saying they are people who they would trust with a secret.
• "Behavioral social networks": these would be networks based on common practices. They may be observed but not experienced as important by the people involved, e.g. people taking the same train to work, or they may be more important to the persons - e.g. Grateful Dead fans.
• "Publicly articulated social networks": 'articulated' means that you consciously list them somehow (e.g. your list for Christmas cards), and the public part comes about when you tell others - the obvious example being Facebook 'friends', or blogrolls. These networks may be made of all kinds of people, some of whom may not reciprocate the social tie (e.g. think of an inveterate name-dropper); and these networks may serve different purposes. The symbolism of the ties are important here - i.e. I may friend you as a follow-up to an offline meeting, but there may be no real intention of deepening the relationship.

What are blog networks?
I was thinking - how would you classify blog networks? The common identification of the 'blogosphere' seems to be a behavioural network - from outside bloggers are often bunched together as one group, but from within most bloggers do not identify with the group as a whole. One publicly articulated social network is the blogroll - but there are different views on how useful they are in explaining meaningful ties for bloggers (e.g. Schmidt 2007). Leaving a comment, and responding to them, is a practice central to establishing and maintaining a 'publicly articulated social network' in blogging, but of course not every comment has the same meaning (e.g. see my 10 types of commenters).

I'd agree with Bernie Hogan (aka blurky) that it's important not to 'reify' networks, even though they can be visualised in compelling ways. Blogrolls have limited usefulness, but I would argue that mapping the comments reveals more meaningful relations. Here is an interesting example: at bit less than two years ago, bloggers who had clustered around the launch of All-Blogs, met up in 'Blog House' (Bloggers Allied). This is a mapping of the comments made on blog posts that discussed the blogmeet (the blue squares are blogs that received comments, and the red circles are people that made comments).
malaysia all-blogs blog house sna social network analysis

OK - it's all a bit confusing, but we can focus in on the two blogs with the most comments - who, not coincidentally, were the two major figures there.
malaysia all-blogs blog house sna social network analysis

With hindsight, it's interesting to notice how the two major figures there had little common online commenters - suggesting that their networks have different bases. These two leading bloggers were ostensibly working together towards a common purpose, but after the March 8, 2008 elections there was what was touted as a 'split in the blogosphere' - where they both had a public spat. When I asked some of those involved about the 'split', a common answer I got was: 'there never was a blogosphere - there are all kinds of bloggers, and they can do whatever they want'.

When analysing the social dynamics in the blogging field, it would be useful to think of different types of networks that are enrolled in different contexts: in practice, the networks only exist ephemerally, at the moment of their articulation - the danger of 'reifying' them comes from the ability to trace them on the web, which gives them a misleading permanency. A blogroll link may have been added two years ago, a comment may have been made pretty much at random in any blog.

I think that comments are a fundamental practice of bloggers, and investigating those is more important than - for example - looking at blogrolls or other links; though of course they are relevant too. Too many studies of blogs overlook comments, possibly because: 1) they are more difficult to crawl/mine with automated bots; 2) there is a decreasing rate of significance of comments as they increase in numbers (apart from being an index of the importance of the blog and/or the post) - studies that concentrate on the biggest blogs may therefore overlook them. The way I see it, a blog without the option of commenting is just a website, and analysing blogs without taking account of the comments is like trying to understand the social dynamics of a pub without paying attention to the pub goers.