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Nuffnang Awards - Whistle stop tour

The Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards were held last weekend, and various lucky nominees and bloggers were transported into Singapore from Malaysia, Philippines, and Australia. It was the first of its kind and, for me, the cut-off event for my data collection - from now on, it's time to start reviewing all my field notes, transcribing interviews and aiming to finish 100K word in one year.

Here is a rapid tour of how it was for me - we gathered at the Nuffnang offices in KL, and arrived at the Link Hotel at about 3pm. Yee Hou was our efficient shepherd, leading us safely to Singapore and back, even those who didn't declare cigarettes... :-P
nuffnang blog awards group
After we booked in (was a bit slow) - a welcome beer!
asahi beer singapore
Then, off to the Awards ceremony! Efficiently run, nice food, nice people, many awards - nominees from all four countries where Nuffnang has a presence. Blog celebrities and Celebrity Bloggers :-) (list of the nominees and winners)
nuffnang awards ceremony singapore
In the group photo (L-R): dork on the left, dunno who sorry, Swee San, Soon Seng, Wenli, and Jolene (click her name for a much more complete account of the awards).

Got back to the hotel for a pleasant surprise welcoming letter with a gift of cute cows from Exabytes, longtime advertisers with blogs
Continue reading "Nuffnang Awards - Whistle stop tour"

Do Malaysian bloggers think that blog advertorials need to be disclosed?

The recent plan by the American Federal Trade Commission to "Fine Bloggers up to $11,000 for Not Disclosing Payments" has got people talking about the ethical and legal aspects of paying bloggers for content, and apparently "Singapore's Media Development Authority is considering mirroring the U.S. government's new tough stance". There has been discussion on the NPR program 'On Point with Tom Ashbrook' (podcast here), a blog post by Dave Gilmor - A Dangerous Federal Intervention in Social Media; and in Malaysia it was discussed on the Digital Edge Podcast, a Twtpoll by @blogjunkie, and various tweets by various people (please tell me about more if you know of any, thanks).

It's important to distinguish between paid advertorials, and reviews of products or reports of events. For the former, the client vets and approves the final content, and only pays if they are happy with it. For the latter, a blogger may be given a product, or invited to an event, and it's up to the blogger to write what they want, if anything. Of course, most people tend to feel more favourably disposed towards someone who gave them something - but my research suggests that if a blogger does not like a product or event, they are more likely to just not blog about it, rather than blog something bad about it.

It can be a very cheap and effective strategy for a company: for the cost of a freebie, or by including a few bloggers into a product launch party, they might get some exposure to a few thousand, or maybe even tens of thousands, loyal readers who value and trust the bloggers' opinion. Particularly when this audience is typically less likely to read a newspaper, watch television, and so on. Even advertorials, which can cost from a few hundred to a few thousand (I estimate), are much cheaper than - for example - a full page newspaper ad (average cost, RM10K?), and the post will stay online too, rather than ending up in a recycle bin (hopefully).

My research so far has indicated to me that some advertisers explicitly require bloggers not to disclose that the post is paid for, but these seem to be a smaller minority. Most bloggers do disclose in some manner: some in a very obvious way - in the title or at the head of the post - and most in a more subtle way, giving the post a tag such as 'advertorial', 'pocket money', or something like that. Other bloggers say that they do not need to disclose, as their readers will know when they are doing an advertorial anyway.

In the myBlogS 2009 survey, I asked questions about disclosure, and the commercialisation of blogs. Here are some of the results.

The charts compare the responses by Bloggers (in pink; n = 356) and Readers (in green; n = 197); as well as the Monetisers - i.e. bloggers who try to make money from their blog (in orange, n=183) and the Non-Monetisers (in blue, n=173). If you see more on the right side, it means more agreed with the statement, and disagreements show up on the left; a peak in the middle means more were 'Neutral'. The more of a difference in their attitudes, the more of one colour you can see. You should also be aware that these graphs are not always directly comparable - because the scale on the y-axis changes sometimes.

There was a “Not applicable to me" option too: rather than including these responses in the graph, I've put them on the side in order to let the graphs show the trend of those who did address the question. Most of the time, the amount is only one or two percent. It's impossible to know why, when asked an opinion, people answer “Not applicable to me" - it suggests that either they don't understand the question, that it doesn't address their experience, or maybe that they have no opinion.

malaysian blog survey attitudes disclosure
Here we can clearly see that most think that advertorials should be disclosed. The “Not applicable to me" answer was 4.4% for the Monetisers, and 10.4% for the Non-Monetisers (for some reason I couldn't get it on the picture). The high number for the Non-Monetisers suggests that some read the question as referring to them, rather than being a general opinion.

But anyway, there is a clear preference for disclosure; though there are more than a quarter who are neutral, suggesting that they believe it's up to the blogger to decide. The Monetisers are (unsurprisingly) the most likely to sit on the fence on this one.

What may be the impact of bloggers doing too many advertorials?
malaysian blog survey attitudes commercialisation
There is a tendency for bloggers and readers to think that blogs are too commercialised, but the readers seem to be less worried about it than the bloggers - this may reflect the fact that bloggers may have been around longer, and thus seen more changes. Both Monetisers and Non-Monetisers see the commercialisation as excessive, the the Non-Monetisers feel more strongly about it.

malaysian blog survey attitudes commercialisation
Continue reading "Do Malaysian bloggers think that blog advertorials need to be disclosed?"

Xpax, Blackberry, Party, Future

Doing research as a blog anthropologist, I get sick of people saying, "But what's happening in 'real life'?"...

I mean, what's NOT real about talking, sharing and ranting with friends and acquaintances? Humans have been doing that since the first barbecue outside of a cave in Africa - is it more real because it's happening in a bar, at work or at school; then when it's happening while you're on the move and keeping in contact with friends around town, overseas, or at home? Does anyone ever say letters aren't 'real'?!

The point is - you can do BOTH of these! You can have a life online AND offline - each one complements the other, and that's the way the future's going to be. Get on the train (or more likely the maglev), and get with the future!

In the future, everyone is going to have presence online as well as offline. They'll even be provided by the government, and kids in playschools will be taught how to play online, just like they're taught how to cross the road safely. The technology will be portable nanocomputers, inserted under the skin and with controls directly from the brain (for example).

OK - we're not there yet :-O

But to get a feel of it you are going to need one thing - that's a smartphone, like a BlackBerry. So you can surf the net, update your social media, call your family, write emails, play games (important that one) - basically, have your own communications centre wherever you go...

OK - any blogger, tweeter or Facebooker wants to be able to chat with friends, do some IM'ing or check Facebook while they're out and about, but... you're going to be worried about the cost, right? I mean, if each tweet, IM message or Facebook update costs money, the bill is gonna be stiff right?

Well - I have to say that Xpax have a good solution here - RM1 per day for prepaid UNLIMITED ACCESS! So - load up with RM 30 at the beginning of the month and you're safe for thirty days.
Check out the details on the Xpax site. The RM1/day deal is for social networking sites - for unlimited internet surfing, etc, it's RM2.50 a day.

"No hidden clauses, no upfront payment" - sounds good enough to me :-D

So - the other problem with switching phones is changing your telephone number, right...? No - wrong! With Mobile Number Portability now available in Malaysia, you don't have to change your number anymore.

At the Xberry party the BlackBerry Curve smartphone 8520 was going at RM888, but if you hurry you can still get a special deal by going to any Blue Cube outlet: get a reload for RM50 and you'll be able to get the Blackberry for RM998, one week free access, and an imported skin.

Wait too long (after November 15) and the price will go back to RM1188.

I'm too skint at the moment even to get it at RM888, but at the Xpax Blackberry party, if I had been able to check Twitter I would have known that the prize draw was going on! And maybe won a free Blackberry!
tweet xpax blackberry party

OK you're gonna say - just pay more attention! But I was!

I was paying attention to an amazing beatboxer Shawn Lee and spotting celebrity bloggers such as Cheesie and and upcoming superblogger/journalist/allround party animal jessie ;-)
shawn lee ringo cheesie benjicajess xpax

and Flizzow couldn't be avoided...
Flizzow xpax

nor could Arabyrd
arabyrd xpax

(not to forget the trips to the VVIP section for free flow, food and dancing...)
(and meeting kruel74, dustyhawk, YapThomas, aprilyim, bernard and others who I forgot...)

So all I can say is thanks Xpax and Nuffnang for the party!

Get a a Blackberry Curve to lead your life from in front - it's your life, your number, and your future :-D

Visualising a monetised Twitter network

This is just a little experiment with nodeXL, inspired by this example of using it to visualise a Twitter network. NodeXL is a very nice social network analysis (SNA) and visualisation tool. It works from Microsoft Excel, and is very light and easy to use. The NodeXL Tutorial provides instructions on how to use it.

One thing that's particularly nice, for an SNA neophyte like myself, is that nodeXL can both search the net and do the visualisation (you can do this on VOSON too, though). And you can search Twitter too.

Many people on the Malaysian twitterverse will have noticed #xpaxblackberry coming up fairly often recently, and it seems clear that Xpax had purchased the help, perhaps via ChurpChurp, of various key bloggers/tweeters to get the word out. In addition, Xpax was organising an event last Saturday (which I was able to go to, after entering a competition with Nuffnang) to launch their new prepaid Blackberry service.

So - I decided to see what would happen if I put the search term - "xpaxblackberry" into NodeXL.

This is what I got on the 8th October - two days before the launch party
social network analysis visualisation nodexl twitter monetisation

This represents the tweeters who mentioned 'xpaxblackberry' in their tweet, and the lines represent who follows whom, within that group.

The size of the picture is relative to the "Betweenness centrality" of the tweeter: i.e. some people are more connected to other people, either directly or via other people, so they are 'in between' more people. For example: if I know Joe, Peter, and Jane, but none of them know each other, then I have a greater 'betweenness' value.

So, in the above graph, we can see that the four tweeters with the greatest centrality are @kennysia (BC value = 1), @benjern (BC value = 0.876), @julesisapen (BC value = 0.703), @joycethefairy (BC value = 0.671).

I also ran a 'Cluster' calculation, which calculates "the number of edges connecting a vertex's neighbors divided by the total number of possible edges between the vertex's neighbors." (Hansen, Shneiderman & Smith, p16). Basically, it tries to spot the clusters of nodes that are more interconnected amongst each other than to other people. They are represented by represented by the different colours, which can be seen easier here - four major clusters are visible.
social network analysis visualisation nodexl twitter monetisation

The next time I ran it was on the 10th October, in the afternoon before the event.
social network analysis visualisation nodexl twitter monetisation

The top four this time are: @benjern (BC value = 1), @julesisapen (BC value = 0.834), @kennysia (BC value = 0.685), @spinzer (BC value = 0.357).

The third time was on the 15th October, the Thursday following the event.
social network analysis visualisation nodexl twitter monetisation

The top four this time are: benjern (BC value = 1), @julesisapen (BC value = 0.625), @xpaxsays (BC value = 0.432), and @joycethefairy and @MyXpaX are equal in fourth place (BC value = 0.398).

• There are clearly more people, but not many more clusters here.
• Two new tweeters are prominent, @xpaxsays and @MyXpaX - they are 'corporate tweeters'.
• One interesting point is that although @joycethefairy has 1,521 followers, and @MyXpaX has only 19 followers, they have the same degree of centrality in this particular snapshot of the twitterverse. This shows how much the sample can influence the result of the 'social network' being analysed: within this sample thirteen followers of @joycethefairy and @MyXpaX tweeted 'xpaxblackberry', meaning they have the same weight in this sample. What has happened is that @MyXpaX keeps retweeting/mentioning and following tweeters who mention 'xpaxblackberry'.
• @kennysia, who was initially the most prominent and central person, has disappeared right off the graph. This must be because the archives are only kept for so long, and he has not tweeted recently enough; or that the tweets have gone beyond the 10-page limit (discussed here, I'm not sure what the exact story is). Or nodeXL only limits itself to a certain amount of days.

• To do an experiment like this better one would have to analyse more carefully over time (e.g. doing a search every hour or something - for a more sophisticated example see Tim Highfield's foray).
• What's interesting is to note the shifting of the centre of this particular 'conversation'.
• To get an idea of the relative importance of the tweeters, or at least assumed importance, it would be necessary to include some computation of the number of followers each one has.
• The reciprocity of follower/following is important too. The more followers there are compared to following, the more significant that tweeter is likely to be.
• The connections between tweeters are generally quite dense - that is to say, although there is clustering of smaller groups, there are lots of ties between the groups too.
• Overall, the leading tweeters are also leading bloggers. For the moment, I would say that there's no clear differentiation between the Malaysian blogosphere and twitterverse.

Indulge in the Uniquely Singapore experience

I love travelling, and have blogged about hitchhiking to Romania, drinking coffee in Laos, a room with a view in Provence, beers in Belgium, being a tourist in KL, shop signs in Kuching, a sunrise in Kelantan, clouds over Phuket, and a cute devil in Tasmania.

Somehow, although I've been to Singapore a number of times, I've never blogged about it :-| Maybe because my trips were normally work-related, or quick day trips?

Nuffnang & Uniquely Singapore are offering tickets to the Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards ceremony, and an "exclusive Uniquely Singapore experience", which sounds intriguing :-). But they want to know why I should be given this special opportunity to experience Singapore: for me, I would like to have the chance to discover more of its history and hidden secrets, and blog about what makes Singapore truly unique.

Singapore is a 21st century multicultural metropolis, steeped in the trading history of ancient Asian and colonial empires - it is discovered slowly, its different shades revealing themselves in the rich nuances that make up the character of this hidden gem of Asian culture and history. Inhabited for at least 1800 years, from the 7th to the 13th century it was part of the great Srivijaya Empire, and from 1819 onwards it grew rapidly under the British Empire. Known as an island city, it is sometimes difficult to see the history amongst the skyscrapers and the shopping malls, and to forget that it has natural areas of natural beauty too.

For my dream day in Singapore, I would want to start early with a Peranakan breakfast - perhaps Otak toast. While it’s still cool, I would explore the park around the MacRitchie Reservoir, established in 1860...
macritchie reservoir singapore

check out the Treetop Walk, enjoy the nature...
fauna flora macritchie reservoir singapore

and dream of finding the elusive Yamashita Gold :-)

For lunch, the 19th century Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, now a marvelously restored national heritage site known as 'Chimes', would give me a choice of fusion dining venues. To digest my light lunch, I could stroll around the cloisters, and view the stained glass windows in the restored chapel.
chijmes singapore

In the afternoon, tired of walking, the Singapore Sightseeing Pass which has unlimited access to hop-on, hop-off bus and boat tours looks ideal. I think I'd focus on the HiPPO River Cruise: Singapore was always first and foremost a naval city, which breathed the monsoon wind. A global city before globalisation was heard of.

Seeing Singapore from the river would bring back the perspective that the sailors and weary travellers would have seen, welcoming them from around the world
singapore river scenes

Followed by dinner at one of the relaxed riverside cafés of Boat Quay, and an evening of cocktails and jazz
boat quay singapore

To finish a perfect day, I would luxuriate in the sumptuous comfort of the Golden Chersonese Suite of Raffles Hotel,
raffles hotel singapore

drifting into happy dreams and fond memories of the day when I was truly able to...

Pictures under CreativeCommons licenses, credits to: arti47, Eustaquio Santimano, mgrenner57, mjmyap, madaboutasia, Rojina, RWM, The Shopping Sherpa, tuis

The Golaniad ID

This is one of my most valuable souvenirs - it may not look like much, but for me it's from a time that I will never forget.
Golaniad ID

In April 1989 I flew to India on the Polish Airlines, LOT. When I came back in October, Poland had liberated itself from the Soviet Union and the totalitarian communist dictatorship. The way I noticed this was through the greater choice of drinks in the plane: on the way out the choice had been "Orange or beer?", the diluted concentrate and warm beer being served by a brusque stewardess holding two one-litre bottles in each hand. Coming back, I remember soft drinks, cartons of cheap fruit juice, and more. And a smile.

I arrived at Glasgow University late, and signed up to do English, Sociology and Arabic. Eastern Europeans were ripping the geopolitical landscape of my childhood apart in one momentous shove after another. By Christmas, when we watched TV reports of armed skirmishes in Romania, and the hurried dispatching of Ceau?escu, Europe was transformed beyond all expectations.

Back in Glasgow for a second term, I was unhappy with my courses and chafing to get back on the road; although I loved Glasgow, I felt I was missing out on history. So, I decided to start university again the next year, and go to Eastern Europe - specifically, Romania, which seemed like the most exciting place to be. Elections were scheduled for May 20th, and I decided to be there.

I hitchhiked from Brussels to Vienna - via Luxembourg and Nuremberg, and from there across the border into Hungary. From then on I took the train: at Budapest a man hit me in the face while I was walking in the street - I can't remember why, he must have been drunk and I looked at him the wrong way or something. Or he knew I was a foreigner perhaps. Anyway, it didn't hurt much, and nothing else happened. I was scared for a while though.

I got a train to the town closest to the border with Romania: international train tickets usually cost more, so by getting across the border on foot or something, and taking the train in the new country, I would try to save money. Anyway, that was the theory, but in this case the town was too far away from the border or something, so I had to get an overnight international train anyway. I took the cheapest ticket, but was able to pay the conductor five Deutschmarks and get a first class sleeper cabin for the night. I slept really well that night :-)

In the morning, I was woken by the border guard who wished me 'Welcome' - he was friendly, and that set a pattern for most of my time in Romania. Everywhere, people were welcoming - in the two months that I eventually stayed there, I stayed in a hotel for only about seven nights in total. The rest of the time I stayed with people I met.

So, back to the tatty envelope, with a photocopy of a 'V for victory' hand and my name... When I got to Bucharest, I went straight to what was then being called 'Piata Libertilei' (I think, or 'Libertati'); it was the place where thousands of demonstrators were gathering every day and protesting against the newly elected FSN government, made mostly of Communist apparatchiks who had orchestrated the coup against Ceau?escu. They were called 'Golani' (hooligans) by the government, and so they called this space of protest 'Golaniad'.

Most people came and went. But some slept there in the tents that had sprung up on what must have been a lawn. And when you stayed there, you had to register with the committee in charge, who gave you an 'identity badge' so that you could be marked out from informers, and random others. I was number 269.
Golaniad ID