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Alpha Project bloggers

Doing an interview recently, I realised that I am the epitome of the bad blogger! My crime? I am inconsistent - I blog in spurts, but not regularly. A good blogger needs to blog regularly (at least 3 times a week), or at least consistently (e.g. every Sunday), so that the readers know what to expect and don't waste their time. I suppose that with Google Reader or RSS one can get around that, but still...

Anyway, I will make an effort to be more consistent from now on (but I've said that before, haven't I?)

Anyway - a few things have happened since my last post: a couple of screenings ('District 9' - great!, 'Murderer' - pretty lame), a birthday party, I bought a new super chair, and continued to be stressed out by work :-|

Yesterday, there was the launch of 'Project Alpha' (recognise the design?)
Project Alpha launch

It was combined with an Adidas promotion at the Centre Court in Megamall - you could get a "Mystery prize" by saying the password. It's "Drymax", but don't all go rushing to use it. Unless you really want a sample of "Tropical Passion - Adidas fragrance for women" which is all I got, or even a keychain (Tian Chad got both). I was so not impressed...
Tian Chad with Adidas gift

On the other hand, if you go there and buy Adidas shower gels and stuff like that to a value of RM45 or more (I think), you can win extra prizes (a bag, fragrance,...).

I also met Casey Liew, and Dustyhawk was also there, and helped me to choose a microphone afterwards, for my interviews.

After the trailer for Project Alpha was shown, there was a foosball competition. The KennySia and Jojo Struys team beat Nicolekiss and (er sorry I'm not sure...) beautifulnara (thanks Casey!)
KennySia Jojo Struys and Nicolekiss playing foosball

and, in spite of looking very focused,
sixthseal and fourfeetnine playing foosball

Sixthseal and Fourfeetnine lost to Redmummy and Budiey
Redmummy and Budiey playing foosball

The final was won by the Kenny and Jojo team,
Kenny Sia, Jojo Struys and Adidas person

and everyone got something anyway :-) Ahh the life of a blogebrity, freebies galore...
Bloggers at Project Alpha launch with Adidas

OK OK I know they work hard for it. By for example posting (and posing) regularly!

So that was that - I must say I'm intrigued by Project Alpha though - it's going to be an "Online TV Show" - kind of like the Malaysian Dreamgirl I suppose, but focusing on the life of bloggers.

When I think of it, calling it an "Online TV Show" is an interesting mix of terms - by definition, if it's online it's not television: in media studies terms I suppose what it means it is a television genre of programming, but it's distributed online.

It will feature one blogger every week, with a three minute segment every day. So it's like TV in that it is moving pictures with sound, broadcast at a certain time; but unlike TV because one can view it at any time, and it's short. Having it short suits online media - you can watch it in the time it takes to read a blogpost, and it's not going to take forever to download or cost too much if you're using a mobile device.

I must say, Malaysian blogging is always throwing up surprises. This is something of a glimpse into the future of new media I'd say. However, at this point the production of such a programme is taken over by professionals: my guess is that the next generation produsers, will be producing their own short videos. Sure you already have vlogs, but what I mean is that at some point, someone will be putting together an edited clip which would cover similar topics that blog posts do, in a way that is more than someone talking to a web cam.

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.

Conclusions?
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

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.

myBlogS 2009 - First Malaysian blog survey results released

[edit 11/09/09: I just realised that the title of this post is a bit misleading - myBlogS 2009 was not the first Malaysian blog survey, what I meant was that these are the first results of the myBlogS 2009 survey.
Previous surveys have been done by Tan Jun-E and syed syahrul zarizi]

Well I've been kind of busy lately, and finally got round to submitting a paper to a journal (my first one! Wish me luck!) - it's based on the paper on Blogwars and Authenticity that I presented at MSC6 last year.

Anyway, I know a lot of people want to know what the results for the survey are, so I've decided to do it like this:
1) Release the full summarised results for anyone who wants to look at them - download them here.
2) Put up more detailed analysis of different portions as and when I complete them.

The reason I'm doing it this way is because I have no idea when I'll have completed the full analysis of the survey (it was quite long, and there are many angles to it), but at least people can have a look at the overall results.

I'll be happy to respond to any questions and requests for analysis on particular angles. For example, looking at the summarised results you can see that 54.2% of the bloggers that responded were female, and that 51.4% of the respondents are trying to make money from their blog; but you may want to know how many females were trying to make money compared to males. You can't tell that from the summary, but if you ask me I'll do my best to do the analysis for you and then put the results online. I'll also be putting different analyses online as I go forward - the first one will be comparing bloggers' and non-bloggers' views on blogs in general (question 10).

Limitations to the results
As with all social research there are limitations to the conclusions that can be drawn, here are the main ones that I can think of now:
• The survey was in English only - this tends to exclude the non-English language bloggers and readers. As such, it cannot claim to represent Malaysian bloggers as a whole, but a particular portion.
• The sample size is not insignificant, but not very large either. This will possibly induce bias in certain directions - in particular, it is more likely to reflect the kind of blogs I am focusing my research on, and who are more likely to have heard of me. That is, personal/lifestyle blogs.
• In addition, the sample is 'self-selected' - i.e. only people interested enough in the subject matter choose to respond to it, so this induces a bias in favour of a particular type of blogger and/or reader.

Some overall results
The survey was conducted online between March 9 and April 10 2009. 686 started the survey, and 561 completed it, giving a completion rate of 81.2%. Of those who completed it, there were 356 bloggers and 197 non-bloggers (i.e. those who read blogs only).

This is a rough portrait of the average blogger who responded:
The average respondent blogger is a young Malaysian female student, between 18-25 years old, living in KL or Selangor, and of Chinese ethnicity. She has had a blog, in English, for more than two years, updates at least once a week, and has less than 100 unique visitors a day. She is likely to use her real name on her blog, or be identifiable via photos or other information. She has a blog mostly because she likes writing; she wants to keep a track of things she wants to remember; and to keep in touch with friends. Her top three preferred blogging topics are friends, events and travel. She allows unmoderated comments - but will censor comments that are offensive, racially sensitive, make personal attacks or refer to her family.

Making money from her blog is not an important reason for having a blog, but nevertheless she is probably taking advantage of opportunities to make money. In practice she is making less than RM100 a month using Nuffnang, and is not likely to be doing paid advertorials; she has not received any free gifts/tickets/food as a result of her blog and is not likely to have a non-commercial ad or announcement on her blog.

She reads blogs every day, and follows up to ten blogs regularly - she may know her top three bloggers personally, but reads the blogs because they are interesting and/or useful. She will have met some of the bloggers in person, but not too many. She is likely to read the comments in blogs - but not always - and leaves a comment when she has something useful or interesting to add, and may respond to other comments for the same reason.


There's more information than that in the results, particularly about attitudes, but I'll get round to that afterwards.

Compared to most studies of blogs - e.g. Technorati's 'State of the Blogosphere', or Tan & Zawawi's 'Blogging and Democratization in Malaysia, this sample is younger and more female (though the 2006 survey by Microsoft had more female bloggers too). The amount of bloggers with paid advertisements is less than those reported for Asian blogs by Technorati (51.4% and 60% respectively).

As usual, I would more than welcome any comments, suggestions and criticisms. Please feel free to use the comments area below, or to send me an email if you like.

Heatiness

Ever since I’ve been in Malaysia, I've heard people talking about foods being 'heaty' – e.g. someone will say 'Don't eat [insert type of food here] when you have the flu because it's heaty', or something like that. Recently, I finally discovered what 'heatiness' really is – I was out in the sun for a bit too long one day, and got some sunburn: then, after a few days, I noticed that I kept feeling a bit uncomfortable - overheated, an unpleasant feeling in my stomach, and a bit tired. But even if I turned the aircon on and had a nap, for example, I still felt too much 'internal heat'. Suddenly it dawned on me - I was suffering from 'heatiness'! (Another symptom was an itchy neck. I didn't connect to it at the time, but later someone told me it was typical of heatiness - apparently you can even end up with boils on the neck).

Anyway, so WW got some herbs from the Chinese herbalist - I boiled it all up and drunk a big glass or two every day for a week or so, and felt better.

Some time before that, I had received a free bottle of Cool Rhino which is meant to be a cooling drink (apparently it's rebranded 'Three Legs Cooling Water'). I was curious about the main ingredients Gypsum fibrosum, and 'calcitum', and on what basis they are meant to be 'cooling'.
Cool Rhino cooling drink with Gypsum fibrosum

Gypsum fibrosum, is known as a 'stone drug' - i.e. it is a mineral (it's also used in building!) which has beneficial health properties. Investigation of the use of minerals in medicine was particularly common amongst Taoist alchemists who sought immortality, and knowledge of its use goes as far back as Ge Hong's (281 -341 AD), book Bao Pu Zi's Inner Treatise ("Discovering Chinese Mineral Drugs")
"Raw gypsum (Gypsum Fibrosum) has been shown to have an antipyretic effect, that is, it can be used to reduce fever. However, pure manufactured gypsum does not display this property. This suggests that the antipyretic effect is produced by one or more of the impurities normally associated with gypsum in its raw state (Guo et al, 1958)." ("Discovering Chinese Mineral Drugs")

In its prepared form it is known as Gypsum Fibrosum Preparata or Duan Shi Gao.


I noticed dosages "9-30 grams, up to 90 grams for very high fever", or "10-50 grams"; in the bottle there is 90mg, so I can't imagine there is much chance of overdosing, even if you take 4 times a day as they recommend.

As study on rats shows that it "can accelerate the formation of collagenoblast and micrangium in wounds, and the proliferation of granulation tissues, thus promoting the skin wounds to healing" (Source) (whatever that means :-S)

Calcitum, or Han Shui Shi, is also apparently good for relieving heat. The recommended dosages are also well above the 45mg in each bottle of Cool Rhino ( "9-30 grams" and "3-10 qian" – 1 'qian' is 5 grams). I think 'calcitum' is basically the same as calcium, which is also a mineral.

Basically – it seems that traditional Chinese medicine does support the use of these ingredients for heatiness, but at much higher doses than there is in Cool Rhino. As for me, unfortunately I did not have it at the time I had heatiness, but I had previously got round to testing it one day when I was feeling hot after working in the garden. It was not chilled, but I can’t say I felt any different… My advice is, if you want relief from heatiness – go to a herbalist and chuck down the bitter stuff!

++++++++++
Here are some resources on Chinese medicine
The Essentials of Chinese Medicine
• A detailed explanation of different “Herbs that clear Heat”
• What looks like an authoritative Introduction to Chinese Herbology
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