Archive for the web 2.0 Category

The Velocity of Web

Last week I was one of 5 speakers invited to an in-house all-day training session at Design House, one of the most prominent design/living publishers in Korea. Design House publishes a variety of well-known Korea magazines titles which include "??? ??? ?" (Korean equivalent of Good Housekeeping), "Design", "Mom & Enfant", "Luxury" and most recently the Korean version of "Men’s Health."

I agonized over what to present, but in the end settled to cover the various intervals at which information is presented to us and that with the internet that interval is getting shorter, and its quality harder to determine.

At one end of the spectrum you have encyclopedias which take years to update and hold the most authority, on the other end you have services like Twitter that get updated several times a day and have no filter for quality. I present the various web services that lie in between these two extreme.

When there is so much information out there, how do we find the good content? To this point, I put together some short case studies of how information is being organized by various "agents" that act as content quality filters for the users.

The conclusion being, a trusted publisher, such as Design House, can leverage its brand and history of content quality to rise and become a "trusted source" on the internet. However, the challenge is to do it in a web-centric way that appeals to web users, and not in a print-centric way.

Twittering and the Future of Social Networking in Korea

Twitter: What are you doing?

Twitter: What are you doing?

Ever since I moved to Seoul last year, I’ve begun to post to Twitter more regularly. It started as a means to stay in touch and update friends I left behind in the US. I expected people I know to follow my feed, however I really didn’t expect people I didn’t know to become followers. Who would be interested in my mindless ramblings?

When I received notifications that total strangers were following me, at first I was a little distressed… then intrigued… then somewhat comforted in a strange way. They started to respond to my updates. Here were people who discovered me through search, or through other followers, with whom I share a passing interest which may be that we are English-speakers living in Korea, or interested in technology, music, or even Firefox3 etc., who track my comments and with whom I could hold casual conversations.

Jason Kottke made a really interesting observation that there is a trend towards making private conversation channels public and permanent. Blogging is thus a the public form of emailing, Flickr is public photo sharing, YouTube is public home videos and Twitter is public form of instant messaging (IM).

I always thought that with Twitter, I was just broadcasting my thoughts into the wind but when I started to get comments and followers, it did indeed feel more like public instant messaging.

The barrier for someone to respond to a Twitter post is really low. You don’t have to know the person, and they don’t have to approve you for you to follow their feed. This makes for looser more casual relationships, but no less interesting ones. The potential of services such as Twitter seems to be in its "discoverability" – the ability to find others who share you thoughts and start casual conversation, just by the fact that you broadcasting your thoughts publicly. One of my favorite Twitter spin off services is Twistori which simply track Twitters that begin with "I love…", "I hate…", "I think…", "I believe…", "I feel…" or "I wish…". It’s addictive to watch people random yet actual thoughts scroll by.

The dominant social networking site in Korea is Cyworld, and from stats, most of the traffic on Cyworld is between "Il-chon" or "approved friends/family". This reinforced the notion that Koreans are very closed in their relationships, and prefer closed social networking sites like Cyworld to more open ones such as MySpace. The Korean version of Twitter, Me2Day challenges that notion to a certain degree. Here is a site, much like my experience with Twitter, where users form loose relationships with other users they "discovered" leading me to think that the internet is a greater enabler of social relationships than I thought.

Now that Cyworld’s popularity is on the decline, they are fishing for new ideas. They had a terrible launch of Cy2.0 which was supposed to Cyworld’s next generation but after a lukewarm reception, they hastily demoted to being a lowly "blog" application tab. They are also in beta version of a 3D service not unlike Second Life. I’ve contended for a while that it would have been in Cyworld’s best interest to move more agressively towards mobile, because that’s where all the action is occurring, by acquire a service like Me2Day and moving towards shorter, more casual sharing of thought and comments to complement its more established social networking system. Instead they created a service called Tossi which is similar but doomed to fail, lacking strong integration with Cyworld and more so because it’s a paid service (you have pay for data usage). This is due in no small part due to a rift between SK Communications who operates Cyworld and SK Telecom which is its parent mobile operator. Sad.

I never thought that a service like Second Life would ever have much of a chance in Korea, but I am seriously having second thoughts (no pun intended). Cyworld is showing strong signs it’s losing steam and If my original assumption about Korean being adverse to open, casual social relationships can be overturned by services like Me2Day, maybe it’s an market just waiting to be tapped. We’ll have to see.

Just for laughs, I stumbled upon a hilarious role-playing conversation in Twitter between Starwars Characters (see screenshot below).

Luke Skywalker\'s twitter feed

Luke Skywalker's twitter feed

The Point: Making Things Happen

The Point: Making Something Happen

The Point: Making Something Happen

The Point is a simple website with a clear purpose: making things happen. The way they do it is helping users formulate a campaign statement for action with a clear goal. Users can then choose to participate in the campaign. When the goal is met (or “the point” is tipped), an email is sent to the participants to act. For example:

Stop Zippy Oil from polluting Lake Apache
Zippy Oil must stop dumping waske into Lake Apache or else we will boycott ZippyPump when 100,000 people join

The campaigns can be serious or silly, which is a nice twist:

Bow-tie Tuesday
Andrew Mason will wear a bow tie every Tuesday if 8 people do the same.

The site has a collaboration section for brainstorming ways to approach a problem and also a social networking component to connect people with similar interest.

The Other Web2.0: Not Business As Usual

Aside from a few companies such as Amazon, Google or Facebook, the value of Web2.0 for the business world is still unclear, and return on investment still seems murky at best. However for the non-profit world, the value of Web2.0 is clear – the more the users are empowered and congregate around interest that they share, the better the opportunities for action.

In Korea, where I work, there is a lot of businesses coming online based on Web2.0 models, and a lot of talk around using Web2.0 to enhance service offerings and user experience, but little talk about the social impact that Web2.0, which to me is missing the whole point of Web2.0.

Tim O’Reilly said back in 2005, Web is a platform. A platform to do what? We should at least consider the potential of it becoming an agent for change and the betterment of society as a whole.

What is encouraging is that there are already many services by the big players in the Korean online space that make online donation easy and fun. Korea’s leading social networking site, Cyworld has its online volunteer matching and giving site called Cytogether where you can donate your time or “acorns” to a cause. Naver, the Korean search engine / online portal behemoth has a service called Happy Bean where you collect “beans” worth about 10 cents for every email you sent through their email service. You can donate these you causes and donations are matched by corporate sponsors. CJ Foundation (CJ is part of the Samsung conglomerate) has its own version of the US site called DonorsCamp.

A culture of donation doesn’t spring up overnight, but if you look at the numbers, citizens who are online (or “netizens” as they are called here) are beginning to donate generously.

But these services are only limited in their scope and potential and only scratch at the surface of serious change. In one of the most wired places on earth, shouldn’t we expect more innovative services that enable and empower people to think differently.

When I was recently asked to give a 1 hour presentation at OpenTide China, in Beijing, on a subject of my choice, I chose to put together a presentation highlighting some of the work that I was involved in while I was working at Forum One Communications (my previous place of employment), that involved innovative use of Web2.0 for social action. I ended up giving the same presentation again to staff at VINYL, Seoul, where I currently work. The presentation outline Web2.0 principles and then introduces 4 “stories” or projects I was directly or indirectly involved in. The projects are CARMA, Changemakers, Ask Your Lawmaker and DonorsChoose (I didn’t have direct involvement but know the project well because I good friend worked on the Korean counterpart DonorsCamp).

Here’s the presentation I gave:

Convergence, a defintion

I’ve been struggling to define exactly what “convergence” means in today’s wired world. I think I’ve found the best definition yet.

Convergence is sometimes viewed as the consolidation of multiple technologies towards a singular uber-device. I prefer to define convergence as the tendency of technologies, as they grow in complexity and scope, to overlap (and consolidate) functions. Convergence therefore refers to a trend wherein devices and functions take on commonly shared traits, but this doesn’t mean that this trend ultimately ends with a single multifunctional mega-device, no matter how cool and ‘mad scientist’ that might sound.

The article goes on to describe “7 considerations for convergence”. An excellent read.