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The human touch still needed

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One of the reasons Yahoo! was so popular in its early days was that its listings were hand-crafted by a team of human editors (not by algorithm). It’s news section too was chosen by human editors (not spiders).

Of course doing things by hand is neither efficient nor scalable. But sometimes it’s necessary for certain offerings.

Take for example, Breaking Tweets, an attempt to do something journalistic with Twitter. It’s pretty nifty. Have a look at the sample below:

April 30, 2009

Eight-year-old Saudi girl’s marriage annulled

Per BBC, a young Saudi girl who was married to an older man in his 50s has been granted a divorce in an out-of-court settlement.

A judge had earlier rejected the girl’s mother’s appeal in the town of Unaiza. He was replaced by a new judge who decided to nullify the case after the marriage was confirmed illegal by the girl’s husband, per BBC.

Twitterers had these reactions when the legal news first penetrated worldwide:

  1. Donnette Davis
    Donnette (South Africa) a Saudi marriage officiate declared that a girl can be married at the age of one if sex is postponed http://tinyurl.com/cev327
  2. danie_d
    danie_d (San Francisco, Calif.) 8 year old girl married to a 47 year old man in Saudi Arabia. U.S. doesn’t allow it to affect trade. But mention trade w/ Cuba and “OH NO.”
  3. Freddie Zacarias
    quantifyme (Undisclosed) A 8 yr old Saudi girl married to a 50 yr old Saudi man is a shame. Not only is a violation of human rights, it is “child slavery”
  4. Joe Newbert
    newbert (Cape Town, South Africa) RT @geekstats 8: age of Saudi Arabian girl married by father to settle debts. (http://bit.ly/WrvB). This world can be hideous.
  5. Governance Focus
    governancefocus (Undisclosed) A Saudi girl of 8 was married to a man in his 50’s and now they want to annul it. What do you expect from a country without democracy.

Following the most recent media reports, Twitterers noted these reactions today:

  1. Michelle Torres
    michou83 (New Jersey) http://tinyurl.com/cwrmxa– Young Saudi girl’s marriage ended…. THANK GOD. Now they just need a real policy.
  2. Akin
    forakin (Amsterdam, Netherlands) Young Saudi girl’s marriage ended but not by the courts and hidebound religious judges http://is.gd/vEqY
  3. macleans
    macleans (Undisclosed) Out-of-court settlement allows Saudi girl, 8, to divorce 50-year-old husband http://tinyurl.com/cqbcmk

No immediate reaction could be found within Saudi Arabia itself. Tweets were searched for in both Arabic and English.

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Eight-year-old Saudi girl’s marriage annulled

*****

Breaking Tweets basically publishes a collection of tweets relating to specific breaking news items. It’s good because it collates and organizes for us interesting tweets about key topics of the moment. The thing is, it’s done by a team of human editors who apply editorial judgment on what should be included and what should not.

Could the Google guys come up with an algorithm to do away with the need for human editors? Probably, but it won’t be as good. Good journalism, whether it involves New Media or social media still requires the human touch.

Written by Oon Yeoh

May 1, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Posted in New Media, Social Media

Looking beyond Twitter

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lolcatAs the legendary New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra was rumoured to have said about a restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.” The same can be said of Twitter’s entrance into mainstream media.

With Oprah joining the Twitter community, and the ridiculous Ashton Vs CNN race, the end of the buzz is near. The cool geeks that first adopted it are now fed up of the constant stream of news about it. Mainstream media knows about it, and can’t stop yammering on about the dreaded microblogging service. While it’s adorable to see how big celebs like Oprah start stumbling around Twitter in the same way an adult watches a toddlertakes his first steps (“aww, look at Oprah twittering — how cute is that?”), the novelty dies out rather fast.

The entrance of the mainstream celebs into Twitter also changes the dynamic of the social network. Where once the sphere was dominated by eager geeks, now it’s become increasingly crowded by a bunch of marketers, brands, gurus, and celebrities that don’t really give a crap about whether you’re the 100,321st or 100,322nd follower. It’s as if Cheers became the watering hole of a bunch of big-talking “I make bank” douchebags and advertising execs. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by John Lim

April 28, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Posted in Social Media

Social media best practices for newsrooms

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Joseph Lasica highlights some innovative use of social media in the newsroom

Written by Oon Yeoh

April 23, 2009 at 3:46 am

Posted in New Media, Social Media

On Williams & Stone

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An interesting profile of Twitter founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone. (Tks, Jack for the link).

Money graph:

The real Twitter revolution may prove to be much more everyday. When I stop for a latte at Peet’s Coffee on the way to the interview, the manager tells me that he plans to start sending out tweets to let regular customers know when a table is open. He isn’t alone. A Manhattan bakery twitters when warm cookies come out of the oven. “It’s those small stories that really inspire us,” says Mr. Stone. “Those are the things that transform people’s lives.”

Written by Oon Yeoh

April 20, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Social Media

Social media douchebags

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“Don’t call me a social media guru,” said one social media consultant at a small gathering last Monday. If there’s one I hate most over recent times, it’s the term “Social Media guru/expert/enthusiast” on one’s Twitter profile page–it’s an annoying self-styled term that can be summed up in one word: Douchebag.

Let’s take a short history lesson in Internet douchebaggery. The douchebag term in the mid-2000s was “Web 2.0”, and it didn’t help that Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point came up during that time. Soon, you had people all over the web putting 2 and 2 together and calling themselves “Web 2.0 Mavens” .

Smart readers like you realise that “Web 2.0” is a hollow term: it meant many things, and nothing at all. It was a vague rah-rah… marketing catch phrase. A glance at its Wikipedia entry admits as such: “‘Web 2.0’ refers to a perceived second generation of web development and design, that facilitates communication, secure information sharing, interoperability, and collaboration on the World Wide Web” (emphasis mine)

John C Dvorak sums it up well in his PC Mag column “Web 2.0 Baloney”:

During the late 1990s, the golden ring slipped just past the grip of a lot of wannabes, who are convinced that they can do it right this time around—if only there is another dot-com surge. Web 2.0 is a rallying point. Maybe cheerleading will make it happen! But what they are cheerleading for, a slew of vague and meaningless concepts, shows that they have no clue about what they are doing.

Fast-forward to 2009: “Web 2.0” is confined to the dustbin of overused catchphrases, and now in its place is “Social Media”, which, when you think hard enough, gives us no new insight. Wasn’t the Internet established as a social medium in the first place, where one computer-user would communicate with another? It’s like saying television is a visual media, or radio is a sound-based medium.  (Note: I realise the irony in saying this, given that our blog is about “Social Media” — more on that below)

The point is, there’s nothing new about Social Media, just as there was nothing new about “Web 2.0” compared to “Web 1.0”. It’s all about repackaging  and selling it to consumers who don’t know any better. Now, add “guru” or “enthusiast” to Social Media, and what do you get? That’s right. Nothing more than someone proclaiming that he/she likes to do lots of Twittering and Seesmicking in his/her underwear — though it’s more likely a him — while shouting “Twitter! Blog! Innovate! Engage!” and other cheerleader statements to prospective clients.

However, the irritating thing is that “Social Media”, just like “Web 2.0”, is a concept that sticks. As vague as it is, the phrase makes it easier for a general population to understand the nuances and the nature of Facebook, Twitter, blip.fms and what have yous. As much as one hated the overuse of the term “Web 2.0” and its vapor-like connotations, one can’t deny its effectiveness in pitching to clients who are still rubbing their eyes at the amazement of “the Google” while parsing the interwebs on their IE 6 browser.

In other words, say “microblogging service, data portability, social graph” and they won’t get you. Say “It’s a social media marketing tool,” and they’ll sorta get you.

Having said that, there are those who do do real consultancy work in this nascent field. I feel sorry for them, especially whenever someone else calls them a “social media guru”–I can see them visibly cringe upon hearing that. Brand Dialogue and BL Ochman provide some clues on how to tell the real deal, but they generally say the same thing: cut through the chatter, get to the real proof of concepts, ask for measurable metrics and strategies,  and don’t believe it when they say the strategy costs nothing and results can be shown in a short time.

So the next time you see me calling myself a Social Media Guru/Expert/Enthusiast, just slap me in the face and call me an self-hyping Twitterer.

Written by John Lim

April 16, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Social Media

The kids won’t pay

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Here’s an interesting piece by Joshua Benton who discovered to his surprise that teens who practically live on Facebook, who spend about 60-90 minutes each night on the site, not counting the midday checks at computers in the school library or on their phones, would not be willing to pay US$10 per month if Facebook started charging.

Despite its centrality to their lives, they were willing to toss it aside because they wouldn’t pay $10 a month, he says, noting that these are well-off kids — they could afford it. The reason they gave was that they would simply move to some other social networking site that was free. This led Benton to conclude:

If these kids aren’t willing to pay for Facebook — something they engage with every single day, something they love, something they have already invested countless hours into to build up a network of friends and apps and what have you — what’s the chance they’re ever going to pay half a penny to read a news story?

Written by Oon Yeoh

April 9, 2009 at 12:52 am

Posted in New Media, Social Media

Twitter & Google are a good fit

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We here at FTW Media believe in free speech and I’m going to counter John Lim’s views about a possible Twitter buyout by Google. He thinks it’s a bad idea. I think it’s a good one.

I’ve written a piece about it which will be published in The Edge two weeks from now (it’s been held over due to space considerations). But here, in five bullet points, is the gist of what I have to say:

i) It’s good for Google which doesn’t currently have a good social media offering. (It has Orkut but that seems to be popular only in Brazil and India… go figure!).

ii) It will be hard for Google to monetize Twitter but that hasn’t stopped Google from buying online entities like YouTube.

iii) Twitter founders might be wary of going under the Google umbrella. After all, Jaiku and Dodgeball died a natural death under the aegis of Google. But then again, Blogger.com and YouTube thrived after being acquired.

iv) The danger for Twitter if it doesn’t sell out now is that it will suffer Friendster’s fate. Twitter should strike while the iron is hot. “Now is the time for Twitter to sell,” said Gartner Research Vice President Jeff Mann. “It is at the top of its hype range now. Monetizing on its own would be a long, hard slog.”

v) If Twitter had Google as its parent, it would no longer ever have to worry about funding and the Twitter team could instead focus on creative growth for the company. Obvious immediate improvements include Twitter postings appearing in Google results and no more “fail whale”.

Written by Oon Yeoh

April 8, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Posted in Social Media