Barcamp

We spent last Saturday afternoon at Barcamp. It was held at the IDA, Suntec City Tower 3.

It was my first time attending Barcamp, and it was a pretty interesting experience. It’s basically an event where people gather to talk about a variety of topics (Wikipedia called it “user-generated conferences”), and everyone’s encouraged to ask questions and share whatever they know about them. On Saturday, topics that people wanted to talk about were pasted on the walls, and we used tiny red stickers to vote for them. Get enough votes, the topic goes through, and you just pop into a room to listen to whatever the speaker has to say.

I attended 4 discussions.

1) “Learning How to Draw By Using Both Sides of the Brain” by JF Koh

The left brain is what makes you logical and analytical, while the right brain is what makes you creative and intuitive. Both sides are used in different aspects of our lives, but often one side becomes dominant. Koh explained that people in this day and age are conditioned to rely more on their left brains, rather than their right. I can fully understand that, and I think that it may be particularly evident in Singapore, where there seems to be a larger focus on Mathematics and Science.

Brain

He handed us pieces of paper and got us to draw a beach scene: the sun, the sea, a palm tree on an island with some birds flying around.

Um, naturally, my drawing barely looked like a drawing. To spare you the agony, I shall not reproduce it here.

The point Koh was trying to make in getting us to draw this was to teach us the theory of Association. Since young, we were taught to associate certain words with certain icons. Like a person with a stick figure, a sun with a yellow circle and lines pointing outwards etc. We grow so used to Association, thanks to our left brain, that we leave out the details and just draw the main, broadest details.

To combat this, he got us to to contour drawing. Place your hand on a piece of paper, and then try to draw its outline, taking note of various contours and spaces between your fingers. This helps you make better sense of shapes, sizes and minute details.

To find out if you’re a right or left-brained individual, here’re are some tests you can check out.

http://www.wherecreativitygoestoschool.com/vancouver/left_right/rb_test.htm

2. “Spiciest chilis in the world” by Nitin Pai

Food being so close to our hearts, this was one of my favourite discussions. I found out that the spiciness of chilis are measured by the Scoville scale, and that the two spiciest chilis in the world are Bhut jolokia, a thumb-sized chili pepper and the habanero chili. The speaker told us about some interesting recipes we could try out. One of them involves blending one of the 2 chilis I mentioned (I can’t remember which one) and then spreading it all over chicken wings. The other involves taking 5 or 6 chili padis, mixing it with some vodka and then allowing it to sit for awhile to get really spicy alcohol, I suppose.

No, I don’t have the guts to try it out, although the chicken wing recipe sounds really tasty. I’m hungry just blogging about it.

Bhut Jolokia

3. “For smart geeks: How to explain difficult concepts to lesser beings” by Coleman Yee

I was a bit worried about this presentation at first, because I thought it’ll be some boring, technical thing, but it definitely wasn’t. Coleman had an easy charm, and was rather charismatic, plus his explanations were really interesting and easy to understand. You can follow Coleman on Twitter @metacole.

While teaching people various concepts, we have to remember that we have “the curse of knowledge”. That while knowledge empowers us, it might also cripple us when we explain things to people, perhaps because we aren’t in their position and don’t understand why they aren’t getting it. In addition, we should always try to “oversimplify” things first before feeding bigger chunks of information to whoever you’re trying to teach. I think that this is an important lesson for us Communication students. All too often, people like to elevate themselves, throwing in big words during conversations cus they get a kick out of seeing the look of bafflement on others’ faces. We should remember that successful communication is defined by actually getting the message across. If people don’t get you, you have failed at being a good communicator. Check out his slides at www.metacole.com.

4. “(Tech) Tools to Personal Effectiveness” by James Norris

James Norris was affable, and a good speaker too. He comes from Texas and came to Singapore only 3 months ago. He showed us some tools on increasing personal effectiveness, like Excel sheets for you to fill in, ranging from those involving personal goals, your happiness levels and your fitness levels which can even generate charts and graphs to track your improvement. Organised, I’m not. So I better be getting me of those forms sometime soon. Check out his tools at www.jnorris.org

Till the next Barcamp. See you around!

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Paying Partial Attention Continuously

We covered quite a few topics today, so I think I’ll just focus on Continuos Partial Attention.

It can be said that CPA is an effect of multi-tasking, and that multi-tasking is essentially the core of CPA. However, in a sense, CPA and multi-tasking are still different, in a sense and shouldn’t be confused as the same things.

According to Linda Stone, “The two are differentiated by the impulse that motivates them”.

Multi-tasking

Multi-tasking is primarily driven by our desires to increase our productivity and efficiency, to keep up with this fast-paced world where everything has to be delivered now. I think us city people are champions of multi-tasking. The world constantly introduces technology that is “faster”, “more efficient”, “more effective”, “more productive” and “more energy-efficient” to meet our needs. Sometimes I wonder, have we harnessed technology to meet our needs, or have our needs changed to keep up with the constant revolutionary characteristics of technology?

Continuous Partial Attention

On the other hand, CPA has a more negative connotation compared to multi-tasking. While multi-tasking is basically us doing many things at once, CPA is us paying “partial attention continuously”. It’s a state of mind, rather than a reference to physical activities, which is what multi-tasking is associated with. According to Stone, extensive CPA  “contributes to a stressful lifestyle, to operating in crisis management mode, and to a compromised ability to reflect, to make decisions, and to think creatively”.

Do I think multi-tasking is a bad thing? No. Rather, I think it is something highly necessary today. At the Corporate Reputation Seminar last week, one of the speakers shared a quote “You may not like change, but you’re going to like irrelevance even less”. Multi-tasking has become an adaptive behavior, if you will. You can still get things done with multi-tasking, and do it well. The key is balance again. You don’t expect to complete an assignment in as short a time as possible if you type a sentence and then talk online every 5 minutes. Or do research and then check your Facebook/Twitter updates once every 3 seconds. Sooner or later, something has to give.

More information about Continuous Partial Attention theory can be found here.

http://www.lindastone.net/

Anyway, here’s the mind map summing whatever we talked about today.

Um, if you’re wondering about the spelling error, I did try to change “TECHNLOGY” into “TECHNOLOGY” but Adobe Photoshop only let me save the file in TIFF or PSD so I couldn’t convert it to JPEG.

Credits to Maisara at http://maisaraa.wordpress.com/ for correcting the spelling error and uploading the new mind map!

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Highly amusing video about Twitter

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Skyping: Where the sky’s the limit

Please ignore the seriously uncreative, downright cliché, shudderingly lame title. I couldn’t think of anything better.

Today, we learnt about VoiceOver Internet Protocol (VOIP), PodCasting and Interactive Television.

VoiceOver Internet Protocol just refers to online programs like Skype, iChat, Msn etc – things you use to communicate.

Skype

There was a very large focus on Skype.

One thing I discovered today was that Skype’s new updated program allows screensharing and apparently it has better sound quality too, though I wouldn’t know.

Jolene and I tried it out when we got home. It went pretty well and we managed to hold a conversation till 11pm. For about 2-3 hours, we were able to show each other what games we were playing (I stopped short of loading Sims3 though), who we were talking to, and what we did so far for our projects. I’m estimating a 5 secs lag time, but that’s neither here nor there.

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Screensharing with Jolene

I think I mentioned earlier – I have Bible Study via Skype. It allows us to do it pretty late at 9pm, without having to travel to a physical location in Singapore and then travelling back home again. My pastor has also shared before that he conducts Bible Lessons on Skype with people living in Thailand, or Philippines. Other stories include my cousin, who lives in the USA, who once mentioned that he had a online group study on Economics at 3am in the morning with his friends. So they were able to ask questions and encourage one another at the same time. Sure, there’s always phone conferencing – but that can be expensive.

There’re few things to hate about Skype – it’s essentially free, convenient, easy to use and breaks down geographical distance.

I  think the only drawback that Skype has is that it doesn’t allow multiple video-conferences. You can add 5 people to the conversation, but only 2 people can have a video conference at one time.

iChat

Multiple Video Conferencing on iChat

The other program I use but wasn’t covered in class today is iChat. I like iChat because it can do what Skype can’t – have multiple video conferences. Then again, iChat has its own drawbacks – you can’t talk to a non-Mac user.

Guess you can’t have it all.

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Pat Law Goes to School

Pat Law, an Accounts Manager from Oglivy was invited to SP today to conduct a guest lecture on social media.

Pat Law from Oglivy

We covered quite a few points on social media.

“Just because the whole world is on Facebook doesn’t mean you have to be,” she quipped.

I found that very true. Facebook doesn’t work for everyone and every company, and like she said, it highly depends on who your target audience is, and every company should take their demographics and psychographics into accounts.

She also talked about how social media can be used to manage a company’s online reputation, as part of PR. Incidentally, that was what we learnt yesterday at the Corporate Reputation Seminar too. There’re so many sites a company can use for their brand audits and what everyone’s saying about their brands – both good and bad. “Free feedback,” she said. With all the added pressure on PR companies to act fast and act now, I’m just wondering how they keep up with it. Which is where traditional, strong work ethics still come into play – prevention is always better then cure. Like I mentioned in my previous blog post, a company with a poorly managed reputation can still be brought to its knees even if it had 1,000,000 followers on Twitter from all around the world.

Pat Law also taught us how to use other social media tools such as Google Reader, Daymix (incidentally, I couldn’t find any information about me on Daymix and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad), Popuri etc. Try these sites yourself – you might be surprised about what the Internet knows about you. So the next time you want to post a scandalous picture, or say a nasty comment about your employer – think again. The Internet never sleeps. And it never forgets.

Even though we’ve covered similar content in our previous lectures, she made very good use of her time, and we learnt a lot. She was charismatic and to-the-point, and I can only hope that other guest lecturers will be as interesting as hers. :)

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Takeaways from Corporate Reputation Seminar 2009

Went to the Corporate Reputation Seminar 2009 yesterday, organised by Reputation Management Associates. It was held at the M Hotel. You know, I always thought the M Hotel was Marriot Hotel, but this is coming from the same person who was wondering what a Chinese temple was doing in Orchard Road.

Anyway, that Chinese temple was Tang Plaza.

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To be honest, I felt rather intimidated – sitting in a nice, shiny, carpeted room with everyone around me looking so polished in their suits.

There were 4 guest speakers. P N Balji the director of Asia Journalism Fellowship, Puan Aisha Rashi the Managing Director of Samanea PR, John Chan the Managing Partner of Corporate Coaching Partnership and Professor Michael Netzly of SMU.

Reputation Management in Times of Crisis and Economic Downturn

P N Balji came up first and talked about Companies’ Reputation Management in times of financial crisis. We covered the 4 traditional factors that corporate reputation used to be highly reliant on: Money (because it gave financial muscle), Choice, Society, and the Media.
Balji felt that Singaporeans’ expectations of companies were rising, especially with the recent survey done that showed that Singaporeans were increasingly dissatisfied with local service standards. He attributed it to them becoming increasingly well-travelled and well-informed.

While reputation used to equal money, it would now have to equal integrity and credibility.

He acknowledged that while new media was another contributing factor, old-fashioned word of mouth could still do significant damage to a company. Anyway, I got to thinking – isn’t the social media of today something like an evolved form of “old-fashioned word of mouth”? It’s just digital WOM (and more of course), isn’t it? It spreads so much faster because it’s easier to just Retweet, Reblog or something that someone says and before you know it, news gets around the Internet grapevine.

Results of Corporate Reputation Survey 2009

His speech was a prelude to the results of the Corporate Reputation Study. John Lim, CEO of RMA, confirmed that Singaporeans now place “good service” as the top criteria for a company with an established reputation, with “valuing a company’s employees” following second. New factors also emerged due to the situation of the financial crisis – Singaporeans expect companies to exhibit more transparency and corporate governance. I wonder why, though. That transparency is only more demanded now in an economic downturn – and not before as well. Why is honesty more cherished when times are hard, versus when times are good?

Personal Branding – The Power of “I”

Another lesson I learnt was personal branding. People are brands too. And John Chan established that personal reputation extended well beyond one’s competence – personality was a very strong factor as well. While creating positive attitudes in the minds of others may give you success, creating positive attitudes in one’s own mind would give you happiness. Which would be more important for you? Are successful people always likable? He felt that successful people were often feared – and said it was important to “treat everyone as though they were to die tonight, with great kindness and spirit”. I think it says a lot of him that he makes an effort to reply every e-mail, even if it were a simple thanks.

Reputation Management in Cyberspace: Twitter, Facebook and Others

The last part of the Seminar covered the power of social media and what it implied for companies’ corporate reputation. Michael Netzly established that new media revolutionised media relations for companies. Now, companies are given formidable platforms to engage their stakeholders. He gave the example of Lenovo and how they got Olympic Athletes to blog about their experience. It offered diverse points of views from the athletes themselves, and it made keeping in contact with family and friends a lot easier. Probably did wonders for Lenovo’s reputation as well. With a departure from sleek, polished news videos, Communicate Asia called it “an excellent example of marketing 2.0″. As formidable as these platforms are – it’s also made consumers more demanding. They want answers fast. They want answers now – and you need interesting and timely content to engage them.

One interesting thing I realised was that Twitter was a lot faster than Google. While articles can take a few hours to come up on Google, Twitter works 24/7 when it comes to updates. This is what it implies for companies – because Google time and Twitter time can be so differnet, in a crisis, while it takes hours to have an official press release out to the public, those few hours can mean a lot for Twitter. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, 300,000 tweets were made about Kayne West in one hour alone after the incident. Just imagine if that were your company. And now with Google’s Social Search, companies need to act faster than ever to do damage control.

“Google never forgets”.

After that was a very good lunch provided by RMA.

Everything and everyone looked so atas I felt almost wicked for eating sushi with a fork instead of chopsticks. Haha.

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Managed to take a picture with Professor Michael Netzly. All of us were terrified about approaching him at first but Miss Low nudged us along. He turned out to be very nice about the whole thing.

That’s it!

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Sixth Sense: The Next Revolution, or Digital Rape?

I’m definitely not a social media expert, but it’s comforting to know I was right about one thing – what we saw in Minority Report isn’t too far from the future.

We watched this video in class yesterday. It made me wonder, what else were we missing? What other things that we previously thought were impossible but were already created?

This Sixth Sense technology is intriguing. Groundbreaking, in fact. I’m guessing that if designers turn it into a really sleek looking gizmo, it’ll be the next iPhone. It’ll be beyond that.

You wouldn’t even have to turn on your laptop or mobile phone anymore. Just waggle your fingers and all the information is displayed. It’s definitely immensely convenient – you carry less baggage. No watch, no calculator, no maps, no anything. Just you and the little gizmo.

Would I buy it?

No.

It’s important for me to get to know a person gradually, to interact with them. A word cloud popping up on another person’s chest is just so…if it happened to me, I’ll feel extremely violated. It’s almost like digital rape. Words like “food”, “cameras” or “school” – they don’t describe me. I mean, sure, they’re a starting point – but it isn’t me. Of course, one thing to note is, if you put it on the Internet, don’t blame others for knowing things about you.

I think the simplest thing to do is: if you don’t want anyone to know anything, don’t say it. Especially not on the Internet.

I was at a press conference today, and the Associate Professor from NUS (one of the guest speakers) remarked: “Google never forgets.”

I agree. I’ve always tried to be careful about my digital footprint, not putting my full name or contact details onto my more recent blogs. I think this class has made me even more paranoid. People can know so much about you so easily and use it against you.

It’s also important for me to be able to touch, see and feel things. It’s about the experience. What’s so old-fashioned about wanting to stroll through a supermarketing, flipping products over, looking through labels and then choosing what you want? Technology speeds things up, so we do things a lot faster. We talk faster, we eat faster, we walk faster and we’re so impatient and demanding now.

Slow down, and smell the roses.

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