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My views on social networking

March 12, 2010 11:47 PM | Comments (0)

Thanks to the students and staff at TKGS, MediaCorp’s Campus on 938 Live team and my fellow panelists for the lively discussion this morning on social networking. I won’t repeat what was said because there will be a podcast of this session which I will link to when ready.

Firstly, can I say that I had no idea that some of the girls had gone through my blog :) If I had known, I’d probably have updated it more frequently. I used to call it ‘The Daily Weblog’ even though my updates became weekly, then twice weekly… Finally I realised I had to call a spade a spade, and took the name out.

What have I been doing, now that I blog less?

Networking online, of course. And I’ve always been networking offline. Sometimes the two activities meet (when I connect online to someone I’ve met in real life). Other people I’ve met in person may not have Facebook or LinkedIn accounts, so they remain my contacts only in real life.

I have yet to meet a few online friends in person, but we may be familiar with each other’s work or area of interest and have a number of mutual friends. Eventually we will meet in real life. However, I don’t accept connection requests from people I totally do not know of, with no affiliations (like coming from the same school or former company) and no common friends.

I think each of us has to know our limits when it comes to privacy, and enforce this limit consistently.

A few thoughts that I didn’t get to communicate while on air:

Regarding the reaction to parents being on social networks: Age may make a difference. Youths may cringe when their parents try to add them as friends. But, as we grow older and (hopefully) resolve our differences with our parents, it doesn’t feel so awkward.

Conversely, young children today are increasingly tech-savvy, and those who are very close to their parents and other family members may also love interacting with them online.

I can share one personal anecdote. Amusingly, my niece got her grandmother (my aunt) to join Facebook. My aunt, BTW, is not in the least bit interested in technology. But because her granddaughter loves Facebook, my aunt allows her to update her profile. And it is funny because it is obvious that the ‘hip’ updates are not made by my aunt but on her behalf, by her granddaughter.

Ultimately it depends on your relationship with your family. If it’s very good, you probably won’t mind connecting to them online (if they know how to). If it’s very bad, no matter how tech-savvy you and your parents are, you are less likely to connect with them. So, the root of the issue goes beyond technology. It’s really about human relations. Online social networking is simply a means to the end. (And it’s not the only means)

And, to re-iterate my point about self-esteem, don’t let the amount of activity on your Wall, the number of friends and comments you have, or the number of photos you’re tagged in, be a reflection of your standing in life. Not everything can be measured by a website, and quality does count as well, not quantity.

Twitter users: Be genuine

December 20, 2009 1:11 PM | Comments (0)

I’ve noticed a trend - at least, on my own Twitter profile - where a number of random Twitter users start following me. Their Twitter usernames and posts are about subjects that have little relation to my own tweets. This makes me suspect that they may not be following me out of genuine interest.

This suspicion is heightened when I notice that they are following many people but have very few followers themselves. This is a tactic used by newcomers to gain followers based on the principle of reciprocity - if you follow me, I feel obliged to follow you back.

Back in the early days when the Twitter community was still small and cosy, it was considered polite to return the interest shown in your tweets. We early adopters knew each other on Twitter, so it was like an extension of our friendship and recognition of each other’s presence.

On my part, I started using Twitter thanks to a recommendation by Coolinsights. Later, at SXSW 2007, Twitter was promoted by various respectable figures in the Interactive community as the next big thing and I started using Twitter more frequently. It took a while before the Singapore community caught on in a big way, but I think we’ve made up for the lag. I now have many real-life friends on Twitter.

Now, however, with businesses and politicians jumping onto the Twitter bandwagon (as they did with blogs previously), you can’t really be sure if their tweets are written by them or by some PR agent. You also wonder if they’re following you because they’re really interested in you as a customer or constituent. I tend to think this is the exception rather than the norm.

So likewise, I view new followers of my Twitter profile with either gratitude or scepticism. I recognise the real followers based on some profiles, such as:

  • Being a real human being, instead of a company
  • Being a Singaporean / Asian or an expat working in the region
  • Having some interest in common with me (alumnus, geek, musician…)
  • Being the real friend of a real friend of mine

From experience, these are the followers who will stay on, because they have a genuine interest in what you have to say.

On the other end of the spectrum, I tend to regard these followers as fickle:

  • Those clearly representing a company or cause which I may not be interested in
  • Those talking only/mainly about their company and its products
  • Self-proclaimed social media/marketing gurus (whom I’ve never heard of) who promote their expertise very heavily and therefore must walk the talk by showing they have a large number of Twitter followers themselves. The truly famous gurus don’t need to follow me; we’re the ones following them!
  • Random strangers, some of whom appear to have links with the soft porn industry or similar trashy affiliations

Don’t celebrate if a horde of them decide to start following you, because you may lose them as quickly as they came.

Because I have observed how easy it is to gain and lose followers quickly, I was cynical when a local paper featured a young boy who had the most number of Twitter followers in Singapore. That was not a very objective observation, because one can easily attain that number if you follow even more people - at least, in the early days of Twitter. Even if 20% of the people you follow don’t return the favour, you could still gain a huge number of reciprocal followers. At a glance, it is certainly impressive - but I’m more interested in how these numbers came about and whether it can be maintained.

For a more accurate gauge of one’s popularity on Twitter, we should instead look at the ratio of people followed versus the people one is following, and not only at the absolute number of followers one has at that point in time. Even then, we all have our own way of defining what a ‘success’ is. Some use Twitter as a means to an end (self-promotion, networking, landing that next marketing job) while others may play the numbers game.

Also, we should look at the dropout rate for that Twitter profile over a period of time. It is not easy to sustain a huge following, especially if other users followed you simply out of politeness (a short-term tactic). As time goes by we will follow more people and the list of updates will grow longer. Some of us may then start to trim our lists and only continue to follow other users who post something of interest to us.

So my theory is that over time, the genuine Twitter conversationalists will sustain their followings and enjoy a gradual but steady increase, while those who rely mainly on reciprocity without adding value to their Tweets, may enjoy bigger growth spurts but will also experience a higher dropout rate. These falling numbers however can be covered up if you continue following new people on Twitter who follow you back.

The take-home point is to be genuine both ways: as a Twitter user (in posting updates) and as a follower. It saves everyone a lot of trouble in the long run because you’ll get updates from people you’re really interested in, and you’ll have conversations with other people with common interests. Less is more.

As with all other forms of social media: Once a fad matures, one’s success comes from staying genuine (and interesting).

My puny Mob Wars attacker

July 21, 2008 2:40 AM | Comments (7)

As I’m now at a relatively high level in Mob Wars, I’ve found myself becoming a minnow even with over 100 mob members to back me up in fights. Most others have 200-500+ members in their mob, making them hard to beat.

Thus, when I do see someone with a smaller mob size, I attack them so my win-lose stats don’t look so bad. My policy is never to attack the smaller guys more than twice in a row, even if it gets more lots of money, because I feel it’s cruel enough already :P

However, this dude seemed particularly upset at his loss(es) to me and was hell-bent on attacking me back. Just that his mob was particularly puny and each attack drastically reduced his health points. Duh.

Petty Mob Wars player

It was so amusing, I haven’t attacked him again because I pity him/her.

Later on, I read in a girls-only Mob Wars forum (yes, the game has evolved to that stage) on how you could attack yourself and go to Hospital, because then you’re protected for several hours as your health points recover. During this period, nobody can attack you and get the money you’re making from property rentals. This is handy if you’re going to buy large chunks of the city and not want to lose 10% by depositing it in the Bank first.

Very interesting game, but I’ll have to abandon it soon…

Facebook Friend Wheel

July 21, 2008 1:48 AM | Comments (2)

Dr Andy drew my attention to this cool Friend Wheel generator on Facebook. It processes your list of friends into a wheel, drawing lines of connection to each other to form a beautiful chart. Friends’ names are coloured according to how ‘hot’ or cold they are in terms of interlinks.

I tried it out for myself:

Friend Wheel

I guess I have a happy problem of having too many friends on Facebook. I re-generated it, this time with the largest resolution possible:

Friend Wheel 2 (enlarged)

(Warning: The original is almost 5MB in size)

But the analysis is interesting. From there I can see huge webs of interlinking between different groups of friends. Colleagues, of course, are all linked to each other. Local social media and PR experts, bloggers, folks from The Digital Movement are all linked to each other, as they should be ;-) Some of you are quite ‘happening’ as there are so many lines around your names, the lines coagulated into solid patches of colour!

Two new groups have recently emerged as major blocs on my Friends list, also heavily intertwined on my Friend web. Firstly, there is the INSEAD group. We should jolly well be connected to each other, since we are going to suffer/study/party together for 10 months straight!

Secondly, there is my new network of Facebook gamers. We have to add each other as Friends to build up our own armies or mobs. But that is getting to be a big distraction and time-waster so I am contemplating quitting Mob Wars before I start school.

Also, the system randomly picks 600 friends so please don’t mind if you’ve been left out! You can choose to generate Friend Wheels within certain networks, but since my current networks are only for ‘Singapore’ and my university, it will either be too vast or too narrow a range.

Anyway, if you’re on Facebook you can get your own. Have fun!

This is the most fascinating colour chart I’ve received since my eyeballs’ contours were scanned in preparation for LASIK …

As some of my good friends know, I’m addicted to Mob Wars on Facebook. It’s become a bit less exciting now that I’ve bought every weapon and property that can be bought. It is also not very fun getting my ass whipped as I progress to the higher levels because almost everyone there has a few hundred people in their mob and are winning through sheer numbers.

There’s very little strategy to the game apart from making lots of money and signing up mindless numbers of strangers as friends, so you can increase your mob size. When mob sizes are close to mine, I make educated guesses based on their statistics before deciding whether to attack them. Sometimes, when someone too powerful hits me many times, I put them on the hit list and get some bigger mobster to whack them for dead.

Anyway, I am pleased to report that I have done in Mob Wars what Jesus has done for the rest of us believers … killed Eternal Darkness.

Mobwars - I killed Eternal Darkness

What a name! There are weirder names about, and some rather misogynistic ones too. All the more I want to wallop these guys provided my mob is big enough.

ps. If you are playing Mob Wars too, do join my mob!

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