I’m at Nexus 2007, in the NTUC Business Centre at One Marina Boulevard.
The turnout has been pretty good. We started a bit late as the registration booths were flooded. Similar to SXSW 2007, the organisers are getting us to join them on Twitter. In addition there is also a live Campfire chat among participants. Photos can be viewed on Flickr as well.
Nat Torkington from O’Reilly gave a quick, crisp presentation on Web 2.0 and what kind of environment is needed to get it going here.
Nat asked, “What makes Web 2.0 possible?” To him, the answer is simple:
- Open Source. But why do some people have issues with this? The job listings still call for people with Windows experience, like MSQL server. What about those who know MySQL and PHP? Why can’t we use something cheap that works?
- Competitive Hosting. (He goes over point this pretty fast. I still prefer US web hosting because of the more competitive rates.)
- Internet Critical Mass. Now there are many more people using the internet.
- Moore’s Law. CPUs are cheaper now.
In Singapore, I still think there is more demand for proprietary products and ‘closed-sourced’ developers, although there is a gradual change taking place.
Next, two young organisers talked about their experience putting together this conference. It’s a good sign for Singapore.
The third item is a panel discussion by 5 prominent members of the infocomm technology industry: David Miller, Girija Pande, Saw Ken Wye, David Dan, Wilson Tan (moderator). More detailed profiles here.
Three of these big shots are wearing suits! Hey, I thought the dress code for Nexus explicitly stated ‘no suits’. 😛
Generally what they say makes sense. Globalisation is happening everywhere. It’s inevitable. Girijia and David talk about India and China on the rise. Ken dismisses what Nat from O’Reilly said earlier, saying that the majority of companies who make money do not use open-source software but commercial software. Of course he would dismiss open-source software. He’s from Microsoft! 😀
There’s still uncertainty about where Web 2.0 is going.
After the break, we went to support Kevin who’s moderating the ‘Crowdsourcing the Media’ panel. Hoot hoot!
Kevin polled the audience for a quick audience survey – Turns out that 80% of us blog, 40% of us upload videos to Youtube, and about another 40% (or more?) of us upload photos to Flickr or other photo-sharing sites.
Kevin raises interesting points. Wikipedia’s top anonymous contributor is Singaporean. Also, an unusually high proportion of Youtube contributors are Singaporean (if you compare our puny population to the US and China). Singaporean contributors tend to be younger than the world average.
So what is citizen journalism? It’s a subset of user-generated content that has an agenda.
Examples: Korea’s Ohmynews.com. China’s MoLive [currently down at the time of writing] relies mainly on people sending them multimedia text messages. CNN has I-Report and Yahoo! has You Witness News which uses Flickr. Assignment Zero lets you profile your interests and write about them. If you’re good, they may ask you to write a column.
So, does Citizen Journalism really exist in Singapore? Kevin asks, “Is crowdsourcing the media considered a legitimate form of citizen journalism?” He elaborates that this means that the media sets the agenda, top-down style, and citizens are asked to submit content based on this agenda.
Kathy says CNet gets user contributions on gadget ratings. Jennifer (from Stomp) agrees with Kevin that Stomp isn’t quite citizen journalism. If Stomp was around 10-20 years ago, it wouldn’t have survived because there wouldn’t be the technology to enable user contributions. She shares that she no longer needs to ask her teenage daughter where she’s been – she just checks Flickr, Youtube and a few of her daughters’ friends blogs! (Now who’s your Momma?!)
James says Tomorrow.sg differs from CNet and Stomp as they have absolutely no content themselves. He explained how Tomorrow came about – to feature good posts from local blogs, because he knew there were lots of Singaporeans out there who were blogging.
Kathy brings up a great example on crowdsourcing. During the London bombings, while professional journalists were still heading to the scene, citizen journalism was already in action. In Singapore, where we have a dominant press company, citizen journalism is all the more important. (I could see Jennifer nodding at this)
Jennifer adds that during the most recent tremors experienced in Singapore. Stomp was flooded with SMSes and MMSes. Even the police look at Stomp now because they know people are sending content in real time.
James recalls the Iraqi blogger who was reporting the war through the eyes of a citizen.
Kevin notes that the content contributed is low-brow – interesting but not life-changing. Where do we draw the line between what’s good to publish, and what’s not?
Kathy says to set rules upfront, e.g. by determining which people are ‘highbrow’ and have more rights to be published, is not democratic. There is still room for professional journalists in the job market. With citizen contributors, she feels it’s hard to tell who’s reliable and who isn’t. (I’d add however that there are also bad journalists. Remember that the NY Times had one journalist who fabricated his sources.)
Jennifer agrees. A lot of stuff that’s sent to Stomp is ‘whiney’ and ‘complainy’. I can understand because we Singaporeans like to complain about things. Stomp makes a lot of effort to call up citizens to verify information and their contact details.
As for what Stomp chooses to put up: Religion is generally OK, but racism and sexually explicit materials are not. In difficult cases, the more senior members of Stomp make the judgement call.
The Stomp forum, called Talkback, automatically publishes whatever is submitted. Moderation is done after that, if necessary. However, multimedia content is filtered before being published.
James explains why Tomorrow.SG has several editors who decide what gets published. There are people who think they’re the greatest blogger on earth and deserve to be linked on Tomorrow. It takes months for some to get the hint. And if Tomorrow just lets everyone through, it won’t be worth reading as it will turn into a dumping ground. Tomorrow has a diverse group of editors so that all views are represented.
Question time. Josephine reminds us of Sim Wong Hoo’s old article on Singapore’s no U-turn policy, while in the US everyone can do a U-turn unless they’re told otherwise (it’s an allusion to our over-reliance on rules to limit what people can do). James responds that attempts in Singapore to form a Digg-like community has yet to really take off.
This is the point where Uzyn from Ping.sg shows himself and we give him a round of applause. There are about 500 members in Ping so far. He quickly assures James that Ping is not attempting to compete with Tomorrow as its purpose are different. James says competition is good. Uzyn takes even more pains to assure James that Ping isn’t competiting with Tomorrow. At this point some of us are thinking, just get on with it. In the US there are so many Web 2.0, social media applications that have overlaps or compete with each other, and who cares?! Maybe it’s because Singapore is so small and everyone knows everybody.
Kathy points out that there’s a difference between sharing info with each other, and trying to make money out of it. Jennifer shares that for contributors who want to be paid, Stomp makes it clear that they don’t pay. They’re associated with the Straits Times, and this newspaper does not get paid to put up news stories. Kevin adds that when people insist on being paid, it dilutes their authenticity. James also adds that Tomorrow contributors get $0.
Another member of the audience, Bill Paxton(?) asks if citizen journalism is a sacred cow. James brings up the example of how Starbucks was criticised for not having fair trade coffee in a Youtube video, but responded well in another Youtube video. [Update: Found a blog post which tells more of the story)]
Yet another member asks if the Singapore Government is uncomfortable with citizen journalism. Jennifer Lewis feels the Govt is opening up, because “…what can they do?” You take one blog down, and more spring up. Kathy says the web is unstoppable. You can’t censor internet content. The more you try, the more people will rise up against that. James states that he no longer works for the Government (IDA) but still sits on an advisory board. There are still unknown OB (out of bounds) markers about.
We had a comfortable lunch break, then attended the Second Life panel. It wasn’t mentioned officially in the Agenda but was put together in an ad-hoc way. Anyway, since my Second Life pals Rinaz and Alvin were going to be on stage, I decided to support them.
Because Second Life is chewing up processing power big time, I’m going to stop blogging for a while. Assume that this panel is gonna rock. Talk to you later. It started off nicely with Rinaz talking about her Second Life experiences and how she met many friends there. However there were technical glitches which disrupted the flow of the presentation. Halfway through, Cory and Jean from Linden Labs turned up. From the audience’s questions, I suspect there are more Singaporeans out there who have not joined the SL Singapore group. Overall it was OK but I wished we could have had a live demo of Second Life. The network was so slow.
I’m now at the finale – the Global Startup Panel. To be honest, the first speaker’s presentation whizzed past my head. He’s the CEO of Litescape.
Cory decides to forget about Powerpoints (yay). He gives very good advice: Work on something you have a passion for, so that even if you go through difficult times, you can keep on going. He highlights how difficult it is to find ‘innovators’. You can’t just go out and hire them. He mentions the 37 candidates he shortlisted for the Second Life developer position. 30 of them were not entrepreneurial enough – they asked him back, “What answer are you looking for?”.
Roberto Mariani of XiD Technologies ees zee Frenchman, hees voice zounz veree much like zat of Arsene Wenger, ze manager of ze football club Arsenal. I like his philosophy of teamwork. He wears two different hats for two aspects of his company – security (serious, formal suits) and face recognition/replacement (t-shirt and jeans). He came to Singapore because there were better opportunities here than in Europe. I like how he used his technology to replace Thierry Henry’s face with that of various random people.
This panel is so interesting that the audience doesn’t want the show to end. One gentleman in the audience endeared himself to us by asking fiery, long questions which seemed unintelligible. The panelists humoured him when he kind of accused them of not coming up with anything really innovative. Cory became everyone’s hero when he replied, saying that surely creating a new virtual world and inventing the Linden currency (a form of licensing and not actual world currencty) was innovative. But of course. A female MC noted that some of us wanted to get Cory drunk (i.e. we liked him a LOT).
I liked the management principles imparted by these three panelists. As one of the ‘little people’ who have suffered the full wrath of a dotcom bubble bursting, I appreciate those who protect their staff in difficult times, and encourage teamwork.
Overall, it was a conference with positive vibes, and we were extremely well-fed, which makes us happy Singaporeans. The schwag bag was nowhere as good as SXSW’s. It was strange to see a T3 magazine and a Lexus magazine inside. Like, something didn’t quite match up. But I think it’s not easy to get sponsors and accommodate everybody. Good effort for a first attempt.
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