Results tagged “2008” from VANTAN.ORG

To my Chinese readers: Look at this photo and tell me what this is.

Isn't this Chinese paper money for the dead?

This was the decoration on each SXSW Web Awards table. I didn’t notice it at first because there were many things going on, but then my eyes rested on the candles and then the paper they were on…

Isn’t this the paper we fold up into ingots and burn as money for the dead?

I didn’t make an issue of it, but took a photo to remember it by. Back in Singapore I was reminded of it as I saw my grandmother fold a bundle of such sheets. Not that I believe that it will actually translate into spiritual funds, as I’m Christian, but I accept it as part of my heritage.

The SXSW organisers probably didn’t mean to offend anyone. I was just surprised that these materials used for the Chinese dead, had turned into decorative tabletop pieces at a geek fest!

Feedback on SXSW feedback

March 22, 2008 7:44 AM

That’s right. I was just asked to fill up a SXSW feedback form and was amused with some of the questions and answer options. (Note that this survey was more on the operational aspects of SXSW rather than the actual content of each panel…)

Firstly, we were asked to rate items on a scale of 1-5, but I felt the “NA” field was necessary as well. There was a sentence on the first page to skip items if they were non-applicable, but if we accidentally clicked on an option we can’t undo it.

For the music panels, I was asked how many music performances I attended. The options began with “None”, “5-10” and “11-20”. I attended between “1-4” but there was no such option. So I gave the closest answer which was “5-10” though I was really not that happening :P

SXSW Feedback form

When asked which social network platforms we used, I was surprised that Facebook was not even on the list. So I put ‘Other’. This was surprising given that Mark Zuckerberg was a keynote speaker this year, in a rather controversial interview that was reported in broadsheets and in the Blogosphere.

As you can see, we were also asked which telecommunications provider we used. While I’m not a US participant I know that Cingular is now “AT&T”, thanks to the iPhone ads. It was probably a feedback form from previous years that wasn’t updated.

Fortunately there were many open text fields for me to post further comments, so I have given all this feedback to the SXSW organisers. Hopefully they’ll be able to modify the survey while it’s still ongoing.

Too much schwag!

To end off, here’s a photo of me re-enacting the scene of me collecting three heavy SXSW schwag bags! As I was a Platinum badge holder I received a bag each for Interactive, Film and Music. It is not funny if your hotel’s far away, because that means you have to lug it around for the whole day or pay expensive cab fare to drop it back at your hotel and return to the festival. I suggested that materials shouldn’t be duplicated. Save the trees, and save the backs!

SXSW music panel. Katrina Carden McMullan, Bill Hochberg (moderator), Jessica Darraby.

Official description: This panel will explore legal and business issues arising from nontraditional uses of music-related intellectual property (music and graphic art copyrights, trademarks, band names and rights of publicity), such as for restaurants, advertising campaigns, gift book publishing, technology sub-branding, and licensing of music and music-related art for toys, games, sports products and even personal hygiene products like toothbrushes.

[Note: as this panel began at 3pm and my previous panel ended at 3.20pm, I missed the first part of this discussion.]

It’s kind of sweet, in a way, that the very last SXSW panel I’m attending (at least for 2008) is on an issue that’s always been close to my heart - intellectual property. I studied Law because I was interested in copyright, especially as I did creative writing and songwriting and experienced the pain of having my own work stolen before (by someone I once considered my best friend - but that’s another story).

Often, artistes don’t realise that a lot of their collaterals can breach intellectual property laws. Or they think their rights have been infringed, want to sue then realise they didn’t register their intellectual property, making it difficult to win. The lawyers’ advice: Ensure that all your trademarks are registered before you proceed with a lawsuit.

Hochberg notes that big artistes do recognise the issues better. He quotes Gene Simmons who said, “I’m not in a rock band. I’m in a rock brand.” Darraby notes that people don’t just buy with their ears - they also buy with their eyes.

Carden McMullan is from Mattel’s in-house legal department, and describes how her company has agreements with movie studios to produce toys. The lawyer’s approach is to limit exposure and therefore liability. Conversely, Darraby, who represents artistes, says talent managers are trying to help their clients get more exposure. They’d want to splinter the IP rights so that their clients own the rights for various mediums.

Darraby feels that lawyers need to listen more to what their clients need to do, instead of having a standard, ‘one size fits all’ approach. She’s seen lawyers not wanting to take on international distribution rights.

While this was a small panel, it was good to have panelists from both sides of the playing field offering opposing perspectives.

Enhancing Digital Retail

March 14, 2008 2:29 PM

SXSW Music panel. Panelists: Justin Sinkovich, Richard Gottehrer, Chris Fagot, Ted Cohen

Official description: Digital retail is a growth market, and recent developments are encouraging for artists and labels alike. While rights management systems have not disappeared entirely, customers are embracing retailers’ DRM-free offerings. Distribution and aggregation are more streamlined. A base of paying customers is slowly building. How can digital retailers maintain this momentum?

The traditional view from the music industry is that music should not be downloaded for free. One panelist even brought up the possibility of having an ‘iPod tax’ for usage, which I thought was ludicrous.

The panelists discussed another business model whereby all new singles are released at a very low price. As more people download it, the price increases until it reaches a saturation point, which then determines the worth of that single. It is likened to a ‘stock market’ approach.

A survey’s conducted among us as to who paid for the Radiohead album that was released on a ‘pay as you wish’ model. As previously blogged, I was one of those people so I raised my hand. He asked how many more downloaded it without paying, and I saw only one or two hands raised. It was heartening to know - but perhaps as musicians ourselves, we empathise more with Radiohead’s situation.

Radiohead’s model has taken away three common excuses from music fans who refuse to pay:

  1. “I want to sample the music first, but have to pay to download a track, so I might as well download it elsewhere for free.” or “I’d pay for it but I don’t like DRM’s limitations.”
  2. “I’d pay $8.99 for it, but it costs $9.99 so I’m going elsewhere to download it for free.”
  3. “The music companies are the ones making the money and not passing it on to the artistes, so why should I pay for it?” I never thought this argument worked because artistes do get a cut, even if it isn’t very much.

Gotthehrer feels artistes today are still bound by traditional rules in the midst of new developments. In the good ol’ days you’d just go to a record store and buy something. iTunes has changed it all. Artistes need to ‘go with the flow’. Don’t think of themselves as ‘indie’ just because they’re not with the big labels. “We’re all musicians.” ‘Digital’ makes it possible for everyone to get their music out there. Lastly, he feels musicians should be in it not just for the money but for the love of making music. This draws wide applause from the audience.

The panelists feel that marketing is necessary for artistes. However there’s a limited amount of space. iTunes is pretty reasonable for getting indie music, with their Staff Picks, but there are only so many boxes that they can display.

During the panel discussion, there is occasional talk of ‘changing the law’ and ‘going to Washington’, but surely it isn’t that easy or realistic a solution.

Net neutrality was touched on briefly.

Cohen describes how he’s surprised at the younger generation (i.e. his son) downloading stuff. His son’s justification: “It’s so easy, it doesn’t feel illegal.” Cohen jokes that “a few public executions may help”. I sense the digital divide in attitudes here…

Member of the audience says, “Value is in the eye of the beholder.” Some may value keeping CDs but others see him as “antiquated”!

The panelists seem to refer the most to iTunes and have accepted that this is the biggest player in the digital music market. “If iTunes switched to a subscription model, people would forget about Rhapsody.”

Cohen extends the scope of this subject to other digital content such as books, saying how he met someone who downloads thousands of digital books.

Gottehrer has a more progressive view - the digital world gives artistes great opportunities to get their music out - “don’t be mistaken about it”. Sinkovich too is “excited” about how things are going.

In summary, some interesting issues were brought up at this panel, but of course this is too big and complex an issue to conclude anything significant. Trends to look out for: new devices, faster broadband and phone networks like 4G - these may create more opportunities to download digital music.

I’ll take my hat off to anyone who can distribute all artistes’ music equally, and fairly compensate all parties involved, thereby eliminating the need for illegal downloads. Much, much easier said than done.

The Blog Factor

March 14, 2008 12:22 PM

SXSW Music panel. Panelists: Gerard Cosloy, Amrit Singh, Sean Adams, Maura Johnston, Carrie Brownstein, Jason Gross

Official description: Music blogs have emerged as tastemakers by incorporating unfiltered opinion, audio/video playback, and immediate publishing. As their initial impact expands into the realm of record labels and event promoters/sponsors, can they retain the personality and quirks that first distinguished them?

Singh shares how his music site received a warning that a music track was posted without permission. Johnston is careful not to do this, citing an incident how they had permission from an EMI publicist to post music, and later received a warning from another department of EMI that they couldn’t. i.e. in some cases one arm doesn’t know what the other arm is doing.

Cosloy says this usually happens with the big artistes and labels. Unknown artistes, conversely, are usually overjoyed when their material is featured.

What makes a good music blog?

Good writing. The same standards applied to music magazines, can be applied to music blogs. Music blogs can also be less commercialised than websites from recording companies.

Adams notes how many music news websites hurry to report sensational news which is lacking in depth. On the other hand, the diversity of music blogs today means that there are now many blogs with very few readers. Brownstein notes many blogs also follow the ‘insular cycle’ by repeating the same news.

Johnston thinks this is because reporting budgets have been reduced. She says Nick Denton gets around this by asking readers for tips, so he gets news from the primary source, or pretty close to it.

Adams also noted how Paris Hilton got more coverage because of her celebrity status.

Gross cites a recent study which found that blogging has a bigger impact on sales than MySpace. [anyone have a link to this study? I think it’s this one.] Panelists think this is because MySpace can only feature a few bands at the same time.

What’s the best way to get journalists to cover your music?

  1. When emailing the press about your music, always send the download links and not the music as an attachment! Their mailboxes are already full.
  2. Send music to publications that cover your genre. e.g. Adams has been inundated with funk CDs he’d never listen to.
  3. Make your CDs easy to open - don’t shrink wrap them. Sometimes this alone influences whether it gets opened and listened to. (Singh)
  4. Don’t send a tome - one person sent a 50-page press release. Panelists agree they wouldn’t read so much.

The Future of Corporate Blogs

March 11, 2008 10:03 AM

Mack Collier (The Viral Garden), Kami Huyse (Principl, My PR Pro), Mario Sundar (Community Evangelist, LinkedIn), Lionel Menchaca (Dell)

The Dell blog was first conceived in April 2006 and Michael Dell himself was involved. 48% of the commentary about Dell was negative, and something had to be addressed. Michael Dell has been supportive of what Menchaca and the team has been doing. The Dell blog currently receives 1 million pageviews per week.

LinkedIn’s blog was started 8 months ago, also to have a two-way conversation with users. User education was the primary goal.

Huyse observes that the two blogs were started after a problem was perceived. So we should ask, What are my consumers’ needs. Still, even after launching corporate blogs they’re trying to figure things out. We have to look at what people use - like Twitter or Facebook.

Measurement tools There are ways to measure users’ reactions. - The number of responses in the Blogosphere. But it must be compared with rivals. You may get 100 comments but your rival could have 500. - Tonality of the comments. - Survey. More ‘old school’ but it helps you make decisions. - Focus groups.

Basically, find out what your communities want, and deliver it.

Menchaca elaborates on Dell’s Ideastorm. The first step is listening, the second step, analysing and the third step, taking action. This is the core of any social media Dell undertakes. Ideastorm is a mix between a message board and Any user can log in and contribute ideas on how Dell can improve on something. The community itself votes the idea up or down. It’s solely community-driven; Dell is not involved.

Then the core team looks at the top ideas and looks at how they can be incorporated into the business. Ideastorm has over 600,000 comments so far.

LinkedIn enabled ideas to be contributed by users.

Their three goals:

  1. User education. LinkedIn created product demos to show how features could be used, and what were their benefits.
  2. Customer support.
  3. Corporate information. They wanted users to get information directly from LinkedIn rather than from gossip blogs.

Sundar uses social media tools like Twitter to monitor their users. For example, Steve Rubel once had a problem with LinkedIn. Within an hour, Sundar had taken action and fixed the problem. Without such social media tools, LinkedIn would not know of these issues —> presumably, if the users didn’t bother to lodge a complain through the formal channels.

Menchaca cites examples of how Dell has also addressed major issues like the battery recall. He looks back at how Dell has progressed from phone support, to email support, to chat support and now, social media. It can be used to change perceptions. There’s nothing but your customer at one end, and you at the other end fixing the problem.

Importantly, Dell empowers its employees to apologise! There is real power as it humanises a big corporation. Also, the blog team is passionate about what they do. Once this momentum is going, it convinces more sceptical people to change their mindsets. Also, he re-iterates Michael Dell’s support for this.

Sundar describes Dell’s experience as ‘The Gold Standard’. He suggests using a Wiki as a product database and to help resolve issues. In addition, blogs can be a quick response tool for your users.

Trends Huyse notes that the user will expect more as companies give more. Menchaca says blogs are here to stay. The purpose of a blog is to facilitate a two-way discussion. From a corporate perspective, that’s certainly relevant. One key plan for them in future is internal collaboration, like having a forum that pools ideas from the blogs. He tells Sundar he is in fact looking at a wiki. Dell still relies on using emails for tracking, which isn’t optimal.


  1. Gal was a personal blogger and has now been hired by Microsoft to blog professionally. How can she manage having two different ‘personas’ online? Sundar takes this question. He too has a personal blog and admits this has suffered as there is only so much he can handle. But he advises not to neglect the personal brand.

  2. Another lady asks how Dell integrates all customer feedback. Menchaca says Dell has an internal system to do so; it’s not publicly available.

  3. Third lady asks if users’ feedback only matters if they’re online in the first place. [Didn’t quite catch the gist of her question, please correct me if I’m mistaken] Sundar notes that LinkedIn’s users must be online.

  4. Guy asks about corporations’ fears in receiving comments. Sundar advice: Put ourselves in their shoes. If we had a personal blog and got flamed on it, how would we feel? Menchaca adds that they’ve asked themselves, why put up negative things about Dell which their competitors can see? The point is to bring up points to facilitate a conversation. Soon after launching the Dell blog in July 2006 he posted news of the Dell laptops exploding and linked to it. He received lots of calls and emails asking him what he was doing. His response was that people were talking about it elsewhere and it had to be addressed —> what better place than on Dell’s blog?

My verdict: A pretty good panel - frank and helpful.

Technorati tags: corporate blogging, Dell, LinkedIn, SXSW

Kate Bauer cites examples of how a guy hooked up his car alarm to his mobile phone so he’d know when it went off. A UK pub had problems with graffitti in their washrooms, so they required patrons to send a text message to open the cubicle doors. This way they’d keep track of who used it.

Nike Plus was described as another good example. I use Nike Plus myself. May I say that any system that gets a geek like me to exercise, is effective! :)

There’s GlucoWatch (R) which monitors the body, and the Smart Bra which detects temperature changes. (Hmm, how warm would you like your milk?) Seriously speaking, it allows the user to go about her normal life while it keeps track of temperatures for her.

Another example is Ovu, a wearable fertility tracker which Bauer designed.

Tip: Do not reinvent something - fix what’s broken! For instance, the original system of measuring fertility/temperatur was complicated. She shows us a complex-looking graph. Ovu’s solution is to take the different components and connect them via Bluetooth, syncing the information using a database.

The data is still editable, in the event that the user has a fever and her temperature would spike up. Bauer’s purpose is to give users more control over their data to help them understand their health better.

Question: 10 years from now, what technology will people doing? Right now, wearable technology is available so there’s lots of potential for the future. There may be more developments where users have more access to their personal data. Having alerts, e.g. for diabetes blood sugar levels, could empower them to do more with this knowledge.

Some people may even use devices for purposes other than what they were designed for. Bauer asks how many of us use our cellphones as flashlights, and a number of us raise our hands.

Bauer says simply searching online can point us to more information on wearable technology.

I like this panel! Definitely one of the better ones for me. It is similar to Adam Greenfield’s Ubiquitous Computing / Everyware conversation which I attended at SXSW 2006 (which IMHO is still the best panel ever to me). The examples in this current panel were a bit limited in number, but she went in depth.

Grace Lanni, Dr Gregg Lucksinger, __ Grohol, Michael Kennedy

I walk in just as the panelists are introducing themselves.

Kennedy’s from Microsoft, so naturally what he talks about is what Microsoft is doing for Healthcare, such as handling online medical records. The Microsoft system is called HealthVault.

Dr Lucksinger demonstrates how he uses Microsoft technology, writing on tablets that can actually read doctors’ handwriting. Doctors can look up medical conditions on their devices. What is interesting is that when certain symptoms are recorded for one patient, the system can alert doctors of a rare condition which they may not have spotted themselves. The system also sends reminders to doctors.

From what I’ve heard so far, the panel has been OK but appears to be Microsoft-oriented. I would have liked to hear what Google is doing for health, but obviously we wouldn’t expect rivals to discuss each other.

Grohol: Other ways are online assessments, e.g. asking 5 questions to indicate if you may have depression. More complex systems use logic and decision trees to help the clinician provide possible diagnoses, treatment goals and follow-up. The doctor sees all this but the patient doesn’t. The system helps the doctor save time.

The first questioner notes that Microsoft is not famous for its security. And the systems it builds are more for corporations. Kennedy responds that Microsoft has improved dramatically in security and privacy. (That makes me raise my eyebrows, seeing how my Dell got hacked so easily a few days ago.) He asks the questioner to “challenge your beliefs” and “read up” because Microsoft has changed significantly and we should base our opinions on the “latest information”. I do not find that answer satisfactory.

Another good question raises again the point that only large companies like Microsoft have the capabilities of developing such advanced systems, thus there is a monopoly. Kennedy replies that there is a third-party developer kit which can be downloaded from the website. That sounds more reasonable.

It’s noted that America doesn’t get much value considering how much it spends on healthcare - it’s ranked among Third World countries. Nobody in the room seems to dispute that.

The mid-sized room is only about half full. It’s quite a specialised topic.

Going Social Now: Razorfish

March 10, 2008 10:15 AM

By Shiv Singh, Director of Global Strategic Initiatives, Avenue A | Razorfish

Shiv asks how many of us design websites for a living. Predictably, a number of hands go up. He says, “You’re in trouble!” and we laugh. But he assures designers that the corporate website won’t go away.

It’s just that the corporate website doesn’t matter as much. Word of mouth is far more important now than whatever the corporations say. It’s more trusted. Consumers can now open multiple browser windows to find out what other people are saying about your product.

Social networking is increasingly important. There are multiple channels now. Don’t lock your customer in to your corporate website.

Good tip from Shiv: Like me, you may work for an agency. But don’t let the ‘agency’ separate you from the consumer.

Don’t drive consumers to your corporate website. Go to where their conversation is.

We can use social networks to share knowledge. We can also derive from them who is the most important person around.

Trust becomes an issue with social networks, especially as it moves further away from the source. You can control what you forward to your friends, but not what your friends forward to their friends.

Shiv goes through some portfolio site: Sheraton, CNN, Project Runway.. For CNN his point is that it was the designers talking to the audience, not so much the ‘agency’.

For Project Runway, consumers could upload their own fashion designs.

The 30-second spot is becoming less relevant. “Yes, Beacon is up to something. They recognise that we’re far more influenced by what we say to each other.”

This is labelled as a ‘sponsored panel’ but the mid-sized room is chock full. It is so full that there’s barely space to sit on the floor!

It’s a good talk…

My SXSW 2008 panels

March 5, 2008 12:48 AM

Finally fixed up a rough schedule for SXSW. So far these are my shortlisted panels for Interactive and Film. My selection is mostly Interactive, since this is what I’m being sponsored to cover, but as my work is moving into film as well, I might attend a film-related panel, pop out to catch a screening or mingle with film makers if I feel brave enough.

As for evening events, I’m keeping my options open. I’ve been invited by Baratunde to Fray Cafe on Sunday [for Facebook users] - that one is a must-see.

As with previous years, I hope to meet new friends, rekindle old friendships and soak in the geek + creative culture!

Also, I am really so, so looking forward to staying again with Kristen and Mark, and of course, seeing baby Alexander!

Episode 1 of my SXSW 2008 videoblog

February 29, 2008 10:26 PM

Beauty World, the musical

January 20, 2008 10:46 PM

I've long heard of Michael Chiang's play but on Saturday I finally got to see it in musical form. I was quite proud to see homegrown productions take off. The music was good, the acting was humorous without being overdone, the costumes were flamboyant and the storyline was plausible. Some of us gave a standing ovation.

Beauty World
This is the cover of the programme.

After the show we chatted with Dick Lee's family and I asked Dick to autograph the Beauty World CD we had purchased. A large crowd had already gathered inside the Esplanade, queuing up to meet the cast. I followed Dick as he squeezed his way through the throng, with security guards keeping our path clear. He found a marker pen and a counter table and autographed my CD. Then we took this photo:

Me and Dick Lee

I first met Dick when his Mad Chinaman album (my favourite) took off and there was a party at his place. I had just begun writing songs and aspired to be like him. I've always wanted to have a photo with him but that eluded me until yesterday.

After that, we joined the queue to meet the rest of the cast, who were in high spirits. Wherever I could recall a good song performance, I'd praise the respective cast member - it's always good to encourage people. And they were appreciative and very friendly, no airs about them.

Us and Irene Ang
Me and my sister with comedienne actress Irene Ang, who was roaringly funny as the Cantonese maidservant.

The highlight was meeting the star of the show, Elena Wang. We realised she was from the same school as my sister, and she was delighted to hear about it. Her voice was crystal clear, she hit all the notes, her acting was convincing - truly a rising star.

Me, Elena (the star) and Vicki

All in all, it was a most memorable night. Singapore can be proud of this homegrown musical.

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