My HP Alumni talk

[Update: Hurrah, one student has blogged about the talk!]
I gave the presentation this evening. Murphy’s Law threatened to cause a few surprises, but all was well in the end!
I started with a cover of Time Magazine’s person of the year 2006 – “You”. I talked about how new media technologies have empowered people to such an extent that traditional barriers are being broken down.
Then I asked the question, can anyone be too old to blog? (That was because an Alumni member reportedly said he wasn’t interested in my talk as he was too old to blog.) I said to the contrary – ‘older’ people have more knowledge and experience to share. The Yesterday.SG museum blog has older bloggers who are prolific. I forgot to mention how an 80-year old man called my office line one day, asking me how to start a blog. That was one of the most amazing things I’ve heard.
I told them how my blog enabled me to reach out to people across the world. Book reviews I’d written, were read by the authors themselves. I told the story of how Stephen Williams, author of How To Be President, wrote in to me after reading my review on this book. Later on, a Czech publisher wrote to me, asking to be put in touch with him as he wanted to translate his book into the Czech language. I put them in touch. This story seemed go down well with the audience.
I elaborated on certain technologies such as news feeds and mashups, as well as trends like crowdsourcing. I showed them local mashup, Bookjetty. The finale was Second Life. I took the audience through Virtual Hallucinations, since I was able to play through the lecture hall’s speakers (see my previous review). We could hear the haunting voices telling my Avatar, “You’re not good enough… you don’t deserve to live”. The audience saw the floor disappearing in front of my Avatar as she tried to walk down a corridor. I told them this was so much more effective than a textbook description on schizophrenia.
A number of schools were invited as well. RGS students took up a few rows, and being RGS girls they asked intelligent questions at the end of the talk, which I was thankfully able to answer.
I was really glad that my CEO and my former boss were able to attend the talk. While the turnout was much smaller than I initially thought, the majority of the audience participated in it by asking questions. In fact the Q&A session was much longer than I expected. Which was a good sign.
One concerned parent asked how children could be prevented from reading objectionable blogs which contained inaccurate or slanderous information. I told her that one way was to monitor every single blog in Singapore, but that would not be feasible. Besides, everyone has the right to have his say. It also takes too much effort to correct every inaccurate post. The best solution, I argued, would be to train our own children to be discerning, so that if they come across a blog with dubious content, they would be able to realise it themselves.
One older man asked if it was feasible to set up a blog for his group cycling activities. I asked for more details about the blog. As the group uses different cycling routes and also take photos during each trip, I said it sounded like the blog could be sustained with fresh content.
An even better sign was the number of people coming to talk to me after the official Q&A session. I had parents asking me for advice on dealing with their children who seemed to be glued to their computers, and schoolgirls asking me about future trends.
One mother said her son played online games (presumably Warcraft) and had so many friends in his online chat list that he wasn’t studying hard enough. I told her that it was good her son had so many friends. In fact that morning I had attended a Yahoo! youth survey presentation which confirmed that youths could have as many as 100 or more chat contacts – and this was normal. So I told the mother that her son was normal and having lots of friends would provide him with emotional support.
I added that the ability to make many friends (presumably good ones) is a valuable life skill that he can carry on through his life and career. It would certainly get him farther than someone who studied or worked all day and did not have any friends. She left, looking satisfied and less unhappy with her son.
Next, I spoke to different RGS girls.
The first girl asked me if I thought print media was going to disappear, in say, 20 years’ time. I said that print media will always be around. In my own presentation earlier, I had stated that new media will complement and not necessarily replace traditional media. Perhaps in time, print media’s role may be diminished slightly further. But as long as there are people who prefer reading paper instead of on-screen content, there will always be print. I asked her if she expected to see books disappearing off the shelves in 20 years’ time. She said no. I said, well, likewise with other print media. That seemed to satisfy her.
The next girl asked me why I didn’t become a lawyer, so I told her the full story. She asked me, “But am I happy with what I’m doing now?” I said yes wholeheartedly and that seemed to make her happy as well. I told her, you are bright girls and you can probably do anything you want. So, make sure you choose a path that you really like. The girl left with a smile on her face, like I had confirmed something she was also thinking of.
Another girl told us she’d like us to go into Podcasting. I told her we already had podcasts but maybe she could listen to ours and tell us how to improve them. Not surprisingly, she preferred podcasts that had two or three-person dialogues in them, not one-way messages. (We have been planning to amend our scripts so they’d have dialogues in them, so this kind of confirmed it.) She said was going to produce her own podcasts with friends, so I asked her to drop me a line when that happened so I can also find out what youths want. Who knows, maybe we can all collaborate together one day 😉
One SJI/ACJC boy is going to install Second Life and ditch The Sims. I’m hoping more students in Singapore try it out and do great things with it. (And if the young gentleman in question is reading this post, do drop a note to say hi!)
Technorati Tags: HP Alumni, RGS, SJI, ACJC, Second Life,


  1. Kevin

    Thanks for sharing… a diverse programme for your talk.
    It looks like we as social media evangelists have a pletora of experiences to share. While it’s natural for participants to gain interest, I’m particularly interested in the reasons some have about not joining in For instance, I still have students who are overtly critical to the idea of social media.
    Loss of privacy is one common concern, though I keep telling them that they are in control of how much they wish to share, and it doesn’t have to be that personal.
    BTW: What was your talk entitled?

  2. Jia Jun

    Hi Vantan! This is the ACJC/ SJI boy there. I loved the entry. I think the whole of who- said- what was great. Now I can recap on what was covered then for all eternity, or at least as long as the internet is around. Nice site!

  3. vantan

    Hi Kevin, the talk was titled “Virtual Spaces – A place for everyone.” This was because I knew my audience was going to be very mixed (students and senior management).
    Hi Jia Jun! Thanks for attending the talk, and for visiting my blog!

  4. vantan

    Hi Herry, it was my pleasure. We should promote worthy homegrown productions.
    While talking about Bookjetty, I drew comparisons with Youtube and Hotmail, in the sense that people may pay big bucks to own a community 😉
    There were venture capitalists among the HP Alumni…

  5. vantan

    Hi Bjorn, erk, you had to ask 😛
    It was really small. About 30 people?
    At least, I hope there were 30 engaged people who will take home the new knowledge and try something new.

  6. yong yao

    its me yong yao u know that guy beside jaijun went with him there to the talk i even forgot to introduce myself.I am from hci just wondering what u found recently just wondering and looking around:D u seem to really know so much that all of us don’t even know still remember me?

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