Google Translate

Sunday, October 10, 2010

BarCamp Singapore 6 at The National Art Gallery Singapore

This weekend, I made my way to The National Art Gallery Singapore for BarCamp Singapore 6, i.e. the sixth BarCamp in Singapore. I had been half-hearted to attend, and even more half-hearted to present. But eventually, I packed in my trusty ol' MacBook Air "Aironaut" and made my way down the former City Hall at Fullerton Road.

A "BarCamp" is an informal conference where anyone can speak on their topics, and attendees can vote on who they want to listen to. However, given the shortage of speakers in Singapore, almost everyone who wants to speak will eventually speak, even if he gets no votes. Oh wait, this is Singapore democracy...

Longer BarCamp, more sessions
What made this BarCamp Singapore special was that it was held over two days instead of the usual one day. With sessions held every half hour between 12pm-6pm, that amounted to a whopping 96 sessions! As usual, about half of them were tech-related, but there were just as many that covered other subjects, like "Why buildings hog so much energy" and "How to be a successful author in Singapore".

The venue: The National Art Gallery Singapore (former City Hall and Supreme Court of Singapore)
The National Art Gallery Singapore itself was quite chaotic, since there was an open house this weekend. As a result, not only did BarCamp attendees and Art Gallery visitors have to squeeze past each other, but there was the occasional interruptions from young children and old seniors during the presentations.

But BarCamp Singapore was purposely held during this time to (a) take advantage of the facilities when they're publicly available, and (b) to let members of the public become aware of BarCamp. (b) was moderately successful, with some members of the public peeking in initially out of curiosity, then staying for a session or two.

Post-session voting of speakers/topics
This BarCamp also allowed attendees to vote for their favourite speakers after each session. Voting was carried out through Twitter, apparently as a wide-scale beta test for someone's new web service. My gripe with this was that, for some bizarre reason, "retweets" were not counted as votes. (My other gripe was that voting was done on Twitter exclusively, so if you don't tweet, you don't have a voice. (Oh wait, Singapore democracy...)

I liked the new concept of extending BarCamp Singapore to be more than one day. From previous BarCamps, I've noticed that there would be a few sessions that unfortunately didn't garner any votes and were thus left out. But I'm sure attendees would still benefit from those sessions. So I think this was a good idea.

But I'm not so hot on the post-session voting. And I'm not complaining because I'm a sore loser who will miss out on winning the iPad. I think its voting mechanics are flawed fundamentally and a manual count should be considered, especially if the vote counting system is still under testing.

Damn, I keep forgetting, Singapore democracy...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: invitation to MINI Singles Party

On a Sunday evening, the night of the finals for the Singapore Formula One race, I made my way down to CHIJMES for a singles party. I had been contacted through some time back and frankly, I'd forgotten that I'd even furnished my details with them.

Registration was from 6-6:30pm, so of course I arrived at 6:30pm. The party was held on the front lawn on the ground floor, an open area that was encircled by a simple white chain. There was huge MINI backdrop at the front and two tables with finger food and alcoholic drinks to the rear. There were also some small tables for standing and milling around.

By the time I arrived, the proceedings had already begun. At the registration table, I got my goodie bag, which consisted of a few vouchers for spas and beauty treatments, then entered the lawn area.

Since I had gone alone, I wasn't sure of what to expect and had actually decided that if I wasn't having fun, then I'd just leave early. When the MC finished with her round of quizzes, we were invited to partake of the food and drink. I helped myself to some of the finger foods and took a cup of grape juice + vodka + apple bits. I should've gone for the orange + vodka a.k.a. screwdriver.

A lady saw my drink and asked me what it was. That question led to my joining her and her friend at a table. A few others joined us and soon I was talking for a long time with some of the women there. Two Japanese ladies also joined us, and soon they were lost in a Japanese conversation with the first lady.

The basic questions that we asked were: "Is this your first time at such an event?" and "How did you find out about this event?" The most common answers were, respectively, "Yes" and "Through an email". I later pieced together that this was organized by the Social Development Unit (i.e. the Singapore government's dating agency) and was one of the partners. MINI was a sponsor, in conjunction with the ongoing F1 race.

While I was chatting with someone, Violet Lim of Lunch Actually took the mic and gave some tips on how to break the ice on a first date. She made everyone take part by making us ask one another "What is your dream job?" That question was supposed to spur us to be creative and get to impress the other person. But in the end, we mostly went back to familiar topics of conversation, like current job and music taste and "What would you be doing now if you weren't here?"

Later, six couples who had been preselected to go on dates were brought up on stage to find out which couple had learned the most about each other. However, by then, almost everyone in the audience was more interested in socializing. So I don't know what questions the couples were quizzed about nor who won.

Around 8pm, the party had ended. There was going to be a live screening of the F1, but there was hardly anybody left. Some of us who stayed a bit longer continued to meet and talk with the others, with some contacts being exchanged. This being the 21st century, I collected Facebook contacts rather than the usual phone numbers!

Generally, this party was badly organized. There were a lot of things to complain about. Firstly, there was the food, or rather, the lack of it. We were promised "free flow of food and drinks". But for an event that was held at dinner time and serving alcoholic drinks, the food was simply not substantial. I had to grab something to eat later, otherwise I'd be starving through the night.

The other letdown was the MINI sponsorship. We were only treated to a static backdrop with a picture of a MINI car. There was no actual MINI to be seen anywhere. And the contest prizes were for things other than MINI-related items. (T-shirts had been given away earlier, but I don't know if these were MINI-branded.)

And then there was the lack of any real ice-breakers, except for Violet Lim's challenge to us. This being a singles party, where almost everyone was a stranger, it would have been good to have some kind of simple organized activities.

Fortunately, there were people who were more adept at socializing among the participants, and they were able to get the reserved ones, like me, out of our shells. So kudos to those participants, but zero points to the organizers.

By the time I left, a few of us were talking about a movie outing. So I guess something potentially good came out of it.

And yes, I've added a few new Facebook friends too.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Intro to Web Analytics" presented at BarCamp Singapore 5

Intro To Web Analytics
View more presentations from Yuhui.

First vote for "Intro to Web Analytics"
The presentation that you see above, "Intro to Web Analytics", was what I had presented at BarCamp Singapore 5. Thanks to the 10 or so votes that my topic received, I was able to present at 3pm. About 30 people attended it, and I hope they got to learn something new. Nonetheless, it was quite disappointing to see some people leave. And I don't know if it was lack of preparation or sleep or my soft voice or something else, but I have a feeling that I didn't quite connect with my audience as I would've preferred.

It seemed like just yesterday that I was attending my first BarCamp at IDA. That was the fourth time that a BarCamp had been held in Singapore. And now, I was not only attending the fifth Singaporean BarCamp, but also presenting!

My poor presentation this time round hasn't put me off from presenting again in future. It turns out that, though the BarCamp attendees are generally quite geeky, they need to hear a topic that can be understood by them or is amusing enough for its universally understood theme. Web analytics, as it turns out, is probably too specialized a topic for BarCamp.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Smallville: Absolute Justice" - BitTorrent piracy and why studios are the losers

For a few years now, copyright owners have been hammering into our heads the dangers of intellectual property piracy. There were the big lawsuits from the music companies, and there are the ongoing litigation against film and TV show pirates. In spite of all these actions, piracy continues rampantly and studios lose millions of dollars.

Or so we are told. It is trivial to accept that, yes, studios do lose some revenue from piracy, after all, a lost sale is lost revenue. Similarly, it is reasonable to assume that any music/film/TV show/other intellectual property that a pirate wants can be obtained fairly quickly and easily at any moment in time.

I had a more intellectual pursuit of knowledge when it came to digital piracy. I wanted to answer two questions:
  1. How long can a popular download last?
  2. What is the estimated audience loss to the producer?
To answer my questions, I tracked the activity for a particular torrent, the telemovie "Absolute Justice" from the TV series, "Smallville". I picked this show for two reasons:
  • "Smallville" is an immensely popular show in the U.S. and around the world. I mean, hey, it's about freakin' Superman!
  • This show, in particular, had been hyped up significantly for its creative direction and appeal to comic book fanboys everywhere
Point of disclosure: I'm one of those fanboys.
One day to "Smallville: Absolute Justice"! *psych* Wonder how many BitTorrent seeds it'll spawn.
11:57 PM Feb 4th
My assumption from these two reasons were that those who were crazy about this show would also seek out ways to get the show. But for my purpose of actually tracking the show's piracy rate, I turned to BitTorrent. Yes, there are other methods and tools to pirate, but none provide publicly available numbers, or if they do, don't require a paid subscription to access those stats.

To track BitTorrent seeds (i.e. pirates who share a complete copy of the show) and leechers (i.e. pirates who are in the midst of getting a copy of the show), I used the popular tracker, isoHunt, which compiles seeds and leechers from a variety of BitTorrent sources, thus providing a nice aggregated number.

Over the next two weeks after "Smallville: Absolute Justice" had been screen on U.S. television screens, I tracked the number of seeds and leechers that isoHunt reported for its torrent. At first I started out every few hours of the first day, then the first few days, and then a week later. Here's what I found:

Chart of seeds and leechers for 'Smallville: Absolute Justice' over two weeks

1. How long can a popular torrent last?
A torrent can last almost indefinitely, especially if it's popular. Two weeks after the torrent became available, isoHunt was still tracking about 700 leechers for "Smallville: Absolute Justice".

But see that blue peak at the left side of the chart? In general, the more seeds there are, the faster a torrent will finish getting a copy of the material. So the best time for a pirate to have obtained a complete copy of "Smallville: Absolute Justice" would've been within two days after the torrent was made available.

FYI: I label this period up to the seed peak as the torrent's "half life". Just as with isotopes, the number of seeds tends to decrease rapidly after that peak. It's a copyright-free term, so use it freely if you wish.

That observation also makes sense when you remember that piracy is illegal. Therefore, as soon as a pirate gets a complete copy, he would want to stop seeding to reduce his chances of getting caught. But why doesn't the number of seeds drop after the first day? My guesses:
  1. BitTorrent download speed depends on the number of seeds available. So when there are few seeds early in the torrent's life, it takes longer for any leecher to finish getting a copy. To prevent any disruption from getting a copy, leechers probably leave their torrents running all the time and may "forget" to disconnect soon enough.
  2. There are some altruistic pirates, though as time goes by, the fear of getting caught slowly outweighs the desire to help others, thus there are gradually fewer seeds overall.
2. What is the estimated audience loss to the producer?

I had said that "Smallville" is a popular TV series, and "Absolute Justice" was its most eagerly anticipated episode this season. Just how popular was it? According to CWTV's press release (CWTV was the U.S. network that premiered the show), "Smallville: Absolute Justice" garnered about 2.8 million viewers. To put that in perspective, that's about 50-60% of Singapore's population!

That's a lot of viewers!

And how many viewers did it lose to BitTorrent piracy? Assuming that one seed equals one viewer, then the area under the blue line chart represents about one million viewers (after rounding down conservatively). Putting that into perspective, that's about one-third of the legitimate CWTV viewers.

That's a huge loss!

Advertising from the show's premiere on CWTV should've been enough to cover the bulk of the cost of production. Additional sales from iTunes would cover the rest. DVD sales in future would pad the studio's pockets very nicely.

But sales from another one million viewers? That would be pure profit. And both Warner Bros and CWTV lost that. Which just highlights the problem that Hollywood has. While its actively suing consumers and imposing further restrictions on distribution, it's still dragging its feet on how to satisfy consumers who have a strong craving for its material.

Take copyright restrictions, for example. Now I'm a fanboy, I've followed the hype, I'm very very very psyched about seeing my comic book heroes come to life on the small screen in all of their spandex glory. But as someone living on the other side of the world, I can't watch "Smallville: Absolute Justice" legally. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. I either have to wait for my local TV station to bring it in (and it'll probably be screened at some unearthly hour), or buy the DVD when it comes out.

The problem is that it's not about content distribution on the Internet. News and discussions aren't controlled by geographical copyright restrictions. I've read the show's description, I've devoured the interviews with the cast and crew, and I've seen the teaser images. So has every other fanboy. But because I can't watch it (yet), I can't partake in the conversations with other fanboys or relish in the awesomeness of the show. I could read the recap and spoil myself over the plot, but where's the fun in that?

An enlightened Warner Bros and/or CWTV executive would do one of two things, or both:
  1. Work with televsion stations everywhere to allow for one-time simultaneous worldwide screenings, akin to what movie studios do with their films.
  2. Make "Smallville: Absolute Justice" available for digital sale all around the world, whether through iTunes or direct download from or other channel.
Whatever it does, the studio and producer need to figure out how to convert those one million viewers into non-pirates who can still enjoy their favourite show.

Of course, this is just wishful thinking on my part. No exec is that enlightened, unfortunately. There's more money to be gained in the short-term through lawsuits. In the meantime, pirates will continue to ride along the long tail of available torrents, or download their stuff from some other venue. And that's a pity for intellectual property owners who are trapped in their old mindsets.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

BarCamp Singapore 4 at IDA

BarCamp Singapore 4
On a Saturday, when most geeks would take the opportunity to sleep in over the weekend, a large group of us descended on the Infocomm Development Authority's (IDA) office to attend the fourth BarCamp Singapore. This annual unconference featured presentations and discussions from various speakers covering a myriad of topics in more than eight rooms.

Aside: an "unconference" is a conference, but where the schedule is generally not cast in stone. Those who want to present put up their topics on a board (or wall, in this case), and attendees decide if they want to attend those presentations or not. It's very democratic in the sense that if a presentation garners no attendees, then no one is compelled to attend and the speaker doesn't need to present (though his ego may be hurt).

I arrived at BarCamp only in the afternoon. This was my first time at a BarCamp -- or any unconference, for that matter -- so I was just eager to better understand its concept. Looking at the topic wall, it seemed like most of the good stuff had already been presented in the morning. So I went for the next one that caught my interest.

Chris Gomez presented to a small, packed room on what makes a good film. Unfortunately, what I got out of it are:
  1. a presentation with tonnes of slides that are whizzed through and the speaker stays quiet to let you read what you can makes for an un-gripping presentation, and
  2. what makes a good film is subject to the producer's whims and fancies.
Chris began the session by trying to explain why "2012" was a bomb ("because it just sucks" was the gist of his argument), then showed clips from some videos, or rather, documentaries that he thought were the pinnacle of filmmaking. One or two were both entertaining and educational, but the rest were just artsy. I kept thinking to myself, "What about films that have made it big at the box office, shouldn't they be considered successful too?"

So I left my first session feeling disappointed and hoping that the next one would be better. I decided to pick something that is far out of my usual circle of interests, so I listened in on Khairul Rejal's presentation on the challenges facing Malay youth. He started 15 minutes late (apparently because all topics had been pushed back by a quarter of an hour) and dove straight into slide after slide showing, well, just how screwed up the Malay youth community is in Singapore, in terms of academics, family life and morality.

One thing that was debated for a long time between he and an audience member was the importance of religious studies to the Malays. The (Chinese) attendee didn't understand its significance and why Khairul harped on its importance. Khairul tried to emphasise that religious studies take on a unique level of importance in the proper moral upbringing of Malay youth. In hindsight, I guess the closest comparison that I could understand as a non-Malay/Muslim is the importance of Sunday school to Christians.

At the end, I took away that there are problems among the Malay youth and other Malay youths, like Khairul, are trying to fix things. Unfortunately, there were no clear next steps, no "how you can help", unless it was done very subtly or after I'd left.

The last presentation that I attended was one that had been tacked on late in the day. Joe Augustin, the radio DJ, presented on how it is important for individuals to market themselves successfully for the benefit of society as a whole. His basic premise was that if a genius or expert was not marketed well, and as a result no one made use of his abilities, then society would be the poorer as a result of its loss of using him. Joe laid out three fundamental principles that everyone needed to have:
  1. an overt benefit -- not just obvious, but overt
  2. a reason to believe in you, such as recommendations from others, and
  3. be dramatically different -- no subtlety allowed
For an impromptu presentation, this one turned out to be the best one that I had attended. It wasn't just because Joe is naturally proficient at public speaking, but because his presentation actually made me think and reconsider my assumptions. I think that's the mark of a good presentation.

That took me to the end of BarCamp proper. After that, everyone adjourned to the newly opened HackerSpace at Arab Street for drinks. (HackerSpace is a small hall-like office for programmers to code together, but this time, it was just used as a social venue.) And then it was on to nearby Nadin's for a Turkish buffet dinner.

So that was my first experience at BarCamp. Overall, I found the quality of the unconference to be lopsided. You either get good speakers with powerful messages or you feel like you're attending a primary school presentation. But it was good to see that the topics were not just related to technology, but anything under the sun. I don't know if BarCamp still gives the impression of a geek conference, but if it does, then it needs to shed that image quickly for its benefit!


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Omy Halloween party at MINT Museum of Toys

Omy Halloween party invitation

Thanks to Omy, I was invited to a Halloween party at the MINT Museum of Toys. Since I'd never been to this museum before, but had wanted to for the longest time, I figured that this would be too great of an opportunity to pass up. So I RSVPed in spite of not knowing who else (besides the one friend I could bring along) would be there.

As it turns out, the weather gods conspired against me, and the thunderstorm that evening prevented me from arriving at the appointed hour of 7pm. Instead, I finally set foot at the museum about one-and-a-half hours later, or about midway through the party. As such, now I really didn't know what to expect. The programme at the registration table gave the impression that the organised events had happened earlier, and the rest of the evening was "free and easy".

After getting some food in the basement restaurant, my friend and I headed up to see the exhibits in this five-storey museum. In spite of its many floors, there are surprisingly few exhibits, mainly because the museum is housed in an old pre-war building, so precious space is limited.

There was supposed to be a guided tour of the museum, but I guess we'd missed that, so we just wandered around on our own. There were a lot of old toys, which shouldn't be surprising since this is a museum after all. So there were no Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, no Ben 10, no Pokemon or Digimon or whatever-mon.

In fact, there were no toys from the eighties (as far as I could tell)! So yes, it was quite interesting to see the range of toys on display, but none of them really struck a chord with me that made go "aaahhhh" nostalgically.

As for the party itself, the main action was on the third floor, where there was a buffet dinner and live music. The people there were just mingling about, resembling a party for people who knew one another already. Almost everyone was in costume, though not necessarily in the "toys" theme, unless you count witches and the like.

Okay, I realise that this was a more-or-less "social media" event, and I had been invited as a blogger. But there really wasn't much of that aspect of activities going on. I recognised one other blogger, but then I can't possibly know every blogger in Singapore. But bringing a bunch of bloggers together doesn't make a "social media" event. And just because we're bloggers doesn't mean that we'll bond automatically.

(Of course, I realise that by saying the above, I'll probably never invited to another Omy event. Oh well.)

The party went on after the supposed end time of 10pm, but I and my friend left then. We were given a free mouse pad (!), some bookmarks and postcards (!!). In the end, I felt like this party probably was either not organised for random invitees, or I had arrived so late that all of those formal introductions had already been over and done with, so boo to me.

Instead, the highlight for me was viewing the toy exhibits... and I gotta admit, I'm really glad I went in free of charge.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Social Media Breakfast 7 at Lenovo

Social Media Breakfast 7 group shot from Willy Foo
Picture from Willy Foo
It may have been raining, but that didn't stop me (though it did delay me) from joining almost a hundred other people from trooping down to Lenovo at Lorong Chuan for the seventh Social Media Breakfast outing. Instead of a hall, we were gathered in... the pantry! Well, at least the drinks were easily reachable.

The topic this time was to listen to a few case studies around social media marketing. As someone who's participated in a few of such "social media" events, I was eager to learn from the other side of the table.
Felicia from Text100 presenting on "Search for N". I don't read so I didn't know about this campaign. #smbsg7 11:58 AM Sep 19th from mobile web
First up was Text 100 to present a Nokia case study. This was around the "Search for N" campaign to launch the N97 phone. Organised as a treasure hunt, clues were seeded through blogs like Winners would then win the phone. I had no inkling of this particular campaign, but from the results, I'd say that Nokia was pleased with the results and publicity.
Express in Music talking about music personalisation. Something about composing and sales. I'm still trying to figure it out. #smbsg7 12:12 PM Sep 19th from mobile web
Instead of a case study, the next presenter, Express in Music, described what it did. I wish I had more to say about it, but I can't. And from some of the tweets during the presentation, it seemed like I wasn't the only one who shared that view. From what I gathered, it had something to do with end users creating their own music for a campaign because music is more intimate. And then they could sell the music... or something like that. Like I said, I'm at a loss here.

Around this time, Daryl Tay had to quieten the noisy folks at the rear of the pantry. I guess people were just too lazy to walk out to the driveway to chat.
Waggenner Edstrom up next. Long intro, probably used up half their allotted time! *lol* #smbsg712:28 PM Sep 19th from mobile web
Melvin Yuan started his Waggener Edstrom team's presentation with a long, somewhat rambling introduction. Anyway, the team then went on to present about last week's Twestival, in which they succeeded in collecting donations amounting to about $17,000 for the Children's Cancer Foundation. They also touched on (as an example of the power of micro-financing) and an HP event.
Brandtology introducing itself. No specific case studies? #smbsg7 12:41 PM Sep 19th from mobile web
Like Express in Music, the next two presenters didn't provide anything specific in terms of case studies, but were more like an introduction to their services. Brandtology described their business of monitoring sentiment, giving the example of looking at the online chatter around four blockbuster movies this year. Kelly Choo also said that he would be giving away a free self-painted Twitter bird. (The part about giving away a bird generated sniggers around the room.)
Ammado introducing itself. Platform to support the cause you want. Again, no specific case studies. #smbsg7 12:53 PM Sep 19th from mobile web
From what I learned, Ammado is a (U.S.-based?) platform that allows charities to collect donations. Corporations and organisations can also purchase vouchers, which can then be used to donate to any Ammado-listed charity. The service seems to have launched in Singapore, though the freebie voucher for SMB attendees was in U.S. currency. But as a friend remarked, it's a mystery about how it generates any revenue.
Blogathon case study on now. Eager to know how Tangs benefited from it. #smbsg7 1:04 PM Sep 19th from mobile web
Finally, the team from Lenovo, Intel and Tangs presented what Derrick Koh promised to be the "best presentation" of the day. They screened two videos from Blogathon, the 24-hour event at Tangs that had 10 bloggers staying awake to do stuff in the shopping centre, while getting their friends to vote for their favourite. Based on what they shared, it seemed like this event was all about generating awareness about... blogging? I don't know. Tangs apparently didn't fix any target in terms of sales or dollar return on investment, which I thought was unusual behaviour for a retailer.

After that was the food and networking moment. I caught up with some folks whom I hadn't seen in a long time. Almost everyone joked that we only meet at such social media events! Anyway, it seemed like people weren't staying for long, with most leaving within 10-15 minutes of the presentations' end.

What I liked about this SMB was that its continuing use of a fixed agenda suggests that its maturing beyond just a "talk cock" session. I'm sure there are those who prefer the old format (and thus were making all the ruckus during the presentations with their chatter), but this current format seemed to work in bringing in new attendees.

With that in mind, I thought that the venue was a letdown. The event announcement said that the place would be larger to accommodate the growing numbers, but it was actually quite small. And with two kinds of attendees (those who wanted to hear the presentations, and those who wanted to mingle), a venue that allows different activities would have been appreciated.

Unfortunately, even with a proper agenda and venue, it would still be up to the presenters to make attending SMB worthwhile. I was promised case studies and got only half of that. The rest came across as marketing spiels. And preparations were clearly inadequate, with presenters needing to fiddle with the sole laptop between their presentations.

Of course, it isn't easy to organise an event like this, especially from a logistics standpoint. And as SMB continues to grow, I guess details like these will be worked out eventually.