Netizens in the News

Recently, there’s been some news in Singapore about netizens who have drawn both praise and flak for their actions.

First is a blogger who chose to test the OCBC. What did she do? She went into the Marine Parade branch of the bank and stated that it was her birthday and that the bank should give her a birthday cake, just like in the ad on TV. The bank manager finally decided to give her the cake, after explaining that she took the message in the ad too literally!

She went on to blog about what she did, and has generated quite a lot of discussion online. Some laud her for standing up for consumer rights, while others think that she was being unreasonable. Whatever the case, she created something that she could blog about, and stirred up the online community, perhaps beyond what she herself imagined. What she did, will no doubt, make companies sit up and take notice and be more mindful of the messages they are sending out.

The other case involves something more sinister. Videos and photos have been posted online showing a skimpily clad woman being molested by 4 men at a new year countdown party. What is scary about this is not just the act of indecency itself, but the indecent behaviour of the bystanders who instead of helping the victim, and stopping the men, chose to whip out their cameras to record the act. What is wrong with these people? Are they so engrossed with their sordid ideas of citizen journalism that they chose to record and post the act than actually do something to help the situation. Not surprisingly, there’s been much discussion among netizens on this, with some spreading rumours about the victim, and generalising the race of the men caught in the act. Let’s hope that the  discussion comes back to focusing on the crime that was committed and how it should now be handled, and how such a situation could be avoided in the future. For one, people should choose to help, than just standby and gawk.

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Paid Bloggers to announce their commercial associations

Bloggers and the law are getting into the news these days.

First, there is news that new disclosure rules may soon be implemented in Singapore. What this means is that bloggers paid to talk about certain products would need to state upfront that they have received payment or perks for blogging about those items.

According to the article Bloggers who get gifts or money may have to own up, MDA feels that “such regulations will protect consumers by enabling them to make an informed assessment about what they read”.

This rule follows upon the recent news from the United States, that from Dec1, “bloggers will have to make ‘clear and conspicuous’ disclosures if, for example, they write a restaurant review after having been treated to a feast there…The penalty for flouting this rule in blogs or postings in Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube: A fine of US$11,000 (S$15,360).”

 With blogs now going very much beyond the personal journal-style blogs found in the days of blog infancy, and taking on a more commercial spin, many companies and individuals are using blogs for marketing and advertising purposes.

Many companies have taken advantage of the more personal appeal of blogs and have approached bloggers to test review their products. While there is nothing wrong with that, things get complicated when the bloggers are paid or presented with gifts for their postings. I mean, it’ll be hard for the bloggers to be objective in their reviews when they were being paid!

Already, a beauty products company in Sinagpore has been suspected of paying a blogger to write highly positive reviews about the products. This is tantamount to fraud as what is ostensibly a personal review is actually a form of paid advertising.

Thus, by making bloggers declare their commercial associations at the start, readers would be more mindful of that when reading the posts and recommendations, and hence make more informed decisions about those products.

Still, I would like to highlight that while there are many paid bloggers out there, and with the disclosure law kicking in, we would know who they are, there are also many passionate bloggers out there who have views and are ready to express them, sans payment from companies.

According to the article Blogger disclosure regulation – who and how to implement it in Singapore?, “the thing now is to draw a clearer line between a paid post and a genuine review or post.”

The next issue makes for interesting irony. Bloggers who give their own personal opinions are getting flak and even threats of legal action for posting their views on their blogs. Recently, some food bloggers have been threatened with law suits for their reviews of certain restaurants that the owners have found to be ‘untasteful’ and ‘unsavoury’. They were asked to take down their posts. This has sparked discussion about the freedom of speech of bloggers and the concept of personal reviews.

As we navigate new areas in cyberspace, laws would need to be adapted or crafted carefully to adapt to the dynamic online public space.

What do you think? To what extent do bloggers or should bloggers have freedom of speech?

Top 10 Blogs for writers

Happy to announce that one of my favourite blogs, Copyblogger, has made it to the top of the list of Top 10 blogs for writers!

Thought I’d reproduce the post here so that you can check out Copyblogger as well as the other useful blogs.

Happy reading!

We’re honored that Copyblogger has been chosen as the top blog for writers for the fourth year in a row. Thanks to Michael Stelzner for the nod, and for holding this terrific competition.

Here are all the winners with Michael’s commentary. If you’re interested in writing online, you’ll get a lot out of adding each of these to your daily reading.

 Copyblogger This site is the heavyweight champion of the world four years running (and one of the top blogs on the planet)! The brain-child of Brian Clark, his blog keeps winning because of its insightful articles.

  1. Men With Pens: James Chartrand and Harry McLeod maintain the number two slot with their inspiring content and rich community discussion.
  2. Write to Done: This blog nearly always delivers a home run with its excellent articles for all writers and is the product of top blogger Leo Babauta.
  3. Editor Unleashed: Inspired by the former Editor-in-Chief of Writer’s Digest, Maria Schneider explores writing, social media and community on her excellent blog.
  4. Freelance Writing Jobs: This site is the first stop for freelance writers seeking new work and great articles (and it remains a top winner since this contest began). Congrats Deb Ng!
  5. Confident Writing: Joanna Young delivers rich and useful articles that will help you take your writing to the next level.
  6. Urban Muse: Susan Johnston covers a wide range of excellent topics that all writers will enjoy.
  7. WordCount: Journalist Michelle Vranizan Rafter explores the challenges freelance writers face on her excellent blog.
  8. Quips & Tips for Successful Writers: A true cornucopia of ideas for writers, Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen provides endless content and freelancing tips.
  9. Fuel Your Writing: This site will certainly fuel you! Michelle Krasniak Oxman and her huge team of contributors provide great content for writers.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.

Bloggers on staff

In the past, I’d written on how blogging and bloggers have gained a certain level of credibililty and recognition. There have been bloggers who have turned politicians, bloggers who have inked book deals, bloggers who became hired as journalists, etc.

Now, blogging is being recognised as a job in itself. Italian designers Dolce and Gabbana launched theoir new webzine, http://www.swide.com/luxury-magazine/ recently last Dec and have hired a team of bloggers to write on topics from food to fashion! 

In yet another example, the team of people from Majolica Majorca picked 9 bloggers to be its local ambassadors  and to create awareness of the brand on cyberspace. The girls, aged 18-25 were selected based on their looks as well as blog popularity, and they blogged about their experiences with the products. They include Beatrice Tan, Chua Huirong, Emileen Lim and Cordelia Low. As ‘payment’, the girls received new products as well as got to select products of their choices from the brand.

MySpace Suicide Verdict is out

Some months ago, I blogged about MySpace Suicide victim Megan Meier who was driven to kill herself after she was cyber-bullied.

Well, the cyber-bully turned out to the the mother of a friend she had a falling out with. Lori Drew, 49, was recently handed the verdict, in what many see as the USA’s first cyberbullying verdict.

According to the article, Drew was “cleared of felony computer-hacking charges” but was found “guilty only of three counts of gaining unauthorized access to MySpace for the purpose of obtaining information on Megan Meier — misdemeanors that potentially carry up to a year in prison, but most likely will result in no time in custody.” 

This verdict is no doubt controversial, with many calling for tougher penalties. 

Somehow, the verdict does seem like a slap on the wrist. With cyberbullying on the rise, more needs to be done to curb it, and while the law may not be the only way, it is one key way that many are looking to for some guidance on how to handle it

Mumbai Terrorist Attacks and New Media

The deplorable recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai have made major news headlines all over the world.

For Singapore, the attacks have hit close to home as they have claimed the first Singaporean life due to a terrorist attack. Many mourn the loss of Singaporean lawyer, 28 year-old Lo Hwei Yen, who was shot execution-style while she was at the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai on her fateful business trip.

Discussions in cyberspace amongst locals about Lo Hwei Yen’s capture and her sad and untimely death played out since the time news broke about her capture as a hostage. 

We can only hope that more can be done to prevent such attacks.

While the attacks were still taking place, a different but altogether, hectic and frenzied activity was also taking place in the ‘parallel’ universe in cyberspace. Bloggers all over Mumbai were posting live updates of the situation, and this truly underscores citizen journalism as an alternative/complement/supplement to news coverage.

Some were uploading photos of the damage from the attacks on the luxury hotels, and many of these were also loaded onto Flikr. The micro-blogging site Twitter also saw a lot of intense action as Tweets on the attacks were sent – at one point 80 Tweets were sent within 5 seconds!

There were also reports of survivors who were trapped in the buildings getting information from their mobile phones and Blackberries – they were surfing for information, ironically, on what was happening in the very same buildings they were in, but were left out of (in terms of info received).

There’s a blog that collects all the social media representation of the event.

All this goes to show that while mainstream news would not be able to provide such comprehensive coverage in such a short time, the world got to know about the events in such a short time, and while they were unfolding too, due to the ubiquitous nature new media has taken on, and new media’s role in news coverage

And with that, globalisation has taken on a new meaning and added dimension.

Obama and New Media

Obama has won the US Presidential elections, and will be stepping into the White House and Oval Office come January.

Many have seen his success at the elections last week to be very much tied up with his strong presence online, especially with the use of new media. Many have discussed Obama’s Youtube and Facebook win, and how he’s used new media to reach out to the masses, especially the younger voters, and made an emotional connection with them (via technology!). In a post I made months back, his win was already on the cards, given Obama’s Facebook domination!

Many see the Internet as a great equaliser, as anyone can use it, and most of its apps are virtually free (pun intended), and in Obama’s case, it has been an equaliser in his fight for votes.

From being a relative unknown, he’s now catapulted to being one of the most powerful men (if not, potentially, the most powerful man) in the world! For many, that signifies the American dream. That also signifies democracy. Beyond that, that also signifies the power of new media. 

And for the many who were not allowed to vote (apparently, many non-Americans wanted to!), they could get into the action online as well. There were many online polls that allowed participation by all (isn’t that just what Web 2.0 is about – the Age of Participation)! Even WordPress had its own virtual poll. So did Facebook and other online sites! Even my Fluff pet on Facebook could take part in the polls, and be voted for!

Not surprising, Obama won in those polls too, and the online poll figures do closely match the actual results. So, in a way, we can see the online world as a microcosm of the real world.