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.

Facebook Killing

Loss of face in Facebook, so he killed his wife” – the irony in the headline of the short article in today’s Straits Times caught my attention. 

The article talks about how 34 year-old Briton, Wayne Forrester attacked his wife, Emma, with a kitchen knife and meat cleaver after she wrote in her Facebook profile that she wanted to meet other men. 

Forrester had just broken up with this wife and she had forced him out. Obviously, she didn’t just want him out in real life, but in virtual life as well, as she changed her Facebook profile status from ‘married’ to ‘single’, and posted messages that she was ready to meet new men. This drove an already devastated Forrester to the edge and the humiliation drove him to commit his ‘Facebook murder‘.

Apparently, people do take what’s written on Facebook profiles seriously!

For his action, Forrester has been sentenced to at least  14 years of imprisonment. That would give him plenty of time to think about what he’s done and perhaps his Facebook profile would state: Forrester is in jail regretting the Facebook killing of his wife.

Singapore’s politicians on Facebook

In earlier posts, I’d talked about how politicians have been jumping on the new media wagon and exploiting it to get a feel of the ground and further their popularity.  For instance, there was a Facebook standoff between Hillary, Obama and McCain some months back.

The politicians in neighbouring Malaysia have also realised the impact of new media, and the ruling party has taken an about turn on its view on new media. From disregarding it, they are now encouraging party members to keep blogs. Of course, by now, everyone has probably heard of and/or read Mahathir’s blog.

In Singapore, our local politicians have also started to use new media to reach out to the public. First there was George Yeo who was the face of PAP’s new media user, who blogged about his experiences. Now, more and more of the PAP’s members have started to adopt new media as part of their communications strategy. Teo Ser Luck is on Facebook and Vivian Balakhrishnan keeps his own blog.

According to the Today article, PAP MP Lam Pin Min (Ang Mio Kio GRC) said that, “The power of the Internet as a political tool must not be underestimated as demonstrated by the experience of the recent elections in our neighbouring countries. The party understands this and takes the feedback from netizens very seriously.”

Of course, new media shouldn’t just be used for the sake of using it. To be meaningful, it should serve as a platform for open discussion and feedback, and not a channel for propaganda.

Well, do share your thoughts about what you hope to see being used and done in new media by our local politicians.

Obama vs Hillary vs McCain on Facebook!

I wrote about the singer and star of WE WILL ROCK YOU, MiG Ayesa and his clever use of new media a couple of weeks back. As mentioned then, MiG is on Facebook, Youtube, MySpace – you name it, he’s on it.

Of course, he’s not alone in this. You look at the Facebook pages, and you will see anyone and everyone from David Beckham to Carrie Underwood having their pages and fansites there.

And of course, no person is more of a whiz at drumming up support than a politician! Take a look at the Facebook pages and you will see more links to their other websites, MySpace pages, and more.

Perhaps, not surprising, Obama’s page is ranked number 1 on Facebook, with 772,905 fans as of 15 minutes ago.

Hillary was a few positions lower with 146,816 fans and much lower down is McCain with 112,940 fans.

Hm… I wonder if these pages and the figures represent a microcosm of the larger voting public of America…


Fraudsters in Facebook

Just as Facebook has served many users as a good form of communication amongst friends in social networks, it has also served the likes of thieves and fraudsters. According to BBC’s consumer rights TV programme, Watchdog, thieves and fraudsters are able to use information put on personal profiles by other users and open online bank accounts and apply for credit cards successfully.

When it did an experiment of sending out invitations to other users by a fictitious user, many responded even though they had no clue of who the person was! Not only that, they openly shared their personal information in their profiles.

Perhaps, the anonymity of it all, and the lack of face-to-face contact lead to a false sense of security, like hey, we are all friends here and you are a friend of a friend so you must be okay – cool! Also, many unwittingly scrawl personal messages on the walls of other users, forgetting that whatever is written on the wall is plain for all to see.

All this makes it easier for identity theft to take place, and with Facebook’s decision to list its members’ profiles publicly on search engines, it looks like online fraud is likely to increase, unless users exercise due precaution and common sense.

Facebook’s (face)value

In two blog posts made last week, I wrote about the popularity of Facebook and how its creator Mark Zuckerberg turned down a good offer by Yahoo last year. Now, we know why…Mr Zuckerberg was just waiting for the next big offer! And it came a last week from none other than IT giant company Microsoft!

Cyberspace has been busy screaming ‘Microsoft buys into Facebook’ since the announcement was made last Wednesday. Microsoft paid a whopping amount of US$240 million for just 1.6% stakein Facebook, putting the value of Facebook at a staggering US$15 billion! No wonder Mark Zuckerberg can’t stop smiling!

Microsoft’s purchase is an endorsement of the growing popularity of Facebook, and how true, with 200, 000 signing up as members each day, Facebook looks set to be the most popular social networking site around!

Facebook, Social Networking and the Duo Core Generation

With so much said and done about social networking sites, there’s bound to be uses and abuses of them.

Indeed, the use of social networking in the workplace is regarded as being controversial, with many having their say and questions about it. You can read some of the views at: Kit Kai’s Tech Blog; Web 2.0 and its impact on 21st Century; Scaling the Social Web, and more.

Young people tend to use social networking sites to keep in touch with their friends and enlarge their social circles. Some use it as a way to suss out potential mates, check out the competition, entertain their friends, and themselves, etc.

While there’s nothing wrong with that, what’s making employers and companies fret is that many of the employees are spending too much time working on their Facebook profiles, checking out how many people have invited them to be friends, or throwing sheep at each other!

According to a Straits Times article entitled “We’re (net)working”, $390 million is lost a day due to loss of productivity caused by cyber-loafing. You say network, I say notwork? While employees may be tapping away at their keyboards, they may not be engaging in any productive office work. They say that employees are getting distracted by MSN messages and pop-ups, etc.

This has actually led to some companies banning and blocking the use of such social networking sites.

Not only are companies concerned about the loss of productivity, they are also concerned that certain company trade secrets and practices may be knowingly or unknowingly revealed to outsiders. This is pretty much like the concern with employees blogging about work.

But is this the way to go? Perhaps companies need to know that they are dealing with a new breed of digital natives and going online to blog and network is part and parcel of their lives. And I have a new term for the new generation of digital natives. It’s “Duo Core generation” with duo core brains which seem to allow digital natives to process separate tasks independently.

Perhaps instead of trying to beat them, some companies have tried to join them. One example is IBM.  IBM warms to social networking and has started using IBM’s Lotus Connections which allows the whole company to engage and network. IBM staff write blogs and keep wikis and make use of social networking software to keep in the loop, thus creating a sense of one giant community.

Some other uses for Web 2.0 technologies in the workplace could be corporate wikis where the collective information and intelligence of staff could be stored and referenced, as well as company blogs that could clue newcomers in on company FAQs and the company culture and the like. Project blogs and wikis could be another collaborative space for working on team projects. It depends on the creativity of the company as well. Perhaps staff could suggest more ways that companies could use such Web 2.0 technologies more effectively in the workplace.

If you wish to read up on more ideas and/or contribute your ideas, there’s a useful site that let’s you do just that: http://www.blog4biz.sg/index.htm. Of course, you care also most welcome to comment on Blogscapes!

Facebook – facing up to Facebook

I’d been resisting it – received invitations from people I didn’t really know or perhaps could not remember – invitations to become their friend in Facebook. I had resisted it, and simply deleted the email messages.

But I finally succumbed. And all in the name of education and research! After all, with so much written and said about the new social networking site, how could I, as a self-respecting educator, much less one who’s exploring new media, not know Facebook? I mean, it only has 34 million users across the globe (according to Wikipedia), with the number rising everyday. Anyway, like I’ve said, it’s all in the name of research.

So, what is Facebook and how did it start? It”s all very much Web 2.0, with the creator wanting to have something to help people communicate and keep in touch and keep up with each others’ lives. If you look at the log in page, it looks innocently simple and inviting. It says, “Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.” It goes on to add

Everyone can use Facebook —

And how true, with reports showing that Facebook is now being used not just by the young digital natives, but by many young-at-heart digital immigrants too.

According to Wikipedia’s info on Facebook and its history, its famous creator, Mark Zuckerberg, launched it in Feb 2004 for Harvard students, but its use quickly spread and now it seems, everyone’s on Facebook.

The site is so successful that Yahoo made a bid for it to no avail. Recently, there was talk that Microsoft also made a bid for it, to no avail. Looks like either Mark Zuckerberg is so naively idealistic and passionate about his site, so much so that he quit Harvard to run it, or he’s one astute technoprenuer holding out for the best bid to make him one of the youngest billionaires around.

In any case, my initial use of Facebook was pretty ho-hum. So I created my profile and invited some friends to join in. Some did and some didn’t (“Why? Email not good enough?” asked one of them.) But over the days, I’ve discovered how convenient it really is to keep in touch! Due to the interactive and interconnected nature of Facebook, I’ve been able to keep in touch with old friends and colleagues who had kept in touch with others, and so the network grows.

It’s a pretty cool way to keep up with your friends. I say friends, as frankly, all that adding of people just to up your social circle numbers is just sad. It’s not the quantity but the quality that really matters.

But I’ve heard of how people have used Facebook in pretty interesting ways – to check up on potential boyfriends/girlfriends/bosses/exployees/room mates, etc. Which also highlights an important consideration. Be careful of what you post online. More importantly, be careful of what others post about you online – like what they scrawl on your Facebook walls, and all. But then again, can you really control what they say and write?