Posts Tagged Online

Asian Perspective: Why networking sites can be addictive

1st August 2010
HUNDREDS of online social networking sites (SNS) are available these days catering to various interests — friendship, dating, business networking, among others.Sites like Facebook, MySpace, Urkut, hi5, Bebo and Friendster are very popular.

Almost 85 per cent of Malaysia’s online population belongs to one or more of these sites. Of the many SNS, Malaysians have taken a liking to Facebook which has a 77.5 per cent reach of the web population.
This phenomenon, states a report on social networking activities by comScore Inc, is common in most Asia Pacific countries such as the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Singapore.

What drives online users to Facebook?

The ability to establish and maintain relationships is the primary drive, says Dr Adrian M. Budiman, a senior lecturer at Universiti Utara Malaysia. It could be real contacts (established in real life), virtual contacts (established online), or old relationships.
Adrian, who conducts research in new media and culture, says there are several interesting reasons why Facebook appeals to the online population.

“It is a tool for members to boost their self-esteem. The more friends they have, the more popular they feel. They receive feedback for the content they publish though the site.

“There is a sense of constantly being surrounded by a circle of friends.”
Another reason, he says, is the voyeuristic tendency to view other people’s information in private.

“People want to explore other people’s personal lives without suffering negative social consequences. It also provides a platform to rekindle old relationships.

“The ability to search for old friends and colleagues, former romantic partners, and discover their current status is quite appealing for some members.”

He says the majority of the younger generation (21 years and below) embrace social networks more comfortably than the older generation, and tend to be more liberal in revealing personal information through the site.

While younger people are interested in making new friends, the older generation is more interested in maintaining existing friendships through this medium.

“For younger people, it is their primary method of communication in some cases. In my study, I have discovered that the older generation still has a tendency to value human communication as superior and have greater respect for traditional values and morality,” says Adrian.

He believes it is not all bad.

“It may enhance social interaction. The ability to communicate through interactive media allows more options and more frequent interactions with our contacts. I have found that existing relationships formed in real-life may be strengthened through Facebook.”

Nonetheless, he agrees that some relationships initiated through Facebook may be superficial.

“Before the popularity of interactive media, a ‘friend’ was associated with a person with whom he had a positive relationship with. This is no longer true with the advent of new media.

“The idea of ‘friend’ itself degrades the value of friendship since a Facebook ‘friend’ can be as distant as a friend of a friend of a friend whom we know nothing about.”

Julian Hopkins, a doctoral student at Monash University Sunway Campus who researches social media, says for some people, retreating into the virtual world to make friends can be a means to overcome social awkwardness or loneliness.

“I think that is in the minority, and is not the main reason for people using SNS.”

The fascination with self-display as seen on SNS is not unusual says Hopkins. It only seems more obvious because it’s online and archived.

“We all self-display all the time. With technological advances, especially digital photography, a lot more of that is happening now.

“Doing something such as posting photos of a party online is a way of reinforcing ties with other people who went to the party.”

One of the biggest mistakes in the public debate on SNS, says Hopkins, is that it is assumed the generation of “digital natives” are not concerned about privacy.

While these platforms offer users the ability to disclose a wide variety of personal information it also differentiates between public and private, where public means that a profile is available to anyone and private means that it is only for selected friends.

“Facebook is popular because users think that they are only sharing with people they want to share with.

“Teenagers, for example, may want only people like them to see their profile but they do not want the same attention from an adult.

“One noticeable trend in this regard is that, as more and more parents go into Facebook, young people are creating multiple profiles — one for the ‘parent public’ which includes their school, potential employers and one for their own public.”

Generally, he says, people are ignorant about the risk factors when using these platforms. Many don’t understand that their indiscretions will be online indefinitely.

“Users must realise that anything that goes online may be seen by their parents, their teachers, their future partners, their future employers and even their children.

“I don’t think social networks are damaging. It only becomes a problem when people reveal things that come back to haunt them or they become addicted to it.”

Read more: Why networking sites can be addictive


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New Asian customer put in spotlight at Web in Travel 2010

Wednesday, 14 July 2010
Media Asia Booming
Facebook Travel Internet

The new Asian customer and the way she plans, books and buys travel will be in the spotlight at this year’s Web In Travel conference taking place in Singapore in October.

“There is a new customer emerging in Asia,” said Yeoh Siew Hoon, owner of the conference. “She is extremely value-conscious and tech-savvy in the way she seeks and accesses information on the web, comparing not only prices but also what other people are saying about a product or service.

“Game-changing gadgets such as the iPhone or the iPad, social networks such as Facebook and travel review sites such as TripAdvisor are just some of the factors that are influencing traveller behaviour across the region.

“We also have a very Internet-savvy and mobile-connected generation of customers emerging in Asia. In July, Asia became the largest producer of tweets on Twitter and some of Facebook’s biggest growth markets are found in the region.”

This, she said, explains why TripAdvisor, the biggest travel review site in the world, and Facebook are setting up regional headquarters in Singapore.

Social networking activity is on the rise in Asia, as tracked by comScore, the global company that gathers digital media intelligence, showing that 50.8 percent of the total online population in the Asia-Pacific region visited a social networking site in February 2010, reaching a total of 240.3 million visitors.

Brett Henry, Vice President Marketing, Abacus International, the travel technology company which processes most of the region’s air reservations, said, “The people going to social networks are no longer just the younger generation. Granted that in Asia, there is still a market for the 50s and above who are less Internet savvy and prefer to book offline. But if you project ahead, in a decade or less, the Internet and social media savvy Generation C will be ruling the world.”

In India, for instance, more than one-third of its total Internet population visit travel sites with comScore reporting that top online travel brands are seeing double and triple-digit growth as consumers take to the web in search of deals.

AirAsia’s Facebook fan page grew from zero members to more than 200,000 within a year and now stands at 339,009 members.

Said Kathleen Tan, regional head of commercial for the airline group which will fly its 100th million passenger by the fourth quarter of this year, “With an average of 6,500 fans and over 33,000 visits to our fan page weekly, we know that they are taking us seriously on the social media front.”

Said Yeoh, “Everyone recognises the huge travel demand there is in Asia, not only in the major population areas of China and India, but also across the whole of South-east and North Asia. People are travelling either for the first time, thanks to low cost airlines, or for the umpteenth time, and they are branching out to try new places. And they are being adventurous not only in where they travel to but how they plan and book their travels.”

In July as well, Google, which commanded 72 percent of the search market in the US in May 2010 (Experian Hitwise), paid US$700 million to acquire ITA Software, a company whose technology solution helps travellers search for air fares.

“This development which sees Google moving into the travel vertical can only benefit travellers as this will spur the industry to improve search and make it easier for us to look for the best air fares to anywhere,” said Yeoh.

It is against this backdrop that leading travel marketing and technology experts from around the world will gather at the Web In Travel conference to discuss and debate the latest customer trends emerging in Asia.

Represented on the speakers list are new brands such as TripAdvisor;, the publicly-listed Japanese meta travel search site;, the leading online hotel portal in South Korea; NileGuide, the US-based travel planning site; Holiday IQ, the India-based travel media site that’s expanding in South-east Asia; and Indonesia’s Mandala Airlines, which is launching international services to Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau soon.

Established online travel brands such as Wotif, ZUJI/Travelocity, Expedia and will also be represented, along with the leading players in search, revenue management, social media, branding, marketing and distribution.

“What we wanted to do this year was to widen our net to cover players who are making waves in Asia Pacific, international brands who are entering the region and emerging markets such as Indonesia and Korea,” said Yeoh.

Close to 60 speakers have been confirmed, with more likely to be added in the months to come. Among the speakers are “archangel” investor Morten Lund who has co-founded and invested in more than 50 high-tech startups including Skype and online stockbroker Zecco; Adrian Hamilton-Manns, CEO of Mandala Airlines in Indonesia; Cui Guang Fu, CEO, Elong, China; Gerry Samuels, CEO, Mobile Travel Technologies; Hrush Bhatt, founder and director of Cleartrip/Small World in India; Marc Charron, managing director of TripAdvisor APAC; and William Bao Bean, partner, Softbank China & India Holdings.

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Why Asia should matter?

28 June 2010

Up to 43 percent of the world’s online population will reside in Asia by 2013, according to projections from Forrester Research. And China will account for 17 percent of the global online population.

In mobile, eMarketer forecasts China will have 1.3 billion subscribers and 957 million mobile Web users by 2014. The consultancy projects there will be more people accessing the Web on their cell phones in the country than the entire population of the U.S. in 2010.

Other digital marketing facts in Asia include:

  • Internet users in Asia Pacific spent more than 5.6 trillion minutes online in 2009, and bought $7 billion in virtual goods, according to the Asia Pacific Digital Marketing Handbook.
  • Nearly half of all search activity (44.1 percent) across the region in September 2009 took place on Google; representing 17 billion searches. (comScore)
  • India’s Internet population grew to 71 million, a year-on-year increase of 42 percent in 2009; 51 million of them are active users. (Economic Times)
  • Japan has around 21.8 million social network users. Around half of them actively manage their profiles, according to Universal McCann.
  • The Philippines has more than 10.6 million Facebook users and is ranked eighth in the world in terms of countries with highest number of using the social networking site, reports Inside Facebook.

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Pakistan Monitors Websites For ‘Blasphemy’ Against Islam

Free speech is precious. We don’t realize how much but maybe as Pakistan monitors websites for “blasphemy” we’ll begin to understand. Pakistan banned Facebook last month when someone wanted people to submit their drawings of the Prophet Muhammed. Now Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Bing and others will be monitored for what Pakistan deems “blasphemous.”

YouTube was also banned by Pakistan for sacrilegious material according to their definition of sacrilege. The monitoring of the websites in Pakistan began with the banning of 17 websites by court order. These sites contain, according to the LaHore High Court, blasphemous material. My Way News reports that one of the banned sites is a site called The “blasphemy” in this case is headlines such as “Islam: The Ultimate Hypocrisy.”

Pakistan is not the only country that has monitored or banned websites. China has monitored websites searching for blasphemy against their god; the government. Other Islamic countries do and will most surely follow Pakistan’s lead in suppressing freedom of speech. Islamic extremists can’t afford for other thoughts and ideas to penetrate their world of indoctrination.

Here in the states, the Obama Administration is looking to “regulate” the internet. Regulation is just another term for monitor. If the Administration has their way, we could be on the slippery slope to outright suppression of our First Amendment rights if they are allowed to monitor sites that may be in opposition to Obama’s policies.

Pakistan monitoring websites for “blasphemy” is a scary thing. The internet is a place for the free exchange of thoughts and ideas. Sure there are wacko’s out there, but even they have the right to speak their peace.

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Blogging behind Vietnam’s bamboo cyberwall

By Pamela Boykoff, CNN
June 25, 2010

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (CNN) — Helmet under her arm, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh arrives after traveling 450 kilometers by motorbike, evading the security police, to tell CNN the story of her imprisonment for blogging in Vietnam.

“The first three days I was scared for myself,” she said about her 10 days in prison, during which officers repeatedly asked her about her writing and if she received cash from anti-government groups outside the country.

Vietnamese like Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh are embracing the internet in full force. There are 24 million internet users right now, nearly a third of the population. A decade ago there were 200,000. Internet cafes have popped up all over Ho Chi Minh City, and social networking sites are increasing in popularity along with mobile internet use.

“Internet life grows so fast,” said a popular blogger, who requested anonymity out of concerns for his safety. “Even I, one of the bloggers, could not imagine how fast this could be.

“And nearly everyone, each Vietnamese, has their own blog.”

Like elsewhere, most Vietnamese blogs deal with life, work, humor or technology. But a group of bloggers here also focus on a more dangerous territory in this one-party Communist state: They write about local corruption, land seizures and the increasing influence of China. They complain about the lack of multiparty democracy, too.

In a nutshell, they blog about the sort of issues that can get you into deep trouble in today’s Vietnam.

This is something that Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh — who blogs under the Vietnamese pen name Me Nam or Mother Mushroom — knows well.

Her blog includes writings about her daily life and pictures of her young daughter, but she also expresses her outspoken views against China’s intervention in her country, including Beijing’s financing of a controversial bauxite mine in the Central Highlands.

Those views led to her arrest and imprisonment for ten days in August, for, she said, “abuse of democratic freedoms and infringing on the national benefit.”

When I first got in touch with Nguyen nearly a year later, her phone and movements were still being monitored. E-mail, I had been told, was the best way to get in touch.

“I am willing to tell my story to you,” she wrote to me, saying she would travel from Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh City to meet us.

Twelve hours later, she sent another e-mail. “Can you sure filming is OK and safe for us?” She feared the security police would prevent her from coming, but she would try.

The next day she arrived, and over the next two hours she told her story.

“I did not know what happened. But the fourth and fifth and the sixth day when they asked me the same questions, I was scared for my mom and my daughter and my husband. I didn’t want to think about them when I was put in prison, because if I ever think about them I wanted to give everything to come to my family.”

As a condition of her release, she agreed to give up blogging, posting a handwritten letter on her site in which she explained that she loved her country, but that the government felt this was the wrong way. After being denied a passport two months later though, she decided to begin again.

“I write another entry on my blog, that I gave up already, but they didn’t leave me alone,” she said. “I have to take the right to say what I think.”

What does she think the government will do if they see her telling her story on CNN?

“I think that they have to think about this,” she said. “Because I just tell the truth … If they arrest me again because I send a message outside to the world, I am not scared. This means that they show to (the) world that we don’t have freedom like they say.”

When contacted by CNN about its policy on freedom of expression on the internet, Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry provided the following written response.

“In Vietnam, freedom of information and freedom of speech are guaranteed and practiced in accordance with the law. Such concern as ‘government threatens free expression online and an open internet’ is groundless.”

Nguyen and I have been keeping in touch by e-mail since her story aired on CNN International television one week ago.

“Thank you so much for the film …,” she wrote me on Saturday. “Thank you for coming to report about our country.”

And at the bottom of her automatic signature, the same as on every e-mail I have received from her, it read: “Who will speak if you don’t?”

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Blogger loses job; Post loses standing among conservatives

Post blogger Dave Weigel, who wrote about the conservative movement, resigned amid controversy today following disclosure of disparaging e-mails he’d written about some of the very people he was hired to cover.

Weigel bears responsibility for sarcastic and scornful comments he made in e-mails leaked from a supposedly private listserv called “Journolist,” started in 2007 by fellow Post blogger and friend Ezra Klein. Weigel’s e-mails showed strikingly poor judgment and revealed a bias that only underscored existing complaints from conservatives that he couldn’t impartially cover them.

But his departure also raises questions about whether The Post has adequately defined the role of bloggers like Weigel. Are they neutral reporters or ideologues?

And, given the disdainful comments in his e-mails, there is the separate question of whether he was miscast from the outset when he was hired earlier this year.

Raju Narisetti, the managing editor who oversees The Post’s Web site, said Weigel called him last night and offered to resign after Fishbowl D.C. initially revealed some damaging e-mails. Narisetti said Weigel alerted him that another Web site, the conservative Daily Caller, planned to disclose more e-mails today.

“This morning, after reading them, I accepted his resignation,” Narisetti said. Contacted by e-mail, Weigel replied: “I no longer work for the Post.”

The e-mails made negative comments about Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, among others. One suggested it “would be a vastly better world” if Webmeister Matt Drudge “decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire.”

Weigel apologized online yesterday, but the damage was too severe to save his job.

“I don’t think you need to be a conservative to cover the conservative movement,” Narisetti told me late today. “But you do need to be impartial… in your views.”

He said that when Weigel was hired, he was vetted in the same way that other prospective Post journalists are screened. He interviewed with a variety of top editors, his writings were reviewed and his references were checked, Narisetti said.

“But we’re living in an era when maybe we need to add a level” of inquiry, he said. “It may be in our interests to ask potential reporters: ‘In private… have you expressed any opinions that would make it difficult for you to do your job.”

Weigel’s exit, and the events that prompted it, have further damaged The Post among conservatives who believe it is not properly attuned to their ideology or activities. Ironically, Weigel was hired to address precisely those concerns.

With bloggers such as Weigel, “I think The Post needs to decide what it wants to be online,” said Dan Gainor, a vice president at the conservative Media Research Center. “Does it want to be opinion? Or, does it want to be news? The problem here was that it was never clear.”

“If it’s going to be opinion, it ought to have somebody on the conservative side — something Dave Weigel never was,” he said.

If The Post wants to assign a “good neutral reporter” to cover conservatives, “we’d be thrilled,” said Gainor. But quickly added, Weigel “wasn’t one. He looked at the conservative movement as if he was visiting a zoo. We’re more than that.”

Gainor raises valid points. Klein’s blog posts clearly pass through a liberal prism. For that reason, liberals have a comfort level with what he writes, and conservatives know where he’s coming from, even if they disagree. In contrast, Weigel’s blog seemed to confuse many conservatives who contacted me. Was he supposed to be a neutral reporter, some wondered? Others complained that he was a liberal trying to write about conservatives he disdained.

“We will look for someone to replace Dave,” Narisetti said.

Instead of just a replacement, The Post might consider two: one conservative with a Klein-like ideological bent, and another who can cover the conservative movement in the role of a truly neutral reporter.

In the meantime, Post managers would be wise to remind all staffers that personal opinions, expressed privately on listservs or through social media, can prove damaging if made public.

Klein addressed that danger this afternoon in a thoughtful blog post explaining why he is closing down Journolist, and why he is saddened that leaks from the listserv led to the resignation of Weigel, a “dear friend.” Klein wrote:

There’s a lot of faux-intimacy on the Web. Readers like that intimacy, or at least some of them do. But it’s dangerous. A newspaper column is public, and writers treat it as such. So too is a blog. But Twitter? It’s public, but it feels, somehow, looser, safer. Facebook is less public than Twitter, and feels even more intimate. A private e-mail list is not public, but it is electronically archived text, and it is protected only by a password field and the good will of the members. It’s easy to talk as if it’s private without considering the possibility, unlikely as it is, that it will one day become public.

Alas, it took only one listserv participant to bundle up Weigel’s archived comments and start leaking them outside the group. The result is that Weigel lost his job. But the bigger loss is The Post’s standing among conservatives.

// By Andy Alexander  |  June 25, 2010; 5:24 PM ET

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Turkey Urged to Loosen Rules on Internet Access

Dorian Jones | Ankara
24 June 2010

Europe’s main human rights and security agency told Turkey this week to stop blocking Google’s video-sharing website “YouTube” and thousands of other sites banned under its Internet law. Turkey has banned more websites than any other country in Europe, and ranks with countries like Iran and Burma.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, said the law, introduced in 2007, has been expanded to block more than 5,000 sites in the past few years and is severely damaging freedom of expression and information rights.

The minister of transport, Binyali Yildirim, is responsible for Internet policy. He defends the government’s actions, saying Google could solve all of this by opening an office in Turkey.

It is the duty of everyone to protect the rights of Turkey, he says.  All we are saying is for them to act according to Turkish laws.  We are not in a position to bargain with them. They need to accept Turkish laws and have a valid address in Turkey.

Google is reluctant to set up an office in Turkey because analysts say that would mean opening itself up for possible prosecution over its content.

Google’s hugely popular “YouTube” site has already been banned for two years in Turkey because of videos officials say have denigrated Ataturk,  the founder of the Republic of Turkey.

Professor of Media studies Haluk Sahin at Istanbul’s Bilgi University says Turkey’s lawmakers are simply unable to change with the times.

“It is an extension of a mentality that has very deep roots here. We don’t have a liberal tradition in which freedom of speech and expression is considered to be of a fundamental part of civilized life,” he said.  “As a result law makers today react to developments in ways that are very similar to their fathers and grandfathers used to do, which is to ban.”

Many savvy Web users are circumventing the bans by using proxy servers, but the courts hit back this week by banning them. This prompted President Abdullah Gul to intervene .

“Of course there should not be such bans in Turkey,” he said. “If there is a need for a new law, then the law should be introduced.  They should find a way.  All this should be resolved very soon. Turkey shouldn’t like to appear as a country which bans websites.”

Richard Howitt, spokesman for the European parliament’s committee on Turkey, says he is confident Ankara is pushing for reforms.

“The censorship of the Internet probably is likely a result of local prosecutors, rather than government policy. That these complaints that we brought to our parliamentary colleagues were listened to, we got commitments for them to be investigated,” he said.

But such optimism is not shared by Professor Sahin.  He says despite the growing national and international pressure he doesn’t expect legal change anytime soon.

“Nobody seems to move a finger to change them, even when they say see it, they do not take necessary steps to get rid of them. It’s anomaly that makes Turkey an embarrassing place,” he said.

That pessimism seems well placed with no Internet reforms currently planned.  So for some time to come,  Turkey seems destined to remain in the company of countries like Burma, North Korea and Iran when it comes to Internet freedom.

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