Skittles candy from Mars has taken its brand to a level where many brands have not gone before. Instead of delivering controlled brand messages on its website, it is transforming the site into a navigator for its social media universe. Particularly impressive is its home page shows chatter about ‘skittles’ on Twitter Search. In such laissez-faire environment, real-time updates streaming on Twitter Search can be both positive and negative mentions.
This list offers a glimpse of some of the more interesting use of Web 2.0 by Malaysian brands. It is created after sifting through hundreds of social media ‘initiatives’ listed on the Social Media Malaysia. However, as with any list, there are limitations and this one is no exception. Some of the shortfalls are:
- Investigation is based on initiatives listed on the Social Media Malaysia.
- No ‘scientific’ measurement is used to derive the ranking.
Caveats aside, the list is a baby step towards a better understanding of the use of Web 2.0 in businesses in Malaysia and hopefully, can inspire more Malaysian companies use them more creatively.
Widgeo.us brings together communication channels (eg. email, SMS, MSN Messenger, Twitter, Google Talk and Facebook Chat) into one platform. Orgoo also pulls together IM, emails, SMS and voice into an integrated Web-based messaging platform. So is Chatterous, which consolidates IM, phone and email to enable group chat. However, Orgoo and Chatterous focus on messaging, whereas Widgeo.us, a Singapore-based start-up, creates a cross-channels communication platform and extends it beyond messaging by allowing applications to leverage its capabilities (applications already running on Widgeo.us are dictionary, language translation, weather, chat-room and Hangman game).
Each application has its own set of commands. These commands are used to instruct the application for results or actions. For example, to get a definition of, say, ‘homeostasis’, type ‘dictionary define homeostasis‘ in the Widgeous device. Alternatively, you can ‘direct message’ Widgeous bot on Twitter with the similar command-line; Widgeo.us will ‘direct message’ you the answer on Twitter.
Figure 1 below simplistically illustrates the Widgeo.us ecosystem, which consists of three key elements – Applications, Channels and Users.
Consider Widgeo.us as a residential neighborhood and the Channels are modes of transport – on foot, bicycle, motorcycle, Segway, car, bus and taxi. Residences (Users) are using these modes of transport to go to amenities / facilities (Applications) within the neighborhood. In the town of Widgeo.us, the amenities and facilities are easily and readily accessible by various transportation options. Availability of efficient transportation and quality amenities / facilities enhance quality of life, and thus, increases the value of the neighborhood. Similarly, in the case of Widgeo.us platform, its value is dependent on the variety of channels and diversity of applications.
Figure 1: The Widgeo.us Ecosystem
Applications with noticeable increase in usefulness when accessibility increases can benefit the most from Widgeo.us. Developers only code once and their applications are accessible across multiple channels. This save time and effort. With Widgeo.us, developers can focus more on developing application functionality.
To catalyze the growth of its applications, Widgeo.us has opened up its platform to third-party application developers on July 26, 2008. The on-going Hackathon contest aims to spur interest among developers to develop applications for its platform and winners get cash prizes (and ‘publicity’). Recently, the Singapore Symposium on Computational Biology has used Widgeo.us for its participants registration.
The founders of Widgeo.us are CEO Ridzuan Ashim and CTO Chua U-Zyn. The company obtained its seed funding from Thymos Capital LLP, a private business incubator. Widgeo.us launched its private beta on May 21 2008.
In a nutshell:
Facebook‘s News Feed is getting ‘richer.’ The News Feed section is where your friends’ activities on Facebook are being displayed. Now, News Feed comes with filters, namely “Top Stories“, “Status Updates“, “Photos” and “Posted Items.”
Top Stories are displaying the latest activity streams of your friends (similar to the ‘old’ format everything-in News Feed). “Status Updates” displays your friends’ status updates; “Photos” consolidates the latest photos uploaded and “Posted Items” for posted links. Below are the screenshots of the News Feed before and after the tiny facelift:
BEFORE screenshot July 21 2008
AFTER screenshot July 31 2008
You can comment of every activity stream on Top Stories, Status Updates and Posted Items (no comment on Photos). This comment-ability feature is mimicking FriendFeed. Will Facebook soon allow other social-streams (e.g. Twitter and Flickr) to flow into its walled garden?
Posterous released its AutoPost feature today (GreyReview’d here). Now, users can post content to various blogging platforms, namely Twitter, Blogger, WordPress.com, Typepad, LiveJournal and Xanga. Photos too can be automatically posted to Flickr.
Each time a user sends a post using [email protected], Posterous will send the post to multiple sites (as defined by the user). The user can also specify specific social website to post e.g. to send to Twitter, email ‘[email protected]’ and send to Flickr, email to ‘[email protected]’.
Posterous, popular for its blog-via-email feature, is adopting a similar concept to Ping.fm. With Ping.fm, a user can post their updates to various social services (blogs, micro-blogs and status). However, Ping.fm is more suitable in situations where brevity matters; Posterous is simply a blank canvass for anyone to throw anything at. Now, not only Posterous a blogging/social networking site, it also offers social networks update service. That’s value-added!
After four months in private beta, Phlook is going public beta today (GreyReview’d here). However, the Phlook team is still working on its transaction feature, which is quite an interesting feature. It allows amateur and professional photographers to use Phlook to monetize their works. Nevertheless, the public beta version of Phlook is still fun to use.
Its photo embedding (another cool feature) is already working. Each photo is converted to Flash file, which can be embedded into any website/blog. You can zoom in, zoom out the photo. Below is an example of a Phlook’d photo. Mouse over the photo to see more details and share it with others.
These are the seven stuff of thoughts I’ve picked up at the awesome BarCamp Malaysia, which was held on July 26th – July 27th 2008 in Kuala Lumpur.
1. Put on your Platform shoes and Widgeo.us!
Basically, Widgeo.us is trying to bridge islands of communication tools on platform. It aims to help users to “deliver the right message to the right person and the right tool at the right way” (ripped from slide).
Benefits for users include access to favorite applications, information on demand, contact manager, centralized contact information, and ability to filter who, how and when receive information (for example, you can define your message from Friend A on your Twitter but Friend B’s message send to your email.
I’ve tried its Weather application by Direct Message Widgeo.us via Twitter. The result, delivered to my Twitter:
wdg Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur 2008-07-27 11:00:00 0000 [Current Conditions] Mostly Cloudy 28 °C [Forecasts] Today Chance of Storm High: 29 °C Low: 23 °C Mon Cloudy High: 33 °C Low: 22 °C Tue Cloudy High: 33 °C Low: 24 °C
For developers, it enables rapid deployment, support for multiple communication channels (eg. MSN Messenger, Twitter), applications portability, and widgetize applications for embedding.
Currently, channels supported are MSN Messenger, Twitter and Widgeo.us; planning to extend to Facebook Chat and Google GTalk soon. They are not moving into the social networking space. So, friend list comes from users. Widgeo.us is a fun platform to play with. I’ve tried its available applications, namely weather, dictionary and chat room.
Widgeo.us Hackathon is a contest to get developers cool applications on Widgeo.us platform. Contest ends August 31 2008. I shall blog more on Widgeo.us very soon.
2. The Sound of Music 2.0
Attended Music 2.0 session by Nazrul Kamaruddin (Twitter @nazroll). Nazrul has worked with several local artistes. He defined Music 2.0 as self-generated music. He explained the various avenues on how artists can leverage various 2.0 tools to market their music and brand themselves. He used Radiohead as an example, on how the band bypass record label and go direct to its fans (customers).
Nazrul underscored the importance for artistes to nurture community around their music. Why community? Nazrul explained the purposes of community building are (1) interest generation, (2) interaction with fans, and (3) sharing thoughs, sharing experiences with fans and (4) grow fan-base. In short, Nazrul said “music that spreads, wins!”
He mentioned about the release of name-your-name In Rainbow. He quoted a quote by the website, boingboing:
This is major, and it’s such a slap in the record industry’s face. An unsigned superband, treating loyal fans and customers like loyal fans and customers instead of thieves – what a revolutionary concept!
He also mentioned about Radiohead’s Nude Re/Mix, where the band let its fans to sample music from its song.
Some of the cool websites he mentioned, which are useful for artistes are:
- CD Baby – Musician mail 5 CDs and CD Baby digitize the works. Each CD is sold at $35; artiste keeps a whopping 91% of the sales and CD Baby keeps the remaining. Malaysian artiste SevenCollar T-Shirt used this site.
- AmieStreet – Selling independent music with dynamic pricing (depending on popularity). A song start as ‘free’; with three recommendations, the value of the song will increase by 1 cent; the maximum limit for each song is 98 cents.
- The Hype Machine – Digg for music blogs with link to songs and Internet radio.
On why Malaysian music sites (eg. Musicanteen.com) are not sustainable, Nazrul said it’s because these sites are transferring old practices online; the sites lacked personalization and interaction with its users. Another is its unappealing pricing and also partly due to wrong timing.
(A little diversion: Naz mentioned three major music labels in Malaysia, namely Universal Music, Warner/ Sony-BMG and EMI; only Universal Music is doing well a.k.a. making money).
3. Video Overlay to Monetize Online Video
The presentation by UrekaLabs attracted quite an interest, packed room and lots of interactions. Roni Mustapha (Twitter @ronshah), CEO of the company, presented on why monetizing of videos is the way forward. Although YouTube nominated online video, it only contributed tiny sum to Google’s revenue (YouTube projected to make US$200 million in 2008).
UrekaLabs has an interesting idea on how to monetize money from user-generated videos. It uses pattern-recognition technology to superimpose ‘ads’ on objects displaying on video.
UrekaLabs started in January 2 2008; obtained MDeC’s Pre-seed fund. The project started as development of interior design application. After listening to Vint Cerf during the recent WCIT 2008, the team decided to repositioned its product. Vint Cerf mentioned about ways for YouTube to generate income, which is click-able objects on video that can open up opportunities for advertisements. Its still in developmental stage.
Someone from the audience said that the pattern-recognition is not the ‘secret sauce’ of UrekaLabs. It will be its inventory of ads, which enables amateur video makers to monetize their works.
4. Looking Inside Firefox Extensions and Theme
It’s my first time getting the opportunity to peek inside Firefox Extensions and Theme. The tag-team of Perry Loh (Twitter @skeevs) and Lim Chee Aun (Twitter @cheeaun). Perry Loh developed Fownce, a Firefox extension for Pownce (microblog). The extension allows users to post links and messages from browser directly to Pownce. You can also post highlighted text.
Lim Chee Aun is one of the well-known themers of Firefox. He created Phoenity theme; his current project is Phoenity Aura. He started working on theme since 2002, during the time of Phoenix version 0.1. Inside the ‘.jar’ theme file are chrome.jar, chrome.manifest, install.rdf, icon.png and preview.png.
According to Chee Aun, developing Firefox theme is like developing webpage. However, he said “it is easy to create theme, but it’s hard to maintain one.” Something worth noting. (You can find Chee Aun’s slides here)
5. Understanding the Mind of VCs
This session is one of the two conversational-type sessions (the other one is next). This session is by Dr Bernard Leong (twitter @bleongcw) of Thymos Capital, a venture capitalist from Singapore. William Du of Ingenious Haus Sdn Bhd, a venture capital firm in Kuala Lumpur, share his thoughts from the Malaysian perspective. The session is divided into three topics, namely Invest, Value and Fund with scenarios from Malaysia and Singapore.
Invest Funds in Malaysia are for late and Pre-IPO stages and less for early seed. According to William, key consideration is ‘will customer pay?’.
Bernard focuses on seed / prototype stage with investment size of S$55,000. Thymos can be considered as business incubator. Big foreign venture capitalists in Singapore like Walden International, IDG (South East Asia) adn BAF Spectrum tend to focus on growth and pre-IPO companies.
Disbursement method works better compared to re-imbursement. In Malaysia, pre-seed fund by MDeC is on quarterly disbursement and Cradle fund , compared to Cradle fund. Can this be the reason why more prefer MDeC fund?
Value How to value company? For pre-IPO company, there will be evaluation of historical past three years performance and projection of next three years. Growth stage is similar to Pre-IPO, except historical performance may not be available. So, the focus is more on projected cashflow for the next 3 to 5 years. For seed stage, it’s more about determining the stake in exchange for the amount of money needed by the company to grow to the next level.
According to Bernard, sometimes entrepreneurs value their companies too high. His rules of thumb: after three negotiations and if no deal is reached, he will terminate negotiation. Ideally, he prefer to work with entrepreneurs with working experiences. He cited two of his portfolio companies, Eteract and iHipo.
Fund According to Bernard, a survey done in Singapore found that 50% of entrepreneurs get money from family and friends during early stage and 17% from VCs.
There is also a mention that condition of expenditure shouldn’t be imposed, as its an impediment. In the case of Singapore, Bernard said its early fund capped company founder’s salary at S$600.
6. Jumping the Shark with Meng Wong
Meng Wong (twitter @mengwong), a successful Singapore enterpreneur based in Silicon Valley, held another open session. It’s a good participative session, which explore what’s next. Meng Wong wrote:
$1,000 + Brains = IPO
(Author’s note: Kevin Rose started Digg.com with $1,200 and an insight about the future of news)
It’s an interesting metaphor to describe the uniqueness of software business. With minimal investment plus brains, wealth can be generated. It’s different from the industrial age. As it is becoming easier and cheaper to make interesting things, ideas commoditization follows. Meng Wong asked, is the age of innovation is going to be over soon?
However, he also mentioned that failure usually is the outcome of failure of imagination. To expand the horizon of possibilities, he asked everyone to think of innovative endeavor as inventing ‘magic.’
Some cool areas of applications that surfaced during the discussion, namely location-based services, OpenID, sensory interface augmentation and geriatic computing.
As his last word, Meng Wong asked participants to “let’s think of magic, let’s go implement it.” Good stuff!
7. Web 2.0 Around the World
“Interesting Web 2.0/Mobile Services Around the World” by Preetam Rai (twitter @preetamrai) is one of my favorite sessions at BarCamp Malaysia. It’s almost a tour de force for global web 2.0 initiatives. Most of these initiatives are not mentioned in ‘mainstream’ tech news sites.
Here are the list of websites:
|Naijapals||Nigeria||Social networking site|
|SMS GupShup||India||SMS-based social network|
|Babytree||China||For parents to share baby pictures, tips, etc|
|Mixi||Japan||No. 1 social network in Japan.|
|FaceMyanmar||Myanmar||Facebook-rip. It’s a “social utility that connects you with the people around you.” Sounds familiar?|
|Qatar Living||Qatar||User-generated content related to living in Qatar for those who are living or interested of living in Qatar|
|Babatang||China||Social network to find people who live your same block or area|
|E-xecutive||Russia||Social network targeted at executives in Russia|
|nvivo.es||Spain||Social network for music bands and their fans|
|Podaj||Poland||Book social network; online book organizer, book exchange, book borrowing|
|Niconicodouga||Japan||Japanese Youtube with mostly Japanese materials.|
|Bongoza||Tasmania||Search engine for blogs in Tanzania|
|Bongoza||Africa||Aggregating African blogs with Digg-like rating|
|Kizasi||Japan||Crawl Japanese blogs for words and connotations and usage patterns to list current frequently used words. Yahoo! Japan bought 5% of Kizasi.|
|Kizasi||Japan||Crawl Japanese blogs for words and connotations and usage patterns to list current frequently used words. Yahoo! Japan bought 5% of Kizasi.|
|Minna No Topics||Japan||Digg-clone by Yahoo! Japan|
|Chodientsu||Vietnam||Social network based on products / combination of eBay and social networks|
|PhunuNet||Vietnam||Social network for Vietnamese ladies.|
|ljplus.ru||Russia||LiveJournal community in Russia|
|Tossi||South Korea||Mobile-centric social network offered by SK Telecom. It create daily ‘contest’ for its users. For example, take a picture of the sky. Users upload photo to Tossi via MMS. Winners get free mobile coupons.|
|Springleap||South Africa||Social network for t-shirt designers|
|YeeYan||China||A community of translators and content consumers – translating contents from Chinese to English, vice-versa|
|MeetPretty||China||For ladies to talk about cosmetics and rate personal beauty products|
|Redbus||India||Online bus ticket booking website.|
|Artpoli||South Korea||For artists to showcase and sell their works; for collectors to buy them.|
|Kazi560||Kenya||SMS job alerts. Users subscribe to job keywords eg. ‘accountant’ and will be charged when receiving an SMS with job information.|
|Joblet||Japan||Post up your job ads for free. Then, the ads will appear in websites/blogs related to the job profile. You pay a fee for each qualified candidates.|
|Ogywawa||Singapore||Buy drinks for someone and they can redeem at participating outlets.|
|Trivop||France||Offers videos of hotels for travelers to see before they make their bookings.|
|ChinesePod||China||Offer simple lessons to converse in Chinese.|
|soZiety||Europe||Social network to learn new languages and also, to teach others.|
|Rockbird||Japan||Mobile transcoding website|
|Check*Pad||Japan||GTD (Getting Things Done) application for mobile|
|SynthaSite||US||Task management application for iPhone and iPod Touch|
|Meet-me||Japan||Japanese alternative to Second Life.|
|Bedpost||n/a||Your sex-life personal online journal.|
Singapore-based Phlook Pte Ltd, founded by Ng Wee Kiat and Justine Ho, is planning to announce the public launch its online photo sharing and management site, Phlook next week. Besides sharing and showcasing photos, the website also enables users to sell them. According to Ng, Phlook aims to become the best web-based platforms, not only for everyone to share, organize and manage their photos / images but also, for amateur and professional photographers to showcase and sell their works. Development started in October 2007 and was in private beta since November 2007.
At Phlook, anyone can upload photos and there is no limit on storage (but upload for each user is capped at 100Mb per month). Its Storyboard allows users to compile different sets (or ‘chapters’) of photos into a single collection, which can be shared with other Phlook’ers. Users can set who can view and download their photos. Other Phlook’ers can rate and Favorite-It the photos. Also, on Phlook, users can find and ‘make’ friends.
Each photo is converted into shockwave file, which enables owners of for-sales images to prevent unauthorized downloads and ‘image rip.’ This shockwave’d photo can be embedded on other websites and blogs for display and comes with zoom-in / zoom-out feature.
Users can also share, post and bookmark the photo in various popular social network, blogging and bookmarking sites (such as, Facebook, Digg, Twitter, Diigo, StumbleUpon, etc.)
The Phlook Market
Rather than competing head-on with heavyweights like Flickr, Picasa Web Albums, SmugMug and Zooomr, Phlook goes beyond photo sharing and organizing, by providing a marketplace function for photo buyers and sellers to transact. Each photo social network offers various add-on services as means to monetize its user-base; Phlook offers photo transaction service. The following table outlines some of the services at Flickr, SmugMug, Zooomr and Phlook.
|Flickr||Pro account subscription, variety of photo-related services such as photo print-outs, photo-books, photo on credit card, etc.|
|SmugMug||Pro account subscription, photo prints, photo books, photo-on-mug, canvass, greeting cards, etc.|
|Zooomr||Pro account subscription|
|Phlook||Photos buying and selling|
Phlook shares revenue from photo transactions with photo owners. The owners can earn between 66% and 90% from each transaction, depending on the photo price. The minimum price is fixed at US$0.99, whereas the maximum price is dependent on the seller’s selling track records.
To become a seller, you need to activate the Phlook Earnings Account. Earnings made from photo sales are transferred to this Account and once it reached US$100, the amount will be automatically transfer to your PayPal. Early withdrawal can be made, if the Account balance is more than US$3. To buy photos, buyers can use credit card or PayPal.
Best of Both Worlds
Phlook is a hybrid of a photo social networking site (eg. Flickr) and an image bank (eg. Crestock). Social networking to build a vibrant community of photo sharers, sellers and buyers; transaction capability to develop inventory of commercial-grade images.
The ‘portability’ of for-sales images on any website / blog expand distribution reach and its an attractive value proposition for sellers. It is also important to innovate new ways to ease upload of photos (eg. desktop/mobile uploader application), in order to attract and sustain usage. In brief, the synergistic combination of share and sell functionality is powerful and it certainly makes Phlook looks good in the photo social network marketspace.
Homespace, a service by a Singapore-based start-up The Real Group, provides an interesting and more interactive way for home buyers to search for-sales homes in Singapore. The company was founded by 26-year-old Vinod Nair together with his four classmates at the National University of Singapore in May 2007.
Homespace facilitates the ‘meeting’ of home buyers and sellers. It’s a step forward in organizing and ‘packaging’ real-estate data to reduce the search cost (and time) for home buyers. It uses Google Maps and overlay icons to display real-estate information in a new and refreshing way. Its information-rich environment enables home-buyers to make informed purchase decisions.
The followings are some of the features that make Homespace a pleasant website to search for homes in Singapore:
1. Search engine, which offers suggestions as you type (almost like Firefox 3.0 Awesome Bar).
2. Rich Interactive Map – This is probably what makes Homespace quite special. Specify key variables like Property Type, Price (min and max), number of rooms, home size and then click on the region on the map (which you are interested to search for homes). A full list of homes-for-sales within each locality will pop up.
Click on the locality of interest brings you to a page that shows all the for-sales homes, indicated by icons overlaying the Google Map. Click on the desired properties, a pop-up window will display more details about the properties (eg. price, nearby amenities, condo facilities). If a buyer is interested to negotiate with the seller, he/she need to sign-on and use the site to SMS to the seller (or agent).
Its HomeValue features displaying Price-Per-Square-Foot trends, in graph format, for similar home within the same locality. It displays transaction / listing prices and transaction volume and able to display such data for up to 2-years back.
With this data, it’s easier for buyer to see how far the asking price deviates from the average and how much the price has increased over time. Besides home buyers, these information are useful for property market investors and researchers. (Homespace collects its information from the Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, Housing Development Board and real-estate agents).
4. As Easy as ZAP
Homespace also makes life a lot easier for home-sellers. Home-sellers no need to spend a lot of time entering relevant details of their for-sales properties eg. past transaction prices, nearby schools, amenities, public transport, distances from amenities, etc.). Using its proprietary SmartPins technology, the sellers only need to input zip-code, floor area and price (ZAP). Then, the system can automatically retrieve all the other related and relevant information for the property and display them on the home listing page.
Launch and Learn
Currently, Homespace is free to both home buyers and sellers (about 300 to 400 users using the site daily). For the company, it’s about building critical mass of users first, then discover ways to monetize the user-base (think Twitter’s business strategy). In addition to Homespace, the Real Group is planning to launch its for-rent properties site in August this year, called RentSpace.
However, Homespace seems to be structured around the Singapore real estate market. It would be interesting to see how the the service is replicated in other cities. It is because each city is different, in terms of market structure and data availability. Homespace has to be flexible in handling such differences and at the same time, offers similar level of intuitiveness, depth of information and user-experience (which are the key ingredients that make it ‘special’). Probably, partnering with local real-estate players (eg. information providers) is an important strategic option for Homespace to expand and extend its market reach beyond Singapore. Nevertheless, Homespace is, indeed, ‘the smarter way to find homes for sale.’
Below is a screenshot of my profile page. Noticed the two out-of-place entries, by ‘foodbloggernews’ and ‘HotR’? I wonder how the two ‘rogue’ entries get listed on my profile.
Twitter-ville is a land of confusion today. Earlier, the accidental release of its redesign site and now, this. Sigh! So far, no word yet on this problem on Twitter Blog.
Last.fm just released its new look (unlike Twitter, it for real!). It’s well-polished with pleasant navigation (Good job, guys!). It’s still free but also offer basic subscription. Subscribers get goodies like:
- No ads on profile page
- Log of recent visitors on profile page
- Unlimited personal playlists
- Priority access to radio servers
- Beta access
However, I noticed Last.fm is not promoting hard its subscription to non-subscribers (like myself). Frankly, I was expecting ads promoting its €2.50-per-month subscription on my profile page but I found none. Not that I’m complaining but I would expect them to do so in future, if they are becoming more serious of monetizing their user-base.