Blog

Google’s new Facebook killer

In a direct assault on Facebook, Google has entered the social-networking wars with Google Buzz, a Gmail-integrated social-networking application. According to Google’s Todd Jackson, Buzz’s product manager, Buzz’s main features include:

  1. Auto-following
  2. Rich, fast sharing experience
  3. Public and private sharing
  4. Inbox integration
  5. Just the good stuff

According to a press release from Google:

The most noticeable advantage to Google Buzz is the way that e-mail comments and media, such as photos and videos, can be shared. Google Buzz automatically ‘follows’ the people who you communicate with most. Rather than broadcasting a passive “status message” like Facebook or “tweet” like Twitter, Google Buzz engages your friends by making the content that you find interesting available to them

Most of the buzz about Buzz centers around its real-time commenting features and its mobile integration, including voice recognition, which allows users to comment with voice only. No keyboard required! For developers, Google provides a Buzz API.

Not everyone, however, is enamored. And privacy issues have already been raised.

The Official Google blog has all the details.

DJ Rocky Rock: Built from Scratch

DJ Rocky Rock at Club Fever in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh’s nascent club scene gets a visit from hip-hop royalty

Inside one of Phnom Penh’s trendier nightspots, the Chinese-style red string curtains and soft amber lighting contrive for an atmosphere of opium den chic, yet the ambience is anything but sublime.

Unapologetically red, the waitresses all wear identical outfits — mid-length red skirts and matching blouses with low black pumps — and a coterie of male supervisors keeps watch over the girls, the customers and the money. For an uptown Phnom Penh nightclub, the place feels more like a downtown Shanghai brothel.

Sitting quietly in the king chair at the head of the table in one of the club’s semi-private VIP rooms, Filipino deejay Rocky Aujero seems far too hip for his imported surroundings. Known widely across the hip-hop world as DJ Rocky Rock, the 29-year-old California boy is the official deejay for three-time platinum-selling artists the Black Eyed Peas. Rock, as his friends call him, is in town for a Saturday night performance at Club Fever, and on Friday, he and his crew are out promoting the show.

A-LIST OUTSIDERS

For decades an unheralded Asian capital, Phnom Penh has long been ignored by international acts touring the region, but over the last year or so, the city has wooed a number of A-list names.

Sean Kingston played in February 2009, and hip-hop megastar DJ Cash Money rocked the capital in September. New York electronic duo Ratatat and Australian indie-pop sensation I Heart Hiroshima capped the year with shows in December. The DJ Rocky Rock show keeps last year’s high-wattage star-power flowing smoothly into the new decade.

Yet as many international acts have discovered, first-world fame doesn’t always travel well, especially in Phnom Penh’s nascent club scene, where local crowds live far beyond the influence of countries where hip-hop is king.

Rocky says he is bringing the latest music from the American West Coast scene, but Phnom Penh club crowds are notoriously fickle, and deejays have long lamented the fact that Western hip often translates to Cambodian flop.

CLEARING THE FLOOR

Benjamin Walters, a resident DJ at the Qbar in Bangkok who performs under the name Tech 12, flew in with Rocky from Thailand. In years of working the region, including dozens of shows in Phnom Penh, Walters has seen many a self-important deejay chase away the crowds with big beats and bad eyesight.

“I’ve seen so many guys clear the floor,” he says, scrunching his face with mock intensity and madly shaking imaginary cross faders. “Famous guys. They’ve got mad deejay skills, but they don’t give a shit about the crowd.”

Rocky watches Ben’s act and giggles: “Oh my God. It doesn’t matter how technical your skills are, or how fast your scratches are. If you can’t make them dance you’re whack.”

Back in Los Angeles, Rocky deejays most Friday nights at the Pig N Whistle in Hollywood, where he opens for DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill. The crowds line up every week to hear his music. But in Cambodia?

DJ Rocky Rock at Tiny Toons in Phnom Penh

BUILT FROM SCRATCH

Born in the Philippines in 1980, Rocky moved to California at age 3 and grew up in the gritty eastside barrios of San Jose. He discovered turntables at age 11, and by the time he was 15 the fader had become something of an obsession. “When I was in high school, I used to walk around with a fader everyday practicing,” he says, holding an imaginary fader box to his chest and crabbing his fingers over the slider. “My fingers were like buff as shit.”

Despite the chaos around him, Rocky never slipped, and the years of dedication paid off when in 2001 he placed first at the Guitar Center USA DJ Championships, a nationwide event including thousands of deejays.

More victories followed, and in 2002 and 2003 Rocky made it all the way to the USA country finals of the DMC, what is most fittingly described as the deejay World Cup.

Then in 2004 things really exploded. Already a well-known player on the West Coast hip-hop scene, Rocky hooked up with apl.de.ap from the Black Eyed Peas, who is also of Filipino heritage, and together the two planned their Filipino caper: a Manila concert for the Black Eyed Peas with DJ Rocky Rock as the opening act.

As expected, the show was a great success, giving Rocky huge exposure to the Filipino fan base. With the momentum of the concert behind him, Rocky entered the 2004 DMC from the Philippines, where he won the country title and went on to place fifth in the world.

From the Manila concert his friendship with apl.de.ap also blossomed, and when the Black Eyed Peas hit the studio to record “Monkey Business” a few months later, they asked Rocky to lay down his scratches and work the turntables. He’s been the Black Eyed Peas’ official deejay ever since.

DIGITAL FINGERS

Rocky released his first album, titled “Digital Fingers,” December 15, with an official launch party held three days later at the Pig N Whistle. For the veteran West Coast deejay, Fingers represents a return to his old-school hip-hop roots, and the album largely serves as a showcase for Rocky’s immense scratching skills.

The CD art portrays Rocky poised on top of the globe, and while it’s an apt metaphor, he is anything but complacent.

“I got to bump up my game, you know, continue getting better,” he says. “Deejaying, rapping, producing, you got to do it all.”

As Rocky sees it, the album is not so much a capstone to his career, but rather a foundation on which to build even bigger successes. Rocky produced all nine songs on Fingers, and in the days ahead of his Club Fever date, he has been rehearsing the vocals of “Looking at You,” a new song that he plans to debut at the Phnom Penh show.

“I’m gonna rip that shit up tomorrow, watch.”

LIVE AT FEVER

At exactly midnight, DJ Rocky Rock steps into the deejay booth at Club Fever and turns on the blue glow-lights that line the sleeves of his red zip-up. Tech 12 opened with a fast-paced hour-long set, and the crowd is anxious to keep dancing.

Rocky enjoys the roar of the room for a few seconds then shouts into the microphone.

“How you feeling tonight, Phnom Penh?”

The entrancing pulse of a synthesizer drowns out the thunder of the crowd, and spontaneously a thousand hands shoot into the air, pumping to the opening beats of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Got a Feeling.”

Rocky bounces to the tempo of the music for several moments, and then thrusts his hand into the air too.

I gotta feeling
that tonight`s gonna be a good night
That tonight`s gonna be a good night
That tonight`s gonna be a good good night

From there Rocky takes the crowd on a “mood rollercoaster,” making all the stops required of a proper West Coast hip-hop ride, from L.A to Long Beach, Compton to South Gate. Forty-five minutes into the set when Rocky plays “Looking at You,” the crowd roars its approval and keeps dancing.

Drenched in sweat after a few songs, Rocky cuts the glow lights and, without missing a beat, sheds his red zip-up. Underneath he is wearing an oversized yellow t-shirt with an abstract design and big bold letters across the top.

“I’m King,” it says.

And tonight he is, but it’s the nascent Phnom Penh hip-hop scene that gets to wear the crown.

The NYT paywall will return

New York Magazine blogger Gabriel Sherman says the return of the New York Times paywall is imminent.

After a year of often tumultuous debate, The Gray Lady appears settled on a metered system similar to the one used by The Financial Times. Readers are allotted a certain amount of free stories per month, and beyond that readers must subscribe.

The Times toyed with a similar pay-per-view scheme a few years ago. In 2005, the paper launched TimesSelect, which made opinion pieces and other editorial  content available only by subscription. The Times discontinued TimesSelect in 2007. At the time, the paper admitted that making content free and deriving revenue from advertising was financially smarter than the subscription-based model. That is apparently no longer the case.

Closer to home, DAP News is free. The Phnom Penh Post charges for content more than 90 days old. And The Cambodia Daily makes available only a very small selection of stories.

How safe is Facebook?

Users in the United States were given access to the Facebook accounts of other people, reports the Associated Press.

“A Georgia mother and her two daughters logged onto Facebook from mobile phones last weekend and wound up in a startling place: strangers’ accounts with full access to troves of private information,” the story says.

The AP does not explain how the mix up happened, but the problem is not with Facebook, apparently. The glitch, “a routing problem,” occurred between the users’ phone and their Internet service provider, AT&T.

Security experts interviewed for the story said they had never heard of a case like this, where users were given access to the wrong account. It’s unknown whether such a mix up is rare, or just rarely reported. Experts agreed that the same flaw could happen with other applications, such as email or blogging services.

READ IT: Network Flaw Causes Scary Web Error

MORE: Ars Technica provides a not-too-technical explanation of what likely happened, including this pithy synopsis:

“So it looks like AT&T did something wrong—even though I wouldn’t call it a “routing” problem—and the company is in the process of fixing things. But Facebook also shares some blame for this situation. Apparently Facebook, like many other sites, doesn’t think the information tied to a user’s account is important enough to protect with something stronger than a clear text cookie.”

Government adopts Khmer Unicode

Cambodia’s main international airport first went digital in 2003. The new system multiplied exponentially the amount of time it took to get in or out of the country, as computer-unsavvy airport officials labored to understand the vagaries of Windows.

“We apologize for any delays that are caused by the use of our new computer system,” read little signs posted at each computer terminal.

They were still there two years later.

Even today, Cambodia remains in the very early stages of computer adoption. Most government ministries still keep hand-written records, and the exchange of data between agencies relies on an ad hoc system born of secondhand photocopiers and oil drums of ink. Decrepit phone lines and low computer-literacy rates add to the challenge.

The greatest hurdle of all has been the Cambodian language itself. For as beautiful as it is, there has been no standard way to display it. Until now.

In late December, the government passed a sub-decree requiring the Khmer Unicode font for all government correspondence.

In years past, the choice of typeface was left to the user, and as many as 30 different versions of “Khmer” competed for supremacy. There existed no uniform way to create the same characters across different fonts, which meant typists had to know them all, or stick to the few they did.

If documents arrived with an unknown character, too bad. Though font converters existed, few of them worked well, and translating from one font to another could take days or more.

Even more problematic, the lack of a font standard strangled the development of intra-government computer networks and centralized data storage. How could the government build a nationwide database of criminals, for example, when it could not even agree upon the font to use for data entry.

The move to Khmer Unicode fixes all that, and it provides the government a proper foundation on which to build a modern information system.

Apologies for any delay.

Getting social media right

Marketing Sherpa is a must-follow site for anyone involved in online marketing. Sherpa provides invaluable insight into current online marketing trends and solid research to support its conclusions. In a recent article, titled “Perceptions about Social Media are Changing,” Sherpa offers some priceless advice on corporate forays into the Facebook/Twitter scene.

The 17% of organizations who still believe social media marketing is basically free and should stay that way, are destined to get what they pay for.

Not surprisingly, those who have reached the strategic phase of social marketing maturity are far more likely to be producing measurable ROI or at least seeing signs of a return on their investment on the horizon.

On the other hand, marketers in the trial phase of social marketing maturity are more than four times as likely to not recognize the value this tactic has for organizations willing to invest appropriate time and resources.

Getting social media right takes time and planning. Jumping in haphazardly will only produce haphazard results, or none at all. Setting goals, and then devising a plan to achieve them, is the only way to go.

Your newsletter, blog, Facebook and Twitter pages should represent individual parts of a total marketing strategy. Each piece should work symbiotically with the others.

Readers who congregate on different media are often interested in different aspects of your company. Take the time to find out where their interests lie, and then cater to them.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have grown so rapidly because the personal interactions they provide are far more compelling than passive Web experiences offered elsewhere on the Internet. For companies, this offers an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to potential customers.

But attitudes on the Interent are far different than those encountered in traditional media, where audiences are largely passive. Talking at your readers, or trying to steer their conversations, will only drive them away. Once gone, they are unlikely to return.

Engage readers openly and honestly, and be part of their conversations, not a television blaring annoyingly in the background.

Profit driven: The psychology of menu design

The New York Times recently talked to a few top-notch restaurant menu designers about ways to increase the bottom line. Turns out, designing restaurant menus is as much science as it is beautiful colors, and the wrong choices can kill profit margins just as sure as the right ones can boost it.  Some highlights:

UPSIDE

  • good descriptions increase sales
  • so do good photos
  • reds and blues make people hungry
  • brand names also boost sales, compared to generic products

DOWNSIDE

  • grays and purples make people feel satiated
  • the dollar sign is bad; it re-enforces “the pain of paying”
  • .99 infers value, but not quality; .95 is better

In a tight economy, even a small increase in revenue can have a significant impact on a business, and the points about pricing resonate well beyond restaurant menus. The theory speaks directly to customer satisfaction, something no business can afford to overlook, even in the best of times.

READ IT: Using Menu Psychology to Entice Diners

Twitterfeed: update your blog, twitter and facebook pages with one click

Twitterfeed is a great little tool that will synchronize your blog, Twitter and Facebook pages. For every blog post, Twitterfeed  automatically updates your Twitter and Facebook pages. Blog once. Update across all three. Best of all, it’s free.

Getting set up could be a little easier, as the Twitterfeed interface is a bit wonky. But it’s well worth the 20  minutes or so it takes to figure out how it works.

John at House 32 recommended it. I use it here for K4 Media, and also with Paddy’s Gym, to keep Paddy’s twitter account updated with Cambodian boxing news.