Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Slideshow tips

A while back, I gave a talk in NUS on environmental community groups. I put the slides on and Otterman gave some feedbacks and tips for better presentation.

1. Prepare your next talk really well.
2. Have a clear message, define sections.
3. Define each section with a question which you answer.
4. Keep transitions consistent per section.
5. Illustrate each section with a story which has a beg-mid-end.
6. Max four components for a one hour slot.
7. Target 45 min at most.
8. Design a story line and then build up slides.
9. Less patchwork (multiple image per slide).
10. Invest more time in preparation.
11. Design breaks, funny slide, question, knowledge base slide etc. E.g. American Idol used stand up comics to break up their intense show at regular intervals.

A guide for what to do when crafting new slides:

1. Decide on a question.
2. Think about the topic (it's usually in the back of my mind).
3. Craft story line.
4. Version 1.
5. Version 2 - better flow, consistent transitions, better photos etc.

Keep some short sequences as modules in a folder, it might be 4-5 well prepared slides which summarise the problem, process, data, solutions/progress. Easy to insert in any talk.

Thanks Otterman! These are most excellent pointers which I thought would be nice to share with others who may be doing slide presentations.

Green Global Voices: Web 2.0 Environmental Activism

from the reuters environment blog

Kenyan blogger Juliana Rotich is the editor of Green Global Voices, which monitors citizen media in the developing world, and will be a regular contributor to these pages. ReutersThomson is not responsible for the content — the views are the author’s alone. We welcome her first blog.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Internet and Beyond

Howard Lee, Today Online 21 Apr 08;

Smugly, my brother-in-law sent me a YouTube link of a BBC documentary, debunking the environmental doom-sayers. Dutifully, I went online. Yes, it was a critique on Al Gore's much-touted An Inconvenient Truth. But, because I am a self-proclaimed tree-hugger, I immediately Googled for the antithesis to this conspiracy theory.

But while a seed of doubt has been planted, I cling to my take on global warming. I am also aware that my brother-in-law is no lumberjack, but he has probably watched one too many episodes of Mythbusters and enjoys the scientific deconstruction of everything.

But what strikes me about our exchange is how the Internet has become the centre in our quest for knowledge, and that with a click of a mouse, it provides us with opposite views of a belief.

And that piece of reality is a far cry from Low Chee Kong's article "PM Lee on Internet lessons" (April 14), which suggests that the Internet today has been used to propagate information that does not give due consideration to the political motivations of those who disseminate them.

Such a preposition forwards two assumptions: First, that information available online is more skewed towards one particular ideal or agenda, compared to non-online media. And second, that the key problem of such a bias is that readers will believe whole-heartedly with the agenda proposed.

Superficially, the first assumption holds true. Writers are human, subject to their own biases, and online, short attention spans do not take kindly to dual analyses. A writer makes his point as quickly as possible, and usually that which is of the greatest concern to him. The Internet hosts a variety of views that are often one-sided in coverage. But, the Internet must be viewed in the larger scheme of things. It is full of opinions, some in direct contradiction to each other.

This brings us to the second assumption. We too often assume that the information we see online is taken in whole by its audience. In reality, readers often engage in a selective process of accepting or denying the information they consume. This is influenced by pre-conceived ideas of what the information is about, and the beliefs and concerns they have when reading it.

A case in point is the recent Malaysian elections. While it is easy to assume that Malaysiakini played a big part in turning votes against the ruling party, the truth is that voters saw a connection between what they experience in life and what was written online. No amount of virtual cajoling could have convinced them.

More often than not, online readers find an easy connection with what they read, or choose to search to read. In fact, with the diversity of opinions on the Internet, the bigger worry is not those who have a reason to seek out and find affirmation with information that they already believe in. Rather, it is those who have yet to decide which side they want to take that should concern us.

The writer is a PR practitioner.

Web guru targets malaria with social network site

John Joseph, Reuters 20 Apr 08;

LONDON (Reuters) - The British entrepreneur who sold a football Web site at the age of 17 for $40 million (20 million pounds) has switched his attention to help launch a social networking site on Sunday designed to fight malaria.

Tom Hadfield set up in his bedroom before selling it to U.S. sports network ESPN, but now hopes the power of sites such as Facebook can curb a disease that kills an estimated one million people a year, many of them in Africa.

"I believe in the power of friends telling friends telling friends," self-styled part-time student and full-time entrepreneur Hadfield told Reuters in an interview.

"Our dream is tens of thousands of people will use social networking tools to build a movement that eradicates malaria."

Now 25 and a fourth-year political science student at Harvard university, Hadfield came up with the idea for after a trip to Zambia last summer that gave him a close-up look at the mosquito-born disease.

"Travelling across Africa and seeing the devastation caused by malaria made me realise there was more to life than putting up soccer scores," said Hadfield.

"Everyone I met at an aid project making mosquito nets in Zambia had either lost a child to malaria or knew someone who had."

Hadfield then travelled to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania where he met researchers working on malaria treatments and discovered that their efforts were being held back by a lack of resources.

"It's shocking that thousands of people are dying every day from a preventable disease," said Hadfield, who was honoured as Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2001.

"When I came back from Africa last summer, a lot of people asked me what they can do to help."

The site encourages people to donate $10 or more to help support seven different research projects in Tanzania, such as developing plants like lemongrass to repel mosquitoes. But Hadfield sees as more than a fundraising tool.

" increases the return on investment of donors by connecting them directly with researchers working on malaria prevention treatment," said Hadfield.

"It's about more than about giving money -- it's about creating connections. By encouraging individual participation and involvement, we will create international communities of common interest. This is the essence of social networking."

The seven projects were recommended by Tanzania's National Institute for Medical Research and once those have been funded, will look to support new schemes across developing countries.

Due to marry in November, Hadfield co-founded the site with health professors Peter A. Singer and Abdallah S. Daar at Canada's McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health at University Health Network as well as the University of Toronto.

"We feel young African scientists have very good ideas that end up in the dustbin," said Singer. "This is about helping committed young researchers with good ideas to help themselves create a better future."

(Reporting by John Joseph; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Facebook used to mobilise to rescue Cyprus donkeys

Youths mobilise in name of tradition to rescue Cyprus donkeys
Haro Chakmakjian, Yahoo News 20 Apr 08;

It's the butt of jokes and the source of choice curses, but the donkey is an integral part of Mediterranean culture, and friends on Cyprus are working to protect one of the world's last wild colonies from extinction.

Using a Facebook group and email, hundreds of young Turkish Cypriots and a handful of Greek Cypriots have mobilised to "Save the Cyprus Donkey" after 10 of the rare brown animals were found shot dead at the end of March.

Full article on wildsingapore news

Amazon tribe enlists Google in battle with illegal loggers

Geoffrey Lean, The Independent 13 Apr 08;

You may know it as Google, but in bamboo-and-thatch roundhouses deep in the Amazon rainforest the iconic brand goes by another name. The Surui people, one of the most remote on Earth, call it ragogmakan – "messenger" – and they're banking on the search engine to save them and their ancestral lands from extinction.

The tribe – whose first contact with the modern world was less than 40 years ago – are replacing their bows and arrows with hi-tech gadgets in their battle for survival. They have already begun using satnav on their traditional trails through the trees. And Google Earth has just agreed to provide high-resolution satellite images of their forest home.

The initiative is the brainchild of their chief, Almir Narayamoga Surui, who is leading their struggle against illegal loggers besieging their territory, an isolated 600,000-acre green oasis in Rondonia, in the wild Brazilian west. Last year the 34-year-old Almir visited Google near San Francisco to ask it to help monitor the loggers' incursions. He said he also hoped to be able to use the internet firm to "alert the world". He added: "We call Google ragogmakan because we hope it will help us get our message out."

For countless centuries the nomadic people – who call themselves Paiter, meaning simply "we ourselves" – lived far from the outside world, until the official "first contact" with Brazilian authorities on 7 September 1969, national Independence Day. "The date that Brazil became independent was the day our independence ended," Almir says. "Our people were very, very scared when they first saw white men." A warrior people (Surui, the name bestowed on them by outsiders, means "enemy"), they decided to fight.

"We thought we could beat them with bows and arrows," says Almir. "But it didn't work." The Surui were reduced from 5,000 to just 250 people by massacres and diseases such as chicken pox, measles, tuberculosis and flu, to which they had no immunity. "The survivors were so weak from disease that they did not have the strength to bury their dead. So we went to Plan B, a peace plan." Did that work? "In terms of absolute survival, yes. Other tribes in Rondonia completely disappeared."

They got medical help, but lost half their land, and only got the remainder protected after a prominent Surui drew an arrow on a leading Brazilian senator in his office and demanded official demarcation. The land is still under constant attack. Almir says that 300 sawmills, employing 4,000 people, surround it and other Indian reserves in the area. Eleven local chiefs have been killed trying to protect their land, and he himself has a £50,000 price on his head.

He cottoned on to cyberspace when first trying out Google Earth and – like almost everyone – immediately searched for where he lived. He saw clear signs of logging, and realised he could enlist an eye in the sky.

With the help of the US-based Amazon Conservation Team he has been training his people in IT. They use satnav not to find their way around the jungle they know so well, but to enable them to record the co-ordinates of any logging they find so that they can report it. And Almir envisages the Surui with solar-powered laptops using Google to download information and to tell the world how their forest is much more valuable if left standing.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Feed the poor 20 grains at a time

Megha Gupta, The New Paper 17 Apr 08;

AT a time when rice has been grabbing headlines with its sky-rocketing prices, a website called has been working overtime to donate the grain to the needy around the world.

And unlike other sites which just ask for donations, this website is gaining popularity by testing the user's vocabulary at the same time.

Visitors to the website are given a multiple-choice vocabulary test, and for every question they get right, 20 grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Programme.

The money is provided by companies advertising on the website, and the UN food programme buys and distributes the rice.

The brainchild of US online fund-raising pioneer John Breen, FreeRice went online in October last year.

As of yesterday, visitors to the site had played their part in ensuring that over 26.5 billion grains of rice will be donated to the poor.

Going by figures from a BBC report, the website has generated enough rice to feed 50,000 people for nearly a month.

The head of the UN World Food Programme Josette Sheeran said in that report: 'FreeRice really hits home how the web can be harnessed to raise awareness and funds for the world's number one emergency.'

She said word of the game has spread with the help of bloggers and websites like Facebook and YouTube.

'The site is a viral marketing success story,' she said.

Student Felicia Goh, 19, found the link to the website on a Facebook group called 'feed a child with a click'.

'The group has these websites that donate food and money to the needy and you just need to click,' she told The New Paper.

However, what got her hooked was the 'innovative' concept of FreeRice.

'I've gone on such websites before. I went on this Breast Cancer awareness website where they provide a free mammogram for every click,' she said.


'But at FreeRice you don't just click, you actually do something.'

Felicia has played the game twice so far and has even put the link in one of the entries on her blog.

'Despite the fact that I'm English-educated, a lot of the words are not easy. But it's a good starting point - they can introduce other languages like Chinese and Malay in future,' she said.

Her friend, Lin Yu Ying, 19, accessed the link from her blog and has since played it five times.

'It has a very new and fresh concept,' she said. 'The fact that it's a game makes it even more interesting.'

Rice is a staple food in many parts of the world, including Singapore, and its rising price has become a concern in recent weeks.

'At least in Singapore the situation is not so bad and we can still afford our rice,' said Yu Ying.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The real deal about virtual networking

The real deal about virtual networking
Andy Ho, Straits Times 5 Apr 08;

THE Malaysian government acknowledges that its uninspired showing in the recent elections stemmed, in part, from its inattention to social media, like blogs and YouTube, which the opposition used effectively. Mr Barack Obama's presidential bid in the United States continues to ride high on that media too.

Compared to a decade ago, individual end-users are now actively collaborating to create content, share information and form communities using blogs, wikis and social networking sites (SNS). Dubbed Web 2.0, the Web is now more social.

Blogs are old hat while Wikipedia has made wikis well-known. SNS are slightly less familiar. Unlike search engines (dominated by Google) and video-sharing (by YouTube), different forms of SNS rule in different regions. The reason is that people won't move to a new SNS unless their existing networks of friends also follow, which would be unusual.

In the US, Facebook and MySpace are the most popular SNS. Friendster rules in Singapore and elsewhere in the region, except Thailand where Hi-5 is loved. Orkut dominates the Indian subcontinent, QQ is king in China, mixi in Japan and Cyworld in South Korea.

In Japan, 70 per cent of mixi users access it at least once every three days and stay logged on for at least four hours each time. Cyworld is an intimate part of daily life for 90 per cent of South Koreans aged between 20 and 30.

This technology has become entwined with real life because it allows friends to communicate using text, photo, voice, music and video. Instant messaging and blogging can be embedded in it too and a few SNS are supported on cellphones.

The popularity of SNS was first attributed to its enabling people to form and maintain ties. After all, the first to take off in the US, Friendster, was a dating service. But when its numbers grew too large for its servers to support, Friendster began losing members. Then it began imposing onerous conditions on its users, which affected indie rock bands the most.

So these musicians and their fans migrated over to MySpace, which began to grow exponentially in 2004. Unlike Friendster, MySpace gave users the freedom to personalise their profiles and pages. But it attracted little media attention until July 2005 when News Corporation acquired it for US$580 million (S$800 million).

Friendster did not keep its eye on the ball. An SNS must be user-centric. The Web 2.0 ethos insists on common folks being able to collaborate openly, freely and democratically to get things done.

Thus, a Stanford University law professor started a wiki recently to enable anonymous individuals to collaborate in writing a new law to clean up US election campaign financing. Collaborators will then try to leverage the wiki to collectively pressure their legislators to pass the law.

Be that as it may, the rhetoric of openness, democracy and 'wiki-government' tends to obscure the reality of serious business interests behind social media. Economic value lies in the data inherent in all our SNS profiles and interactions - the gossip and small talk as well as the serious discussions and disputations.

Business is busy mining that data to extract information about consumers that has largely evaded, till now, direct capture. Our mundane preferences, quotidian choices, trite wants and pet peeves - all can now be mined.

I think that is partly why Asia's richest tycoon Li Ka-shing has ponied up US$120 million for a stake in loss-making Facebook. Microsoft's stake is twice as large, yet neither it nor Mr Li has a seat on the board. Experts value in-the-red Facebook at US$15 billion and astute capitalists seem to agree.

Though it lost US$50 million last year, Facebook is hoping to make money from 'social ads' targeted at individuals based on what is known about them from the friends they keep and what they say about particular products and brands. Such information can make possible automated news feeds, based on people's likes and dislikes, to be channelled directly to them.

By contrast, some SNS in Asia are already profitable and, interestingly, not mainly from ads. This is a little-reported fact in the West, says Mr Benjamin Joffe who heads Plus Eight Star, a Beijing-based consultancy. He notes that QQ has 270 million active accounts in China while Cyworld has 20 million active users in Korea. By comparison, Facebook had 70 million users as of February this year.

Last year, QQ's profits were US$224 million, of which 13 per cent came from ads and 65 per cent from virtual goods. Cyworld made an estimated profit of US$100 million last year, mainly from virtual goods - virtual pets, cars, furniture, clothes or bling, casual games, and so on.

The Cyworld economy runs on a virtual currency that you buy with real money. Because virtual items cost about one US cent each, people tend to use their virtual money freely and the innumerable micro-transactions accumulate into huge profits. (Limited-edition virtual items cost more but you could buy them and 'flip' them for real monetary gains when demand for them goes up.)

If we understood why people spend real money on virtual goods, we would understand why SNS are so addictive and thus powerful. Buying virtual gifts, say, is really just buying a service. A real man actually buys and sends the virtual gift to a real woman he might fancy, who actually receives it. She can then preen and show it off to her network.

Studies show the same neurons fire in the brain and people experience the same pleasure whether real or virtual flowers are received.

But why would the real man spend real money on make-believe gifts? Here's why: He may not have 10 hours to spend trying to win virtual widgets in an online game hosted on the SNS that he can then gift to a woman. But he can afford $10 to buy them from the online shop.

Still, $10 for a figment of the imagination? A $10 cinema ticket might give the man two hours of viewing pleasure. But a $10 virtual bouquet does enable him to let a woman know he has the hots for her.

So people buy virtual gifts, people like receiving them and they do enjoy letting their friends know what good things are happening to them. Thus SNS may be popular not so much because one can make new friends through them but more because one can put one's social networks on public display.

Users are not so much networking with one another as they are showing off to one another - a pleasurable activity in itself. The emotional connectedness and social capital created in these virtual worlds can be real.

Social media will become a more taken-for-granted backdrop in our lives as Web 2.0 surrounds us at home, in the office and on the go with mobile broadband. The virtual ties they create will become as much a part of our lives as real-world friendships. After all, the ties may be virtual but the people so tied are real.

This being so, business - and politics - might want to scrutinise social media more closely.