Monday, June 8, 2009

Exploring China SNS, MicroBlog environments and their differences to the west, Ch. 4

Netizens expectation difference between China and the west

Micro blogging service is like a phone line. By itself, it doesn't do anything. What it gives us is a reliable, simple, infrastructure to communicate with members of our community. Hence, the more terminal device it supports, the more useful it is for the users.

Netizens in China generally expects to go online and the service would come with a bunch of content and services to entertain them.
Netizens of the west has a history of regarding online services as "tool" and they are quite prepared and happy to create their own content and community as long as the online service make things easy for them.

Digu, a Chinese twitter service, has added my name to the recommended list a couple of weeks ago. In the first few days after the list goes online, I have 1000+ new followers. I made a point to visit their home page, and find that many new users ask things like "What's there to do here??"

It is like you enter a very clean, well constructed room, in the middle of nowhere by yourself, and you ask the wall "What kind of fun can I have here?"

Imagine a different scenario...
A college student in United States is told there is a empty house available in town for anyone who likes to use it. You just have to bring your friends and activities there.

The difference is: In the west, netizens are used to look at online services as a platform; and they expect themselves to come up with creative ways to make use of the platform to generate benefits that suit them. The expectation that it provides built in entertainment is very minimal.

French Open, Digu 和 Twitter, Photo Blogging 不同的体驗 (from 白社会 diary)

1. 其中一項分别是上載相片工能. 这一点足以給用户不同的体驗.

Photo integration into the message makes Digu more fun and easier in photo blogging.

前兩天是法國网球公開大賽總決賽, 我剛開始實習用Digu wap 做 photo blogging (相片嘀). Nokia 5800 攝拍LCD电視萤幕的 效果真不錯. 照片幾乎有現場的感覺. 今天的智能手机加上方便的相片嘀工能, photo Digu 有推動寫生日常接觸到有趣味的事物. 昨天晚上帶一鼓跟大家分享的熱誠, 又緊張地捕足 Federer 和 Solderling 特殊的表情,希望能容納到这場法网的精絮. 雖然 Twitter 平台有 Twitpic, 但是在 Twitter 不能同時看到大家上載的相片在條文裡,不爽.

The past two days were French Open finals. I have just started to play around with the Digu WAP site and its Photo Digu feature. The Nokia 5800 takes pretty good pictures of my Low Defintion 30" LCD TV. If you don't know I am watching it on TV from home, you may think that I am watching it live in Paris as some of the photos looks as if taken live at Roland Garros.
Check out the photo digus here:
The in message photo feature offers a very different photo micro blogging experience because when you see the list of photo messages shown list on the same page, the story telling effect is much more powerful.

2. 中國微博文化處於 Twitter 早期的用户皆段

Micro blogging in China is similar to the early days of Twitter.

先前雖然知道 Fanfou 这个微博平台, 但先入為主在短短兩个月在 Digu 平台累积了不少聊天和分享的朋友. 这群朋友形成了現時研究的核心, 也是每參舆新SNS服務時都希望邀請的朋友. 人本就是群体動物, 是常理吧.
Fanfou 已上綫兩年. Digu 只上綫三个月, 还在 beta 階段. 新上綫的 social media 平台都需要提供主动和新用戶聊天,幫用戶盡快組織黏度,務求達到不斷更新的習慣.

Even though I know Fanfou has been around, my first experience with micro blogging in China is with the latest entry, Digu. In two months time, I have accumulated a lot of 'friends' in the service and I have become very comfortable in using it throughout the day to chat with and share things with this community. This community has also become the 'core' group whom I will invite when I venture to explore other SNS services in China.

Fanfou has been around for about 2 years and Digu has only been live, still in beta, for about 3 months. The China micro blogging service industry is at a very infancy stage much like Twitter's early days. Again, because of the netizens cultural difference from the west, the Chinese micro blogging SP needs to provide more hand holding to the majority of the users to engage them to develop the habit of publish messages

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Exploring China SNS, MicroBlog environments and their differences to the west, Ch. 3

By now, I am struggling from being overwhelmed by the many choices, and available SNS, blogging and micro blogging services just in China alone. In the west, there are a large number of applications for the purpose of managing and sync'ing your tweets to other blogs, microblogs and SNS such as the Tweetdeck, Twirls, HelloTxt, FriendFeed, etc...
In China, while there are much less third party apps for the tweeter like services such as FanFou, Digu; these services offer their own sync'ing solutions like Hellotxt. One can easily get into an infinite loop situation if not careful in configuring what sync to what.

Last week, I Deleted my Twitter account "kittysanhk' because I got freaked out by the distraction caused by the many 'interesting' tweets from people I followed. I realize the productivity in my research has reached a situation of information overload, and my brain has become so fragmented and my writing/blogging productivity has dropped to ZERO except for the 140 char micro blogging if you call my conversational and occassional sharing of things I read 'blogging'.

I took a time out from Twitter and in a few days my mind seem to settle and I am able to re-focus my research on China's mobile and social media services and the differences with the west.

I started writing in's SNS, called 白社会. It fills a slightly different purpose than this blog. In the 白社会 diary, I feel comfortable to write partial thoughts like I would in the old fashion diary. And that migration fro the 140 char habit, to longer diary entry, clears up my writer's block and allow me to return to this blog post.

My apology for the cut and paste inclusion of my 白社会 diary entry here, some of which are written in Chinese. I will in future include an English translation of the Chinese diaries for this blog.

Translation of my 3rd diary entry in 白社会

June 6, started to explore Fanfou. Fanfou's user interface looks almost identical to Twitter.

I decided NOT to configure 'sync' on any of the social media services. I prefer to use SNS, microblog as a two way conversational relationship with the user community on those services; and not use them as a one way 'broadcast' vehicle.

When I sign on to 白社会 every day, it has a cute feature that asks me to 'punch card', like a worker punch the clock upon arrival at work. Each time I punch the card, I would earn some 'gold coins'. I am still not used to the SNS culture in China where these entertaining features are in their DNA.

I started with 0 follower in FanFou. I wonder how long it would take me to gain the first follower. For the record, I made my first fanfou tweet on June 6, at 5:30pm.

I have used Digu for about 2 months and have 1510 followers as of this afternoon.
I have 0 follower in FanFou. I have re-joined Twitter two days ago and have 12 followers.
I lost a follower in the last hour.. I wonder if it's because today, I tweeted primarily in Chinese.

I updated my Twitter Bio to: Follow me on my journey in exploring SNS, microblog in China and discover the differences with the West.

我的SNS,微博客这兩个月的个人体驗 - 第三回

六月六日,開始飯否旅程..同Twitter UI 一樣...

決定不做同步! 感覺还是做双向溝通那種用户,而不是單向广播的!

还是覺得登陸白社会每天打咔領取5个,10个小金币好挍笑. 内地的SNS都是大家的遊戲室..邊玩邊做傳媒,要慢慢習惯. 難度Learn only when you have fun是这些平台的DNA?

吾知要多久才有飯否用户發現,跟随我呢? 六月六日約5:20pm 在飯否發送第一个信息. 记录

用了Digu兩个月,現有1510跟随者. 在飯否0个跟随者.

剛更新了Twitter的自述: Follow me on my journey in exploring SNS, microblog in China and discover the differences with the West.

Friday, June 5, 2009

白社会 日誌 - 二: 我的SNS,微博客这兩个月的个人体驗

As much as I like to write in Chinese, I must decide between the ability to express my thoughts than the choice of language. I would like to record my experience with SNS thoroughly and my apology that I revert back to English, my more comfortable language for this 2nd diary post.

Someone asks my view on SNS. If I were to sum it up in one sentence, SNS changes my life in many ways. As a Computer Science graduate and high tech professional for my entire career, email and online relationship have been with my entire adult life.

First, it was purely professional use, then it becomes both personal and professional use but within the professional network.

With the introduction of SNS, family and friends are increasingly added to the online network.

And now, we do not only communicate online with people we already know, but often times, we make new friends, contacts of strangers.

With real time micro blogging (Twitter, Digu, Fanfou), we write about what we have for breakfast, our daily schedule, our kids doctor appointments, soccer schedules.. in which we are starting to peek into the lifes of strangers we 'follow'... or the 'daily life' of people we don't normally have a chance to know.

At a certain point in a technology life cycle, we the people take that technology and direct it towards very specific goals and purposes that creates value for us.

Blogs, SNS, micro blogging have entered all of our lives in varying degrees.
Communities are formed around these services.
Decision makings are influenced by our opions of the online communities we belong to.

Being a repatriate from United States and now living in Hong Kong, and starting to spend time in China, the effect and the role of SNS is quite different between the West and China. I'll write about my observation of these differences in my next posting.

白社会 日誌 - 一 : 我的SNS,微博客这兩个月的个人体驗

各位認識我的朋友知道我的中文能力有限. 不过在白社会內我希望盡力用中文. 寫得不好請見谅.

昨天,我删掉了Twitter帳户. 过去四星期,每天安排時間上不同 SNS(Facebook,Linkedin,Wealink),微博客

(Twitter, Digu), 閱讀 blogs, Google Reader feeds; 總是覺得 Twitter 干扰了过往网上研究的集中能力

. 很多following的朋友只是將原來Blog的内容或新聞在Twitter上加以推荐. 发现不知不觉地浪費了不少時間而对研究工作


但是,在Digu微博平台,有聊天的,也有國内新鲜資信,另有表達各種心情和我較少接觸的中國文化, 不同類的Digu朋友,上Digu時的心惰是很舒服.

之前,一直对 Facebook 不感興趣. 相片喜欢從Flickr分享,有時用Vox做mobile photo blogging, 朋友,家人連係

用Email就完全足够. 不过最近參加了香港Media MeetUp group, Facebook 的Group 和 Event 功能就大派用場.

我一直对 Linkedin 的專業性会員质素十分有好感. 也多次被Head Hunter在Linkedin 找到. 最近參加了幾个Discussion Group. 不幸有不少 "discussion" 都是自我推銷个人,产品,服務等..

下回再跟大家分享: 總括这兩个月的經歷的心德..

Generation Mobile Community update

It's been many weeks I haven't posted a new blog here. During these two months, I have buried myself in 'playing' with various SNS and micro blogging services, especially experimenting using these services in China. I flew to UK to attend the ForumOxford and met some wonderful thought leaders in the field of mobile and social media industry.

I have interviewed many people in HK and China in academic, media, IT and social media industries. The goal is explore a practical scope and objective, and , develop the foundation for forming the Generation Mobile Community.

These two months is by far the best time in my entire professional life. I have forgotten what it feels like to do something because you want to do, rather than something you have to do.

During these few months, I have made some wonderful, talented and knowledgeable friends in China, Hong Kong, US, Switzerland and Finland, all of whom added to my understanding of web and mobile social media.

We now have a small team of three industry experts in mobile and social media marketing, and half a dozen Gen-C students, young professionals, entrepreneurs who will be involved in different roles in this community. We plan to have the project web site up this summer (late July, early August) and we will share more with you the things we learn on our web site then.

Next, I would share my experience of using the various social media services both from US and China . I have written these thoughts in two diary entries in 白社会, China's latest SNS which is currently in beta.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

China SNS, mobile internet today, Part 2

How ready is China's mobile users ready for 3G handsets

A recent iResearch research report surveys 3000 China netizens for their awareness, and interest in 3G handset and capabilities. A few major take aways are:
  1. Majority China internet users express 3G handset should be priced at CNY 1000-2000. This group represents mostly the professional working class. Currently, 2G GPRS users represent a much larger number than this professional group and 3G handset maker needs to prepare for even lower ASP in China.
  2. MMS and faster transfer speed are the two major benefits users see in upgrading to 3G.
  3. Operators are still slow in offering MMS service in their monthly plan packages and this slowed the take up rate of 3G even though the infrastructure is ready for larger number of users.
  4. 3G contents and applications are still limited
The still infancy in 3G content/applications, expensive handsets, MMS featured 3G plan still rolling out rather slowly, users are taking a wait and see approach before upgrading to 3G handsets. Netizens in China use Social Network Services primarily for entertainment. Majority netizens use SNS from their PC and much less from the mobile. For applications such as Twitter, Digu to penetrate into China netizens lifestyle, we should be aware that we are only at the early stage of the education process.

Digu "Meet the Bloggers" Social event, April 18, 2009

Yesterday, I was invited to Digu team's "Meet the Bloggers Social" in Shenzhen. The young and highly enthusiastic crowd fills the room with much sharing and excitement. My Mandarin understanding capability hinders my ability to gain more from the session. Dr. Song Li is very kind in sharing a bit more of his vision in English after the presentation, and with the Digu team helping to translate here and there, I am able to gain a fair amount of information afterall. Thanks to the collaborative internet ecosystem, Digu made the slides from Bollin available on slideshare. It's in simplied Chinese so I practice my slightly improved Chinese reading skill and am quite impressed with the vision of the creative mix of usage ideas. You can find the Digu presentation here.

After the presentation, I posed the following question to the group:

"As an active Digu/Twitter user with many followers, what does having ONE account versus having multiple accounts present to you in "issues" and "opportunties".

Dr. Song Li offered his view of using Twitter/Digu as a personal branding opportunity. After using Twitter/Digu for barely 2 months, I agree strongly that many twitter/digu users today are consciously or unconsciously already doing so: building their personal branding.
Bollin, I look forward to your summary of everyone's response.

Readers. I would very much like to hear your comments on this Twitter/Digu identity and privacy matters. I am aware of TwitDeck, Twirl, and the concept of Seesmic Desktop.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

China SNS, mobile internet today, a non traditional Digu user's perspective, Part 1

After three weeks of using Twitter and a week on Digu daily, I observed a distinct difference in the usage behavior between the two services. Twitter has a big community of business users embracing it as part of their marketing strategy. Digu, consistent with most Chinese SNS, is primarily used by individuals as an entertainment channel. Business and technical broadcasting are both uncommon and perhaps unwelcome by the majority SNS users.

How western SNS users use Twitter

Twitter is a three year old service which seem to me has gained explosive growth in the past year. Twitter started out as a realtime short message service that work with multiple networks to overcome the limitations of SMS. Listen for yourself from Twitter founder, Evan Williams, talked about Twitter's explosive growth on the TED show. Evolving beyond individual's chatter about what they are doing 'now', today many businesses, blog sites, trade shows, celebrities as well as TV shows use twitter in very creative and successful marketing efforts. A case in point is my earlier post of theEllenShow twitter page gaining 750K followers in a little over a month. By the way, theEllenShow as of this post has 791K followers, surpassing the twitter page itself which was started over three years ago. Glam Media is launching beta, which follows event streams and Tinker will show you relevant real-time conversations from social media sources like Facebook and Twitter. Combining the use of event twitter page and, event PR agency can generate buzz and engagement marketing opportunities to target audience who wish to follow particular events.

Digu Senior Product manager shed light on China SNS use

Tonight I met up with Mr. Bollin Lai, Digu's senior product manger, in Shenzhen. Mr. Lai received his degree from Beijing University, worked at Xiaonei and ran a web service business prior to joining Digu. I spent most part of my career in the US and only in the past few years focus in Asia Pacific. Our background and experience of the internet and mobile industry cannot be more different and the first half of our meeting you would think we speak foreign language to each other. As opposed to what one may expect that mobile internet users migrate from PC internet users, the two groups are quite separate groups with only about 10% overlap of PC internet users also use mobile internet. This is primarily the professional iPhone, smart phone group of users. The majority of the mobile internet users use simpler featured phones and lower mobile expense. SNS access are primarily from PCs and very little from mobile. GPRS (2G) instead of 3G service is the primary mobile internet access infrastructure.

No urgency for 3G in China, at least not yet

I am surprise do learn that mobile TV in China does not use the GPRS or 3G data network. Instead, mobile handset in China has additional built in hardware capability, separate from mobile operator network, and receives video content from separate broadcasting towers. Lai also commented that the GPRS performance is adequate for much of the services available today. Until larger number of innovative 3G killer applications arrive in the market and drive revenue growth, operators may not be in a hurry to roll out 3G services to every corner in China.

China mobile industry and Tomi Ahonen's Mobile as 7th Mass Media

Since social media marketing, mobile marketing are not common in China yet, it is not surprising that Lai has not heard of many of the mobile business ideas and business models widely written in Tomi Ahonen's books and in practice in the west. We agree to continue our conversation again in the near future and we will explore further how some of the social media and mobile marketing practices in the west may apply in China.