Musings on mind boggling social media

twitterToday a friend of mine told me that not replying an email from a boss within three minutes is considered under-performance in her industry. This is probably more acceptable since she is in banking. No wait, I don’t think so. The world is changing too fast, and users are adapting to the digital world or culture in a bad way, often to serve their own interests.

I am quite receptive to traditional and social media in work and personal life, including email, Facebook, Twitter, blogging. In fact I have done lots of website copywriting and online articles for clients simply because of the overwhelming market demand for it at the moment. There are healthy benefits from these. My blog is a handy writing space that I can always go to, and knowing that there are people who are truly interested in reading quality articles online helps.

Twitter in a way replaces the function of a social event. In the past, people go to social events to get plugged into a certain network, of mutual personal or business interest. Nowadays, all you need to do is to go to Twitter to search for the interest circle that you are after, and you will probably find some.

Like it or not, Twitter and our million exchanges on various social media platforms are, in a real sense of the word, history. They record what people feel or think, or claim they feel or think. No wonder the Library of Congress is planning to archive everyone’s twitter history.

I saw in Creative Review (June issue) a cartoon strip featuring two office workers typing away from their desks. One asks to borrow a pencil, the other says how funny, do you mind if I twitter it? I have similar experiences of being in an office setting sometimes listening to the tapping sound of keyboards and wondering why most jobs have now become so similar: despite the different sectors and roles, one inevitably spends a huge chunk of his/her time in front of a computer, replying emails, sending out e-copies, creating Word documents and spreadsheets. Sometimes I start to envy those few who are free from this prototype, say the bartender mixing the cocktails, or air stewardesses handing out blankets and headsets.

Above all, what I am most guilty about is the way we seemed to have left some people behind by endorsing this digital phenomenon, or revolution as some may call it. It is true that most cities are now investing in resources to ensure IT accessibility. But as things stand, there is something almost unethical about excluding people from information, goods, services and benefits simply because they lack the skill or interest to get plugged in to this virtual reality. Think of all those friends and contacts you have not invited to an event simply because they are not on Facebook. Remember how you are always prompted to check out a product or company’s website as if this is the most natural and necessary step towards understanding. Have you seen the way your kids would rush to the computers to upload their latest travel photos on blogs or social websites as soon as they return home from a trip? Since when did the newspapers like the Guardian or Daily Telegraph put in a Technology or Twitter section?

The new movie on Facebook, The Social Network written by Anna Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, is likely to cause a stir and revive the debate on the use of technology or social media. What is your stand?

The Chinese internet I

There has been a surge in stories of late about the Internet search in China, sparked by Google’s call to move their search engine to Hong Kong. The Guardian has published an article on March 24 (see article), saying that companies in China sometimes get called up to remove online contents or have their websites suddenly removed. Financial Times (see article) has very comprehensive behind-the-scene reportage on this matter.

Chinese users can correct me if wrong, but I have never used Google too much when in the Mainland, simply because it doesn’t seem to provide as much as other engines such as Yahoo, Sina and Sohu. Perhaps it has to do with this ongoing row? In terms of design layout, the local Chinese search engines really suck, they are always so wordy, lacking in design and taste.

Look at Sina.com.cn:

And Sohu.com.cn

You will know what I mean.

I feel sad sometimes that Chinese users have to tolerate these really ugly and uncontemporary search engines. Everything is only in Simplified Chinese and I don’t know how its archiving works. The websites are also juxtaposed with flashing and colourful ad banners. It gives you a headache when you look at it for a long time. But if they are the better channels to retrieve information that they want…

In an attempt to poach Google’s customers, Google announced that its Bing searches are to stay in China. Okay…thanks for that. I also did a quick desktop search trial using Bing.com.cn, but it doesn’t work very well, and seems to trawl up very randomised, official-version websites. The globe image on the Bing homepage is rather ridiculous as well.

I would say, currently, that I like Baidu.com.cn much better in terms of searching for Chinese information, other than the popular but Hong Kong-based Yahoo.com.hk. In fact, Baidu looks like a Chinese-adapted version of Google, with more visual photos and a cleaner structure for finding what you need:

They use QQ (and for some, MSN) instead of Facebook. I remember several times, when I was in Beijing, and even in the UK, I asked some Mainland Chinese friends for their Facebook names so I can look them up, and they looked at me and said, what is Facebook? I don’t use it. I have QQ.

Not many of Mainland users like googlemail so much as hotmail or 163.com or yahoo.com.cn. This is highly related to the proliferation and user-friendliness of these website searches.

In China, the Blackberry devices are being launched without WiFi capabilities. The Blackberry to be sold by China Telecom is powered by the e-surfing function from the fixed line operator.

It is as if there is no one internet: there is a western internet, and a Chinese internet. These two worlds sometimes overlap, but for those who may only be able to access one world and not the other, it is a confusing experience to synchronise what one knows about these worlds.

According to Reuters, the Chinese internet user population has exceeded 384 million, with 86 million added in the last year. I am not surprised. Internet is a great way for the Chinese community to have access to the world of opportunities – for business, entertainment and education. With added wealth, higher living standards and the inevitable globalisation phenomenon, the trend is set to continue.