Category Archives: trends

How’s your Pictionary skills?

“Lost in translation” fairly sums up my daily dealings with various work counterparts across the region. I’ve found the best way to converse with my colleagues is not over the phone, but over instant messenger – mainly because they don’t ignore me (or maybe they can’t refuse to answer because my question mark sparkles?). IM is a handy tool for instant communication, but also for instant universal translation of pretty much any concept. If I don’t understand some email from a colleague, I can IM him and he’ll respond to my question in a mixture of text and emoticons. My Korean counterparts are very good in communicating in Emoji (a Japanese term for picture icons or emoticons). At first it’s strange to read pictures and text, but it’s easy to grasp and these little emoticons have made my work life easier with fewer “Lost in Translation” moments.

On that point, here’s an interesting project – Fred Benenson wants to translate public domain novel Moby Dick into Emoji, and has set up a site asking for donations to fund this project. He plans to have each sentence translated three times by different Amazon Mechanical Turk workers, with a different set of workers then voting on which sentence is best. Those who pledge will either receive a PDF or hardcopy of the book, depending on how generous they are. Based on the provided samples, Emoji Dick will be a difficult read for most, except my Korean colleagues.



Automated Photoshopping: A New Internet Meme Is Born

Frankly, this is awesome.  The newly developed PhotoSketch allows you to create automatically generated Photoshopped compositions using random images off the interwebs.  Yes, really.  The image below is but one example of PhotoSketch’s capability:

PhotoSketch Example

If you don’t believe us, seriously, go watch the following video demonstration.  We’d suggest going to the PhotoSketch website itself, but it appears the site has imploded amidst a veritable deluge of interweb users all creating the most fantastically ridiculous possibly composition requests.

The best part?  It appears this was developed at China’s Tsinghua University!

PhotoSketch: Internet Image Montage from tao chen on Vimeo.

The schizophrenic state of digital in Japan…

This morning, whilst I was flicking through a Japanese media FAS report sent through by Dan Calladine, I picked up on a couple fascinating examples of the mixed bag that is Japan’s digital media landscape.

Photo by Cocoarmani (Flickr)

Japan has the ability to be hugely advanced in some areas and bizarrely limited in others.  Cases in point, taken from the full report, which you can view here.

QR Codes for Japanese Tombstones (page 49):

“As an example of how far QR codes penetrate Japanese daily life, starting in early 2008, the company Ishinokoe began to offer a QR code service for tombstones. For a yearly fee, the company’s packages allow visitors to use a QR code to access a dedicated mobile site, complete with the life history and photos of the deceased (”

While this service has been around for more than a year it seems, it is still a fascinating example of just how far advanced Japan can be in the moble space.  Check out Ishinokoe’s website (if you read Japanese).

No Websites Allowed for Electoral Candidates in Japan (page 56)

So, again, this is not exactly new information, but when you think about the tombstone QR codes, and the general comfort with digital media that the Japanese market generally exhibits, this is simply fascinating:

Website content is currently categorized as literature and images, which are prohibited except for the specified types. Therefore, candidates are not allowed to use online content for campaign purposes before or during the election period. However, the use of the Internet for political activities or those not directly related to campaigning for a specified candidate in a specified election are permissible (National Diet Library, 6 March 2006).

These little tidbits highlight why Japan remains one of the most fascinating markets in the digital arena, globally.  Welikey funky stuff like this.

Twitter: The New Travel Planner

I had a particularly good experience recently as my girlfriend and I were starting to plan an upcoming trip to Los Angeles.  She opted for the more conventional method of running a few searches on Google,, and  As expected she got the standard results – a few promotions, some highly rated hotels, and a good selection of price ranges.  Not bad, but nothing you could really trust and act upon without asking around a bit more.

On the other hand, I opted to throw out this tweet to see what would come back.  Within an hour, I received 8 different recommendations coming from a mix of friends and 3rd party services.  By the end of the night, I had 15 different recommendations to choose from all with personal validations or niche customer reviews to back them.

I was particularly impressed with one travel service, Resideo, who reached out to me with the following series of tweets (in order of conversation): quick consultation, staff recommendations, single recommendation, and the soft-sell.  All signs of a well-formulated customer service strategy in social media that picks up on the exact moment of consumer demand.

While it helped that my chosen destination was in a Twitter-crazy market, what I learned was that social media can be (and will be) a very serious player in the travel planning process.  The level of service I received was spectacular compared to the robotic process of searching on travel aggregators and search engines.  The human-touch of customer service has returned to digital, when we once thought it had completely abandoned the internet.

I love the concept that we no longer have to search for products and services, because they will find us.  With the communication tools we have today, we’re not too far off from making that concept a reality.

Free Content Models for Books, Music, Movies and news?

Seth Grossman circulated a link to me this morning saying ” [Here’s] an interesting example of Bought / Owned / Earned  being leveraged – Publishers are paying for placement on Kindle using their owned platform of the books they publish to actually distribute free books that get readers hooked on the author to drive sales of other books by the same author.  All delivered digitally”.

There are strong parallels with the way of the music industry as well. This article by Mike Masnick about free music content is worth a read. From a content perspective we are going to see an increasingly clear picture emerge in the next 12 months on this subject. Some of the emerging [non] business models of the music industry totally negate paid-for content and instead rely purely on revenue generated from live events and merchandising and potential sponsorships. Mike Masnick’s case study on Nine Inch Nails is also worth viewing though can be neatly summarised as:

Connect With Fans (CwF) + Reason To Buy (RtB) = The Business Model ($$)

Interestingly, movies don’t have that luxury as the performance can never be “live”, so while the studios gloated over the failure of the music industry in the past decade, I think the last laugh may yet be on them partly because their whole business model actually depends on their catalogue and the 60% margins they get from the DVD window and the 96% margins from the TV release window. Either way, there are going to be more opportunities for brands to “sponsor and “own” blocks of content from music/bands, books, films and news.

On a slightly separate but related matter here’s a link to “that note” that created some buzz last month from a 15yr old intern at Morgan Stanley who wrote a very clear consumer portrait of media and device usage for his generation. It has interesting reflection on cost sensitivity of teenagers on using various tools (like e.g. twitter – they don’t use it because it eats into their free SMS’s on mobile…); why they still go to cinemas and their attitude towards banners as well as various other pertinent insights.

So what is Rupert Murdoch’s view? If his newspapers are moving towards a paid-for model, how are they going to compete with “free news content”? It’s all very well to argue for the need for News publishers “to delicately perform some kind of cashectomy on digital consumers” but it is hardly news to announce this without elucidating a more refined solution.  In my view the only way he will achieve that is by creating  a lot MORE VALUE for consumers on his newspaper sites beyond news content from additional sources such as film, music and books; by that stage it is arguable whether it is the news content or the additional content that consumers are prepared to pay for.

My two cents worth is that we will move closer to the free content model as demonstrated by Kindle, Masnick and the Morgan Stanley intern than we will to Rupert Murdoch’s simplistic pay-per-play model.

Twitter and Real-Time Search Contendors

Despite the fact that Twitter is first and foremost a microblogging service, its search functionality is increasingly becoming used as a barometer for trends. From the recent demonstrations in Iran to the avalanche of collective expression of loss following the death of Michael Jackson, Twitter has proven itself as an invaluable resource for real-time news and search results. However, Twitter was straining under the weight of the tributes to the star, and disabled their search and trending topics functionalities in an effort to stay afloat.   This isn’t the first time.  All this stress the news placed on Twitter’s system as well as its search function is limited to the site only, this does not bode well for Twitter’s prospects as a ‘real-time’ search engine.

So here are a couple of the best ‘real-time’ search services I’ve seen so far:

Collecta screenshotCollecta : Launched just this month,  it seems to be one of the fastest real-time search engines out there.  Collecta is effective in tracking events as they happen, gathering photos, videos, status updates, tweets, news articles, and blog entries as items are posted, continuously updating results as event happen.

Crowdeye screenshotCrowdEye : Another recently launched service.  The intention of CrowdEye is to both sort real-time information and make it more meaningful for users by giving greater context to results with graphs, categorized search terms, highlighted links, as well as displaying recent tweets.

Asian youth stats and thoughts from Ian Stewart…

Carlos just pinged over this little piece on Asian Youth that was presented by Ian Stewart, of ex-MTV fame and now the man with the plan for Friendster in these here parts. It’s a nice little deck full of fun stats – a recommended read for anyone dealing with the youth around here.