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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sharing the wealth

Over the last few days, I'd been hammering the Online Donation Portal (ODP). I had been procrastinating over doing so, but finally decided to get my act together and do the deed.

It wasn't easy working with the ODP. Pop-up windows, restrictions on using the browser's back/forward/reload buttons, lots of clicks, etc. But in the end, I got used to it and was able to do what I wanted quickly and (relatively) easily.

When all was done, I had given to the following types of charities:
Charities donated to

And the proportionate amounts given were:
Amount donated to

(All labels are mine.)

Obviously, I'm not providing the actual numbers, though I suppose one could work it out backwards from the size of the charts' segments. For the most part, I kept it as equal as possible between the charities, thus the similarity in segment sizes between both charts.

I realise, of course, that giving money to charities is like giving presents to children. It lessens the guilt while making me feel like I've done something worthwhile. On the other hand, I've read that charities prefer monetary donations so that they can allocate the funds according to their needs. So maybe giving money away isn't all that bad.

And for me, it felt like a burden had been lifted. I'd procrastinated over this long enough. Next year, perhaps I should do this at regular intervals. At least, the shock on my wallet wouldn't be that large.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blogger events are hype, don't fret over them

It's been nearly a month since some folks discussed how bloggers are invited to corporate events. I've thought about this for a long time, but had not found the right thing to say. But as Preetam would tell everyone and Nadia seems to imply, nothing's happened unless I started some kind of controversy. So here goes.

Firstly, a chronological background of what this "debate" was:
  1. It started with Shelly Sim listing a set of "criteria" for bloggers to be invited to these events.
  2. In response, Ogilvy Public Relations' Brian Koh listed some reasons that organisations needed to engage bloggers.
  3. Claudia Lim weighed in with some reasons why certain bloggers were invited to these events.
  4. Adding her two cents, Priss said that almost any blogger could get invited if he/she wanted to, and that organisations needed to engage bloggers in the modern age.
(There may have been more entries written in relation to this debate, but I am not aware of them (as of this writing).)

To Shelly and anyone who's bothered by this debate, my suggestion is: "Don't worry your pretty little head over this." There are two "truisms" about the blogosphere:
  1. Blogs are rated as the least trusted news source.
  2. In Singapore, more people from many walks of life go to STOMP.
I'm also not giving that suggestion because I'm one of those bloggers who gets invited to said events and don't want any "competition". In recent events, I've actually been the one who said, "Hey, let's find more people who are outside of the usual circle to participate." If organisations want to "engage" bloggers, then they damn well better invite every Tom, Dick and Hari blogger that they can lay their hands on!

But if you still want to attend these events, then there are avenues to aid your discovery. I personally have gone to the extent of managing not one but two calendars of events. Social Events started off as a Google Calendar. Though that is still updated, Social Events really lives on at Yahoo Upcoming. If you see an event there and its notes don't say "By invitation only", then you're welcome to attend. Most of the time, you'll rarely even see those three magic words, which means you can attend if you have time and know how to get there.

Another way to find out about these events is through other people. As the saying goes, it's not what or how much you know, but who you know. Priss mentioned that she's been invited to events because she knows Sabrina. I don't know Sabrina (well, okay, I introduced myself to her once, but seem to have fallen off her radar since then), so I don't get invited to those events. So Shelly, don't feel so excluded. I may be invited to some blogger events, but there are many that I am excluded from.

Oh yeah, they are parties. They're events by name only. They're really about getting a bunch of people together and filling their stomachs with free food and drinks and their minds with hype and politically correct niceties. I've never organised a corporate blogger event, but my guess is that the thinking goes along these lines:
"Hey, I've got this awesome new product/service that's launching in Singapore. Yeah, social media is important and all that. It'd be cool to invite some bloggers down for an 'exclusive' event. Give them some free food, throw some freebies around. But don't forget to hype up the new product/service! Get them to write about it. (And subtly encourage them to leave out the bad stuff.) Yeah, that is so cool, man. Oh, after that? *pfftt* The newspapers/TV will take care of that."
That's the impression I get, anyway. They're just a one-night-only, two (okay, three)-hour partying and networking and hype. After that, you go your way, I'll go mine, at least until the next event for the new "gee whiz" product/service.

As the saying goes in "Grey's Anatomy": "Seriously?" Shelly, is this really what you want?

Perhaps I've become jaded to all of these so-called "blogger events". Sure, they're fun, in a way. For the penny pinchers, they're great places to load up on unhealthy food and get some free entertainment. For social butterflies, they're wonderful venues to catch up with pals and make new ones. And for the organisers, they're a low-cost way to (hopefully) get more related results in a search engine.

Of course, as more people attend these events, more entries will be written about the product/service being hyped. That could lead to more irritation by readers who wish wistfully for the time when blogs were online personal diaries without the product placements. I've no answer to that except to stop reading them. Besides, blogs aren't trusted, remember?

In summary:
  • Yes, you can attend blogger events! Check out Social Events or contact the right "influencer" (that's my label, not any PR agency's or organisation's).
  • Blogger events are these delightful, free parties. And don't forget the product/service marketing hype!
  • If you don't like reading event-related entries, don't read them. No one trusts blogs anyway, so you'd be better off too.
Aside to organisers of these events: just because you invite a few self-proclaimed bloggers to your event doesn't immediately make it a "social media" event.

Aside to folks who invite me to these events (or were going to): if this entry takes me off your list of invitees, so be it. But I hope you replace me with someone who is not one of the "usual suspects". At least then my exclusion can count for something.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Camera comparison: Sony Ericsson C905 versus Sony Ericsson K800i

Oh joy! I finally managed to lay my hands on a Sony Ericsson C905. I had been drooling over this phone ever since it was first announced. Its specifications matched exactly what I've been looking for. Eight-megapixel camera. WiFi and 3G. Familiar Sony Ericsson interface.

Of course, nothing's perfect. Like video recording that doesn't take advantage of the available pixels. Or a heavier, bulkier design. Or the price tag (S$900 and dropping).

On the other hand, after seeing the C905's picture quality, its drool factor just jumped tenfold. Here's the picture I took with my Sony Ericsson K800i:
Camera phone comparison: Sony Ericsson K800i

And here's the same scene taken with the Sony Ericsson C905:
Camera phone comparison: Sony Ericsson C905

Oh my goodness! Eight megapixels do make a ton of difference! I can actually see the spotted pattern on the grey chair! *gasp* I've never seen such clarity before. Hmm, this is something that I should test with the Xperia X1, if I get the chance to.

Overall, the C905 seems to give very good quality images, which ranks it right up there with the Xperia X1 and ahead of Samsung's Innov8 and Pixon. As for Nokia's N79, N85 and N96, it's no fight at all (well, maybe the N85, but by a long shot).

Related entries:--

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Camera comparison: Samsung Omnia, Innov8 and Pixon versus Sony Ericsson K800i

While at the Samsung Store today, I had a chance to try out the camera capabilities of the company's flagship camera phones. While the Omnia had been touted as a iPhone alternative, the Innov8 and Pixon were promoted through their eight-megapixel cameras.

So it was time to put the hype to the test. As usual, I measured against my benchmark Sony Ericsson K800i.

(Note: no matter what the images show, the phones being tested are not necessarily the ones mentioned in the pictures.)

First up, Sony Ericsson K800i vs Samsung Omnia.

Sony Ericsson K800i:
Camera phone comparison: Sony Ericsson K800i

Samsung Omnia:
Camera phone comparison: Samsung Omnia

Hmm, either I had unsteady hands, or the Omnia's camera quality is as depicted. One thing that puzzled me when using the store's phone was that it was stuck at 320x240 pixels. It wasn't until repeated pressing of the buttons (it didn't help that the security lock was in the way of the touchscreen) that I managed to get its full 2560x1920 resolution.

So, the Omnia didn't impress me. Would eight megapixels make a difference?

Sony Ericsson K800i:
Camera phone comparison: Sony Ericsson K800i

Samsung Innov8:
Camera phone comparison: Samsung Innov8

The Innov8 seemed to provide a level of exposure that was more true to what I saw with my own eyes.

Sony Ericsson K800i:
Camera phone comparison: Sony Ericsson K800i

Samsung Pixon:
Camera phone comparison: Samsung Pixon

Unfortunately, another customer was in my way when I was taking the picture with my camera, so the angle was way off. But the Pixon did seem to give richer colours.

So, based on my non-scientific tests, I'd rate the tested phones in this order: Pixon, Innov8, K800i, Omnia. Compared with the other phones that I've tested recently, I'd say that the Pixon and Innov8 give the Sony Ericsson Xpera X1 a run for the latter's money, in terms of true colours and sharpness.

One thing I didn't like about the Samsung phones was their initial learning curve. In particular, I couldn't figure out how to return to the main menu except by accident. I suppose Samsung sells phones that require a read-through of their manuals before use.

Related entries:--

Social Media Breakfast 5 at Samsung Store, Vivocity

Social Media Breakfast 5 group shot from Claudia Lim
Picture from Claudia Lim
It was time for another Social Media Breakfast (or Brunch, really) and, to tie in with the festive period, it was a year-end party. It was held at the Samsung Store at Vivocity. I had thought that the area would be too small to accommodate everyone, but it turned out to be just nice.

Perhaps it's because the turn-out wasn't as large as at the previous Social Media Breakfast at URA Centre. Still, where it lack in quality, it made up for in terms of quantity.

And by quantity, I mean the proportion of new faces to familiar ones. I didn't recognise about half of the attendees. Over a sumptuous meal, I talked with a few of them. Time will tell whether these new faces return to upcoming social media events.

An Xbox and Wii consoles had been set up (to be used with two of the flashy flat panel Samsung TVs), but few people played with them. Instead, as had happened at previous Social Media Breakfasts, people were more interested in chatting and mingling. I suppose that's how things are, and everything else is, to put it nicely, a distraction.

There was supposed to be a webcast with the U.S. founder of Social Media Breakfast, but it never happened due to technical difficulties.

Instead, the highlight of the afternoon was a pitch by Daniel Goh for Samsung Hope. It's Samsung's corporate social responsibility project that encourages the public to donate to its selected charities. While venue owners aren't allowed to pitch their (commercial) products, Samsung apparently was provided some leeway to promote its charity.

Overall, the party was a good time to catch up with old friends while getting acquainted with new ones. Post-event, a few people adjourned to Starbucks (I guess someone needs to bail them out of their 97% profit loss). I left for a while, but returned in time to hear Bernard Leong espouse on his hope for a new local social media tool, which if I dare say is one that I've thought of before but never knew how to execute.

Related entries:--

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Personal landmark #273: I've been published!

Just a note to myself: I've been published through iMediaConnection. It's a three-part article that they've entitled "The evolution of web analytics". My original title was "What is Web Analytics?" Yeah, obviously, I need a copywriter for even that simple task.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

I queued for more than an hour for Ben & Jerry's ice cream!

Entrance to Fort Canning Green
I now know that I'm a natural born Singaporean. I queued up for food. And not free food either. I had to fork over hard-earned cash for Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

Then again, for someone who's never tasted Ben & Jerry's ice cream before, I think it was quite an achievement for me to go through such "pain and torture" for a moment of sweet, creamy ice cream.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Ben & Jerry's held their first Chunk Fest in Singapore today at Fort Canning Green. It started at 2pm, but I arrived after 3pm after attending to an errand. I met up with a few others, who were there actually for the Vermonster eating challenge. Some of them had entered their names to participate, but none of them made the short-listed teams.

Crowd at Fort Canning Green Queue for ice cream
Since I'd come for the ice cream, I joined the queue at the rear of the Green. That was at 3:55pm. The queue snaked around the grassland. After the afternoon rain, the ground was slick with mud. And due to the queue, the ground had been well squished. Those who wore hundred-dollar shoes must've shed a tear for their stained footwear. I even saw a woman in heels! How did she survive the queue?

While waiting, the Vermonster challenge took place. The winning team downed 20 scoops of ice cream and an obscene tonne of toppings in less than five minutes. And to put that in further perspective, the second team took more than double that time to finish their tub.

Strawberry Banana Frozen Yoghurt and Vanilla Chocolate Chunk
At about 5:10pm, I finally got my ice cream. Two scoops set me back eight dollars. Given the long wait and the money spent, I chose flavours that were supposedly not available in Singapore: Strawberry Banana Frozen Yoghurt (too sweet for my liking, if I dare say so) and Vanilla Chocolate Chunk (which I highly suspect was not what I ordered).

3:55pm to 5:10pm was more time than I ever thought I'd spend in line for anything. (And for anyone who's calculating, that's 75 minutes, or one hour and 15 minutes!) "I queued for 75 minutes and all I got were two scoops of Ben & Jerry's ice cream (and muddy shoes and pants)." Not that I'm complaining, of course.

Swensen's Coit Tower
As if that cup of ice cream wasn't enough, I met up with the others (who'd sought cooler and less muddy pastures) at Swensen's for dinner. I ended my meal with a Coit Tower: a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, mixed with chocolate fudge, banana slices and diced almond, and capped with a strawberry topping, whipped cream and a cherry.

I should probably mention that dinner was my first real meal of the day. Thus, I didn't see an issue with my calorie intake. (Though I wouldn't recommend such an unhealthy diet for anyone, regardless of how many meals or how much calories you consume!)

And to put that in perspective...

I'm hungry now.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Camera comparison: Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 versus K800i

If there's one thing I look for in a mobile phone, aside from the ability to make phone calls and send/receive SMS messages, is a good camera. I don't own a regular camera since I'm not in the habit of taking photos. But when I do take that occasional photo, I want to make sure the picture turns out well.

So far, my trusty Sony Ericsson K800i has not failed me in the photo-taking department. In my search for a new phone, I've hardly been able to find one that is better or at least on par with the K800i.

Until I tried out the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1.

My first experience was, admittedly, a disappointing one. I had chanced upon a Sony Ericsson road show booth, so I played with their demo set of the X1. The laggy interface coupled with lack of response from my touching the screen made me think that this phone was a dud.

Then I tried the one that a colleague had. Whoa! It was soooo much better! Yes, there was still a noticeable lag when switching between programs, but it was acceptable for a Windows Mobile-based smartphone. Tapping and typing were breezy and responsive. I even liked that, in spite of the small icons and menu items, it knew which item I had selected with my big finger.

Which only left the "acid test": how well were the photos taken with its 3-megapixel camera? First up, here's what I'd taken with my K800i:
Camera phone comparison: Sony Ericsson K800i

And here's the X1's photo:
Camera phone comparison: Sony Ericsson Xperia X1

Check out the sharpness of the X1's picture! I can almost see the individual strands of hair on my colleague. And notice how the X1 captured the close-to-true orange-y light at the top of the picture.

By comparison, the K800i's photo looks over-exposed. And its blurriness suggests a longer exposure period. Now I know what I've been missing out!

Nokia's new line of Nseries phones don't stand a chance against the X1. In my book, the X1 has moved up several notches, not just in terms of its camera quality, but also in its features and user interface.

Alas, it's priced way out of my range (unless a telco gives me a couple of discount vouchers). Perhaps I could score an evaluation version? Hello, Sony Ericsson?