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Three Lessons I Learned From Flappy Bird

Maurice Saatchi has this to write to the employees of M&C Saatchi – and the rest of the advertising world – about what he termed “The Brutal Simplicity of Thought:” Simplicity is more than a discipline: it is a test. It forces exactitude or it annihilates. It accelerates failure when a cause is weak, and it clarifies and strengthens a cause that is strong. Saatchi is known in advertising circles as the brains behind some of the world’s most successful ad campaigns. Things like “Labour Isn’t Working,” “Let’s Get Behind Scotland,” and the “Face” ad for British Airways. Then again, a developer named Dong Nguyen released a game called “Flappy Bird,” and is now a cause for celebration (perhaps even revulsion) among many mobile gaming fans. Mostly because the game is hard. Damn hard. On my best day of playing the game, I got a score of 10. I’m not a fan of writing “marketing thought leader” -ish pieces on my blog – for one I’m not, and for two most of these Mashable-y pieces are exercises in common sense – but “Flappy Bird” got me thinking about the lessons we can learn from the game. It can lend some order and perspective (read: sanity) into a world filled with “Let’s make a mobile app,” or “mobile should be a pillar for awareness.” Because sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t; most of the time, though, some things demonstrate the things we believe in most simply by doing.

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The Social Media Desiderata

I wish to go placidly amidst the noise and haste and stuff like that, but I just can’t. I wake up in the morning and check notifications on my phone.  My work involves making sense of all that noise in the virtual world, and often contributing to it.  I Tweet during meals, I Plurk in the toilet.  I blog while drinking.  Happiness is in being trending, in being an influencer, in being followed. I’m at peace only when I’m retweeted or when my posts are being liked and shared on Facebook. Okay, I’ll stop there. Filipino homes share some common elements in the way of interior decor and design.  Like those tacky-looking “Weapons of Moroland” plaques.  Or reliefs of The Last Supper on hardwood panels, hanging by the dining room.  There’s the giant wooden spoon in the kitchen: having a giant wooden fork nearby is a sign of a bit of wealth going on for the family. There are the cloth calendars bearing each family member’s name stamped in red: the cloth usually dyed black and finished in faux velvet, printed with some image of a tigress and her cubs drinking from a clear stream in the middle of the jungle.  There’s the roll-up bamboo mat of “Footprints in the Sand,” with brush-strokes that make the English verses look Oriental. And then there’s the faded poster of the “Desiderata,” either tacked to the door of an aparador, or next to the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Because it’s supposed to inspire.  Because…

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Found 'Em On Facebook

Any self-proclaimed and self-serving social media guru in this day and age will tell you that the key to success in online business is to make your own Facebook fan page.  Never mind that it’s not free (the times you spend updating your page all translate to labor costs), that you’ll spend a lot of time and money making portals (digital does not thrive on Facebook fan pages alone), or that even the biggest businesses with the biggest pages do not necessarily know what they’re doing on Facebook outside of gathering fans, or having more fans than the other brand (there, I said it). Still, people flock towards the “F.”  Brands now blend the “Find us on Facebook” mantra into the marketing mix, and force the “social media” thingy into the brand DNA.  Which begs the question: if brands want us to “Find” them on Facebook, then there must be smaller brands and businesses out there that try their darndest, or have tried their darndest, to cut through the noise of digital and actually bring business into their places.  They may not have the big marketing budgets of brands or the creative and technical capital of agencies and suppliers, but still, I found ’em on Facebook. Violet Laundry Shop Your friendly neighborhood laundry shop is probably the last place that you’ll think of when someone says “Facebook fan page.”  While Violet Laundry Shop was not updated for over a year now, they’re first to be there way before brands started…

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Flashpoints

Around a year ago, the Freedom of Information Bill wasn’t passed in Congress, hashtagged with #FOI.  People were outraged by Congress not passing an essential bill.  Now, the hashtag of the season is #reefwatchPH or #savePHseas, where people are outraged by the “rape of the oceans.”  In the span of a year, many issues have been hashtagged, advocated over Twitter, and became the advocacy of the “Philippine blogosphere.” Looking back, something doesn’t compute with all of this outrage.  There is no reverberating message, there is no undercurrent to the outrage outside of a trending issue being the flavor of our very accelerated months.  While we have mastered the art of instigating, arousing, and organizing, the way social media is used in our time is not doing a good job at mobilizing and sustaining. We do a good job at making outrage reach a flashpoint, but there isn’t much we’re doing right now to keep the flames of outrage burning.  This, I surmise, is the reason why the critics of “the social media lynch mob” are correct for now in saying that advocacies online do not have a commensurate effect in whatever is happening offline. There’s a big, gaping disconnect that remains valid if our idea of success is for a trending topic to be covered by traditional media (which happens anyway).  Or if our idea of success is hinged completely on how many times our hashtags are made, how many times our names are mentioned on other blogs, or how…

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Notes on the "Death" of Friendster

Techcrunch reports that Friendster, a pioneer of social networking, is going to wipe out photos, blogs, comments, testimonials, comments, and groups on May 31st.  Reading through the comments and some of the thoughts of friends and acquaintances, it’s fairly easy to see some consensus forming: that “Friendster is dead,” and would be part of a running “body count” of social networks that have gone the way of the 404 (or some other more apt analogy). It’s hard to argue with the obvious that a Darwinian (or to be more accurate, Spencerian) flavor is present in social networks after the seeming dominance of Facebook in the social networking space.  Only the fit social networking sites survive, and it just so happens that Facebook and Twitter are the fittest of them all.  I’d venture to say that nobody uses Friendster anymore.  From the looks of things, what was once a vibrant and exciting community of friends and users has somehow ebbed into relative obscurity in favor of social networks driven by apps and APIs, and where entire digital marketing disciplines cover just one or two mega-platforms. I won’t claim to be an “expert” on social media or anything, but I’d just like to stick my neck out and say that maybe – just maybe – the idea that “Friendster is dead” is wrong.

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Did It Fail?

TJ Dimacali of GMANews.TV wrote an interesting article last Wednesday (that gives you how much free time I have these days, LOL) on whether or not last week’s cartoon-characters-against-child-abuse Facebook meme actually worked.  It’s interesting because it somehow reflects on the state of social media, and puts a good frame of reference in its position in society. While we can disagree about the robustness of the methodology used in the article (the set of keywords, the tools used, the interpretation of results), the result propounded by Mr. Dimacali is fairly conclusive: the virality of the meme did not translate to action, much less a commensurate increase in interest for child abuse.  Be that as it may, we do not know how many people actually did the meme, or if the meme was indeed executed by users to support the cause against child abuse.  For purposes of this entry, let’s leave it at that. In a previous column for The Philippine STAR, I wrote that while social media amplifies conversations, it often does so at the expense of other issues that deserve amplification.  Conversations have the tendency to spiral into silence: in a multi-faceted meme like the cartoon characters on Facebook profile pictures, the fun factor is amplified at the expense of the issue. Did the meme fail?  I don’t think so.

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Laws of Online Memetics

Law of Memetic Inertia If the sum of all forces acting upon a subject is zero, then the trajectory of thought of that subject is constant. A subject at rest will move towards a bias when force acts upon it. All forces on the Internet are biased.  There is no objective solution. Law of Accelerated Opinion A subject subjected to a force accelerates towards opinions that have the same direction and trajectory as the opinion. The magnitude of the acceleration of the subject’s opinion is directly proportional to the mass, and inversely proportional to the force applied on it. Opinion does not need an issue in order to be formed and accelerated. Law of Non-Commensurate Overreaction For every action offline or online (or lack thereof), there is an unequal and non-commensurate reaction online. The mutual actions of two subjects acting upon each other are dependent on supporters, followers, gall, and the amount of time a subject is willing to spend online to defend the non-commensurate overreaction.

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Fuckwad Effects

Sometime last year, I wrote about the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory in the context of John Suler’s online disinhibition effect thesis.  Today, there is growing interest in adding the conceptual form of Internet addiction in DSM-V, mostly because of real social problems brought about by translations of real-world behavior online. The sociologist William Isaac Thomas, in his statement on the definition of the situation, sets it out clearly: if people define their situations as real, they are real in their consequences.  For the longest time, we’ve considered the “online universe” as something disjoint from society: in reality, all our actions online, no matter how anonymous, have a direct effect on our offline lives when it has a consequence.

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My WordCamp 2010 Breakaway

WordCamp Philippines 2010 was nothing short of awesome.  And yes, this is a very belated entry. This year’s WordCamp Philippines found me babbling about WordPress statistics at the Advanced Track for the breakaway sessions – talking more about bananas and the tumbok shape of normal distributions more than anything else relevant – but I’m writing this post for the benefit of those who: Were not able to attend my WordCamp breakaway; Agreed with Bariles’ opinion of me being a rockstar at night (although the rockstar should still be Matt Mullenweg), or; Attended my WordCamp breakaway but just weirded out by my incoherent mumbling, and making suggestive gestures with a bottle of drinking water. Here goes.