Archive for June, 2008


My Second Fat Li(f)e

June 30, 2008

I walked around exploring the town and within thirty minutes or so I managed to buy my own little home in a project in the outskirts. I found my fridge empty, but made a modest meal plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner, avoiding the Atkins BBQ Short Ribs and the Atkins Oriental Beef, listed in the menu options. I do not trust diets, especially when they are advertised. I found the nearest grocery store and bought some food. Then I started up a small business – I quickly became the owner of a coffee shop that costed me several hundred dollars. It did not make any money the first day, because while I was wondering what to serve my customers they kept disappearing within 7-10 seconds of waiting at their tables. Well, since business was not doing well, I decided to walk across town and take a look at the cemetery. After a short brisk walk halfway to the other side of town I started panting and had to stop… I guess my age, overweight situation and predisposition to hypertension, all of which I disclosed when signing in, were the reasons for that. Meanwhile, a pink-haired girl quickly passed me by jogging on the sidewalk. Welcome to Fatworld!

It was not me, but my character that was panting on the street and refused to move on for a while, even if I was pressing hard on the buttons that made it walk. Fatworld by Persuasive Games caught my attention and willingess to try it by its focus on nutrition and obesity. An intriguing topic for me! There is not much interaction between the characters in the game, but I came across some clear messages. The structure of the town was divided into poor and upscale communities. Fast food places and diners were to be found closer to the project housing and sit-in fine-dining restaurants were right next to the spacious mansions with back-yard swimming pools. One year in Fatworld is equl to one real-life day. I think I can afford spending more time there to further experience what will become of me in a accelerated mode – will I live or die – with the food/exercise activities I choose for my character.

My Second Life experience is still short-lived. I lingered around on the Orientation Island and the coolest thing were the supernatural abilities of my character – being able to fly or walk on the bottom of the sea. A wonderful feeling of freedom! I spent some time dressing and modeling my avatar and spoke to a couple of confused newcomers like myself. Second Life seems to require a lot of time from one’s Real Life. An amusing typo, applicable to both, made me think of which is more truthful – Second Lie or Real Lie?


Here Comes Wikipedia for Everybody

June 29, 2008

Wikipedia is the promise for a fast, easily acessible and free encyclopedia for everybody. This is a quick definition of it, were we to ask Clay Shirky. In his book “Here Comes Everybody” he reveals for us the holy trinity of an open-source project: “Promise. Tool. Bagain.” With his opening StolenSidekick story in the book Shirky illustrates how social media can change leverage opportunities and the way people get together and cooperate, regargless of the particular cause or purpose.

After delving into Wikpedia and its rules I came to the conclusion that we should trust it more than an expert-led encyclodedia. For one thing is it updated faster and represents considerable collective knowledge that is always richer than that of individual experts. The 5 percent false information in Wikipedia reminds me of the one spoonful of tar that can ruin a whole keg of honey. It is tricky, if we can never tell which piece of information in Wikipedia is the spoonful of tar, but I would disagree that in this case it may ruin it all.

I do not believe that the untrue information is dispersed evenly throughout Wkipedia. The existence of discussions about pages, rules and warning notes when an entry is incomplete or lacks citations is already a strong watchdog mechanism to guarantee the truthfulness (not truthiness) of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia’s honesty is present in the fact that it contains unsensored controvesial information about itself…  Here is an extract from the Wikipedia entry titled “Criticism of Wikipedia“:

Wikipedia, a free content encyclopedia project written by volunteers, has attracted criticism along with its size and popularity. Notable criticisms include that its open nature makes it unauthoritative and unreliable (see Reliability of Wikipedia), that it exhibits systemic bias, and that its group dynamics hinder its goals.”

Let’s pause for a moment and consider how many companies or organizations we can think of that have done that – on their own websites! Most of them would never (by corporate comunication rules) even iterate the name of their competitors in public, so as not to give them media exposure.


Google’s “Scary” Database of Intentions

June 28, 2008

John Batelle’s The Search” is all about how Google is changing the rules of business, the world and ourselves. Google’s Database of Intentions he writes about is a collective pool of information about what we want, where we live, what are we excited about, what do we care about most, what are we keenly interested in, etc. It does sound like Big Brother, but we do not really know whether “he” is watching? Each one of us experiences our identity give-away to Google piece by piece and only when we are confronted with the realization that somewhere (perhaps in Googleplex?) the pieces may come together, so that none of us remains a puzzle as an individual. It does sound unsettling, but should we be afraid of Google?

I can not be paranoid about it for the following reasons:

1. There is no evidence so far that my collective individual search data is being piled up and misused.

2. I can not participate and contribute to the Conversation without yielding information about who I am and what I am interested in. It does not work that way – a community of anonymous participants.

The reason for why we should be cautious though is that the potential damage of the misuse of all that collect information is critical. The risk is huge and by the time there is enough evidence that it is being misused, it may be too late to recover one’s own reputation, peace and privacy… Imagine you wake up one morning and you find 10 sales people at your door trying to sell you your most favorite things, because they know what you crave, why you want it and where to find you. That is disturbing.

Batelle’s logic in “The Search” goes in the following sequence, according to me: intent drives search, search drives clicksreams and clickstreams drive profits. Therefore, my intentions, wants and desires are somebody else’s profit. There is nothing wrong with that. The annoying part is why do they have to know all about I care for? Google, if used to this end, can give them a glimpse (or even a map 🙂 of my mind. It is all about control. The scary thing about all this so far for me is whether and to what end the government may get a hold of this powerful collection of knowledge. Let’s hope not.


The Long Tail Reaction

June 26, 2008

My reaction to Chris Anderson’s idea of The Long Tail is: I wish read it two years ago, when someone recommended it to me!!! I could be running a profitable business by now, had I the knowledge and insights that the book offers. Or at least I could have attempted to start a business, based on the model Anderson describes. I could have failed in my hypothetical business undertaking, but could still retain the learning that this experience could have given me. If only I had read it back then… Well, this reminds me of the retrospective French saying: With “if” we can fit Paris (not Hilton!) in a bottle. Avec si on peut metre Paris dans un bouteille… It is too late for regrets now.

The Long Tail is the ultimate revelation of how the market works now and how dramatically it has changed with the advent of the new web technologies. It describes how the hit-minded marketing has collapsed under the flood of availability (at low storage cost) of many more different products. Anderson reveals how market niches get narrower, but are still able to bring profit by virtue of their multiplicity. Or as Kevin Laws is quoted on page 23 of the book: “The biggest money is in the smallest sales.” The data about Rhapsody having 40 percent of their sales coming from products not available in traditional offline retail stores was striking to me. Same goes for Amazon’s 25 percent –  this is just brilliant! Who could have known?

The Long Tail gives us everything we may desire to find out there. My own discoveries along the Tail include for example finding new to me collections of short plays from David Ives – a playwright I adore since 1996 on the basis of one single book. The Long Tail gave me the chance to get many more of his brilliant works and want even more that he has not written yet! It helped me rekindle my college passion for theater and utter delight in play reading.

My introduction to podcasts came late. I guess I am not an early adopter, sorry. It was for Professor Mark Story’s class on the Intersection of Offline and Online Public Relations last fall semester. So, by assignment and later on by sheer interest I have chosen to listen to For Immediate Release: The Hobson & Holtz Report– a twice weekly wekly commentary on public relations and technology.


Stand-Up Comedy Lives Online

June 25, 2008

I love stand-up comedy. My fascination with it came twelve years ago after hearing (not even watching) some early stand-up comedy audio tapes done by Woody Allen in the 1970s. He is awsome! He set the bar of my expectations really high. It is strange though how people in America do not associate him at all with his early career as a comedian. I rented the tapes from the BBC Center in Sofia by a reccomendation of a friend and ended up literally memorizing them. I have to make it clear that stand-up comedy is not a popular genre in Bulgaria except for a couple of recent attempts at launching stand-up shows on TV in 2005 and 2006. To my utmost disappointment, I have so far discovered only one YouTube video of these early Woody Allen stand-up comedy performances. Here it is – the one and only:

Thanks to the proliferation of videos and channels on YouTube I have discovered many exceptional comedians. One of them is Russel Peters, whose entire career and huge current popularity is built exclusively on word-of-mouth marketing. Thanks to the web and mostly YouTube I have come to adore his comedy for a year already and you bet I was among the first people to buy a ticket three months in advance for his live performance in D.C. last week-end. He is big on making fun of ethnic differences and draws a very versatile audience.

Other great comediansI have discovered via the web are the Middle Eastern bunch that made the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour. They are very efficient in breaking stereotypes about the Middle East through comedy and similarly to Russel Peters they appeal to a vast multi-ethnic public.

I have found immense gratification in exploring amateur or user-produced comedy online, which is in many cases as good as professional comedy. Among the best picks I have come accross recently are Barats and Bereta. Their videos can be found in MySpace, YouTube and their official website.

And since this is my school blog, let me fullstop this post with my all-time comic YouTube video called “Effect of education on men and women”:


We the People & Media

June 18, 2008

The main point of Dan Gillmor’s book “We the Media” is that the Internet is revolutionizing the way news and information are generated and perceived today. The author holds that the convergence of journalism and technology has greatly impacted the key stakeholders in this process – journalists, news makers and audiences. The Web has turned the tables around in terms of authority of information. The title of the book plays around with the “We the People” phrase to wake us up to the fact that technology allows everyone to be published and read nowadays.

The world of communication is no longer hierarchical. It ceased to be top-down. It is participatory. It is transparent. It is the actual marketplace of ideas in practice. If we perceive the news as projections of our shared reality, then, according to Gillmore’s insight, each of us can influence our common truth by actively participating and generating information with the help of web technologies.

At the core of the transformation, Dan Gillmore talks about in his book, is the fact that currently the “former audience” has the most critical role. It possesses the same tools and can achieve huge exposure just like professional journalists. He convinces the reader that we should  realize that the voice of each one of us is important and that, in order to make the best out of the current “explosion of conversations” everyone should take the challenge to embrace the new tools, be an active participant and content contributor.

Gillmore recognizes the rising issue of credibility all of this brings about, but is somehow confident that the public with the help of professional media “can sort it all out”. Thus, he does not dismiss the role of professional/traditional news media in the future. He calls upon them, however, to acknowledge the new media revolution and high quality grassroots journalism.

I particularly like Gillmore’s implication that, clearly, in the digital age citizens can and should DEMAND MORE (from news makers) and PUT UP WITH LESS (from politicians).

Sounds like pure democracy, doesn’t it!?


The Blog Bug

June 10, 2008

Sooner or later it gets you – as an assignment or not. I thought I was immune and resisted it for a couple of years – ever since I became aware of the existence of the bloggosphere. Now, thanks to my Social Media class at Georgetown, which makes me aware of the importance of the THE Conversation, here is my first post. Better sooner than later.

A short introduction of myself: Bulgarian by birth, U.S. resident by choice, purposeful communicator by career, graduate student by curiosity (+ a small grain of ambition) and a virtual toddler in the blogosphere.

Thus, bear with me…