~ Archive for Cyber Culture ~

Facebook is slow in developing microtransactions content

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Facebook announced that it is now selling music; a move that I believe took extremely long, given that music was a huge driving force for Myspace and Cyworld. I sometimes don’t understand why Facebook is slow in adopting business models that have already been proven in other markets. For instance, it kind of lost the virtual room model to Zynga (although I suppose if Facebook were to adopt its own virtual room thing it would squash Zynga) a business model fueled by micro transactions. I also don’t know why it hasn’t adopted the micro transactions model for customizable fonts and customizable skins. Since self-representation is such an important factor of social network sites, it only seems to make sense that such elements be hugely popular. Fonts and skins are extremely easy and cheap to produce; these elements may not be adopted by older users but younger users (and perhaps middle-aged women) will definitely be interested.

In a sense, Facebook has it easy because it can adopt business models that have been successful with Cyworld, which is a few years older and only popular in Korea and a couple other asian countries. If that is so, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Facebook adding more microtransaction content (like fonts, skins), and introducing services that make it a one-stop browser, which would include adding self-accounting services, subscribing to news, and becoming kind of like iGoogle.

It would also be super cool if Facebook could work with Amazon to put the universal wish list into Facebook so that you can send your friends gifts without having to know their addresses. FB is actually perfect for weddings if there was a wedding app that lets you invite your friends, put up your registry, share photos, etc. (There probably already is one) Would be nice if that could be in place before I get married, hehehe.

Cyber Terror, maybe from North Korea, Scares South Koreans

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The current state of the internet is bleak here in Korea, what with the recent ddos attacks and anticipation of a third “wave” coming soon. Amid speculation that North Korea is behind the attacks, a North Korean specialist said that the cyber attacks were conducted by a posse of North Korean cyber specialists who went to China to plant the evil seeds in June and return in time for the 15th anniversary ceremonies of Kim Il Sung’s death.

Munhwa Ilbo,  one of the six big daily newspapers in Korea, has a scoop quoting Ha Tae-kyong, head of North Korean Radio, which is a South Korean-based short-wave radio service for people in North Korea. [In North Korea, broadcasting is controlled by the government, so one can imagine the lack of diversity in programming] According to the article, Ha says that a high-ranking North Korean government official told him that Kim Jung-woon, the alleged heir of the current leader Kim Jong Il, initiated a posse of up to 10 North Korean cyber specialists to carry out this cyber attack operation. The North  had to send its agents to China because it doesn’t have a good enough infrastructure to do it on homeground. From big areas like Beijing, Shanghai, and Dalian,the cyber attackers routed their viruses through servers in other countries such as Singapore and Indonesia.

Ha said that the cyber terrorism was in line with the North’s nuclear experiments and missile shootings, and part of a strategy to solidify Jung-woon as the heir. It was not a coincidence that this year is the 15th anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s death. (Il-sung is father of Jong-Il, grandfather of Jung-woon)

The funny (or perhaps sad) thing about this is that South Koreans didn’t even bat an eye when N. Korea fired those missiles or detonated what could have been a nuclear bomb, but this cyber attack has people terrified. Of course, the government is afraid that their “special technologies” and “secret information” will be leaked, but normal people (kind of including me) are concerned because the bank sites were down. All of Korea’s banks are wired and Internet/mobile banking is quite the norm. It kind of gets me worried sometimes because my assets are not physical, and I wonder what would happen if all electronic records were to be erased completely.

I know Americans don’t really care about what happens in other parts of the world, but because the attacks included several U.S. sites (including the White House and the Washington Post) some sites like Nasdaq.com have blocked access from Korea and are still inaccessible. I reported this inaccessibility on Herdict, which is a Berkman-developed site where people can self-report sites that are blocked.

Ubiquitous human computing and personal connectivity

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(cross-posted on arcticpenguin)

In a recent episode of the cartoon King of the Hill, Bill– an overweight and depressed character who loves to eat– falls in love with the woman who takes his orders at the local fast food drive-in, only to find out that she is working from a call center in Arizona. He drives out from Texas to meet her, but discovers that she is a young girl who is repelled by him at first sight. Crestfallen, he comes home.

Such scenarios may even increase in the future, according to JZ. In an interview with Nokia’s Ideas Project, Z talks about “ubiquitous human computing” where an organization uses human resources like fungible resources– combining the minds of people in various locations to solve the problem at hand. He gives examples of people working at home “plugging in” to various jobs from one location.

“Our technology has outpaced our social development, and our ability to build the kinds of social and cultural structures around the new technology that tend to temper and channel its use,” he says in the interview, adding that the “cheap networks” are what make ubiquitous human computing possible.

While this collective force–one that moves Wikipedia and one which Z hopes will fuel Herdict– is certainly cost efficient, how effective is it in utilizing advanced human resources? I still believe that some kind of personal element is required to make the most of people’s abilities and is that personal connection combined with the incentive of networks that brings out true productivity. Without that personal connection, you can only reach a certain level of quality.

I’m sure that in the future, people will develop tools to make communication via technology a more personal experience, but I’m worried that before it gets to that point, people will stop wanting to make the extra effort it takes in dealing with face-to-face communications. Even now, as I work remotely– most of my assignments/conversations with Z are through email– I wonder if I am becoming less sociable, burrowing deeper into my hole of specific interests. Email communications cuts out small talk because you can get right to the point. I find that my work emails are becoming more like archived instant messages or brief tweets with less full sentences and only absolutely necessary information. Mobile computing (iPhones and Blackberrys,etc) encourage this.

On the plus side, I can dress comfortably, feel inhibited about multitasking, and not be bothered by officemates who talk loudly on the telephone or smell bad. I don’t have to wait in front of someone’s office for a 15-min. slot. I can pick my nose, fart, or belch at will. I can play computer games full screen without worrying about someone looking over my shoulder. However, I don’t know if someone’s mother is sick, if their kid was in the school play, if they have an obsession with Battlestar Galactica… or have attention disorders. Such things may not seem important and are things that may bog down productivity in the short run, but are elements that keep people connected even after the task at hand is finished. And when it comes time for the next project, they are reasons for those people to work more efficiently– a relationship that becomes more productive over time.

At the end of the day, I always seem to be coming back to the idea of sociable networking (not social networking) and craving for a way to make technology a more personal experience. I think integrating more voice and video is a step in that direction. While text is certainly rich in terms of the expanse of creative interpretation that it lends, I think sound and sight adds the degree of personal connection that can enhance relationships. Ultimately I think that touch and smell are what seal personal experiences, but hopefully we won’t invest in technology to the extent that we want those elements remotely instead of in person.

Content Ownership in the Age of Cloud Computing

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It really disturbs me that services like Google and Facebook are trying to own content hosted on their sites. Until a couple years ago, I didn’t see Google as a media company, despite its market share. It was a traffic director– and could easily be replaced by a better search engine, if one should arise. But now, the age of cloud computing, it is a content company, although its business structure is completely different from legacy media in that the content in user-generated…. For the user, it’s great to have free technology to store/publish content, but what will be the price when they claim entire ownership? For instance, Facebook is trying to hold back the content on its site, as can be seen in its scuffle with Power.com. This is just the beginning.

By using free services (or even paid services that are web-based) we are storing so much information in the web “cloud.” Most of my life in the past few years can be found somewhere in this cyber storage– email, blog(s), etc. All of this information about me is, this content, is mine, yet according to much of the terms of service of websites that offer free storage, it is not legally mine.

Information from my early life, however, are in the form of paper journals, VHS home video tapes, betamax video tapes, fading photographs, cassette tapes with recordings of phone conversations, home DJ-ing….

For babies born now, how much of their legacy will be analog? How much of myself am I “sacrificing” for web representation and how ironic is it that I have to give away more of myself in order to make a clearer definition of my identity?

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