Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Experiment: Announcing the "Singapore Social Media Directory" (via a wiki)

Announcing a "Social Experiment" -- the Singapore Social Media Directory -- sgSocialMediaDir.wikispaces.com -- (a wiki, btw). But I'm ahead of myself here.

Singapore Social Media Directory

You could say the wiki came about from the question: "Where can I look for blogs, especially those in Singapore?"

Participants in the blog-related talks and workshops I've given would always ask me that without fail. The simple answer is to use things like Google Blog Search or Technorati (just to name two). But they aren't very precise when it comes to looking for Singapore-based blogs. Or if we wanted to browse for Singaporeans who blog (i.e. no specific Singaporean blogger in mind). A directory would be a better tool for this purpose.

Why a directory?
We have Tomorrow.SG and Ping.SG, which are great at highlighting Singapore blogs (they call themselves "meta blogs"). But they don't keep a running list of blogs featured.

There are some directories focusing on Singapore blogs (e.g. www.bloggersg.com and www.sgblog.com). But the way they are organised -- by Subjects -- are more suited to listing websites than blogs. With blogs authored by individuals, the subjects and issues discussed in the blog are wide ranging and very fluid. I mean, how do you classify an individual's blog if he/ she writes about politics today and food the next?

Why a wiki?
Ever since I started thinking about wikis, I've wondered if a wiki could be used to create such a directory. Then about a week ago, I created a wiki for the first time, using Wikispaces (hat-tip to Kevin). BTW, the wiki went from idea to reality after a brief discussion with the folks in the Media Socialist group.

What's the focus?
The directory would focus on Singaporeans/ People or groups based in Singapore. Instead of just blogs, I decided to include all social media platforms being used (e.g. mailing lists, blogs, services like Twitter, Flickr, allconsuming, del.icio.us bookmarks, wikis). Any platform that individuals or groups used to facilitate dialogue, interactions, networking and resource sharing.

How it's organised
The directory would be used like the printed Yellow Pages. Instead of organising it by subjects, I thought alphabetical listings would be more effective. Each entry would be listed like this:
  • Name (real and/ or nickname, of the individual or group)
  • Description (concise statements of what the blog etc. is about)
  • Up to 20 phrases/ keywords (to further describe the blog/ medium)

Categorising by Subjects was useful, just that it wouldn't be effective as the main entry point. To compensate for this, that's where the "20 phrases/ keywords" come into play, where additional information not covered in the name or description could be provided. This allows the built-in search engine to retrieve the entry.

E.g. Try searching "librarian" Vs. "librarian ivan". Also try "singapore heritage" Vs. "heritage singapore".

The result, I hope, is a more effective way to organise and access individuals or groups -- catering to users who either want to browse or search.

How is this a Social Experiment?
Because the wiki will be opened for anyone to edit. You read me right. ANYONE. You don't need to be a registered member. Just click on the edit button, add your blog/ group, and save.

See, it's always easier to start something than to maintain it. Same with this idea of a Social Media Directory.

Wikispaces.com allows three levels of access to the wiki -- Public (anyone can view or edit); Protected (anyone can view but only wiki members can edit); Private (only members can view or edit, but this is a paid service).

Between "Public" and "Protected", I opted for the first one. Understandably, none of the members in the Media Socialist group could afford the time to maintain the directory constantly. If people emailed us to include their site,a bottleneck is likely to result (of course there might be zero submissions, but I'm an optimistic guy).

So that's the experiment. It's to see how this directory would be maintained. How entries would be created, with what frequency. Whether some one would delete the pages (doesn't matter if it's by accident or out of malice).

I think the fear is more of the last one. All it takes is just one idiot to ruin the party. We could trace the IP address of the culprit but that won't prevent the damage from happening in the first place. But I'll just have to maintain backups regularly (that's a feature from wikispaces). I'm also curious if the community would help maintain and restore vandalised pages.

It's worth trying out the idea. The cost of failure isn't that high. The world won't end if this experiment crashes and burns. No one will die of embarrassment if nobody responds to this.

So let the Social Experiment begin!

[Update: Social Experiment Update, Jan 2008]