Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Behind the scenes: Towards the launch of the Singapore Memory Project's flagship portal, SingaporeMemory.sg

[Views expressed here are strictly my own. I am straddling between writing in my personal capacity, as well as my official role as the head for Digital Engagement for the project. Just so you know :)]

By tomorrow, all the intense efforts for the past six months (in developing the website) will come to fruition The flagship website for the Singapore Memory Project will finally be unveiled.

SingaporeMemory.sg Sneak Peeks

Before its official launch, there will be a pre-launch party. It's called a "party" for good reason. If you didn't sign up for the party, you'll probably have to read about it later :)

The publicity efforts for the party was two-prong: social media channels and the "traditional" way.

The traditional way was to write formal invites to specific people, such as e representatives of partner agencies and VIPs. The social media way, which my team was responsible for, had a more organic approach.

Our overall "framework" started off with a target in mind, as well as specific aims for inviting people. We set a target of 40 guests invited through social media circles (a check around suggested the average turnout for 'blogger events' was about 20 people).

We didn't want to limit to just "bloggers". I've probably mentioned it before (haven't I?) that in today's context, if you are active on Facebook, you're practically a 'blogger' in a general sense. We referred to our social media guests as 'social media users'.

The main criteria was that they were active in their respective social media circles. We had some guidelines, though not hard rules on what was 'active'. They certainly need not be Singaporeans only. The project was not limited to citizens.

We sought out active social media users, particularly those who were seen to be enthused about heritage and memory-like activities. We felt such guests would also be more likely to be comfortable with our portal. If all worked out well, we would like guests to be one of the first few people in Singapore (nay, the world!) to create a 'Memory Account' and publish a memory there.

There were a few key influencers and social media guests in mind. We had already been in touch with a few of them in the preceding months. Our team members intuitively understood that we had to cultivate relationships early on.

Invited guests included people like (what I call) the hardcore heritage bloggers. Then there were the active Hertiage groups on Facebook's, as well as enthusiasts on twitter. These specific people, we wrote personal emails/ messages to them.

They weren't a focus group as such. We'd already conducted a few runs for that purpose weeks earlier.

Then we issued an open call for registrants to the party.

This was also an experiment, where we tried both Evenbrite and Facebook event page.

SingaporeMemory.sg Pre-Launch Party - Eventbrite

SingaporeMemory.sg Pre-Launch Party!

Concurrently, a series of 'Sneak Peeks' were posted:

  • Sneak Peeks (Part 1)
  • Sneak Peeks (Part 2)
  • Sneak Peeks (Part 3)
Update: The posts have been consolidated into one post, with a refresh of the iRememberSG blog.

SingaporeMemory.sg Sneak Peeks

SingaporeMemory.sg Sneak Peeks

SingaporeMemory.sg Sneak Peeks

I would have liked to provide a set of "social media press kits", made available online. But details of the portal and the party was still pretty fluid at that time. Everyone was working on very, very tight deadlines. The Sneak Peeks was, I suppose, the next best thing we could offer.

The 'sneak peeks' was also our way of answering the question, "Why should I attend the pre-launch party?". I know I would ask that question if I were on the receiving end.

Rather than answer that question directly, I guess we presumed users could assess for themselves from the sneak peeks.

The posts also served to ease the regular iRemember.SG visitors into the upcoming portal. One obvious question to address was the difference between the SingaporeMemory.sg portal and the iRemember.SG site. As explained from Sneak Peek, Part 3:
As many of your will remember, the irememberSG blog began as our placeholder for stories submitted from the public. It was indeed an honour to be featured during the National Day Rally speech on 14 Aug 2011, and PM Lee Hsien Loong shared memories from James Seah and Muhammad Raydza as captured here. Six months on, we have taken some of our users' feedback for a more readable site and the ability to submit memories and view them instantaneously.

As already mentioned last week, we will port the memory submission and display functions to the new Singapore memory portal, while irememberSG will evolve into a staff blog. Here's how it will look like:

SingaporeMemory.sg Sneak Peeks

From my own experience organising meetups for creative commons Singapore, theres always -- always -- a sense of trepidation and uncertainty when issuing open invites. The very human fear was that no one would give a hoot about your event.

But we were quickly assured that there was some positive response.

Within two hours of posting the open invite in twitter and Facebook, about ten people signed up on their own accord. About half were NLB staff, but they were not involved in the project. They signed up as guests, not as staff. It's nice when co-workers -- outside of the project -- show interest in it.

We didn't stop at that just posting the online invites. There was more work to be done.

My colleagues and I started issuing individual messages in ernest. I posted to several groups, and had help from a very active memory corp volunteer and a Hertiage influencer to get one foot into the group.

I can't really track when was the exact tipping point, if any. My colleague might have a day to day statistical report of the signups. We might analyse that a little more closely when we have time. I think we had very gradual steay daily build ups. The twitter community was fast and sort of peaked within two or three hours. Im not sure if there was a long tail. Seeing my RTs, I think it might have gotten three days worth of publicity before the tweets we overwhelmed.

The last count I was told was 150 219 unique individuals signed up. Just under 10 days after announcing the event via online channels. I must say part of the positive response is for the project itself. There's a certain draw to something like a national memory initiative.

Nonetheless, pretty good results for a fledging social media unit of the project.

Even if half don't show up, we would still have a very good crowd. I thought at least we reached our to those who had sign up, and they might have passed the message onwards indirectly.

This is just the start of a an ongoing relationship, for sure.

Facebook timline cover - Ivan Chew

The scale of the project is huge. For one, there's a hairy and audacious goal of five million memories to be collected by 2015.

Given its scale, the team behind the project is also a large one, where project teams go in the NLB. Just to give you a peek (and also my way of acknowledging the unsung heroes and heroines):

There's another team working on marketing, publicity, and partnerships.

My team of four are responsible for the web development for the portal as well as a mobile app. Even so, we're really cogs in the larger machine. We're not web developers or coders.

There's another inter-divisional team comprising of a Information Solutions Architect, a web project manager, a mobile app project manager, an IT project manager who in turns manages a team of about ten coders.

Then there are colleagues working on legal documentation, liaison with our funding ministry, interfacing with NLB senior management.

The Singapore Memory project is the most ambitious project I've been involved. Certainly a most meaningful one. Or else I wouldn't have volunteered for it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dealing with negative comments in social media

Ever since joining the Singapore Memory Project full-time in Nov 2011, I've been taking a closer look at social media strategies.

Being a social media practitioner, as I had for the past seven years, does not necessarily make me a good "social media strategist". It definitely helped that I was "part of the scene" but that did not automatically mean I could instantly formalise plans and approaches to fit a broader perspective.

It took me a few weeks of thinking, reading, and bouncing ideas with the team. I've paid closer attention to articles and posts relating to social media plans, strategies and so on. I intend to share more about my thoughts of the social media plan for the Singapore Memory Project. But that'll be for later posts.

Today, I came across this post today (hat-tip to @criagthomler), which led me to this diagram on the "8 responses to criticisms in online communities", by Laurel Papworth.

NegativeComments in Social Media
NegativeComments in Social Media. CC-CY-NC-ND. Originally uploaded by Laurel Papworth.

I thought the diagram summed up the various scenarios beautifully. A fuller explanation is at her post.

Here's the eight approaches to negative online comments, according to Laurel's (I've paraphrased them somewhat):
  1. Ignoring the negative commenter
  2. Taking legal measures
  3. Attempt to deflect the negative comment to a positive one
  4. Remove and/ or ban the commenter
  5. Attempt to educate the commenter
  6. Adopt a confessionary/ apologetic tone
  7. Defend the organisation's position
  8. Use humour; adopt a self-depreciative stand

Approach one through five involves more of the formal organisational tone, while six to eight shifts the tone towards a more personable one. That's according to the diagram. Which made sense, though I think in practice, the "Formal Organisational Tone" and "Personal Tone" could be flexibly used, depending on the situation.

But come to think of it, I think "Personal Tone" probably starts at three and would not be effective if attempting to convince the other party that you're serious about taking legal measures. In the same regards, it would be very difficult -- and weird -- if one employes a formal organisational tone while attempting at humour. Well, unless you want to brand your organisation that way.

The diagram makes a lot of sense. It acknowledges that sometimes, perhaps on rare occasions, a formal tone has to be adopted. The crux is in how the organisation recognises and decides when would be appropriate to switch between formality and informality.

Most would agree a credible social media plan should have a "Response Strategy". Critically, an organisation need to be able to ascertain whether it should choose to respond or not, in addition to knowing how to formulate appropriate responses. Especially for 'crisis communications' or negative sentiments. Plenty of case studies out there, detailing how organisations were seen to be caught with their pants down, with regards to "social media crisis management".

I've realised even more that an orgainsation's social media department should have a full-time staff heading it. This may sound like a self-reinforcing statement, given that I'm tasked to head the Singapore Memory Project's social media functions. Heh. It's just that taking on this role has convinced me of this.

An organisation's social media team could have a large part of its function outsourced. But decisions on communications should flow back to a staff with the appropriate level of accountability and discretionary authority.

I suppose it's possible that certain level of authority could be conferred to the outsourced staff. But if communications is key, is it then a good call to outsource a key function? Probably not.

It's not so much that one has to be a "full time staff". The closer truth is that the staffers in charge -- whether the one fronting the Twitter feed, or the department head -- have to take ownership of being the social media voice for the project/ organisation. With it comes the risk and responsibilities too.

Staffers need to have the confidence and gumption (i.e. guts and balls) in communicating with the online public.

Staff competencies come with training and staff development, in addition to the innate abilities of the staffers. Then there has to be empowerment, either through the appropriate staff appointments. Or the organisation's policy on social media engagement (which is often related to its corporate communications policy).

You can't be an effective social media staffer if you feel the need to check with your supervisor on how to respond. It's equally true that you can't do your job effectively if your supervisor requires you to clear every response before it is posted.

One of the competencies would be the ability to read correctly the sentiments expressed by the online community. And then being able to decide on the appropriate response. Or perhaps a conscious decision not to respond at all.

Simply put, the social media team has to be empowered to speak for the organisation, to varying degrees.

The speed of the organisation's response has proved to be critical factor in how the online community perceives its "social media street creds". The perceived lack of response, often just a lag of a day or two, may do equal damage to the organisation compared to saying something that the community does not agree with.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Remixes, Attribution, Creative Alchemies: The Long Tail in Acts of Kindness (part 2)

Continued from Part 1:

I get a kick out of the creative process.

I've come to realise that's the basis of why I create. Of having seemingly created something out of nothing; moulding ideas into something that can be seen/ heard/ experienced.

But beyond the initial post-creative euphoria, I will wonder if all my time and effort was worth it. The inevitable “What’s the point” rhetoric.

Luckily, once in a while, something like this comes along. Reminding me that it's worth it.

It's not new to have a video using my CC-licensed music as the soundtrack.

But what's new to me was the user being a company rather than an individual hobbyist.

Red Maps seem like a start-up firm. At least, not a huge conglomerate with a global household brand name (I do hope they become one though).

Still, to have a for-profit company using my work meant that my work had to be of a certain quality. No company worth their salt would want to be associated with low-quality music in their video. For a for-profit outfit to use my work, I consider that as affirmation of something.

When I started posting my work online, I haboured hopes that my talents might be discovered. And that I'd earn big bucks.

But the idea of "being paid" has become, to me, less about money. It is more about affirmation from others, which serves as a yardstick for my journey of self-expression.

The skeptic in me would say that all that is merely an exercise in self-massaging the ego. Nonetheless, we all have our own reasons for sharing and giving. And expectations as well.

I can't speak for everyone else who share their works under Creative Commons licenses. My primary motivation, if you can call it that, can be summed up as follows:
  • I create, as part of my journey towards self-actualisation.
  • Since the work already here, I might as well let others benefit.

Creative Commons provided that framework for sharing. A framework that I understood and was comfortable with.

I believe there might be a Long Tail to acts of kindness.

File:Long tail.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"An example of a power law graph showing popularity ranking. To the right is the long tail; to the left are the few that dominate. Notice that the areas of both regions match."

Can we really apply the true statistical definition of the Long Tail to "an act of kindness"?

What if the X-axis was Time and the Y-axis (vertical) was "the number of people who benefited from that one single act of kindness"? That "act of kindness" could be that one piece of work, which you and I release online (this might be interesting conversational fodder with David).

Whimsical, perhaps.

But I've come to believe that sharing my work online -- and allowing others to use -- is one of the simplest act of kindness I can do.

There's opportunity costs but it's of a very low probability. Sure, I could have been paid for my work. But I'm not likely nor willing to invest that sort of time and energy, to perfect my craft to the level of being able to make serious money on a regular basis. Such opportunity costs are low.

The extreme end of generosity would be to share the work as 'Public Domain'. You need not seek permission at all, nor are credits needed; absolutely no strings attached.

At the other end would be for people to pay money if they want to use my creations.

In-between, I think, are differing levels of generosity:
  • Creative Commons, where the owner has already given the world permission to use the work. One need not seek explicit permission, though attribution is required. Receiving monetary payment is often not the main intent of the owner.
  • 'All Rights Reserved' Copyright, where explicit permission is needed from the creator. The creator may agree to your request without any form of payment (if payment is required, it's not really sharing).

I've also come to realise that when I share, I hope to be entertained and learn from other people's self-expressions. I'm definitely a beneficiary, when people use my work and transform it into something that I cannot do for myself.

Sometimes, what is transformed fits exactly the vision I had.

I discovered two videos (here, and here) that seem to be part of a class assignment.

The second one is my absolute favorite, to date (thanks, LukeD):

KIB 105 Animation and Motion Graphics Assessment 3 - Luke Daly from Luke D on Vimeo.

LukeD's creative interpretation matched the sort of mental imagery I had, when I posted those words. Honestly, I would not have spent time making such a video. Nor would I have been able to produce an illustration-based work.

The best part is that my spoken poetry, that LukeD used, weren't even mine. The creator was kind enough to let me post them as a spoken piece.

The Long Tail of kindness indeed.

Source: creativecommons.org.au/content/attributingccmaterials.pdf. CC-BY. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (www.cci.edu.au) in partnership with Creative Commons Australia(creativecommons.org.au).

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Singapore Memory Project: Focus group session with Memory Corp volunteers

My Digital Engagement team mates and I conducted a series of focus group sessions today. For the upcoming Singapore Memory website.

Here's one with volunteers from the Memory Corp: Tuck Chong (third from the left), James (first from the right), and Philip (not in the picture).

Singapore Memory Project - Website Focus Group

We'll be posting more behind-the-scenes updates regularly. At the official blog, that is (which is also scheduled for a facelift in a few weeks).

Busy busy busy.