Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Internet Story

One of the questions I receive from friends is how did I got into this whole Internet thing. Here's my brief sharing. This was first published on page 7 of the Philippine Internet Review.

My fascination with computers started as early as 1984 while I was in grade school. I remember the time when I went to the office of my Auntie (who works for Globe at that time) and had my first encounter with the computer. It was running a spreadsheet program called Visicalc. I played around with it for a few minutes, just typing in numbers. From that moment on, I knew that I want to work in the field of computers. In 1986, I studied basic computer system, COBOL, Wordstar, Dbase II, and Visicalc.

In 1988, there was a big marketing pitch that one doesn't need a college degree to get a high paying job. I believed in it and took a computer literacy course and trainer's training in two computer schools.

Janette Toral 1994I had my first computer tutorial job in 1989 and pursued various IT careers thereafter. In 1995, I logged on at Daniel Chua's Nightstalker Bulletin Board System who also convinced me to try out and subscribe to Extra Mile Online. That is where I got my first shot to moderate my first forum - Infotech. With that experience, I began writing to several ISPs offering volunteer forum moderating work in exchange for Internet access. Portal Inc. and The E-Mail Company accepted my offer. (The photo inserted herein was taken back in 1994)

I guess you can say I got hooked to the Internet and my life was never the same again.

What is great about the Internet is that you can be who you want to be. In the past 13 years since I first went online, I had become a writer, community organizer, lobbyist, activist, evangelist, entrepreneur, online educator, among others - living all of these identities online and offline.

Information Technology and the Internet provides you with a feeling of empowerment. It gives you room to achieve greatness and attain personal achievement if used properly. But it can also destroy you as well if abused. The again, it also gives you room to bounce back and start all over again.

How about you? What is your Internet story? If you have your Internet story posted in your blog, let me know and will link it here. Cheers!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Online Phone Directory Philippines

Is it really hard to have a single or common phone directory? I mean, more often than not, a person does not really know to which telco is another person or company subscribed to.

Perhaps someone should consider building a unified online phone directory where phone owners and businesses, who opted to, can list their contact details. It should not be dependent on whether an entity advertises or not.

I decided to update this old post to reflect some of the phone directory attempts made online. If you own a phone directory site referring to a particular location, let us know and will include your site here.

Telecom Phone directories online:
National Capital Region

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Philippines A-List Bloglebrity (October 2008)

With 500 or more blogs linking to these sites in the past 6 months, the Philippines A-List Bloglebrity are:
With 100-499 blogs linking to these sites in the past 6 months, the Philippines B-List Bloglebrity are:
This is still incomplete. Work in progress.

If your blog is in the A or B -list, please post a comment and will add it here.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Chito Bustamante: The Engineer Takes Charge for a New Chikka Era

When doing a chronicle of Philippine Internet history, Chikka became synonymous with its founding CEO Dennis Mendiola. As he takes on a new role in the organization, leadership is passed on to Chito Bustamante.

Not known to many, Chito is a founder of Chikka as well and shares an equal passion for product development as Dennis. He was that Silicon Valley based engineer whom Dennis and partners first consulted on the business and technical viability of a “mobile instant messaging service” for launch in the Philippines.

Chito actually came up with the name "Chikka" for the service. The name also being a Filipino colloquial term for "small talk" which is the nature of many of our text messages really.

For a long time as chief operating officer (since 2002), Chito has stayed on top of both engineering and product development departments, the heart and soul of Chikka. He has led Chikka thru its ISO and CMMI Maturity Level 5 certifications, giving "a method to the madness" or the frenzy that characterized product development, marketing, quality assurance at Chikka, and making sure it could sustain the same even as the company pursues an aggressive international roll-out.

Some of Chito's more notable inventions include "TxtBack", a free-reply (sender subsidized) text service that has been a boon to pre-paid mobile users.

Chito as new Chikka CEO
As CEO in this new era at Chikka, Chito is focused on continuous product innovation and global partnerships that will replicate Chikka's success in similar markets, as well as services adoption by the mainstream of the on-line community.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dino Ignacio and Bert is Evil

I featured Dino Ignacio in the Philippine Internet Review back in 2004 for his site Bert is Evil. He won the prestigious Webby Award in San Francisco, last March 6, 1998, and the only Filipino to date.

At that time, my understanding was that the site, Bert is Evil, is no longer available. To find this new site partly confuses me and will have to ask more if this belongs Dino Ignacio's site. Will update this post shortly. (Thanks Azrael for the heads-up)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

More Filipinos Trading Stocks Online

It is estimated that around 60% of Filipino stock players now trade online while 40% do it live. "Those who are on the go rely on their live brokers, as well as those who really have loads of money to transact," this according to Gwen Nava, vice president for marketing and development in Absolute Traders & Consulting Services Inc.

Absolute Traders has about 1,500 members to date. To become a member, one must attend their seminars. Gwen shared that most of its members are still trading but are not limited to the local market. "A good 40% trades the in US, 30% Asian market, and 10% Forex."

Of those who trade, Gwen estimates that 60% trade online for both local and international. "Online trading gives one control over his/her own trades, anytime and anywhere. The rest still feel comfortable with live or offline brokers. Around 30% both trades online and still maintain their offline/live brokers."

How Gwen started

Gwen's entry in Absolute Traders started with her curiosity on the term "technical analysis" and how it may be used for the stock market. "My first experience with the (stock) market was a bad one. About way back 1990's during Petron's IPO. My dad and I bought shares and we're so happy when it reached more than a 100% only to be taken away after a few weeks. We didn't take profit thinking that it was supposed to be an "investment". Then, I solely relied on our broker, because I didn't know where to base our trades then. Although, we were already tracking the value of the stocks per day, we were not so sure how to interpret them after we plot them on a graphing paper."

"Thus, when Bonner Dytoc, founder of Absolute Traders convinced me to attend, I tried and found out that had there been a seminar like that years ago, I would have taken it and realized profits for my trades immediately. What really attracted me was the sense of community that both Bonner and Danny parted with their students. They were so passionate and sincere with what they were doing - that is, to educate the people that there is a better way to trade, and that everybody can and may be able to take part of the markets (local and international) and gain from it. They gave a different perspective of trading. That it really is a business and not merely gambling. You see, gambling in the market is taking action without thinking, whereas trading is studying your actions and assess the risk to rewards ratio first before doing anything."

"The good thing about learning technical analysis is that one is not limited to one market or one issue. It may be applied to all aspects of the financial market. Also, the time of when or where to trade is addressed. Thus, we expect that most will stay on the side during a "consolidation" (market moving sideways) and a "bear" (down trend) market. And when the market reverses (from downtrend to uptrend), we expect that most of them will be back in the scene and get back to working on more gains or increase in profits."

Absolute Traders is like a business community network and Gwen takes pride on their focus on developing members to become an "absolute trader". "We continue to come up with programs and seminars to be able to make a better trader out of our members. It is still a young community, trying to get the "system" right to continue to nurture each of its members. The difference also lies in the "passion" of how we conduct our seminars. We dream of a Philippines where more Filipinos take part in trading, thus, we have programs for people from all walks of life. For them to appreciate and know that trading the market is really not "rocket science". To-date, an estimate of 1% of the Filipino people take part in the market. Just imagine the good it'll bring the country if this percentage increases."

The site currently has an analyst forum, a bookmark of trading journals and blogs, daily chat session during trading hours of the local market to share experiences, knowledge and assist each members.

Gwen Nava also blogs at The Grape Bunch and is a Club Member.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

2.3 Million Active Filipino Internet Users Have Started a Blog

This according to the Universal McCann Report Wave 3 report (March 2008) that tracks social media growth. The following are the snapshots it gave in so far as blogging, social networking, and social media growth in the Philippines is concern:
  • There are 3.7 million active Internet users

  • 90.3% or 3.3 million read blogs
    • 64% in 2007 (June)
    • 33% in 2006 (September)

  • 45.2% or 1.6 million subscribed to an RSS feed.

  • 64.9% or 2.3 million have started their own blogs
    • 41% in 2007 (June)
    • 14.1% in 2006 (September)

  • 83.1% or 3 million created a profile on a new social network.

  • 86.4% or 3.14 million uploaded photos in a photo sharing website.

  • 60.5% or 2.2 million have uploaded videos on a video sharing website.

  • 98.7% or 3.6 million watch video clips online.
    • 60.7% in 2007 (June)
    • 39.% in 2006 (September)

  • 61.8% or 2.3 million have downloaded a podcast
    • 26.4 in 2007 (June)
    • 8.3% in 2006 (September)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Philippine Internet Pioneers: Dong Secuya and Jan Ced

Dong Secuya is considered as one of the Internet pioneers in Cebu creating some of the first local website in 1995 the Cebu Art Gallery. It was also the first art gallery site in the Philippines. He also created the site Make it Cebu! promoting the region as a tourist destination.I met Dong last week during the E-Commerce / E-Business Owners Meet-up in Cebu.

Today, this pioneer is more known for his PhilBoxing and Pacland website promoting Philippine boxing and prominent boxer Manny Pacquiao.

On a related story, Bariles Republic has an interesting feature on Jan Ced, the person who brought the Internet in General Santos City.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Share your first website

This post from Gadgetopia and CMS Report inspired me to take the opportunity of asking you to share your first website.

I'd like to encourage those who has designed a web page to find the oldest site in the Wayback Machine archive that you authored and post the link in the comment portion of this post. It will be great if you can share any background story about the website.

The first site I created was Infotech back in June 1997 (or was it 1996, I can't exactly remember now). I created this site using Microsoft Word then. Infotech was the title of my first bulletin board forum, majordomo mailing list, and Yahoo Groups. I decided to let it go after a few years since my site always gets confused with traditional publications. To the point it reached the question, who copied who?

My first online bookstore (ITCC) went online last December 1998. I remember scanning the books one by one and typing their description. I was using a 386 PC that has a paper white monitor. Still using Microsoft Word at that time to create the website. I decided to stop the site when I can't solve my payment gateway concerns then and most orders came from abroad. One good thing that came out from it was - I met Jessica Zafra and got featured in the TV program Usapang Business. I was president of the Philippine Internet Commerce Society also at that time and saw the need to be an online / e-commerce entrepreneur myself.

The first time I used a Content Management System (CMS) was for (year 2000 version) that went live back in 1999. This was done with the help of Integrated Technologies who was building a CMS then and needed a site that can be used to test the design. It took 9 months to fully develop it. What I missed about it are features like glossary, keywords tracking in search engine, among others.

I hope you'll share your first website story too. Here are some who have:
Looking back Internet history, The E-Mail Company, Chuck Gardner's Cyberbayan, and Portal Inc. were the first in creating websites online and provided content.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Community participation is key to game loyalty and success

For Myla P. Rumbaoa, Rising Force Online (RF) community manager, a passionate and loyal gaming community is consist of players who stay and care for the game. "They help the community and the game master (GM) team - to improve and make the game a better place for the players. What makes a game successful is through its community."

RF Online is considered one of the biggest online gaming communities with 1 million registered accounts. Myla takes care of the game’s community through events in real life and in game. She explained, "Community managers (CM) put “soul” to the game to make the players happy, stay in the game and keep them on playing."

"Also, they serve as a window between the community and the team. They keep close communication to hear out their concerns and problems. In relation to this, CMs must have immeasurable amount of patience and understanding. Taking a lot of complaints and bad mouthing from players is no joke."

To keep players passionate, according to Myla, RF Online has the following programs to keep the community engaged:
  • The Vanguards Program – it’s a player volunteer program of which they serve as GM assistants. They serve as another alley to channel player’s concern to the GM team. Since the players know they the Vanguards are also players, the Vanguards know how to communicate to them. This program proves that there are a player who wants to help the RF community without asking anything in return.

  • The Novus Tour – an in-game tour initiated by vanguards. Characters from level 5 to 15 will be given a free tour to their respective race. They will be oriented on the game mechanics like player versus player (PVP) where an actual PVP is acted. At the end of the tour, the participants will be given items that will help their character.

  • Skirmish – a real-life event that supports café mainly to promote their café and at the same time serves a mini eyeball to RF players. The main attraction of this event is the 5 on 5 tournament. Aside from that there’s the noob race and raffle.

  • Novus Elite Squad Tournament (NEST) – yearly tournament done during LU! Live. It’s a championship match between Novus Chip Assault Squad (NCAS) and City Under Siege (CUS) Champions. Cash and in-game prizes awaits for the NEST Champion.

  • Novus Underground League – Still under testing, it's a small skirmish done in-game but this time it’s a player initiated match. A player will open a challenge for an opponent. And once a challenger accepts, they will be summoned to a private place and there a GM will referee the match. A video will be taken to be posted.
For CMs like Myla, a lot of work has to be done to contribute in building up that passion. "Think like a player" is important she said. "But then “thinking” like a player will barely suffice to know what is needed to build up that passion. Although it should be given that a CM must be a player, but with all the workload you need to do, sometimes you forget that you were a player. So I’ll say, take time to play your game and be a player! Mingle with your conmmunity enough to know what they need and what they think and only then you will know."

With Myla's passion, the RF Online community has its own distinction from other games today. "One proof is the Vanguards program. Another involves the game’s system – archon system and the 3RvR (3 race vs race). With the archon system, players vote for their racial leader. At this point, it’s not the GM who solely controls the community but the players themselves. The 3 race vs race brings out the camaraderie and cooperation of the race especially during chip wars. The “no man is an island” best applies to this game. You cannot make your character strong or kill another race alone. Everybody needs each other because in the end, they need to face the battle field and dominate Novus."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Frequency of access and hours doesn't really measure gamers loyalty

As Internet online gaming continues to grow in the Philippines, the battle is on among gaming companies to attract more members, play often, and build a loyal base of users. For Jessa Jamilla, assistant product manager and community manager of RAN Online, frequency of access and hours doesn't really measure loyalty. "We have gamers who play 24 hours a day and also gamers who turned out to be forum moderators but seldom play their characters. I think, loyal is being attached to the community no matter how often or seldom you play the game."

RAN Online is a campus-based massively multi-player online role playing game (MMORPG). "It has a contemporary style but was enveloped with mystery. If not all, most of us were once students. So, everyone can relate with the game. With RAN Online, you get to start your character as a student and as you level up more skills and more maps will unfold. The game is very easy to play but is challenging enough because of the other game features. I guess, these points make the gamers more attached to the game," Jessa explained.

The game currently has 300 active guilds. Each consists of 50 members, and may have a maximum of 3 more guild expansions. 80% are considered loyal. Jessa adds, "We consider our community as a new breed of gamers where most are really first timers. RAN Online is also built as a party-dependent game. The characters level up faster when they party-up with other characters. This feature made the gamers stick together, form real-life ‘barkadas’, and also bond families together."

Community managers like Jessa performs an important in leading the activities - interacting with the gamers, getting feedback and game-related concerns, conceptualizing events, and other ideas to bond the players together. "We ensure that our valued players are having the best gaming experience. We continuously come up with online and offline events for the players to meet the gaming experience they can't find in other games."

"Of all the gaming companies, we are proud to say that e-Games/RAN has very active game masters both in-game and through forums. The management's main objective is to make the players happy that's why our game master's are always there to assist and resolve problems as soon as possible."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

1.4 Million Users Flock ItzaMatch

Despite the popularity of Friendster in the Philippines, local site Itzamatch has attracted nearly 2 million users to date where 1.4 million are active. "72% of our members are from the Philippines, 10% US, 2.6% Hong Kong, 1.8% Canada, 1.6% Singapore, 1.4% Saudi Arabia and 10.6% everywhere else, " said Faith Sabanpan Ponte, marketing and web services head of Itzamatch.

This is a huge growth to think that back in February 2006, the site has 140,000 members.

What makes the site resilient is the online services it provided coupled with offline activities. The company has to continuously evolve and the best way to do it was to start putting real faces to usernames, according to Faith. "Last year, we decided to go out of the virtual world and meet up with our subscribers. We launched our very first eyeball party mid of last year. It was pretty exciting for all of us since we have only interacted with one another online and haven't met any of the members personally. It was successful that we now have regular eyeball parties and Saturday coffee meetings since. The great thing is, our members have gotten to know each other even more and have really bonded as a community that they themselves organize mini-eyeball parties, coffee sessions or little gatherings."

Faith shared that the site has its successful stories about friendships and love that has blossomed after they coupled the online service with offline activities. "We're really happy that we've become an avenue for starting and building relationships."

Itzamatch is not just about friendship, dating or love. Last Christmas, the site's forum subscribers visited and shared what they have with the Don Bosco 's Pugad - Home for Street Children and Migrant Youth orphanage.

First reality show in Cebu
Last November 2007, Itzamatch had a band tour in the different universities in Cebu to search for the school couple representative who will compete in the Search for the Perfect Campus Couple - Ultimate Challenge. This is 6 part TV reality show and first in Cebu.

The story unfolds with brilliant, talented, and good-looking college students, who will work as couples in challenging each other for the title. The goal is for the couple to achieve a common goal together, embodying a perfect equation and perfect chemistry.

The program is now on air and can be watched online. Votes via Globe SMS and online voting have started to come in too.

Faith shared that going to the schools and doing this search has increased their subscriber base with complete and fresh data. "We have been successful in getting the market that we want, which is the 18 - 22 age bracket. Our Google Analytics data shows that we are getting an increasing traffic from the city where Itzamatch is based. We also saw potential revenue from advertisers that partnered with us. This contest has actually paved for more opportunities as we recently had inquiry from a popular FMCG company about doing the same activity in Manila."

"Lastly, the greatest achievement to date is we are getting the attention that we wanted from potential subscribers and businesses that complement this social networking business of Bigfoot."

Faith mentioned that the site is currently having a makeover to further improve its service. "Soon, users will be able to experience the features of the site simultaneously. The user will be able to drag the chat window in another area of the desktop and at the same time drag the forum in another, and some other features allowing the user to see and interact with what is going on at the same time."

"We're also working on a faster and more specific Itzamatch search for geographical targeting results within the Philippines. We are currently making our system more robust to accommodate our growing subscriber base and balancing the look and online features with speed."

About Faith Sabanpan Ponte
Faith worked with Bigfoot for a couple of years and left. When she returned to the company, Itzamatch was assigned to her. Married and with kids, I asked what attracted her to take on the assignment. "Liking, living, walking, talking and breathing itzamatch everyday proved to be a challenge I could not resist. Why I agreed to do Lets just say -- I was intellectually and socially challenged," Faith replied.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Local payment gateway providers still strong despite Paypal availability in the Philippines

With the availability of Paypal in the Philippines, that allows receiving money or "cash-out" to a member's bank account, there were speculations that local payment gateway providers will close shop. However, YesPayments claim not to be affected. This according to company CEO Simon Paice. "Paypal has a slightly different focus. It is a great place to start for a small online business. But it is a big market. We have more than enough to keep us very busy. We always focus on providing a quality service but we are not suited to every merchant needs. The level of service we offer comes at a price. Our discount rates are still very competitive and keeping fraud down to a minimum is a great way for a merchant to cut costs instead of looking for the cheapest solution."

2007 was the best year yet for YesPayments. Simon shared that their monthly processing has more than doubled since Jan 2007 repeating the success of the previous year. "2008 looks set to see similar growth and the current interest in YesPayments and online processing generally gives me great optimism that we will see even better results."

A growing number of social networks have partnered with online payment providers to do e-commerce to its customer base. YesPayments had the opportunity to deal with one of them but things do not always work out like you expect as Simon has learned. "Trying to cross market or tap an existing client base is incredibly efficient but you also have to be able to support the product that you market."

"To successfully launch any kind of service online is not just a case of opening and marketing a website. You need the commercial experience and organization behind you to actually operate the business and provide a quality service or product. There are popular and successful social networks but they are not an online retailer."

"Many people think it's easy but e-commerce is anything but easy. We see many applications from entrepreneurs with little or no experience trying to go 'online' and unfortunately we have to disappoint them and advise them to get their business built first before looking to sell on the Internet. An applicant asked me recently how much money he needed to start an online business like Amazon. I wished him every success and spent some time explaining that the 'physical aspects' of any business needs to come first - not necessarily a traditional shop or office but things like the necessary planning and investment, product development, staff, supply and delivery chain. We do not try to discourage start-up business, quite the opposite in fact and I am happy to say that many learn from us and then come back when the time is right."

Simon joined the company late last year, succeeding after Paul Hubbard. He sees tremendous interest and growth in acceptance of e-commerce this year that will make them extremely busy. "We are in talks with some interesting outfits and who knows we may see the government coming to the arena finally."

Monday, March 31, 2008

Philippines Top 100 Blogs by Blog Juice (as of March 2008)

Here's the 3rd update of the Philippines Top 100 Blogs by Blog Juice list.

The ranking of blogs listed here was based on blog juice. Its rating is based on Bloglines subscription (40%), Alexa ranking (15%), Technorati ranking (30%), and inbound links as per Technorati (15%). This is what I found as of March 31, 2008.

I highlighted those who are new, gained an increase from the last update to this one, and those who got their highest score to date.
  1. - 7.2
  2. 6.5
  3. - 6
  4. - 5.8 (highest since July 2007 update) - 5.8 (highest since July 2007 update)
  5. - 5.5
  6. - 5.2
  7. - 5
  8. - 4.8 - 4.8 - 4.8 (highest since July 2007 update) - 4.8 (gain) - 4.8 (new)
  9. - 4.7 (gain)
  10. - 4.6 - 4.6 - 4.6 - 4.6 (new)
  11. - 4.5 - 4.5 - 4.5 - 4.5
  12. - 4.4
  13. - 4.3 - 4.3 - 4.3 - 4.3 - 4.3
  14. - 4.2 - 4.2 - 4.2 (highest since July 2007 update) - 4.2 - 4.2 - 4.2 (gain) - 4.2 - 4.2 (new) - 4.2 (new) - 4.2 (new) - 4.2 (new)
  15. - 4.1 (highest since July 2007 update)
  16. - 4 - 4 - 4
  17. - 3.9 - 3.9 - 3.9 - 3.9 - 3.9 (highest since July 2007 update)
  18. - 3.8
  19. - 3.7 - 3.7 - 3.7 - 3.7 - 3.7 - 3.7 (gain) - 3.7
  20. - 3.6 - 3.6 - 3.6 - 3.6 - 3.6 - 3.6 (gain)
  21. - 3.5 - 3.5 - 3.5 - 3.5 - 3.5 (new) - 3.5 (new) - 3.5 (new)
  22. - 3.4 - 3.4 - 3.4 - 3.4 (gain) - 3.4 (gain) - 3.4 - 3.4 - 3.4 (new) - 3.4 (new)
  23. - 3.3 (new)
  24. - 3.2 - 3.2 (gain) - 3.2 - 3.2 (gain) - 3.2 (gain) - 3.2
  25. - 3.1 - 3.1 - 3.1 - 3.1 (gain) - 3.1 (gain)
  26. - 3 - 3 - 3 - 3 (gain) - 3 - 3 (new)
  27. - 2.9 - 2.9 - 2.9 - 2.9 - 2.9 - 2.9 (new)
  28. The following are no longer in the Top 100 (due to an addition made above) but they have the potential to be included in the next quarter should their blog juice increase.
    1. - 2.8
    2. - 2.8
    3. - 2.7
    4. - 2.7
    5. - 2.7
    6. - 2.6
    7. - 2.6
    8. - 2.6
    9. - 2.6
    10. - 2.6 (gain)
    11. - 2.6
    12. - 2.6 (gain)
    13. - 2.6
    14. - 2.6 (gain)
    15. - 2.6 (new)
    16. - 2.6 (new)
    17. - 2.6 (new)
If you have a blog and your blog juice is in the range of the ones listed above, please post a comment and will add you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Localized Content is Key to Virtual Worlds Success

GrooveNet is considered as the first virtual world set-up in the Philippines. The service will turn 2 years old this June and it has over 100,000 members in the Philippines and thousands more Filipino members abroad, according to Gregory "Greg" Kittelson, co-founder and president of the company. "Initially, we launched with very simple profile pages and There (virtual world). Since then we have added many compelling features such as our GrooveNet Music & Lyrics player and a music widget to add to other social networking sites. Early this year we also converted our entire profile pages into Adobe Flex, which is a better technology. We hosted eyeball parties in Metro Manila so our members can meet in person and get to know one another."

GrooveNet has its own virtual currency, Therebucks. This can be used to buy items items in their virtual world and be able to buy physical goods like roses in the future.

Greg shared that 90% of GrooveNet traffic is from the Philippines. "Generally, our members are Filipinos interested in meeting other people and are interested in music, nightlife, and even travel."

Like any community site, one major challenge is maintaining an active base of loyal users in your community. Greg recognizes that the growth of Facebook and a few other social networks has its effects to other players. "However, we are able to combat this with localized content, such as local music and lyrics and nightlife. For example, you will never see Bamboo or Cueshe on the front pages or music pages of Friendster, Facebook or MySpace. Nor will you see the latest parties happening in Makati or the Fort on those sites either. However, you will see Filipino bands and parties all over the GrooveNet site. Our eyeball parties also keep our members loyal, as they offer a medium for them to finally get to meet and partake in nightlife and other social activities together."

Greg is optimistic on the potential of virtual worlds in the Philippines. Companies, sooner or later, may have to use this as a new venue to reach out to target markets. "I think we are just scratching the surface with virtual worlds, not just in the Philippines but around the globe. They are becoming more and more popular as people go online and the internet infrastructure improves. Virtual worlds are a great way to market, interact and even learn about your target market."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Philippine Commons Empowers Content Creators

Last January 14, 2008, Philippine Commons was launched. This is a movement developed to create a common avenue for those who wish to collaborate in open education, access to knowledge, free software, open access publishing and free culture communities within the Philippines.

Since then, numerous developments had happened according to Berne Guerrero, deputy project lead of Creative Commons Philippines, and a proponent of the Philippine Commons movement.

An ongoing initiative is the Bayanihan Books being pursued by Greg Moreno's volunteer group and licensed under Creative Commons (CC) license.

WikiPilipinas is also pursued by volunteers through the resource provided by the Vibal Foundation and licensed under GNU Free Documentation License (FDL).

Berne shared that discussions with entities and individuals are being made towards a resource that will provide a convergence of open content, open education, and free open source software (FOSS). "We still have to get people involved in OpenCourseWares (OCW) in the Philippines, among others, to be actively involved in the movement. Creative Commons Philippines is contemplating of hosting a mini-conference, during summer, to get people, who are interested in Open Education, together."

Creative Commons Philippines is a jurisdictional affiliate of Creative Commons International. It is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 2001, that promotes the creative re-use of intellectual and artistic works—whether owned or in the public domain. Creative Commons licences provide a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists, and educators that build upon the “all rights reserved” concept of traditional copyright to offer a voluntary "some rights reserved" approach. It is sustained by the generous support of various organizations. For the Philippines, the lead project institution is the Arellano University School of Law, and the project lead is Atty. Jaime N. Soriano, CPA, MNSA.

Berne cited efforts as well towards Legal Commons. The Arellano Law Foundation has licensed the LawPhil website, the IT Law Journal, and Arellano Law Policy Review publications under CC licenses. "There are projects being developed in the community that would provide free and open legal literature relevant to both law student/practitioner and layman audiences; and a collaborative resource for law students in pursuit of their studies."

Free Culture
There are no FreeCulture movement chapters yet organized in the Philippines. Berne said the group is is currently in discussion with a primary/secondary school in Southern Tagalog that could serve a catalyst for students to be immersed in the discussions involving free culture -- including cultural participation and access to information -- so that students may get involved into communitarian endeavors if they believe them to be compelling.

Berne also mentioned several artists who have used CC licenses in some of their works such as:
  • Maria Elisa Sempio Diy. She is now involved in the formation of a CC Asia band;
  • Eugene Marfil of True Faith has also released a couple of original compositions with CC licenses;
  • DRIP launched their first CC-licensed album, Identity Theft, last March 15 and it is also considered as the first in the Philippines.
Philippine Commons is currently in contact with upcoming bands who have also signified their intent to release their songs with CC licenses. "We are interested in holding CC salons with two notable music venues in the near future. There are also a lot of Filipinos who have been providing CC-licensed content, through their individual blogs, or submission to public repositories, such as Flickr. We still have to look into those who would pursue legal sharing of audio-visual works."

How can Internet users support Philippine Commons?
There are a lot of ways of Filipinos can support, whether on the global sense or in the Philippines. Berne explained, "One can be a creator, an end-user, or both. Both supply and demand provide the dynamics of the commons, and ensure the "commons" endeavors' success."

"Do you develop open source software? Do you use open source software? Do you create content (whether text, stills, audio or video) which are made available for legal reuse by others? Do you contribute in open content repositories or projects? If yes, you are already contributing to the commons. More so, if you do so for Philippine-bred projects, in a way, you are already contributing to the Philippine Commons. These are the usual modes where Internet users support the commons, whether they intended to do so or not."

Those who want to contribute more actively in the Philippine Commons as a movement, one can join any of the projects (whether online or off-line) being placed under the umbrella. "If you have projects and organizations that are relevant to the commons, why not connect with the movement so as to generate a concerted front? Not a software developer nor a content developer? Sponsoring a commons event perhaps? Or just spreading the word?" Berne encouraged.

Making Philippine Commons a success
Short term success for Philippine Commons, for Berne, is about getting individuals and entities involved in the commons mapped out so that they can have avenues for collaboration for their individual and common goals; and getting ordinary people aware and involved in the cause.

"Medium term success is about Philippine projects being similarly competitive to projects being pursued by other jurisdictions, to the point that we are not merely catching up or replicating what the other jurisdictions have done before. We hope that the Philippines become a primary participant in the global commons in the future."

"Real success, however, can be reached if the ideals of the cause, and the projects are tuned to such ideals, are actually translated into positive and lasting changes for the Philippine society. If people are more empowered to implement solutions, enhanced their creativity, and broaden their knowledge, in light of broader options, I think we will be in the right direction."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Filipino Companies Recognize Potential of Blog Advertising

I got the chance to exchange e-mails with Benito Vergara, founder and managing director of Mad Crowd Media (MCM) where my Reflective Thinking blog is a member.

MCM offers a service to potential advertisers who would like to reach out to various bloggers. This is ideal for companies who do not have time to research and negotiate with bloggers one by one.

Benito said that the idea for MCM started when he and his partners realized that they had friends and bloggers who consistently and frequently produced quality content, yet had very little access to local advertising and marketing pesos. On the other side, they also have friends and colleagues in the advertising industry who were interested in working with these bloggers. "But advertisers found the going a bit hard due to elastic prices, unverified content, metrics, and the hard work and creativity needed to convince clients to go online. With MCM, we thought we could push some pieces forward for our friends."

Growing community
Today, MCM has nearly 100 publications signed up and each one is in play. "There is a unique demand for each one, and we're either in a conversation with someone about it, or working to find where the opportunities for these publications are hidden."

When asked on what is the typical fee range of bloggers in MCM, Benito explains that there is nothing fixed. "This very variety can help drive our services up the value chain. By managing these choices, we can deliver highly-targeted campaigns at almost any range."

Are companies ready to advertise in blogs?
Benito observes that there is interest these days for companies to explore the channel. "While marketers are getting more sophisticated, and the profit-motives are more defined, the dipstick will tell you that the first adopters are very happy with results and only time will tell when others will come around. The key here is unlocking each advertiser's set of opportunities in permission and influencer marketing (and not merely awareness), and understanding how this develops into value that other channels cannot deliver, or do not deliver as elegantly and efficiently as the web can."

Sample of a blog campaign
To give newbie advertises a feel on how this works, Benito shared this favorite where MCM has Anton Diaz, Paul Santos and Carlos Celdran -- three gentlemen who confess to having "let themselves go" -- going back to the gym and getting professional training and supplements, all to see who will be the most fit at the end. "I think you will find proof that bloggers, unlike their newspaper counterparts who are often encumbered by word and editorial limits, have the power to paint experiences in a way that rivals the visual efficacy of the Discovery Channel, the intellect of a Manuel Quezon III editorial, and the entertainment value of the Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show."

Potential of blog advertising
Identifying potential is tricky. Benito admits not knowing the market well enough yet to cast a good enough gaze. "I believe there is potential in hyper-segmenting the market, so the blogosphere population explosion is very welcome. I do know that I've seen how bloggers, working together, can up the value of their work a hundred-fold. There has to be infinite potential in that."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Filipino Internet Users Still Lack Appreciation of Virtual Worlds

A Filipino in Second Life
Like most kids, Rodion Herrera has always enjoyed games that relate to the concept of "let's pretend", such as "let's pretend to be an astronaut" or "let's pretend to be a pilot".

What set him apart from other kids was the realization (at a very young age) that being aware of the advantages of having the ability to pretend and imagine what it would be like to be in someone else's shoes, enhances one's ability to analyze situations and thus get a better perspective about the world around, and increases one's knowledge of the world.

"As I grew older and got introduced to computers sometime in the mid 80's, I realized that I was living in the dawn of an era wherein technology can actually allow humans to take the pretend concept further and actually allow users to immerse themselves in pretend environments, spaces that free of the natural constraints of the real world."

Rodion developed a fascination for simulations and 3D environments. Even though his formal collegiate training and background was rather unrelated to his passion for simulations, he kept abreast with what was going on by casual research and self study. In 2000, he became a member of the Philippine Flightsimmers Group, an informal gathering of flight simulation enthusiasts, that fueled his yearning to be involved in a project that was concerned not only with simulation of aircraft flight, but of how the entire world works.

"In 2004, I first learned about the emerging virtual worlds, and was introduced to Second Life sometime in mid 2005. I didn't undergo the "bewildered phase" that most people get when they first step into a virtual world. My background interests in 3D graphics, 3D games, and flight simulations provided me with the necessary foundation to be immersed in the instant I got into the world. Of course, it took a while for me to learn the complicated user interface, but once I managed to do that, I found myself in an environment which beckons endless possibilities--I felt I was in my element, and thus am constantly excited with what the future of virtual worlds hold for everyone."

Around January 2007, Rodion learned that Dennis Bacsafra started a metaverse consultancy agency called Avatrian in Cebu City, and found out they were in need of someone who had the skills to create and develop in virtual worlds, particularly Second Life. "I immediately applied for the position and was accepted into the company in March 2007. It's nearly a year since I joined the firm and the level of excitement and enthusiasm I have, as well as my fellow employees remain at an all time high and we constantly look forward to the things that other various upcoming virtual world platforms have to offer that would utilize our unique and varied skill sets."

Today, Rodion works as creative Director for Avatrian LLC. The company started in San Francisco, California, USA on October of 2006. Later on, it expanded operations in Cebu.

As a startup company, Avatrian currently has 6 employees, 2 of which are part-time workers. In the virtual worlds community, Avatrian is a solutions provider in Second Life and constantly serving "inworld" clients since they opened doors. The company is also listed in the Second Life GRID. "Visitors in Second Life regularly visit our own "sim" or server, which hosts our Avatrian Central island, containing our virtual office and showcase areas where we display and sell our varied products," Rodion explained.

Despite being a young entity, Avatrian is slated to have presence in the upcoming prestigious Virtual Worlds Conference (VWC) 2008 to be held in New York City on the first week of April, where they shall have a display booth.

"Our virtual products have been featured in a Second Life journal and various Second Life Blogs all over the net. So yes, even if we are small in terms of "real world size" as a company, we have definitely taken major strides in terms of creating content for the virtual world of Second Life."

Why aren't there Filipinos in Virtual Worlds?
In the Philippines, virtual world programs and their popularity has not much picked up (although I'm still about to write to Groovenet hoping to get their insight in this field). I asked Rodion what he thinks is the reason that is stopping Filipinos from participating and how can they be encouraged.

Rodion believes that Filipinos in general, still consider television, movies and karaoke as their primary means of electronic entertainment.

"Admittedly, age plays a factor in determining what sort of electronic entertainment the average Filipino considers as worthwhile recreation. Consider this example. There is a substantial number of Filipino teenagers who are into MMORPG gaming, which makes it an age-specific form of online recreation. However, television in the Philippines is NOT age-specific--it still has a to all age groups. Considering the average purchasing power of a typical Filipino in terms of up-to-date computer hardware, and a decent DSL internet connection (prerequisites to be able to participate in virtual worlds), and comparing that to how easier it is to just buy a television set, a cable connection, a karaoke set, etc, then chances are, the average Filipino would still find it impractical to invest in technology that they perhaps would have difficulty in comprehending.

For most Filipinos, it's still easier to identify with celebrities like Willy Revillame or Ces Drilon, rather than some obscure blogger or a metaverse content creation guru (perhaps totally alien concepts to them) -- they want to be entertained and be informed by "real" people, and all things virtual to them are still largely obscure--they simply have no idea why there is a need for a virtual world.

Unless you can convince the average Filipino that participating in social networks on the web, or participating in virtual worlds as being more "interesting" or rewarding, and that peer-to-peer exchange of news and info is better than listening to news on TV or radio, then he/she will stick to more traditional forms of mass media."

Rodion sees the typical Filipino Internet using the communication medium for casual purposes or for business use. "Assuming these people indeed have the hardware and a robust internet connection, I believe that the only hindrance for them in fully participating would simply be an assumption that these virtual worlds, are nothing but hyped-up e-marketing strategies or they are simply "games" that the "serious" internet user and/or entrepeneur should veer away from. Unless you can convince the average Filipino internet user that participating in virtual worlds, now categorized as under Web 3.0, is indeed rich in creative, educational, and commercial opportunities, then he or she will stick to more traditional forms of internet use."

Opportunities in Virtual Worlds
Although there is much opportunity, companies in the developed countries have a difficult time transitioning into this new technology. Several well-known American companies and corporations, for instance, have dived blindly into Second Life and invested huge amounts of money in it, only to find themselves closing shop after a few months.

Rodion observed that businesses and companies have no idea on how to "manifest" themselves in these worlds. "They were basically sucked in by the hype and when they found themselves in the world and didn't know what to do, they basically withered and died. Thus seeing these companies' experiences as examples, it is not advisable to merely jump blindly into virtual worlds without first knowing what they are all about. And perhaps the most striking feature of virtual worlds is that it is not something you just explain via an article or a Powerpoint presentation--it simply has to be experienced first hand for one to fully appreciate the potentials that 3D spaces and environments have to offer, in terms of creative, educational and commercial purposes."

An example on how Filipino entrepreneurs should use Second Life
Rodion gives this idea. "Say, there is a Filipino furniture manufacturer and exporter who own a static website displaying his wares. In order to keep abreast with the advancements in browser technology, the next step for him to do is to introduce interactivity, via technologies such as Flash and Javascript, which would allow site visitors to click on the displayed furniture examples (images) and allow color changes etc. But there will be limits to the interactivity that a visitor can do with this, simply because it is still all happening within the confines of a Web 1.0/2.0 level browser.

Now, imagine this furniture website translated as an actual virtual shop inside Second Life, where vistor's avatars can go around the furniture, sit on it, rearrange it inside a sample room to see various layout opportunities, change color or some basic stylistic forms--the possibilities are endless--virtual worlds offer an almost limitless potential for product evaluation and design, because of it's 3-dimensional, immersive nature."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

iNTouch partners with Fring for social networks on-the-go

I just got a heads-up from Edward Lim, iNTouch chief executive officer and managing director, about his company's partnership with Fring.

fring is a mobile internet service and community that enables users to access & interact with their social networks on-the-go, make free calls and live chat with all one's fring, Skype, MSN Messenger, Google Talk, ICQ, SIP, Twitter, Yahoo! and AIM friends using the handset’s internet connection rather than costly cellular airtime minutes. At the moment, fring is compatible with Symbian 8, 9.1, 9.2, Windows Mobile 5 & 6 and UIQ handsets. Voice for Yahoo! and AIM is still not enabled.

With the advent of Mobile VoIP (MVoIP) and Voice over Instant Messaging (VoIM), Filipinos who are fond of sending SMS can now save money by using the cheaper data plans of mobile providers e.g. Smart's P10/30 minute 3G or Smart Internet usage.

Edward believes that is it possible for corporate marketers or road warriors using data plans to call their head office using VoIM or chatting while on the road. In a sense, it is like saying goodbye to the P1.00 sms charges and break the 160 character limits to texting.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Moomai Picks Looking Glass Theme in Social Networking

Last December, I signed up as an alpha user of Moomai and tinkered with it. This Philippine-made social networking site is in its alpha stage. Prior to this post, I'm quite confused on what Moomai intends to achieve and beat that curiosity by sending an e-mail to Luis Buenaventura, president of syndeo::media, and asked about the future of this new social network.

For Luis, is an online social experiment and wants the audience to try it and explore how it goes from there. "I know that sounds really ambiguous, but I don’t put a lot of stock in big master-plans. Ultimately, if we can build something that people enjoy using, then we’ve already achieved a great deal, and that’s the kind of thing that takes a long time and a lot of hard work."

Like many Internet users who get to used a variety of social networking applications, one can't help but say - "not another one!", and this made me wonder on how Moomai will be different. At the moment, the site has some standard social-networking components like friend-relationships and blogging.

But what makes it different, according to Luis, is the rating system based on an old sociological theory called the Looking Glass - that states our sense of self is a composite of what our friends’ opinions of us are, and that we constantly reorient our identity based on the feedback that we receive.

"Moomai is simply a digitization of this phenomenon, wrapped in candy-colored interfaces and humorous prose."

Plans to launch Moomai will depend on how the testers will find it. Luis wanted to reach 250 volunteer testers first and maintain that number for 30-60 days. "So I can see how different groups of people respond to it. Once we’re satisfied that the engine works as advertised, we will move into open beta. At the same time, we’ll throw up Facebook, OpenSocial and (maybe) Friendster widgets that people can use on whichever social network they’re already on."

Observing this market got me intrigued on the revenue model that Moomai is bent on. But Luis admitted that he doesn’t care about it yet. "The reason is this: it’s challenging to come up with a profitable idea, and it’s challenging to come up with an innovative idea. It’s even more difficult to come up with an idea that is both profitable and innovative at the same time. With moomai, I’ve essentially decided that I’d like to try to be innovative first; we’ll worry about profitability later, when we receive our 100,000th signup or when our server bills start to hurt, whichever comes first.

I know that sounds like I’m being facetious, but I think people underestimate how volatile this industry really is when they ask questions about revenue models. Having a solid revenue-model planned out is only useful if you can see into the future and know what your audience will respond to. This will never work for experimental products like moomai because we don’t even know where this website is headed, let alone how we will make any money from it. I personally believe that the trick is to keep your company as agile as possible so that you can pull big 180’s within a small radius. I certainly don’t profess to see the future, but I’d like to think that I can respond quickly once it’s staring me in the face."

For now, Moomai is eager in building up a volunteer population to about 250 people. Anyone who’d like to give it a spin can visit and enter your full name and email address into the invitation form.

Also, syndeo::media is in the process of growing the team. If you’re a developer who knows or would like to learn Rails, please send your resume to

(Photo taken from Luis moomai page. Shot taken by Karla Redor)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chikka open doors to Web. 2.0 and Social Network Developers

I just had a chat with Gio Bacareza who is now the business development director for Chikka.

According to Gio, Chikka has a revolutionary project that would require partnership with web 2.0 and social network developers. "We have a revenue model designed for them. This new development keeps me busy in looking for developers, whether companies or individuals."

Chikka has one of the biggest social network not only in the Philippines but worldwide also. Its social network is based in its community of 40 million buddies using Chikka's messaging application.

Gio believes there's money to be made on the community besides text and advertising. "We're opening up our platform for the developer community to play around similar to Google Open Social and Facebook. The difference we have is that (1) we have other revenue models for developers than just ads: we got messaging, content, subscription services and (2) we provide the bridge to the mobile world."

The Chikka platform is still in the process of completing its APIs and documentation. "The first developers we work with, we will handle closely on a 1-to-1 manner. They will help us shape the platform. When we are ready to open the sandbox, then we unleash it."

Parties interested can contact Gio at

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Philippines A-List Bloglebrity

With 500 or more blogs linking to these sites in the past 6 months, the Philippines A-List Bloglebrity are:
With 100-499 blogs linking to these sites in the past 6 months, the Philippines B-List Bloglebrity are:
If your blog is in the A or B -list, please post a comment and will add it here.
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