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."
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