Memosphere2009.04.02 11:16
It is 7:20 p.m. and your phone beeps in your pocket


It is 7:20 p.m. and my phone beeps in my pocket.

"Your date is three stations away, interested? Push YES or NO" Sure! I tap "YES" and a cute girl pops up on a tiny screen. As I change subways heading to Gangnam station where my surprise date is waiting for me, I am reminded that I subscribed for an evening date alert service last Friday. 

In fact, there is no such service currently active in Korea yet but it would be one of the most intriguing scenarios DUO and other dating service providers in Korea could play with, capitalizing on GPS sensors now ubiquitous among latest mobile handsets.

A conventional online dating routine goes like this; you subscribe for a service after filling in your profile and a list of desired properties you'd expect from an ideal date. You get an alert and the date is finally arranged -- or not. 

Problems with such service is that it feels so plain obvious and contrived that you get no romantic surprise you've been fantasizing about from a perfect date. Truth is everyone anticipates a dose of serendipity when it comes to meeting his or her mate. 

Location based service or LBS as illustrated above would be an ideal solution to give subscribers an illusion of serendipitous romantic encounter.

Practical application of LBS on the mobile platform is well on the way and SK Telecom, Korea's top mobile service provider, has experimented with a wake-up call -- the phone alerts a subway passenger as the train approaches his or her pre-set station. It was very popular among those who tend to miss their stop while dozing off after a grueling day. Strangely, however, no carrier has so far attempted to use it for romantic application despite the intriguing possibilities of LBS.

For every chance meeting entails a risk of bumping into a moron though -- that is the risk you will have to stomach if you are willing to get exposed to such a tryst. Some dose of control and intervention would be inevitable to ensure safety in the serendipitous encounter. Hence we have a new oxymoron here; controlled serendipity.

DUO, for instance, maintains an arcane multi-layered matching system about its members that it built upon with their initial profiles. The bottom line is that DUO guarantees identity and reputation of its registered members with an option to upgrade to a premium membership. 

If you are going to get a mobile alert about a surprise date selected from a carefully groomed pool of guys and girls, bingo! You get both security and thrill, or controlled serendipity. 

I have been always reluctant to embrace RSS, Google's Web History or any widget that purports to turn up results that would pander to my unique taste. Would anyone in their right mind eagerly put themselves on the set of the Truman Show? I am what I am since I've been exposed to countless chance encounters and Black Swan moments over several decades of my life. I would be dreaded to know if my life is the result of a series of prearranged exposures in a carefully produced environment. 

In short, I am against any thing that hinders my discovery on the way and joy of serendipitous encounters with the wonders of life. 

However don't you hate to get infected with malicious viruses or get your identity snatched away by some online con artists despite the fact that you enjoy on line search and surprise discovery? 

Here comes the controlled serendipity again. Properly applied, it would vastly enhance the joy of Web-surfing as much as it would make mobile LBS applications exciting. 

Cutting through the obvious, a superbly designed controlled serendipity will lower your online dull factor by several clicks without necessarily turning you into a victim of an online scam.

Posted by PSB

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Korea Technology Review2009.03.31 10:06



Naver gives up 'walled garden' and introduces Newscast and Opencast

"If China has a 'Great Firewall of China,' Korea has a 'Great Firewall of Naver.'"

Many netizens unhappy about the ever-increasing power of Naver complained that 'Korea's Google' is destroying the Korean Web ecosphere by monopolizing the vernacular online traffic. Indeed if you listen to it very hard, you could almost hear the giant sucking sound of Naver gobbling up near 70 percent of Korean Web traffic.

Naver is Korea's top search engine but simply calling it a "search engine" would be a disservice to this Korean internet giant. Imagine Google, Yahoo, eBay and Electronic Arts merged together one day to create a one-stop online destination for every American -- only then you can properly appreciate its imposing presence among Koreans.
Unfortunately for many online start-ups, this home-grown Korean search engine did not just work as a conduit leading to the greater Korean Web; it instead built a giant walled garden where no content is allowed to leave once it comes in, destroying the delicate balance of Korean Web ecosphere.

So goes complain from many independent-minded net users, but it was not just sophisticated power users that were complaining about its arrogant practices. Korean news sites that sell bulk of their news content to Naver started to feel uneasy as well about the growing power of Naver as a news portal.

Newscast, a new platform Naver introduced this January is the Naver's answer to this growing concern.

Its main news box, previously edited by Naver's internal editors, is now open to near 40 independent news providers including OhmyNews.com. Naver will randomly show 40 different news boxes edited by each of them as a slide show. If a user clicks any news link, it now leads to a final article page of each news site.

Will this change mitigate their anger and make them happy finally? Their reaction so far has been mixed.

Each of the news sites invited to fill in its edited news box on the Naver's main page has been instantly bombarded with huge traffic, increasing its page views by two to three folds.

Some minor news sites with limited server and network capacity had to ask Naver to stop sending traffic after they saw its system keep crashing or slow down remarkably.

Even for a big name news site that can handle sudden explosion in page views, it is still unclear how they can make the best of this traffic from Naver given the absence of a working business model--Korean news sites rely heavily on the sales of display ads and sponsorship deals with big name advertisers and for now they are clueless about what to do with the mounting traffic. 


To make the matters worse, they will have to purchase new servers and network capacity to cope with the exploding online traffic whereas no new working business model is yet to be identified any time soon.

Still, Naver seems to be happy to know that it can finally put out an excuse for all those complains about Giant Firewall of Naver. Naver introduced Opencast at the same time, a platform targeted at bloggers but not unlike Newscast in its purported nature of traffic diffusion. Naver is also toying with expanding its concept to display ads -- it plans to allow users to select only ads they would want to see.

Whether the great diffusion of Korean online traffic triggered by Naver's Newscast and Opencast will lead to the diffusion of its Web dominance remains to be seen. The fact that everybody is intently watching Naver's next move is the one powerful evidence that Naver is still the kingpin of Korean online ecosphere.

Posted by PSB

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Korea Technology Review2009.03.31 10:01
This article first appeared in Harvard Nieman Reports Volume 59 Number 4, Winter 2005. Jean K. Min at OhmyNews International provided the article for Harvard University.

In a surrealistic bout of fate, passengers on JetBlue 292 en route to New York were watching their aircraft broadcast live on the screens of the in-flight DirecTV. The pilot was attempting an emergency landing on the tarmac of the Los Angeles International Airport with its front landing gear, clipped at a wrong angle, jutting out of the fuselage. 

While millions of viewers in America alone watched this nail-biting drama, 140 passengers aboard the Airbus A320 found themselves the subject of live television news unfolding before their own eyes. 

"It was absolutely terrifying, actually. Seeing the events broadcast made it completely surreal and detached me from the event," said Zachary Mastoon in an interview with The Associated Press. "It became this television show I was inextricably linked to. It was no longer my situation, it was broadcast for everyone to see. It only exacerbated the situation and my fear."

A couple of NBC executives were also flying in the JetBlue plane and managed to set up a mobile phone call to report the situation back to NBC headquarters. What if the rest of the passengers were able to hook up to a high-speed wireless network and report the situation inside the aircraft back to a television station? Instead of watching their mile-high ordeal covered by someone else in a remote station, they would have been the ultimate producer of their own news, delivering the story to millions in real time, including on JetBlue's in-flight screens. 

Oh Yeon Ho having a brief staff meeting in OhmyNews newsroom
©2006 Kwon W.S
"Honey, I'm on OhmyNews!"

Citizen reporters of OhmyNews, a unique news organization in Korea, now number more than 41,000 and are no stranger to the sensation that comes from producing their own news. It is this transforming and empowering experience that attracts thousands of "citizen reporters" to OhmyNews every day. Kim Hye Won, a long time citizen reporter of OhmyNews, described her excitement when she found her story published on OhmyNews for the first time: "As soon as I saw my article with my name, Kim Hye Won, attached to it, my heart fluttered. A housewife who for the last 18 years has been caught up in housework raising her children has now become a reporter. This was possible thanks to the OhmyNews spirit of 'every citizen is a reporter.'"

For lots of angry young Korean "Netizens" who felt their voice was perennially ignored by the overwhelmingly conservative Korean mainstream media, OhmyNews was a godsend when it was launched in February 2000. They were angry because the mainstream media constantly manipulated the nation's important agenda in politics, the economy and society for their own taste and purpose.

Oh Yeon Ho, the founder of OhmyNews, left his job at a monthly magazine to test his ideas about this new form of journalism through the Internet. He deeply sympathized with these young Netizens in their anger against the mainstream media. In an interview with The New York Times in early 2003, Oh hinted that a part of his motivation in launching OhmyNews was to fix this skewed Korean news market: "We have a real imbalance in our media-80 percent conservative and 20 percent liberal-and it needs to be corrected. My goal is 50-50." More recently Oh has written of his original vision that he "wanted to start a tradition free of newspaper company elitism where news was evaluated based on quality, regardless of whether it came from a major newspaper, a local reporter, an educated journalist or a neighborhood housewife….So I decided to make the plunge into the sea of the Internet, even though I feared that which was different from what I was accustomed."

Many young Koreans who were already sharing their thoughts on the Internet found that it made infinitely more sense to write for a news media with a strong national brand and formidable presence in the news market than scribble their anger in a puny blog. Goh Tae Jin, a citizen reporter turned cyber columnist shared his revelations about how he felt when his harshly critical piece appeared on OhmyNews in 2000. In it, he attacked one of the nation's top newspaper columnists for "factionalism and arrogance" that he'd exhibited in his column. "Unexpectedly, my article was chosen as the top story and suddenly sparked numerous heated opinions. It was an astounding experience for me to have for the first time in my life. On that day, OhmyNews transformed me from a reader into a reporter, true to its motto that 'every citizen is a reporter.'" 

Typical citizen reporters write a story or two per week. After submitting a story, they can track their status. Stories remain as "Saengnamu" articles before being accepted by OhmyNews copy editors. Once accepted, citizen reporters can follow the status of their words in real time, observing the number of readers' clicks into each of the stories, the number of comments, or the money collected in the "tip jar." 

The Audience is the Content

What happens on OhmyNews is an intensely interactive online conversation. Citizen reporters have to persuade OhmyNews' front-line copy editors to have their stories accepted in the first place. As much as 30 percent of daily submissions are rejected for various reasons such as poor sentence construction, factual errors, or its lack of news value. After stories are accepted and edited, then placed in a more prominent space, usually within minutes they draw scores of readers' feedback. When the story is controversial, as in the case of Goh's, the number of readers' comments can shoot up to hundreds and even thousands. 

This feedback from readers, coupled with editorial advice by OhmyNews' copy editors, gives citizen reporters invaluable lessons in writing. A quick online search through the OhmyNews database yields 500 to 600 stories for some of our diligent citizen reporters and the difference of quality between their first and more recent writing is remarkable. Nearly 70 OhmyNews citizen reporters now have contracts to write books. If you believe, as I do, that an adequate level of writing skills is an important ability for citizens to have in a civil democracy, then OhmyNews' citizen reporters can proudly be named the most capable practitioners of "the Emersonian vision of an expressive society."

The New York Times-and many other prominent news organizations-appear to consider the Web as simply another format in which to sell their news content. They sold the news once in the paper medium, now they will sell it again to an online audience and increase the return on their investment. For OhmyNews, the Web is seen neither as a channel for information flow nor as a pipeline for news delivery. It is a playground for our readers, a cyberspace for Netizens. 

In accepting this Internet vision, a whole new horizon opens for us. The readers, or news audience, are no longer passive consumers of news produced by a few privileged, arrogant reporters. They are active producers of the news they will consume at the end of the day. Participation in this great news sphere is realized for them either by joining OhmyNews as a citizen reporter or by participating in the online forum offered at the very bottom of every story we publish. 

Only as an afterthought did it dawn on us that the audience is the real content on the Web. Like any nimble disk jockey in a cool nightclub in town would do, we gave them a place to hang out and mingle in with the brightest minds in Korean cyberspace. One survey by a major Korean portal revealed nearly 40 percent of users' daily mouse clicks on it were for user-generated content, such as readers' comments and blog posts. A similar result was also found for OhmyNews. OhmyNews readers generate on average somewhere between 30 to 50 percent of daily traffic on the Web site through their participation in various online forums (other than their reading of the news). This is surely a wealth of eyeballs that any shrewd advertiser would salivate for. The "audience as the content" model makes a lot of sense for our business as well. 

Bloggers, Citizen Reporters and Journalists

For many, citizen participation on a news site seems identical to blogging. But while Weblogs stimulate colorful outpourings of citizens' voices on the web, most of time a blog is one-person operation and many bloggers are pursuing their journalistic passion at their own peril. Without adequate advice from trained journalists, they risk being ensnared into potential legal disputes involving, for example, a defamation case.

The OhmyNews model is fundamentally different. We believe bloggers can work better with professional assistance from trained journalists. On the other hand, we also believe professional journalists can expand their view and scope greatly with fresh input from citizen reporters. News media as a whole can offer more diverse and rich content to readers by tapping into the wealth of Netizens' collective wisdom.

Unlike Wikinews, which restricts their oversight role to a "janitor," OhmyNews works as a convener by actively promoting conversation among editors, citizen reporters and professional journalists. (We also, however, have a cyber janitor to clean up any mess that might be left in the aftermath of fierce online debate.) However, there seems to be a subtle division of roles between the OhmyNews staff reporters and citizen reporters. Citizen reporters understand that instead of copying the styles of trained journalists, they will shine brighter when they remain true to themselves. Citizen reporters excel when they write something they understand well and have a strong inkling for. 

No story is published before it goes through an extensive screening and copy editing process. Citizen reporters realize their edited text looks better with snazzy headlines and sometimes eye-catching thumbnail pictures. They also find their stories more polished after proofreading and editorial retouching by professionals, even if they occasionally face frustrating rejections of their stories. 

A recurring fear among journalists is that the coming age of citizen journalism would signal the end of "journalism as a serious profession." On the contrary, the OhmyNews experience shows that trained journalists will be in greater demand as an increasing number of "citizen journalists" start to produce explosive amounts of news themselves. Alas, if only journalists would understand how to reinvent themselves in this age of citizen journalism! 

OhmyNews editors spend a lot of time educating aspiring citizen journalists. We regularly invite them to our news room and give them "Journalism 101" classes. We encourage them to keep keen eyes on things going on and give advice that, if properly applied, would enhance the visibility of their writing as a means of effective communication. 

Harnessing Collective Intelligence

Recently, OhmyNews opened a new service feature in which our readers can participate in the editorial process by voting for their favorite writers or stories. OhmyNews servers collect the data and sort out the stories according to the number of votes each received. If we can define the first generation OhmyNews as "a massively distributed collaborative news operation on the Web," OhmyNews 2.0 can be described as "a massively distributed collaborative editorial participation on the Web." For example, when citizen reporters set up their personal blog site in OhmyNews, we encourage them to become an editor for their own edition of OhmyNews. They can drag and drop any of the few hundred stories available on OhmyNews each day to build their personal edition. Now every citizen can be an editor at OhmyNews. 

In OhmyNews 1.0, we tried to bridge the gap between pros and amateurs by introducing "journalism as a conversation" as opposed to "journalism as a lecture." OhmyNews 2.0 will continue to evolve with the development of more Web tools that will help us to harness the collective intelligence of Netizens on a global scale.
Posted by PSB

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