Spinbusters, Raissa Robles, and other forces of disruption

Cover of my copy of The Future Just Happened, hastily photographed.

Cover of my copy of The Future Just Happened, hastily photographed.

[NOTICE: Please feel free to debunk my assertions because this is not expert opinion, just amateur observation, which is the result of thinking too much about several topics including the future, personal fulfillment, journalism, the Internet, and, you know, other shit like that. This piece was also brought about by reading and re-reading works by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and other journalists, whom Taleb, by the way, despises because their jobs make it difficult for them to distinguish between noise and signal. Also: I may be wrong about my assertions because of the Dunning-Kruger effect.] [See: John Cleese on the Dunning-Kruger effect]

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Robles on skepticism in journalism and the uselessness of the press conference

Cover of The Power and The Glory: The Story of the Manila Chronicle 1945-1998

Cover of The Power and The Glory: The Story of the Manila Chronicle 1945-1998

“I’m skeptical, which I think every journalist should be. If you’re not skeptical, then you’re not going to go anywhere as a journalist. You’re there to contest things. If not, you might as well hire yourself out as a loudspeaker. You might as well join the propaganda arm of the government… Continue reading

Scenes from a Mall*

Acclaimed independent film director Jim Libiran (left) meets up with flash mob members at SM Megamall.

Acclaimed independent film director Jim Libiran (left)
meets up with flash mob members at SM Megamall.

(Below is a slightly edited piece I’ve written for a blog that has gone offline for more than a year now and was posted in 2012 when I was still working for InterAksyon.com.)

Jim Libiran, director of the critically-acclaimed independent film Tribu, was contradicting himself.
“The revolution will not be posted on Facebook,” he said on Friday [April 13, 2012]. [See: Tribu, Jim Libiran]
If true, then the group of media people he brought together wouldn’t be in SM Megamall that evening in the first place.
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Microsoft’s ‘VIP Mix’ to extend customer reach

Microsoft in the Philippines is trying out what looks and sounds like the second-oldest sales strategy in the book.
It’s the soft sell — except that this one has a Web 2.0 twist written all over it.
With some help from social media platforms, blogs, and their users, the strategy intends to generate buzz about its products that will hopefully make its cash registers ring like alarm clocks gone haywire.
It’s simple enough.
Instead of creating a shotgun approach to promote its products, Microsoft Philippines Inc. has decided to target its users, pinning them down by segment, and creating a dialog between software maker and end-user.
Besides possibly leading to product improvement, the dialog could also enhance the company’s ability to spread and heighten awareness about its latest applications, attracting prospective users and customers.
“The move will also grow the scope of [Microsoft’s] reach,” Tim Vergel de Dios, Microsoft Philippines Inc.’s academic developer evangelist told GMANews.TV.
Starting late last year, the Philippine unit of Microsoft launched what it called its exclusive VIP events to which only a hundred or so participants — usually a segment of its wide range of software users — were invited. (These events are completely different and separate from the meetings it holds with local software developers.)
To secure a free VIP invite, a prospective guest needs to comply with certain requirements previously set by the company.
Last December, when it held its first VIP event just for students alone, the software company chose the top 100 students with the most number of friends on Facebook.
Those who emerged on top of the pile had an average of 2,000 Facebook friends, an achievement made possible by their extensive networks, de Dios said.
Although Facebook friends may not be an accurate barometer of popularity — whatever that might mean, especially since Internet metrics have yet to be standardized — these statistics are nothing to scoff at.
Microsoft certainly didn’t ignore it.
During the event, employees told the audience that Microsoft also gave away free software through downloads, prompting students to post URLs on their status updates which, in turn, were accessible to their thousand or so friends.
Microsoft’s download links went viral on Facebook in no time.
The impact was “huge,” de Dios said.
This explains why Microsoft will be holding its VIP events series until March this year.
These events will be extended if “community feedback is good,” de Dios said in an email message.
It already scheduled web designers for February.
And last January 28, Microsoft invited 100 bloggers to join the fun as part of its Blogger’s Night.
As of posting time, blog entries about the event and the beta version of Microsoft Office 2010 suite have already been uploaded.
An unofficial Facebook account of Microsoft friends in the Philippines — known as MSfriends Philippines — has also been created.
Who knows how much buzz that will generate?
No one does, as of yet.
But one thing’s for sure: Bill Gates is smiling.
(This piece can also be accessed on GMANews.TV. Picture on upper right shows sign at company entrance by Derrick Coetzee)

My funny Facebook friend

To Alecks Pabico, who wouldn’t mind my jokes

Next to feigning sickness and alien abduction, the death of a family member or a friend is one of the better excuses to avoid going to the office.
This was exactly the reason why I was able to skip work for two days, however short and temporary.
I told my supervisors that a friend died and I was in quiet mourning (i.e., comforting my similarly-bereaved friends while drinking vodka at the wake on the sly).
In doing so, I accidentally stumbled upon one of life’s most well-kept secrets: to avoid work, have someone you know die.
But that’s not as easy as it sounds.
And in the case of Alecks Pabico, the very first Philippine Collegian editor I served, I would rather be a bundy clock boy and HR’s BFF than have him beat deadlines somewhere else.

Alecks Pabico's Facebook picture

Alecks, who calls himself Rastamad, shown during daughter Kaya's seventh birthday

Alecks was so loved that hours after he died on Wednesday last week, funeral arrangements were already being prepared by an ad hoc committee composed of his friends — an ADB consultant, a UP law professor, a litigator, and myself, a drunkard.
Although I fail to remember having to volunteer for such a responsibility, I took to the mission with much aplomb since it involved free alcoholic drinks upon its successful completion.
Moreover, it was my only way of paying tribute to Alecks, one of the gentlest, funniest people I have known (and I say that as someone who excoriates the living, the dead, and other half-dead entities whose only contributions to this planet are hot air and carbon emissions).
My task at Aleck’s wake, while easy, was both a curse and a privilege.
It helped me get in touch with other friends I haven’t seen in decades but it also emphasized that the instant reunion was brought about by Alecks’ demise — an eventuality that he was prepared to face even before he knew his time was up.
About a week before he died, he delivered a speech during a benefit concert held in his honor.
Alecks pretended to stumble on the stage, much to the horror of the audience. He then chuckled, poking fun at the audience’s worst fears.
During his remarks — which I missed by an hour — he also made light of his condition, just about the same attitude he exuded the last time he and I made contact.
Sadly, it was only through Facebook (though we did see each other in August when Collegian alumni held a separate dinner in his honor).
Two weeks before the benefit concert, he uploaded an image of the concert ticket and wrote a status message that said: “Look at what friends from UP Samasa are plotting, but with my consent, of course. To those whom I count as friends, hope you support the effort. Thanks!”
I was the first to reply and did so in jest. “What about your enemies? What will they do? :),” I said.
Alecks was nonplussed.
“Hmmmm, how about asking yourself that question? :-P”
Hours later, in the same status thread, he gave me a gentle reminder, something which I will never forget.
““Enemies” invoke a lot of negative energy. Dwelling on the negative only serves to defeat the event’s very purpose, which is to send positive, healing vibrations.”
So I said: “OK, smart Alecks. I’ll send you good vibes. :)”
Apparently, my online gesture wasn’t enough.
Goodbye, my friend.
Too bad we weren’t able to see each other one final time.
In any case, I’ll always remember you, Alecks — inside and outside Facebook.
Just promise to go easy on updating your status messages.

Contributions for the family of Alecks Pabico are still accepted at http://onelove.chipin.com. All funds will be allotted for his family, wife Mira, daughters Marlee and Kaya, and son Giles.

How Facebook saved my social life

Facebook is the new Friendster.
That’s what I told a friend of mine.
Or more accurately, that’s what I posted on his wall when he said that people who didn’t share our respect for both the Filipino and English languages — such as it was — were all set to invade and conquer our favorite social networking site.
Since he was an old fart who had a lot of time on his hands — which in turn, indicates the kind of company I keep — he was relentless.
“Friends, the end is near,” he said, continuing our discussion thread by posting on my wall. “Last night I was at a burger joint on Timog and heard two of these youngsters (from different tables) talk about Facebook. We’re finished.”
By youngsters, he was obviously referring to people younger than himself, which just about covered more than half of the Philippine population.

A portion of the Facebook account of this blogger, which may prove to be boring to some.

Shown is the Facebook account of this blogger, which may prove to be boring to some.

According to my friend — who is pushing 40 but has the mind and body of a healthy senior citizen — these young ones were about to lay siege on the Facebook community by mangling both languages through atrocious spelling and inelegant turns of phrase.
But I’m not bothered.
Practically no one among my 150++ friends on Facebook can be accused of befouling both languages, save for myself.
This explains why I remain choosy about whom I pick as friends in the said website, a decision that has benefits and drawbacks.
Since my Facebook friends are relatively literate, articulate, and open-minded individuals, I have no need to explain myself whenever the comments I post on  respective statuses, notes, pictures, and whatnot may be considered risqué.
They’re my friends, for crying out loud.
If they disallow and/or discourage me from airing my opinions, however biased (i.e., GMANews.TV is the world’s greatest website of all time) then they deserve being deleted from my A-list.
So far, none of my real friends on Facebook have been eager to curb my enthusiasm.
Nevertheless, I admit having to “unfriend” some of my so-called virtual “friends,” especially those whom I have never met at all. (Why I chose to become their Facebook friends in the first place is a mystery, even to myself. Blame it on alcohol, internet addiction, and plain stupidity.)
This, of course, has qualified me to become a world-class Facebook snob, according to my real friends.
But snob or not, I still am entitled to living the kind of life that I like, a right guaranteed under various international conventions to which this country is a signatory.
This right includes hanging out with people who share the same values and attitudes as I do.
Which explains why I recently looked up two college buddies whom I haven’t heard from in more than a decade.
Using Facebook’s private messaging tool, the three of us exchanged contact details and agreed to meet for dinner just to catch up on each other’s lives.
Details of the reunion — date, time, and place — was decided in just one afternoon, all thanks to the wonders of social media.
Since then, my college buddies and I have been able to organize a get-together on the fly, filling up my fair share of gimmicks and salvaging what remains of my social life.
Thanks, Facebook. You’ve got a friend in me, virtual and otherwise.

Alecks Pabico sent me here

Attended a Quezon City surprise party – the second one I’ve been to this year – where I met Alecks Pabico, webmaster nonpareil of the PCIJ. He said I should transfer to WordPress.org if I want to continue blogging. So here I am. Thanks, Alecks.

N.B. Currently addressing concerns re: transfer of data between the Apple eMate 300 and a slightly temperamental PowerBook 2400C. Once that’s done, I’ll be blogging all the time. That is, if I have the time.