Tag Archives: New Zealand

Facebook’s ‘Locality of Friendship’

This visualization by Facebook intern Paul Butler illustrates what he calls

the locality of friendship. I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them.

It’s a magnificent effort and scores marks for beauty:

and for the amazing amount of data it carries within it.

Look at how the world of social media breaks down into clusters:

Europe is hard to subdivide: 

image

But Australia and New Zealand are almost three countries:

image

But of greatest interest to me is my own patch, Southeast Asia:

image

Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are, perhaps unsurprisingly intimately connected:

image

North vs South

While the links between the southern  half of the region and Thailand and Indochina are by comparison quite weak:

image

Philippines stands alone

But the links between the Philippines and Hong Kong appear as strong as those between the Philippines and the southern half of Southeast Asia:

image

The other point to take into account is how spread out Facebook is in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is about as densely packed as Italy or England.

Facebook is not a phemenon limited to the country’s major cities (and this is true of the Philippines and Malaysia, of course.)

I’ll be updating my Facebook Asia Pacific data later this week.

(Thanks to the Guardian’s Simon Rogers.)

Facebook in Asia: Seeds of Decline?

Some thoughts after trawling through data I’m collecting on Facebook membership in selected Asia Pacific countries

Membership of Facebook in developed Asia Pacific territories declined for the first time in a year in September, suggesting, possibly, that interest in the social networking site in the region has peaked. The figures may also reveal insights on whether, in developing countries, a social networking site can break out of their middle class enclaves.

Facebook populations in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong all fell during the month, while those in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines all either grew only marginally or shrank somewhat. Hong Kong dropped by the largest margin—5.7%—while Thailand, alone among the countries under study, grew by more or less the same amount.

India and China, though included in the study, offer a more confusing picture. China’s data may be unreliable: after showing slow but steady growth until April, membership dropped precipitously before rising by nearly 140% in the past month. The reasons for these spikes and dips are unclear, but may have something to do with China’s limits on access to the service. In any case, the proportion of China’s real population remains negligible.

India’s too is negligible, although it did rise above 1% in July and and has been growing by between 400,000 and 1.7 million people per month. In most other countries that would be noteworthy.

But while the data overall remain questionable—these figures are from Facebook’s own statistics, but are not transparent, and are based on where members say they are from or in—there are some identifiable trends:

  • Australia and New Zealand seem to have not only hit a limit in terms of percentage of their overall population who are on Facebook (45% and 41% respectively), but may actually have begun to decline. After recording impressive growth up until May, membership plateaued for a month or two before falling in September. Google Trends graphs measuring traffic to facebook.com in these countries seem to confirm this. (Australia; New Zealand)
  • Hong Kong and Singapore seem to be in a similar boat. While more than half of Hong Kong was on Facebook in July, and nearly 49% of Singapore was on Facebook in August, both populations shrank in September. Only five months ago both territories were recording double digit growth.
  • Thailand is still growing, as is the Philippines. But both are from low bases: Less than 3% of Thailand began the year on Facebook, although that has now grown to 8%. The Philippines has risen from about 10% of the population to about 18% in the same period, but growth in both has dropped recently from earlier rates of up to 25% per month.
  • Indonesia is an interesting case. Its membership, too, was surging in the first half of the year—twice growing by a quarter in the space of a month—but has slowed considerably in the second half. Indeed, its population seems to have plateaued at about 11% of the overall population. That pretty much covers the country’s middle class, according to my calculations. (I wouldn’t want to labor the point, but based on the latest ADB figures, Indonesia is remarkable in the way that Facebook has extended beyond what would usually be considered the middle class limits of an Internet-based service. Those considered to be middle class or above by the ADB is about 11.6% of the population, which is exactly where Facebook’s Indonesia population currently stands. The Philippines—at 18.25%, about 5 percentage points behind the ADB’s calculation of the country’s middle class—has a little way to go, while Malaysia’s Facebook population has space to double in size. Of course, this has a lot to do with the growth of the mobile Internet, which is another topic in itself. )

Previous Facebook data posts:

Facebook in Asia: A Limit to Growth? – loose wire blog

Facebooks Asian Growth: Not Everywhere is North – loose wire blog

Facebook’s Asian Growth: Not Everywhere is North

I’ve seen some posts recently suggesting that Facebook is not doing well in Asia-Pacific. This, for example, from Forrester’s Reineke Reitsma:

For example, Facebook is struggling to gain ground in Asia Pacific:

With 58% of online adults accessing it, Orkut is the leading social platform in metropolitan India, while 27% of Japanese online adults use mixi; and in South Korea, Cyworld is most popular, attracting 63% of South Korean Internet users.

I won’t quarrel with her stats, but I’d suggest she’s missing a bigger picture: Facebook is growing at quite a clip in many Asian countries. My figures, based on Facebook data—which doesn’t include Japan and South Korea, admittedly–indicate that in 10 Asia-Pacific countries, Facebook membership has been growing at an average of nearly 9% per month for the past five months. That includes Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, China and India.

By far the biggest growth is in Southeast Asia, with Indonesia growing at 14% per month, Thailand 15%, Malaysia 12% and Philippines 13%.

India is growing at a similar rate, but with a far smaller proportion of population: still less than 1%. Thailand is less than 5%, but 10% of Indonesians now have a Facebook account, as do 23% of Malaysians, 14% of Filipinos and 42% of Singaporeans. Only Hong Kong beats that, with 44% of the population having a Facebook account.

Hong Kong and Singapore join other developed economies at reaching a critical mass—Australia 38%, New Zealand 36%—where growth has understandably tapered off to 5% per month or less.

So while it may well be true that Facebook ain’t big in North Asia, it’d be a mistake to assume that’s true of the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. Facebook is still the one to watch, and showing consistent growth this year in all 10 countries I’m monitoring.

(This updates my post back in January on Facebook stats.)

Facebook in Asia: A Limit to Growth?

image

Here are the latest figures for Facebook populations in Asia-Pacific:

Country Users
Australia    7,395,200
New Zealand  1,279,260
Indonesia    15,254,060 
Singapore    1,763,340
Malaysia    4,155,880
Philippines    8,667,880
Thailand    2,000,320
Hong Kong 2,565,440
China    60,440
India 5,459,440

While there’s no doubt that Facebook is the premier social networking site in most Asia-Pacific countries, with subscription growing by about 20% in the past month in some countries, growth is tapering off in the developed economies of Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The figures, gathered over the past six weeks from Facebook’s own data, suggest that once about a third of the population is on Facebook, there’s not much more room for growth.

image

A comparison of Facebook users between November and January shows growth of 2.6% in Australia, 7% in New Zealand, 4.7% in Hong Kong and 2% in Singapore.

 

Australia

Hong Kong

New Zealand

Singapore

Proportion of population on Facebook

34.6%

36.77%

30%

36.44%

Growth, Dec-Jan

2.6%

4.7%

7%

2%

The Emerging Four

Compare this with the four Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand, where despite impressive growth Facebook penetration remains relatively low:

 

Indonesia

Malaysia

Philippines

Thailand

Proportion of population on Facebook

6.68%

15.4%

9.6%

2.97%

Growth, Dec-Jan

24%

18.3%

20.2%

20.1%

India and China

In India and China, Facebook has yet to make much of a dent: China restricts access to the service, while in India users make up less than half a percent of the population. With 5.5 million users, Facebook’s India footprint is smaller than the Philippines.

Country observations

What growth there is among Facebookers in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong comes from younger users, particularly the under 18s.

In Singapore, with the highest penetration in the region, is growing only among those groups with a small pre-existing share of users: Females over the age of 35, for example.

In Malaysia growth is being driven by teens: the number of females and males between the age of 13 and 17 grew by a third between December and January.

Indonesia is seeing growth across the board, particularly among males (there are 3 million more males on Facebook than females in Indonesia.)

Thailand’s Facebook population is still relatively a small proportion of the country—less than 3%—but is showing impressive growth, especially among the under 25s.

Google’s Suicide Watch

image

I don’t really know what to make of this, but I occasionally trawl Google Search Trends/Insights to see what people are looking for, and whether they’re changing much over the past few years.

This seems to me to be as good an indicator of things as anything else.

I did it back in 2005 with Web 2.0, the tsunami,the economic crisis and seinfeld and tina fey.

But how about this one: the rise and fall of the search for “commit suicide painlessly”: things had been pretty flat since 2004 and then suddenly, over a period of three or four months from October 2008 to March 2009, the index goes from about 18 to 100:

image

It’s not good to read too much into Google Insights for Search, but I reckon there’s some interesting stuff in here. For one thing, the spike is a real one. That’s no blip.

(I should point out that these figures are relative. What Google does is to take the highest point—the largest volume of searches for that term since they started saving data in 2004, and then work out the volume in relation to that.)

Secondly, by mid April things on a global scale return, more or less, to where they had been in August 2008, before the crisis hit:

image

But if you look at individual countries, the picture is more complex:

In the U.S., where the search term rose from a relatively low base (actually it shows up as zero, meaning not enough data) it rises to 100, and then falls back by April to around 20. Only in the past few weeks does it seem to have returned to where it was to start with:

image

Look at the UK, by comparison, and we’re not there yet: From zero it rose—a week or so earlier, apparently to 100 by January, and then dropped, but only to around 40. It’s now around 35:

image

In other words, if one could take this data literally, the British are still very depressed and are still likely to be exploring ways of committing suicide. That’s pretty scary.

By the way, if you take these figures and compare them with the official UK statistics [PDF], they don’t tell you a lot. Brits have been killing themselves less since the late 1990s (though without figures from 2008 until now):

image

This pretty much dovetails with the Google results, 2004-9

image

PS I should point out that I used the term above because, having searched for “how to commit suicide” on the Google Trends page, I noticed that “commit suicide painlessly” was a popular search, rising 190%. Confusingly, “how to commit suicide” has, as a search been trending downward since 2004:

image

PPS Google’s nonprofit arm does use its data for this kind of thing, at least in the area of flu. It now carries data on Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the U.S.:

image

The iPhone Dream

Shocking pricing from New Zealand’s vodafone, the first country to launch the iPhone 3G. A $200 iPhone? More like $2,000-$5,000 after charges.

As ReadWriteWeb points out:

Carrier greed worldwide is probably the major reason why the Mobile Web is struggling to take off.

You can’t blame them for trying to make some money while they still can, because that scraping sound is the rats trying to secure stowage on a sinking ship.

Vodafone NZ Charges “Like a Wounded Bull” For iPhone 3G – ReadWriteWeb

The iPhone Dream

Shocking pricing from New Zealand’s vodafone, the first country to launch the iPhone 3G. A $200 iPhone? More like $2,000-$5,000 after charges.

As ReadWriteWeb points out:

Carrier greed worldwide is probably the major reason why the Mobile Web is struggling to take off.

You can’t blame them for trying to make some money while they still can, because that scraping sound is the rats trying to secure stowage on a sinking ship.

Vodafone NZ Charges “Like a Wounded Bull” For iPhone 3G – ReadWriteWeb

The End of Blogging Utopia

Blogs are great, but is it just a vast honeycomb of echo-chambers, where we talk to and listen to only those nearby?

Author and funny guy David Weinberger comments on Ethan Zuckerman’s remarks (both interesting fellas, and well worth reading; David in particular an antidote to the relentless and humorless self-promotion of many A-list bloggers) about how blogging grows in the developing world, the bloggers there start to write for their local audience, muting the ‘Global Voices’ effect that was Ethan’s dream.

I’ve watched this happen in Indonesia in the last year, as blogging takes off and hits critical mass, in terms of writers, readers and commenters. Quickly the issues become more local, the discussion more localized, the topics less interesting to outsiders. This is probably being mirrored all over the world.

The truth is that Global Voices — where people write from different corners of the world, and are read all over it — is always going to be just a small minority. The distortion in the first five years of the Blogging Revolution was that this small minority was the blogosphere. These were the early adopters who helped introduce blogging to each culture by looking, and talking, outwards. As critical mass was reached, the later bloggers had no need, or interest, to ‘talk outwards’: instead they addressed a larger subset of the audience they knew and wanted to reach — the people around them.

It’s not that bloggers changed their audience as blogs went mainstream on their home turf. It’s that the bloggers who came later just saw the medium differently — as another tool to participate locally. And because they are in larger numbers than the early adopters, and because they wrote about stuff relevant to their peers, they became the new norm.

There are exceptions, of course. Some bloggers have an audience that spans borders because they write about issues that aren’t geographically constrained: Richard MacManus has built a thriving business writing about Silicon Valley from New Zealand; my old chum Ong writes as much about Malaysia as he does Indonesia (and if you think those two places sound like more or less the same topic you’d need to spend some time in one to know how far apart they are.) Even this blog has tried to address a perhaps overly large topic (technology and the individual) with limited success.

That’s because the general trend of blogging is towards the specific — writing about things that the writer cares enough about to write, and the readers enough of interest to stick around to help make the blog a success. But I don’t see this as a bad thing. The impetus in newspapers is the same — those newspapers that survive are going to be those who understand and reflect their readership, which means giving as much attention to their specific concerns — however banal — as to international events.

The point here is that we read blogs who write about things we care about. The truth is that we tend to lean towards the familiar, and attach ourselves to those who can best tell us what just happened to something or someone we know (Paris Hilton, our local football team) and point us to things we care about (the bus service, relationships, dogs.) This may often mean geographically localised, but actually it’s really about being culturally localised: We read stuff that speaks to us. If we’re interested in dogs, but more specifically the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, we’ll read anyone who writes about that breed, whether they’re down the street or in Vientiane. As in all things, we tend to blogs that write about what we care about.

I think this is not a bad thing. Blogs are compelling because they’re personal: They’re a window into people’s souls, because for some reason the lingua franca of blogs has become not pretension but authenticity. So we learn huge amounts about people and about ourselves from reading blogs (and blog comments, the afterglow of blogging). Of course it would be great if we included into our daily blog-reading diet stuff from places we’d not been, cultures and issues we’d not been familiar with before, but that’s a tall order. Only a few of us are wired that way.

We should thank Ethan and his Global Voices team for helping spread the word of blogs. But I suspect from here on the revolution is going to take on a life of its own. It may not be as heady and utopian as the early days, but it means the medium is putting down roots. Which means it’s here to stay.

The Blog-Browsing Worker

Is blogging kept alive by office-bound shirkers?

Some blogs get huge amounts of comments, which always makes me wonder: When do people actually find the time to write these things? I can understand folk adding a comment if it’s something work related, but if it’s a blog about soccer, this can hardly be considered vital to the office’s wellbeing. I was gobsmacked (UK English for ‘knocked back in my seat’ or ‘you could have knocked me over with a feather’), for example, to see nearly 250 comments on one blog posting over at The Guardian’s sportblog on whether or not Liverpool’s manager Rafa Benítez is “making a dog’s dinner” of his team. Vital stuff, as you may imagine, but 250 comments?

The good thing about The Guardian’s blog system is that each comment shows the time when the comment was posted and where the author is located. (This latter bit of information could be faked, of course, but let’s assume for the sake of argument it’s not.) So when do these people post their comments — on their own time, or their bosses’? (Perhaps this question has been better addressed in surveys elsewhere; if so, I’d love to hear about them, and will just regard the following experiment as a midly diverting pastime. I’ve seen less focused surveys by AOL, Advertising Age, CNET, Websense and The Guardian, but nothing that specifically mentions blogging or commenting.)

Allowing for time zones, and based on precisely one blog entry, I’d say the latter. Commenters generally seem to be doing it from work. Assuming a work day from around 8 am to 12 pm, a lunchbreak of around two hours (yeah I know that’s laughable, but we have to assume that someone reading and commenting on a blog between 12 pm and 2 pm may be on their break), then working from 2-6 pm, that’s where most of the action is, whatever timezone you’re in (this blog entry also has comments from as far afield as Canada and New Zealand.) Then for the hell of it I divided the rest of the day between 6 to 10 pm, as a sort of recreational period, and then 10-12 pm as a sort of post-pub haze, when we used to watch crazy kats on Open University but now surf the web. Then there’s the midnight to 8 am period, a twilight zone for commenters.

This is what it looks like, starting at midnight:

0-8       6.6%
8-12    20.3%
12-2    16.2%
2-6      39.0%
6-10      7.5%
10-12   10.4%

Or as a Sparkline:

Based on this very limited example (where comments — as usual — deteriorate into a slanging match between a few individuals) it’s clear that most commenting is done on work time, with the Post-Prandial Surf the most popular period. Despite the generous two-hour lunch window offered in the survey, fewer people made comments during that period than during the pre-lunch morning period, suggesting lunch time is too important to waste on reading blogs. And even if you only take the 8-12 and 2-6 periods as worktime, that still accounts for nearly two thirds of the comments. I’d say, based on this, the workplace seems to be the preferred blog-reading/commenting locale.

At The End of The Day, It’s All About Clichés

We journalists are a boring, predictable lot. Whether we’re in the UK, US or Australia we all use the same clichés. Well, cliché, actually: ‘at the end of the day’. Knowing I was a sucker for monitoring the Internet cliché Factiva (co-owned by Dow Jones, who owns WSJ, the paper I write for) sent me their findings, based on their text mining technology, on clichés in the media for the first six months of this year. Their findings: “at the end of the day” (uttered both by writers and presumably the people they quote) dominates all English-speaking zones.

Cliche

The phrase was used more than 10,500 times in the U.S. media, more than double the next most used cliche (“in the black”). In Australia it was used 2,183 times, more than three times the next cliche (“in the red”, intriguingly, at 679 times) while the New Zealand media used it proportionally more than either of them, 639 times against 147 times for “in the red”. (Clearly Aussie and Kiwi companies not doing so well this half.)

UK media was in love with “at the end of the day” too, at 3,347 times, but that less than double “in the red” (1,877 times) and only around double “in the black” (1,628 times).

Here are the clichés monitored:

a laugh a minute
a question mark hangs over
about face
all in due time
all the way to the bank
at the end of the day
bated breath
bend over backwards
better late than never
blazing inferno
braindump
brutal reminder
burn the midnight oil
business at hand
call it a day
carnival atmosphere
chew the fat
clean bill of health concerned residents
dead cat bounce
dog eat dog
eat your own dog food
firing on all cylinders
fly by night
freak accident
full-scale search
gang busters
horror smash
hot pursuit
in the black
in the nick of time
in the red
last-ditch effort
leave no stone unturned
left at the altar
level playing field low hanging fruit
nose to the grindstone
outpouring of support
rushed to the scene
shrouded in mystery
split second
survival of the fittest
tense standoff
the eleventh hour
think outside the box
time after time
time and again
time heals all wounds
time is money
time is running out
unsung heroes
up the ante
wealth of experience
wipe the slate clean

Seems like a pretty good list to avoid. You’ve been warned!