All original content of whatever nature created by Joey G. Alarilla and posted on this weblog is made available to the public under a Creative Commons License. Violators will be pummeled repeatedly on the head with a keyboard.
Friday, February 04, 2005
Had an enjoyable telephone conversation yesterday with Luli Arroyo, who called me up because of a few questions I e-mailed her a little over a week ago. She wanted to let me know that she got the e-mail but that she wasn't able to contact me immediately because she's been traveling within the country and was swamped with a lot of work. We ended up having a long conversation, exchanging our views on different topics.
Some might not know it but Luli's the Director of Operations of the Foundation for Information Technology Education and Development, which aims to increase IT awareness in the Philippines and promote ICT deployment in our schools. We first corresponded a few years ago when I interviewed her for an INQ7.net Philippine Internet anniversary special.
Since then, we've occasionally corresponded over the phone or via e-mail and other online tools, and I even wrote a story about her Amazing Race 5 experience -- she really likes that show. So anyway Luli and I ended up talking about a lot of stuff yesterday, ranging from recent IT issues, to FIT-ED projects, to biotech and agritech, to the use of online tools like blogs and Friendster, to gaming (which she confessed is one thing she hasn't gotten into).
Since this was a normal conversation and not an interview, I won't go into details. You'll be hearing about the FIT-ED projects in upcoming articles. I don't mean to sound like I'm gushing, sucking up or pretending that we're close, but one thing I've always admired about Luli is how down-to-earth she is. She's never made a fuss about being the daughter of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and she's refused any of the perks that come with her "status."
I'm not the only one who says this. I'm sure you've read or seen for yourself how she carries her own bags and uses the normal immigration queue, not the special one for VIPs. She rides cabs with her friends. She's never asked for any special treatment, and in a country like the Philippines where the padrino system is still rampant and many people, including government officials, legislators, celebrities, businessmen and members of media, demand perks not enjoyed by "ordinary citizens," Luli's attitude and actions are nothing short of remarkable. Even though she herself would wonder what's so special about not asking for special treatment.
As a journalist, I'm trained to be cynical. You have to be, since you get swamped with a lot of "praise releases," and of course vendors and their PR and marketing people want to present their companies and products in a good light. Nothing wrong with that -- that's what they're expected to do and they're just doing their jobs -- but we have to ask the hard questions if we want to make sure a product or service really works and is beneficial to users, and not just vaporware.
Yet here I am practically gushing over Luli, but let me make it clear that this isn't blind devotion or fanboy mentality at work. I'm not putting her up for canonization or anything. She's human and of course has her faults, but what I'm saying is that she's serving as a good model for how all people in power should act, just by being herself.
Maybe if we all stop obsessing over status and insisting on shortcuts, this country will truly get somewhere -- a lot faster.
"We really feel frustrated about the whole thing,” Alarilla had Leo Querubin, PCS special projects chairperson, saying. “Because sometimes you have good intentions, but some people really have negative feelings about this."
“In the end, I just had to say I don’t think this is worth the effort."
PCS and Media G8way had tried to assuage fears of “online critics” – aka bloggers – that the event was sexist and disparaging to females working in IT, Alarilla wrote in an earlier report.
But it seems PCS did not feel it received enough support to go ahead.
"If the compromise had been given a chance to work and we had pooled our efforts, I think we would have pushed through with this project. But sadly we received vicious reactions," Querubin was quoted as saying.
The Philippine Computer Society will no longer push through with its controversial Digital Pinay 2005 competition. Read this Breaking News story to find out why. (Well, at least the story was in Breaking News last night, hehe)
With all the twists and turns the Digital Pinay saga has taken, it might also be useful to see how it was viewed by media practitioners in other countries, such as the editors of the ITJourno Asia site. Since this site is only accessible to registered tech journalists, I'm reprinting their Epitome column:
Phil website slams rival’s beauty pageant
By Victoria Lea and Tan Lili
20/01/2005 11:50:00 AM
Writing for INQ7.net, Joey Alarilla detailed today how the IT 'beauty pageant' co-organised by tech publisher Media G8way is not proving an immediate hit with the ladies.
"A contest launched by the Philippine Computer Society (PCS) to seek out future women leaders in the Philippine information and communication technology industry has come under heavy criticism, with online detractors saying the contest is little more than a “glorified beauty pageant”, " Alarilla wrote.
The contest is Digital Pinay and, according to Alarilla's report, various women in the country's ICT industry are less than pleased with it.The women's concern centres on a) that the competition entry form includes a section on 'Bust' measurements and the like, and b) that they don't believe that looks and technology or business professionalism should be aligned in the same space.
According to Alarilla, an 'emergency meeting' has been called by the organisers to assess what their next move should be.
Ibarra Gutierrez, publisher of Media G8way, was quoted in the report, and managed to come off well, playing down any sexist overtones that may have been interpreted by detractors of the competition.
"I’m happy that the IT community is showing concern," Alarilla quoted Gutierrez. "After all, this is for the IT community, so the IT community should really be involved. The more heads, the better. So we would encourage more reactions, and we will respond to them. I went to the office early this morning, and I’ve already received a lot of e-mail messages expressing concern. I’ve promised to keep them posted and assured them we will be doing our best to address these concerns."
They also had a news item the following day:
INQ7's Joey Alarilla returned with more on the Digital Pinay story, this time writing that organisers of the women's ICT competition are pushing ahead with the gig, and defending its merits.
"As the PCS president, I would just like to make one statement: It is not a beauty contest," Monchito Ibrahim was quoted as saying.
Alarilla managed another good quote, citing the PCS special projects chairperson - the one taking the flack for the application forms including 'Bust' sizes - as saying:
"I screwed up."
I'm sure that different people will have their own interpretations about this whole saga, and I have to say that this was a somewhat difficult story to cover. As a journalist, I strive to be neutral, regardless of what I personally believe.
I know many of the people who got involved in this whole mess, though some only virtually. Mon Ibrahim and Leo Querubin are actually not bad people when you get to meet them, and they've cooperated in making information available whenever I called them up, even though they knew how the news could hurt them. They knew that the news would also be picked up by readers all over the world -- including the regional offices of the respective companies of the organizers. But again, this is nothing personal.
It was also difficult in the sense that one of the organizers of the event, Media G8way, is actually the publisher of ComputerWorld Philippines and other IT publications -- and as you can see from the headline of the ITJourno Asia Epitome column, it was all too easy for some people to think that our stories were attacks against a rival publication. Don't even get me started on the "Kapuso vs Kapamilya" conspiracy theories when I wrote about the Tantra hacking incident. (Tantra is an online game published by ABS-CBN Interactive.)
I've seen this issue from different perspectives. I've seen how the opposing forces seemed to be talking different languages and residing in different worlds, and how each side tried to communicate with the other. Remember that this all began with the online crusade of Sacha Chua, whose outrage launched a thousand blog posts. I thank Clair Ching for giving me a heads up. At the end of the day, I think both sides have learned something from this experience. At least, both sides should have learned something -- and should ask themselves some hard questions.
I'm curious about many things: Who is the mysterious person who actually made that infamous Digital Pinay application form? Why is it that, of the many who blogged, only four bloggers were actually able to attend the Digital Pinay public briefing? And why is it that, of all the IT publications, only INQ7.net and CEO Magazine bothered to cover that event?
As journalists, we joke that we're thick-skinned. We have to be. We get flamed, we get called names. When we write something that's true but which is not flattering to companies, and they happen to be advertisers, some of them would even call up the marketing and advertising department, asking if they could tell the editorial people to back off, in the mistaken belief that as advertisers they're somehow sacred cows.
All you journalists out there, you know what I'm talking about. But that's part of the deal. Nobody said it was going to be easy. Sure, you get to enjoy some perks -- what job doesn't, and anyway, those in other fields have their own gripes as well. A lot of the time, however, it's a thankless job.
One of the most useful sites for tech journalists is ITJourno Asia. The site, however, is only accessible to registered users, who are IT journalists from across the region.
It gathers news, white papers and other online resources from all over Asia. What's great about it is that it also gives you a regional perspective.
The site also has the daily Epitome column, which spotlights the stories from different Asian IT publications. Guess which publication was featured prominently today? Our new gaming site, hackenslash.
Here's the Epitome column:
Calling all games publishers
By Victoria Lea
01/02/2005 11:35:00 AM
Will the region's gaming industry open its heart - and wallet - to the brand new gaming website, Hackenslash?
There are reviews, there are forums, and there are occasional reports in the technology section of newspapers. But for too long there has been no reliable breaking news source on that very sexy industry, games.
Yes, we’ll always hear everything we need to about HP’s new regional VP. Or Maxis Malaysia’s new line of this. Or Creative Singapoire’s new line of that. But where’s the goss on the regional Asian gaming industry? Who’s on the out? On the in? Shattered on the cutting-room floor?
Following Friday’s hard launch of INQ7’s Hackenslash website, set to feature breaking news about the Philippines’ gaming industry – along with a promise to squeeze in some regional news reports – Epitome hopes this might be the start of something positive for the region's entire gaming industry.
Regular news-breakers Erwin Oliva and Alexander Villafania – both of whom often file up to four times a day – will now be on the hunt for industry gaming news, to file on INQ7’s new baby, Hackenslash.
Whether they can manage the new workload with ease – or whether indeed there is actually enough of a gaming industry to feed a breaking news site – remains to be seen. And it is that latter question which makes the Hackenslash experiment an important one for the region's media.
For a start, the Hackenslash boys will not have it easy. Existing Philippines print gaming titles – branded by Hackenslash editor Leo Magno as containing too much imported content (see accompanying story) – will naturally hike up their local content. And online, IT Matters, rival to Hackenslash mother site INQ7, has already taken to upping its gaming industry content over the past few months.
But what will prove hardest to conquer will be the size of the reaction of the all-too-vulnerable Philippines gaming industry itself, beautifully described in an IT Matters story yesterday on a crisis in the nation’s gaming industry. “Last year, Netopia said that of the total 500,000 online gamers in the [Philippines] last year, 99 percent played foreign games,” wrote Kerlyn Bautista. 12 new online games will be introduced into the nation this year, she continued – and “All of the games will be imported”, leaving “little to zero” chance for the development of the country’s local
Bautista was actually filing from an INQ7-organised event, suggesting just how close the game will be for rival reporters to stake out a competitive beat here. And while Epitome wishes good luck to those hungry reporters and their editors, she also hopes that the country's - and the region's - gaming industry will open not just their phone lines but their wallets to the teams.
If the AsiaPac is to steal a space at the world's gaming table, it will be, in no small part, through the region's media, through local websites like IT Matters and Hackenslash, which then gradually throw the word to the regional press such as CNETAsia and the wire services.
It is obviously essential that the Philippines games industry get behind projects like Hackenslash. We hope that support happens sooner rather than later, and that the industry make its intentions clear at the start that they will support, to their best ability, a portal for and about their very own growth and success.
Apart from this column, ITJourno Asia also had a full-blown story about hackenslash today:
INQ7 slashes a national first for RP
By Tan Lili
Gamers in the Philippines are now armed with what INQ7.net claims is the nation's first and only locally-produced news website on gaming, Hackenslash.net, which is already hunting down freelance writers.
Launched last Friday at Cyberpress’ gaming forum 'Plug and Play', Hackenslash describes itself as a commercial website offering breaking news on the country's - and region's - gaming industry.
“No website currently offers this, because in the Philippines, the game-related websites you’ll see are community sites composed mainly of blogs and discussion boards,” claimed Leo Magno, editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s IT section, VP of INQ7.net, and 'Final Boss' of Hackenslash.
Another differentiator of the site is that Hackenslash will be all home-bylined while, according to Magno, other Philippines online and print gaming publications take a significant percentage of content from the US and Europe.
"It all boils down to the local perspective," Magno told ITJourno. "Even our game reviews take it from the Filipino perspective, [because] not all video games in the international market appeal to Filipinos."
The launch also boils down to timing, Magno mused. IDC Philippines has reported that, come 2008, internet users will soar to 21.5 million in the region, with 6.3 million online gamers. Spurred by this prediction, Magno feels the “timing could not be more perfect".
"The timing is right and putting up hackenslash was just the logical thing to do," he said. Like its publisher INQ7.net, a news website with breaking news from joint partners Philippine Daily Inquirer and TV station GMA7 TV, Hackenslash will do the same through both its news stories and its gaming newsblog, GameBlog, which can be updated 24 hours a day.
“We will leverage on the news strength of INQ7.net and translate that into gaming news about the local and even Asian gaming industry."
Hackenslash’s editorial team consists of Magno, Alexander Villafania, Joey Alarilla, and Erwin Oliva, all of whom are writers for INQ7.net’s technology section, Infotech.
In an article on INQ7.net, penned by Erwin Oliva, the VP of business at INQ7, Ramon Lizardo, admitted that generating revenues would be one of the challenges faced by the Hackenslash team. But Magno was upbeat about the possibilities of finding revenue for the new project.
"We have seen an upward trend in advertising revenues despite gloomy predictions about the industry," he claimed."This is primarily because about three years ago, the market in the Philippines was too small and advertising was spread out across many websites. Three years later, many of these websites have died out, and INQ7.net was left standing to reap the benefits."
By following the exact same strategy as mothership INQ7, Hackenslash will also succeed, Magno argued.
"The online gaming business in the country is booming ... and game publishers are looking for an online medium where they can advertise. So the timing is right.
"By 2008, three years after the launch of hackenslash, and by the time IDC’s predictions come true (if at all), we would realize the benefits of putting up the gaming website because we’re sure the ad revenues would have flooded us by then, the same way it did for INQ7.net."
Still, the Hackensalsh sales team will look to other revenue generators outside pure advertising, Magno admitted, such as partnering with online gaming centres and publishers, in deals in which he declined to comment further upon at this stage.
So what of the title that some might say is disparaging to those gamers who want more depth than a hack or a slash of their enemy?
According to Magno, the website's title was chosen to reflect the core of games, and of the gaming industry.
“Hackenslash seeks to get to the heart of games and the heart of the gaming industry by hacking and slashing away at the fluff and noise and going to the core of the game or what’s important about a gaming news item,” Magno explained.
"It takes a look at the heart of the game and what makes them good or bad."
Magno is now on the lookout for more contributors and an editorial assistant for his new creation; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yup, hackenslash is here to help spur the growth of the Philippine gaming community, and the rest of Asia is watching what will happen here.