Her Voz

Its not all a game…or is it?

Life of a gamer online is very long lived. It amazes me how well gaming has evolved with the internet. Massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs), like Mafia Boss, Clan Wars, Halo 3 and Fallen Earth, receives millions of hits online.

Users have built social communities online, featuring blogs–forums–videos–reviews–chats–and new streams fully devoted to gaming. MMORPG.com and Scrawlfx.com boast a million global users in one month, with average users being between the age 18–34.

The advancements in online gaming are far from my Super Mario BrothersNintendo system. The last time I pick up a controller I was around seven–years old and really not as interested as my older sister. I have always sought passive entertainment—like watching a movie or reading—which require little to no effort.

I admit MMOGs have not been on my list of entertainment in the past, but the Wii fit has been extremely tempting these days. Training modes—like Yoga, strength training, and aerobicsbody mass indexing, and calorie checks are a few needs that kept me at the gym, but that could all change! Well under the $600 gym membership, Wii fit is a small preview of how gaming continues to advance and reach the masses.


Google––Be afraid be very afraid!

Google is like the silent army growing its troops—increasingly stronger and dangerous. Capturing billions of personal data and preferences from individuals all over the world, Google’s market edge grows stronger by the day. It’s hard not to take notice. Even Microsoft’s chief executive, Steve Ballmer, acknowleged the power Google possesses—Google blocked Microsoft’s deal with Yahoo.

Now its eyes are set on Amazon and its aggressive pricing strategy (intent to sell e-books were made in New York at the annual Book Expo convention this past spring).

Think about it—nearly every email sent, Web site accessed, and search made is recorded and categorized. Google has the power to classify a Web site poorly, release data you once thought was personal and short–lived, and reveal information that is so advanced even the government has had to cry out for help.

On a personal note:
Google has become a main part of my everyday life—work and social. Set as my default page, Google Search taught me web design, how to cook sofrito from a master chef, and even allowed me to travel to land’s unknown. It’s the only search engine I use—almost like cheating on a boyfriend––I just couldn’t, maybe he’ll find out!

From Google Maps, Translate, Labs, Reader, News, PowerMeter, Wave, Videos, Trends, Adwords, Analytics, Voice, Search—Google has completely enhanced my life experiences and brought me to a world I would have never known existed. How is it possible? Google’s free and easy to use features, make it hard for me to not be compelled and I am pretty sure other unsuspecting users would agree.

To Learn more about Google’s efforts go to googleblog.blogspot.com

Prescription Drugs: Take Two and Call me in the Morning.

My mom laid in bed for two months with an illness that required her to be hospitalized this past summer. She’s much healthier and the sad days are over, so I don’t mind touching briefly upon this tragedy.

I remember going to the pharmacy to fill her eight–page prescription list, which was given to me by her doctors. Waiting and hoping they could fill all eight of them—the same day, I was shocked when the clerk told me the total would be $700. That was about $650.00 more than what I had expected! Just for giggles I inquired how much the insurance had paid. She said over $5,000 dollars. “Wow is that how much medicine costs these days,” I questioned. Prescription costs was something completely out of my realm of thought before this summer.

Well imagine my interest when I stumbled upon NPR’s article, “Selling Sickness: How Drug Ads Changed Health Care.” Author and Journalist Alex Spiegel stated, “Prescription drug spending is the third most expensive cost in our health care system. And spending seems to grow larger every year… In a decade and a half, the use of prescription medication went up 71 percent. This has added about $180 billion to our medical spending.”

“Well, it isn’t me being cheap! I am not selfishly thinking how I reluctantly just spent $700 on my mom and postponing my trip to the Dominican Republic,” I thought.

But wait why? The answer lies in the advertising —the revolutionary change that medical advertisers rejoice over.

Joe Davis and William Castagnoli had experimentally changed markets for a medicine called Seldane , which changed the way medical advertising targeted medicine users. Describing the success received by targeting the patients, who could demand specific drugs—instead of targeting doctors, Joe stated, “Our goal was maybe to get this drug up to $100 million in sales. But we went through $100 million,” Davis says. “And we said, ‘Holy smokes.’ And then it went through $300 million. Then $400 million. Then $500 million. $600 [million]! It was unbelievable. We were flabbergasted. And eventually it went to $800 million.”

So how do we—the consumers—keep the costs down? According to the October 8th News Report on Pharmaceutical Care Management Association’s (PCMA) Web site, here are three helpful tips that could work for you, “Greater use of mail-service pharmacies, generic medications, and a thorough medication review with a physician to determine other available prescription drug options .”

I hope it works, for my pockets and my mom’s health! (Report back later.)

The Power of Presence

Today, started off as most other days—cup of tea, check my emails, read my inspirational verse of the day and lastly the blogs!

Having made my way to Latina.com, I reached their entertainment poll—“Did Calle 13 Go Too Far?” Interesting, but go too far how or doing what?

Before I answer, I must give some readers a brief introduction to Calle 13:
Taken from wikipedia, Calle 13 can be described as “a five–time Latin Grammy Award and Grammy Award–winning Puerto Rican hip hop and alternative–reggaeton duo formed by half–brothers René Pérez Joglar and Eduardo José Cabra Martínez.” They are best known for the diverse musical style that fuses jazz, bossa nova, salsa, tango, electronica, and cumbia. “Reluctant to label their music to a specific genre,” Calle 13’s front man Rene Perez Joglar, also known as “Residente,” does label their music, “full of sarcasm, satire, parody, and shock value.”

The question “Did Calle 13 go too far” was not only ignited by Residente’s choice words, but also his selected wardrobe during the Latin MTV awards–––2009 Los Premios. Watched by millions, the 2009 award show received much controversial attention. Calle 13’s actions took stabs at Colombian President Uribe, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Puerto Rico’s governor Luis Fortuño.

Disagreeing with Uribe’s somewhat conservative alliance with the US—taking on leftist rebels in a blood bath of massacres related to drug trafficking; also insulting Governor Fortuno’s decision to layoff 8,000 public workers on the island of Puerto Rico, Residente sensationalized current political and global issues.

As a result, Mayor Jorge Santini of San Juan and Bogota’s Mayor Juan Manuel Llano, striked back by canceling Calle 13’s major concert venues throughout both San Juan Puerto Rico and Colombia. In an effort to censure the artists, Mayor Llano stated, “Manizales has decided under no circumstances or for any reason can this group take part” (Manizales Festival).

Watched by tv, reported by newspaper journalists, and discussed on blogs and other Web sites, this topic has caused a global multimedia stream of discussion. Was Calle 13’s front–man, “Residente,” simply practicing freedom of speech—creating political and social awareness of global issues in Latin American countries? He is in fact entitled to his opinion. Or was his opportune time, which platformed his views, too offensive and absolutely insulting?

64% Say: “No way! It’s great to see one of our stars spark an important discussion. There’s too much going on in the world for us to just ignore it.”

Whereas 36% Say: “Absolutely. No one should talk smack about someone else’s mami! He could have protested in a less offensive way.”

One anonymous voter, shared his/her views by stating, “Uribe fights terrorism 24/7/365. His father was killed by terrorists. His statements were not only ignorant but highlighted the lack of historical knowledge and true facts that is so emminent in the minds of socialist individuals in South America;”

Residente followed in the dangerous path of many former artists like the Dixie Chicks and Sam Cooke, which cost ticket sales for some, and even life for others. No doubt risky, but I have seen it before and am quite glad young audiences were exposed to it. Awoken to the growing turbulence and reality some Latin American Countries and their citizens are facing.

To read more on this topic:
USA Today: P.R. Union Leaders Clash with the Police

NY Times: Colombian Town Cancels Concert Over T-Shirts

Latina.com: Did Calle 13 Go Too Far?

Blogamole: Calle 13 Gets Slapped in the Face with Concert Cancellations


Your table is ready!

When its time to celebrate—my friends and I do it with taste. When its time to travel—my agenda is filled dates. When it’s sadly boring—my stomach hungers for it. Food that is! From back–alley, home–classic, or even high–end: there is always a time for tasteful criticism.

My hobby is amateur restaurant critique.

It’s not just the taste, but the interesting reviews—lead by diverse palettes—and conversations that come out of food recommendations. Its almost a sport for my friends and I. After we venture out to restaurants we use an adapted version of the Good Food Guide rating, just for laughs and to draw–out the goodtimes we just had.

A web site my pals and I find ourselves referring back to is devoted to restaurant and hotel reviews: Guy-Oh—www.guyot.com and the guyot blog. A leader in the food review industry, it has a review for almost any restaurant possible. The site was created by Andre Guyot and his family.

Unsurprisingly, there are tons of sites dedicated to food tasting reviews. Even a general search of “food review” results in 364,000,000. An even slightly more specific search of “restaurant review” results in 72,900,000 Web Sites.

Zagat is another leader. Similar in setting to Guyot.com, Zagat allows individual commentary and ratings. The major difference from guyot.com, is the consumers—and only the consumers—provide/share personal ratings and commentary. There isn’t one true leader. The web site states, “Zagat Survey has empowered consumers by providing them with a vehicle to express their opinions,” which it hopes is empowering people and providing a collective voice for smart decision makers.

Another site that comes top of my research list is urbanspoon.com, which has five contributors in every major city in the U.S. It also collects consumer reviews, but also major critique reviews from New York Post Magazine, LA.com, etc.

A lot of the other sites—like dine.com or fodors.com—fall short. They seem more like a restaurant registry than a site for other amateur restaurant critiques like myself.

Indeed there are tons, like mycity.com, which host business mixers and local events or my personal favorite seriouseats.com/eatingout—this site is good when you just want to read about unique experiences and restaurants/eateries you wouldn’t find on your own.

I found grabyourfork.com, which was officially rewarded Best Food Blog in 2007, memoirs of a chocaholic, the passionfruit, and foodbuzz. All but foodbuzz are personal blogs that seem to share my same personal hobby. Eating good food and sharing their experiences.

Foodbuzz.com is one of the most interesting sites I found. It is a social networking site for food bloggers. Currently it hosts over 10,302 food blogs. The purpose of the site is to connect bloggers by restaurant experience and create a linking/networking system. One can search blogs or see whose “buzzing,” in which restaurant bloggers are linked to a specific restaurant. Just search for a restaurant, any restaurant, and there you will find similar bloggers and their commentary.

Food has always been a vehicle for experience. Whether its traveling to New York to prove guyot.com’s poor rating of Sofrito’s restaurant wrong or just kicking back and reading about other people’s experiences, the table is always set!

Laying down the groundwork.

The social world online is filled with conversations and ideas from people all over the world––creating a massive amount of networks. In order to protect these individual users and their growing social networks––from individuals and companies seeking to exploit and prey upon their rights to share and socialize––a Bill of Rights for the online social world is necessary. Just what would I want in my Bill of Rights for the social web to include?

When I think of a Bill of Rights I think:
Declaration of liberties
Asserting fundamental rights of people
Ground rules
Statements that establishes human protection

Bloggers and tech gurus, Marc Canter and Joseph Smarr, two of the pioneers in the effort to create and promote a Bill of Rights for a social web, have proposed three key components: Ownership, Control, and Freedom. Of course this has created a ground–floor for others to debate. Blogger of Read Write Web, Josh Catone advocates the protection of personal data, which he states “should include personal data like your age, interests, location, and who you associate with, and attention data like the DVDs you’ve viewed, or the blog posts you’ve read.” This brings up a good point! Just how many people should know how obsessed I am with a certain actor on CSI Miami by the amount of my youtube video views of the show?

Blogger and architect of the cross-browser library xWinLib, Steve Repetti, expounds upon protection and the originally proposed key components, by adding his key elements––privacy, usage, and control; users having the right to share and take–away not just personal data but also posts. Shouldn’t I be allowed to delete my anonymous post to an ex-boyfriend––that I really didn’t intend on sending––without someone tracking it?

I must agree with the originators. Ownership. Control. Freedom.

I just can’t help to wonder about how much protection of my personal and usage data will be given/allowed without restriction. Isn’t that what its about? Would companies, even the company I work for––that relies on online lead data––allow users to opt-in and opt-out certain and or all data from social sites at our own will? This topic––a Bill of Rights for the social web––has created buzz. I hope it creates more than a buzz! I hope it creates laws and universal standards for companies and networks to follow, so that individuals don’t feel like prey in our own homes on our computer as we express ourselves.

Global Connections

Thursday night, I listened intently as Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas broadcasted the nightly news of Latin America — nothing from the norm of any night at 6:00 p.m. in my house. Except this night Noticiero Univision (Univision News) captured my attention even more. Univision featured the National Commission for the Society of Information and Knowledge (NCSIK) president, Jose Rafael Vargas, reporting a 69.4 percent internet-access increase in the Dominican Republic. Over two-million Dominicans have joined the world online this past year, which is a triumphant victory for the impoverished island.

(It would be no surprise I’d listen closely to news about the Dominican Republic, but this time the news had captured my attention even more.)

Earlier in the day, I followed the Twitter feeds that covered the Center for Social Impact Communication’s (CSIC) panel discussion at Georgetown University. The topic of the discussion was the Pan-African role of digital communications and social media (key points were posted online for those not able to attend).

The panelists offered facts including, “internet growth rate in Africa is about 800 percent,” which proved to be pretty impressive, but is really only a five percent penetration rate in Africa. The highlight of my reading was a comment by Rohit Bhargava. Founding member of the 360 Digital Influence Team at Ogilvy and author of award-winning publications, Bhargava stated, “the future of ‘Brand Africa’-continues to see rise of individual stories, different from the continent as a whole.”

Could this be the same around the world and not just in Africa? Is there a worldwide increase of individuals joining online discussions and sharing their individual stories? Yes, and now more than ever. The numbers presented by the NCSIK president and panelist members at the CSIC discussion had proven this fact to be true.

It became more relevant when I thought how this personally related to me. Just this month, my cousin — a new member of Facebook en Español — had traveled to Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala and posted very beautiful images on his Facebook account of Lake Solola. Separated by thousands of miles, we shared real-time messages about our lives and experiences; just like we were chatting at the neighborhood bus stop during the good-old days.

The more and more I follow this new social media trend, my interests become centered on global development. The online communities we are forming are not only with our neighbors and closest friends, but with individuals from many different walks of life and geographical locations. These individuals share common interests and stories, yet live diverse lives.

I hope the web development successes of the Dominican Republic and Pan-Africa translates into other geographic locations!

One stands out above the rest.

The question was posed: “How many theses does the Cluetrain Manifesto actually present?” After trying to find the top seven or even an ambitious top ten, I then tried to extract just three. This attempt met failure!

There is essentially one theses present in the Cluetrain Manifesto; the rest of the 95 theses can be considered aiding text/claims—sort of like the Assistant to the Director or the supporting-actor in a blockbuster movie.

The first of the Cluetrain Manifesto’s 95 theses states, “Markets are conversations.” This assertion is like the timestamp for the other 94 theses—or for my own enjoyment “the other supporting acts”—leaving a reference point. It is true as markets we want person to person interaction, companies need to talk with a human voice, and even as employees we are still part of the market that want companies to speak the same language and listen. BUT these arguments still support the higher claim that markets are building and maintaining conversations.

Markets, are speaking with emotions, opinions, and feelings, which Levine argues enables pools of people to interact in a way that wasn’t possible during the mass media era. Companies that choose not to interact with this community of “smarter, more informed and more organized” individuals will agreeably die—as Levine and his cohorts suggest in theses number forty.

We the “market” are human–beings with a desire to express ourselves and interact with each other. In a quarterly survey for Harvard Business. Ruder Finn remarkably found evidence that supports Levin’s ninth theses (“These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge”). Part of the results showed, “Seniors are going online today for the same reasons younger people are: to have fun (82%) and to socialize (80%).” This finding is an echo of statements and actions by online–users, which should not just be considered by corporate executives—who still try to target markets with monotone, computer generated promotions—but acted upon.

Essentially Levine and his cohorts got it right the first time—“markets are conversations.” The sad part is companies “seem to be speaking a different language.” Will they ever make the connection and join the conversation? That’s the question that for now remains a mystery that deserves a watchful eye.

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