Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rediscovering connectivity through Multiply

If one or more of your blogging friends are now using Multiply.com as their new platform, you should not wonder why. These days, Pinoy [Filipinos] Multiply users worldwide are multiplying and are rediscovering the new meaning of connectivity.

“I believe that Multiply redefined blogging for many Pinoys. Filipinos are known for being family oriented and social butterflies,” says Verner Marcaida (http://truejedi.multiply.com), a civil engineering student of the San Francisco State University, USA. “Many of our family members or friends are either home in the Philippines or have migrated to other countries or are working abroad. Multiply enables us to bridge that gap and we're able to keep in touch despite of physical distance.”

Multiply is one of the latest blogging platforms that surfaced since Blogger.com emerged in 1999 to revolutionize the weblog. Multiply is more than just blogs. It’s a complete web site where anybody who could type could easily set up an account and upload and share photos, reviews (books, movies, restaurants, anything), videos, classifieds, links, recipes, and music. Launched only in March 2004, the company learned from the limitations of the most blogging and social networking formats by incorporating all the functions and capabilities that many bloggers are crazy about.

Bloggers usually tend to have several blogs and platforms. A typical blogger would have one for his personal musings using Blogger.com or Wordpress, one for photos using Flickr.com, and another platform for book or movie reviews. The same person may also have either Friendster or Myspace account for social networking and sharing of videos, and photos and music. These networking platforms usually have an internal email that allows the networks of users to easily communicate with each other. With Multiply, one could have all these functions just under one roof.

And more. Multiply’s founders have seen something that others have failed to see—people’s need for certain levels of intimacy or closeness.

“We founded Multiply.com with the belief that there was a more meaningful use of social networks than just meeting people which is primarily what most other social networking sites are for,” says Michael Gersh, Multiply, Inc., vice president for sales and marketing through an e-mail interview. “Rather than have a site designed for building your network, we felt that focusing on your real-world social network would provide a great forum for actually communicating, sharing photos, videos and blogs, and keeping in touch with people you actually truly know, directly or indirectly, and that actually care about you and your life.”

“Prior to Multiply, I've used different platforms to keep in touch with friends and family back home: Friendster, Xanga, Blogspot, Myspace, Facebook, just to name a few” says Marcaida. “Each platform offers a different role, one mainly for blogging, one for photo sharing, the other for meeting new friends, while a couple of these platforms tried to combine these roles. Multiply has made all these so much easier into one platform.”

It appears that many of those who are using Multiply are bloggers who are frustrated with the thought that only few people are reading their blogs. Unless, a blogger is famous, and has gathered enough “fan base”, she or he could hardly attract readers. Millions of blogs are updated each day without getting read. And those people who do read blogs don’t bother to post comments. Multiply tries to address this “problem.”

Carla (http://moncie1102.multiply.com), a Fil-Am student at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois (USA) says she used to blog at Blogger.com but she stopped after her brother introduced her to Multiply. After establishing her own network of contacts who are also Multiply users, she is now happily interacting with them. “There are really only a few who know I had a blog. “Unless you ask someone to link you on their blogs, they wouldn’t be able to know you have one.”

“Blogging on other sites or other blogging platforms is more about sharing things with everyone out there, the public at large, people you don't really know. The reality is very few of the people you are most interested in seeing your blog reads it,” notes Gersh.

He explains that on Multiply, when you add a blog entry, a notification is sent to people in the network via its unique social-network based message board, and when somebody adds a comment to your blog the message board also updates.

“Most of my friends use this site now. Not just the ones in the Philippines, but in every corner of the globe,” says Marcaida. “A couple of my cousins who serves in the US Navy uses Multiply to communicate with us how they are doing. I was also able to get in contact with a number of friends whom I haven't seen since grade school through the close knit network or contacts of other friends in Multiply. Whether family from Manila or friends from Bucharest, online blog sites enable us to keep in touch. Multiply is that vehicle that makes it so much easier to do so.”

Multiply—just like most blogging and social networking platforms—is free. People who prefer bigger bandwidth and flexibility, however, may upgrade to a paid account where they could customize and personalize their sites.

“I’ve been blogging for years now, but I never encounter such blog sites that give you these much options—blogs, photos, reviews, videos, and classifieds—for free. We have to give Multiply credit for that,” says Arwin Manalanzan (http://fir3torqu3.multiply.com), regional sales manager of the Hongkong-based Tremis Corporation that sells production equipment for the film industry. “The only thing that makes me sad is that free users don’t have much option to modify their site, just like some of us did before the big upgrade. Anyway, it is understandable because, they need those paying customers to keep this network up and running,”

Gersh said that Multiply currently has over 2.3 million registered users and still counting. Excluding the United States, the Philippines is one of the firm’s fastest growing foreign countries, making it the 10th most popular sites in the Philippines, according to Alexa.com that monitors web traffic worldwide. And it’s starting to bring a lot of individual Filipino Multiply users worldwide into a much bigger network.

One of the biggest and fast growing networks in Multiply’s “culture and community groups” is called “Pinoy Kami” (http://filipinocommunity.multiply.com), an online community of Filipinos and their friends all over the world. The group’s sites features discussions on Filipino culture, current events, and topics on Filipinos could “improve ourselves as a people.” The site has often become a sounding board on issues that help Pinoys worldwide define their “Filipino identity” in the age of globalization and the continuing diaspora.

Last week’s discussion at Pinoy Kami for instance dwelt on the tendency for Filipinos abroad to be mistaken for some other nationalities as if the Philippines does not exist on a map, an experience which—according to Jopie Quijada (http://theicequeen.multiply.com) who now lives in Folsom, California—could be an irritating experience. “I get it all the time,” she said. “I could only shake my head.”

Complains Lalaine Chu-Benitez (http://lalaineb.multiply.com), a marketing executive in firm based in Dubai, over Pinoy Kami site: “I live in the Middle East and used to travel a lot for work. I'm often mistaken for a Korean. Guess why? It’s because I look decent and travel on business. The foreigners commenting probably mean it as a compliment (in some weird kind of way), but I feel it's demeaning to Pinoys. But here's a dilemma—which one is more exasperating, that outsiders are ignorant or biased, or that we Filipinos haven't really done much to upgrade our global image?”

Chu-Benitez, however, thinks there is hope. “I'm amazed when I see Pinoys [Filipinos] in forums such as Multiply, calling on kababayans [countrymen] to unite and initiate positive change. It's not a lost cause. I guess we just have to be serious and do something about it systematically,” she concludes.

Chu-Benitez’s optimism may not necessarily be idle chat. No one may have realized it, but Multiply could actually serve as a very fast and efficient communications tool that could reach tens of thousand of people within the network with just one click of the mouse. Using Multiply’s message board for instance, one Multiply user with 40 contacts could simultaneously deliver messages to more than 8000 people in just a second or two, making it a very potent tool for advocacy or information dissemination. So one could just imagine how information could flow in a network of a thousand people globally!

The founders of Multiply, Incorporated may have established the company to make money, but they may have inadvertently created a platform that could yet usher in social change.

2 comments:

J. Angelo Racoma said...

Dave,

Sorry I wasn't able to reply sooner to your Multiply questionnaire. That was one hectic week! Make that two! I'd been juggling projects and personal commitments left and right!

Cheers and congrats on the great analysis!

Angelo

http://racoma.com.ph

Anonymous said...

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