Archive for February, 2007


February 14, 2007 Leave a comment

By Yuszela Yusoff, BuzzCity Manager, Content & Community

Hi. My name is Yuszela and I head up the team that creates new features for myGamma. Before moving into the mobile space, my background was in multimedia design. I used to create websites and interactive applications.

If we were actually using myGamma right now, I would probably ask you to write a testimonial for me. Call it vanity or competitive spirit, but more than 4000 new testimonials are posted on myGamma each day. The number of testimonials received is listed on a user’s myGamma profile and members with the most testimonials are featured on the Rankings page for each country.

This is a popular feature across the board, but nowhere like in Thailand. One member, a 19-year-old Thai lady from Bangkok who uses the login “Beautiful Life”, has 7,456 testimonials. I only have 92 (but those are through my myGamma admin account!).

What really excites me about what we’re doing here at BuzzCity is that we’re spearheading some of the best applications on WAP. Take Gamma Life for example. We modeled this after multi-player online role-playing games and bill it as “a virtual passport to fame, power and privilege”.

At each stage, you need five to six items to advance. We created levels so it would be clear to players that they are climbing the ladder. You start off as a child and at each level, your character ages. As a kid, you collect toys; as an adult, you’re after more expensive items like a briefcase and PDA. We control the supply, releasing a limited inventory of new virtual goods at a pre-announced time. As you can imagine, this creates a rush on popular items.

When we were planning Gamma Life, we wanted to create a game that would force players to interact and that would make the service more “sticky”. At first, we just came up with the items to collect. So if a member didn’t feel like chatting, they would have something else to do. That’s how Gamma Dollars (G$) came about. Each item is priced in G$ and the higher you climb the ladder of life, the more an item is likely to cost. Users can trade items. They can even transfer G$ – but only within the same country because a G$ costs more to purchase in British pounds than it does in Thai baht.

Once a myGamma member has become an active Gamma Life player – with a large collection of virtual stereos, camping equipment and more – he’s unlikely to quit our service – because once he ceases to be a member, he loses everything.

The real trick to Gamma Life though is that you can’t buy anything for yourself. We didn’t want to create a game where the richest G$ members have an easier climb to the top. So we added the rule that someone else has to give the virtual items to you. This forces players to meet more people. You actually need several friends to advance, because at each level one person can only give you two items. This creates situations where several users team up to advance quickly. However, just as in the TV reality shows, these alliances can shift.

There are currently about 30 levels of Gamma Life. We’re planning for 45. And just in case you were wondering about our 19 year-old Thai friend, “Beautiful Life” – she’s a Level 30 Gamma Life player!

Yuszela Yusoff

Categories: myGamma, Yuszela Yusoff


February 9, 2007 Leave a comment

By Lai Kok Fung, BuzzCity CEO

red_and_white The time between the western and lunar new years is a good period for reflection and at BuzzCity, we’ve decided to take a fresh look at how we communicate with people interested in mobile communities, like the ones being created everyday on myGamma. We strive to not only create the world’s best platform for mobile-generated user content, we also want to be thought leaders – taking a look at trends both within the industry and inside our own business. So starting today, we promise to update this blog regularly (we did a poor job of that in the past). Look for a new entry once a fortnight. Sometimes I’ll be the primary author; other members of our executive team – like Hisham and Yuszela– will also contribute. In every case, though, the entries will reflect collaboration. Not every word written will be mine – or Hisham’s or Yuszela’s for that matter – our communications team will play a role putting our conversations into print.
Now on to business . . .

There’s a growing trend in the social networking space. Companies with a solid internet foundation are expanding into the mobile sphere. Just this week, MySpace announced a deal with Vodafone that will enable cellular customers to access and update their MySpace pages from mobile phones.

Talking about the tie-up, John Smelzer of MySpace parent company Fox Interactive Media said “Our goal is to empower our audience to connect and interact with our sites whenever and wherever they choose.”

Colin Digiaro, a MySpace executive adds “millions of people use MySpace as their primary means of communicating with family and friends, so it’s vital we make this available on the move.”

I’m not going to predict the success or failure of this particular joint venture, but I do believe that the logic behind Mr. Smelzer’ and Mr. Digiaro’s comments is misguided. People who use mobile phones for social networking are not the same people who use the internet for social networking. Let me say that again: people who set up pages on sites like MySpace are generally a distinctly different group of people than those who use mobile social networking services like myGamma.

In some countries, this is because of infrastructure: computers and broadband access are expensive. Mobile phones are relatively cheap. And mobile networks are growing exponentially, linking huge numbers of people in countries like China, India and South Africa like never before.

Even in places like the US and UK with good broadband penetration, we find that the people who prefer mobile networking are individuals who don’t use computers a lot. Maybe they don’t like to spend their time in front of a computer screen or perhaps they work on their feet or are always on the move.

At BuzzCity, we made the same mistake in the beginning. We thought of the phone as an extension of the computer for social networking. However, after being spoilt with a big screen and computer graphics, we realized that most people don’t want to use phones to write blogs or update their Friendster pages.

While tie-ups between businesses like Vodafone and MySpace will encourage cross-over, I still think segmentation will be the real story. More than 1.5 million people now use myGamma, including tea merchants from Assam, stuntmen from Hydrabadi film studios and rural Thai farmers. The pattern is repeated across countries where market stall holders, property agents and waitresses are creating moblogs, placing classified ads to buy and sell goods, downloading games, looking for work and communicating via email for the first time.

With the lunar new year less than two weeks away, I found myself scanning the Chinese horoscopes. For people born in the Year of the Pig, this is supposed to be a year of mobility. For a company like ours – that connects people on the move – that sounds like good news!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Lai Kok Fung

Categories: Lai Kok Fung