Lessons from 3.11 #01: Twittersphere under Great East Japan Earthquake

A week from now on March 11, 2014, we commemorate the 3rd anniversary of Great East Japan earthquake.
I still remember how I was in the depths of despair only three years ago. Before the earthquake, Japan was anxious that GDP of China will finally surpass that of Japan; the TV news was repeating that neither Japanese population nor the GDP will be on the uptrend again.
Then, on March 11 came the earthquake.

Above is the vieo, I took. I was in Shibuya, Tokyo. Tokyo is about 375Km (or 233 Miles) away from the seismic center: about the distance between Manhattan to New Hampshire (i.e. passing over Boston) or between Paris center to Stansted airport in the north of London. It took a couple of minutes until the tremor hits Tokyo but still it had this much power. And this was only the starter. We had uncountable aftershock after the first wave, how could we not think it was the doomsday?

Above is an animation I found on YouTube that shows all the tremor that happens in 3 days between March 11th and 13th, 2011; wait until the counter hits 2011/3/11 14:46 and imagine being in Tohoku where most of the electricities and the phone lines were gone.
We could hardly imagine that Japan would play a key role in world economy again.
But most of Japan except for Tohoku has recovered since then. There is still a long way ahead for Tohoku and even longer way ahead for some areas in Fukushima.
That is all thanks to people around the world who supported Japan and I think Japanese ought to share some of the lessons we have learned in that earthquake.
After all, I believe that earthquake was one of the most digitally archived natural disaster in human history. And not only Japan, but the whole world can learn so much important lessons from it.
You may ask how digitally archived it was.
Well, first of all, there are so many YouTube video, Flickr, Picasa and mixi photos of the earthquake and tsunami because smartphones and digital cameras have large penetration all over Japan, so we had the mean to archive the real disaster.
Then, there was Twitter which perhaps became the most used IT service after the earthquake.

Twitter: the Communication Tool for Natural Disaster

Actually, Twitter had been the tool communication tool for earthquake even before the big Earthquake on 3.11. You know, in Japan, we have earthquakes more often than many other countries; even in Tokyo, we have at least three or four earthquakes that we can feel plus more than a dozen smaller ones that we don't feel; perhaps, there were less before 3.11.
In anyway, even before 3.11, whenever an earthquake happens, people using Twitter would have immediately launched Twitter App on their smartphones and check if it really was the ground that was shaking or if s/he was just feeling dizzy and tweeted "shaking!" (in Japanese.)
Many people in Japan understand the real time value of Twitter so well that they didn't type long words, so sometime, we could visually witness how the seismic wave transmits. For example, if I see a guy in Shizuoka city tweets "shaking" and then, another friend in Kamakura city tweets "shaking" 30-40 seconds later, I would feel the earthquake and tweet "shaking" about 20-30 seconds later, or something like that.
There are also many (ro)bots that would automatically tweets information about earthquakes.
Facebook and mixi weren't as efficient in spreading and gathering info of so many people in such a timely manner because they are optimized for communication within closed groups and because it would let you describe so many other things with more than 140 character that by the time, you finished writing, everybody would forget about the earthquake and moved on to the next topic.
Also, because the thing you can do with Twitter is so limited, it was so easy for newbies; many people in Japan heard, Twitter is helpful right after the earthquake, and those people started using Twitter as one of their first internet communication tools after e-mail (e-mails on feature phones had been a very popular tool for a long time even before Smartphones came along). Today, Google+ may come after Twitter for the ease of setup & ease of use; but I think Google+ is too complicated (you can do too much) for novices, especially for elderly people (people in the tech industry should understand more feature = more to learn before you can use it).

So when 3.11 happened, Twitter was the natural communication tool of choice for the many. And although the connection over major phone operators were too congested, many business people had portable Wifi connections that they could use.
They used it to share/find out what's going on around them; there had been tons of amazing conversations going on from a girl asking for help from under the collapsed brick wall to cafes in Shibuya opening up their space as temporary shelter, etc.
As one of the recommended users of Twitter chosen by Twitter, Inc., I have 200,000+ followers on my Japanese language account @nobi and I had gone thru some amazing conversations but I will pick those up sometime in a later post.

In this post, I would like to focus on some of the most important lessons, I have learned.

Tracing Back the Info

Under a catastrophe, people panic and tweet info that would only cause confusions.
For example, I saw a Tweet by a girl shouting "big Tsunami is about to hit Sendai!"
(I may be making it up a little bit because I can't find the original).

@SomeJPGirl: big Tsunami is about to hit Sendai!

That Tweet had been retweeted so many times that even though I was not following her, the tweet came into my eyes.
It was way after the Tsunami took over the Sendai airport; I was shocked to hear the Tsunami is hitting Sendai again.
I took a careful look into her Twitter account to see if she is in any danger.
Then, I realized right after that tweet, she was tweeting "I have to find a way back home (in Tokyo) from Shibuya station (also in Tokyo)."
So she was not even in Sendai. She was stuck in Shibuya station and was watching the news of Tsunami hitting Sendai on a public TV.
She has done nothing wrong and she didn't intend anything harm, but the context will become very important in such circumstances.
And because the influence of information is so big under catastrophe, IT literate people shouldn't just respond by reflexes, but rather take some moment for careful investigation before tweeting or retweeting.

Time Stamps

People were exchanging information about the aftershocks, update info by government and public services; that day in 3.11 (and for at least two weeks after that), there have been too many of those.
And every time, an aftershock hit their cities or every time an important announcement has been made, people tweeted. And many people retweeted.
Later, there were too many similar tweets that people started to get confused which is the latest info, especially Twitter would only show approximately how many minutes or how many hours ago, that tweet was made.
So many people started to suggest to put a time stamp within tweets, so people can tell which info is more recent; actually, today, you can bring your mouse over the Twitter's official time stamp and it will tell you the time and dates, that tweet was posted.

Today, if you move your cursor over the Twitter's time stamp, it will reveal the exact date/time.

Importance of Official RT

In the English and other languages using phonetic alphabets, you can express so little in 140 characters.
But in Japanese, we use a mixture of phonetic alphabets and ideographs (a character is worth a word in English or sometime, it has more than one meaning). Because of this, we can express so much in 140 characters; the laws of physics (or linguistics) are totally different in English Twitter-sphere and the Japanese Twitter - sphere.
Gengo.com, a Japanese startup that provides multi-lingual translation services, used to translate tweets of famous figures in Japan into English and vice versa. My English twitter account @nobi_en belonged to them until January 2014 and all of the tweets there prior to that date were translated by their services.
Matt Romaine of gengo.com, once told me a full 140 characters tweet in Japanese would translate into three to four English tweets.

And because of this, we often nested a few tweets in one (i.e. Embedded a few tweet-quotes within a single tweet), so we can share the conversation with many more people.
Even some English speakers are doing this today by adding "MT" (stands for Modified Tweets) before the quoted tweets.
But these modified Tweets will cause a big confusion under catastrophic situation.

First of all, it will kill the "time stamps."
Let's say you saw the tweet by the Tsunami girl in Shibuya (my prior example) and felt the urge to warn friends in Sendai.
With your habit of modifying a tweet, you might tweet:

@SomeJPBoy: Friends in Sendai, please evacuate! MT @SomeJPGirl: big Tsunami is about to hit Sendai!

By this tweet, the traceability of the tweet has moved a step further.

There was a girl under a collapsed wall whose only mean to cry out for help was the twitter app on her cell phone. Her tweet has been retweeted so many times (I've retweeted her, too).
A few hours later, I saw modified tweets about her was still circulating around.
It looked something like this:

@SomeJPBoy: if there is any rescue team near XXXX city go rescue her! MT @SomeJPGirl: Help me! I am under collapsed brick wall near XXXX, I can't move!

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年03月05日 | Permalink

The tales of Steve Jobs & Japan #04: Woodcut by Goyo Hashiguchi on the face of original Mac

"Woman Combing Her Hair" by Goyo Hashiguchi exhibited until May 25, 2014 at "Fascinating Japanese Woodcut Print" exhibition at Yokohama Museum of Art

Old Mac fans may recognize the picture in the middle.

It's "Woman Combing Her Hair," a woodcut print by Goyo Hashiguchi which is exhibited right now at Yokohama Museum of Art at their 25th Anniversary "Fascinating Japanese Woodcut Print" exhibition (ends May 25, 2014).

You recognize this picture because it was used as the face of the original Macintosh.

It was one of the first pictures to be shown at introduction of original Macintosh:

It was also used on the cover of the manual for MacPaint, of course.

FREER | SLACKER Gallery, the Smithonian's museum of Asian Art even has picture of Steve Jobs pausing on a Mac with this picture on it (according to the blog post on the gallery, Jobs visited the gallery each year):

Click to jump to FREER|SLACKER Gallery's article "Japan: the Apple of Steve Jobs’ Eye?"

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年03月03日 | Permalink

LINE re-invents itself at LINE 2014 Showcase

"BEYOND LINE" was they key concept for their annual press event

In a press event titled "LINE 2014 Showcase," LINE executive team announced they will redefine three of their core services.

"LINE is in good shape" said Takeshi Idezawa, COO of LINE. During a recent outage of WhatsApp, downloads of LINE has surpassed that of WhatsApp.

"As of today, 360 million users are using LINE. We are confident that we can reach 500M by the end of the year."

LINE COO, Takeshi Idezawa says, they will pass 500M within 2014

As chief strategy and marketing officer, Jun Masuda took over the stage, he said "LINE has succeeded beyond people's expectation. It has expanded beyond the expected user base, beyond the national boundary (of Japan) , etc... Just like that , we kept shifting our shape. We believed that we kept evolving. However, users and media began to form a fixed image about what we do. Today, we are changing that. And we are doing it with three new services. The keyword that bond them all is 'beyond LINE'."

1st of the three announcements was their signature "Stamp" service.
While most of the other messaging services are designed for text-based communication (with a little bit of emoticons), LINE, from the ground up, is designed to help intimate communication full of emotion, atmosphere, sense of timing with friends.
In doing so, they used what's Japanese are good at: MANGA (cartoon)-like character stamps.
Using these stamps, younger generation (and those people with younger hearts) can exchange their feeling without a single word and pass a really good time while they are distant away.

Here is a correspondent (fee inquiry) between me and a friendly editor Ms.Nanjo

There is LINE Stamp store that distributes both free and paid stamps.
LINE fans are willing to buy (or gift) stamps that his/her friends might not know; and this was creating a healthy business model for LINE.

Partner companies of LINE were selling stamps to promote new goods, new movie, soccer team (such as FC BARCELONA and REAL MADRID). Even Paul McCartney was using line to promote his live performance in Japan.

But today, LINE is going 'beyond LINE' and changing that.
Up until now, only selected few companies were able to provide original stamps; but today LINE is opening up an International "Creators Market" for their stamps.
It is just like the AppStore or GooglePlay but they will only sell stamps (i.e. graphics. minimum set of 40). LINE will charge 50% of the sales.

LINE executive believes this will create a whole new market for illustrators and cartoonists.
Jun Masuda, also believe this will help LINE's growth in countries other than Japan.
He said every country has its own culture and own way of expressing thing. LINE had worked hard to do the best in Japan and that served many international customers alike. But as of today, creators around the world can help make LINE a better communication tool for their countries via LINE CREATORS MARKET.

Registering for the creators is free and open at: creator.line.me

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年02月26日 | Permalink

The tales of Steve Jobs & Japan #03: Yukio Shakunaga, Steve Jobs' Favorite Porcelain Artist

It is well-known that Steve Jobs is a Japanophile.
It is also well-known that Steve Jobs admired great artists and craftsmen.

Among the many artists he loved was Yukio Shakunaga, a porcelain artist based in Toyama prefecture, Japan.
Jobs found the work of Shakunaga while he was having a vacation in Kyoto.

Shakunaga's atelier is in Toyama prefecture, 330Km (or 200 mi) away from Kyoto but he was having a week long exhibition in a gallery in Kyoto.
"Etchu Seto-yaki" is the kind of porcelain Shakunaga makes; Etchu is the old name of Toyama prefecture and "Seto-yaki" is the kind of porcelain he makes.

Jobs just walked in the exhibition with his wife, Laurene Powell; he liked Shakunaga's work so much and bought several Japanese tea cups and flower vases. More over, he visited the exhibition three times during the one-week exhibition.

It was still in mid-'90s. Steve Jobs still worked for NeXT, Inc. and Shakunaga had no idea who Steve Jobs was but was impressed by two things: Jobs' searching eyes and deep interest into his works.

After Steve Jobs has passed, Shakunaga's daughter, Yo Shakunaga, has posted an anecdote by an author, Shizuka Kanaki:

Yo's blog: Steve Jobs and Etchu Seto-yaki

According to that story, Shakunaga's niece was there to help the exhibition and she was the only person who recognized Steve Jobs.
She was explaining to Shakunaga that "having Steve Jobs visit the exhibition is like having John Lennon purchase a tea cup there. And uncle, you've even talked with Steve Jobs for so long. That is so amazing!"

According to that blog post, sometime, speaking and hearing didn't work for Jobs and Shakunaga, so they relied on pens and papers. But Jobs kept asking so many questions.
And most of Jobs' questions were about the clay used in Shakunaga's work.

Shakunaga explained to Jobs that he used "Hakudo (White Clay)." Jobs was so curious about this "White Clay" that he almost visited Toyama. But then, he reallized it will take three hours just to get there and gave up.
Although most porcelain artists buys clay, Shakunaga starts his work by digging his own clay. Kanaki believes that sort of craftsmanship may have impressed Steve Jobs.
And Jobs' strong interest impressed Shakunaga.

The correspondence between the two continued even after the exhibition.

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年02月11日 | Permalink

The tales of Steve Jobs & Japan #02: casual friendship with Sony

It is well-known that Steve Jobs is a Japanophile.
It is also well-known that Steve Jobs was a big fan of Sony.

In the book, "Insanely Simple" by Ken Segall, the godfather of "iMac" disclosed how Steve Jobs wanted to name that product "MacMan" mimicking "Walkman."

Akio Morita, the co-founder of Sony was not featured in the 'Think different.' ad campaign but he has always been a hero for Steve Jobs.
I remember Jobs giving condolence on his passing.

Steve Jobs giving condole sense to Morita at iMac DV introduction/Click to watch video

Steve Jobs and Akio Morita

While Jobs adored Morita, Morita also adored Steve Jobs.
"There are actually two American youngsters Morita was particularly fond of and took good care of: One was Michael Jackson, and the other was Steve Jobs" recalls Kunitake Ando, the ex-president of Sony, Inc. According to him, Morita, often invited them to Sony and gave them personal tours.

Because of this close relationship between Jobs and Morita, Apple and Sony was in a special relationship all along the way. The two companies had been very close even during Steve Jobs' absence. The two companies have worked closely on some projects. For example, Apple's QuickTime team had helped Sony develop their ATRAC audio file format. And ex-QuickTime architect directed some of Sony's Cybershot digital camera projects.

The relationship between Apple and Sony became even stronger when Steve Jobs returned to Apple and it continued on, perhaps, until iPod became such a huge success and Howard Stringer took control of SONY.

Mac-compatible VAIO

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年02月05日 | Permalink