This summer, Apple made a technical pricing error on its website and it was noticed by a young man in Taiwan, Tseng Hsien-chun (Sam), also known online as Samtz. He blogged about it, and it became Apple’s NT$1 billion (US$31.25 million) mistake. The power of the internet to move the masses can be seen in this and several recent examples. These examples were the topic of a special report in an August edition of Taiwan’s Business Weekly.
Tseng, 31, a contracted assistant in a small research organization, found a design error on Apple’s official website on July 23. He realized that as long as three options were checked, the shopper could purchase a Macbook at a 60 percent discount. Instantly, the news exploded in the community of Taiwan’s largest 3C Web Mobile 01.
In a few minutes, dozens of subscribers visited Tseng’s blog. In ten hours, his blog was visited by thousands and within 20 hours, more than 40,000 orders flooded Apple’s official website in Taiwan, paralyzing the customer service lines. Under pressure from the people who placed orders, Apple eventually agreed to stand by their 60 percent discount.
Spotlighting the plight of farmers in Dapu
Tyrannosaurus (web nickname), 48, was an unemployed computer engineer for four years. After being dissatisfied with Taiwan’s news media, he decided to become a citizen journalist. In the past two years, he and his trusty camcorder have proceeded to make a name for themselves.
In 2009, farmers of Dapu, Miaoli County (central Taiwan), appealed to the local government not to turn their farmland into an industrial park. On June 28, the local government sent 20 bulldozers, escorted by hundreds of policemen, to dig up rice paddies belonging to the farmers who refused to settle.
Tyrannosaurus recorded and posted the video of the Dapu incident on his blog. And it was picked up by the CNN website. On the 34th day of the incident, some 2000 students and farmers staged a demonstration in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei. The following day, President Ma Ying-jeou expressed his concerns, and the farmers have since been offered alternative land as compensation.
In the real world, Tseng and Tyrannosaurus are just ordinary people, said the Business Weekly, but they have made use of different platforms to assemble the masses, setting off a domino effect against a multinational corporation and the government.
Modern networking at work
Now, more and more people are actively expanding their network to increase their professional competitiveness. Well-known blogger KDite is another good example.
She uses Google reader to collect the latest information from her subscription to over 200 international blogs about new technology, internet development and management. She rewrites and posts these stories on her site, which attracts at least 4,000 subscribers every month.
With growing numbers of subscribers and her networking influence, she was offered several management positions and finally decided to work at HTC, the largest smartphone maker in Taiwan. She is now a senior manager leading a 50-member team and earning four times her previous salary.
Alternative to mainstream news
The Business Weekly also wrote about Cheng Kuo-wei. Five years ago when he was a graduate student at National Chung Cheng University, Cheng started to translate stories from Global Voices, an international community of more than 100 bloggers. He focused on blogs and citizen media that offered stories outside of mainstream international news.
His translations attracted a high volume of visitors and he was asked to set up a Chinese edition of the Global Voices. Cheng became a powerful voice in championing the down-trodden. His role as an information integrator led him to release news that mobilized bloggers. He now has one of Taiwan’s top blogs.
Speaking to a generation
Wu Da-wei worked as a young engineer during the day, but at night, he is Z9, the host of the PTT bulletin board system, the largest Bulletin Board System (BBS) in Taiwan with more than 1.5 million registered users.
Before, a talent scout would need to spend a lot of energy and marketing resources to cultivate a superstar, but now Wu can do it just by surfing the internet and clicking his mouse. Earlier this year, he posted an article on the BBS about young beauties at National Taiwan University (NTU) and National Cheng Chi University (NCCU). He coined the terms “NTU Thirteen Sisters,” and “NCCU Four Imperial Concubines,” which later became a sensation in Taiwan’s media. Perhaps as a result of his recent fame one of the NCCU Four Imperial Concubines is now his girlfriend.
Wu does not write often, but when he does, he is able to post topics of interest and controversy that speak to his generation. With his influence, he has served as a consultant for companies like Nokia, Microsoft, Samsung, Vieshow Cinemas and Fox Movies on how to successfully market to college students.
A leaderless movement
Chen Shun-shaw, associate professor of the Journalism and Communication Department at Fu Jen Catholic University, made the following observation about this new power dynamic. First, this is a social grouping without an organization, without a leader, so you do not know whom to negotiate with. Second, even though members of this networking group never meet, they have a common goal, and set rules. They can be mobilized for action in an instant.
“It is the largest organizational change since the Industrial Revolution,” said Chen. In Taiwan, there is no longer a need to rely on large organizations to mobilize a group of like-minded people.