Filmmaker Siok Siok talks about Twittamentary and the Chinese Legend that is Twitter


tansioksiok_twittamentary_socialnerdia_show"My whole approach to making this film is similar to open source web development," said Tan Siok Siok when I asked her about Twittamentary. On the most recent The Social Nerdia Show!, I had a conversation with her to talk about this unique documentary, which she referred to as a "project about Twitter using Twitter to make it happen, and the power of the real-time web."
Listen to the entire conversation with Siok Siok on the Flash player below. You can also subscribe on iTunes, stream from mobile phones on Stitcher, and listen to upcoming LIVE shows on blogtalkradio.

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Siok Siok explained that traditional filmmaking is "very secretive" because it is important to keep the idea away from anyone who could steal it. "What's unusual about this project is that we crowdsourced it," she told me. From ideas like a "meetup road trip" to mobilizing people to "generating leades for the shoot," the Twitter community has made it possible for many to get personally involved. One such example happened in Denver, CO, where Siok Siok's team was stranded at a bus station at midnight. Someone read her tweets and soonafter picked them up and let them stay with him for the night. "The film shows that Twitter works."

Most people have not been immersed in Twitter enough to see its value and many are still skeptics. Siok Siok herself found it a bit pointless at the beginning. "I thought it was the weirdest application in the planet," she explained. "There's a bunch of people talking out loud, to no one in particular.. it's a very weird idea, really bizzarre." But with some time, "day after day, you really do become friends with others... it opens up an entire world just by talking to someone from a different nation, group, niche or language."

Siok Siok is originally from Singapore and she spends about half of the year in China so we talked about how people adopt and use social media differently around the world. While Singapore "comes very close to the West in their use of social media," it is not as easy to get on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube in China "because you have to use a VPN." What may be surprising to many is that "even without the blockage the Chinese have a preference for local sites." While many of us are used to the big three social networks, Siok Siok shared that there are "a dozen clones of Twitter focused on different niches" in China.

"The people who use Twitter in China are the globalized tech elite at the top of the pyramid and they tend to be bilingual," said Siok Siok. That doesn't mean that Twitter isn't known though because "the rest of the population have heard about it.. it's like a legend for those who don't have any friends who have actually used it."

Those relatively few Chinese who are on Twitter have a chance to express a bit more fully than we do. "Chinese is a very economical language," she told me. "You can say much more in 140 characters than in English.. much more complete thoughts."

If you'd like to get involved in Twittamentary, reach out to @SiokSiok on Twitter or visit the web site so you can submit your story and nominate others.

Copyright © Esteban Contreras. All rights reserved.