Web 2.0 meets Puerto Rico

A friend of Dondequiera asked recently how the Internet could emerge as a valid marketing channel. My immediate reaction was good luck with that, but on second thought I said to myself, "That is a legitimate question! What would it take?"

However like anything I've ever done, before I can answer that question I need to obsess over, err I mean define, the background, context, and boundaries of what a possible answer might exist within. So in a series of posts, I'm going to answer, "What it would take for local marketers to embrace the Internet?"

The Web 2.0 experience in Puerto Rico

For me, a good place to start is to assume that the Internet is a wonderful marketing tool that helps many companies create powerful relationships with consumers. Recently this tool has transmorgified into being synonymous with Web 2.0. So by transference, let's assume in an overly generalized way, that successful Internet marketing relies upon Web 2.0. So a great question to answer is how has the Puerto Rican Internet community reacted to the Web 2.0 trend?

So, right there, IMHO, we've hit our head with a hammer. In general, again IMHO, the Puerto Rican Internet community has, with the exception of watching YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace, wholly ignored the Web 2.0 trend. There are pockets of participation, and you know who you are, but they are the extreme minority. So why is that? I think I've deduced the answer.

Unfortunately, it always seems to come back to this, but I believe that a zero-sum mentality prevents participation by the Puerto Rican Internet community. For those of you who haven't already read my rants about zero-sum theory. In game and economic theory, zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s). The metaphor that is used to illustrate this theory is the pie. Imagine that everything we do can be symbolized by a pie. A pie that has already been divided up into pieces, and someone owns each of the pieces. There is no pie left over for new participants.

One of the characteristis of the Web 2.0 trend is the free creation of user generated content. Whether that content is photographs, videos, web pages, blogs, comments, etc., they all must be freely provided by the creator (user). The motivations for providing these free contributions vary, but some of the more compelling are recognition, creating realtionships, status, and self expression.

Let's examine some of these motivating factors. First, we must exclude creating relationships, because Puerto Rico is a face-to-face socially dominated culture. Hence one of the biggest culture shocks I've had since I got here. When discussing the trend for people to pay bills in person, I was told, "You don't get it. For Americans going to the bank is a transaction, but for a Puerto Rican it's a social opportunity." In some ways, this also explains why we should exclude self-expression, because that is done through conversations conducted in person (or more likely, on the cellular phone).

So we are left with status and recognition. In many social circles these characteristics are considered as important, if not more important, as money. As an example, IMHO, there is nothing more important in Puerto Rico than the perception that you are wealthy or important, or that you are closely related to someone that is. So if we can assume that status and recognition are as closely guarded as money and power, than it is clear why we don't participate in the Web 2.0 culture.

By contributing my content to your website for free, I'm essentially giving away my pie for free. Then, not only will I have less pie, the owner of the website will have more pie. As a dominate characteristic of our local business culture, we must therefore extrapolate that a zero-sum mentality exists when Puerto Ricans meet the Web 2.0.

Flickr Creative Commons Contributor: Vita Arina

6 comments:

The Insider

20 de marzo de 2009, 15:32
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dijo...

We need to get Puerto Rico to Web 1.0 first. Web 2.0 is a bit of a *mashup* of buzzwords, with different people defining it in different ways. Perhaps I might be more enthusiastic about it when I return from the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco at the end of this month (TBD). We'll see. Maybe not.

For now, many businesses and organizations (like schools for example) could benefit from something very *old* in the Internet time frame: email lists.

You win me as a customer and yet you have no direct ability to contact me, even though I've already given you some of my money.

I don't care if 3-4 weeks has past and you want to remind me it's time for a haircut, or you're liquidating electronics at Pitusa, or the church is having Bill Mayer as a guest speaker... If you have my email, then you can broadcast it.

Note: I received an email from the office of the governor of my home state last week, requesting all business owners to provide feedback on how the state can improve Information Technology to help support businesses. I doubt we're going to get anything from Fortuno's office here for a long time.

People here are certainly using email, and Facebook numbers seem to be reasonably high. I see a lot of Puerto Ricans actively using it as a social medium, despite a possible need to pay their electric bill at the bank. ;)

Yet - businesses, the ones who stand to gain the most in financial terms, lag behind to their own detriment.

How many of the *private* (aka special) schools even have a 1 page website up in the West here in Puerto Rico?

Web 2.0? Nah... Puerto Rico still needs 1993 technology when it comes to the Web.

MC Don Dees

20 de marzo de 2009, 21:38
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dijo...

Insider, you're right. I've often thought that PR would eventually move through Web 1.0 and not stop at go nor collect $200.

But my friend specifically asked about getting companies blogging and creating communities, so that zooms things ahead to Web 2.0.

I'll get to the Facebook anomaly soon. But I'll have to give the credit to my partner for initially pointing out the difference. But I'm jumping ahead.

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

Anónimo

12 de noviembre de 2009, 09:38
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dijo...

Thanks for this post.

I agree there is a zero sum mentality in Puerto Rico. Let me share some examples.

I'm a software developer that uses a specific platform. There are few people in the island who develop with the same platform. And only a handful are truly specialized in it.

I recently contacted someone who specializes in the platform, a peer, with the idea of networking and possibly working on projects together. I asked her for her phone number so we could talk about the platform. She responded by asking how did I get her info, and if I knew other people in the island working with the same platform, and then she launched a marketing campaign.

We never talked on the phone.

I interpreted her mentality as "someone is smelling my pie, a competitor! could there be more of them? And his website is better than mine, I need to boost my image to compete!"

So here we have two sole proprietors, specialized in the same platform, working on their solo-projects. They have the potential to unite and venture to take on bigger clients, in and out of the island, to develop products, to attend conferences and represent their country, to make better profits, to train other people; to create a bigger pie for all.

But everything is wasted from the start because we fear to loose our pie, we fear to be entrepreneur.

Another example is when peers from the island contact me with questions about the platform. So far, each one starts by boasting how many years of experience they have in the IT field.

"I have 30 years of experience in IT, I started programming in COBOL" . In other words. "Hello, I've been this eating this pie longer than you, you can nibble on the crumbs but remember I'm the veteran here, now help me for free".

Zero sum mentality is real in Puerto Rico. I have experience it in the field of software development. But fortunately, there are many people who get it, and are willing to work for success that benefits all.

Thanks for your blog.

p0p

MC Don Dees

12 de noviembre de 2009, 11:19
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dijo...

Your welcome p0p!

Yes, I have seen and lived exactly those scenarios, and many more. I would point out that zero-sum shows it's ugly face in many more circumstances than just software development. I would even go so far as to say that it is everyone's "nature" by now.

I appreciate your kind words and your patronage. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

The Insider

12 de noviembre de 2009, 13:24
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dijo...

So p.0.p - I have to play Devil's advocate here:

As a software developer, did you give up when you were met with objections? As an entrepreneur, knowing the landscape, did work on your pitch beforehand?

Knowing the situation, I can imagine their brain would compare your call against both the (a) "Oh my God - someone like me is out there", and (b) "Oh my God - someone wants to take me out". If the market were more mature, they would be able to examine it less skittishly.

In Silicon Valley, the call could mean either thing. Here's a MIL - make your stuff better. Or what can you tell me about your stuff before we annihilate you.

All in all, I say re-work your pitch and call them back. ;)

Remember - you have to make sure they'll actually help you and not hold you back. After all, a software developer is a software developer. :P

The Insider

12 de noviembre de 2009, 15:40
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dijo...

Perhaps this might be relevant to the discussion:
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/06/28/sales-guy-vs-web-dude/

:)