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Friday, June 17, 2011

Malaysia’s ‘stupidity’ sizzles Internet

By Casey Lee | FMT

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia, it seems, is fast becoming the purveyor of laughs on the worldwide web.

On the heels of the Obedient Wives Club which aimed to turn ‘good wives into first class whores’, there’s now the Malaysian government spending RM1.8 million (US$590,000) on six Facebook, which incidentally is free, applications.

The Internet application (app) developer world is abuzz with humour and bewildement at the ‘stupidity’ of the move.

The common view across the web is that the move to spend just over half a million US dollars is “seriously stupid” and an “utter waste of tax-payers’ money.

Speaking in Penn Olson – The Asian Tech Catalogue site – Willis Wee said in an article headlined “Spending US$100,000 For a Facebook App is Just Plain Stupid” and many other experts in the business think so too.

Wee said he forwarded the news about the Malaysian government’s largesse to Preetham Venkky, the Business Head at KRDS India, one of the Facebook authorized app development firms in Asia, to seek his opinion on the matter.

Preetham’s reply was that spending RM1.8 million (USD$590,000) to develop six Facebook applications was ‘impossible’ and ‘seriously unjustified’.

He said: “For an app like Citrawana (one of the six) to costs close to US$100,000, this is impossible since the app is pretty straight to the point.

“The money paid is seriously unjustified. It should cost anywhere between US$12,000 – US$15,000 inclusive of two iPads being given away as prizes.

He added that “these costs would include (to quote directly) – “creative works, concepts and ideas, design, flash programming and coding, testing and debugging, uploading and launching of application, system server development and maintenance, and development of database from the contest.”

Potentials not exploited

Earlier this week, the Tourism Ministry, through Deputy Minister James Dawos Mamit, set off a storm when it revealed it had paid that amount for the Facebook apps.

In his reply, Venkky said it was important to note that based on the minister’s statement “cost did not include campaign management, monitoring, Facebook ads, or fan recruitment through Facebook and Google”.

“In most cases, the costs can escalate quite rapidly if a key deliverable is fan count.

“If there’s a target to acquire one million US fans for the page (this could be a realistic expectation since the client is a tourism client) where the CPC (cost per click) is US $1.10 (on average) then it might be a good deal.

“If I were to make a guess, I think it would make sense if $90,000 includes the development of six apps with the remaining money spent on media (buying ads) to propagate and rapidly increase engagement,” he added.

Venkky was also shocked at the quality of the apps that were developed which, he said, did not fully utilise the full potential of the social network site and was not encouraging more ‘fans’ to ‘like’ the pages of the Tourism Ministry.

“The agency hasn’t used the basic mechanics involved in Facebook fans acquisition.

“For instance, a user can play the game without ‘liking’ the page. There’s a micro-leaderboard but no global leaderboard.

“How would the user be motivated if he doesn’t know where he stands globally?

“And honestly, it’s extremely difficult to get 50,000 points which will only encourage the users to give up soon.

“Also, the developer hasn’t used any ‘virality’ at all in the app.

“For instance it doesn’t prompt the user to share their score as an update, it doesn’t have an option to ‘challenge’ and invite your friends to join the game etc.

“There’s a lot that could’ve been done with the app, but it looks like the development agency has missed out on the core features to make the app go viral and hence increase fans and awareness,” he said.

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