Before and after: IT snapshot

Yes, yes, I finally updated my photo byline. It's long overdue, especially since the previous one was taken when I first joined this company five years ago.

Yes, yes, I finally updated my photo byline. It's long overdue, especially since the previous one was taken when I first joined this company five years ago.

I guess I finally grew tired of hearing people--who know me first through my mugshot--exclaim, almost in stupefied horror, when they do eventually meet the real McCoy, that I look so different in person. There's also the occasional: "Woah, you look nothing like your photo." Inevitably, they would stress nothing.

Yep, that's right, that's what five years in the media business can do to you. But, as I'd always say, there's no shame in growing old... With age comes wisdom, isn't that what they say? Should wisdom fail to come, well, there's always plastic surgery to make up for the shortfall.

As I look back at March 2004 and take stock of the past five years, it's clear that the IT landscape has changed quite a bit. Back then, businesses in the region were focusing their efforts on setting up their corporate sites and building their company's online presence. These days, most major organizations have comprehensive sites offering customers various self-service tools. Companies without any online presence today would be considered severely handicapped.

In fact, progressive organizations these days are already looking at online communities, social networks and user-generated content as important business tools--specifically, tools that can help improve customer relationship, and ultimately, grow the company's revenue.

For media entities like CNN, social networking tools are proving to be an essential instrument to help push news feeds to its reader base, as well as drum up valuable marketing points for its overall corporate brand.

It maintains 45 Twitter accounts, which together clock over 1.3 million followers on the microblogging site. More recently, CNN has been basking in heightened limelight when celebrity and fellow Twitterer, Ashton Kutcher, challenged the U.S. media company in a race to secure the first 1 million followers.

The chase intensified this week as the 1 million-mark draws near for both racers, with Kutcher currently enjoying a slight lead over CNN. [Kutcher has since won the race.]

Trivial as it may sound, this Twitter pursuit has not only helped expand Kutcher's celebrity status into the cyber world--pushing the guy's Facebook fan base to over 1 million--it has also provided CNN valuable brand as a leading Internet player.

Five years back, no one would have anticipated that a free-for-all 140-character message board could turn out to be a critical business tool.

But, as with most things, there's a downside to Twitter's rising popularity. Researchers at the University of Southern California this week warned that the social networking tool could numb society's sense of morality.

The university completed a study which found that continuous streams of information and news snippets provided by social networking sites such as Twitter, were too rapid for the brain's "moral compass" to process. This bombardment of data, the report said, could be damaging to young people's emotional growth, barring their ability to develop empathy.

It's perhaps true that all good things come at a price. However, that cannot be a reason to fear change. When television grew increasingly pervasive and TV programs equally violent, researchers also warned of its impact on social morality. Regardless of the forewarning, the general population has managed to cope pretty well.

With most new things and industry development, there will inevitably be caveats. It's really then up to us to find ways to manage and learn to adapt to the changing landscape.