Hong Kong


Twitter Feeding

The TEDActive initiative Twitter feeding event #SMWHKfeed kicked off at Pure, Soho at 12pm today, scheduled for two hours of discussing, creating and of course, tweeting while eating.


Here’s how Twitter feeding works: One or more groups of people (who don’t necessarily know each other) discuss set topics. Each table is topped and tailed with official tweeters. Those talking don’t tweet (quite irresistible at times) but are safeguarded with a “not for Twitter” card for off-the-record comments. At some point, food arrives and is eaten. Learn more here. www.twitterfeeding.com


The great thing about Twitter feeding is the combination of discussers, both experts and execs with typically younger Tweeters who only observe and post.  It adds a new interpretation to the commentary on Twitter and makes it somewhat voyeuristic. Our hashtags even attracted interest from a company in Germany.


Today’s #SMWHKfeed starts with information about some of the interesting food organisations in Hong Kong, like Table for Two (@TFT_HK) http://www.tablefor2.org.hk/ who run a program for restaurants who encourage diners to donate to charity by ordering selected healthy dishes from the menu. Also at my table is  Gabrielle Kirstein from the Feeding Hong Kong charity (@FeedingHK), who collect wasted packaged food for redistribution to welfare centres and charities.


To start the discussion, our first topic Dining to Make a Difference is posed. At first, talk is a slower but then it takes off surprisingly fast. The set topic spreads to what’s related in marketing, PR and so on. Then the course of conversation changes, to what seems like a tangent before suddenly swinging back into play. Sometimes, it’s hard to get a word in edgeways.


At table three (#t3), the topic raised all kinds of issues. While an idea like Table for Two gives the consumer a double-whammy feel-good factor of ‘eat healthy, give to charity,’ women at the table note that when eating out, we often want to spoil ourselves with less healthy options. Another issue is the number of people who complain about paying an added charge to charity. Perhaps that’s because customers don’t always ‘know’ if it’s really going where they’re told it is.


How about service charges in Hong Kong? Sometimes here, the service is bad. On top, FnB servers don’t earn a lot – how do we know that they benefit from the ‘included’ service charge?


The second topic is ‘Sharing the Sustainable Seeds on a Living.’ We talk of weekend farms – ones we can visit, like Homegrown Foods http://www.homegrownfoods.com.hk/ who also deliver vegetable boxes to your door. Urban gardening and the issue of unutilised spaces is raised. Just think how many podium and rooftop levels are wasted by conservative building management companies.


A burst of excitement over these green ideas pushed the topic to the story of Janice Leung (@e_ting) known for her foodie exploits and writing. She helped found, and now markets, the East Island Markets project (@IslandEastMkts) http://hkmarkets.org/, which launches this Sunday.


All this talk of provenance made us ask where we get our milk from (Australia), what eggs we like (organic and free range are expensive, but we avoid China) and how they smell or taste. In Hong Kong, not only does the expat community lead the organic market and care more about provenance, but to grow the trend, organisations like East Island Markets need to educate the public. On top, the fact that organic is more expensive makes it less popular. We prefer organic to be cheaper.


While traditional twitter feeding events are exciting and fast, our organisers decided to add in some extra role-play and improvisation games to create #chaos. “I’m a fundamentalist about play. If we sit and talk very seriously, we wouldn’t get such a good conversation,” says event organiser and SMW board member, Bess Hepworth.


Just before the chaos starts with one-word-each responses, charades and creative construction of answers via felt and pipe-cleaners, we talk about trash, recycling and of course, wastage. What we learn is that the equivalent weight of 120 double decker buses in packaged food is wasted every day in Hong Kong. Then come stories of junk boatmen throwing trash into the harbour at the end of the day (a nifty way to maintain our need for cleaner beaches further away? I cynically ask).


Like the flurry throughout, our Twitter feeding ends suddenly with the creation of some kind of epitaph for our table – because the clock says so. After all the talk and the placing of faces onto Twitter followers I have, it’s only now that the entirety of what we covered really hits me.

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