Revise: Whose side are you on?

This post was originally written on 20 Jan 2009 at the wordpress hosted singularity industries.

One day ago, TODAY newspaper announced the formation of The Association of Bloggers (Singapore). I’d actually been told of such an association forming before they went public yesterday, and when i was told then, i immediately drew a parallel to the Marvel story arc: Civil War

The parallel is startling because of my fascination with the themes associated with “the responsibilities of those in power.” I’m somewhat convinced that there are those of us online who believe that there is power in the words we type, the causes we support, the unity of our actions. Of course there are also online citizens who would very much like to be left alone, or don’t see themselves with that sort of responsibility. More power to them.. this blog post isn’t about telling you what’s right or wrong. You make that choice yourself.

Without going into vendettas that seem to be plaguing most of the online discussion over the formation of this group, I personally would not join the association. On the grounds that I am a free-thinking individual and I owe no specific allegiance to anyone. That is the beauty of blogging and exercising our right to freedom of speech. This sentiment is also voiced by one of The Association’s members, Xtralicious.

I do applaud the association for championing “more professionalism in blogging”, because I think that blogging has the potential to make things happen, and if you find a group of like-minded individuals, more power to you. And although that is in alignment with some of my own ideals, i realise my interest is not so much in being an activist, but more an observer, to even offer third party opinions.. or practicing the journalistic ideal of the 4th estate.

Again, I do not see the need to pay a membership fee to join the association simply because i do not want to join the association. I’m definitely not a “professional” blogger (whatever that is), I’m simply a blogger who’s sharing his opinion. I applaud professional behavior such as being civil, ethical and checking of facts.. but i don’t think “professional” blogging is an occupation that requires a membership to an association. What pre-requisites does one need to join the association? It’s not like a medical, accounting or law associations where you need certain credentials. And if all you need is “to be a blogger”, then that’s hardly a criteria.. and you can see where this circular argument is going.

One final concern I have about this action, is that after 24 hours, you can see the effects of splintering. There are those who support the formation of the association, and there are those who are vehemently opposed to it. Bloggers seem to be starting to take sides and there has also been a revisitation of old wounds, unaddressed issues, bloggers calling out for the motivations of starting the association, personal attacks, boycotts.. it’s a little tragic I believe, the symptoms of a civil war.

I doubt it will escalate to that, but it seems that some prominent Singapore bloggers are against the idea. Naturally, they also maintain an anonymous presence on the web. [Links: Rockson, Singabloodypore]

Anonymity plays an important role in exercising some level of freedom of speech. It allows you to say what’s really on your mind without the ramifications of personal attacks, political attacks, things that could harm your reputation offline. In an ideal democracy, I’d say there’s little need for such anonymity, but I don’t think that exists anywhere in the world today. On the flipside, many abuse anonymity and undermine the efforts of various organisations unnecessarily. This is where something like the association would come in handy.

But I don’t think the Internet will ever be a place of registered and unregistered bloggers. If it does, I’m inclined to think that some form of personal freedom is taken away. While i choose to reveal my own identity public, I never expect it of everybody. That is your own choice.

It is with this regard to freedom of choice, and freedom of expression that I find I would rather not join the association. My validation as a blogger comes through my own integrity and my audience. Not necessarily through an external body. It works for me, but YOU will definitely have your own opinion.

If you want to find out what works for you, I urge you to make your own decision and be true to yourself in your own blogging endeavors.

Insert 21 January 2009, 10:29 AM: After reading the comments, I realise I made a poor job articulating that I don’t see this as a black or white issue, and that I’d hate to see us having to take sides. There is a massive clout of grey in this discussion, and I believe most of us exist in the “grey” paradigm. There is no need to call for boycotts or call each other un-patriots. The Net exists as an ecosystem of free thought, some unsavory, some enlightening. Just thought I would make that clearer -)


Revise: Two essential skills for better social media

This post was originally written on 9 Jan 2009 at the wordpress hosted singularity industries.

If you’ve ever been interested in social media, i’m sure you would have come across guide after guide of exhaustive lists of what tools you should try, what tactics you can use to make your content more sharable, or perhaps even how to write better content.

that’s all well and good, but if you’re feeling swamped, i encourage you to go one step further back, and that’s to know what works for you, and how you want to address those issues.

so what i’m talking about is essentially media literacy and better communications.

media literacy
if you can read and write, i’d say you’re literate, and you’ve been the product of your education system. but media literacy, that’s the ability to make sense of the changes around you, the trends around you so that you do not get caught in an echo chamber.

increasingly, with all this talk about social media, best practices, tips and strategies, and basically everyone else banking in on the brilliant concept of “social media”, i’m afraid we’re being caught in an echo chamber. where it’s only media practitioners raving about social media with other practitioners. basically just jumping onto the bandwagon.

does a video you saw on the Internet mean it’s real? what if it’s been planted by a PR or Advertising agency? and even if it has been, does it really matter?

i work in public relations, and online conversations are one of the most exciting aspects of real communications. it helps when i know where the video came from, and what the agenda of the video is. then it allows me to interact in a purer form.

i’d say, being media literate, is to know the agenda, intents and purposes of the source of communications.

i think that’s what’s missing in our interactions with the media.. that’s why we become skeptical of corporations.. and instead of digging deeper into the truth, we usually just take it at face value.

it’s easy to type without thinking, but understanding the power of our words, the channels and tools at our disposal is essential to being better media practitioners. and in today’s day and age, we’re all media practitioners. so what separates the good ones from the bad ones?

it’s very easy to ramble on a blog, and there are little checks to do quality control on the message we’re trying to get across.

if you’ve become a blogger or netizen that wants to contribute fairly and positively to the Net, then we have to become better communicators.

i believe it comes down to better communications.

say only what you need to say, and get to the point.

i love writing, and i love reading.. and i think the above statement is somewhat subjective. but without the need for guidelines or rules, let’s bank on our commonsense to communicate in a manner that addresses the issues we blog about.

let’s censor out all those personal prejudices and attacks that make for good drama, but ultimately loses the plot when we’re trying to make a point.

the desire to reduce bad content on the net begins with ourselves. we’re all flawed and not perfect. let’s look at ourselves first before pointing the finger at someone else. let’s listen to what’s really being said before we craft our response. let’s communicate with as little assumptions as possible.. and then we can get onto the things that matter.


A Higher Order

social innovation

I know I have not been writing in here for a long time. The truth is, I did not really know where this blog was headed. I knew I was taking a step in the right direction when I launched geekulture slightly more than a month back, and I knew that I wanted to make a few editorial changes around Singularity Industries [Si], to accommodate my evolving writing interests.

I would like to take the time to perhaps share some of the changes that I intend to make to this blog, but perhaps it would be pertinent to remember why I wanted to start [Si] in the first place:

1. I was inspired by Monocle‘s editorial content, and how they curated the events of the world. Apart from having a more positive angle, I think their attempts to portray a more positive portrayal of how public life comes together when it comes to governments, businesses, culture and design. It was lovely, and I wished that I could attain a fraction of their success (in writing).

2. I wanted to improve my skills as a writer. I did not want to just be a reflexive writer, I’d hoped to be a clearer writer, and one that could present news and opinion in a more inspiring fashion.

3. I think there was still a part of me that wanted to contribute to society even though I was not gainfully employed. Hoping to highlight the good that people, whether in their crafts, businesses or ideas.

Alas, the reality that hits, is that my aspirations were perhaps too lofty. I was stretching myself thin as a writer, and [Si]‘s focus became blurred with trying to be too many things, but not as effective as the blog I’d hoped for. This ultimately was why I started geekulture, so that I could continue blogging about whimsical topics that did not necessarily contribute editorially, apart from putting a smile on your face.

So with these points in mind, I can begin to start rebuilding the editorial content, and direction of [Si], if you would so kindly hear me out:

What I hope for:
1. Social Innovation
I’m still very interested in how we can make the world a better place. The problem with that statement, is that it can sound self-righteous at times. This is not my intention, as I don’t think I deserve to have any Messianic complexes, nor am I trying to build this world in my image. I am however, interested in learning from people around me, who have a sort of divine discontent to the social issues around them and are doing something big or small to effect a positive change to their environment and communities.

I use “Singularity” in this blog’s name for a reason, and that reason is that the Singularity as an event, evokes to me, an emotion of transcendence. It also draws reference to the mysterious point where all matter in the universe was focused at a single point. This concept reminds me that as people, we are all one, despite our differences. Both these interpretations of the word, inspire me to look for innovative solutions, or perspectives, to the current challenges that society struggle with, in the face of tomorrow.

This led me to the term, ‘Social Innovation’, since I realised that the themes I was interested in, could be summed up with those two words. Of course, I had to Google the phrase, and as expected, there is a small, growing community of social innovators interested in the topics of social good, education, healthcare.. etc.

So this entry is pretty much the clearest definition I have ever had with regards to describing, just exactly what kind of blog [Si] is. It still maintains the manifesto “To learn and do good,” of which I am very pleased, because it just proves that my intentions were right, and my thinking has achieved a new level of clarity. I am excited.

2. Weekly to bi-weekly opinion based editorial
I’m going to have to be realistic with this blog. Most of my efforts are in attempting to grow geekulture into a daily read. Hence, I do not want to expend too much energy here, as long form writing is physically draining. What I can realistically do, is to write once every week or two, and distill my thoughts with regards to the categories that loosely fall under ‘Social Innovation’.

I’m still interested in technology and communication, but I think with my new job as a teacher, I will be interested in the topic of education as well, so please look out for that.

This schedule will hopefully allow me to be more productive, not just in producing content for my two public blogs, but also improve the quality of the posts for each blog.

3. Enjoy your weekends (Or days of rest)!
I fully intend to be a more balanced individual. Apart from maintaining blogs, I have an (un)healthy amount of bands and projects that I play music for, sometimes even managing. So in this regard, you probably will not find posts being published on the weekends. I might try crafting them, but if they’re not ready, the posts won’t go live. It’s really that simple, take a day off, and enjoy yourself! I know I will.

All in all
I hope I can live up to these expectations. It’s going to be a real discipline, but I should make an effort to, if I really want to see some sort of change in my own life. Thank you if you’ve been reading this blog regularly, though that would be impossible because you’d have to have been tolerating my irregular updates.

stay true,
- b.