Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Ego boost from PubSub

I admit it.

It feels good to be ranked high in Pubsub's librarian list :)

Earlier this month, an ex-colleague (who's still a librarian but with a different employer) emailed that I made 4th place in the PubSub Librarian List. At the same time, Shel and Kevin picked up the news on their own and blogged about it. Kevin went as far as writing, "Singaporean takes 4th place in Librarian blogosphere" (fwah Kevin, so drama!)
PubSub linkrank 8 nov 05

Since that day, I'd check the pubsub list from time to time. As expected, my rankings fell from 4th and generally hovered around 40th to 50th place (I believe that's the true ranking).

Today, a fellow colleague (not a blogger but he tracks blogs) informed me that I made No. 1 in the list. This time I didn't hesitate to get a screen shot. The heck with humility. I wanna blog this man!

OK, ego aside -- I like this list because it's a convenient way to get to know other librarian blogs. Also, being ranked at the top lets me know I'm doing something right. If my ranking fall, I see it as a subtle reminder to think about meaningful things to post and still have fun doing it.

Plus I keep these 2 pointers close to my heart:
  • It's not how many people reading your blog, but Who
  • Being at the top is nice; just remember that you have a day job

However, one thing I'm uncomfortable whenever my blog gets to a high rank is this statement:"This list shows the most influential librarian blogs, based on LinkRank".

Me, influential? I think not.

You know, if I were to look at this whole listing business from a different viewpoint, I could write this statement: "This list shows the most read blogs based on LinkRank. You'd better watch what you blog. Blog responsibily."


Cambridge Journal Feeds & what non-journal subscribers can do

This is so cool that I have to post this during lunch: Thanks to Stephen (Library Stuff) who posted that Cambridge University Press Online now has RSS and ATOM feeds for their journals. You can also browse the listings by subjects.

Wow indeed.

Here's a link to the Blogline feeds I've subscribed. Not that I've studied in those subjects. I just like to know what research is like in those areas. As a librarian, you'll never know what information might come in useful in future.

You won't get full-text articles from the feeds though. It shows the journal issue, like an alert service of what's published (it's understandable 'cos they rely on subscriptions to make money). Then you visit the website to read the abstract.

But fret not. Here's a suggestion for non-subscribers to the journal:
  1. Create a RSS feed to the journal you're interested (it's a good way to be alerted of new issues)
  2. The new feed will show only the journal volume and issue number. Example: English Today, Volume 21 Issue 04
  3. Depending on how your feed reader works, click to go to the Cambridge Journal page and read the abstract
  4. When you find a particular article that really interests you, go search your library OPAC to see if your library buys the journal.
  5. Or ASK! a librarian (visit or email your local library). They can check if their electronic databases have the full text. Chances are that they won't since it's a paid journal subscription, but hey, no harm asking right? The librarians might be able to offer alternative information resources.

Ok, I admit it was a sly attempt in promoting the library service.

But what I really want to show is how users can make use of new tools (like RSS feeds) to complement current resources that they already have access to (like their public libraries and their friendly-neighbourhood librarians).

And that for libraries, technology + changes in the information landscape certainly does not spell the death of libraries. It depends on how we ride the wind.

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The Effect of Word of Mouth on Sales -- Online Book Reviews report: Implication for libraries

Beverly, Library director of Sugargrove Public Library, alerted me to this PDF report from Yale School of Management, on "The Effect of Word of Mouth on Sales: Online Book reviews" (see also the blog post at
... examines the effect of consumer reviews on relative sales of books at and Barnes They find that 1) reviews are overwhelmingly positive at both sites, but there are more reviews and longer reviews at, 2) an improvement in a book's reviews leads to an increase in relative sales at that site, and 3) the impact of 1-star reviews is greater than the impact of 5-star reviews.

After I read the report, I wondered how the findings apply to libraries. For instance, do the conclusions apply directly, i.e. if libraries create or participate in online community content (like book blogs) then would that lead to increase in library usage?

I think the findings do apply to some extent. In fact, they do lend support to a survey (from a convenience sample) that my colleagues conducted for our Fiction Advisory Service.

One question in our survey was "How do you decide what to read?" Respondents were asked to choose from a list:
O Browse in the library
O Browse in the bookstore
O Read reviews in library information boards / website
O Read reviews in local and/or international newspapers
O Read reviews in general magazines / current affairs periodicals
O Read reviews on websites other than the library’s
O Discussion amongst your book club members
O Friend’s recommendation

Our preliminary findings showed the order of influence as follows:
  1. Browsing in the library
  2. Browse in the bookstore
  3. Friend’s recommendation
  4. Read reviews on websites other than the library’s
  5. Read reviews in local and/or international newspapers
  6. Read reviews in library information boards/ website
  7. Read reviews in general magazines/ current affairs periodicals
  8. Discussion amongst your book club members

We learnt that the most common way of choosing a book was by browsing. Reviews were also significant to patron’s reading decisions, the most trusted being word-of-mouth reviews from friends. Reviews in other websites was a close second, followed by reviews in libraries and their websites.

When I match our findings to the Yale report, I'm even more confident that starting the High Browse Online book blog is a step in the right direction for our public libraries.

BTW, if any library (who provides Fiction Advisory service) is interested in exchanging survey results or sharing your experiences, I'd love to hear from you.

More notes and comments from the Yale report below:

The paper's main sections as follows:
1. Introduction - P. 3
2. Data - P. 5
3. Model Specification - P. 10
4. The effect of reviews on sales - P. 13
4.1. Cross-Sectional Analysis - P. 13
4.2. Differences-in-differences Analysis - P. 17
(Then I'm not sure what happened to sections 5 & 6 'cos it skips to section 7)
7. Conclusion - P. 21
Tables - P. 23
References - P. 29

The introduction (pages 3 & 4) reviews possible reasons "to suspect ex ante that creating a forum for community content could be a poor strategy" (for sales):
First, it is not clear why users would bother to take the time to provide reviews for which they are not in any way compensated.

Second, competing retailers can free-ride on investments in recommender systems; there is nothing to stop a consumer from utilizing the information provided by one website to inform purchases made elsewhere.

Third, by providing user reviews, a site cedes control over the information displayed; unfavorable reviews may depress sales. Of course, this may be less of a threat to a retailer that sells many different brands as opposed to a manufacturer. Similarly, since interested parties can freely proliferate favorable reviews for their own products, positive reviews may not be credible and may not function to stimulate sales.

Last, online user reviews may not be useful, and may not stimulate sales due to the sample selection bias that is inherent in an amateur review process. That is, a consumer only chooses to read a book or watch a movie if she perceives that there is a high probability that she will enjoy the experience.

In the presence of consumer heterogeneity, this implies that the pool of reviewers will have a positive bias in their evaluation compared to the general population. Thus, positive reviews may simply be discounted by potential buyers.

The above could easily be the very reactions to the idea of a library creating a Book Review Blog/ forum/ discussion group/ mailing list, especially if it's unmoderated. Of course the findings of the paper suggests otherwise (i.e. that it's good for sales). It might even give greater impetus for libraries to create or participate in online community content.

Other highlights from the report:
P. 4: Our econometric analysis is designed to answer the question: if a cranky consumer posts a negative review of a book on but not on, would the sales of that book at fall relative to the sales of that book at

Findings (p. 5): Our findings suggest that reviews tend to be very positive on average, especially at We show that the addition of new favorable reviews at one site results in an increase in the sales of a book at that site relative to the other one. We find some evidence that an incremental negative review is more powerful in decreasing book sales than an incremental positive review is in increasing them. Our results on the length of reviews suggests that consumers actually read and respond to written reviews, not merely the average star ranking summary statistic provided by the websites.
Still on P. 5: Sub-section concludes that "Regardless of the interpretation of the length results, the results do seem to suggest that customers read and respond to the review content at each site. However, longer reviews do not necessarily stimulate sales."
P. 19: "Thus an increase in the number of reviews at Amazon relative to continues to improve sales at Amazon relative to"*
* The way I see it, it could mean that with more people visiting than BN, it therefore resulted in more sales for

And the final conclusions from the report (p. 21):
We find that customer reviews tend to be very positive at both sites and that they are more detailed at Amazon.

This evidence suggests that customer word of mouth affects consumer purchasing behavior at two Internet retail sites.

Our evidence however, stops short of showing that the retailer profits from providing such content. Further, and more interestingly, our results show that customers certainly behave as if the fit between customer and book is improved by using reviews to screen purchases.
** Could the implication be that getting library reader's reviews would help suggest better fit in reading needs for other readers? As I said, our survey result seems to support this finding.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

LIME Time: Writing workshop for volunteer bloggers

Last Saturday, the good folks at invited me to sit in their Writers' Workshop they organised for volunteer writers for their blog.

"A writer is like a manager", said Stella Thng, editor of LIME magazine who shared her experiences and writing tips with about 10 to 15 young adults. Stella published her first article for a local paper at age 15, and freelanced for a teens magazine at 17. Then she went on to do her Business Diploma from a local Polytechnic.

Goes to show young aspiring writers that you don't necessarily need to take specialised courses to be a writer. I believe it's more important to have a passion for reading and writing and practicing those reading and writing skills.

Stella shared her personal Five Rules of Writing (but first qualifies that all writers should form their your rules):
  1. Are you making any sense? (i.e. Keep to main points)
  2. Any glaring spelling/ grammar mistakes?
  3. Are you writing as a Reporter or a Writer?
  4. Are you writing for your audience?
  5. Are you boring?
She rounded up her 5 tips with this advice: "Don't be controversial for the sake of it."
I thought this could be an important 6th tip of writing.

Stella carries a notebook (the paper kind) everywhere, to jot down notes whenever she get ideas -- when flipping a magazine at the hair dresser; coming across a poster or shop

I had some very good conversations with Stella and the teen volunteers after the talk. Interesting bunch of young people. There's subdued energy behind them. I'm confident we'll see some sparks fly.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

More blogging librarians from Asia needed on Frappr

I learnt about the BloggingLibrarians Frappr map from CW ( Like Von the Filipino Librarian, CW thought our corner of the world was sparsely populated so I decided to add my blog to the map.

For those who don't know Singapore, we're a tiny island nation in South East Asia. At this level, you can't even see Singapore (click on image for larger version):
Frappr01 - Blogging Librarians

You finally get to see the proper outline of Singapore at about 4 times zoom.
Frappr02 -  Blogging Librarians

This is 50% zoom and that's as far as Frappr will go (any further the maps aren't available). Singapore is soooo small that my bubble appear behind my colleague, Isaak's (Isaak's Thoughts), and any additional ones will appear after mine.
Frappr03 - Blogging Librarians

Anyway, size doesn't matter in the Blogosphere. It's what you blog about that does.

I find the blogging librarians frappr map a useful resource for linking to other Liblogarians in Asia. If you're from Singapore and you wish to add yourself to this map, you need to click on "Not in the US?" and use "Singapore, Singapore" for "City."

p.s. Thanks to Scott Pfitzinger ( -- Frappr Admin for "Blogging Librarians" -- for helping out with my earlier problem in adding to the map.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Announcing the Edublog Awards 2005

Kevin alerted me to the EduBlog Awards 2005 ( Normally I don't pay attention to blog awards. I'm not against it -- it's good fun, especially if you find yourself being nominated; winning is a bonus. But "edublogs" intrigued me so I went to find out more about this award.

After I emailed Josie Fraser, who's managing this year's event, I decided to help pass the word around. The award is a great way to highlight education-related blogs around the world. Hopefully that opens up the often limited and negative perception of blogs and blogging by non-bloggers.

Apparently, the organisers consider library blogs are edublogs too -- which isn't far from the truth. Here's a frappr map of edubloggers (currently skewed towards Europe/ North America). This one is of blogging librarians (also currently skewed -- is it due to language barrier or lack of awareness about frappr?)

There are 10 categories for nominations:
* Most innovative edublogging project, service or programme
* Best newcomer
* Most influential post, resource or presentation
* Best designed/most beautiful edublog
* Best library/librarian blog
* Best teacher blog
* Best audio and/or visual blog
* Best example/ case study of use of weblogs within teaching and learning
* Best group blog
* Best individual blog

There will also be a Best of the Best award from the winners of each category.

Terms & conditions for the nomination and voting:
  • Only current edubloggers* are invited to nominate other edublogs (but everyone else is eligible to vote once the shortlisted nominees are announced)
  • There is no country or language restriction for nomination. Blogs from anywhere in the world, bloggers of any nationality, non-English language blogs -- they're all welcome to take part.

* Who's an "Edublogger?"
If you keep a blog, and produce content which is related to education (even if you post about your haircut a lot too), you are an edublogger and are eligable to nominate. Please include your blog url with your nominations.

Dates to note:
  • 21 Nov '05 to 4 Dec '05: Nominations (by edubloggers only)
  • 5 Dec '05 to 17 Dec '05: Voting for the nominees (open to all)
  • 18 Dec '05, 1500hrs GMT (i.e. 11pm, Sun 18 Dec, Singapore time): Winners announced 'live' at broadcast ceremony. Winners can join in the conversation and make their acceptance speeches. There will also be a parallel chat room for people give their reactions to the award winners etc.

Nominations are to be submitted via this template and emailed to
All submissions are treated as confidential; they won't be made public.

If you're interested in the rest of the clarifications I received from Josie, it's posted below. For details of the Edublog 2005 award, visit

Excerpts from my email correspondence with Josie (minor editing for brevity):

Who started the Edublog award?
The inaugral awards ran last year (2004).

Why was it started?
Alex Halavais posted a call for an award in response to the under representation/recognition of educational uses and users of blogs in existing blog awards. James Farmer ran with the idea, then Alex posted a form. Here's a post from those heady early days.

Who administers the award?
This year James is pretty much drowning in initiatives! So I offered to step in. I'm managing the awards this year, informed by the way things went last year, the things that worked well and not so well.

The major changes this year are that nominations are confidential and only edubloggers (broadly defined) are eligible to nominate.

The other major change is the awards ceremony and build-up this year - Worldbridges will be hosting the awards, with me, Jeff Lebow and Dave Cormier presenting. It will be broadcasted live, with the opportunity for winners to join in the conversation and make their acceptance speeches. There will also be a parallel chat room for people to join in the fun, give their reactions to the award winners etc.

What does it mean to win the award?
It's a mark of respect and acknowledgement of the hard work - that your contribution is acknowledged by the community as excellent and that you are very much appreciated as an edublogger.

The awards process helps to raise the profile of edublogging and encourages the community to come together in a positive and self-affirming way. The short list acts as a valuable resource for the community and a inspiration for what is possible through the power of blogging for learners and educationalists in general.

To be honest the winning of an actual category is just a very nice bonus for the recipient -- everyone after all needs to be told that they're valued from time to time. The main thing is the taking part -- whether you're nominating or just thinking about the current shape of the edublogging landscape.

Friday, November 25, 2005

"Hit Rate Novel"

Preetam shared this article with me on something called the "Hit Rate Novel" that's happening in China (original article in Mandarin here):
Internet writers, the websites and the publishing companies have experimented and discovered a new "triple-win" approach of doing publishing: an obscure writer publishes his/her work on the Internet, the readers flock to read it on the Internet and the book publisher watches what is happening. If the Internet novel achieves a high hit rate, there is a good chance that the published book may become a bestseller. Thus, a "hit rate novel" has just emerged.

Will this be the new publishing phenomenon? Ok, this is what's reported in the second-last para:
The reporter browsed through some websites and found that Internet-published novels are usually serialized. The most popular types are "romance+martial arts," also mysteries and science fiction, which are lacking in deep thinking. Jinan University Journalism and Communications Studies professor Dong Tiance said: "The major selling point of popular culture is its fashionable nature. High hit rates lead to a market, but this is a kind of fashionable cultural consumption with a short lifespan. It is not impossible to get some good quality works, but the overall quality of the novels would seem to be still quite infantile."

Related article here.

I tried to verify the news by checking if there were other websites that report on "hit rate novels" but couldn't find any other. Maybe this is the only English translation.

Preetam says the news is reliable, and that in China there's a flourishing trade in "blog-to-book" deals. He visits China and has quite a few contacts there, so I'll certainly take his word.

I'm not surprised such a phenomenon is picking momentum in China. When Tony Ferguson spoke on ebooks in China, he gave insights on the success factors behind the ebook production and consumption in China.

Recently, I was told by a colleague that PDAs are now sold with Chinese software as a default (when in the past you had to buy and install the Chinese reader software separately).

I wonder how much of the rise of the "Hit Rate Novel" is due to the large domestic demand in China (1.3 billion -- how the heck does one visualise that kind of number?)

And if demand is a critical success factor, does this mean this model wouldn't work for a country like Singapore? Maybe it would, for Singaporean authors who write in Mandarin. A good story is a good story anywhere, isn't it?

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Have you read China Mieville?

Just to share this piece I wrote for High Browse Online, on "Weird Fiction" writer China Miéville, in 2 parts: Part 1 and Part 2.

In truth, I didn't know about China Miéville until I was tasked to write the Full Metal Jacket article for High Browse Online (yeah, lots of things that I don't know about books and authors).

Oh, China is a "he", not "she", ok? Why did his parents give him this name? Go read the article.

As of now, I've finished all his New Crobuzon books -- Perdido Street Station (2000), The Scar (2002), and Iron Council (2004). My definite favourite is Perdido Street Station (man, the Slakemoths are too cool for words). Also finished his novella, The Tain (featured in the compilation, Cities). Going to start on King Rat (1998), which were all out on loan when I did the article.

I'd say his works are very British grunge and punk (if you play the electric guitar, his books are kind of like on a permanent Fuzz setting with the distortion and treble set high). If he didn't write books, I bet he'd be a punk rocker (I meant this as a compliment).

In my earlier post on Science Fiction Blogs, I asked if anyone could confirm if China Miéville has a blog at Lenin's Tomb. Back about a week or two, lenin left a reply to say:
China does write very occasionally at the Tomb. He is busy writing at the moment, so he won't be appearing again in the immediate future.

OK, so are we looking at another New Crobuzon book in the works?


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

MINDEF takes enlightened approach to blogging

Mr Miyagi clears the air over the taking down of Army-related posts and pictures.

... And that’s why the nice folks at MINDEF are saying that there’s nothing wrong with blogging about National Service, and in fact, encourage people to talk about their experiences in the Army, Air Force and Navy.

... They also said that they liked the fact that there were objective views from National Servicemen of all ages, instead of just from traditional channels, like that of MINDEF’s publications.

... They also gave me a rough guide as to what could and could not be said, saying that they’d prefer NSmen to ‘use their own discretion’ when talking about Army matters.

... What kind of pictures, you may well ask? Pictures of military hardware are usually sensitive...
... as are pictures of injured servicemen - because you don’t want the pictures to go public before the serviceman’s family is informed of his injuries - but to be really sure before you share your photos with the public, check with MINDEF first.

... As for any other form of information, common sense will tell you that if a matter is one that is the subject of an ongoing investigation, you shouldn’t blog about it in detail.

Kudos to MINDEF for taking such an enlightened approach. Call it a great PR coup or that their decision was the only logical choice -- I still call it an enlightened approach and MINDEF certainly has got my salute.

How can one not talk about National Service, especially when it’s a very large slice of one’s life?

Yup, this Rambling Librarian here (like many of his male colleagues) have served -- and is still serving -- in the Armed Forces (or Police or Civil Defence) as part of our National Service obligation.

My 2 years and 6 months of full time National Service has played a significant role in defining who I am today (I'm into the last few years of my 13-year reservist cycle). But I've never considered sharing about my National Service experience in this blog.

But maybe that will change.

We'll see.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"Remember The Bookworm Club" meme

I was following the conversation over at Jia's post where she mentioned "The Bookworm Club". The funny thing was that she only mentioned the Bookworm Club only in the title and nowhere in her blog post. However, the subsequent conversation was about the club (Kevin started it!).

My recollection about The Bookworm club isn't very clear. I vaguely remember being in Primary school. Our teacher brought our class down to the science lab. There were lots of books on display. You could buy them. I must have bought something (cost about $2). Paid up from my daily pocket money. They must have given me a flyer or bookmark with this bespectacled round-headed orange worm as a mascot. That's how I learnt about The Bookworm Club.

I found their website. Club was started in 1984. They seem to be still in business (although their site looks as if a revamp has been long overdue. Why don't they start a blog instead?)

My hunch is that most Singaporean adult between the present age of 30 to 35 would remember The Bookworm Club. Out of curiosity, I searched for blogs that mentioned the club and here's what I found:
  • Kei credits the Bookworm Club & the money his parents spent on books for improving his general knowledge
  • Yu became a bookworm club member at age 7
  • Newdaddy's wife remembers the Bookworm Club song
  • TheVoiceInsideYourHead says the child of the 80s probably joined the club (item 9)
  • Same thing that Nuren says (oh yeah, Bookworm Club = Selegie Road)
  • SingaporeIdler & friends recounts the Bookworm Club from their childhood memories

I left a comment in Jia's post, saying:
"Love it or Loath it, "Bookworm Bookclub" is something that will bring back memories of our generation. I remember it with fondness. Upon hindsight, I think they could've used a better name than to perpetuate the bookish-ness of reading by using the term "bookworm".

It really intrigues me how strangers & friends can be connected by a memory -- of a bookclub, no less! (Now if a childhood memory can do this, then definitely a library...)

Ok, anyone wants to continue their reminisce of The Bookworm Club?


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Library Podcast - Lansing Public Library

When you walk on the street, you "bump" into someone. What's the equivalent of that when you're online? Perhaps we <insert sound of your IM software alerting you that you're being messaged> into each other online...


So I was online when Kelli "bumped" me via IM. "Long time no chat", I said. She asked how I've been. Then she blew me away when she informs me that her library is offering podcasts. Here's the info page she put up.

I told her how I liked the way they provided answers for techies and non-techies. Suggested that they also include a description of some content for the podcasts (that might encourage people new to podcasting to try their podcast feeds).

She said last week, their library did a science project workshop for parents and kids (e.g. how to choose a topic, how to do research, highlights of the library's electronic resources, inter-library loan capabilities etc.)

She also begun recording her hands-on computer classes. This was for people who attended the class to review the lesson, or for those who were thinking of signing up for the class to get a sneak audio preview, or maybe for those who had already signed up for a later session but can't wait to hear what's the lesson going to be.

I asked which other library has done podcasts and she says Thomas Ford Memorial Library where is getting their teen customers to record book and movie reviews (Kelli says go read about Thomas Ford's plans for more podcasts; there's a presentation on podcasting on 8 Dec that even I could "attend").

The possibilities are endless for library podcasts. Kudos to those libraries who have put possibilities into practice.

I asked Kelli if her library has considered having librarians do podcasts (like booktalking & discussions). She said their teen librarian is interested in that but generally speaking, she thinks staff might be apprehensive about having their voices recorded on the internet for people to hear. I agree (perhaps staff should blog first, then podcast).

I wished Kelli luck on their podcasting effort. I've not subscribed to podcasts in any big way, but I'll be listening closely to what Lansing is doing. To librarians reading this -- if your library is offering podcasts, I'd be interested to find out more from you (feel free to email me).

Will NLB public libraries be offering podcasts?

This much I can share here -- we're exploring the possibility of offering it, but there's no definite timeline as yet. There are some possible partners and people I'm talking to right now. If you're in Singapore and you're interested in helping the library explore podcasting possibilities as a volunteer, I'd love to hear from you.


Open reply to Tan Kin Lian's post on "Action against Spamming"

[20 Nov 05 Update: After I emailed this post to Mr Tan, he replied that he has turned on the comment feature. He welcomes direct feedback via his email account as well.]

CEO NTUC Income, Mr Tan, turned off the comment feature after receiving comment spam. He wrote that he welcomed feedback on the matter. I was going to email him but decided to post an open reply in line with blogging tradition.

Hello Mr Tan,
I'm responding to your post on comment spamming as a blogger, and as a reader of other people's blogs:

It's not apparent from your post if you've already tried the new "Comment Moderation" feature or "Word verification for comments" that Blogger has provided. If you've not, I strongly recommend that you do. My comment spam problem was eliminated when I turned on the word verification feature.

If you've already tried those features and still feel that it's necessary to turn the comments off, well that's a personal decision. If you find it a hassle to filter the spam, then might be best to turn it off. No point antagonising yourself over it. You might as well spend that time writing.

In your shoes, I would go for Comment Moderation and spend time filtering out genuine comments from spam, even if it takes up substantial effort.

My take is that the whole point of blogging is to engage with our readers in conversations. Better to allow for some spam than to totally deny the chance for genuine comments to come through.

Of course one can still interact with our readers by providing an email address but it's not the same. The comments feature allow others to be clued into the discussion, even if they are not direct participants. Meaningful comments add to the original post. Some can turn out to be more educational and thought-provoking than the main post itself.

Finally, if you still decide to turn off the comments, then you might want to post an explanation on your position (so that other new readers of your blog understand your rational).



Saturday, November 19, 2005

High Browse Online: NLB's very first "book blog"

After weeks of planning, explaining, cajoling, testing, experimenting, I'm happy that NLB's very first online "book blog" has been launched -- High Browse Online.

This is old news of course, for it's been Tomorrowed a week ago, thanks to CowboyCaleb.

Incidentally, Caleb has the distinction of being the first SG Blogger to blog about it. You can say that the privilege was given to him. See, he emailed me sometime in Sept to suggest that the library consider starting a book blog of sorts, to which I replied that we are already in the midst of planning for one. I also bounced some ideas off him. I owe him a coffee which I'll gladly offer if he ever decide to reveal himself to me in person (the cool thing is that I've yet to meet him).

Our chief objective remains the same -- to stimulate response and discussion from readers who read High Browse. With High Browse Online, we'd like to invite your comments to the recommendations posted. We also welcome volunteer contributions like reviews and editorials. ~ High Browse Online

The print version of High Browse was first published in Nov/ Dec 2002. It was a Quarterly issue (published every three months) and ran for nine issues up till Oct/ Dec 2004 (archives of issue 1 - 9 can be found here). Then it went into hiatus pending an review of the publication, and also partly because the editorial team disbanded due to staff transfers.

This year, I was tasked to revive the print version by forming a new editorial team (comprising of my librarian colleagues from the Adult & Young People Services). Naturally, I proposed that we offered an online version of High Browse as well. The blog publishing platform was a natural choice, for various reasons.

Call it 's a website; a book-blog... whatever. It's online and it's interactive (comments & readers' submissions are most welcome) and that's the important point.

For upcoming posts, I'll blog what I can share publicly on how High Browse Online was conceived and launched.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Endnote

That's the end of the two-day event, attended by about 400 over participants. BTW, I didn't blog about every presentation (only those that I've got substantial notes).

At the closing presentation, there was an excerpt from a NTT DoCoMo video. I think it was titled Vision 2010. The snippet showed a "mobile magazine" with a flexible screen, acting as a e-content reader and communication & multimedia device.

I couldn't find the exact video but this one's good too:
The video you are about to see portrays the kind of technological advances that could transform our world over the next ten years. The events depicted are fictional, but the potential of NTT DoCoMo's cutting-edge technology is very real. Our third-generation (3G) FOMA service is already operational throughout Japan; and by 2010, we hope to have fully brought our vision of advanced mobile communications to fruition (

Worth taking a look.


Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Day 2: The Knowledge Worker Redux

Quotable quote:
"Computers will not replace librarians. But librarians who know how to use
computers will."

Another lively presentation by Doug Johnson (see also, Day 1). I didn't take down much notes for this presentation (words in square parenthesis [ ] are mine. Any inaccuracies in the recording or interpretation are my own):
  • A site that Doug recommended -, Habits of Mind.
  • Mentioned about the role of librarians as "teaching patrons to learn how to learn"
  • End of his presentation, he shared a "Bear" story which I thought was really funny:
A man and a woman encountered a bear. The woman put on her running shoes first and then started to run. The man chided her and said, "What's the point? You can't outrun the bear." The woman replied, "No. But all I need is to outrun you."
  • Then Doug left with this provocative statement as food for thought: "My job in Minnesota is to teach my kids to outrun your kids in Singapore."
Pretty provacative. But it's true, isn't it? That's his job, and every other teacher and educator in the whole wide world.

But I was thinking -- would the statement hold true for the role of the librarian? Would it be possible for librarians to teach kids not to outrun each other, but to run together (i.e. collaborate)?

I don't know. Maybe I'm too naive in thinking that. Globalised economies based on "Free Market" principles inevitable lead to competition.

Still, a part of me feels it's possible for librarians to "make kids run together" -- by directly bridging the gaps or creating opportunities for collaboration and partnerships.


Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Day 2: The Recent Developments in Web Archiving Technologies

I was late for Dr Paul HJ Wu's presentation on "Recent Developments in Web Archiving Technologies". Dr Wu is a Senior Fellow from the Division of Information Studies, School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University.

My notes from the presentation (words in square paranthesis [ ] are mine. Any inaccuracies in the recording or interpretation are my own):
  • Dr Wu briefly explained the possible issues in web archiving, like Copyright, Defamation, Content liability, Data protection.
  • The next part of his presentation talked about using a "weblog-like publishing platform" for web archival.
  • Said that blogs should not be "stereotyped", and that blogs preserve context very well because the blogposts are written in relation to specific entries. The blogging platform is structured and with a built-in archival capability. One could trace back why the author said something in the post.
  • He feels blogs are a natural tool & resource for web archival and for digital & cultural preservation. Weblogs can be used to capture cultural discourse from all levels.

Some useful web references from his paper:

Pew Internet & American Life Project. Reports: Online activities & pursuits

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: A Continuum of Responsibility (Sue McKemmish)

Nationnal Archives (UK) on Records Management

State of the Blogosphere, August 2005, Part 1: Blog Growth (Dave Sifry)

The History of Weblogs (Dave Winer)


Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Day 2: The International Dunhuang Project (IDP)

"In 1900 a hidden cave was discovered at a Buddhist site near the ancient Silk Road town of Dunhuang. Sealed in about 1000 AD, it contained tens of thousands of manuscripts, paintings and printed documents on paper and silk dating from 400-1000 AD."

Learnt about the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) today, from Dr. Imre Galambos, Overseas Project Manager, British Library. More about Dunhuang and IDP at

Some quick notes that I recorded (words in square paranthesis [ ] are mine. Any inaccuracies in the recording or interpretation are my own):
  • They found that the manuscripts were written in Chinese, Tibetan, Khatoshti, Urghur,
  • Khotanese, Tangut, Tocharian, Turkic, Sanskrit, even Hebrew. Some are already extinct languages. Truly a multilingual library back then [evidence of collaboration and resource-sharing back then?]
  • Some were already 600 years old by the time they were sealed in the cave in AD 1000.
  • Subsequently, since it was discovered in 1900, the manuscripts have been transported and stored at various libraries in Britain, China, France, Germany,Japan, Russia -- which later became an issue for China whose stand was for these national treasures to be returned.
  • Problem with such a geographically scattered collection is that scholars don't necessarily have funds to travel to study to the respective countries to study the manuscripts. The same manuscripts could be split across different libraries.

[I can understand China's position, but personally, I think from a global perspective, such a "distributed storage network" has its advantages over storing the manuscripts in just one country. E.g. insurance against manmade or natural disasters at one storage location].

  • IDP was founded in 1994 to try to alleviate this problem through its digitisation efforts of the manuscripts.
  • IDP's core activities are: Conservation (cited as biggest priority. Some manuscripts have
  • yet to be opened from their cases), Cataloguing (still no complete catalogue or union catalogue), Digitisation, Education, and Promoting research.
  • Each scanned image is 200 MB and sold upon request. Lower resolution pictures are posted on the website.

[Try searching via this page in their website for manuscripts -
Just scrolling down the Titles field already boggles my mind. I also wonder if 100 or 1000 years from now, something I might have doodled or scribbled might be discovered and made into a scholarly artifact.]


Monday, November 14, 2005

Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Day 1: Doug Johnson

[Update, 15 Nov 05: Discovered that Doug has a blog. Here's his post on Day 1. Here's his handout]

Quotable quote from Doug: "Students should come to the library , not to avoid the librarian, but because of the librarian"

Doug Johnson, Director of Media & Technology, Mankato Area Public Schools, USA, shared his ideas about "The Future of e-Books" (words in square paranthesis [ ] are mine. Any inaccuracies in the recording or interpretation are my own):
  • Doug suggests that the ebook of 2015 will not be a sony bookman, a laptop or PDA. "A true ebook will be cuddly" - you can take it to bed, to the beach, to the bathtub.
  • His ideal ebook will have the following features: padded, lightweight, uses a watch-battery & solar-powered, wireless, provides static memory, and has a "digital" paper, i.e. flexible display screen.
  • More features in his ideal eBook: Glare-free screen, allow landscape or portrait display, built-in dictionary & translation service.
  • The hardware of his ebook device will feature: a trackball, sound speakers, allow for sound recording, camera, text-to-speech, play audio books & video, allow for annotation, doodling in margins, add electronic sticky notes, set
  • bookmarks, also a storage device to load more e-content.
  • The use of this future ebook will "change the nature of fiction through customisable storylines, where the user can specify their content maturity-level, interactivity, and a marriage between video & games.
  • It will allow notes & papers & study materials, customised textbooks. It will be an e-organiser.
  • It will have artificial intelligence -- providing reader's advisory service, conversational reference, search bots, study prompts
  • His ebook will be affordable - given away with subscriptions, funded with
  • textbook & printing, purchased by parents like how they buy computers for their kids
  • It will contain a monitoring chip

[I'm thinking -- would this be overkill? I think what works best is still something that does it's core function extremely well, allowing for a few add-ons. Like a TV set for instance -- no matter if it's Hi-Defition or the ole Black-n-White, all you make it do is just to view broadcasted images.]

Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Day 1
  • Doug stated four challenges for the development of his ideal eBook: (1) readable screen, (2) power supply, (3) cost, (4) price structure
  • How would eBook impact libraries? He says when the Internet became pervasive, bookstores, banks, travel agents were also threatened by this new medium.
  • Doug suggests that libraries need to look at how these institutions/ businesses have adapted and survived with the onset of the Internet.

During the Q&A session, I posed this comment/ question to Doug:
"I think your ebook of the future will happen. When it does, I would suggest that it's going to be harder for libraries to assimilate these 'Techology-based Information Containers' such that it's delivery is seamless to users. Right now the delivery isn't seamless and more like an after-thought as libraries react to how they are provided.

I would also suggest that the solution would be for libraries to develop content with the technology provider. Do you agree and if so, how can we get into the act?"

Doug's reply included an example of how teachers create customised content in schools. He also added that the more that kids produce content for the web, the more they will "discern information quality" since they will become aware that not all information put on the web is accurate".

Well my question wasn't answered directly. Not that I'm blaming Doug. He did qualify that he wasn't sure if he got my question right. Heck, even I had difficulty trying to formulate my question properly. I suppose I could have articulated it better. Nonetheless, I found his comment about students being more discerning about information obtained from the Internet intruiging.

It does indeed make sense.

What teachers and librarians can do is to encourage students to post information AND show the students how their posted information is retrieved by search engines.

By showing how their posts are being indexed and displayed, I believe students will realise the implication of responsible posting on the Internet (and those who blog might realise the need to become responsible bloggers). Even that aside, the least they would learn is that not all information on the Internet is accurate and authorative.

As to that part of my question that Doug didn't address, as I said, I don't blame him. He addressed the "how to get involved" but not the "libraries as prod-user" aspect. Or did he?

Let's see:
Suppose students become prolific prod-users and create enough consumer-mass AND libraries create a strong relationship with these prod-users... wouldn't that lead to technology developers (like those for eBooks) having no choice but to develop products according to the direct needs of prod-users (and hence for the library?).

I'll also offer a projection of mine: When we do have the eBook that Doug described, it would also mean that libraries will no longer exist as separate entities within the school. In fact, it will come to a point that the school IS the library, and the library IS the school as well.


Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Day 1: Paul Saffo

Day 1: 14 Nov 2005. Conference started at 9am this morning. Too bad they didn't have WIFI. I thought I could try out blogging 'live'.
Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Day 1

Here are some personal notes taken from Paul Saffo's keynote address, "Knowledge, Media and Libraries after the Bubble". Paul is the director and Roy Amara Fellow, Institute for the Future, USA (words in square paranthesis [ ] are mine. Any inaccuracies in the recording or interpretation are my own):
  • He suggests that the Information Revolution is over. That we should drop the word "information" and replace it with "media" -- that we're at a stage of a"media revolution" like how mobilephones are no longer communication devices but media devices as well, with camera & video features.
  • There is a shift from mass media to a "personal-media" world. Users expect to answer back [similar idea to a prod-user].
  • Libraries have shifted or should be shifting from a place whereby "we don't anybody talk" to a place where conversations take place [sounds very cluetrain-ish].
  • In an age of mass media, everyone sees the same thing. But in age of personal media (which we're at), we don't receive the same information and we may even surround themselves with information that reinforce what we already believe in. Suggests that society is in danger
  • if nobody has any shared knowledge (I think he meant "shared values"). It may give rise to "new superstitions" (e.g. religious fundamentalism). Libraries have a role in this battle against misinformation.
  • It takes time to develop an "attitude of information indifference" where we question the quality of information.

Aside: Paul shares a picture he took at an unnamed airport, where the "Airport Police" and the "Information Desk" services were listed on a signage that inadvertently read as "Information Police"! That got some laughs from the audience.
Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Day 1

More notes:
  • Machine-to-machine conversation is going to dwarf human-to-human ones. He asks if customers of libraries of the future be machines rather than human.
  • Could libraries be setup under the same premises as Where a hole in an oak tree could be a "library" for people to be discovered?
  • Paul wants parents to talk to kids on how to download ringtones etc. Says that it's a dangerous situation when we don't know or show no interest in new technology that the young are picking up [I agree. If we don't even genuinely attempt to find out what that new technology is about and why kids rave about it, we inevitably set ourselves up for making certain assumptions. We either dismiss the new technology as something without practical use or we ban their use because we think it's dangerous -- like students & blogs].
  • Paul says there's no substitute for direct experience. [Most certainly! That's why many people who assume blogging is something to be "feared" just don't get it].
  • Insights to the future of the library profession may come from playing and creating online societies like & Everquest. Paul cited that these online users spend up to 30% of their gaming time creating and building their online personaes. He wonders why there are no Librarian characters in those virtual world?
  • Concluding statement -- libraries of the future cannot be just blogs & wikis. Libraries have to maintain an institutional role.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Networking Night

Came back from the Networking Night dinner (sponsored by Hewlett-Packard as part of the Celebrating Knowledge Conference) at CHJIMES about 2 hours ago.
13nov05 002Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Networking Night

Prof Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gave a speech where he shared his experience in using the National Library when he was a young boy in the 1950s, and how he liked to visit the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress during his overseas posting, among other interesting annecdotes.
Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Networking Night

First time I've had dinner at CHIJMES Hall. There's something unique about dining under a large hall. Wished my wife was there but then it was work after all.

More about CHIJMES' history here and here. It's a national heritage site cum dining, shopping and entertainment site.

I've always thought the name CHIJMES (pronounced “chimes”) was brilliant. The grounds used to be a Catholic school/ church. The school was called the "Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus" and popularly referred by its initials "Cee-Hage-Eye-Jay" (CHIJ).

After its facelift, they added the letters "M, E, S" after "CHIJ" as a word play on the sound of the church bell -- although the actual sound of the church bell would've been closer to a resounding "Dong" than a "chime" (but a entertainment place called "Ding-Dong" just wouldn't sound right, would it? Especially when "Ding Dong" could mean "mad" or "crazy" in Singlish).
Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Networking Night

Oh, I couldn't resist taking a picture of the huge christmas tree outside Raffles City Shopping Centre (across the North Bridge Road entrance/ exit of CHIJMES).
Christmas Lightup

Tomorrow is the start of the two-day conference at the InterContinental Hotel. If they provide free WIFI access, I might even try to blog it 'live'.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Official opening of National Library & Drama Centre, Singapore (12 Nov 2005)

Today, 12 November 2005, marks the official opening of the National Library of Singapore, as well as the Singapore Drama Centre (co-located within the NL, occupying 2 levels).

NL Official Opening 12 Nov 2005

President of Singapore, Mr S. R. Nathan officiated the launch.
NL Official Opening 12 Nov 2005

The event was attended by about 400 guests at the Events Plaza.
NL Official Opening 12 Nov 2005
NL Official Opening 12 Nov 2005

Now wait a second, wasn't the National Library opened on 22 July this year?

Yes, but that wasn't the official opening.

Geomancy wasn't involved in picking an auspicious date for this. The choice for 12 Nov is to coincide with the opening of the old National Library (Stamford Road) in 1960 (officiated by the late President Yusof Ishak) -- exactly 45 years ago.

The way I see it, the event today is kind of like Singapore officially registering the birth of one of her babies, when delivery of the baby (the National Library, Victoria Street) had been a few months before in July.

Incidentally, I snapped a picture of the Christmas light-up on my way to the train station after the event. It had nothing to do with the opening ceremony. I'm posting it here 'cos it seemed like a nice scene to end the event.
Christmas Light-Up

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Asian Children's Festival (ACF) 2005 at Singapore Expo

Opening ceremony for the Asian Children's Festival (ACF) 2005 was on 7 Nov. Today, 11 Nov, was the first day of the ACF at Singapore Expo.
Asian Children's Festival 2005 - Expo Hall

Here's the booth manned by my colleagues from Children's Services. You can't miss it -- they are at the front of the hall (nearer to the right):
Asian Children's Festival 2005 - NLB Booth

Library members can borrow books on the spot and Spin The Wheel to win prizes (there's also a ASK! promotion, i.e. ask questions to win prizes):
Asian Children's Festival 2005 - NLB Booth - Spin the Wheel

Children's Librarians (with programme executives colleagues) telling a story through a play (abridged version below):
ACF storytelling 11nov05 - a
Introduction to the story: About a merchant...

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - b
... with a rat problem.

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - c
The rat was so bold that the merchant couldn't do anything to it while the rat continued to eat the merchant's rice.

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - d
So the merchant went to consult a wise old man, who in turn...

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - e
... recommended a Samurai Cat to the merchant. But alas, the rat defeats the warrior!

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - f
And so the merchant laments to the old master that his stuffed cat was better than the Samurai Cat.

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - g
The old master sends another cat, but this time an old one. The merchant balks at the old cat and wonders if the cat will be any good when the warrior has failed.

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - h
The old cat, unlike the other cat before him, doesn't pick a fight with the rat. The old cat even asks the rat to take the food and leave him alone.

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - i
The rat gets bolder and takes more food.

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - j
The comes the harvest and the rat helps itself to a rice ball...

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - k
... and gets stuck by the sticky rice. Turns out the old cat prepared the riceball for the rat.

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - l
And so, the merchant understood that old doesn't mean useless.

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - m
The old master advises the merchant that brains are sometimes better than brawn.

ACF storytelling 11nov05 - n
The cast takes a bow. They are librarians and programme executives from NLB.

Aren't these librarians cool?


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Drop Everything And Read - Double your loan quotas

UPDATE (10 Nov 05):
Thanks to the good people at for highlighting the initiative. However, I'm kicking myself for a gross typo in my comment in my submission to the editors. I wrote wrongly that AV items could be borrowed by anyone. That's incorrect. The annual Premium Membership fees still apply:
"Readers at might be interested in this loan promotion. It's a great way to borrow more AV items (normally there's an annual fee for this)."
My apologies for the error.

This holiday season, just Drop Everything and Read.
To help you along, the NLB is DOUBLING your loan limit from 1 Nov 05 to 31 Jan 06.

YES, regular members can borrow up to 8 items, and Premium members, up to 16 items. This includes the borrowing of audio-visual (AV) materials, capped up to a maximum of four AV items at any one time.

So, what are you waiting for?

Drop Everything And Read (DEAR)

"Just one part of life's journey": Holiday in South Korea, 24 - 29 Oct 2005 (part 2)

We visited the Naejangsan National Park on Day 1. This was about 5 hours direct from clearing the customs at Inchon International Airport and proceeding by coach (we had an hour for lunch first before entering the park).

This was the view from the pavillion looking down on the lake. We reached there by cable car:
Nae Jang San


From the viewing pavillion, my wife and I then decided to walk to one of the temples in the mountain. The guide said the walk would take 20 minutes to and fro. It turned out to be more like 30 minutes each way!

Leg muscles wobbled like jello as we made our way down winding paths made treacherous with loose pebbles. The cold mountain air was making our lungs and legs work harder than normal.

I thought, "This is only the first day in South Korea!"

We were exercising more than what we did in a week back home! Matronly South Korean ladies more than twice our age passed us with ease and sure-footedness, seemingly dancing their way down the path. We wanted to give up. The more we made our way down, the more we thought about the arduous return journey up (which was harder).

We were also fighting against time (the tour group was waiting back at the bus). But we didn't give up. I knew it was hellish then, but I'd kick myself even more if I went back home thinking that I should've continued there and then. At some point while going down (which I felt was the hardest for me), I stopped thinking about tripping and falling and just left the mind take over.

So we persisted.

We were glad we did.

We reached the temple, took two gulps of the sweet mountain spring water, snapped a few pictures (to prove that we made it), started back up the mountain. At that point, you just blanked your mind and thought of only the next immediate step. Time was running out (we were past our agreed rendezvous time with the tour guide) but I was past caring. I just thought about the next step, the next rock, the next corner.

Finally, we found ourselves back up the start of the path. Made it.

Writing about it now seems overly dramatic, doesn't it? As I look back at this picture I took on the way back up, it doesn't seem that bad. But man, when you were in the thick of it...

Memory is a transient thing. I'm sure if I look back at this post years down the road, I'd be glad that I wrote this down.



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Monday, November 07, 2005

Asian Children's Festival (ACF) 2005

The Asian Children's Festival, or ACF for short, opens for its 5th year. It was launched today at Woodlands Regional Library by Minister for Education, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

ACF 2005 opening2

This is a shot of the storytelling performance by two students from the Canossian School.
ACF 2005 opening1
The girl on the left narrated the story of "The Nightingale" by Hans Christian Andersen while the taller girl on the right played the flute to represent the Nightingale and its song. BTW, the Canossian School provides education for children with hearing impairment who are deaf.

The ACF is "a campaign for children, and those involved with them, crafted with the children in mind to celebrate and honour them."

Check out the website for more details for events and the exhibition -


Sunday, November 06, 2005

"Just one part of life's journey": Holiday in South Korea, 24 - 29 Oct 2005 (part 1)

Two weeks ago, my wife and I spent six beautiful days in South Korea, in a tour group with 17 other Singaporeans. One prime motivation for choosing South Korea was because of the <<大长今>> "Dae Jang Geum" Korean period drama.

Image source: Official site of Korean National Tourism Org (or see Google cache)

Naturally, the itinerary included a visit to the Dae Jang Geum Theme Park (that was on Day 2). This was taken at the "Gate of the Palace" (item 01, if you click on the map here).
Da Chang Jing film site

Fans of the drama serial would find this particular scene familar -- it's the spot where palace courtiers and servants would wait to be announced, in order to see the king. This would be item 02 (shot from the left side of the steps) from the map.
Da Chang Jing film site 3

The entire shooting site was smaller than what it appeared on TV. The location scenes appeared larger due to the camera angles.

This picture would be item 09 on the map (I took this from the opposite angle looking down on the courtyard).
Da Chang Jing film site 2

This was the place where the kitchen scenes were filmed (item 16 on the map) .
Da Chang Jing film site 4

They are now showing reruns of the drama serial. Sometimes my wife and I would catch certain episodes of the palace scenes, and we'd be amazed at how a slight upward camera angle or the placement of props and furnishings can make the scenary look so different.

Now that I've been to the film location, watching the drama serial again does come with a certain loss of that "movie-magic" -- but only just a little. There's also a different sense of enjoyment. I am able to view the show differently, as if a door has opened in my mind's eye and I'm seeing things that I didn't notice before.

Aside: That's something you don't lose with (fiction) books, I think. Unlike the physical world, that sense of magic would unfold from the pages and into your mind as you read.

I took about 1,000 plus photos from this holiday alone (thank goodness for Digital Cameras). Will post a few more related posts over the next few weeks.

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