Friday, January 05, 2007

Yet another missed opportunity to be on BlogTV.SG (or "Would Government Employee Blogging Guidelines have helped?")

Interesting... just checked my blog feeds and now I know BlogTV.SG had invited Gayle Goh, Bernard Leong, Ephraim, Mr Wang, and George Yeo to be on the show about "Politicians Who Blog".

I said "interesting" because when the producer from BlogTV.SG emailed me to ask if I'd like to be on the show, I wondered who else would be on. I had to turn down the invite as I had something on that evening (or so it appeared).

Only Gayle, Bernard and George Yeo made the show. Ephraim couldn't make it due to a technical glitch. Mr Wang declined the invitation. If I understand Mr Wang's post correctly, he (or is Mr Wang a "she" in disguise, I've often wondered?) decided not to appear on the show because he felt the topic of blogging politicians is really a non-issue.

NOTE: It never occurred to me to blog about why I turned down the invite. But having read the posts by Gayle, Bernard, Mr Wang and George Yeo (notice I wrote "George Yeo" and not "George", heh) I thought that true to the spirit of blogging, it would be relevant to share some personal perspectives.

My reasons for not appearing has to do with the unclear nature of government employees appearing on mass media channels... or was it something else? You'd find out soon enough.

Sequence of events
On 29th Dec 2006, I received the email from the BlogTV.SG producer, Soon Ling (nice lady, from the tone of her mail). I had a prior appointment for the evening of the recording (3 Jan '07) but it was possible to reschedule my appointment if I wanted to be on the show.

I took two days to consider -- the pros and cons of appearing on the show. Obviously I declined. My reply to Soon Ling was simple and polite. But I offered to blog a response (I'm always for offering alternatives to requests -- must be my librarian training).

Soon Ling replied that a 'live' session was more appropriate. She also asked if I'd be interested in appearing for future episodes.

Extracted from my subsequent reply to Soon Ling:
I'm not so keen to appear on TV, mainly because I'm not a spontaneous speaker (that's why I blog!) -- if it's not work-related, I try to avoid it if I can.

Also, because I identify myself with my employer when I blog, appearing on mass media is a bit tricky. It's sort of a mix between seeking clearance and courtesy note. Normally for a public servant/ govt agency employee to comment on politics, religion, govt policies -- that's a grey area if it's not work related (although it's not the main reason why I can't make it for this episode).

That's not to say a definite NO. I don't mind appearing on episodes depending on the topics. For instance, I'd be happy to share in my personal capacity if you have an episode to talk about learning/ creating stuff (like music/ movies) with social media. I'm into this phase where I'm making music (fulfill impossible childhood dream, I suppose), uploading and sharing them online.

What I didn't say in the reply
I was entirely honest with Soon Ling in the reply, but somethings I didn't elaborate.

Minister George Yeo was both the reason for my interest and disinterest in appearing in the show. Even if I appeared on the show in my personal capacity, it's a gray area regarding a recorded discussion with a Minister. I have an open association with my government agency employer via my blog. Although not under Minister George Yeo's, my employer comes under a ministry and there are inevitable associations.

As an employee of a government agency, I considered the issue of appearing in a mass media platform -- the topics discussed, the people appearing with you, how the show will be edited, and the audience who will watch the show.

In the absence of an Employee's Blogging Guidelines -- one that ought to affirm what the employee CAN do, rather than what they cannot -- I chose to take the "safer" path and not chance saying something stupid in front of the Minister (ex-MICA, no less).

There's more!
I was also conscious of how I'd look in TV/ web. My receding hairline would be darn obvious. I didn't have charming good looks to keep up the illusion, to match the so-called intelligence that people seem to say I express in this blog.

And if my radio interviews are anything to go by, I sound boring!

But are the reasons valid?
But upon further reflection, all the above -- they are just excuses.

There's nothing to say that as a government employee, I can never appear on a show with a minister, once I've sought the appropriate clearances. If my employer said No, it would be a different matter. On the contrary, I was quite confident that my Corporate Communications Director would have given me the green light. My track record for TV/ radio interviews (work or personal) have been OK so far.

Ivan ChewAs for my looks (or lack of) and the receding hairline, the only person whose views would matter would be my wife. Nah, not even that.

This year would be our 7th wedding anniversary and by this time, I can say with certainty that how I treat my wife is more important than how I look.

Besides, my photos have appeared on blogs, and I've done this as well.

As for sounding boring, I never claimed to write "exciting ramblings". My writings are boring, so what's new?

What's the real reason for me declining the interview?

The Crux of the Matter
In truth, I chickened out. Yes -- chickened out. Backed off. Lost confidence.

Afraid I'd sound dumb and destroy the illusion of intelligence I maintain in this blog.

Basically I lacked confidence in myself. It should not have been that way. That is what I'm not so proud of.

I mean, why would I think I'd say the wrong things? How "wrong" would "wrong" be? I ought to be surer of myself by now. And if it's really the wrong thing that would cost me my job, I don't think the BlogTV.SG producers would be so mean as to leave it in. They'd have to start paying people to appear on their shows once word gets out that people can get dooced from appearing in their shows.

Would Employee Blogging Guidelines have mattered?
Nah. No Employee's Blogging Guidelines and no amount of assurances from my Corporate Comms would be effective remedies for me being chicken.

As George Yeo famously blogged before -- it's about having "Breaks, Brains and Balls". I was short of the last one in the sense that I did not take a calculated risk, and I let my worries overshadow the possibilities of having a good discussion.

Really, do I want to be on a with George Yeo?
I still cannot say with certainty I want to be on BlogTV.SG. Frankly, the thought of being on a show, with lights and crew, the lack of control over what would be edited -- that still scares me. FD somehow scares me too, I'm not quite sure why.

But as Steven Segal uttered in a movie, "Anticipation of Death is worse than Death itself".

The only way to overcome such hesitation and uncertainties is to "just do it". Take a few knocks. What that doesn't kill me will make me stronger. If I botch on BlogTv.SG, I might be bruised but I'd hardly be maimed.

The good thing is that reading Gayle's and Bernard's posts has removed some of my uncertainty over how the show would be conducted. It wasn't that scary after all, by their accounts.

Now having a discussion with George Yeo -- that I want to do. I've followed George Yeo's blog posts. Like any blogger I follow, I know a little better about the individual. Hence, I won't be going in cold. I'd have something to say to the man.

From his postings, George Yeo seems friendly enough. Heck, if a minister can point out -- in his own words -- his "balding forehead" (see para 2), and proclaim that his ego was bruised (see para 3), then what's my excuse?

As they say, everything is 20/20 (i.e. perfect vision) upon hindsight. In this case, the "hindsight" comes from reading Bernard and George Yeo's posts on the show. If nothing else, this is yet another example of the qualitative aspect of blogging.

It would have been nice to chat with George Yeo, blogger to blogger. I was too caught up wearing the hat of a government agency employee.

Technorati Tags: blogging, blogging guidelines
Reference: I was on almost (28 Oct 2006)


  1. I wouldn't fret on it. Part of the attraction to reading blogs stems from the authors' mystique. Also, from Buffalo to Singapore, every blogger I know has either kown or reads your blog regularly. Why bother with local when you're already global?

  2. Heh, that's one reason not to appear on TV -- maintain mystique. BTW I intentionally mislead a little by choosing the title for the post. As I explained in the later part of the post, it's not so much about appearing on BlogTV but about the issues I'd considered and why I decided not to go for it. "Chicken" or "Choose to be low-profile"? Either way, I was just not gung-ho enough to say yes :)

  3. george10:50 am

    Your last line gave you away. At the end of the day, what worries you is that you might say something remotely perceived as being unacceptable by the government, even if you are appearing in a personal capacity. So if that is going to be a concern for you, how can we be sure you're not self-censoring your blog when you say something remotely political?

  4. Hello George, not really. What worried me at the end of the day was all in the mind. I was, as I said, "Chicken".

    I've pretty much given everything away in this post. Perhaps I've rambled too much and you missed the part where I already admitted the concern I had, which was -- as you said -- "perceived as being unacceptable by the government, even if you are appearing in a personal capacity". To that, in the end I also admitted it was merely an excuse.

    The last statement of being "caught up wearing the hat of a government agency employee" is meant to be interpreted openly, e.g. that government employees tend to worry too much; that we tend to over-analyse etc etc.

  5. Anonymous2:09 pm

    Hi Ivan,

    Happy New Year.

    Thought I might let you know this, when I was talking to the producers after the event with George Yeo, I mentioned that they should do something on the specialist bloggers. Of course, the person I have in mind and I spoke as an example is you, since you have contributed in the area of librarianship and teaching podcasting/blogging to the masses in National Library Board.

    Hope that they will approach you in the future.

    I also thought of meeting up with you sometime.

  6. In your shoes, I would have chickened out too.

  7. Anonymous3:56 pm

    You are the master rambler, Ivan... can write such a lengthy blog entry about missing the opportunity to appear on tv! (i was guessing u might mention about your hair, or lack of it, as one of your excuses...and I was right!) heehee, happy new year!

  8. Lam Chun See11:15 am

    I say it before, and I say again. How can someone who can compose, music, paint, blog, teach, write stories etc. be boring. And been to S. Africa and interact with people all over the world some more.

  9. "I can say with certainty that how I treat my wife is more important than how I look."

    Well said :)

  10. Hi Ivan. Just wanted to let you know that I was about to chicken out about something (giving a public talk about SL at the National Library!!) and then this popped into my aggregator and I accepted it. I'll just think of you the day before when I'm asking myself "why am I doing this?".

  11. Anonymous12:13 pm

    I appreciate your sharing of your thoughts in this decision, but OTOH I see it as nobody else's business but yourself. Either way, the decision to appear (or not, as it were) is yours to make. No one has the right to criticize you for the choices you make.

  12. Well done, what an honest post!

    Which is more than I can say for some other bloggers. :)

  13. Anonymous6:27 pm

    Hey bro, I finally got back online (have blogged about it too). I feel that you worried a little too much about appearing on TV lah. Personally, I don't think that you look bad despite being follicularly challenged (heck, I am also tending towards that direction...he he). Your soft spoken and analytical demeanour may also win you new fans in Mainstream media. As for debating with a Minister, well, so long as your position is clearly stated to be personal rather than organisational, it shouldn't be an issue. After all, your blog isn't an official NLB mouthpiece right?

  14. Walter - let me check with my employer... nah, they said no. LOL.


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