Thursday, April 30, 2009

QQ*librarian shares her "What is Britannica?" story

Here's the lastest QQ*librarian story from her real-life front-desk experience:
She claimed she has tried Google, Wikipedia and everything (yes, Google and Wikipedia is equivalent to everything to this young reader) but to no avail.

Topic X appeared to me to be a possible entry that can be found in encyclopedias. So I directed her to the encyclopedia section, and told her to try the Encyclopedia Britannica, Americana and World Book.

She looked at me like I just spoke to her in French. Then she asked me "What Britannica?"

So it has come to this. The word "Encyclopedia Britannica" has become a technical jargon that the young generation no longer understands.

I brought her to the shelf and pointed to the encyclopedias. She stared at the shelf blankly for a minute, then turned and asked me, "how to use encyclopedia?"


If you enjoyed this one, you might want to check out the rest of her Librarian Tales.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Twitter Telepathy: Researchers Turn Thoughts Into Tweets

[Reposted from sgLEAD]

From Wired, 20 Apr 09 (the article explains why Twitter works better than trying to get patients to email):
Early on the afternoon of April 1, Adam Wilson posted a message to Twitter. But instead of using his hands to type, the University of Wisconsin biomedical engineer used his brain. "USING EEG TO SEND TWEET," he thought.

... The researchers built upon the BCI2000, a software tool pioneered by Williams and Wadsworth Center neural injury specialist Gerwin Schalk. The software translates thought-induced changes in a scalp's electrical fields to control an on-screen cursor.

Williams described e-mail as a a relatively difficult and inefficient task for someone on a brain-computer interface.

"It's difficult enough to be able to spell words, much less find an address book and select names. The overhead involved in these applications is just too much," he said. "Twitter is very serendipitous. It handles all the things that we've been struggling to make easy for a patient to do. It puts messages where people can find them. Let the world know how you're doing, what you're thinking, and they'll find you. And that's perfect for these patients and their families."


YouTube video of the software in action, here:

Something that Singapore polytechnics or universities might want to try prototyping?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thoughts about Creative Commons (CC) and CC adoption in Singapore

An NUS student, Jackson Tan (referred to me by Giorgos), is collecting information about Creative Commons (CC) adoption in Singapore. Specifically, he's writing an article on the different factors affecting Creative Commons adoption in Singapore.

Jackson is interested in how cultural differences between Singapore and other jurisdictions affect adoption rates, and the types of licenses that are preferred.

The article that he'll be writing is part of CC-Monitor, a project to document the differences in CC adoption in different jurisdictions around the world. The CC-Monitor site is still under development. It aims to provide key statistics on CC adoption and will study the cultural factors that affect CC's adoption.

I checked with Jackson if I could blog my responses. He said OK, so here it is:

[DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed are my own; they do not necessarily represent the views of the CC-SG team]

---- START ----
What is your role in/ involvement with Creative Commons
I've been appointed as Community Manager for Creative Commons SG (background of how this came about, here; listed here). By "community manager", it's really about supporting the efforts for promoting CC, helping to manage the discussion list, acting as an additional contact point for anyone interested in CC and/ or CC-SG.

Who are the prominent team members of Creative Commons team in Singapore? If they hold specific roles in the team please specify.
I take "prominent" to mean those whom I can readily identify. Info can be found at:

These people in this photo could also be counted as team members, I suppose.

What were the team’s primary motivations and goals for adoption and promotion of creative commons in Singapore?
I can't answer for the team, as I wasn't involved at the start and I'm new to the team. My sense is that the CC SG team wants to promote a culture of sharing and ultimately help the creative movement in Singapore.

What are the key initiatives the team has taken so far (e.g., events organized) to promote the awareness and adoption of the creative commons licenses in your country?
I'd consider these as key initiatives (so far):

There's on-going promotion and advocacy of CC at other events, like
the following:

Please provide a list of advocates, institutions and firms who are the most prominent adopters or evangelists of CC licenses in your country so far.
The only government agency that's (somewhat) adopted CC is the National Heritage Board,
via it's website (see this post). I don't know any other institutions (govt or private) that have adopted CC.

There are more individuals who've adopted CC, and we've compiled a list, here.

I can count Giorgos as a prominent evangelist, since he gives public talks and is probably the only regular person doing it.

Are you aware of any local report or study on the use of CC licenses in your country?
No, although I think Giorgos' research area is on the CC movement in general.

Are you aware of information on pattern and volume of adoption of CC licenses across types of media in your country (text, photo, video, sound etc)?
Not in any accurate sense, no.

Do you have information on where the majority of CC licenses/ users in your country reside (where possible name specific digital archives, online communities, individual blogs, print/offline media)?
No. Apart from serendipitously discovering such adopters, I don't know
of any way to say, Google for CC-SG adopters.

What are the key factors driving the adoption of CC licenses in Singapore?
Adoption of CC in Singapore is relatively low. Awareness of CC isn't very high either. From the few CC Adopters whom I know in person, I'd say they do it because they personally believe that there's more to benefit by sharing it under CC than any potential losses or infringement of their copyright. So it's more of an intrinsic motivation.

What are the key challenges faced by local team in promoting awareness and adoption of CC licenses?
Again, I can't speak for the team. But personally, I feel the main challenge is that people are entrenched in the typical copyright model (i.e. seek permission first). Or they presume they understand copyright and that there is only one way to license content.

Second challenge is that even if they are made aware of CC, and even if they see relevance for what they do, they may hesitate because they don't see CC as "the law", unlike how they view Copyright. In a way, Copyright is perceived to be more legitimate because there are government sites like You can find the Copyright Act in the Govt Statutes online. CC, on the other hand, isn't associated with "government" so I think that gives people the perception CC has a legitimate status.

A third challenge is that CC makes it easy for potential users to understand the terms of use but it may not be that clear-cut for adopters. There are aspects to CC that non-IP lawyers may find it hard to take a definitive position.

E.g. I know of a IT-professional who's knowledgeable in the general CC movement. He's also into photography but he has been cautious in adopting CC for the photos he shares online. He explained to me that his understanding is that once a particular CC license is adopted, there is no turning back. If he adopts a BY-NC license and then decide to go back to "All Rights Reserved", he feels that isn't logical. So he'd rather not adopt a CC for the time being unless he is absolutely sure that he does not ever intend to go back to a stricter license.

Fourth,it's hard to convince people how the benefits of sharing under CC exceeds the risk (of being exploited). People tend to understand risks better than they understand potential benefits.

Which license types do the majority of license adopters across the country so far seem to prefer?
My sense is that it's BY-NC (i.e. the "non-commercial" option). Very few adopt the BY only. In fact, I only know of only one example -- me! (ok, with my band mate, that makes two).

In your view, what are the key factors influencing license preferences among users in Singapore? ( source background/ public discourse on copyright/ pro-piracy background/ historical and cultural factors / politico- economic factors, etc).
I think it's "fear of being exploited" or "fear of losing the opportunity to make money". i.e. they might want to share, but prefer a "NC" license so that their work isn't used by a commercial company without paying them as creators.

In your view, to what extent and in what ways does the local CC team influence the license preferences of users?
Little to no influence at present.

In your view, what are the key challenges in promoting more liberal licensing (convincing users to share more openly) in the country?
Similar to what I answered in "What are the key challenges faced by local team in promoting awareness and adoption of CC licenses?"

How would you predict the future of CC license adoption in your country and its significance for the region?
I'm an optimist.

I predict that CC will have a place in Singapore. Adoption will be slow, but it will take form and shape steadily. It's relevance will only increase.

There are 3 main reasons for why I say this:

I feel the foundation for CC is an understanding of copyright and Intellectual Property. That seems to exist in Singapore.

The general awareness of the "Don'ts" of copyright is there, thanks to awareness talks by the efforts of IPOS, BSA, teachers in schools. I qualify that the level of understanding may not necessarily be correct ones (e.g. you have people saying "my idea is copyrighted", which is false as you cannot copyright an idea until you express it in tangible form). However, the general awareness is a foundation to understanding and contrasting CC.

Second, IT and internet is very much part of the Singapore lifestyle, i.e. work, school, leisure. There can only be an increase in those who are seeking usable content online. And also among those who wish to share their content online. Both trends for can only grow. CC will be highly relevant and useful to both groups.

Third, I think "creative output" will grow. There's government-initiated efforts to promote the Creative Industries. And there's also recognition of the value in being creative, e.g. schools and parents recognising the need to let the child be creative, and growing acceptance of creative and non-mainstream careers.

So when creative outputs increase (e.g. amateur art, photography, music) it's natural that much of the output will be shared online. If they see the relevance of CC, then adoption will increase as well.

How would you predict the future trend in pattern of license mix in your country?
I can't make any meaningful predictions other than saying Copyright definitely has it's place. As for Cc, there are those who will realise the relevance of adopting CC. There will be those who don't, or won't.

---- END ----

[UPDATE: The above info has been used at]

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One Singapore librarian's quest to raise $200,000 for The Spastic Children's Association (part 2)

[From Part 1]

A quote by Dennis Kweh, librarian:
I plan to travel 200km over 3 days (21-23 Apr09) within Singapore on a battery powered wheelchair, covering places like East Coast Park, MacRitchie Nature Reserves, Orchard, Shenton Way, HortParks, South Bouna Vista Rd etc.

I will be on the road continuously for at least 10 hours a day to achieve this aim of covering 200km.

To make this quest even more meaningful, I hope to be able to raise S$1 for every meter I travelled ~ Dennis Kweh


The following footage was from today yesterday, the first day of three.

Creative Commons License Adventure 200 (21 to 23 Apr 2009) by Ivan Chew is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Singapore License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Dennis is a fellow librarian and my direct colleague at the NLB. He's doing this initiative in his personal capacity (though our employer has generously encouraged staff to support his efforts where we can).

On Day 1, Dennis drove his electric wheelchair in at around 10.30pm, at the sponsored chalet where he'll rest for the night.

After the volunteer doctor checked his BP and gave him the thumbs-up, my three other NLB colleagues (Wai Ling, Eleaner, Li Sa) and myself interviewed Dennis briefly.

Dennis said he didn't expect himself to last that long (for Day-1).

He had been in his power wheelchair for 10 hours straight (if you've taken a flight that long, you'll know that isn't easy).

His power wheelchair is essentially an electric-powered motor vehicle. It required his full attention to give it the right controls, stay in the correct direction. And also moderate his speed to allow the accompanying joggers and cyclists to keep up.

Dennis will continue his journey, to raise $200,000, today and the next.

Good luck, Dennis!

Details on how you can contribute, here.

[Next: Part 3]

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One Singapore librarian's quest to raise $200,000 for The Spastic Children's Association (part 1)

Arrgh. I'm sorry I didn't post this earlier.

A few months ago, my librarian colleague, Mr. Dennis Kweh, hatched the idea of raising funds for the Spastic Children's Association (Singapore).

By traveling 200km in a power wheelchair, within Singapore over three days.

He approached START Centre, who agreed to be the event organiser.

His "Adventure 200" starts today (ends on 23 Apr 09). I'll post more pictures and videos soon.

This is Dennis' open letter.
ADVENTURE 200 Singapore – 1 Person, 1Metre, 1 Dollar, 1 at a timeI am Dennis Kweh and I am a librarian.

I suffered from a rare genetic disorder Morquio Brailsford Disease, Spinal Sclerosis and blinded on one eye due to Glaucoma. I count myself among the fortunate few who lived a respectful and meaningful life. Now at 47 years old, I hope to return to the society by reaching out to help fellow disabled in this Adventure200 challenge in April 2009.

I plan to travel 200km over 3 days (21-23 Apr09) within Singapore on a battery powered wheelchair, covering places like East Coast Park, MacRitchie Nature Reserves, Orchard, Shenton Way, HortParks, South Bouna Vista Rd etc.

I will be on the road continuously for at least 10 hours a day to achieve this aim of covering 200km. To make this quest even more meaningful, I hope to be able to raise S$1 for every meter I travelled.

If I am successful in this quest, I will be able to raise S$200,000 for the Spastic Children's Association of Singapore (SCAS) to help people with cerebral palsy under their care.

SCAS was chosen as the beneficiary due to its specialized intervention and rehabilitative programs for cerebral palsy in Singapore. Cerebral palsy (CP) is an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious diseases that cause physical disability in human development. While cerebral palsy is a physically crippling disease, it is not a humanly crippling disease. The human spirit will not be discouraged.

With assistive technology gadgets, they empower the person with greater confidence, enhance independence and improve abilities. Take the good example of Stephen Hawkings, who is not hampered by his disability to be one of the finest scientists in this century.

On a personal level, I cannot just keep still and go about my daily life when I have seen what cerebral palsy patients went through during one of my visits to SCAS. Thus, I have made a personal challenge to do something for them and improve their lives through my wheelchair marathon.

The fundraising of this project will be managed by the START Centre Pte Ltd who has graciously come forward to join me in this worthy cause by offering their services free of charge. Your donations will go directly to the Spastic Children's Association of Singapore

I believe being disabled is no barrier to help other people with disabilities. I hope to be able to do my part, and despite the current belt tightening economic situation, I hope you will join me in this good cause and give generously or within your means.

Your donation will mean a lot for them as well as for me.

More at the event website - (4 Mar Press Release).

See also the earlier coverage from The Straits Times, TODAYonline, more press coverage.

OK, right after I hit the SEND button, I've got to rush to meet a colleague who's driving a few of us to interview Dennis at his first night stop.

More updates to follow.

[Next: Part 2]

Sunday, April 19, 2009

CNA article: Bloggers, moderators can help ease public fears in crises

From Channelnewsasia (18 Apr 09):
SINGAPORE: The Internet has made possible the rapid spread of fear in a crisis, said Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng.

But he said bloggers and website moderators can help ease public concerns should a terrorist attack occur...

Since October 2007, 75 of them have visited the Home Team Academy and the Civil Defence Academy to get an understanding of emergency preparedness and counter-terrorism activities.
Read the full article, here.

Very interesting.

If not for the CNA report, I'd never have guessed the Ministry of Home Affairs (who has oversight on the Home Team Academy and Civil Defence Academy) has engaged 75 bloggers and website moderators since late 2007.

I wonder who are those 75 people were (and did they blog about it?)

Ministry of Home Affairs

Home Team agencies exploring New Media
I know Home Team agencies like the Singapore Civil Defence Force has a blog:
The Singapore Civil Defence Force Blog

And the Singapore Police Force now has a Facebook Page:
Facebook | Singapore Police Force
(Btw I think their FB page is pretty engaging as it is, with people posting comments and questions. So I don't think they need a blog anymore, heh. However, they do need to provide regular responses to the questions posted at the FB page! Some are very legitimate questions whose answers I'd find useful also.)

Anyway, the CNA report says to me the Ministry of Home Affairs is pretty progressive in terms of "new media engagement". They're not just publishing stuff but setting up platforms and face-to-face engagement opportunities.

Those MHA agencies obviously recognise the value of blogs and bloggers in legitimate information dissemination.

Thinking aloud: How to engage for the purpose of crisis communications
If I were in MHA and had to organise such blogger networking sessions, I'd only invite bloggers who are willing to identify themselves. It's OK not to reveal their real names on their blogs but at least they should identify themselves to MHA (if the choose to take up the invitation).

But at some level, they cannot choose to remain anonymous.

In crisis communications, credibility is crucial.

If verification of identities is needed for particular situations, I think it's fair for MHA to list the blogs they may deem as trusted on the MHA website. A disclaimer can be stated to say that MHA has no control over what is posted, but these bloggers have been briefed at some point.

Going back to the CNA article, the minister was quoted as saying, "On the ground... ...grassroots networks are also important."

I agree.

And if we use the civic grassroots analogy, it's about cultivating relationships.

No agency can simply tell bloggers what to publish. Doesn't work that way.

At least, agencies can let partners have the information. Then it's largely trusting they will pass on the message without distortion (there are ways to ensure information integrity, like providing an official page with the source information).

What I think it means is that ultimately, mutual trust and respect will be key in a crisis. That trust and respect can only be cultivated during times of non-crisis.

Does this means the Home Team now have regular "Engage the bloggers" networking sessions?

Would be good if they do.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle - Singer - Britains Got Talent 2009

Watching this segment of Britain's Got Talent made me realise how we've been raised to unconsciously accept that beauty is a requisite for talent.

Regrettably I'm no exception, as I realised after watching this.

YouTube - Susan Boyle - Singer - Britains Got Talent 2009 (With Lyrics)

This Herald's article sums it up:
The answer is that only the pretty are expected to achieve. Not only do you have to be physically appealing to deserve fame; it seems you now have to be good-looking to merit everyday common respect. If, like Susan (and like millions more), you are plump, middle-aged and too poor or too unworldly to follow fashion or have a good hairdresser, you are a non-person.

Thank you, Susan Boyle.

For making me realise my hypocrisy.

(Hat-tip to Lingfeng for pointing me to the video and article).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"THE GREAT REPRICING: What The Current Crisis Represents"

A friend pointed me to this insightful speech by Minister George Yeo. His commentary and views of what the current global financial/ economic crisis mean for governments, economies, politics, China, and culture.

He spoke at the University of Cambridge (27 Mar 09), as part of the university's 800th anniversary.

From the last para:
Human civilisations learn from one another more than they realise, more than we realise. In a collection of essays published by Needham on the historic dialogue of East and West in 1969, he chose for his title Within the Four Seas. That title was from the Analects of Confucius, who said, "Within the Four Seas, all men are brothers”. In the heyday of Third World solidarity in the 50’s, the Indians had a saying ─ "Hindi-Chini, bhai bhai” ─ Indians and Chinese are brothers. In these confused times, we need to learn from one another on the basis of a deep respect for each other as human beings.


Oh, his posts like this says politicians like George Yeo gets new media!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

ccMixter mashup: Ballad Of Jane (narva9 mix)

This song is a personal experience of Creative Commons fueling creativity.

A song I completed, with help from ccMixter and the generosity of the ccMixter community - "Ballad of Jane":
This is Jane.

Who tells, to no one in particular, that the sky is blue. That she’s cold.

She has no one — but herself — to assure herself that she’s fine.

This is her story.

Creative Commons LicenseBallad Of Jane (narva9 mix) by Ivan Chew is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Singapore License. Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
Listen/ download at ccMixter |
[More details at MyRightBrain]

After I’d completed my instrumental track, I felt it lacked something. So I searched ccMixter for female vocals.

I was hopeful but also mentally prepared not to find anything. It's easier to work the song around a set of vocal tracks, rather than the other way around (i.e. the vocal tracks may not match my instrumental track's key and tempo).

I must have gone through all available vocal tracks when I found a fellow ccMixter track - narva9’s “I’m Fine”!

Her pell (i.e. what ccMixters often use as the short-form for acapella) had about 10 over remixes by then. I didn’t care. It was a jaw-dropping moment for me. To have found a pell — whose key and tempo and lyrics — so snugly fitted this idea I had in mind.

My loose idea was that Jane is telling the world her story. But I didn’t really know what was her story yet.

narva9’s lyrics completed my original idea.

I've mentioned a few times. Some day soon, I'll find time to blog about it in greater details.

The simple explanation is that ccMixter allows people to share/ upload their original musical samples and/ or works. Or to legally download and reuse (it's not a must to upload your tracks). All works come under a Creative Commons license.

Personally, it's the next best thing to discovering GarageBand (I'd like to use a non-music analogy but... ah well)

I get the feeling those who don't create music don't quite appreciate how amazing ccMixter is as a resource.

Or appreciate the fact that people now have the opportunity to find someone to collaborate (at least the song, if not the actual person) across geography and time.

I'm not exaggerating when I say "across time". I'm a late-comer to using ccMixter. Most tracks I've used were shared by people one to two years ago.

People whom I've not met and probably will not. But I can communicate with them via email, if I choose to (which I've done so a few).

It's likely that some people may hesitate to share their stuff on sites like ccMixter (though I think it's more that relatively fewer create music as compared to people who take photos or videos).

I'd say that's besides the point.

The best judge of that what share isn't yourself. It's other people.

One of Ranganathan's Five Laws of Library Science comes to mind.

If "every book has its reader", then "every music-sample has its listener or user".

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Reflections on Gandhi's experiments with Truth

[My rambly attempt at an essay on Gandhi, from reading his book. I'm sure it can be further edited for brevity. And there are errors and inconsistency in tense. E.g. Should I say "Gandhi writes..." or "Gandhi wrote..."? Anyway, critiques are welcome.]

What makes a person do great things? And how are great things achieved?

Particularly, what motivated Gandhi? What did he think or do, that made him the respected figure that he is today?

I first learned about Gandhi from watching the 1982 movie starring Ben Kingsley. That was it. In the movie, Gandhi appeared Saint-like. An intellect. I thought his achievements were due to some special quality inherent in a genius.

But reading this book changed my perspective.

(Translated from the original in Gujarati)
Other title: Satyanā prayogo athavā ātmakathā
NLB Call No.: 954.035 GAN

I read the unabridged edition of a 1948 publication, translated from Gujarati.

Having read Gandhi's own words (albeit translated), it became clear Gandhi was an ordinary man. Who was painfully aware of his limitations and was socially inept for a long time. Who took a long time to find his self-confidence (in a seemingly serendipitous manner).

This book will show that Gandhi was just a man. A meek, naive and painfully shy young boy. Who learned and survived from his mistakes. Who in spite of his achievements still writes of his fear of being hero-worshipped.

What seems to have put him on the road to "greatness" was the cumulative effect of a series of unintended circumstances, where each time he merely tried to do his best. And not always successfully.

I'd sum up Gandhi's path to success like this:
  • He was painfully and utterly human in his wants and needs. Very much naive as a child and as a young man.
  • He learned his ways through trial and error, rather than though any innate talent or skill (in Gandhi's words, he didn't have any).
  • Main thing was he didn't give up. He had support from some friends and his family. But ultimately it was his own reflections on what was "truth" that he found and grew small measures of success and self-confidence.
  • These "successes" were ordinary and unspectacular by themselves, e.g. not freezing up in front of the judge when presenting his case; not having a court case thrown out.
  • Over time, though his consistent actions, he slowly build up a reputation and to a point where people trusted him and sought out his legal services.
  • That's when he gradually stumbled onto social causes and taking up cases for the ordinary man. And then finding himself in extraordinary situations.
  • When faced with those situations, he simply lead by example and achieved--again through the trust others had in him--to achieve extraordinary things.

Gandhi fought injustice with ideas. So much could have failed. He could've been just another person/ a crank, who went to jail. Reading the way he handled things - writing to station conductor for first class tickets - it was all so undramatic.

It was Gandhi's ability to make others trust and follow him that made the difference.

That trust was established and continued because of his steadfast principles and morals, and transparency in his conduct of life. He does what he preaches, and he remains humble in light of his achievements.

His work against the negative treatment of Indians in South Africa, and against the Apartheid regime, did not come about because he was smarter or had power. Or though his resolve alone.

I think the other key ingredient was the willingness of the powers-that-were to hear him out. That willingness was grounded in the momentum that gathered from the Gandhi's collective acts and responses.

Even before he took on Apartheid, he was already practicing the universal principle of Tolerance and openness towards other religions and beliefs (p. 295, he suggests a school for students regardless of religious beliefs and backgrounds).

The other thing that struck me was how little he wrote about the idea of Non-violent Non-cooperation in the book.

[One criticism of the book was that Gandhi assumed he was writing for readers of his day, rather than a text that long survives him. Then again, it could also be an example of his unassuming nature.]

Gandhi knew that individuals are for justice but may be forced to operate within unjust rules. And he submits himself to those rules.

He acted out of the box when violence was probably what people were used to.

Civil disobedience: a simple yet powerful idea. And a brave one, when you decide to disobey the authority in non-violence means, yet knowing that the other party may not show such restraint.

As I understand it, it's about consciously disobeying an unjust law without resorting to violence. And willingly submitting to the consequences of breaking that law (e.g. Fine or jail ).

In the Introduction, Gandhi explains why he agreed to write the book.
p X. "If anything that I write in these pages should touch the reader as touched with pride, then he must take it that there is something wrong with my quest, and that my glimpse are nothing more than mirage. Let hundreds like me perish, but let the truth prevail. Let us not reduce the standard of truth for even by a hair's breath from judging erring mere mortals like myself."

"I hope and pray that no one will regard the advice interspersed in the following chapters as authoritative. The experiments narrated should be regarded as illustrations, in the light of which everyone must carry on his own experiments in accordance to his own inclinations and capacity."

Gandhi writes that the title Mahatma (Great Soul) "has deeply pained" him.

Gandhi clarifies that it is a book documenting his observations of his seeking various Truths (i.e. his Life's experiments).

Much of what he wrote were on his reflections on matters like health, diet, and personal conduct.

I kept thinking about what Gandhi meant by his "experiments with Truth". About halfway through the book, it dawned on me that "Truth" is not just about facts. Truth is about thoughts and actions that lead to good, for oneself and others.

I thought the book is really about Gandhi's pursuit towards self- realisation. Oft times at the expense of his health, and also at times impacting on others (especially his wife and his children).

His philosophy about the conduct of life reminds me of Buddhist precepts like Compassion, Tolerance, Self-restraint (even Celibacy, as explained in the later chapters).

What is clear was how he never imposes his truth on others.

To the last, he was able to reflect how some of his experiments with Truths were inconclusive. Or that they turned out to be mistakes (e.g. his treatment of his wife, some aspects of bringing up his children).

In the concluding chapter, he wrote his pursuit of the truth is still on-going and he was not yet free of feelings of love, hatred, attachment and repulsion.

One reason for reading this book was to answer my own question of what makes a person do great things, and how great things were accomplished.

Gandhi epitomised three qualities:
  • Courage in pursuing one's personal beliefs
  • Non-violence
  • Constant review and questioning of own beliefs (also things like reflection on his duties as husband, his treatment of his wife, handling of gifts)
I think all three qualities must be present.

And introspection ensures truth, at least it may lead to it. For without genuine introspection, being blindly resolute in one's belief is merely ignorance.

The book is not a typical autobiography, as Gandhi clarified in the book. He downplayed much of his involvement. His sense of humility may even frustrate the researcher in search of the historical context of his life and times.

[There are certain aspects that he assumes the reader already knows. E.g. The callousness of apartheid, and the British rule --some would say "exploitation"-- of India, why the Satyagraha, i.e. non-violence movement].

It's arguable whether his is a life worth emulating.

Many aspects are, but I feel circumstances have changed. Some of ideas seem strange and contrary to our time (p. 230, his distrust of the concept of Insurance).

Gandhi's life and achievements is worth studying. But not to worship him as a hero. It's easy to do so (especially when one relies only on movies!) I think it's a human tendency to elevate people who have done seemingly great deeds to the Pantheon.

But his is definitely a life worth understanding.

The clear conclusion for me is that Gandhi was an ordinary human being. That it is humanly possible to achieve some semblance of what he has accomplished.

Extraordinary things are often achieved by consistently doing undramatic things.

That only increased my respect for Gandhi.

p.s. I've to thank my band-budddy, Adrian, for introducing me to this book. My RoughNotes, here.

Creative Commons and what it means to be human

"What does it mean to be human if we don't have a shared culture. And what is a shared culture if you can't share it?"

"We've all these new technologies that allow people to express themselves, take control of their own creative impulses. But the laws (are) getting in the way."

"Creative Commons is designed to save the world from failed sharing."

"... we wanted to create a simple way for creators to say to the world, "Here's the freedom that I want to run with my creative work. Here's the things you're allowed to do..."

"Can I reproduce it? Can I copy it? Can I put it in my textbook? Can I use that photograph? Can I make a new version of it?"

"Creative Commons gives tools to creators to make a choice about Copyright."

"Creative Commons license can cover anything that Copyright covers."

"What we've done is given you the right to exercise your Copyright in more ways more simple."

"The work of Creative Commons is really about laying the infrastructure groundwork for this new type of folk culture."

More CC soundbites here:

Via this blog post -- by outgoing Creative Commons Board Chair, one of CC's founder and other CC initiatives, James Boyle.

Thank you, Mr. Boyle.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Library of Congress Shares Nation’s Treasures on YouTube

From (1 Apr 09):
The Library of Congress (LC) has begun distributing portions of its vast audio and video collections—including 100-year-old films from the Thomas Edison studio—on YouTube and Apple’s iTunes.

...LC had already been distributing thousands of historic photographs on photo-sharing site Flickr as part of a two-year pilot project...

Now, the Library and every other government agency can use YouTube, Vimeo, and New York-based startup to distribute video and audio. First-person accounts of slavery and interviews with notable authors are among the treasures now available on LC’s YouTube channel.

It's not an April's Fools joke, is it?

Nah. Here's the LOC press release (25 Mar 09).

Another significant development from LOC (here's an earlier one, as posted in this blog).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009