Saturday, December 31, 2005

Hitachi going the way of Channel 9? And will libraries get into the act?

Just read that Hitachi Data Systems is preparing a blog strategy (via Naked Conversations). I wonder if they are going the way like Microsoft's Channel 9... ... I have a feeling Hitachi will do something a bit different.

Why am I interested in this? Just another company trying out blogging, right? Well, when reputable corporations adopt something, that usually gives that 'something' greater legitimacy.

OK, so why's that important? It's just another for-profit company trying out blogging as a kind of marketing gimmick, right? No, I think corporate blogs (when done properly) goes beyond marketing and hype. I think it's about allowing potential customers to be clued into the heads of company employees, engaging the online community in dialogue, and creating some sort of shared values along the way.

(Wow, I can write a thesis proposal with that...)

A few people did suggest to me that Channel-9 type of corporate blogs will only work for large corporations like Microsoft, Google, IBM (companies whose brands already generate enough clout and interest). That most people aren't interested in what the employees are thinking if the company doesn't have any "brand".

Wait a sec -- most city/ national libraries aren't small organisations, and they also have enough clout and audience-base. Arent' they ideal candidates to get into 'corporate blogging'?

My guess is that libraries generally tend to go for proven technologies rather than take a risk. Blogs aren't proven in the sense that there's no hard data to show the outcomes in relation to corporate goals.

That's an overly simplistic view, but then again it could be the crux of the issue of why libraries and librarians are slow to take to blogs.

Tag: , ,

Friday, December 30, 2005

Flowers (or, "I did this - part 2")

Since I've had positive responses to my previous art-post, here are some paintings of flowers that were done some time ago.

The ones for SSEAYP 2001 were given away to host families in Japan, Philippines and Brunei. The remaining three were given to friends (our batch didn't complete the entire journey. We missed Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam). In the off-chance that you have one of the painting and you are reading this post, leave a comment. I'd love to know if you still have it : )

Oh, and if you know the names of the orchids, leave a comment. I copied them from a book but forgot to write down their names.

1996 (May) Flowers
Untitled - May 1996. Watercolour on drawing paper.
This was a still-life study of plastic flowers that were in a vase, on top of the TV cabinet at my parent's place. I remember in was during school term break. For some reason, I took particular notice of the flowers even though they had been there for ages. One of those artist-moments when you have that feeling of "Hey, I think I can draw/ paint this!"

Untitled - Aug 2001 (for SSEAYP 2001). Watercolour on watercolour paper.
This is my favourite. Given to my host family in Japan.

Untitled - Aug 2001 (for SSEAYP 2001). Watercolour on watercolour paper.
I think this was given to a friend on board the ship.

Untitled - Aug 2001 (for SSEAYP 2001). Watercolour on watercolour paper.
To host family in Brunei? Can't remember.

Untitled - Aug 2001 (for SSEAYP 2001). Watercolour on watercolour paper.
I think this was given to PPY Nick (hey Nick, you reading this?)

Untitled - Aug 2001 (for SSEAYP 2001). Watercolour on watercolour paper.
I have no idea who I gave this to.

Untitled - Aug 2001 (for SSEAYP 2001). Watercolour on watercolour paper.
I think this was given to my host family in the Philippines. It's another favourite of mine.

Untitled - Aug 2001 (for SSEAYP 2001). Watercolour on watercolour paper.
Must have given this to another PY on the ship.

You know, since Blogger does not allow me to create categories like Moveable Type or Typepad, I was thinking of creating another blog for my art-related posts. Do you know of such blogs? Please leave a url as a comment.

Visit our museums and win IT gear

While I have not visited any museum lately, let me do some word-of-mouth marketing anyway: If you've purchased museum tickets from either ACM, SHM, RBC, SPM, AEP, or SAM, between 8 Dec 2005 8 Jan 2006, you can SMS the ticket number for a chance to win IT gear & cash prizes (click on image for larger picture, or click here for NHB promo page).

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Adapting to change: Putting together the SCL News

I've been busy (both on and off work) putting together the Dec 2005 issue of the IFLA Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section newsletter, or SCL News for short. It's part of the Information Coordinator's duty.

My first time putting together a newsletter. It's a one-person operation with the editing, design and layout. Am learning lots about desktop publishing in a hurry. The biggest problem has been the desktop publishing software, or the lack of a dedicated one. It's not for lack of planning, but some things I guess I could only learn it the hard way.

Here's what happened:

After asking some colleagues familiar with desktop publishing, I settled with using MS Office, because (1) I was only familiar with MS Office, (2) buying a dedicated desktop publishing software was out of the question, and (3) it was what was available on hand.

MS Office proved more than adequate for the 20-page newsletter, once I discovered about customising templates (also learnt where to download free MS Office clip art). Then another problem appeared.

I needed to convert the finished MS Word document to a PDF format. I only had OpenOffice on hand (export the MS Word file as PDF) which worked fine in my initial test with a small MS Word file. But when I exported the 12MB MS Word document, the alignment in the converted file was haywire.

At that stage, I did a reality-check:
  • IFLA will not take my 12MB MS Word file to be uploaded on IFLAnet
  • I had to convert it to PDF but exported file isn't acceptable
  • Couldn't try other freeware PDF converters 'cos I'm using office computers and there are installation restrictions
  • No one else can do this for me (even if I wanted to pay somebody, there wasn't time)
  • Basically the only logical choice is to start over using OpenOffice
  • But I've never used before (given my relative familiarity with MS Word, it already took me days to put together everything together)

Finally, after 5 minutes of denial, I took the only logical choice and started to learn OpenOffice. It's funny how everything gets focused once a decision has been made.

After a 4-hour self-discovery trial-and-error crash course in OpenOffice, I mastered enough to be confident that I could pull it off. Another saving grace was that much of the thinking behind the design and layout had been done with the previous document.

As of this blog post, I only finished page 4 of the 20-page newsletter. But at least there's an end in mind, a light at the end of the tunnel. What's needed is some slick time management to pull it off.

Plus, it's all a blessing in disguise. Rather than think of having wasted my time with the first attempt, I have now learnt much more about MS Word and OpenOffice compared to when I first started with the newsletter.

That already counts for something.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

e-Museum Card

Heard about the e-Museum Card? I just did and signed up for one.

What benefits are there in registering? Read more here and here. The email newsletter was also a plus for me (I just like to know what's happening even if there's nothing else that attracts me).

But in truth, the benefits and the email newsletter weren't the real selling points. I signed up because it made me feel part of our museums.

That I belong.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Digital Art & Digital Storytelling

Knowing that I have an interest in drawing and painting, my wife borrowed this book for me. I was totally blown away by the content. All the artwork was done digitally (my 'raw notes', here).

Was so inspired that I bought this -- a Wacom Intuos pen/ tablet system:

Using it the first time wasn't as easy as I thought. My problem was trying to move the pen like I was still using a mouse.

Basically in using a mouse, you move the mouse over more or less the same spot (on the mouse pad or desk), i.e. your wrist rests on the desk and doesn't really move.

But with a pen-tablet system, you have to move your hand over the surface area of the tablet . The surface area corresponds with the entire area of the computer screen. If you want your cursor to move to the bottom-left of your computer screen, you move your pen to same relative position of the tablet (i.e. same bottom-left corner of the tablet). Your wrist tends to be lifted off the desk.

After going at it a few more times, I've gotten used to using the pen & tablet. Now I can easily switch between using the pen & tablet and the mouse, depending on what's most appropriate for the application at hand.

In digital graphics, using the pen & tablet really improves productivity and provides greater control compared to a mouse. I cannot imagine doing the same Legend of Bukit Merah pictures without the tablet.

With this new toy, maybe I'll might try out digital storytelling.



Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Perils in Nude Modeling

I don't laugh easily. But I was snickering away at this one (via jiddles). I think Singaporeans can develop a film/ animation niche along the art-comedy genre. Everybody loves a laugh.

Good marketing is also about perception shifts

This excellent post by Kevin Briody on how "Great marketing doesn’t always start with marketers" (via Scoble) reminded me why librarians should blog.

What struck me were these lines (on employee's blogs):
They are efforts most marketers can learn from, because their effect - and intent, even if indirectly - was to open up the company, put a face on it, shake off the four-colored opaque wall and invite our customers, partners, and even competitors in. That’s damn good marketing, in my book. Their cumulative impact - to effect a positive shift in perception and satisfaction of the company...

Some of my colleagues mistakenly think that I'm some blog evangelist (absolutely hate this term when applied to me).

I don't advocate blogs per se. To paraphrase Briody, I'm advocating that libraries "put on a face", "shake off the walls", and "invite our customers in", to "effect a positive shift in perception" about libraries (thank you, Kevin, for those beautiful words!)

One time I was telling a colleague why we should "put on a face" for libraries and librarians. I said people don't want to talk or write to "Helpdesk"; they'd rather deal with a "real person". He wasn't convinced.

I guess I should have explained that it's not that the staff behind the Helpdesk isn't real. The problem is that the replies are often standardised and impersonal. That's the problem.

Do staff who blog make them more personable? Of course not. There needs to be support structures that enable staff to understand what responsible blogging is about, and the organisation needs to foster a culture that supports the blogger's mentality (i.e. openess but not necessarily irresponsible tell-all; a willingness to say that "you're right and I'm wrong" without all the corporate-speak).

Today, it may be "blogs". Tomorrow, it's going to be something else. Technology constantly evolves.

But what certainly won't change would be customers being able to say what they feel in the online environment; for employees to seek these customers out, "listen" to what they have to say, actively engage these customers in dialogue, and build a relationship.

Next time someone tells me I'm a blog evangelist, I'm going reply:
No I'm not. I simply advocate a blogger's mentality coupled with tact and responsibility -- to bring about (or reinforce) positive perception shifts about libraries, librarians and all other people who work in libraries.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Blogs and Books Interview: TinkerTailor

Many moons ago, I emailed TinkerTailor some questions on reading and blogging (as a public service librarian, it's important to know more about our customers). TinkerTailor finally took time out from conversing with interns and aerospace industry veterans to share the following:
RamblingLibrarian (RL): What's your blog for? (what is its purpose)
TinkerTailor (TT): Even without you asking, I ask myself such existential questions every now and then. And, like any deep, existential question, I don't have a good answer :)

RL: What made you start (your blog)?
TT: I needed an outlet to maintain the little that's left of my sanity, as well as a place to store some thoughts and information and links.

RL: A bit about your reading interests.
TT: Pretty wide yet eclectic. If you rummage through the pile of junk on my office desk now, you'd unearth books on language and grammar, general science, psychology, marketing, software, anthropology, pedagogy, humour, and a novel I just finished.

RL: What would you consider as the most significant book you've read so far?
TT: For some reason this question is particularly difficult - I've read many significant books, but I wouldn't dare rank any of them as number one. That said, a recent book that had a significant impact would be Hackers & Painters by Paul Graham - I have about 5 blog posts on it. I could have written more, but slothfulness overcame me.

RL: Do you frequent NLB public libraries, or any other library?
TT: I have membership at an educational institution's library and that's the one I frequent. I go to the NLB libraries once a while, but it's less convenient [compared to his regular one].

TinkerTailor, who tells the world he's really a man, was recently highbrowsed for his book-related post (not Hackers & Painters though).


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Breaking out of the shell

A few days ago, a friend gave me a Christmas card and a gift -- a baby dinosaur figurine. He wrote some thoughtful words in the card and since libraries were mentioned, I decided to post an excerpt here:
I love books too. My fondest reading memories were from the Toa Payoh and AMK libraries, especially the latter. I used to stay in [---]. To reach AMK library, I will need to cross the road to the side where AMK MRT Station was. I would cross at the overhead bridge to AMK Park &... I was afraid of heights! These trips to the library not only helped to build up my knowledge, it also built up my courage to overcome my fear of heights.
17dec05 00117dec05 006
Knowledge and courage goes hand-in-hand. Like this present you are receiving. For me, it represents good ideas coming out of the shell, ideas natural & wholesome, & we have the responsibility to let them blossom & not become extinct! Hope you like it.

Yes, friend. Your gifts of symbol and words are much appreciated.

Tag: ,

Friday, December 16, 2005

Biblio-Art Therapy (or, "I did this!")

After blogging about the "24-hour Comix Jam @ The Pod", I remembered I had scans of paintings I did in my teens. Got nostalgic and decided to share them here.

They were done during school holidays and term breaks. I would borrow books from the public library. Mostly Fantasy and Sci Fi, as you can see from the pictures. Hence many of the paintings were inspired from ideas and characters from books.

This one's titled "Elfin Warrior: Frenor the Slayer" (Mar '89). Poster paints, watercolour pencils & ink. Corny title, right? I think the idea came from a combination of too many "Conan the Barbarian" stories and WWF wrestling shows (who remembers "The Ultimate Warrior"?)
1989 (Mar) Frenor the Slayer_r

This one's a made-up character "Jared: Sommniat Warrior of the Serpentine Order" (Aug '89). Watercolour pencils & ink. Ok, heavy influence from more 'Conan the Barbarian' type of stories. But in my mind, this guy is a good guy.
1989 (Aug) - Jarde - Sommniat Warrior of the Serpentine Order 180705

If memory serves me, I think "Sherba - Arakian Trakker Hound" (Aug '89) was inspired by reading Frank Herbert's "Dune". Somewhere in the novel, there was something about tracker hounds being set upon Paul Atreides (please correct me if I'm wrong about this).
1989 (Aug) Sherba - Arakian Trakker Hound 180705

"Tangerine's Dream - Dream Sequence 1: Elf Warrior" (Aug '89). Ah, more of the warrior elves stuff. A friend of mine introduced me to a new-age synthesizer band called "Tangerine Dream". Somehow, the band name and the elf-warrior idea got er... synthesized. Thing is, I often don't have specific notions of the story behind the names I gave to the paintings and characters. The whole idea was to give some vague meaning to the titles -- like how we see a book cover with a catchy title, and thinking what could possible be the story behind the title and the picture.
1989 (Aug) Tangerine's Dream - Dream Sequence 1 - Elf Warrior 180705

This one was copied straight from the cover of a book by Robert Holdstock "Where Time Winds Blow" (Aug '89; poster paints & ink). Wrote down the author and book title but forgot to note the illustrator. The story didn't have a lasting impression but the book cover did. One of those moments where I looked at a book cover and told myself, "Hey I think I can paint it!" -- oh, the crack in the glass was my additional touch (it wasn't on the original cover illustration).
1989 (Aug) Cover - Robert Holdstock's Where Time Winds Blow 180705

This one's titled "Warrior's Prayer - The Metal Kings" (Dec '89). Watercolours & ink. The idea for this didn't come from a book though. I was listening to a track titled "The Warrior's Prayer" from the heavy metal band, 'Manowar' (Kings of Metal).
1989 (Dec) Warrior's Prayer - The Metal Kings 180705
The track starts off with a boy saying, "Grandfather, tell me a story!" and the grandfather did, with sound effects of the horses and men and swords and thunder... (storytelling for adults!)

"Tor'noh'kqlish: Warrior King of the Tarvarn Nation" (May '92). Poster paints, watercolours & ink. I was toying with the idea of a cross between the American Indian and Roman warrior cultures. Of course I can't deny there was more of the 'Conan the Barbarian' influence.
1992 (May) Tor'noh'kqlish - Warrior King of the Tarvarn Nation

If you're a fan of the band "Extreme" and find the next painting strangely familiar, you're right! The original picture is from the inside sleeve of one of their albums ("Pornografitti", I think -- I could be wrong, let me know). See, I liked the lighting effects of the picture and how Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt were posing. Then I imagined them carrying swords -- and so it became "Legends of Nimrath: Eria Bladers" (Dec '94). Watercolours, colour pencils & ink.
1994 (Dec) Eria Bladers

"Red Expedition" (Apr '96). Acrylic & ink. Can't remember exactly what I read to have inspired this but it had to do with Mars. I imagined them as hunter-explorers, humans in armoured suits, on a newly terraformed Mars.
1996 (Apr) Red Expedition

Ok, I might scan and post more in future. If you've got a blog for your own paintings, leave a comment here.


24-hour Comix Jam @ The Pod

This 24- hour event was held last week, starting from the morning of 9 Dec 2005 until the next day. I dropped by on 9 Dec evening at The Pod for a quick look and took some pictures.

ComixJam 24 hrsComixJam 24hrsComixJam 24hrsComixJam 24 Hrs - Dec 2005
ComixJam 24 hrs

My colleague has blogged about it at National Library programmes blog:
A total of 83 contestants aged 13 to 38 took part in an overnight comics drawing competition organised by FUNics Productions and NLB. Beginning at 10am on Fri, 9 Dec 05, they went through a series of workshops... interspersed with free time to conceptualise their 8-page comic book, to do research at the National Library 'since 'research effort' is part of the evaluation criteria) and to sketch out ideas.

ComixJam 24 hrs
Books, friends and food... my kind of enjoyment.
ComixJam 24hrs

I got a kick out of seeing library books being used as reference materials for their character designs:
ComixJam 24hrsComixJam 24 hrsComixJam 24hrsComixJam 24 hrsComixJam 24 Hrs - Dec 2005ComixJam 24 Hrs - Dec 2005ComixJam 24 Hrs - Dec 2005ComixJam 24 Hrs - Dec 2005ComixJam 24 Hrs - Dec 2005


National Library's "Victoria's Secret"

Yup, in case you weren't aware, High Browse Online isn't the only blog from NLB. There's another one called "Programmes@100 Victoria Street" (DL.NLB.GOV.SG/Victoria), dedicated to events and programmes organised and held at the National Library.

Will the programmes and events for public libraries have a similar blog? I've suggested this to my colleagues.

What do you think? Would a programmes and events blog for public libraries be a good idea? What do you wish to see in this blog?


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bad Sex award (in books, that is)

Heard about the annual Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award?

For a listing of the books running for this year's award, check out this post over at High Browse Online:
"By the way, the winner for this year is... Food-critic-turned-novelist Giles Coren! Hmmm…and I thought they always said expertise in both gourmet and carnal pleasures generally go hand-in-hand…? Well, I guess that in this instance, the way to them judges’ hearts isn’t via the stomach!" ~ High Browse Online


Being "Information-Smart" vis-a-vis the Buddha

In a broad sense, being "Information Smart" or "Information Savvy" means knowing how to search and discern relevant and useful information from the rest of heap (be it from online or print sources).

Libraries and librarians espouse this, even more so in the context of the Internet and search engines (i.e. some people find a webpage, read its content, and think that it's the whole truth and nothing but the truth).

You can easily find references on evaluating online sources, like these ones here, here and here. Preetam posted this ("how to tell a good source from a not so good one") with particular references to blogs and wikis.

But apparently the Buddha had already taught about the concept of information discrimination:
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

I read about this from Euan Semple's blog, who got it from Gia's. I don't think Gia had information literacy in mind but that's how I saw it when I read that quote from Buddha.

Which also reminded me of a library science research (by Carol C. Kuhlthau, if I'm not mistaken) that suggests people seek information to support what they choose to know or what they want to verify, rather than "truth" per se.

Humans are creatures of habit. That's why we find "change" so disruptive. And that's why I think we have a greater tendency (probably unconsciously) to read and seek information that supports what we already believe in, and dismiss the rest as "noise".

Or is this flawed thinking on my part?


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Would Google like to work with public libraries for this?

Gmail Engineer Jared Jacobs posted about his work on Gmail Clips:
Starting this week, you can see headlines from your favorite blogs and news sites right above your Inbox. Gmail tips and relevant text ads appear from time to time as well...

... No new mail? Great, then I have time to read why pasta is made in different shapes. And even if I do have mail I should be getting to, maybe I'm in the mood to digress for a moment and investigate The Divine Secrets of the Cycle Commuter.

Confession time -- I'm a borderline "email addict". Well, "Information Addict" is more like it. I check my mails to see what's new that can learn today, be it emails from friends or strangers who leave comments in my blog.

I've a proposal for Jared -- why not work with public libraries on the Gmail Clips feature? For instance:
  • Links to the public library's catalogue of related books, materials or eBook collection. I'm not talking about the Million Book Project here. I'm talking about promoting the public library's collection to the gmail user
  • Refer the Gmail user to public library in their geographical location. Not sure where's the nearest public library? Google-Map it! (how about one for Singapore libraries?)
  • How about RSS feed from the library (if their local library provides one. Mine does!)
I bet Jared would become the darling of libraries if he makes that happen.


Surveys: Insurance needs of (1) young parents and (2) young people

NTUC CEO posted 2 surveys in his blog:
  • Insurance needs of young parents - "108 people aged 30-40 replied to our I-survey. 71% are married with children, and 29% are either married with no children or are singles. 90% are working, and 10% are either self-employed or are looking for a job."
  • Insurance needs of young people - "146 young people aged 20-30 repled to our survey. 85% are employed. 15% are still studying or looking for a job."

It's an excellent initiative to share such info via a blog. Such blog posts are potentially useful information sources for library customers (e.g. students). I don't believe Insurance companies operating in Singapore ever provide survey data in their corporate websites.

Mr. Tan might want to consider the following suggestions for future posts relating to surveys:
  1. Provide information on the survey methodology (this provides greater context to the data);
  2. Use free tools like to present the data as graphs or charts;
  3. Provide a fuller report (not necessarily the full report) over at the NTUC Income corporate website, while the blog post acts as summary and/ or with his personal take on the data.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Letter to ST Forum: Some children treat library as playground

A letter was published in The Straits Times Forum page today, by Mdm Susan Chiong, who observed that some children treat the library as a playground. It's not that she's against the children having fun, but not when they ignore "basic decorum" or library etiquette.

Reading the letter, I came to this "What If" scenario where if mums and dads do not teach their children, under a certain age, to behave in libraries or other public places, they would be slapped with demerit points. Beyond certain points, the recalcitrant mums and dads would have to pay a fine...

... anyway, it's heartening to have library customers express support for staff in enforcing library rules. Here's part of Mdm Chong's letter:
Many parents do not put books back properly, even though browsing bins are placed near the bookshelves. They just leave books strewn carelessly on benches, bookshelves and the floor.

I can tell when a parent is about to leave because she does not hesitate to call out loudly to her children. I even saw one chide a librarian for telling his children to keep their voices down.

In my opinion, it is the librarian's duty to uphold the rules of the library for the benefit of users.

As we teach our children to tidy up at home, we should do likewise in public facilities like the library.

We should not have the mentality that people are hired to tidy up after us. With a concerted effort, we can help the librarians manage the library more efficiently.

I laud the effort by the Government to bring these community facilities and services nearer our homes.

Hence, we are responsible for upholding the decorum of these places and adhere to the rules, which are formulated for the convenience and comfort of all users.

Public servants have already initiated better customer care through training. We should reciprocate by being responsible when using public facilities.

I would like to thank the unsung heroes in the public service, especially those working in the libraries.

Source: ST Forum, 12 Dec 2005 (online version archived for 7 days only).

If you've read Mdm Chong's article in full, what do you think? Any comments?

Also, I wonder if libraries overseas have a similar issue as described in the letter. If so, any effective ways to deal with it?


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Book Blog Partner - Lansing Adult News blog & High Browse Online

Earlier, when Kelli and I were IMing about her library podcasts, I told her about High Browse Online and we discussed the possibility of a "sister blog" (e.g. cross posting, referrals etc).

Recently she emailed me to follow up on the idea, and also crafted this short and sweet statement:
Taking advantage of the world wide web's abilities to transcend boundaries, we are teaming up with another library blog to offer you additional book reviews and reading suggestions.

So, High Browse Online and Lansing Adult News Blog are Book Blog Partners. I wonder if we're the first to form such a "book blog alliance"?

Any other libraries interested in this? It costs nothing. : )

Would love to hear from you.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

IFLA news: CDNLAO Newsletter No. 54

From recent post to IFLA listserv:
CDNLAO Newsletter ( is published every four months to carry information from national libraries in the Asia and Oceania region. This newsletter is edited and distributed by the National Diet Library of Japan on behalf of the members of the Conference of Directors of National Libraries in Asia and Oceania (CDNLAO).

CDNLAO stands for Conference for Directors of National Libraries in Asia and Oceania. Issue no.54 carries the following articles:


Monday, December 05, 2005

NTU student seeks respondents for Employee Blog Survey

Sometime last week, a young lady by the name of Michelle Heng emailed me an invitation for a Employee blogging survey she's administering as part of her NTU (School of Communication & Information) course.

I've since emailed to her supervisor, AP Dion Goh, and verified that the request is genuine. Michelle requests that I pass the word around, so here it is:
My post-grad dissertation is about employee blogs -- specifically finding out habits, practices and beliefs of people whose blogs talk about their work. Pls help me with this online survey at this link:

As a token of appreciation, I'm offering respondents who complete the survey and allow me access to their blogs (so i can do a qualitative analysis along with this quantitative study), a chance to win a US$50 (S$85) gift certificate in a lucky draw.

The online survey programme I use has a strict policy of not tracking respondents for phishing/illegal purposes and I will not publish any information I get from you without prior permission.

Here is my dissertation supervisor for verification purposes:
AP Dion Goh.

Michelle can be contacted at She's also started a blog ( and one of her post explains why she chose this topic for her dissertation.

It's always difficult to get respondents for a survey. I understand the importance of getting enough participants to make the results more substantive. Since the survey is legit, I've responded to the survey, and might as well do Michelle (and indirectly, my Alma Mater) a favour by passing the word around.

For students planning to do similar surveys, I've a few suggestions for your consideration:
  • When emailing your potential respondents, it's best to provide a "Cover Letter" or a background on why you are doing the survey. Be sure to indicate your supervisor's name and contact;
  • If you are starting a blog -- which is a good idea, btw -- do use your real name rather than a nickname (more credible that way);
  • If you are using other web-based data collection tool, post your questions on your blog anyway;
  • Give respondents the option of posting their answers in their blog (see related post by Michael Stephens, who did a similar survey for Library & Information Professionals) tool.

OK, good luck with the survey, Michelle. Oh, if I do win the Amazon gift voucher, please donate it to Children's Charity on my behalf.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

NHB publishes the Singapore Encyclopaedia

Reported in The Straits Times (4 Dec 05):
The National Heritage Board (NHB) is preparing a Singapore Encyclopaedia to mark the 40th anniversary of independence this year.

It is calling the book a publishing landmark, which will be of 'international significance for Singapore'. Said a spokesman: 'The aim is to put together in one volume everything a reader wants to know about Singapore, from history to politics, from geography to religion, from art to popular culture, and from the famous to the infamous.'

Here's something about the publication that's worth noting:
It was also decided that Ms Annabel Chong, the Singaporean who made a name for herself by having sex with 251 men in 10 hours in 1995, will have her own entry.

The project's editorial advisory board hotly debated the issue...

... Opinions were sharply divided, but eventually a consensus was reached not to moralise, he said.

... 'We are not attempting to validate anyone or any action. A good reference work aims to be comprehensive, not prudish.'

Good decision.

The Singapore Encyclopaedia will only be sold from September 2006. I wonder if the publishers would provide an online version. If they do, I doubt if they will provide free access.

If it was a novel, providing an online version might improve sales. I, for one, would sample parts of the novel to see if it's worth buying, and then buy the book. But for a reference tool like an encyclopaedia, I'd already have obtained my answers online and there's little incentive for me to buy the printed copy.

What would be an acceptable business model that would make both the publishers and potential users happy?

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Library Stories: Kevin Lim and lost library cards

I was IMing with Kevin (theory.isthereason) and at one point during our chat, I mentioned "library fines" and he started his "library story". I asked if he'd like to share his story and he said OK 'cos "life is full of stories":
theory.isthereason: guess what... a library story time. When I was 18 or so, my classmate said she needed to borrow books and (had) lost her library card. not thinking too much about it, I loaned her my card. a week later, she said she lost my card

Rambling Librarian: uh oh...*

theory.isthereason: I was like "WTF" but I just said ok and walked off. so for a period of time I didn't have a card. then one day in orchard rd I alighted (boarded) a bus home and on one of the seats was a wallet. it was very obvious and no singaporean would claim it. I took it and asked around realizing the owner probably left.

theory.isthereason: I looked for some ID in the wallet. it belongs to an indonesian student in RJC. there was $1k in the wallet!!

theory.isthereason: Guess what I did next?

Rambling Librarian: you turned in the money to the police of course

theory.isthereason: better.

theory.isthereason: There was an NLB library card. I was near the branch. I went up and asked the librarian to contact the girl (the owner).**

Rambling Librarian: oh wait... you paid her fines???

theory.isthereason: no silly

Rambling Librarian: ok... sorry... so what did the staff do?

theory.isthereason: after we got hold of the owner, she said thank you over the phone and I said no problem. I left the wallet with the librarian and then guess what? :P

Rambling Librarian: don't tell me the librarian took the money (for themselves)!!! ***

theory.isthereason: no silly (twice already ah) :p

Rambling Librarian: (sorry) i paranoid***

theory.isthereason: I asked if I could get a library card because my friend lost mine. the librarian smiled at me and she said she will do it free for me

Rambling Librarian: oh, they did one for you free cos you such a good boy!

theory.isthereason: yeah! exactly. so one good turn deserves another

theory.isthereason: shit happens to me even though it's not my fault. but good things happen to me even when I don't do much. I've got a blessed life

Rambling Librarian: lol. lmao

* Never lend your library card to another person. If you lose the card (or student pass... any cards which can be used to borrow books), report your loss to the library immediately to block the card (not just inform the police or school only). Library members are liable for losses that result from the misuse of your card (just like how banks don't compensate you for the loss if someone used your ATM card to make withdrawals)

** In case you were wondering -- our policy is never to reveal library member's data to another party, even if they claim they are family. However, staff are empowered to use discretion. In this case, the circumstances clearly justified the actions taken. I mean, if you lose SGD $1,000 you would want to be informed asap, wouldn't you?

*** I was just joking! I have great faith in the integrity and trustworthiness of NLB public library staff.

If you have personal stories to share (relating to your experience with libraries), I'd love to hear from you.

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My very first audio recording for the Blogosphere

I've been slow in trying out podcasting. This isn't a podcast. Just my attempt at recording and sharing online. Baby steps... [I discovered I could provide a RSS feed for the audio, so I guess I am podcasting.]

Title: RamblingLibrarian reads D. H. Lawrence's "Self Pity"
Length: 00:19

David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930) -- "Self-Pity":
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

powered by ODEO

Here's the MP3 file.

This is the RSS feed for updates to my Odeo account: (If you are new to RSS, what you do is copy the URL and paste in your preferred feed reader. Try Bloglines if you want to get a feed reader.)

Maybe I'll try a short book review next. Ideas, suggestions, comments, constructive criticisms are most welcome.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Does your library belong in the Blogosphere?

From Harvard Business School website - Does Your Company Belong in the Blogosphere? [alerted via Kevin's post at theory.isthereason]
Bloggers have damaged a number of companies, but it's time to think of the blog as your friend. Skillful blogging can boost your company's credibility and help it connect with customers

The article mentions that General Motors has a corporate blog ( Sun Microsystems have a group blog ( that aggregates the employee blogs.

Article also shares "How bloggers connect", how to "Take a lead in the conversation", how blogs "Boost credibility and get closer to customers", how "To get the most from your blog".

That last point is worth noting if your library intend to start a blog. The article advises:
  • Have a distinct focus and goal
  • Feature an authentic voice. "Don't let the PR department write your blog"
  • Are open to comment. "Permit both positive and negative posts on your blog, and reply to comments made on other blogs pertinent to your area of focus. Respond in a professional and businesslike way. If you don't want to hear from your customers and critics in a public environment, don't blog."
Their final word - update the blog at least once a week. "If your legal department requires three weeks' review time before you turn around a posting for your blog, you are not a good candidate for blogging."

Question is "Does your library belong in the Blogosphere?"

A no-brainer?


Friday, December 02, 2005

Library Marketing-Thinking Outside the Book

The other day I emailed Jill (Library Marketing) from out of the blue to tell her about the Double Up (D.E.A.R.) loan promotion and High Browse Online. She was genuinely interested and she blogged about it.

I owe her an apology though -- she asked if I could elaborate more about the initiatives and I didn't get back to her in time.

If you've yet to subscribe to Jill Stover's blog, I'd recommend that you do. I check her blog feeds on a regular basis and I learn quite a bit on what other libraries are doing to publicise and position their services and activities.

Noticed that she has 202 blogline subscribers.
Fwah, don't play-play ok!


Danish library student starts blog for Singapore/ Denmark exchange programme

Anders A. K. Nielsen (22 years of age), currently at the end of his third semester at the Royal School of Library and Information Science in Denmark (Aalborg branch), wants to come to Singapore for his fifth semester studies, at Temasek Polytechnic.

He's started a blog for this:
...this would be an ideal place to write about my preparations before going, and later on, about my experiences in Singapore.

This blog will probably not offer much for the random reader, but I believe that it will work well as a place for me to jot down my notes on my preparations before going, and will serve as a means of communication to the people in Denmark.

I got to know Anders (aka Lofi) when he left a comment in an earlier post. I was intrigued by his comment and emailed him to ask where he worked and if he had a blog. He was a library science student and he didn't have a blog.

Then one day Anders wrote to me about a student exchange programme that he was considering. He has posted a very detailed sequence of events here.

I'm impressed by his clarity of thought and his very organised pursuit of his goal to study in Singapore. Am also impressed by his use of a blog to chronicle his thoughts and activities that focuses on the exchange programme. It's an online diary now, but once he completes his exchange programme (of which I'm confident it will materialise, given his apparent drive) it will be an invaluable archive of his Singapore adventure.

I have a greater appreciation of the context from his perspective just by reading his 3 posts. He's shared far more in his blog than what he and I would have exchanged over email. I'm certainly going to use his blog as an example of education-related blogs.

Anders would make a very good librarian, I think -- if he isn't considered as one already.


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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