Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Batgirl meme

Billy Tan emailed me a while back, about this Batgirl meme going round the Livejournal community. Billy also informed me:
... Barbara Gordon was actually librarian of the Gotham Police Department. Thought you might share that with your colleagues, should be nice to know you guys are represented in superhero land.

Hmm... interesting.

Maybe I'll draw my own version of "Batgirl". But for now, I've got some "homework" to do. A colleague asked me to draw some pictures for the new set of (fiction) Genre Guides that's coming up. More about this later.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Reunion dinner

CNY2006 004CNY2006 003CNY2006 001

Max wants a piece of the action too.
CNY2006 002

[Related post: Lunar New Year]

Lunar New Year

Saturday. Crisp, clear morning air. A Chinese New Year song strains softly from someone's apartment but it's stopped now. Other faint sounds from outside my window: crows cawing, birds twittering, boys training on a soccer pitch with their coach shouting instructions, a toddler playing on the swing; more kids now.

It's the eve of the Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year), one of the major holidays in Singapore. I figured I might as well post something brief, for the benefit of non-Asian readers of this blog. Here's something about the Chinese New Year (from a Canadian University, of all places -- but information is pretty accurate). The wikipedia entry is quite comprehensive as well.

Tomorrow will be the first day of the Year of the Dog. Incidentally, Tomorrow.sg is not accepting any non-dog or orange entries for the next few days.

Ok, time for me to vacuum the house and mop the floor. Then it's off to my parent's place for Reunion Dinner. Which reminds me -- gotta prepare Ang Pows for my parents and in-law and siblings.

Wife and the dog is are still sleeping. Good excuse for me to sit here longer, listening to the neighbourhood waking up.

Blisspix blogs about her visit to NLB libraries

Always nice to have a fellow librarian (who isn't a colleague) share their honest opinions about the libraries you work for:
It’s the little things that impressed me, like having a wall where reference
questions are asked and answered, and you are entered in a prize draw. In the
past, libraries had suggestions about book purchases and air-conditioning posted
in some obscure place. The reference question wall is a great way to show off
the services available and the kinds of questions you can ask.

December 2005 issue of SCL News finally out

Finally! The newsletter for IFLA Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section (of which I'm the editor) is out on the IFLA page (click here to access the PDF file -- in low resolution; 874KB).

Took me a damn long time to get it published and printed. I learnt several new things in the process:
  • Open Office is a pretty good alternative to MSOffice (see this previous post)
  • Now I know why people pay good money to outsource the page design & layout
  • Editing is hard work ('enuff said)
  • Now I understand why publications work with very tight schedules -- seems that there's always something to be corrected up to the last minute the copy is due for printing
  • Backup your files frequently. And always assume that the computer you're working on will crash and die on you (mine did!) so backup on portable drives
  • "Saddle-stitch" means staples in the middle, booklet style
  • When planning the number of pages for A4 double-sided pages, plan in this sequence: Pages 2, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 etc (basically it's one A3 page stapled in the middle)
The technicalities of printing and desktop publishing aside, I've also learnt what's happening in other countries wrt library services for Children and Young People. There are good ideas on pages 9 to 15 (Country Highlights from UK, France, Germany, Japan, USA, Singapore, Republic of Korea).

Some favourites of mine: "Bookstart" & "Sharing at Bedtime" programmes from UK, "Reading Ladder for Children" project from Germany, "Reading as Corrective Community Service" from USA, "Beautiful Granny project" from South Korea, the Asian Children's Festival and September 11 "Live Chat" event from Singapore.

Printed copies of the newsletter is made available to IFLA members. If you wish for the higher resolution PDF file, I'd be happy to share it with you. Drop me a comment or email.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Are librarians ready for blogs?

Doug Johnson asks, "Are Mankato teachers ready for blogs?" (Mankato is the place-name of where he works). His school district plans to run courses for teachers on creating their own blogs. Doug asked for suggestions on how to make this successful so I threw in my 2-cents (based on my experience with colleagues):
  • Show them how to read a blog (a colleague found the blog interface rather "odd". Was more used to the typical webpage setup and wasn't sure how to follow blog posts)
  • Show them how to post comments, even if they don't blog. The value of blogs (as opposed to websites) are the discussions arising from posts
  • Use the blog to feature the work of individuals (regardless of whether they blog or not). And feature "real people" speaking, rather than another e-zine.
  • Tell 'em, "Blogs aren't dangerous; only stupid people are".
Let me know if the suggestions work, Doug. I can tell you it's easier said than done (getting colleagues "ready for blogs"), as with my experience with High Browse Online.

Oh, the librarians I'm working with for High Browse Online are a good bunch, no doubt about that. They put up with me and my longwindedness AND still get things done inspite of me (heh heh).

But there's one missing ingredient. Let's call it "The Blogger's Mentality". As in they must be comfortable in:

  1. Using the Personal Voice in the posts, and
  2. Proactively seeking/ starting/ joining conversations in the Blogosphere (e.g. leave a comment)
The first part is easy. If you compare earlier High Browse posts with the more recent ones, you can tell the difference. The later posts are more engaging compared to the initial ones. The team has learnt that writing for the Blog is different from writing for a Booklist.

But the second part is alot harder. Some team members just aren't comfortable in leaving comments in our blog, let alone seeking other bloggers. Some team members are familiar with blogs but somehow they don't feel motivated to seek other bloggers.

I just read this post from Naked Conversations about McDonald's Corporate Blog:

You've started nicely, but if you want this blog to succeed, you need post often. You need to join other conversations. You need to engage you customers and prospects in a conversations. You need to show a willingness to listen, really listen.

I've a strong suspicion that my colleagues don't see the value of seeking like-minded people and engaging them in conversations. Afterall, the Job Description doesn't mention anything about this when they applied for the job.

Maybe my colleagues are perfectly content with the role of librarians being limited to publishing reviews -- let someone else do the seeking (I think that's an option, provided you can find people to help you do that). Or they are too bogged down with other committments.

It's the "I don't buy the whole Book Blog" issue.

I'm still trying to understand more of the Whys. The way I see it, unless one is actively blogging AND have experienced what it means to be engaged in conversations in the Blogosphere, chances are you don't quite get the concept of using blogs to promote books and reading.

So what does this imply? For the organisation to openly support Responsible Blogging? That's what I'm suggesting.

Of course the underlying assumption is that "There's Value in Blogging". I'd argue that it's not an assumption but a Truth. Take the same McDonald's Blog for instance. It's not exactly an engaging read and personally I'm not that interested in McDonalds. And I don't really care about their Corporate Responsibility policy.

But the fact is I'm already learning more about McDonald's -- beyond its Happy Meals and counter transactions -- just from skimming through its blog.

Now imagine this scenario from a non-library user's standpoint, visiting a Library Blog or reading a whole bunch of blogs by librarians. Bored? I bet it won't be so.

Maybe one day I'll revisit this post and change its title from "Are Librarians Ready for Blogs" to "Are YOU ready for Librarian Blogs?"


Upcoming Museum Roundtable Blog Committee Meeting

I was really flattered when folks at NHB invited me to be on their "Museum Roundtable Blog Committee". Now before some of you go "Duh, not another Gahmen Committee", let me say that I have a really good feeling about this committee, and I'm confident the committee wouldn't be filled with "stuffed-shirts".

There's no surprise that NHB is setting up a blog (read this HTML version of their PDF press release, dated 22 Nov 05).

Mr. Otterman, Siva, blogged about it in this post:
And an earlier stab at heritage blogging can be seen at Heritage SG. It already proved useful - a post there in October last year alerted me to an animation on the Battle of Pasir Panjang that was to be featured on television. I reported that to Habitatnews and many of us, especially that Pasir Panjang Guides caught that screening and discussed it.

I've been given persmission to post about the meeting, so here's the agenda:
1) Finalise the name of the (Museum) blog
2) Set the direction of the blog
3) Discussion of the various roles and responsibilities
4) Finalise the blog policy
5) Discuss on activities to reach heritage enthusiasts and get them involved in blogging

Like I said, I have a very good feeling about the blog (inspite of my being in the committee!). For one, they are letting people blog about the work-in-progress. That's part of what blogging is about, where people are clued-in right from the start (as opposed to a PR website where you're just passively reading the final information).


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Corporate Comms Colleagues Catches RSS

Just spent 20 mins explaining RSS and its possible applications to a few of my colleagues from Corporate Communications Dpt (CCD).

It all started when two weeks back, my PLS colleague Isaak alerted one of my CCD colleague about a post from Hindu Times that mentioned NLB, which he picked up via LISnews.org. My colleague asked how he knew about it and Isaak mentioned RSS. I happened to be clued into the correspondence and promptly suggested to my CCD colleague if they wanted to learn more about RSS. They did, and we arranged for an informal sharing session.

This explanation of RSS from BBC News website is pretty good. I recommended Bloglines to them, showed how to subscribe to a feed (like NLB's). Also gave a quick demo on Technorati.com's Watchlist. We touched a little bit (just a wee bit) on blogs and I recommended they read Dan Gillmor's "We the Media". I would've recommended Naked Conversations as well but it slipped my mind.

They're pretty sharp people. I think they get what's RSS.

It's always good to share with folks who's willing to try new things.


Meet the publishers, join the network: A local publishing forum (Part 2)

[See Parts 1, 1.1, 1.3 -- er, no part 1.2 'cos I miscounted!]

What I learnt from a Publisher:

  • Fact - publishers are in the business to make money. They don't owe anyone, least of all aspiring writers, any favours. The speaker was frank enough to share that as a publisher, the decisions she makes are "strictly based on commercial viability".
  • Publishing cycle -- book concept from publishers themselves, or from manuscripts, or from sniffing for ideas & authors. Get an author. Edit the work. Go to Production (design, layout, printing). Next is Distribution (she said this was "important, important, important). Marketing/ promotion. Typical cycle is 12 - 18mths (though fastest she's come across is 3 months).
  • The "players" -- Publisher (negotiate commercial terms); Editor (deals with designer, writer, edits manuscript, need strong project management skills, editing skills, curiosity, eye for details); Designer (layout, book covers); Sales & Distribution team (determine price, manage brand).

What I learnt from a magazine Editor:

  • She asked the audience, "Why do you want to be a writer?" and added, "You don't strike it rich by writing for magazines". Those who say they want to be writers need to be clear why they want to write.
  • Magazine writers write what the publisher wants.
    Some questions that writers might want to ask themselves: What's your motivation? What's your strengths? Are you a "teacher", a "newshound" (sharp, good listeners), a "colour-writer"?
  • One must have confidence & tenacity & patience to make it through the magazine business. She likes writers who see the world with an open mind, who has wit, able to see beyond the obvious, possess good language/ grammer/ spelling skills.
  • Study the magazine that you want to write for. When pitching ideas to editors, suggest new story angles. Consider an Internship. Do write well from the start.

What I learnt from a self-published novelist:

  • Writing is personal. Write what you know. Force yourself to write. Carry a notebook. Inculcate a reading habit.
  • Think big (write for international audience). Be strategic in choosing target audience.
  • It is difficult to get published.
  • Know your publisher. Learn to deal with rejections. She decided to self-publish after receiving "a whole bunch of soul-destroying rejections".
  • Caveats to self-publishing: Do not ask your mother if you write well. Instead, ask people who'll be honest with you. Publish to a high standard (layout, choice of paper etc). A book will be judged by it's cover, especially if you're an unknown author.
  • The hard part was also getting the published book into the retail outlets (appoint own distributor or approach bookshops direct). Had to do the same thing in different countries.
  • The self-published writer is as much a salesperson as a writer. It is difficult. Success is possible. Hardwork & perservance.

What I learnt from a self-published Singaporean author:

  • "Each of you already have our own book waiting to be published".
  • Writing is just a first step to getting published. Initially he spent money but nothing realised.
  • At an international book exhibition, he realised his book was "just a drop in ocean". Needed to gain more publicity. In his opinion, successful authors sell well (writing well is a given)

What I learnt from the Audience (during Q&A):

  • Most questions were directed at the Publisher -- on getting published & distributed, about sales, author contracts (distributor typically takes 60% and splits with retailer)
  • Self-publisher could set a price and less the 60%, and work on the balance. One way was to start small print runs (higher printing costs but higher sales margin). Or print-on-demand
  • Someone wanted to know if there were subsidies for publishing (sponsorship + presales). Answer - there is no single grants or authority. One could approach agencies like MDA and various other foundations (basically, you've got to convince people that you're worth publishing)
  • Another asked at what point would a publisher consider the work to be worth reading. Reply from author was to "hone it down as far as your own talents allow"
  • Quite a few repeated questions, asked in different ways, seeking details on how to promote a book (they want details). Singaporean author shared that he donated 100 copies to his Alma Matter (whereby someone undertook to buy his copies). His point was that self-published authors needed to do the marketing and promotion themselves. "Find something you believe in."
  • Question on whether it's worth publishing via ebooks. I shared that apart from China, most other trends show preference for print, although that might change slowly.
  • Question on how much to set the selling price for a book, or royalties from publisher. The Publisher said it depended on how well known you are. Preetam cited Cory Doctorow, who said that getting noticed was more important than sales at the initial stage.

My takeaway: If it were easy being a successful writer, everyone would be at it. And what's "success" anyway?


Monday, January 23, 2006

NLB website now provides RSS feeds

You can subscribe to the feed at http://www.nlb.gov.sg/rss/news/

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I want to be an Artist (or, Meet the Publishers, Part 1.3)

This was what the Meet The Publishers programme blurb said:
Don’t miss this chance to attend this half-day local publishing forum where local publishers, editors, writers, bloggers and even a librarian share how they followed their dreams and transformed their ideas into reality.
Preetam and I had a good laugh after reading it -- about the "followed our dreams and transformed our ideas into reality" part. "What dreams did we have? What writing careers?", we joked. We were just there to do a "Self-publishing using Online tools" segment.

Or were we?

"Preetam, what dreams do we have for your writing and blogging?", I asked. He couldn't quite answer. Neither could I, for that matter.

Then I asked why he blogged, especially about his travels and the books. Finally he said he was thinking about writing a book about this travels and he one use of his blog was to organise his thoughts. I questioned my motivation for writing and all the right-brained stuff. In that instant, I concluded it was simply: Because I can; it feels good to say, "I did this".

It wasn't that silly or implausible after all -- the "living our dreams" part.

Perhaps I, too, have fallen into the trap of thinking that "living one's dream" means making it big. Mention "authors" and "being published" and we think about the big names and bestsellers (I'm no exception). We think of million dollar advances, book-signings, media interviews, movie deals, hords of adoring fans.

It's OK to dream big. We should dream big. But maybe -- just maybe -- we sometimes allow "a dream" to get in the way of simply doing because we find it enjoyable.

Three year old, MeMinutes before the session, we inserted some extra slides that mentioned how technology was allowing us to live our dreams, or at least try. I mentioned this post from MyRightBrain:
I want to be an Artist. That’s what I replied without hesitation when, in primary school, a teacher asked my class, “What’s your ambition in life?” ... [Read More]

I meant what I said in telling the audience I'm living my dream through these new media technologies. I'm glad I remembered what I so innocently uttered to my teacher so many years ago.

Truely, I can be an Artist. I might not be very good but it doesn't matter. I enjoy what I can create within the limits of my talents. I am fulfilling my dream.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Update: Meet the publishers, join the network (part 1.1)

[From Part 1]

Here's the PDF version of the presentation slides from Saturday's session (many thanks to Lucian who offered to host the page):
(approx. 610 KB)

BTW, some URL links aren't working (I must've done something wrong when I added the links) so just copy and paste the url in your browser. Or visit preetam's post (click here) where there are additional links that aren't included in the presentation.

Incidentally, Peter Schoppert (chair of the session) dropped by Preetam's blog. Peter writes some pretty thoughtful stuff relating to the Arts, like this one. Hey Peter, you should get yourself a proper blog! Just kidding : )


IFLA news - International Copyright Symposium

Announced via IFLA-L (extract):
The International Publishers' Association is encouraging people from the user/consumer communities -- such as libraries - to participate in the 6th IPA Copyright Symposium. IFLA Secretary General Peter Lor is among the invited speakers.

International Copyright Symposium Steps Up the Debate
23-25 April 2006, Montréal, Canada

The overarching theme is "Publishing and the Public Interest" and each presentation will address subjects relevant and critical to the business and policy decisions publishers will have to make in the near future: some sessions will allow participants to catch up on "hot" issues like new copyright legislation around the world, book digitization (Google etc.) and copyright and education. Others will tackle searching questions facing the industry: How can we improve the bad press that copyright and publishers have had in recent years? How can publishers promote the cultural heritage and wealth of their communities? Does copyright play a role? There will also be panels discussing copyright awareness and enforcement as well as the future role of collecting societies.

For more information on the symposium and for a copy of the program, visit: http://www.anel.qc.ca/ipa-symposium

Meet the publishers, join the network: A local publishing forum (part 1)

In an earlier post, I wrote that Preetam and I were teaming up to give a talk. We were among the six speakers at the "Meet the Publishers" session organised by MDA and NBDCS titled, "Meet the publishers, join the network - a local publishing forum" held at the National Library on 21 Jan 2006.

Ours was a joint presentation on "Ways to get published the Non-traditional way" (i.e. we're the odd balls there, heh heh). The other speakers included a publisher, a magazine editor, a novelist and a local author. For programme outline and speaker's bio, see here and here.


The organisers said there were 189 registered participants. I estimated the actual turnout to be around 170 to 180 (could see that the extra seats were filled and some were sitting on the floor). Average age of participants seemed to be around the early 20s to 50s. Maybe slightly more younger people under 35.

I asked for a show of hands how many people blogged and saw maybe 4 or 5 hands (the rest could be shy...). I couldn't resist making a remark that "Blogs aren't dangerous; only Stupid People are" and that got some laughs.

Seems like a very good session, for Preetam and myself and for all the speakers, right down to the Q&A (every topic in the session had a question asked). Was a good chance for the participants to meet a real-life publisher, editor, and authors. I had two enquiries about becoming a librarian, and a grandmotherly looking lady who wanted the blog address of Preetam and mine (Cool! Wonder if she'll start blogging).

BTW, Mr Brown and Mr Miyagi showed up, together with a "blogger who didn't want to be identified".

I sense a strong interest by Singaporeans to be published. Judging from the Q&A, most questions were directed towards the publisher and the self-published authors, and about the processing of getting published. Certainly nothing wrong with that, although I wondered why there weren't any questions on "Writing Well".

Granted that I'm in no position to talk about writing (on "rambling", that I can do). But if anyone cares to listen, I say we should first think about writing well and developing our abilities to "Tell A Story", before we talk about getting published.

I'll post more about the session later. Took down lots of useful notes.

Preetam and I promised the participants that the sites and resources covered in our talk would be posted online. Here's what Preetam posted.

I was up till 2 am trying to upload the presentation slides when the application crashed and I didn't have a backup. So will try and get a copy from Preetam and upload the slides later.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

UK study: Librarians 'suffer most stress'

Here are 2 articles citing a UK study that suggests that "being a librarian induces more stress than working for the emergency services, driving a 125mph express, or teaching a class of ill-behaved children" (via librarian.net):

Reasons that caused the librarians stress: Not enough variety in their work, lack of control over their careers, and not being able to put their skills to full use.

I think the real value of that research was in highlighting the situation of UK libraries rather than the research findings per se.

Reading the article headlines the first time, I'd presumed that stress faced by UK librarians was one of change and demanding customers (especially the former). I was surprised to find that was really about the lack of change (simplistically speaking of course).

It was a reminder of how forward-looking the Singapore Government has been with regards to the development of public libraries. You can have reports and studies to justify why libraries should be developed, but current ways of measuring the value of libraries are not very distinct (i.e. hard to show direct causal relationship between investment in libraries and returns). I suspect to a large extent, the decision to invest in libraries is based on intuition.

Investing in libraries is an investment for the future (this is a "motherhood statement" but one I believe it). And since the future cannot be predicted with accuracy, this means we're taking a risk in investing money into developing libraries.

But as they say in the financial world, there can never be returns without risk. Those who profit are often those who take the longer-term view, rather than short term speculations.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

In support of authors

There was a book launch today (two books, really) at the Observatory Pod, National Library, by Singaporean author George Tan. Details over at High Browse Online.

BTW, I don't know George Tan personally. I didn't attend the book launch (though was invited). Had to host a librarian from the UK -- more on this later in the week.

Shel says he's not coming to Singapore after all. Was sorely disappointed that we can't meet up. But he said he's snail-mailed me an autographed copy of his book, so that's made my day.

I've decided this blog will start supporting two kinds of authors:
  • Authors whom I know personally (bloggers or not), and
  • Singaporean authors

The latter can do with more word-of-mouth publicity from fellow Singaporeans. I would do it not so much to endorse the book but simply to lend my support to local writing. My logic (albeit simplistic) is this:
Promotion of reading to locals goes hand-in-hand with the promotion of locals who write.

You know, that includes blogs as well.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Music Experiment: January Skies

Some days back, I tried convincing the High Browse Team to do podcasts (or related) for High Browse Online. They weren't convinced. So it was back to the drawing board for me. I figured I have to lead by example and understand more of the related technologies, which was partly why I spent the Sunday afternoon experimenting with the recording and publishing of my own audio.

Signed up with Internet Archives to upload the file.
It's now available at this URL:
(download from the links on the left)

Process was simplier than I expected. Take one simple no-frills microphone, plug it to a laptop. Place laptop and mic on top of a upright-piano. Launch the sound recording/ editing software (freeware). Play a few bars, take sample recordings, adjust the volume controls... try a few takes... sounds OK. Fiddled with sound editing software -- that took a longer time but it was easy enough. Find a audio hosting service, create an account, upload file -- and hey, I've become a published musician in less than a day!

Only minor editing involved -- cutting out the front and end (where there was just silence), increasing the overall playback volume, and adding a "Wah-wah" effect to one small part near the end of the track.

By a stroke of luck, the recording plays nicely as a single track, but also as a continuous track too. I'm playing it on a loop as I'm writing this post.

Yes, it's an original composition. No, I didn't deliberately set out to play this piece (it was just four chords that I was most familiar with, my neighbours would attest). Yes, I'm bloody pleased with the results!

I might blog more about how it was done. All I wanna say for now is, "I did this and it feels GOOD!" *ahem* : )

Please feel free to download, share, even modify (all for non-commercial use). I only ask that you attribute the original work to the author.

[Useful reference on sites to upload files/ host podcasts -- thanks to Kenneth Pinto].

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Considering a Comment Policy

My previous post on the blog of NTUC Income CEO has been getting some attention of late. Within the last two weeks or so, three comments have been posted (after this one). A few minutes ago, I removed two of the latest posting from "Veronica" and "Those Who Know". Reasons stated here.

While I advocate bloggers and commenters to identify themselves, I'm perfectly fine with anonymous comments. There are people who might feel a bit shy about leaving their name for the Whole Wide World to see. But attacks on persons or personalities are strictly no-no.

We challenge the Idea; not the Individual.

Perhaps I should post a Blog Comment Policy -- something like this. But not yet. I'm not changing my comment feature setting just yet. I can still manage the load since I don't have regular commenters by the thousands, hundred, tens.


About page, Site design, and Other Stuff (Starting a new blog - Part 3)

[From: Starting a new blog (Part 2)]

After the relatively harder parts of creating my new blog was over and done with, I was able to take my time with Part 3.

In part 2, I mentioned about adding an 'About' page, choosing a template, and some other "behind the scenes" stuff (claiming my blog with Technorati, adding a blogline subscription button etc).

#1 - About page
I asked myself: "When I visit other blogs, what do I want to know about the blogger?"
What I look out for are as follows (and this is just a personal preference):
  • Who's the blogger (I prefer to tell people who I am, rather than remain anonymous)
  • Why did the blogger start the blog?
  • What's the objective of the blog
  • Any other information that they blogger wants the reader to know (e.g. comment/ email policy)
The About page will get indexed and retrieved by searching engines, so I made sure I used relevant key words that best represented my blog. This will help people who share similar interests to find their way to the blog.

I've also added my email and MSN Messenger IDs. So far, I don't have problems with spam. Gmail does a good job of filtering most of them out. I've not had cyberstalkers either.

While some bloggers choose to say little about themselves, my motivation for blogging is to connect with others with similar interests, or with those whom I might strike a rapport with.

In considering what personal information to provide, my rule of thumb is whether the information is already publicly available. Some good tips provided at this PAGI webpage.

#2 - Choosing a blog template
I tried out all the Wordpress templates provided. Discovered that some templates do not show the categories, while for some templates, certain site information (like the name) do not show up fully.

I prefer simple designs. Not too boring but nothing too wild or fancy that might distract readers from the blog content.

As of this post, Wordpress does not allow the blogs to be customised beyond the templates they provide. Which means I won't be able to do things like add my site counter, change the colours , change the stock image.

But looking at it positively, it means I don't have to worry about modifying the templates too much (since the option isn't open) and I can change the look of the blog at will without having to insert all the codes with each change.

#3 - Creating categories, Blogroll, and additional pages
Wordpress blogs allow you to create categories (you can also rename or delete them). It's a nice feature to organise posts for my reference, as well as let others know what topics I tend to blog about. But for Wordpress, do check what template you select, as some template designs do not display the categories and other information. As to the number of categories, I personally limit myself to 8 at most (anything more than that, I find the blog too cluttered).

I know a few bloggers who have stopped listing a Blogroll (i.e. a list of their favourite blogs/ bloggers). I still put out one for two reasons: (1) It's my own "quick reference" to my favourite sites/ blogs; (2) it's a useful "service" to help connect my readers to other blogs of similar interest or content. Again, I'd limit to less than 10 links in the Blogroll, and provide a link to my Bloglines folder where more links can be found, like this one.

Unlike Blogger, Wordpress allows you to create separate stand-alone pages (which also means it's usually "there", whereas blogposts are archived after a certain time). It's useful if you want to say, list all your favourite links on one single webpage (which means more space than a blog post might provide). In Blogger, the work-around I use is to create a blog post, and then hardcode the permalink to the blog template.

#4 - Other stuff
When I first started my first few blogs more than a year back, I'd try out things like submitting my site to search/ bloggers directories and search engines, claiming my blog with Technorati etc. But nowadays you don't really have to do this, especially when in the case of Wordpress, where you can't customise your blog. In anycase, you might still want to explore services like Feedburner, and try things like creating your Bloglines subscription buttons, like this one: Subscribe with Bloglines

You might also want to sign up to Technorati account and try out some of the features offered, like creating your watchlist and then maybe you'd want to participate in Kevin's TechnoratiTopDog meme.

What's more important is to search and visit other blogs of similar content (in my case, Art Blogs). Leave a comment or two. Join the conversation. It's a way to let people know you're reading their stuff and they might take a look at yours in turn. However, please don't leave blatant "Please visit my site" or "Please Link to Me" comments that, i.e. purely self-serving/ self-advertising comments. It's a sure-fire way to turn people off.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Naked Conversations exposed

Shel emailed me:
Like any proud parent, I am beaming to announce that Naked Conversations has just gone on sale at Amazon.com. If you find it in your heart to spread the word, Robert certainly would appreciate it.
Sure thing. You have my support yet again with this post, in addition to what I've posted earlier.

I went over to Amazon.com to read the book excerpt:
coverBloggings's Six Pillars: There are six key differences between blogging and any other communications channel. You can find any of them elsewhere. These are the Six Pillars of Blogging:

1. Publishable. Anyone can publish a blog. You can do it cheaply and post often. Each posting is instantly available worldwide.

2. Findable. Through search engines, people will find blogs by subject, by author, or both. The more you post, the more findable you become.

3. Social. The blogosphere is one big conversation. Interesting topical conversations move from site to site, linking to each other. Through blogs, people with shared interests build relationships unrestricted by geographic borders.

4. Viral. Information often spreads faster through blogs than via a newsservice. No form of viral marketing matches the speed and efficiency of a blog.

5. Syndicatable. By clicking on an icon, you can get free "home delivery" of RSS- enabled blogs into your e-mail software. RSS lets you know when a blog you subscribe to is updated, saving you search time. This process is considerably more efficient than the last- generation method of visiting one page of one web site at a time looking for changes.

6. Linkable. Because each blog can link to all others, every blogger has access to the tens of millions of people who visit the blogosphere every day.

You can find each of these elements elsewhere. None is, in itself, all that remarkable. But in final assembly, they are the benefits of the most powerful two-way Internet communications tool so far developed.

I was thinking about the choice of the book title -- Naked Conversations. It's a clever one and thought it deserved elaboration in the excerpt.

In 2004 ,after meeting Shel the first time, I found my way to his blog and discovered posts, like this one, where he openly shares his thoughts about visiting Singapore the first time:
I see no evidence of anything like a police state, but then, I just got here. As I write at nearly 1 a.m., I hear the first sirens I’ve heard in Singapore's night. I’ve not yet seen a police officer. The only soldiers I've seen were collecting money to support the schools. I'm in the densest part of the city. In New York City, sirens are part of [the] backdrop.

Far from being offended about how Singapore was perceived (everyone's entitled to their perceptions), I remembered thinking, "So that's how he, a first time visitor to Singapore, perceived us."

I also recalled how a little light blub went off in my head (just a little one -- I'm not too bright). I thought, "Isn't that interesting. If this guy did not blog his thoughts aloud, I'd never have known he had such an impression about Singapore. It was unlikely to have found its way into our conversation then."

After I learnt how to blog, how to search for them, about RSS and tags, more 'Naked Conversations' were exposed. Sure, some were pretty mundane stuff but once I knew where to look, I discovered a lot more intelligent "no-holds barred" posts and discussions. Opinions and discussions that I strongly suspected would not have taken place outside the blogging medium.

Naked Conversations indeed.

Shel will be dropping by Singapore next week. I'm looking forward to meeting him in person again.

Congratulations again, guys.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Amusing "Some things money can't buy" MasterCard Ad (or, "Value of Libraries")

Ever seen those "There are some things that money can't buy; for everthing else there's Mastercard" adverts? Here's a funny one (via Random Acts of Reality), where a guy escorts his date to her doorstep and makes an indecent proposal...

The ending is a real kicker. Worth the time to view it.

Which made me think about measuring the value of libraries. I mean, imagine a Mastercard Advert like this:
Camera pans to what seems like a bookstore.

Shows a person stopping by the Business section and narrator goes, "Blue Ocean Strategy, $18". Then to another reader browsing a book and narrator goes, "The Da Vinci Code, $15". Zoom to a group of teenagers huddled and quietly giggling: "Your Guide to the Opposite Sex, $25".

Then camera zooms out and shows children, adults, teens, seniors reading, discussing, engaged in activities, in a library:

"The value of libraries? Priceless."

"There's some things that money can't buy. For everything else, there's Mastercard".

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The blog course that didn't happen

I was scheduled to conduct an Introduction to Blogging course (including related technologies like RSS), organised by the Library Association of Singapore (LAS). However, the session was cancelled. The LAS organising committee decided on a minimum of 10 participants. I was told there were only 5 who signed up.

Too bad. Was really looking forward to sharing ideas with fellow colleagues from other libraries in Singapore. Had prepared loads of examples of what overseas librarians and libraries are doing w.r.t. blogs etc. I even had a vision of the course participants populating Frappr.

I wonder why there weren't more participants. Was it the choice of the venue? The fees charged by LAS? The date and timing? Or that they already know about blogs but weren't interested? Or heaven forbid, they have an issue with the Trainer!? I hope not -- Heh heh : )

Maybe I'll suggest to LAS to have Rejection-Feedback forms. I mean, it's common to solicit feedback from participants after the programme, to identify areas for improvement and to continue with areas done well. So it makes sense to have Rejection-Feedback forms too.

I have another training opportunity coming up, this time with Preetam as co-presenter. Will blog about it soon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Will the SG Blogosphere see our very own Library Superpatron Blogger?

Learnt from my colleague's blog about this library customer in the USA, Edward Vielmetti, who's been called Library Superpatron for his committment in improving his library service (see this post, this, and this one).

Clearly, Edward's not a crank who submits those "Obey- me- the- taxpayer- or- else -I- write- to- Straits- Times- Forum" edicts disguised as suggestions, without thought to feasibility or library staff welfare and efficient allocation of resources... *ahem* (sorry, got carried away).

Days ago, the NLB launched the "I Love My Library" campaign:
National Library Board launched "I Love my Library" campaign on 5 January 2006 to step up its efforts to tackle the rising issue of poor library etiquette that has marred some library users’ experience. "I Love my Library" campaign aims to reach out to library users to take ownership of the library -- that everyone has to play his part in being civic conscious and to practise good library etiquette so as to benefit fully from the library materials and services.

In addition, well-known local cartoonist Chee Chew has specially designed a series of illustrations on everyday experiences that occur in the libraries. These tongue-in-cheek illustrations aim to bring across 10 basic library etiquette to the users in simple pictorial form that is easily understood by the layman, and are displayed at the libraries -- posters, bookmarks and booklets, decals in the toilets and along escalators.
Source: www.nlb.gov.sg Newsflash (last accessed 10 Jan 06)
(Also see this short post by another colleague of mine).

I feel campaigns like the above are necessary reminders to library customers who might not be aware of the rules and guidelines. It also serves to tell those customers who obey rules and etiquette that their library cares too.

Incidentally, campaign-weary Singaporeans tend to say, "Ah, just another Gahmen Campaign". I'm not ashamed to support campaigns if they are meaningful. Besides, this one ain't from the Gahmen but from the library. There's a difference.

Now I was wondering if it's possible to get SG Bloggers to try a “I love my library” meme, or maybe start a “I Love My Library” aggregator blog. Imagine if we’d 10 to 20 Edward Vielmettis...

How about a special section in Tomorrow.sg just to feature "I Love My Library" posts. And for balanced reporting, a "I Want To Complain About My Library" "How I think My Library Can Do Better" section.

Cynics may say, "But the NLB might not do anything". I say, "Try, and then see how the NLB reacts."

So, any of the hundreds (thousands?) of SG Bloggers care to be a local version of Superpatron?

[Views expressed in this blog are my own. They do not reflect the position of my employer, nor will it earn me brownie-points with my bosses or the good folks at Tomorrow.sg]

TechnoratiTopDog meme

Kevin (theory.isthereason.com) passes this meme. He's a nice chap (ok, more than nice) so I'll take it up. I followed his instructions, steps 1 to 6:

#1 - Make sure you’ve claimed your blog on Technorati and given it 20 relevant tags (Learn how here)
Done. Claimed it and added the tags some time ago. I have eight tags:
librarian, Librarianship, Public Libraries, Public Library, public library service, ramblinglibrarian, Singapore, singapore librarian.

#2 - Go to Technorati Blog Finder
#3 - Search for the tags you’ve given your blog (e.g. Singapore, librarian)
... uh huh, I chose the first tag and typed in "librarian" in the Blog Finder search box...

#4 - Write down how well you rank in that area (it’s listed by authority)
... and the results for librarian: I'm ranked at No. 3, after Library Avengers ("Why you should fall to your knees and worship a librarian. And some other stuff." -- LOL!) and Filipino Librarian.

#5 - Rinse and Repeat until you exhaust all your relevant tags
I did the same with the seven tags. The results for all eight tags are:
"Librarian" - 3rd out of 57 blogs
"Librarianship" - 3rd out of 20 blogs
"Public Libraries" - 1st out of 5 blogs
"Public Library" - 1st out of 3 blogs
"Public Library Service" - 1 of 1 blog
"Rambling Librarian" - 1st of 3 blogs (all 3 are my blogs)
"Singapore" - 19th of 355 blogs (just made it to the list of what Technorati defines as the "20 blogs tagged singapore sorted by authority")
"Singapore Librarian" - 1 of 1 Blog
[Results as of 10 Jan 2006]

#6 - Blog the results, tag “technoratitopdog” and pass it to three others
Ok, have tagged this post and I'll pass it to Filipino Librarian, Doug Johnson (Blue Skunk Blog), and Ruminations (would have more but Kevin says only three).

[Total time taken to do the above (including posting screen shot to flickr.com) -- 15 mins or so.]

Did I do it correctly, Kevin?

It's an interesting exercise in learning more about Technorati Blog Finder (new to me). I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy about being listed (esp. for "Singapore") but it's more of a motivator to carry on blogging rather than thinking "Now-I-am-the-Greatest". As I mentioned in my previous post re: PubSub ranking, the rankings serves more as a reminder that people are reading my blog, and hence to blog responsibly.


Monday, January 09, 2006

What's the CE of NLB reading?

The chief executive of NLB shares what he read over the holidays, and what he intends to read next:
During the recent holidays, I finished reading The Kite Runner and Digital Fortress. Currently, I’m in the early stages of reading Deception Point.

From my Technorati Watchlist, I discovered one blogger who wrote:
My reaction though was completely different from that of the learned chief executive of the National Library Board. After a few chapters, I simply could not continue. The blasphemies were too much for me to endure.

You can guess what book is being discussed here (and this is yet another example of how libraries can leverage on blogs to discover what people are discussing about them).

I left a comment to invite the blogger to visit High Browse Online to share his views (ah, another example of how blogs can be used to engage the public where reading is concerned).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Choosing a name (Starting a new blog - Part 2)

[From: Starting a new blog (Part 1)]

For me, choosing a blog name is often the hardest part in the process of creating a blog. When I started my first blog (i.e. this one), I spent 60 minutes coming up with a name. In fact, from the MICA course I conducted with my colleague some months ago, I've observed that it's the same with a lot of other people new to blogging.

NOTE: If you're just experimenting with blogs, just use any name. All three services mentioned (Blogger.com, Blogsome.com, Wordpress.com) allows you to delete your blog. Blogger has the advantage of allowing you to change the blog url (if new name has not been taken) and still retain your User ID.

All free blog sites require you to specify a unique user ID. At this time of posting, when you sign up for Wordpress.com and Blogsome.com, your User ID is automatically set as the blog url. Only Blogger.com allows you to specify your User ID and keep it different from your blog url (because they allow you to create multiple blogs under the same ID -- could be considered an advantage over the other two).

I usually think of more than one name before I start registering for the service -- so that I don't get stuck at the PC, or make a hasty name up, when my first choice is unavailable. But as much as you plan, it might still be a long drawn process (as I found out this time round).

This time, my choosing a blog name involved a conversation with my wife:
Me: What name shall I name my new blog?
Wife: What is it for?

Me: for my art related posts. Drawings & stuff. How about "Ramblingart", "Ramblingartist", or "Ramblinglibrarianart"?
Wife: Why do you have to use the word "rambling"?

Me: To maintain an association of sorts with "Rambling Librarian".
Wife: (Didn't say anything but her face shows she's not convinced...)

Me: So... how about "artofivanchew"?
Wife: Sounds boring.
Me: Then it's perfect. That's exactly like me!

So with some names in mind, I went over to Wordpress.com and successfully registered "artofivanchew". Then toyed around with adding a short blurb for my profile, templates, generally exploring the admin module.

But somehow the name didn't feel right.

I'm an advocate of plain-sounding blog names (i.e. don't use bombastic words; choose something that is a common search phrase). But the more I considered "artofivanchew", it didn't cut it. Sounded too pretentious to me. Too formal. Too restrictive (I plan to feature art-related stuff of other people too).

I thought of a few other names: IsItArt.xxx.com, I-Did-This.xxx.com... hmm, only so-so.

And then it hit me!

I'd written a short "About Me" blurb which included the phrase "for my right-brain pursuits". I wrote that down on paper: myrightbrain.wordpress.com -- Perfect!

Made alot of sense too. I intend to include more than just drawings in this new blog; it's going to be an outlet for all things that I define as "creative"; it's flexible enough to include future expansion of categories; it's informal sounding but not too bombastic; it sounds just clever enough to be consistent with the creative aspect but not too pretentious...

So there it is -- myrightbrain.wordpress.com

My next steps would be to add an About page (which I've done so already), choose a template (also done) and some other "behind the scenes" stuff.

[Next: Part 3]

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Brave New Singapore?

I'm blogging this as yet another example of how information is disseminated, and how discussions are generated in the Blogosphere. Disclaimer: I'm only a humble librarian who's travelled little, so don't take me too seriously:

Learnt from Loy's blog (From a Singapore Angle, 7 Jan 06) about a two-part series commenting on "the lack of liberty in Singapore" by a certain Dr. John Cobin (author, columnist, businessman and international lecturer; Ph.D.degree in Public Policy, M.A. degrees in Economics and in Business Economics).

Dr. Cobin and his wife was in Singapore for a two-day visit in December 2005, afterwhich the articles were published on 4 & 5 Jan 2006. Here's a quick summary:
In Part 1, Dr. Cobin suggests that "Singapore lurks an eerie fiend: slavish oppression". He "experienced favorable first impressions to say the least" but "upon closer scrutiny, one can see that Singapore more closely resembles Hitler’s Germany overflowing with its Brown Shirt regiment".

Further down, he cites that "
criminals like rapists and vandals are stripped naked and caned until their buttocks are hideously bruised and bloodied".

Then in Part 2, he posits that "
Singapore may enjoy a high degree of economic prosperity but its inhabitants are hardly free. If you want to have a rousing discussion about politics, economics, sociology or culture, you won’t find it in Singapore".

He adds that "
the fascist state in Singapore imposes happiness on its people" and that from his two days in Singapore (in December 2005), while he found the trip "intriguing", it left him "despairing for those people" (i.e. those people = Singaporeans) and he was "yearning to leave with little desire to return".

At first I decided what Dr. Cobin (author, columnist, businessman and international lecturer; Ph.D.degree in Public Policy, M.A. degrees in Economics and in Business Economics) wrote must be true.

Especially the part about the Brown Shirts.

But I looked out my HDB home to check for Brown Shirts (I've been taught never to assume, 'cos when you do, "you make an ASS out of U and ME") but hey, I couldn't find any. *Ivan slaps his forehead* Ah, Dr. Cobin was merely using it as an analogy! Silly librarian.

Much chagrined about my poor grasp of the subtleties of the written word, I relooked at Dr. Cobin's article. It left me even more disappointed with myself, especially when I couldn't understand how the act of caning was less brutal than the act of rape.

Now, I'm may not be smart but at least I'm persistent. I continued with part two of his article (finish what you start, that's another thing that I've been taught).

Dr. Cobin wrote that people living in Singapore are hardly free, and that one can't find any "rousing" discussion about politics, economics, sociology or culture, you won’t find it in Singapore. It was hard to think about that statement, 'cos I'm sitting at the neighbourhood coffee shop and I'm distracted by a group three tables away talking about the PAP.

So, I'm certain I've become a better man after reading Dr. Cobin's articles. I've always thought I was free to think, act and speak responsibly in Singapore (that only irresponsible comments that would get me in trouble). But thanks to Dr. Cobin (author, columnist, businessman and international lecturer; Ph.D.degree in Public Policy, M.A. degrees in Economics and in Business Economics), it's as if I've taken the Red Pill and seen the truth. I've torn off the blinkers and finally seeing life in Singapore for what it is... ...


Like I said, don't take me too seriously. I read the articles and was itching to comment. In truth, my first reaction was to ignore it but in the spirit of blogging, I decided to post my reactions.

In fact, before blogging this, I submitted a feedback in part 2 of the article (pending approval as of now). My feedback was simply this:
John Cobin wrote: "But my two days there, though intriguing, left me despairing for those people and yearning to leave with little desire to return." LOL:) It's ok, John. You don't have to feel sorry for us. I don't know about the rest of my fellow citizens (as well as my non-Singaporean friends who've chosen to become Permament Residents) but I'm perfectly happy where I am now. Maybe I've not travelled as widely as you have (I've been to 15 so far) but as much as I enjoy certain aspects of the host countries, I still prefer to call Singapore home. I'm sorry you don't have any desire to return to our country but should you change your mind, I can say confidently that you're more than welcome. Perhaps in speaking to more Singaporeans you might learn that we have more things in common than differences. Cheers.


Thinking Aloud: What shall we do when the Internet become aware of itself?

Discovered this page called The World Question Center (via Dan Gillmor). Fwah, amazing stuff. They pose questions and get notable people to comment. This piece by Terrence Sejnowski (from the "What is your Dangerous Idea?" segment) caught my eye -- "When will the Internet become aware of itself?":
Thus, the internet and our ability to search it are within reach of the limits of the raw storage and communications capacity of the human brain, and should exceed it by 2015.
[Perhaps due to page coding problems, the link to Sejnowski doesn't bring me to the right page. If you want to read his article, click here and scroll a little way down and you'll find Sejnowski]

If I understand Sejnowski correctly, he suggests that the Internet might achieve sentience sometime after 2015. That's in 9 years! : )

Sejnowski's Dangerous Question reminded me of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator movies, where they mention SkyNet becoming sentient and starts taking over the world. Internet... SkyNet... creepy coincidence or deliberate reference?

As a Sci Fi fan, I tend to think about stuff like "Machine Sentience and Implications for Humanity". Whenever such themes are explored in movies, more often than not, the Machines are set up for confrontation against Humans.

What's becoming clear to me is that the really Dangerous Idea isn't about the Internet achieving awareness per se. What's perceived as danger could be the perceived impact of machines being self-conscious.

Think about it -- just being "aware" doesn't necessarily mean becoming violent. Maybe the Post-awareness Internet will be a benevolent presence, kicking the butts of spammers and email scammers.

The really Dangerous Idea might be this: "A Post-Awareness Internet inherently spells doom for humans".

Even without articulating it, most people will subsconsciously assume that any man-made construct that becomes 'alive' is automatically a threat. I don't think it has to do with robots only. Moreover, implicit in the term "Machine Sentience" is that Machines are more advanced and developed than Humans.

I think Humans are hardwired to be wary of Competition, and the instinctive reaction is to eliminate competition, more so when we think the other person is better than us. Survival of the fittest and all that. Perhaps jealousy is also something hardwired into us also. We can't stand to have more than one Sentient Being share the same planet. We're not big-hearted enough for that.

However, that's not to say there isn't hope for humanity. What humans have shown -- in fact it's a survival trait -- is that our behaviour can be changed. And that humans are perhaps the most adept in consciously modifying our behaviour.

So we have maybe 9 years to learn how to live with (the possibility of) another Sentient Being.

Meantime, I guess we can start by being nicer to the next Sentient Being that's already here with us.

Other Human Beings.


Starting a new blog (Part 1)

In a previous post, I mentioned about creating another blog for my art-related stuff. Finally I made up my mind to start one. And since I'm conducting some blogging-related courses soon, I might as well blog about it to use as examples for sharing with course participants (btw, there's no definitive "blog-creation" process; this is just my perspective).

#1 - Asked myself what I wanted from a blog host?
  • Free (I don't wish to pay to maintain a blog)
  • Stability/ reliability (i.e. no frequent downtimes)
  • Credibility/ trustworthiness (usually I look at who are the people using the service as an indicator of the service provider's credibility)
  • Ease of updating (e.g. interface)
  • Features

#2 - Choosing a (free) blog host: Narrowing down the list
Probably the most important consideration for me. I'm looking for a free and reliable blog hosting service. There are many free blog hosting services. Those that I've seriously considered are:

Final choice -- Wordpress

Making the choice was more difficult than I thought. I'd really wanted to stick with Blogger because I can access my new blog with the existing user ID (single ID logon*). It's managed by Google and it's not about to close shop anytime soon. Plus, Blogger has also introduced several improvements in the past year (e.g. anti spam; linking) so I'm convinced more features would be introduced.
[* UPDATE: Wordpress.com introduces unlimited blogs, Apr 2006]

Blogger is great and I'd still recommend it to people who've never started a blog before. But I wanted to try something more complex than Blogger. I figured it's good to be proficient with more than one specific blogging platform. And really, what tilted in Wordpress' favour was the "Categories" feature. I wanted to "file" my stuff, you know?

Why not Blogsome.com, since it's also based on Wordpress blogs? To be honest, the No. 1 reason was because Scoble is using it! His choice can't be wrong. Of course I also considered how Wordpress.com has been setup -- with a Feedback channel, a Wiki... basically they just seem to provide more help. Like I said earlier, the whole blog-creation process is subjective.

Ok, if you wish to know more about the different blogging plaftforms, here's a Blog Software Comparison Chart (discovered via Cowboy Caleb).

[Next: Part 2]

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Failing to see libraries as a primary information source

George over at It's All Good posted this interesting piece titled "Public Use of the Library and Other Sources of Information". He compares two library-related reports and highlights the progress that libraries have made in the last 50 years:

What made me pay attention was this:
The biggest consistency has been in people failing to see libraries as a primary information source. Librarians have not been able to make the leap from being a storehouse of recorded information (books, magazines, videos, audios) to being an active partner in the information gathering and evaluating process. The ubiquity of the web is making it even less likely that a formal institution like the library, with all our rules, service policies, limited hours, and other historical baggage, is ever going to change that.

I believe George isn't talking about using libraries as primary sources, but considering libraries as one of the first few sources for information. The development of the Internet and search engines is part of the reason, I'm sure.

But there's something else, I think.

Call it "lack of publicity" or "lack of awareness". I prefer to call it "lack of mindshare". I define "mindshare" as "being present on a person's mental radar screen". Having mindshare doesn't necessarily mean they would have to use the library. It's enough that they consider it.

The problem is systemic in nature. There's no one single root cause, and requires a multi-prong approach to deal with many issues at the same time.

I can attest that even librarians sometimes don't see libraries as the primary source for information. One time I asked a colleague, who was planning an overseas holiday, why he didn't seek information from the library (like books and also ASK!) first. He said it just didn't occur to him.

Say, you wanted to buy a new computer, or a new digital camera. Apart from using the Internet and seeking the opinion of friends, would it occur to you to look up the library or ask a librarian?

What George suggest is for librarians to be active partners in the information gathering and evaluating process. I agree completely. I remembered this post I wrote where I mentioned about the "Friendly Neighbourhood Librarian", where I suggested that librarians should make their presence known and felt in non-library discussion groups and forums. Establish credibility and trust. Join in the conversations. Then you can start talking about promoting the library.

Tag: , , ,

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Frigid Ariston Fridges

I try not to rant in this blog, especially about personal stuff, but I've had it with Ariston refridgerators. As Cowboy Caleb likes to say, "you have a mouth but you can't scream" so you blog about it.

Nice looking fridge, right?
030106 001

Stainless steel finish. Had the fridge for 5 years and still looks new overall. Just 2 months ago, it went kaput. The fridge couldn't keep cool and stuff had to be thrown away 'cos they went bad.

It took 2 visits from the repairman before it was repaired. First time the repairman came, he took a quick assessment and said the compressor unit and fan needed to be replaced but he didn't have the parts (didn't they bring along the commonly used spares?) So another appointment was made. Coincidentally, the warranty period was just 1 day shy of its 5 years, so we were able to replace the compressor unit for free, though we forked out over $100 for other replacement parts not covered under the warranty.

Yesterday evening, as my wife was putting the groceries in, the top hinge broke. Entire door would've fell had she not been able to hold it up, but just barely. She hollered; I ran there. Helped to hold it up and clear the things from the door to lighten it. Turned out the metal hinge was fine. It was the plastic parts that supported the hinge that broke (see below images for comparison -- right image shows broken outer piece placed back for illustrative purposes):
030106 003030106 002

The service centre advised that it will cost $500 to replace the door (half the cost of a new one). I don't mind paying for necessary repairs. That's not what frustrated me.

Tonight, about 2 hours ago, we found that stuff in the freezer melted. That's when we discovered the fridge wasn't working properly again (compressor problem? Wasn't that and other parts recently replaced?).

Just spent the last 2 hours frantically chopping up all the vegetables and meat we bought yesterday (2 or 3 meals worth) and made stew for tomorrow. Thank goodness for vaccum pots; at least they will keep food warm till tomorrow. But there's only so much that could be cooked. We ate our second dinner tonight -- 2 salmon steaks, quart of yogurt, 500g of cherries, a carton of fruit juice that couldn't keep. It was that or wait for the food to spoil. But other stuff will have to be thrown soon.

So I'm frustrated from the entire chain of events. Could Ariston have prevented it? I don't know. Maybe a better hinge design. Maybe some Ariston employee will do a Google or Technorati and find my blog piece. Maybe they will do something about the design.

But they sure won't hear it from me direct via their formal feedback channel (if any). Why should I when I'm not going to try my luck with another Ariston fridge again, no matter how good it looks.

Once bitten, twice shy.

And there's only so much second dinners that my wife and I can eat.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Pair of monkeys spotted at Yishun Park

[Update 3 Jan: Siva has picked up this post, and I've added the tag as Siva suggests.]

My wife and I visited Yishun Park today and we spotted a pair of wild monkeys in a tree. I happened to have my digital camera along and snapped a few pictures. Decided to blog it because:
  1. I think Siva (Habitatnews) & friends might be interested to know about this
  2. To demonstrate how blogs (and related online tools) can be used as a means for information sharing and exchange
  3. It's not everyday that I get to see wild monkeys and capture them on camera (what luck!)

There are two monkeys in the picture, at the top-left corner and bottom-right. Click on the image for a better view (I've used the 'Notes' feature to point them out):
Monkeys spotted at Yishun Park_b_020106

This was the one at the top-left corner:
Monkeys spotted at Yishun Park_a_020106

Same one again:
Monkeys spotted at Yishun Park_c_020106

Pictures were taken at about 5:54pm, 2 Jan 2006. If I had my bearings right, it's at the edge of the park at the junction between Yishun Ave 11 and Yishun Ring Road.


High Browse (print) Issue 10 is available at libraries

The Dec 2005 issue of High Browse is available at all public libraries. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that some readers make it a point to collect such things (sell on eBay in a few years time? LOL).

If you can't find it at your nearest public library, you might want to email to the HB editorial team.

I wonder if you pick up such stuff from the public library. Whether you do or do not, or not aware etc., I'd be interested to learn what you think of such "reader advisory" lists.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Ranganathan on Melvil Dewey, 1964 tape recording transcribed

Librarians interested in Ranganathan (of the Five Laws of Library Science) would be interested in this:

Learnt (via David Weinberger) that William Denton has digitised a 1964 recording of S.R. Ranganathan's fifteen-minute talk about his connections with Melvil Dewey.

David Weinberger has transcribed Denton's MP3 recording (try reading the transcipt while listening to the audio -- I found that it helps to following the recording).

From William Denton's webpage:
This was on cassette in the collection of the Faculty of Information Studies at the University of Toronto and I digitized it. It's a 1964 recording of the great librarian S.R. Ranganathan giving a fifteen-minute talk about his connections with Melvil Dewey*. They never met, but they did correspond, and Ranganathan recounts that and four other anecdotes, including an amusing one he was told about Dewey conniving so that his female employees could enter his library by the front door and not the fire escape. (Ranganathan jokingly relates the number five to his Colon Classification.)

More on Colon Classification here. In case you aren't aware, Melvil Dewey invented the Dewey Decimal system, in use in many libraries today, including NLB's.

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Bloggers Wishlist for 2006 (or, "Identity Theft in the Blogosphere")

[Update, Jan 2: Tony emailed to say he's included my comment as part of his post (thanks!) Adds that one of his wishlist is also for biz bloggers to make sure they write an 'About' page.]

Toby Bloomberg (Diva Marketing Blog) posted a wish list from some bloggers on what they’d like to see in 2006 on blogs (via Scoble).

Seems that most of the wishlist has less to do with the technical side of blogging, and more on the quality of writing in the Blogosphere. To me, that's a sign that blogging is evolved beyond its "Hey-check-out-this-cool-Technology" phase and into something more entrenched. Kind of like e-mail.

Left a comment in Toby's blog on what would be on my wishlist, which turned out to be technical-related (though it can be argued that it has to do with social development as well):
I don't think my wishlist will materialise by 2006 but here goes: I wish for a more robust Web Identification system in the Blogosphere. It scares me that it's so easy to pretend to me be someone else, e.g. posting a comment.

There are services like Typekey but what if someone grabs my desired user ID first? In fact, I discovered that my "ramblinglibrarian" ID has been taken up in Typekey -- now I can't remember if it's me who signed up for it, or someone else (any advice?).

Ok, is "Blog Identity Theft" really a problem? I think so. In the online environment, we have nothing else to back us up other than our credibility and reputation. Which is linked to our Blog ID/ name/ site.

I don't think I'm important enough to have someone pretend to be "ramblinglibrarian" and leave nasty comments all over the Blogosphere. But who's to say it won't happen? And what if it's not a nasty comment but a plain stupid uneducated comment? Something that doesn't really warrant a rebuttal but leaves an impression that "this fella's stupid; I'll ignore".

Can't think of any 100% full-proof solution to prevent "Blog Identity Theft". For each idea, I can think of at least one possible loop-hole.

Maybe if we can't prevent it, we can at least think of ways to monitor it. Perhaps services like Technorati could develop a way for people to track comments, like how they can track keywords in blog posts.

For now, all I can do is just accept that I have no control over this problem, and be prepared to deal with it as it comes.

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