Saturday, December 30, 2006

My 2006 Discography

Yesterday, I cut a CD album of the songs I composed in 2006. It was a matter of using iTunes to burn them into a CD format. Two things came to mind after I played the CD in the HiFi system -- (1) I won't be quitting my day job anytime soon; (2) There's good reasons why they pay big bucks for competent song producers and sound engineers

Realising that, I came up with these possible options for my album name:
  • "I'm sticking to blogging for now" (idea for album cover: feature me blogging in front of a computer, with a cobwebbed guitar at the corner of the room"
  • "There's Still My Day Job" (idea for album cover: feature rejection letters from recording companies and/ or Singapore Idol application)
On a whim, I decided to compile a discography of the songs produced in 2006 (just like how I've made a list for books read for the year). Hmm... honestly, I didn't realise I've only started composing and producing music only this year. I've completed (i.e. must be uploaded) at least one song each month, except for the months of February, March and August.

Upon hindsight, it's the discovery of tools like, and blogs (i.e. the availability of free hosting and delivery platforms) that led me to compose and share music. Plus, I got my Mac in May '06, which explains the proliferation of stuff from May onwards. I was busy with IFLA for the better part of August, although I did compose one near the end, but completed only in September.

Ivan Chew's 2006 Discography (links to MP3 files)
  1. White Nights (in collaboration with Vanessa Tan) - [Dec '06; Song Details]
  2. Lady Of Shalott (Down to Camelot) - [Nov '06; Song Details]
  3. Carry Me Over - [Oct '06; Song Details]
  4. Ray of Light - [Oct '06; Song Details]
  5. Dreaming of Better Days - [Sept '06; Song Details]
  6. August Nights - [Sept '06; Song Details]
  7. Moonsong - [Sept '06; Song Details]
  8. Take Me Away - [Jul '06; Song Details]
  9. March Upon The Black - [Jul '06; Song Details]
  10. I Am Singaporean (Soundtrack) - [Jul '06; Song Details]
  11. Run (Our Feet Will follow) - [Jul '06; Song Details]
  12. Electric Rain Dance - [Jun '06; Song Details]
  13. TechnoJungle - [Jun '06; Song Details]
  14. So I Am A Werewolf - [Jun '06; Song Details]
  15. Saturday In May - [May '06; Song Details]
  16. Brand New Day - [Apr '06; Song Details]
  17. January Skies (Cosmic Mix) - [Jan '06; Song Details]
  18. January Skies - [Jan '06; Song Details]
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 License.

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What did you do when the Internet is down?

You might already know about the recent Internet/ data disruption -- what I call the "Great Internet Crash in East Asia". The impact to businesses has been great: 30% dip in online airline bookings; canceled orders by financial market traders and fund managers; travel and logistical companies are still trying to recover lost business as data lines are being restored (see The Straits Times, 28 & 29 Dec 2006).

I was alerted to the problem last Tuesday when I received an SMS asking if I experienced a slowdown in connectivity (I did). Then our office network folks confirmed that Internet access to sites outside Singapore was affected. Users of the library's multimedia service were affected (those who logged on to check their mails or access overseas websites).

My colleague and fellow liblogarian, Ivy, has posted her experience of the events at the Asian Libraries blog (yeah, I'll talk about that new blog soon). For some reason, I found her post funny. Perhaps the way it was written. She had an interesting encounter with a senior citizen who was trying to access email. Ivy observed that:
If an old uncle is so reliant on hotmail and has almost forgotten the art of mailing a letter using stamps, well, this just shows how the world has grown "connected" over the years.
That's certainly another perspective, other than lost business transactions. Ivy's post also alluded to just how important that sort of connectivity was for librarians:
It was a test on us librarians' skills to answer quick reference questions without the internet. For example, someone asked what is the national flower of Myanmar. We tried all the encyclopedias, almanacks and factbooks but were unable to find. This morning, I was happy to see my best friend Mr Google greet me on my PC. The first thing I did was look for the national flower. Within seconds, Mr Google tells me...
[Read the post if you want to know the answer :)]

I've yet to ask my colleagues at ASK! how they coped with the questions during those last few days. The liblogarians in Australia don't seem to have been affected by the disruption (I read that some services in Australia was affected).

Now that connectivity to overseas site is up, I've been checking my Bloglines feeds to see what Singaporean bloggers are saying about the Internet disruption. Generally no rantings or ravings; just simple statement of facts about the disruption. Or maybe they wanted to rant and rave in their blogs but since connectivity was down, they couldn't? : )

Regarding the Internet and Librarians
Librarians, I'm sure, will just try other sources and means in satisfying an enquiry. Service levels will be affected somewhat. It's not that the Internet, i.e. search engine services, has superseded "traditional" reference materials. But one cannot deny that librarians are relying a lot more on internet services like Google, for largely similar reasons why non-librarians find them a boon. For the average user, search engines are more efficient compared to using traditional print sources. The Internet provides access to a large body of materials in the same time it takes to use traditional print materials.

Also, it's not just access to search engines services but also to emails, online groups, MSN (connectivity with overseas librarians).

As with any successful species on earth, we adapt. When the Internet is down, successful librarians will learn to cope as best as we can, with whatever we have on hand.

And as in all human-related events, I feel it's not a question of whether a similar event like "The Great Internet Crash in East Asia" will happen again, but a question of 'when'.

For human beings, while we maintain our proficiency in using Internet-based tools and technology, we should still keep a handle on the more "traditional" skills, whatever they may be.

On a personal note, while the Internet was down, I missed checking-in on my online contacts and several blog posts had to be postponed. On the upside, I had more time to read and knit (yeah, knit!)

So, what did you do when the Internet was down?

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Preliminary data on the influence of blogs on foreign journalists covering China

Via JOHO the blog, I read Rebecca Mackinnon's preliminary survey results of about 70 journalists (out of about 400) who cover China. The respondents work for news organizations headquartered in the U.S., UK, Singapore, Russia, Qatar, Poland, Italy, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Finland, Canada, and Australia.

I've extracted the main headers of her findings:
  • 90% follow blogs
  • 41% have been following blogs for 1-2 years, and 22% have been doing so for 2 years or more
  • Most respondents find blogs useful for story ideas and information - In fact they find blogs significantly more useful than CCTV, CNN, BBC (radio & TV), overseas forums, BBS & chatrooms, or Chinese radio.
  • Most find blogs useful to spot emerging stories and as a general source of story ideas
  • ESWN and Danwei appear to be substantially more important to correspondents than other English-language China-focused blogs.
  • Blogs are somewhat more useful to foreign correspondents than BBS and chatrooms
  • Most follow Chinese-language blogs
  • Most believe it is impossible to answer question of whether blogs are more or less "reliable" compared to other media
What interested me was the issue of the credibility of blogs, and why journalists find blogs useful. The respondents' comments were particularly insightful (refer to the paragraphs after the header, "Credibility Questions").

It seemed to me the journalists follow blogs as how they follow their own preferred sources for leads/ tip-offs, opinions and perspectives. As quoted:
Blogs are great for watching topical issues emerge and get dissected, and for aggregating news from a variety of other sources, but they don't necessarily verify the information they serve up. But blogs shouldn't be expected to do this -- it is up to the end-user of the information to decide what to do with it, including verifying sources and facts.

... it's more opinion and commentary, and if you follow a blog over time you get to know who generally knows what they're talking about.

... i wouldn't cite a blog on spot news, for example. they're often more just to stay plugged in in a general way.
More examples to show that it's mainstream media "WITH" bloggers, rather than "against".

Rebecca surmises (on the issue of credibility/ reliability of blogs) that "journalists approach blogs as raw sources. Thus asking whether blogs are reliable is just as useless as asking whether people are reliable".

How is all this relevant to librarians?
Librarians, when searching for Internet resources to answer enquiries, would inevitably come across blogs. They are trained, and may also train other library users, on how to go evaluating websites. Good references can be found here, here and here.

At face value, blogs may not warrant their own separate evaluation guidelines. The guidelines for evaluating websites would still apply to evaluating blog content, e.g. "What are the author's credentials?", "How is the author a reliable/ accurate source?", "When was it published".

But I wonder if we should elaborate on those guidelines in the context of blogs. Again, to cite Rebecca:
Each tipoff or story idea coming from any human source must be judged in a very specific context: Does that person have any real expertise in the subject at hand? Is his/her knowledge first, second, third or fourth hand? Does he/she bear a grudge or conflict of interest? What is his/her agenda in telling you the information? Etc.
The above seems like sensible guidelines for librarians evaluating blogs.

  1. How do librarians treat blogs that they come across as part of the web search (in answering enquiries)?
  2. Do librarians tend to avoid citing blogs, even if the enquiry is more opinion-based (rather than requiring facts)?
  3. Do librarians evaluate the relative merits of the blog content rather than whether it is a blog per se?
  4. Should we have additional evaluation guidelines for blogs?

To other librarians reading this, what's your opinions/ experience on the above?

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Art Sunday - "Hands"

An extremely wet Sunday today. Had to attend a Malay wedding reception (a daughter of my colleague got married so I didn't drop by the SGF to check on things. Spent the rest of the day cooped up at home. Decided to publish some drafts I'd saved for the longest time, over at MyRightBrain.

This one's an illustration for the Science Fiction "Biotechnology" Genre Guide for the library (details here).
biotech SciFi 400x400

Also retrieved and posted this one from the CD I made of my art pieces (details here)
1990 Sketch - Left Hand (set)

Oh yeah, you could pick up the Biotechnology Genre Guide from the NLB booth at the Singapore Garden Festival.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Library outreach event: Singapore Garden Festival (D-Day)

[Continues from D-Day minus 1] My colleague, Huey Bin, texted me this morning to say that everything was up and running. I cleared emails and finished off some work before I popped over to the Singapore Garden Festival (SGF) to check on things. Colleagues on duty reported that loans have been brisk.

Books for loanI think the books look like a bed of plants and flowers, don't you?

Not surprisingly, quite a few people thought we were selling books. In fact, this has been a common perception whenever the library conducts an outreach activity. I guess most people assumed that there's a book sale when there are books laid out.

I wonder if we should put up a huge sign, for each outreach, to correct the misconception. I jokingly told my colleagues that it might be a good thing they think there's a sale, 'cos once they learn that they can borrow the books home for free (when they were prepared to pay), it might encourage more loans.

The loan promotion we have there also helped to encourage people to borrow. Upon hindsight, we should have designed some simple poll to find out if those who borrowed were non-library users or otherwise (to gauge who we were reaching out to). NLB loan promotion

Judging from the questions I received about our booth, it was clear to me our presence there has created that mind-share and awareness about the library service. What's hard to measure is the quantitative aspects of that mind-share though, e.g. would people use the library subsequently, now that they are aware of it.

Visitors have also asked questions Botany-related questions (as we'd hoped). I was told the popular questions were about Orchids (e.g. how to cultivate/ grow). Not surprising, since the Orchid show was one of the highlights of the SGF and an Orchid Judging event was being held near the NLB booth.

A few days before the event, I was informed that the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) had a pavilion on the other end of the hall, and they were going to provide something called the "Plant Doctor" service. Unfortunately we didn't have time to work something out (since we both offered an advisory service).

Anyway I went over to their pavilion -- called "Clinic Botanica" -- to learn what exactly were they providing, so that perhaps over the next few days, the NLB staff could make appropriate referrals to them.

AVA booth - Clinic BotanicaTheir spiffy-looking pavilion had plenty of visitors, many of them asking the AVA staff questions on plant health etc. If you are interested in how to maintain the health of your plants in your home, then it's worth visiting their booth. The staff there are friendly and knowledgeable.

Had a quick chat with one of their staff and was informed that the AVA Plant Clinic service has always been a crowd puller. I'm not surprised. I've always felt that high-rise gardening is a popular pursuit among HDB dwellers. I've lived in HDB flats all my life and practically every floor would have at least one household maintaining plants along the common corridor.

AVA booth - Clinic Botanica I managed to speak to their Head of Animal & Plant Health Centre, Mr. Ong Keng Ho. We had a quick chat and agreed that it would be worth following-up after the SGF, on how AVA and NLB could work together.

AVA booth - Clinic Botanica Some ideas would be to collaborate on the Plant Health Advisory (they have the experts, and we have the infrastructure and general information resources) and possibly public talks and events at the libraries.

Before I went off, I asked for some of the AVA brochures and flyers to bring back to the NLB booth. I don't see why we can't help cross-promote their pavilion, especially their free Plant Doctor service (it's free for the duration of the event).

Here's an update of the NLB Paper-Garden. It has grown quite a bit in less than a day. : )
Build Our Garden

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Library outreach event: Singapore Garden Festival (D-Day minus 1)

[Continues from D-Day minus 2] Highlights of D-Day minus 1:

NLB @ Singapore Garden Festival: D-Day minus 1When I reached the venue at 12pm, my librarian colleagues Huey Bin, Raneetha and Roy had already finished most of the preparations (btw, hat-tip to Roy; he was on leave today but spent his morning helping out). Some of the books were unpacked and placed on the table (back row of the photo on the left).

My first impression was that the tables had flowered overnight. The book covers were like flowers that bloomed upon rows of blue satin.

Yesterday, I mentioned how the height of the banner was a concern. On my way to the venue, it occurred to me that I could secure the "weak-spot" with cable-ties. I bought a bunch, found a simple way to secure the horizontal pole more firmly. This gave me some peace of mind that the chances of the banner falling and accidentally hurting someone was eliminated, or at least much reduced.
Securing the banner (1)Securing the banner (2)

My next task was to improvise the "Build Our (NLB) Garden" idea. I was told we had to vacate the premises by 1pm (there was a bomb-sweep scheduled). That meant less than an hour to come up with something that was still rather hazy in my head. In the end, I completed something that my colleagues considered acceptable (even had time to take snapshots in between). I took about 45 minutes to turn these:

To this:

I thought it was too amateurish but Raneetha assured me it was more "Child-Friendly" that way and kids were more likely to have fun with it. She's the Children's Librarian so who was I to argue? Oh, right after the rush-job, we were then told the bomb-sweep was canceled! I decided not to re-do the piece. Details of how it was done posted at MyRightBrain (in spite of the time limit, I decided not to pass up the chance of capturing that "creative learning" moment).

With more time on our hands, Huey Bin, Raneetha and I (Roy had left for home by then) decided to stay on and tidy up the booth and test the equipment. It was a good thing we had the extra time as Huey Bin discovered the LAN connection was not working. The technician was called in and they rectified the fault (something about a broken wire, which might have occurred during the shifting and unpacking in the morning). After that was resolved, our trip to the Carrefour hypermart to purchase drinking water (for the volunteers who would be helping out the next few days) was a minor saga in itself, but that's a story between my colleagues and myself :)

After two days of on-site setup, we're ready for business tomorrow. Here's a Before and After picture:
ASK! NLB Setting up the NLB Booth @ Singapore Garden Festival

While this outreach assignment wasn't the run-of-the-mill event, it also wasn't a particularly tough one. That being said, I have to give credit to Huey Bin and Raneetha who did most of the legwork in the days leading to the event.

Another "behind-the-scene" work that was done were these Gardening/ Botany-related questions, published at the ASK! blog (thanks to another colleague, Li Sa, for editing and posting the entries). We thought it would be good to have those questions posted. Where appropriate, the librarians on duty at the booth would refer customers to the online resource:

One of the perks of being involved in this event was that with our exhibitor's setup pass, we had access to the displays before the crowd. Here are some shots of what visitors to the SGF will see (click on thumbnails to see larger pics):
Singapore Garden Festival 2006 Singapore Garden Festival 2006 Singapore Garden Festival 2006 Singapore Garden Festival 2006 Singapore Garden Festival 2006 Singapore Garden Festival 2006 Singapore Garden Festival 2006 Singapore Garden Festival 2006 Singapore Garden Festival 2006

OK, if you are at the Singapore Garden Festival, drop by the NLB booth. We're at Level 4. I hope that after touring the exhibits, the visitors interest on Gardening and Botany subjects would be increased and dropping by our booth would encourage them to borrow the related books we've brought, and ask question where the librarians on duty would attempt to assist.

We also have have tokens and prizes to give away for those who borrow books and/ or ask questions. Yes, we want to reward you for giving us more work! We want more work :)

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Library outreach event: Singapore Garden Festival (D-Day minus 2)

About six months ago, the good folks at NParks invited NLB to take part in the Singapore Garden Festival (SGF) 2006.
The Singapore Garden Festival 2006

Together with my colleague Ian (he's the manager for the Children Services while I'm responsible for the Adult & Young People's team), we met with NParks for an exploratory meeting. To cut a long story short, we confirmed our involvement and NParks graciously sponsored the booths for NLB.

Working for the NLB Public Library Services -- be it as a Librarian, a Library Officer, a Library Assistant, or as a Manager -- "outreach" is something we'd be involved in (directly or indirectly) practically all year round.

Outreach events are a form of publicity and promotion for the library. We refer to "outreach" as a generic term to mean an activity where we extend our services outside of the library premises. Typically it involves the bringing of library books to the external venue for members to borrow on-the-spot, membership registration and providing our ASK! service.

Since I'm directly involved in this outreach event, I thought I'd write something about it (it also adds to the earlier posts on "What librarians (in public libraries) do").

Before you read on, do note that this particular event is just ONE of the many of outreaches conducted in a given year. The scope and intensity of events would vary. Incidentally, for the last financial year, the PLS conducted about 800 outreach sessions, or a rough average of two outreach activities per library per month (we have 23 branches). The workload at a public library is pretty intense, as any PLS staff would tell you.


After we confirmed our participation in the SGF 2006, two of my librarian colleagues were assigned to form the planning team for D-day. There were further meetings and correspondences with the event organiser (commissioned by NParks to manage the event).

We also held internal meetings. We considered issues like staffing (December was a peak period for us), rostering, logistics, security, budget, sourcing for volunteers to help man the booth, allocation of tasks and duties, and setting of targets and expected outcomes from our participation (this last part was important to ensure we were all in agreement with how we define "success" from this activity).

Finally, after weeks of planning, we're now two days from D-day.

Today, the team went down to check out our allocated booths. When we got there, the boxes of books (selected and packed at the branch, by other colleagues) were already delivered.
Empty Booth

While waiting for the tables we rented to be delivered (so that we can unpack the books), I walked over to a nearby corner and took a shot of the exhibition hall.
Shot of the exhibition hall, L4

After an hour, the rental tables were still yet to be seen. Some calls were made. The vendor would be late, but we were assured the tables would be delivered. We started on other things. E.g. verify the location of the powerpoints and LAN points (one powerpoint was wrongly placed so the site technician had to be called in).
Getting started

My colleagues folded the Resource List/ flyers:
Folding the resource sheets

I started on the decorations for the booth. I was trying to make vines and put up something we called "The NLB Garden", in line with the "Garden" theme of the SGF. Sad to say, I had to abandon the idea!
Trying to create decorations
Our budget didn't allow us to engage a vendor to design and set up the booth. We came up with an idea that seemed rock solid at first. We intended to put up, on the booth wall, a large piece of paper with an outline of a garden. We were going to title it "Help Build the NLB Garden".

Earlier on, we had student volunteers cut pieces of paper from old magazines (to get various shades and sizes). The idea was for visitors to our booth to help themselves to the pieces of cut paper, paste them on the paper-garden outline and basically create a mosaic-style piece over the duration of the exhibition.

It all sounded perfect, in theory. Alas, when we were onsite, we quickly realised that relative to the other nearby booths, we were better off with a plain looking booth than an amateurish looking one! There was a corporate image to maintain.

In the end, we decided not to totally abandon the "Help Build the NLB Garden" idea. We improvised something and will try to do something tomorrow.

ASK! NLBWe also put up this huge mother of a banner! Well OK, it's not that huge. Just taller than anything we have in our past outreach inventory (it was recently purchased for the SGF). The banner itself was two metres in length. Raised on the aluminum pole, the maximum height reached four metres. The darn thing better not fall.

Hmm... looking at the picture now, I'm worried the banner would fall and hurt someone. I have misgivings on just how securely the top aluminum bar was fixed. Better not risk it, no matter how remote the chance. An adult can walk away with a bruise but if it was a child...

First thing tomorrow, we'll reposition it. The heck with making the sign more prominent. Public safety comes first.

In case you're wondering where the NLB booth is located, we're on the 4th level of the convention centre, booth numbers A95 - A 97 (the entire SGF event takes place on floors 4 and 6).
NLB booth - A95 to A97

Suntec Exhibition Hall, L4

Here's the link to the location maps in PDF. I've drawn the path to our booth, from the direction where visitors would arrive to the main entrance:
How to get to NLB SGF booth

There's an admission fee to the Singapore Garden Festival. I wonder if ticket prices would affect the number of visitors to the show. We shall see.

Judging from the vendors and their set-up, it's going to be a huge, huge show. I was really impressed with the design of some booths. I think amateur-botanists and people with a general interest in botany and gardening would like this event.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Art Sunday - Postcards for 2007

Exercising my right brain and created these two days ago:
Postcard 2007 series - 1b

Postcard 2007 series - 2b

Details here, and here.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Any more Neil Gaiman fans?

I mentioned at this post on the ways my colleagues at High Browse Online tried to encourage more visitors/ readers to leave comments at the book blog. Well, once in a while we'd have posts like this one (thanks to 'L' for the submission) where the online discussion established its own momentum.

Some might say that 11 comments (at the last count) might not be much. We don't have a target for "number of comments per post". It's really about the quality of the discussion.

'L's' post led to more related posts. I decided to just trace the path out of curiosity:
  • Here's the post from 'L', on Neil Gaiman's "Stardust";
  • Which reminded me I've also read one of Neil Gaiman's book and I decided to submit this;
  • Then my colleague, Jillian, followed-up with this post.

Is this the "Long Tail" effect in action?

There's no 100% reliable way to track how many people have read the Neil Gaiman posts (I think there's a MT plug-in but apparently it's not 100% accurate), and certainly no way to determine if any Neil Gaiman books borrowed from the library resulted from people reading those posts. I wish there was a cheap and efficient way to track this.

An idea came to mind as I'm blogging this post:
  • Create a e-mail list for High Browse Online (use a free one like Googlegroups or Yahoogroups);
  • Purpose of the email list is to keep subscribers informed of selected posts (i.e. book recommendations), and also discussions in the book blog;
  • An email could be sent on a weekly basis (I'm thinking Fridays, so that timing-wise, members might be more inclined to visit the library on a Saturday or Sunday);
  • Volunteers could run and manage this e-mail list, rather than library staff;
  • Rather than dictate how the list is managed, library staff (e.g. members of the book blog editorial team) could serve in an advisory capacity. I think chances of the list being abused is minimal;
  • The library could allocate a few tens of dollars to help the volunteers publicise the list and/ or organise the occasional meet-up.

Just how feasible is this idea, I wonder? Any takers? :)

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Learning from an Ancient Library (part 2)

[From: Part 1] I'm not sure how "ancient" is the rain forest in MacRitchie. Regardless of its age, I was struck at how exploring the nature trail was like exploring a library (digital or physical).

MacRitchie Nature Trail

The "information" in the rain forest is contained within lots of "mediums". It's in the trees, the water, the soil, the animals, even the air. For instance, I learned (from an information sign) that the white-greenish patches on trees were a sort of fungi. Its presence generally meant a healthy rain forest. Its loss could be a signal of pollution.

But the rain forest isn't intuitive. You have to know what and where to look. It helps, and in some case it is required, that there are hints and instructions on what and where to look (just like how signages in libraries help with user navigation).

Here are two signs which I thought could be applied to the library's context:

1) I thought this was a very nice way of saying, "Please keep your voice down".
MacRitchie Trail Sign - Peace & Quiet

2) - This quote from Lowell Ponte says, "Whether providing the page you're reading, or the air you're breathing, trees enrich our lives in countless ways."
MacRitchie Trail Sign - Trees

Perhaps in the physical library, it might be good to post such quotations (from books and authors) on the shelves, tables and maybe the benches.

I also learned the value of having a forest ranger or a forest guide. Well, in my case, there wasn't one, to my loss. And I only needed one when I chanced upon something interesting. I would've felt uncomfortable to have a forest ranger follow me throughout.

As I explored the trail, my interest in what the rain forest had to offer increased. I was keen to learn more. I'm not sure exactly why that interest increased. I suspect the environment and surroundings contributed towards that mood to learn.

Obviously it would not be practical for the ranger/ forest guide to be stationed at every corner. If it weren't for the signs, I'd have missed lots of stuff. I wondered how much library users would have "missed" for each visit they make to the library. Like the nature trail, it's impractical to station staff at every corner.

But what if every sign had a sophisticated "Learn More/ ASK! a librarian" button to press, where more information could be sent to my email, or downloaded to my mobile phone. Could we have that feature in our libraries, on our shelves and tables?

I guess I'm just romanticising the rain forest. But then, don't we tend to do the same for libraries? :)

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Technology as Enablers - Vlogs by People with Hearing-impairment

Discovered some Vlogs by people with Hearing-impairment. Have published a post at

At that post, I also wrote:
"I wonder if this statement is true — “People with Hearing-impairment tend to take to mediums like Blogs/ Vlogs more readily than those with a different kind if disability”. I haven’t been actively seeking out blogs by people with disabilities, nor have I come across research that addresses that question..."

What do you think?

Your comments/ responses are most welcome (either here or at the sgLEAD post).

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Podcast: White Nights (Musical Mash-up)

It all started as a discussion over email. I asked Vanessa if she was interested in collaborating on a musical project. "Sure," she said.

powered by ODEO
[ details; details]

It started with from this, combined with this, to end up with this. Details of how this was done, at MyRightBrain.


RamblingLibrarian's Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

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Kankakee Public Library's blogs

Slightly more than two years ago, I had a chance to visit Kankakee Public Library when I made a personal trip to Chicago. I have fond memories of the library tour. I remember the discussions with Cindy (Director of the Kankakee Public Library), Steve (the Assistant Director) and Camille (Youth Services Supervisor).

Hence, about two weeks earlier, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from a Ms. Allison Beasley, Head of Adult Services at Kankakee PL:
At the Kankakee Public Library, we’ve started some exciting new things that we’d like to share with all of you. Also, check out our new webpage logo :)

New RSS feeds/Blogs
She Said/He Said (Admin Blog) Director Cindy Fuerst and Assistant Director Steve Bertrand duke it out - discussing and debating the issues facing today’s public libraries.

Library Musings (Staff Blog) The opinions expressed on this blog are not necessarily the those of the Kankakee Public Library, its board, or the City of Kankakee. Now you want to read it, don’t you? :)

Kankakee Public Library News - KPL events, book discussions, closings and well…news.

Podcasts, Vodcasts & Streaming Media
You can download our new podcasts & vodcasts onto your iPod or MP3 player, or listen to them on our website as streaming media. We are launching our first ever vodcast (video cast). These are produced and edited entirely by KPL staff, even the music!

Flickr - Pictures of authors and speaker events, programs, and a fair share of embarrassing staff photos (don’t forget – Flickr is an RSS feed, too!)

I am particularly impressed by the seemingly holistic manner in which Kankakee PL has offered their blogs.

The one by their directors (the Admin blog) discuss serious issues, which is balanced by the more informal tone of the Staff blog; their podcasts (I liked their Teen Poetry Slam event, and the talk by comic-book artist Don Kramer); their flickr page -- all complimenting the more "traditional" and still relevant 'corporate' website of their library.

Reading Cindy's post, I get a better sense why they are doing all this.

I most enjoyed the Staff Blog -- Allison's confession, the photography bug that hit their reference team, yet another confession -- this time about Sweet Valley, or as (seemingly) plain as the Head of Circulation's background.

The pictures on some their events gave me a better idea what activities they've organised -- like this and this on "Grossology" (supplemented by this post that elaborated on why they organised something like that. Very cool idea, and something I'd bring back to my colleagues for consideration. Thanks!)

In this earlier blog post, I mentioned how Kankakee PL gave me the impression that they were motivated and enthusiastic about what they do. Judging from their blogs, the podcasts and flickr pictures of their events, it's even clearer just how much they've remained motivated and committed to their community.

Kankakee PL, 5 Nov 2004I managed to dig up this photo taken on 5th Nov 2004, with Camille, Cindy and Steve (and the Kankakee PL Lion, which the Kankakee PL folks were really proud of).

When we last met, blogs was probably not at the top of our minds. I bet if I met them again, (with Vicki and particularly Steve, I suspect) we'd be talking a lot more about blogs and social media and their implications for library services.

To the Kankakee PL folks -- subscribed, subscribed, subscribed, subscribed! :)

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Free (almost island-wide) WIFI in Singapore till Dec 2009

In case you are not aware, it's official -- not just two but three years of free WIFI in selected spots in Singapore:
Following the announcement on 10 October 2006 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, that Singapore will get to enjoy two years of free wireless broadband connections from January next year, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) today announced that the three Wireless@SG operators have extended this free offering to three years. Users can also begin to enjoy wireless connectivity from 1 Dec 2006, one month ahead of schedule at selected hotspots for a start.
(Source:; See -
Last accessed 4th Dec 2006

Last accessed 20 Jan 2007)

The news has been reported/ blogged at Engadget, InfoWorld and CNET, just to name a few.

Since 1 Dec 2006, users can sign up with any of the three Wireless@SG network operators. The offer is open to all residents and visitors in Singapore. Sign up with any operator and you will gain access to all Wireless@SG hotspots (regardless of operator). I suppose the only consideration you have might be which operator you'd prefer to receive the occasional advertisement.

Signing up is a breeze, as I've found. I signed up with Singtel (somehow I was influenced by Siva -- the power of blogging!). OK, there was maybe a slight hitch -- when I first tried to visit the Singtel sign-up page, I didn't get a code dump like Siva did but I encountered a 404 error message. However, refreshing the browser cleared the problem and I was able to register and get an account within minutes.

When you register, you have a choice of either the free access or a premium service (with higher bandwidth). Make sure you choose the right one.

I'm quite excited about this free WIFI service, not because I see myself using a lot of the island-wide WIFI. If it's for work purposes, the office wired connection is a better choice. If I'm not working, I don't relish lugging around my laptop (maybe if I get a PDA with WIFI or upgrade my mobile phone).

What I am excited about is that the concept of Ubiquitous Learning (which I blogged about back in July 2005, and here) is one step closer to reality.

I still don't have a clear idea how exactly that "Ubiquitous" concept will play out. All I have is some vague idea that it requires instantaneous access to communication and data storage/ file sharing platforms (including blogs, web-based emails).

If you're wondering why I'm interested in the topic of "ubiquitous learning", it's related to a project that I'm tasked to oversee. In the off-chance you come across something on that topic, I'd be grateful for your lead.

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Australian Libraries now have a building in Second Life (or, "Do Singapore libraries need to follow suit?")

I just popped into Cybrary City in Second Life for a visit before bed, and have come out with a building for all Australian Libraries to share. Ooops. .
Cybrary City is an island sponsered by Talis and administered by the Alliance Library System. It provides free buildings for libraries for a year, in return for a couple of hours staffing per week.
This might be late news to some of you, as it was published on 14th Nov 2006 (I just read my blog feeds this morning at home, since I'm on leave from work).

Certainly great news for Australian librarians and libraries (btw, anyone know what's their library's SLurl?)

OK, a logical question would be, "Would Singapore libraries follow suit?"

I doubt so, to be honest. In my personal opinion, very few librarians in Singapore seem to be interested in exploring social media platforms like blogs and virtual worlds. This is just a factual observation rather than a complaint.

The oft quoted reason would be the lack of time. I don't discount time as a factor. I certainly tell people that blogging and all other online pursuits take up time (for me, I make time by not watching television and I read relatively fewer books compared to before I blogged).

That being said, I still wish more Singapore librarians (from various types of libraries and disciplines) getting into blogs and exploring virtual worlds. How many more, I can't say, but more than the current handful (judging from those who blog).

It's not so much about librarians blogging or having a SecondLife. It's about a concerted attempt to understand the medium -- a medium that some of our customers are exploring.

I believe librarians need to stay ahead of the game, so to speak.

So some of us should try to make that time, whether our own time or seeking permission at work to do so (yeah, why not? Won't hurt to ask and provide good reasons. Don't want to ask 'cos you think your boss won't understand? Well, start making your own time, heh heh.)

Over at, Lucian wrote that:
I’m one of the many who have dabbled in Second Life, got bored real quick because I compared it to other MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, Dark Age of Camelot or City of Heroes. Some of these were so good I’ve had to cold-turkey myself away from them. But Cory’s first point, which he reiterated many, many times, was that Second Life isn’t a game.
I'm not surprised Lucian got bored. He once commented to me (when we met in SecondLife) that SL was like an Extended MSN. I thought that was an apt analogy. SL isn't a game but another platform for communication and information exchange, albeit enhanced or "extended".

Where SL is concerned, I don't feel compelled to login every other day -- just like I don't feel compelled to pick up the phone to call someone, or fire up MSN to chat with friends (wrt MSN, I tend to run it as a background application, but I don't necessarily monitor it to see who has come online).

And it's not right or wrong (to feel bored). Everyone has their own agenda and needs. At least Lucian has made an informed choice (at that given point in time) on what that medium is about. We each have to make our own sense of that medium.

Hence, my point once again -- it's not about Singapore librarians lobbying to start a library in SecondLife; it's about a concerted effort (by a minority at least) to understand what that particular medium is about and what it might mean for our customers and hence our profession.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Video: “Breaking the Sound Barrier”

Thanks to Alvan for alerting the group to this video titled "Breaking the Sound Barrier":
Video screenshot - Breaking the Sound BarrierThis is a short documentary on the hearing impaired and the deaf. It explores the various ways available to them for overcoming the challenges to integration and communications. Due to the limited length, many issues, including Cochlear Implants, are not covered. This was produced primarily for the "Project Deaf-Initely Boleh!" and will be screened at the event to be held at the National Library in December 2006.

More details at sgLEAD.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

More thoughts on Blogging Guidelines for Employees (or, "what might make a good Corporate Blogging Guideline?")

Reading this post from WebSG, where it cited the Prime Minister of Singapore suggestion for government agencies to try out "new mediums", I decided to revisit this topic (see earlier related posts here, here, and here ).

"The paradox, as any supermarket tabloid scribe will attest, is that the best way to drive up traffic is to break all the rules: Don't respect people, don't respect privacy, leak secrets. Fortunately for Intel, bloggers there appear to be far more interested in their jobs and their company than in creating a stir." (Blogspotting, 17 Aug 2005)
Needless to say, government agencies will not be controversial if they can help it. The need for guidelines is clear, if you believe Elderman [dated July 2005 - PDF]:
"Without a set of guiding principles in place, bloggers may interpret what is proper according to their own set of values and HR departments may apply different standards to different bloggers and thereby open the company to potential discrimination issues.

Each company should develop policies or guidelines that are specific to its mission, its employee base and its company goals, but some commonsense rules should apply...

I tend to agree with that premise. You don't need a lawsuit or negative publicity in order to do things right. Basically, the guidelines are to manage employees but not in an insidious way. I prefer to think that it's about managing employees by managing their expectations where blogging is concerned.

I asked myself, "If a government agency were to draft a Blogging Guideline for Employees", what would it say? Rather than start from scratch, I decided to review what is already out there, for a pointer or two.

Here's a sample (they are by no means exhaustive):

IBM Blogging Guidelines
  • I like how their introduction succinctly explains the broad purpose of the guidelines, i.e. "Responsible engagement in innovation and dialogue"; and how blogging fits into the organisation philosophy and culture -- see "To Learn" and "To Contribute".
  • There's a 12-point executive summary (not too long, so people won't fall asleep while reading the guidelines), followed by lengthier explanations for each of the points (so that there is no ambiguity in interpretation of the points).
  • A good practice -- their guidelines are open to non-IBM employees, which means there is transparency in practice and clarity to IBM's stakeholders (not to mention that non-IBMers potentially can help IBM monitor and feedback on errant blogging employees).
  • Good mix of guidelines, in terms of what employees can and cannot do.
  • Employees' inputs were involved in drafting the guidelines.
  • Overall I sense that the guidelines are really guidelines rather than policy statements (i.e. rules).

Yahoo! Employee Blog Guidelines (PDF) [via Jeremy Zawodny]
  • Concise introduction that spells out purpose of the guidelines and intended users.
  • Total of seven points (which isn't too long to read), written in plain language.
  • A header precedes the points (which is a good way of presenting the information; an alternative to the IBM's style of Executive Summary with the details).
  • The guidelines clearly defines what can and cannot be done.
  • There's essentially two parts to the Yahoo! guidelines -- "Legal Parameters" (which clearly addresses the organisation's concerns) and "Best Practice Guidelines" (which is more for the employee's benefit). That's what a Blogging Guideline is about, isn't it?
  • Employees' inputs were involved in drafting the guidelines.
  • There seems to be a mix of policy statements (under "Legal Parameters") and guidelines. Might as well call the document "Rules and Guidelines".
  • Incidentally, the Yahoo! guidelines , as well as presentation and layout, are similar to this one from Adobe Acrobat User Community (or was it the other way around?)

Cetaphil Blogging Guidelines
  • Not too sure if the guidelines are for employees or for customers (I only had patience to scan the page twice and couldn't find any "About" information on how blogging is related to the company).
  • I would have preferred more context on what is the company's business and how blogging fits in. However, the saving grace is that the text reside on a page that is part of the corporate website, with links to more information about the company (but still, I'm again asking myself how blogging, and hence the guidelines, fit with the company's business).
  • The header says "Guidelines" but from the second paragraph onwards, I felt much of the statements sounded like rules and policies.
  • The statements are clear and direct, so that's good. But presentation of the information can be improved (e.g. separate the "rules" and "guidelines"; use numbering or bullet points).
  • I counted about 14 points (they might be better off keeping to 10 and below, or number the items).
  • The last statement "Above all else, have fun, be creative and let inspiration take you to new zones!" runs the risk of being viewed cynically. I mean, the tone of the preceding statements sound very serious and contradicts the call for "fun" at the end. I think the points listed there are sound, just that the tone can be less intimidating.

Thomas Nelson Blogging Guidelines
  • Right... who or what is "Thomas Nelson"? The page ought to have a corporate logo and a link back to the main corporate website.
  • The intent of the document is quite clear; it says "At Thomas Nelson, we want to encourage you to blog about our company, our products, and your work." That's a positive statement and sets the tone for the guidelines.
  • The purpose of the document is also clear, i.e. the three main goals for the guidelines.
  • I like how (at the 3rd and 4th para) they openly mention that they will aggregate the RSS feeds of employees' blogs, and the existence and role of a "Blog Oversight Committee" (good idea to have a committee like that).
  • Right after that, it says "If you would like to have us link to your blog, you must submit it to the BOC... ... In order to participate in this program, you must abide by the following guidelines (Please keep in mind that review by the BOC and participation in this program does not absolve you of responsibility for everything you post.)" -- all that tells me their employees can choose to blog but not adopt the guidelines, i.e. it really is a guideline. At the same time, "non-participation" does not mean the blogging employee is not subject to the purview of the company policies (which is fair, if you ask me).
  • There are 10 points in total (that's the magic number).
  • I like the fact that they addressed the issue of advertisements in employees' blogs (see Point 5 - "Advertise if you wish... ... he only thing we ask is that, to the extent you have control, you run ads or recommend products that are congruent with our core values as a Company.")
  • As far as I can tell, the statements are expressed as guidelines and not policies.
  • Clearly, the page layout can be improved to increase readability, but what's more important is to have clear and fair guidelines (which they've achieved).

BBC Guidelines [via Jem Stone]
  • Interesting that BBC calls it "Editorial Guidelines". I think that's smart, because it acknowledges that blogs are publishing mediums, and the same guidelines apply to websites.
  • There are guidelines for employees AND managers. That's a balanced approach. I think even though the guidelines are articulated for managers, it's really meant for the employees, i.e. what would be the consequences or implications from their manager's point of view.
  • There's a related section on "Conflicts of Interest Guidelines". BBC has even gone one step further from a guideline on blogging, to address situations that the guidelines may not adequately cover.
  • They seem to have broken the "no more than 10 statements" rule. But clearly they recognise that the site has quite a bit of information, which is why they have this "How to Use" section.

More links to Corporate Guidelines and Suggestions from Diva Marketing Blog (compiled in Mar 2005).

In summary, what appears to make a good set of blogging guidelines are as follows:
  1. Show how the guidelines relate to the organisation's mission and values (this includes how the guidelines are presented on a webpage, if it's accessible to the public).
  2. It addresses the needs and concerns of the organisation, as well as those of the employees. In short, the guidelines should protect the employee and employer.
  3. It clearly articulates behaviours that are allowed AND those that are not.
  4. Express guidelines in an affirmative manner where possible (here's one example).
  5. If it's a policy or rule, then state it as such. Don't disguise it as a "guideline" (see point 3).
  6. Have no more than 10 guidelines/ policy statements (that seems to be the magic number; any more seems rather oppressive and counter-productive).
  7. Employee involvement in drafting the guidelines seem critical in increasing acceptance of the guidelines (I'm not advocating employee involvement for the sake of it, but I favour it -- after all, what's the use of producing guidelines if you don't want employees to take it up? You might as well just stick to rules that say what cannot be done).
  8. Not only should the guidelines be articulated for employees, but it should preferably cover what is expected supervisors/ managers (their position can be said to be unique, in that they are employees and custodians/ enforcers for the organisation -- something like that).
  9. Make the blogging guidelines available to public (I mean, if you allow employees to blog, why not make your guidelines transparent to a wider audience too?)
  10. The Blogosphere may be neutral but bloggers, as a rule, are not. Prepare the employees in receiving and handling feedback and especially criticisms, e.g. when and how to escalate to official channels, and when to just leave nasty comments alone. [This is related to point 2, where I suggested that the guidelines should also protect the employee. I also realise that guidelines cannot adequately prepare anyone, so the smart employer will also develop suitable training/ awareness programmes along with the guidelines].
Hmm... have I just developed a "Guidelines for drafting Blogging Guidelines"? Heh.

Oh, I have a nagging question though -- discussion forums precede blogs, so why is it that we have blogging guidelines and not "guidelines for discussion forums"?

Perhaps the longer term solution is not to develop guidelines for blogging only, but for "social media". Granted that the term "social media" could be too broad and negate the effectiveness of any guidelines. However a workaround might be to briefly explain the characteristics of a "social medium" WITH actual examples (e.g. Discussion Forums, blogs -- or even citing actual services like,

Ah, but one thing at a time. I think we should draft a Blogging Guideline and then keep a longer view in mind, and see if the approved guidelines ought to be extended.

UPDATE (7 Jan '07): Apparently, NTUC Income has its own set of Blogging Guidelines, as share by one of its employees, Dharmendra Yadav. I like how they have considered items 2, 4, 6, 7 and 10.

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