Friday, January 26, 2007

Off to Beijing

When I first started blogging, it always seemed strange to read bloggers who post things like, "I won't be updating my blog for a while 'cos I'm going off for a vacation in [list your country here]".

"Why would anyone care where you went?" I'd wonder.

However, after sometime, it didn't seem strange anymore. When I find that the blogger (whom I'm following via the feeds) have not posted for a while and didn't indicate if he or she is away, I'd wonder if anything happened.

Fact is, majority of the people who stumble to this blog won't care where I went, or why I have no time to update. But for the few friends (yes, friends) who follow this blog, it just seem like a natural thing to do.

So... I won't be updating this blog for a week, 'cos I'm going off for a vacation with my wife to Beijing. Incidentally, it means I'll be giving the LAS conference a miss. Well, either way, I'm going on a learning journey.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It's the little things that lead to bigger ones

Two posts from Kevin caught my eye:
  • One of the links featured here lead me to this animated Wikipedia entry on how Pi is derived. Upon watching the animation my first thought was, "So that's why Pi is 3.14..."; the second was, "I bet I'd be more engaged in Math class if I was shown something like this". Over time I realised I'm more of a visual-learner, so animated stuff definitely helps me retain information better.
  • From this post I learnt about the student blog (where there are lots more links to the students' blogs) and where Kevin had his students posting their reactions to the videos shown in class.

Some might say the animation and student/ lecturer blogging aren't particularly earthshaking or cutting-edge. Sure, I agree they aren't. They are "little things" by themselves.

But they're not meant to be earthshaking or cutting-edge.

I don't know exactly how the animation on deriving Pi, and getting students to blog could possibly lead to "bigger things" for the people involved or viewing it. In most cases, nothing directly attributable might come out of it. But I believe that it's the "little things" combined that would lead to some greater good, which often cannot be measured reliably in the empirical sense (well, I think you can but it would be very expensive to collect and analyse the data).

I suspect that more often than not, the little things don't materialise in the first place. Or if they do get noticed, they might be put down and dismissed (like blogging was in its early days). There was, and probably still is, a general reluctance by organisations to explore and experiment with them.

"It's not our Core Business", they might say. Or, "What is it's ROI?"

I don't know what is the ROI of a little animation to illustrate a math concept, or a bunch of comments by students. I'm not saying those aren't valid questions (they are). What I'm advocating is the willingness to experiment and let employees PLAY -- a sort of Skunkworks if you will (although it's the concept rather than actual secret experiments that I'm referring to).

A possible reason for not allowing skunkworks is that they are perceived as expensive (staff time, development/ R&D costs), or implied to be -- which then naturally leads to the ROI question. But we've reached a stage where the technology to engage in experimental works is cheap and even free (think 'Blogs' and the like). If development costs are kept low, then money should not be an issue.

Which leaves us with the costs of staff time, i.e. real and opportunity costs away from "real work". But I'd argue that real work involves engagements in creative and collaborative/ cross-functional activities. If nothing comes out of that 10% or even 20% of the employee's time, can the organisation not take it as costs incurred in keeping some of its employees (particularly those with the inclination and proven work record) motivated and passionate about their work?

I know this is simplistic but why can't we keep things simple?

Not all the "little things" result in "big things". But I'm convinced that great things are achieved through incremental ones.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Health Promotion Board (Singapore) launches online catalogue search for its Health Library

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) Singapore has just made their Heath Information Centre's catalogue available online, at
HPB Health Information Centre

As stated on their website, the Health Information Centre (HIC) specialises in information on health education, health promotion and disease prevention. They have a collection of more than 20,000 books and journals, 10,000 audio-visual materials on health education and health promotion, and a collection of local and overseas pamphlets, booklets, and posters.

What I gather is that non-members are welcome to visit the library and browse through the collection, but you'd have to join as a member to borrow and make full use of the HIC services. Membership is open to "health professionals, health promotion facilitators who carry out health education and health promotion programmes and activities, students taking health-related courses and private health service providers". Their membership information here (last accessed 22 Jan 2007).

Let's see... I'll search for "back pain" 'cos that's what I experienced a few weeks ago.

There were 20 records found. Looking at the titles and a few of the item records, the materials seem quite relevant. Out of curiosity, I used the same search term at the NLB Catalogue and found 182 items. This is not to say one library is better than the other. HIC has a more specialised focus and a smaller membership base, which would reflect in a proportionately smaller collection.

By virtue that it's a library under the Health Promotion Board, I suspect most people would perceive that what they lack in terms of relative numbers (for collection), they would make up in terms of qualified subject experts. That's one positive selling point for the HIC.

I can't really comment on the cataloging standards (I'm not a cataloger) but they appear to be in order.

I like how the search terms are highlighted in bold and Red colour (although I wonder about the choice of using red, i.e. would people with colour-blindness be able to view the text properly?)

You can save and email selected records from your search results, so that's nice.
screenshot_HIC catalogue

In case you're wondering, similar features are available from the NLB catalogue "Advanced Search" option.
National Library Board Online Catalogue

screenshot_NLB Advanced search

screenshot_NLB Advanced search

Vanessa (who works for HPB) told a few of us to freely share our comments and ideas for this HIC service. OK, here's mine:
  1. HIC might want to consider a link to FAQs (of health-related questions) on the search results page. I think a user is likely to have more questions as they review their search results, so the FAQ might provided that additional context and resource to what they are looking for.
  2. If HIC is interested in receiving more enquiries and/ or promotion its collection and membership, a good way might be to include a "Contact Us" or "ASK our HIC Librarian" link on the search results page. As with the first suggestion, I think the probability of the user asking questions increases as they progress with the search.
  3. HIC could also link to the NLB's ASK! blog (from the Public Library), or specifically the Health & Fitness category of the ASK! blog. Users searching their site would appreciate the additional referral. I feel strongly that it's all about 'Context' from the user's point of view. Oh, I'm sure NLB can easily do a reciprocal link from the ASK! blog back to the HIC online catalogue.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dec 2006 issue - IFLA Libraries for Children & Young Adults Section Newsletter

The December 2006 issue (1.73MB PDF document) of the IFLA Libraries for Children & Young Adults Section newsletter is now available at IFLANET. Countries highlighted in this issue includes: Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Ukraine, USA, Denmark, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

  • The Chair Speaks - p1
  • Editor's Note - p2
  • Bibliotheca Alexandrina: Children's Library p3 - 5
  • Campaign highlights what libraries offer children p-6
  • Country Highlights: Japan - p7
  • The happiest people in the world? The Danes seem to be! - p8
  • Announcement: Nowon Digital PL is seeking a Sister Library - p8
  • Report on our IFLA visit to Seocho District Children's Library - p9
  • Engaging the Teens: The September Project at the Singapore Public Libraries - p10
  • The National Library of Ukraine for Children - p11 - 13
  • Country highlights: United Kingdom - p13 - 14
  • Highlights of combined Minutes from SC Meetings, Seoul 2006 - p14 - 16
  • IFLA/ IBBY/ IRA Memorandum of Understanding - p16 - 17
  • Calls for papers: WLIC 2007 - p18 - 20
  • SCL Standing Committee Members' Contacts - p21 - 22
Click here for the newsletter.

I'm the current Information Coordinator (hence, editor of the newsletter). Here's what I wrote for the Editor's Note (page 2):
Someone asked me, “What does your Section do?”

That was after my first ever IFLA conference in 2004, the same year I was inducted into this Section’s Standing Committee (SC). Admittedly, I wasn’t able to give comprehensive answer then. Looking at the Section’s webpage at IFLANET, one gets the impression that much of the work has to do with Guidelines and its translations.

But with almost a full year behind me, I now have a better sense of the work done by our SC. I’ve since learnt that our Section’s work is a lot more than that. I’m sure you’ll get an idea of the current and proposed projects from the Chair’s message (in this issue and past) and the minutes of meetings (even as highlights, they stretch to three pages this issue!).

Let’s take the conference sessions for one. The presentations, visits and related conference activities do not get organised by themselves. I’m stating the obvious, of course. But what’s not obvious would be the work done by the people responsible for putting the Section’s conference programmes and activities together. The SC members involved in organising them have a tremendous part to play (I’ve not been involved in organising one so far; kudos to my colleagues who have).

If someone were to pose to me that same question again, I’ll also add that for a group comprising of international members – living and working in different time-zones, all volunteers with our regular jobs, with no common first language -- producing something as seemingly (and arguably) mundane as a guideline is no simple feat. And the SC does more than that.

In my humble opinion, perhaps the most important role our Section can play is to facilitate dialogue and the exchange of ideas. I hope SCL News can extend that sort of exchange a little further.

Oh, by the way, I should humbly mention that SCL News was awarded Runner-Up for Best IFLA Newsletter 2006 -- we must be doing something right. SCL News is a group effort. There would be no SCL News without the articles from SC members and contributors.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. ✾

Ivan Chew
Information Coordinator, IFLA Section: CHILD

The SCL News is published twice a year, in June and December. Issues are available primarily via IFLANET. Requests for materials via normal mail would be entertained on a case-by-case basis.

We welcome suggestions for stories and articles that promote international cooperation, as well as exchange of ideas and experience, in the fields of library services to children and young adults.

Please contact the Section’s Chair and/ or Information Coordinator for enquiries (see the SCL Standing Committee Members’ Contacts pages).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

WebSG meetup

What was I doing at a meet-up on Web Standards? What did I know about web standards prior to the meetup?

Very little, that's for sure. I had some sense what it's about (i.e. standardisation of something that's web-related) but not enough to articulate or define it. Nonetheless, when I learnt about the meet-up, I signed up for it anyway, mentally bracing myself for an evening of Geek-talk galore.

But the Geek-talk didn't happen. According to Lucian (the main mastermind behind this meetup), the real geeks were at home logging into the new release of WOW, heh.

What I recall from the presentations:
"Google is Blind", as in, websites coded entirely in Flash don't get ranked very high. So that's something to consider if web developers suggestion that option.

Lucian (who made us take photos of ourselves, with a Mac, on the way in) gave what I thought was an excellent overview of the background, context, issues, trends & development regarding Web Accessibilty. He elaborated on the web design/ development framework -- "Presentation, Structure & Behaviour". I thought it was a useful framework in planning web projects. I could see how it can help me understand and approach current and future developments of the NLB blogs and I'm involved in, as well as some possible web projects in the pipeline.

Coleman (who already blogged about his presentation as soon as he got home) did a nice presentation on Web Accessibility. I like how he put things in context by relating Web Accessibility with Building Accessibility. He also elaborated on something he came up with -- what he called the "evil-good continuum" -- to get people to think of where their sites (personal or business) were at the moment. He also showed a nice video where there was a Blind person explaining how he used Text/ Web-readers, and some problems when designers don't consider how non-sighted people would navigate the layout. I thought Coleman made a good point about how Web Accessibility was not just about making websites accessible to the disabled; it was ultimately about making the site accessible to all (at least more than one popular platform).

Nick Pan gave a working level demonstration of applying Web Standards to an actual client's site. He also pointed us to this diagram (from Natalie Jost) that brilliantly illustrates what Web Standards was about:

[An enhanced/ updated diagram available here]

It was nice to see some familiar faces -- Herry, Vanessa (read her account of the event) , "Wandie" (who's posted pictures of the meet-up). Was pleasantly surprised to meet Nimbupani (a blogger whom I've read but not met prior to this evening).

Then there were new ones like Jimmy (whom I learnt was one of the original advocates for WebSG two years ago) and two 16-year old students (!) who found their way to the meet-up.

I had a brief chat with the two 16-year olds (going on 17). They were both into "designing websites for fun". The guy found his way to the meet-up via while the girl said she was "dragged along by him". I asked the guy if he had a blog. He said yes. I asked if I could read his blog. He gave it to me. The girl went, "What? You're willing to let someone read your blog? What if he laughed at your nonsense?" and I said, "It might not matter what others feel about your writings. What you might want to think about is whether you'd feel embarrassed by your posts when you look back at it five years from now. Or if your employers look at it". Then she said, "Since you (the guy) gave it to him, then I'll also give mine and maybe I can get comments." LOL

How did the two youngsters feel about being in a meet-up with a bunch of oldsters, I wonder? I'd be interested in what they have to say (btw, don't ask me for their blog URLs as I'm not sure if they'd mind).

So what do I know about Web Standards now?
Still not a lot but at least I've some understanding of why there's a bunch of Web Standards advocates in Singapore who's passionate about the whole issue. And I probably enough (for now) to have a decent conversation with potential web developers -- or to drill the web developers decently -- if I'm in some web project for the library.

Oh, apparently I'm a geek -- according to Lucian, that is. It happened when Coleman asked who's a geek (to get a sense of how much or how little to delve into technicalities during his presentation). I raised my hand and asked, "Define a geek." Lucian said only geeks asked for definitions. Heh.

Funny thing -- it's only now that I realised "WebSG" stood for "Web Standards Group (Singapore)". Alamak!

You may wish to signup at their mailinglist.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Will libraries have to resort to SMS-speak too?

Will libraries have to resort to SMS-speak to grab the attention of teens? Apparently, one church in the UK has done so (via Euan Semple):

The poster seems to say "I have come so that you may live, and live to the full" (obviously I'm no student of the bible so perhaps Chun See can help me out here). I discovered this SMS Speak Translator and the translated results as follows:
  • Original SMS Speak: "i hve km so dat u MA hve lif & lif 2 da ful"
  • Converted to English: "eye hve km so dat you MA hve lif & lif to da ful"
Hmm... the translator needs more some work :)

Euan seemed aghast at the poster, although he didn't quite elaborate why. Perhaps it's that his local church (of all institutions) are resorting to using SMS Speak to get presumably the SMS-Speak Generation, i.e. Teens, to go to Church. Or maybe it's just the plain fact that it's SMS-Speak on UK-soil (the land where the English language originates).

I can use my LOLs and ROTFLs with the best of them. In fact, Pre-IRC/ IM days, I was reading war stories filled with acronyms like 'REMF's and 'SNAFU's (yeah, go figure those out).

But SMS-Speak, I don't quite grasp it as well.

Terms like LOL and SNAFU are acronyms (i.e. formed by picking out the first letter of the word in a phrase). It's a mnemonic device. SMS Speak, however, isn't one (at least not the way I see it). Some have termed it a language on it's own, or at least a corruption of the mainstream language which has established its legitimate sub-culture.

That's not to say I'm against using SMS Speak on posters, targeting at teens. The purpose of that poster was to draw Teens' attention to the church -- to put the church on the SMS Speaker's radar. The poster would have done its job, and more.

So I would want to try something like that for the library. I'm aware that in doing so, we'd have adults (teachers, even) writing in to complain that the library would be seen as encouraging or endorsing bad-spelling.

Maybe so.

Still, I'd do it. While I think highly of libraries, I don't think libraries have that sort of influence on teens. I wish we did, but we don't. Not to that large an extent.

I will accept SMS-Speak in informal situations. It's the blatant (mis)use of SMS-Speak in ALL occasions that I'm against -- strict no-no where formality is called for. Nevertheless, I will not preach to teens on the use of SMS-Speak. I'll let the English Language teachers do that.

I'm merely recognising the fact that there is such a sub-culture among teens. I'd even argue that if libraries -- by speaking their (SMS) language -- can draw them into our premises where there's a chance they'd use our collections (of which a large part is in proper written English), we're probably doing the English Language teachers a favour.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yeah, the iPhone is sexy is it what I need?

Almost very blogger I've subscribed is talking about the recently announced Apple iPhone. OK, not quite. Perhaps it's more accurate to say "every blogger I've subscribed, and who happen to be Mac enthusiasts". Those who have not, I'm expecting them to do so very soon.

Those I've read so far are either cursing Apple and/ or lamenting about their existing gadgets.

Take these bloggers for instance: Euan Semple says his Nokia N70 now looks like a dog's behind; Kevin is seeking takers for his stuff; TinkerTailor simply damns Apple to heck. LOL

I can understand why the reactions. As usual, Apple has done magic in getting its sales pitch across. Apple's strategy is a tried and tested one -- (1) get the rumors out; (2) show a demo to let the drooling begin in earnest; (3) make sure the droolers customers continue to wait for the product, thereby increasing the drool factor.

The iPhone is sexy, no doubt about that. My reaction to it was lukewarm though. Perhaps it's because I'm specific on what I want from a mobile device. I don't really want my phone to listen to music or browse the web (I've tried a Blackberry and decided it's not for me in the end). I really need good Calendaring and Memo features first and foremost (I'd blogged about seeking a replacement for my current PDA and phone -- both separate devices).

Maybe I'd be more enthusiastic if I'm advised otherwise about the Calendaring and Memo features (which is partly why I'm blogging it here).

But I suspect the more I follow the iPhone related blog posts, the more I hear from the enthusiasts, I'm going to be influenced more and more. That's how I crossed over in the first place.

That, and plus I'm a guy. There's something innately attractive about Hardware for men (because we're insecure?). Just look at how much hardware these nine guys carry out for a lunch meeting.

Technorati Tag: iPhone

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ms. Dewey Search Engine

Ms Dewey Intro - LoadingThis has been kept in my Draft folder for quite some time. Came across this search engine called Ms. Dewey ( - [via Feral Library Tales].

I bet the library webpage would get a heck of a lot more hits if we had something like that!

"Ms. Dewey" is a subtle reference to Mevil Dewey, the man who invented the Dewey Decimal Classification System.

To be honest, the only thing that might make me go back to Ms. Dewey are the Flash introductions (and to watch Ms. Dewey's antics again).

The search results aren't particularly outstanding (let's face it, Google is hard to beat) and the search display is too small for my liking.
Ms Dewey Intro - Search Results

The Ms. Dewey character, on the other hand, is funny. Her antics are a lot more interesting (and distracting). Once the page has finished loading and you don't do anything, watch what Ms. Dewey does. Also, if you exit the page and reload again, you'll get a different introduction. I think there's about five different animated introductions.
Ms Dewey Intro - Bike

Ms Dewey Intro - Space Walk

This is my favourite. Ms. Dewey's sharpening a mean looking hunting knife! I dare you to approach that librarian on counter! Any suggestions for what Ms. Dewey could possibly be saying in this scenario? Knock yourselves out -- leave your comments, LOL.
Ms Dewey Intro - Sharpens a knife

Monday, January 08, 2007

Free concert at NUS: 10 Jan 2007 - "A Journey Through Time"

Just helping a fellow FOYer (Friend of Yesterday.SG) & SG blogger publicise this event. First posted it at MyRightBrain but it didn't get that much traffic there, so am posting this here.

If you're interested in a free concert at NUS, Singapore, check it out:
A Journey Through Time
By NUS Symphony Orchestra
Wed, 10 Jan 2007, 7.30 p.m.
NUS Theatrette, Lecture Theatre 13 (LT13)
Free Admission
For enquiries, please call Tel: 6516 4041.

More details of the concert at PY's blogpost, where there's a link to a clip of their rehearsal. It really sounds promising. But NUS... really too far for me, and I'm still confused by the map (yeah, yeah, more excuses Ivan).

PY shares some other thoughts as the performance date approaches. Seems to me it's basically the same uncertainties all speakers/ performers go through.

Think of it this way, PY: whether it's an audience of one, or 10 or 100, you folks will still have to play. So might as well just play well. BTW, don't feel shy about sending an email to the FOYers the day before the concert. It might convince some people (like me) to go, heh.

Good luck. And have fun.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Five Things about Ivan Chew (that you might not know)

When Filipino Librarian tagged me for a "Five Things" meme, I didn't really feel like taking it up. However, I realised that of the five bloggers he tagged, I was the only non-Filipino. I felt I had to respond (as the Chinese like to say, "Give him face").

I wanted to share how I didn't want a dog (but agreed to get one anyway); how I wanted to be an artist when I was younger; how I came to be a librarian -- but I seem to recall that this particular meme required me to share things that others do not know about me/ I've not blogged about yet.

Had to think for a bit (opened-ended memes are tough, but a good exercise in writing it seems). So here goes:

1) My first pet was a stuffed dog I named "Snow-paws". I know technically it's not a "pet". It wasn't alive. But I was only seven. It was real to me. One day I came home from school and couldn't find Snow-paws. Searched high and low. My grandmother said she threw it away. I cried and I screamed why. I hated my grandmother for that. For a day or two.

2) My first experience of death was when I was about 10. My grandmother passed away. I learnt what pain felt like. The kind that hurt really deep. But thanks to my grandmother, I also learnt how one could die with dignity. She had told my siblings and I that when her time came to pass, we should feel happy for her. That might have been my first philosophy lesson. We still cried anyway.

3) I almost drowned when I was eight or nine. Fell into a pond at Toa Payoh gardens. Couldn't swim. Saved by my father. He jumped in to rescue me. He lost his wallet. I couldn't stop crying. More out of embarrassment than fear. I remember a nice lady. She gave me some tissues to dry myself. They weren't enough. Mother bought me a set of dry clothes at OG (a department store nearby). A week later, my father took my siblings and I to the public swimming pool. To teach us to swim.

4) Three weeks into National Service. I was 19. Basic Military Training in Pulau Tekong. Family-visit Day. My parents came to see me. I cried. I thought I wouldn't, but I did. My Platoon Commander (PC) had warned that those who cried would sign 3-weeks of extra Guard Duties. My PC came over to meet my parents. He saw my tears, I was sure. At evening roll call, my PC asked the platoon if anyone cried. I kept my mouth shut. My PC didn't say anything either. I guess he was once a recruit too.

5) I've won some trophies and medals in my younger years. Sporting events and art competitions in school. The most memorable was one particular match, where I didn't win a medal. At a Karate Tournament. A sparring bout. Halfway through, I was two points down. Three points and I was out. I told myself the fight was not over. I thought I'd be nervous, but I wasn't. I fought back a point. And then two. I was even. Time was almost up. He came at me fast. Front kick. Training took over. No time to think. Block-sweep-counter punch. The match was mine. But I lost the next round to another guy. A black-belter. I was out of the tournament. No medal for me. Didn't matter. I didn't let myself down. And I didn't cry in this one.


Who can I tag for this one? Let's start with Cool Insider (whose PC crashed so he can't blog)...

... I need four more people. OK, I had such a kick reading the recent posts from the Kankakee Public Library staff blog, so I'm tagging Mitchell Haug (who has something to say about televangelists), Vicki S. (who's raised on Saturday Night Live), Allison Beasley (who shows us just how much they value their IT guy), and Nick Garcia (who has a long post on Happiness).

Friday, January 05, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Some new govenment agency-related blogs in Singapore

While blogging this post, I went over to NPark's website and noticed that they've launched two blogs (listed as "Gardening Blogs"). One's called Garden Voices and the other's called Young Gardeners.

From the Garden Voices About Page:
Garden Voices blog
Garden Voices is an online platform for anyone and everyone who is interested in gardening to:
  • Rant and rave your stories on rolling up your sleeves and getting muddy at gardening, share gardening-related experiences, tips on gardening, express your love for nature, etc
  • Be updated with the latest on gardening by the community at large
  • Learn how you can further enjoy and appreciate gardening and the nature around you
  • Get to know an entire pool of gardening enthusiasts
[RSS feed]

And this is from the Young Gardener's blog:
Young Gardeners Blog
Young Gardeners is for teens to:
  • Share your gardening-related experiences with classmates, friends, families, anyone and everyone!
  • Learn that rolling up your sleeves and getting muddy isn’t boring or just for older folks. We want to show you gardening can be fun for young people too!
  • Introduce their very own findings and interesting things to do with gardening
  • Allow other fellow teens to bring gardening a step closer to you
[RSS Feed]

Which reminds me -- the Health Promotion Board (HPB) recently launched a blog targeting at youths, called Youth Advolution for Health.
Youth Advolution for Health
From their About Page:
The Youth Advolution for Health (YAH) programme is a new initiative for youths to be involved in health promotion for their peers.

The word "advolution" is coined from the words "Advocate" and "Revolution". We hope that youths in this programme would serve as advocates for a healthy lifestyle among their peers and be inspired to come up with revolutionary and creative methods of promoting health among youths.

The programme is the first in Singapore that seeks to tap on the influence of peer-led projects to bring about positive changes in the youths' intentions and behaviors on health issues. There are various health issues that students can explore to work on as advocates of a healthy lifestyle.
[RSS Feed]

Here's a list of publicly accessible government agency-related blogs, listed in the order as they were launched (as far as I can recall):

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

[Continued from "Library outreach event: Singapore Garden Festival (D-Day)", 16 Dec 2006]

Here's a wrap-up of the library's participation at the Singapore Garden Festival (SGF) that ended on 25th Dec 2006 (thanks to colleagues who supplied some photos):

Overgrown garden
From D-Day+0 onwards, I checked in with colleagues via SMS when necessary. Was informed that things proceeded relatively smoothly, except for some issues with hardware (receipt printers were jammed on-and-off).

Sometime around D-Day +5, I received an SMS that the NLB paper garden had become overgrown! My colleague sent this picture via her 3G handphone:
Build My Garden - Day 5

Oh my! I guess the kids got carried away, LOL! That idea didn't turn out as we thought it might have.

Another colleague suggested we provide cut-outs of shapes instead. That worked better, although personally I felt that it lacked that organic-feel to it, heh. Still, main thing was for the kids to have fun at the booth.

Singapore Garden Festival - Library outreach event Singapore Garden Festival - Library outreach event
Singapore Garden Festival - Library outreach event

On D-Day +8, the finished paper-gardens (more than one was completed) were put up as decorations on the booth walls.
Singapore Garden Festival - Library outreach event

The library's booth was manned up till Christmas eve. Staff took a break for Christmas Day. The event organisers converted part of the booth to a sitting area. Nicely done, I feel.
Singapore Garden Festival - Library outreach event

Results achieved
About 3400 books (64%) out of about 5,000 items were borrowed over our 10 days at the event. That's 340 items per day. We also received about 750 enquiries, or 75 enquiries per day. The enquiries included those from people who checked-off on the printed forms we prepared -- the forms allowed them to indicate if they wanted information relating to the listed topic. In this case, we'd prepared handouts that listed books, websites and articles relating to plants and plant-related topics.

Compared to other outreach events, the rate of loans per day from this event isn't considered high. However, loans wasn't the main objective. We anticipated that the types of books brought to the event would have a limited audience:
630 Agriculture
631 Techniques, equipment, materials
632 Plant injuries, diseases, pests
635 Garden crops (Horticulture)
638 Insect culture

I've not compared how the outreach loan figure compares to those of this DDC class (i.e. "Home & Gardening" section) in an NLB public library, over the same period. I'd have to check.

The intangible was the publicity, awareness/ usage of the library's services and (Home & Gardening) collection. Can't say to what extent this was achieved as we didn't do a survey. One reason why we didn't undertake one was the effort involved to compile the data (not to mention that it's not easy to design a good survey -- your data is as good as the questions you ask).

I felt NLB's involvement was worth it, especially since the Singapore Garden Festival was well organised. Walter feels the same way too (about the SGF), and being a marketing person, he should know.

This series of posts won't be complete without me pointing out the good work done by my Public Library Service colleagues (the library assistants, library officers, librarians and library managers). Such an undertaking always requires good team effort and coordination in the various phases -- planning, liaising with NParks and its the event organiser, scheduling and briefing staff & volunteers, handling logistics, liaising with vendors, setting-up/ tearing-down, manning the booth, dealing with on-the-spot problems (always bound to have those), serving customers. All in the name of supporting the NLB mission.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

First podcast for 2007: "Walk On Air"

I didn't deliberately set out to compose a song for 2007. I started recording this on 30th Dec 2006 and at one point I must have thought, "It would be great to start 2007 with a song".

So here it is:
- 64kb.mp3 file (2.8MB)
- 128kb.mp3 file (5.7MB)

walking on air
a state of extreme happiness

I hope you enjoy this song. The world isn't a perfect place. But that should not stop us from seeking happiness, however we define it. May we all "walk on air" in 2007.

Details of "how it's done" at MyRightBrain.

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RamblingLibrarian's Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

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