Saturday, April 28, 2007

Songcraft - Singapore's Songwriting Circle

I've attended writing circles before, but never for a music-related one. So when I learned of Songcraft, set up by a Singaporean no less, I was really curious.

Nine people (including myself) turned up at the Substation for the meetup yesterday evening, on 27 Apr 2007, 7.30pm. Most learned about the group via the Songcraft blog.
Songcraft Songwriters Circle Meetup #1
For more information on the participants, click on the image to view the notes at

The Songwriting circle was exactly like a Writer's Circle. You come prepared to share your songs and/ or listen to others and give constructive suggestions. Or just sit back and hear what others have to sing or say.

Jeremy did a fine job facilitating the session. The group laughed when he shared how he would be asking probing questions.

I was quite surprised that most didn't record and edit their music using computers. Not all were familiar with Creative Commons concept.

I've recorded some of the pieces and discussion from the session. Will post them soon. I think it was Betty or Sanny (two sisters who turned up) who asked what sort of recording equipment I used. I'll post something up on that as well.

How did I learn about Songcraft in the first place?
It was about a week after the launch of the Social Media Directory. I noticed a new entry for a group blog called Songcraft, a Songwriting Circle. Intrigued by the purpose of the group, I contacted the guy who started it, Jeremy Yew.

After a few emails, I invited him to join a screening of the Homegrown Bands documentary (that I'd arranged for the Friends of at library@esplanade).

At our first face-to-face meeting at EPCL, Jeremy said he wasn't sure what to make of the Songwriting Circle. The group hasn't really started but he'd arrange for it to happen. He'd expressed some doubts as to whether the group would take off at all.

I remember telling him that so long one stranger turned up for the session, it would have been a success.

Someone's got to do it first
So Jeremy paid for a room for three hours. He also brought a synthesizer, an amp, and a guitar. By 8pm, nine people had turned up. Five of them were new to him. I'd say that's pretty good for an event that was only advertised via his currently rather low-key Songcraft blog.

He's obviously happy about the first meetup. Heh.

My interest in Songcraft
I'm interested in their group because (1) of my own personal musical hobby, and (2) there's a good collaborative opportunity here between a group like theirs and library@esplanade. Definitely along the same lines as what the library can do for groups like the recent Ruby Brigade meetup.

Now that I've attended their first meeting, I'm even more convinced something can be worked out. Will be talking to the manager of the library and my colleagues to work out the details.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

If you don't know a librarian, you should

Christopher Kenton wrote:
My wife is a librarian. If you don’t know a librarian, you should...

When I look at the library profession, exemplified at large by the American Library Association, I see a profession that is fully engaged with society and with their peers. They don’t always get everything right, but they’re on the ball.
(Thanks to Melvin for alerting me to the post.)

The real point of Christopher's post was how marketeers in the US, and the American Marketing Association, should also re-brand itself like what US libraries did.

I bet his post will get him quite a bit of attention from librarians in the US :)

It's interesting to me because here's a marketeer using libraries as a benchmark for brand positioning. Granted he's talking about libraries in the US, and the American Library Association (ALA) is a influential and respected organisation worldwide. But generally speaking libraries aren't usually associated as powerhouses of branding and image marketing.

Or have we libraries and librarians, just experienced a paradigm shift and we don't even know it?


Otters holding hands

If this doesn't bring a smile to your face, then you must have had a really, really, bad day. Make sure you watch till the last 18 seconds or so. :)

Hat-tip to Kevin for the video.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Poem: "Why I blog"

I feel compelled
To leave


My ideas,
Like graffiti on the broad walks
Of life.

Written in March 2007
(Additional info on how the poem came about, at MyRightBrain).

"How to Buy a Green PC" and other stories

"Topics on environmentalism and 'going green' would be popular, thanks to Al Gore", said a colleague, two days ago, at a meeting to discuss strategies and directions for library programmes.

Yesterday, I received an email on "How to buy a Green PC, and other stories". The email, sent by Siva via the ME@N list, included links to related articles. The one that seemed most interesting was by Singaporean Jasmin Malik Chua, titled "An environmentally friendly computer will help preserve the environment — and save you money".

I was hooked by the words "save you money" rather than "preserve the environment". Some might say this is a Singaporean trait. I agree Singaporeans tend to think from their pockets first, but I'd argue this isn't uniquely Singaporean Thinking.


I'm reminded of my channel-surfing a few days ago, where I caught Fox News' "Your World with Neil Cavuto". A man called Bob Murray (designation,"Energy CEO") was being interviewed.

Bob Murray asserted that “Al Gore is a very dangerous man” because Gore's ideas about the effects of Global Warming would lead to a loss of job in the US. He said further legislation to control the pollutive effects from using coal would lead to higher energy costs for many US industries and households. China was not imposing those restrictions, Murray continued, so the US would hence be eroding their competitive advantage over such countries that didn't care about the environment.

Hmm... that's like saying "It's OK to pollute the river, because everyone's doing it anyway", isn't it? See, it's not just Singaporeans who thinks from their pockets first.


I requested Siva to pass me the URL if he was going to publish the email on his blog. I offered to help spread the message.

Here's his post. And he had this to say about Landfills and seeping poisons.
"I experienced Pulau Sakeng mangroves in the early 90's. Shortly after that field trip, they were destroyed to build an offshore landfill linking it to Semakau. That was a dramatic lesson about the absence of landfill space on mainland Singapore. So I get uncomfortable about computer waste since we consume so much. What we cannot dispose of, we've probably sold for shipping and disposal elsewhere; that hurts to think about!"

In the last four to five years, in speaking to friends (and people like tour-guides) living in Singapore, South Korea, China, US, UK, and Europe... we all seem to agree on one thing -- weather patterns have changed noticeably. The seasons (where they have seasons) are colder or warmer.

During our holiday in Beijing, my wife and I learned first-hand from our tour guide that Beijing was in danger of turning into a desert. Our guide, who's lived and worked in Beijing for more than 30 years, said the winters wasn't as cold as before.

Snow could not form. The top soil that used to be covered by the compact snow in winter was gradually being blown away by strong winds that always came in during winter.

A German librarian told me that during her recent skiing trip in her home country, the ski resort had to deploy snow machines to churn out snow. This was in winter. It costs fuel and manpower to generate that artificial snow. I'm sure the resort operators would pass the costs over to customers.

In Singapore, even the money-pinching me had to reluctantly agree with my wife that air-conditioning in the home was no longer a luxury but a must, given the increasingly regularity (and unpredictability) of the warm weather.

The change in weather patterns is already hurting our pockets.

I don't know Bob Murray. He seems to be a controversial figure. I haven't watched "An inconvenient truth". It's been said it's propaganda. But aren't they all? It's only a matter of degrees.

I look around. I read what's being said and written out there.

I look at my monthly utilities bills.

It's around the national average for similar-sized households. It helps that I have a Green Computer already.

I wonder if I can save more by leaving the computer off for longer periods of time at home. It would mean blogging less. But then I could hit the books.

In any case, the truth is often what we choose to see. Then we choose if we want to act or not.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Alternate Worlds - Fantasy Genre Guide illustration

This was done last year (9 Feb 2006) for the library’s “Alternate Worlds - Fantasy Genre Guide”. Composed, drawn and illustrated entirely with Photoshop Elements on a Windows PC.
Alternate Worlds - Fantasy Genre Guide

Details on how it was done, over at

A Singapore librarian remembered: Lim Kek Hwa

I don't know the name Lim Kek Hwa. She was retired long before I joined the NLB. I remember reading about her passing, via my RSS feed reader, from the Singapore Libraries Bulletin Blog. It was posted on 14th December 2006.
Lim Kek Hwa at Reference Services NLB
[Undated picture: Lim Kek Hwa at Reference Services, NLB]

At that time, I'd thought, "This was a librarian who's left a deep impression on some people". Not many. Only some.

There were no comments at the post then.

Some five months later, I somehow found my way back to the post. As I write this, there were 79 comments. The first comment was posted on 25th December 2006. A flood of comments came on 26th March 2007. The latest I read was posted on 12th April.

I wondered if the comments were posted by the individuals. Or that someone received the replies and posted them on behalf of the senders. But that's besides the point.

At the back of my mind, I'm also thinking, "Isn't blogging wonderful? What a way to remember and honor a colleague and a friend". But of course that's also missing the point.

The point is that while I don't know Lim Kek Hwa personally, I'm proud to be associated with a profession in which she was in.

To be honest, reading the post still doesn't make me know her. Because I've never met her. I've never heard about her (until the post). I've never read her words or heard her. speak.

What moved me were the number of people who remembered her. Her friends and ex-colleagues (many who are now based outside Singapore), an eight-year old nephew, and even her doctor. The many lives that she's touched.

That was apparent.

That's what made me blog about it now.

Thank you, Ms. Lim. You're an inspiration. To librarians and non-librarians alike.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Brief update on the Singapore Social Media Directory

Updated navigation panelBrief update on the Singapore Social Media Directory:

I've expanded the Individual categories from four ("A-G", "H-N" etc.) to 13 ("A-B", "C-D" etc.)

Initially I wasn't sure if the wiki would be updated. Too many unpopulated categories might frustrate users (who click and find a blank page). Now that there's enough entries for each of the 13 pages, I might as well expand the categories now, since the social experiment hasn't crashed and burned. It hasn't exactly taken the Singapore Blogosphere by storm though, but that wasn't the point.

It's been an eye-opener for me so far. I'll post more details on the observations and learning points at a later date.

BTW, here's a feature for those not familiar with wikis (it's something I learned as part of the experiment): The cool thing about a wiki is that it allows users to track changes and compare versions.

For instance, to see the changes made to different versions of the navigation page, click on the "history" tab of that page, then choose the two versions to compare against.
Comparing changes

For, the insertions and deletions are highlighted in green and red respectively.
Details on insertions & deletions to the wiki page

Until I started using the wiki with an end in mind, I wasn't able to fully appreciate the usefulness of this feature.

OK, more updates soon.

Post event reflections: Singapore Ruby Brigade Meetup at CLL

[See previous post: Singapore Ruby Brigade Meetup at CLL, 18 Apr 2007]
  • "How many lines of code to patch to make KRJS work?"
  • "Have the affected the codes?"
  • "Any one here does test development? How do you manage without Hpricot Forms?"
  • "What have you been using FX Ruby for?"
  • "Why are we letting the Phython people sit in front?" [Laughter]
  • "Was it complicated to understand the Flickr API?"
I didn't understand a word. But it didn't matter. I learned what I sought to discover. One of which was, "What makes this community tick?"

Ruby Brigade Meetup
I would describe the participants as a group of like-minded individuals interested in learning and sharing what they know about Ruby On Rails.

One guy patiently explained, in a nutshell, what Ruby on Rails was. So now I know 'Ruby' is a programming language (like Java and C++). And Rails is a... framework.

I think.

Here's Choon Keat sharing tips on performing functional tests on code written using Ruby.
Choon Keat - telling it like it is

He showed lots of code.
Lotsa code!

And more code.
Did I mention there's really a lot of code?

He ended his presentation by asking if anyone was lost. The room remained silent. I had the feeling I wasn't the only person who's lost. Heck, I wasn't even with him in the first place (I said this to Choon Keat and he laughed good naturedly).

That's the whole point of the Ruby Brigade meetups. Ruby isn't something taught in schools. At least not yet.

It's a Learning Community for people into Ruby on Rails. It's an informal classroom. It's organised by the community, led by the community, for the community.

Sausheong presented on something I didn't quite catch.
Sausheong giving a demo on FxRuby

Then he showed this neat screen-saver program he wrote using Ruby. It pulls images from Now that, I get! But it runs only on Windows though. :|

After that, there was the familiar networking geek-bonding sessions (just kidding).
Ruby Brigade Networking Time

And ideas being propagated.
Idea propagation!

Not everyone was into software development, as I learned during the self-introduction session. Not all were experts. Seven people raised their hands when Douglas asked who were using Rails full-time. The rest seemed to say they were "playing with it".

These people who have learned Java (some of them anyway) and are now adopting Ruby/ Rails.

Lets see... there was a Software developer, Systems Integrator, a few Programmers, a Web designer, an owner of a software company (who teaches inmates in Changi Prison!), someone who's starting an email portal (and considering if he should adopt Ruby), a freelance PHP programmer, one guy who's been "playing around with Ruby for three years and taking up Rails", a Java programmer, a self-confessed "recovering Javaholic", and another who said he was a "reformed PHP programmer" and passing through Singapore. One guy said he was there to see if Ruby was something he needed to learn. One fella into Jango, another guy working on internet project (not a programmer), more freelancer programmers (projects for SMEs), one full-time Rail developer (Choon Keat), and a Web developer in a design company (Douglas).

The word "guy" comes up quite a bit, doesn't it? :)

Another fella made an even deeper impression. He introduced himself as "Mohan", from Chennai, India. He arrived in Singapore only two days ago. First time in Singapore. Working for a financial company here. While in India, he was searching for information about Ruby/ Rails. Found his way to the Googlegroup, where he learned about the meetup.
And so there he's was, at the meetup, on his second day in Singapore, in the library for the first time.

Nice chap, that Mohan. He arrived early. Helped set up the notice board, and even collected it back at the end of the session. I told him about he can sign up as a library member. I think he'll get a lot out of the public libraries here.


The main question in my mind was, "Do they need the library for their activities?"

I counted about 30 people in the room. Choon Keat said they usually didn't get such a turnout. Their previous meetings were at coffee joints, so presentations like tonight wasn't possible. These guys were sharing stuff that isn't taught formally. And Ruby is something that's apparently gaining ground among developers and programmers.

Apart from providing the venue and facilities, the library can supporting their sessions with books and related materials. And who better to recommend related books to such a community than the practitioners themselves. This group can easily be an informal advisory panel to the library in selecting related Computer & IT materials for the collection.

I told the group there's a definite possibility that the library could work out some regular arrangement to facilitate a learning community like theirs. I'm pretty clear on how it fits the library's 2010 plans. Now I've to think of ways (with the help from this community of course) to convince my colleagues why we should do this.

Either that, or start a dating service for some of these guys! Just kidding, fellas.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Podcast: We Stand Unbroken (2007)

powered by ODEO
unbroken |ˌənˈbrōkən|
not broken, fractured, or damaged

Listen/ download from or Highlights of "how its done" at My Right Brain.

Why did I call it "Unbroken"?

It just felt right. It's about facing and overcoming adversity. Doing what we must in spite of our fears.

No, I didn't do this piece because of the Virginia Tech Massacre. But for what it's worth, I'm dedicating it to the victims.

Thanks to Lunarin for inspiring this piece. I heard one song from their Chrysalis album and was hooked. Bought their CD. Was inspired by track two, "Dry", and wanted to create a track with that sound. It's nowhere as good as theirs though, but that's not the point :)

I tell my friends Lunarin's music is "New Age meets Heavy Metal". They even have a Wikipedia entry. I've added them to the Singapore Social Media Directory (under Group A - N).

Singapore Ruby Brigade Meetup at CLL

As part of the Library 2010 plans, the NLB is interested in ways to "contribute significantly to the Learning Society" and to "power the Knowledge-based economy".

Big words.

Well my interpretation of those statements and principles is to identify and support informal groups that have been initiated by the community. Like why we supported the last Web Standards Singapore Group meetup.

Tomorrow evening, it will be a meetup for the Singapore Ruby Brigade at the Central Lending Library (CLL). Agenda:
Douglas, their organiser, got to know about the library hosting the last Web SG meetup. So he emailed me to ask if their group could try the same thing. After a few emails (I had to check what their group was about etc.) we arranged for the CLL venue.

In case your wondering, they are not a uniform-group, heh. They are a group of (mostly) developers interested in Ruby On Rails. I don't know what's Ruby On Rails (other than it being a programming language).

I do know Bookjetty was built by this guy, as part of learning and experimenting with the programming language. Personally, I wish the NLB catalogue could be like Bookjetty. Yes, you can tell that to my colleagues : )

Details & updates of the meetup here. You don't have to be a developer to join the meetup (I'm not!). The condition for the library hosting their event was that they make their activities available to the public.

Why is NLB doing this again? I'm treating this as a trial. If it works out well, we'd work out some structure for longer-term arrangements with such community groups. There's always an opportunity cost in using the library venues. Ah, but if such activities aren't about Lifelong Learning, then I don't know what is, LOL.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thinking about life, on the MacRitchie Trail

"It's mental more than physical... you just have to push yourself", decried Siva, after the group rendezvoused for Prata at the end of this morning's brisk walk.

I thought that walking the nature trail was like how one approached life.

The group was negotiating an uneven part of the trail in the MacRitchie nature reserve. Flat ground gave way to gravel and sand turned into slushy mud. As my shoes hit the sand and decayed forest debris, my mind was quite clear. I wasn't thinking about where we were going, how far we were to the end point, or how many more steps to take.

My choices were limited in that sense.

Brisk Walk - 15 Apr 2007My eyes focused only on the one-metre zone directly down and ahead, my brain firing off a few million instructions to keep my body upright and moving and avoiding the holes that would give you a twisted ankle and bruised pride, and mindful of keeping up with the blistering pace by the group.

"...Left foot out step lightly on the loose rock watch the puddle press down move the right foot twist slightly left muddy spot in front turn the body to compensate Oops stepped into puddle of water never mind shoes are dirty anyway oh i can feel water seeping into my right shoe ah forget it focus on the next step watch that low hanging branch bend down keep moving..."

It would have been more tiring if I'd stopped to think of what I was doing.

After a few minutes, my mind overcame the uncertainty of the terrain. That's when I started to think of the trail ahead -- how much more to go? Would my legs give out before the end? But I stopped myself from thinking so much about the journey. I knew where I was. I decided to just enjoy the moment. My legs were aching. It was a good ache. The kind that let you know you're alive.

So I figured life was a lot like negotiating the nature trail. For most people, we know where we are headed. The specifics might be different, but we'd know in a larger sense.

When the going gets tough, sometimes the only way to cope is to contract our field of vision to what's immediately ahead. That's not to say we don't have an end in mind, or that we take the next step blindly. Just that we deal with the immediate problem first. No point making elaborate plans on how to celebrate at the summit at the end of the walk when you're down on your bum with a sprained ankle, having tripped on a loose rock.

When our senses are overwhelmed, we just have to focus on the present.

I should explain what Siva meant by "pushing himself". He clarified that the brisk walk wasn't a competition. It was just his way of motivating himself to complete the walk -- how he would strategise on when to catch up with the group, at what point he needed to maintain his pace and when to speed up. Which led him to say that mental strength was what determined if one completed the walk, rather than physical.

I've done part of the nature trail sometime ago but this was my first with the group. We walked at what I thought was a blistering pace. I was told we covered approximately 10 kilometres, in about 1.5 hours.

Like life, when we derive enjoyment in what we do -- where there's enough of a challenge within your physical limits; where you find warmth in the company of friendly strangers who put you at ease -- we'd want to do it again.

And like quite a few things in my life so far, I was glad to have made myself do something that I ordinarily wouldn't do. Like this walk.

When I woke at 5.30am, I was tempted to go back to sleep. But the thought of giving more ammunition to Siva for his verbal taunts (all in jest of course) was one of the deciding factor in getting my butt off the bed. :)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Goodbye, Mr. Kurt Vonnegut (1922 - 2007)

Goodbye, Mr. Vonnegut.

Thank you for Slaughterhouse-Five.
"Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922 and served in the US Army during the Second World War. He was captured by the Germans and incarcerated as a prisoner of war in Dresden. Vonnegut survived the saturation bombing of the city and the appalling firestorm that followed, and returned to the USA on his release from captivity. During the 1950s he began his writing career."
coverThe Mammoth Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
NLB Call No.: 809.3876203 MAN (all are reference titles at time of this post).
"As an author, Vonnegut has, perfectly reasonably, distanced himself from categorization as an SF author. His work is undoubtedly literary and often surreal, and it was a succession of more mainstream-oriented novels that he made his name. Nonetheless, his SF remains important to the genre...

... Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) tackles Vonnegut's personal response to the Dresden firestorm. The novel is simultaneously bitter, hilarious, and harrowing. Its anti-war message is all the more effective for being subtly delivered."

Read the synopsis and reviews of Slaughterhouse-Five at

Speaking of Science Fiction (i.e. Sci-Fi, or SF), many people think that Sci-Fi "just talks about science and technology". From my experience, this [sort of thinking] is especially prevalent among those who don't read Science Fiction.

I think works like Slaughterhouse-Five might make them see Sci-Fi in a different light.

To me, good Science Fiction uses Science merely as a stage, whereby social dramas and the human condition are played out. Where the "science" (this includes aliens, fantastic worlds and technologies) adds depth to the story but doesn't overwhelm the reader.

One time I asked a colleague, who doesn't read Sci-Fi, to name some Sci-Fi works. The response was "Star Wars".

In my younger days, I was a few action-figures short of being a raving Star Wars fan. But as much as I like "Star Wars", I don't consider it as exceptionally good Sci-Fi. It's a good story. But hardly seminal science fiction, in my opinion. Certainly not in the leagues of Heinlein or Vonnegut.

Readers who dismiss Sci-Fi merely on perceptions (or even just impressions after one or two books) are really doing themselves a disservice. Of course I'm biased in making these remarks, 'cos I love Sci-Fi works -- the good ones anyway.

Still, you don't have to like Sci-Fi to like Vonnegut. To check for more works by the late Mr. Vonnegut, at the NLB libraries, search for "kurt vonnegut" from the NLB Online Catalogue.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

HSBC Sign & Tell 2007: “Storytelling with a difference”

Spotted this poster at the Bishan Community library (BICL) today:
Poster - HSBC Sign & Tell storytelling

The event is held over four Saturdays (14 April, 9 June, 15 September, and 8 December, 2007) at Bishan Community Library, courtesy of staff from HSBC. They will deliver the stories using narration and sign language. One example of inclusive library programming, with help from community partners.

[Also blogged at sgLEAD]

Technorati Tag:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

First there was YouTube (for videos). Then Slideshare (popularly known as the YouTube for Powerpoint).

And now, introducing TeacherTube!
screenshot -
[Hat-tip to Dembe Wellman for this]

Will we see LibraryTube next? You know, instructional videos on how to make the most of libraries, community-contributed videos on reading and learning... : )

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Highlights from Singapore LibraryBlogLand (March 2007)

Some posts that caught my eye, from Singapore LibraryBlogLand* in March 2007:

1) Library equals class
QQ*librarian spots a menswear brand called "Library" while shopping recently.

2) LAS AGM: Singapore to bid for IFLA 2010
Damien blogs about the 2007 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Library Association of Singapore (LAS). What interested me was the discussion on whether to bid for Singapore to play host for IFLA 2010. Particularly, item 3:
"A third opinion dwelled on the level of professionalism of our professionals. Some felt that we are less worthy to host IFLA 2010 because our level of professionalism was nowhere near that of the other 5 countries."
I wasn't at the AGM. Which might have been a good thing. I might not have been able to control myself. "Less worthy"? Only if you think you are. And your actions tend to follow what you think.

3) Web Archive Singapore Phase 2
Singaporean bloggers like mrbrown would be pleased to know that blogs like his would now qualify for Phase 2 of the Web Archive Singapore (WAS) project (as reported at the LAS blog). Would mrbrown & gang do a follow-up to the earlier "Deeply Cultural" episode? LOL

Oooh, I'm flattered my blog is considered as archive-worthy (darn, I'd have to work harder to pretend that I know what I'm talking about):
The content is produced by individuals who are authoritative and/or are known in their fields of knowledge (e.g.: Air-conditioned Nation blog owned by veteran journalist Cherian George, Rambling Librarian blog consisting of mostly library-related postings by a Librarian)

That's all for now. Compared to 2004 and 2005, there are a lot more Singapore library and librarian blogs to start some semi-regular 'Singapore LibraryBlogLand' column. Which reminds me -- I've not been catching up on my RSS feeds lately. Have been hitting the books instead :)

* This term was unabashedly copied from bentley's weekly postings, like this and this one (I won't try to match his weekly updates though).

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Kankakee Public Library's Podcast: Interview with Michael Stephens

Melvin commented in the previous post that he was both "amused and impressed" by the music mashup from Vanessa and myself.

I found out from Vanessa that a few hours before she recorded the song, she'd mentioned to Melvin her intent, which she did. And within a few hours, I put up Mix 2. Maybe that's what Melvin found amusing. I wonder if Vanessa and I set some record for "fastest spontaneous mashup"?

Incidentally, our first mashup's here.

BiblioTech 4 - Michael StephensWhich reminded me of this long overdue post about Kankakee Public Library using our song, White Nights, as the intro and fadeout track for their podcast interview with Michael Stephens, Instructor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University, author of Michael one of the more influential blogs on librarianship --

It's 45-minutes long, which took me a few sessions to complete (but that's the good thing about a podcast -- I choose how much I want to listen to, long after the event).

3mins 50sec: Discussion on how libraries Web 2.0. concept relates to Web 2.0.

12min 30secs: Why Michael got himself into Library Science academia, and why he wants to work with librarians.

15mins 49secs: Steve said, "We ran into a few people who were a little flabbergasted that we do something like letting our staff blog".

Interesting. So even among libraries in the US, they also have the same concerns and issues about blogging as what is faced in Singapore. I thought they'd face less resistance in the US. More of this at 23mins (Stephen shares how a young librarian told him "we want to blog but we're not allowed to" or "we have a blog but we're asked to turn off the comments"). In response, Michael said he was reminded about "the famous Poop post" and that "we need to hear the human stories about the library". We trust the staff to write what they know.

18min 18secs: A discussion on whether blogs, podcasts, music-downloads, gaming etc. are a passing fad. Stephen explains that "the tools will change, but the ideas of radical trust, transparency, encouraging conversations -- those aren't going to go away". Quote from Steve: "... the cultural change is not a fad... ... the whole cultural shift of 'I have a voice, and people may or may not want to hear it' -- that's not going to change".

20mins 05 secs: Allison mentions "why staff meetings are in Kankakee", where their staff are "all fighting to talk". I guess that's why their blogging efforts works!

25 mins 20secs: Discussion on Library Marketing.

Listen to Steve Bertrand, Allison Beasley and Michael Stephens, here. Catch Kankakee Public Library's podcasts/ vodcasts on this page.

I'm a fan of Kankakee Public Library's blogs. I like what Cindy and Steve have to say on library issues (serious stuff there). But they don't crack me up as much as some of their staff. I always show people these "classics" like this and this one. : )

Why is Kankakee Public Library going into podcasting? Steve explains at this post. I feel he's nailed it with this quote: "Think globally, act locally".

Ordinary People (Mix 2)

A few hours ago, Vanessa posted her own version of John Legend’s ‘Ordinary People’. Listen via the Flash player below:

powered by ODEO

I’ve never heard of that song before, nor have I heard of "John Legend". Vanessa did a nice job with the piano and singing. Since I was itching for something to play on my guitar, I decided to add a guitar track to Vanessa’s recording. About three hours later, here’s Mix 2:

powered by ODEO
[Details of how it was recorded, over at MyRightBrain]

After listening to Vanessa's version, and doing Mix #2, I was curious who's John Legend. So I found this John Legend webpage. You can listen to the songs and view his music videos too (here's the QuickTime version of the Ordinary People music video).

He's good!

Tamil Language Loan Promotion: "Let's Read In Tamil and Win Air Tickets!"

NLB members who read Tamil language books might be interested in this loan promotion that starts on 7 April and ends on 30th April 2007:
Tamil Loan Promotion 7 Apr - 30 Apr 2007

Tamil Loan Promotion: Let's Read In Tamil and Win Air Tickets!
For the first time, NLB will be organising an island-wide Tamil loan promotion campaign across all its branches. Tamil speaking readers will be encouraged to borrow at least two books in a single receipt.

10 lucky winners will stand a chance to win the following prizes:
· 1st prize -- Air Ticket to Bangkok
· 2nd prize -- Air Ticket to Phuket
· 3rd prize -- $80 book vouchers
· 4th prize -- $50 book vouchers |
· 5th - 10th prizes -- $30 book vouchers

On top of these prizes all winners will each receive a book hamper worth $100.

Tamil Loan Promotion period: April 7 - April 30
The prizes were provided in part by sponsors, I believe. Staff at the public libraries would be able to provide more details on this. Or enquire via the online form at the NLB website.

Friday, April 06, 2007

"On The Record: Homegrown Bands from Then and Now"

Last night, the library@esplanade paid tribute to Singapore's pioneering musicians and producers with the official launch of an exhibition & documentary titled "On The Record: Homegrown Bands from Then and Now". The project was curated by librarians from library@esplanade, with help from Ngee Ann Polytechnic (School of Film and Media Studies - FMS) in producing the DVD documentary.
Vewing of "On The Record" DVD

The band members being interviewed by CNA

Pioneers of Singapore Music

More information about the exhibit at High Browse Online (see also this post from modcentric, who generously loaned some personal collection of 1960s record sleeves). Thanks to Yesterday.SG for the plug as well.

On the Record: Home Grown Bands

"Euphoria" (1960s - 70s) "Resistance" (1980s) "Revival" (1990s) "Where Now?" (2000s - Current)Kudos to the students (Roziyana Isman, Azlitah Jaffar, Eileen Chong, Joyce Poh, and Nadia Ali) for producing the documentary, which is shown on LCD screens behind each exhibit panel.

Here's a list of the musicians who contributed their time in making the documentary (and in some cases, photos and music) to the project -- Joe Ng (from Padres, and now fronts for Local Bar Boy), Joseph Pereira, The Quests, The Thunderbirds, Gypsy, Concave Scream, The Oddfellows, Electrico, Lunarin, The Great Spy Experiment, and My Precious.

Pick up a copy of the exhibition booklet at library@esplanade. The exhibit and documentary will run for about a year at the library.
Exhibition booklet: "On The Record"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Open letter: Response to ST article "Slice of Singapore on Wikipedia" (1 Apr 2007)

There was a Straits Times article titled "Slice of Singapore on Wikipedia", by Jocelyn Lee (1 April 2007). Check with your library or use a service like ASK! if you are interested in reading the full article. I've posted a summary of the article below. I'm jumping one step ahead by posting this open letter to the journalist:

Hello Joycelyn Jocelyn ,

My name is Ivan, aka RamblingLibrarian to my friends. I enjoyed your story on Wikipedia. I believe the point of the article was to inform people of the "dangers" of using Wikipedia and the inherent dangers of wikis. It's a good thing to raise awareness among your readers -- especially students -- on potential pitfalls of over-reliance on any one given information source.

If I've any "grouse", it's that a more balanced picture could be made about wiki-based information sources. Your story may lead people to conclude that wiki-based information sources are not legitimate.

I'm suggesting that one should not dismiss Wikipedia entries outright. The problem is maybe citing Wikipedia as THE only source (i.e. laziness of the user). It has less to do with Wikipedia per se.

The "danger" of using wikipedia is the same as using any website, where one can be over-reliant on one single source without verifying it with supporting information. How rigorous we choose to exercise this verification process is a separate issue.

Some articles (like this and this one) have suggested that Wikipedia may even be more reliable that traditional sources, or at least there's no conclusive way to prove that wiki-sources are less reliable.

The strength of a wiki is also its weakness, depending on perspectives. You've correctly pointed out that a wiki "allows the Internet community to contribute or modify entries". In a general sense, anyone can modify the wiki's content. Any information verified today might have been changed the next, perhaps maliciously. Another "weakness" is that there is no rigorous vetting process, unlike traditional information sources.

But I'd argue that these are similar issues with website information (just that with websites, access to editing is less open). And for wikipedia, there's a way to cite the specific version of the information (see this post). If one bothers to explore the "history" of the article, one can track the changes to the information -- this feature is not available in most websites. Again, I point out that all information sources requires some sort of verification.

Your story mentions how our national sport hero, Ang Peng Siong, had an entry in Wikipedia. Mr Ang was quoted as saying "At least the history of my life is shared with the generations to come...Hopefully they will be inspired by my story as well".

What soon follows was about one factual error -- the year where his 1982 freestyle world record (50m) of 19.86 seconds was formalised at the 1986 Fina World Swimming Championships, and not 1987 as stated. Then the statement that "Mr Ang's case is just one of many examples of the errors and inaccuracies which have crept onto the site".

I think one error doesn't not make an entry (or source) irrelevant. Frankly, I didn't even know an organisation like Fina existed, or that world records needed to be formalised, never mind the year. And the statement that there are "many errors and inaccuracies" reminds me of my bosses asking me this question when I make similar remarks: "How many exactly, compared to the total?" : )

Sometimes, a wikipedia entry is preferred over what's available from print or online sources. For example, I was looking for the discography for Guns N' Roses (Gn'R). What seems to be official Gn'R sites were terrible as a resource. This one ( is merely a landing page. This is mainly a tour calendar ( and this is more for publicity ( The more relevant sites were these three:

Of the three, I felt the and the Wikipedia entries were better. And between these two, the Wikipedia entry was more comprehensive.

The point was that I've evaluated the Wikipedia entry against other sites (rather than take at face value) and it fitted the context of what I considered as "adequate information".

I hope you don't see this as a rant. As I said, I like what you're doing, to remind your readers about the pitfalls of a wiki-based information source. Ultimately, they have to make an informed choice.

Perhaps as a follow-up story, you could let your readers know that wikis do not equate only to wikipedia. Wikipedia is but a "brand name". The wiki tool has been applied to an information resource listed as encyclopedic entries. Wikis can be applied in other ways, so long the need is to have community-contributed and managed content.

Case in point, i.e. shameless plug, this recent experiment called the Singapore Social Media Directory (background here).

Here's another example of a community-collaborated page, where content is posted by individuals who have content to share, and who don't have the time (or in my case, the technical expertise) to create a website to allow multiple authors or hosting of files or maintaining an audit trial of edits to the document.

Every information tool and resource have their pros and cons. It's not a question of the tool, but how we choose to accept and use that information.

Thanks, and best regards,

Here are highlights from the article in the Straits Times, "Slice of Singapore on Wikipedia", by Jocelyn Lee (1 April 2007).
  • The story starts by pointing out that "local personalities" and "uniquely Singaporean terms like 'kiasu'" can be found in Wikipedia.
  • Cites entry on 50m world record holder, Ang Peng Siong: "The 44-year-old swimming coach was not aware that he could be found on Wikipedia."
  • Also cites an error in the entry (discussed in the Open Letter above).
  • Quote: "Mr Ang's case is just one of many examples of the errors and inaccuracies which have crept onto the site."
  • Quote: "Because of its nature, the website has had its share of significant misinformation and juvenile vandalism."
  • Cites the case (in 2006) of former USA Today editor, John Seigenthaler, being erroneously accused in a Wikipedia entry of being involved in the murders of senator Kennedy and president John F. Kennedy. Wikipedia was forced to tighten submission rules.
  • Cites recent case (in 2007) how the credibility of Wikipedia was questioned again when news of one respected editor was deemed to have misled people about his qualifications.
  • Quotes Dr. Mark Cenite, assistant chair of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information: "When students are doing research projects, they should not cite Wikipedia as anyone can edit the content there"
  • Ends with a mention of how co-founder of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger, has started an
  • alternative called Citizendium (which attempts to introduce greater editorial rigor to entries).

Monday, April 02, 2007

Book highlight using slideshare (The Cluetrain Manifesto)

Using is as simple as using Youtube. So far I've only been a viewer and not a contributor (or as Siva likes to call it, I've been a "parasite", heh). But that's changed, i.e. me being the parasite.

I discovered a Powerpoint slide I'd created in 2004, for a Book Talk to some of my colleagues, on "The Cluetrain Manifesto" (if embedded version doesn't appear, view the slides at

There you go -- another Web 2.0. application that's applicable to a library context!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Scrapblog just blew my mind!

Hat-tip to my author friend, Shel Israel, on what calls "the real scrapblog". But Shel (who also consults for Scrapblog) says the service hasn't gone 'live' (as of this post).
screenshot: Scrapblog, 1 Apr 07

Check out their Preview site instead.

Uh, what's Scrapblog again?

Shel says it's a "cool online multimedia tools that lets you use what you are doing with Flickr, YouTube and on your desktop in ways that are entirely new".

OK... getting there... says:
"Scrapblogs are Flash-based slide shows made up of pages of photo or video layouts you can jazz up with a myriad of designs and effects. Transitions can be added between each page and you can set the mood with some background music as your show plays. You can publish a Scrapblog publicly or by invite only and embed it as well. If you choose, viewers can leave Flickr like embedded comments on key spots of the show."

Ah, tell you what -- check out the video tour by Scrapblog. I dare you to say you're not impressed by the idea!

Obviously I've not tried Scrapblog yet. But the video gives me a very good idea what it can do. I've invented a term for a service like Scrapblog -- a "Online Editing Publishing Synthesizer Service" (OEPSS).

It's an editing and publishing platform (like a blog, with comments features). And it integrates on existing social media services for photos and videos, like Flickr and Youtube. It's like a step-up from (which is a blog service that provides a good integration with photo & video services like Flickr and Youtube). But Scrapblog goes one step ahead by allowing the user to edit the content online, very much like creating a movie or powerpoint slides.

It's use is independent of computer OS or software (excluding the web browser). All you need is the minimum computer hardware, a compliant web browser and broadband connectivity (of course when the Internet goes down, that turns into a disadvantage, but that's a different issue).

I'm definitely a lot more excited about Scrapblog than Twitter, maybe 'cos I'm a RightBrained kind of guy. I'd expect Scrapblog to be every bit as good as the tour says it is.

P.S. I see this as the next wave of "Web 2.0." development. Services like Flickr, Youtube, and blogs have become widespread and "normalised". Next stage of developments would be services that integrates such standalone services. We won't see a convergence as such, 'cos not everyone will need such services to be integrated. Instead we'll see more of such "Synthesization" (call it "Synergy" if you will). On the business side of things, we can expect such services being bought over by powerhouses like Google and Yahoo!

Videos from NLB Staff Jam at the library@esplanade, 31 March 2007

At yesterday's Staff Jam, I managed to record two pieces by the NLB Staff/ Friends band. My digital camera has a video-recording function. Quality-wise, it's obvious that a digital camera is a camera first, and not a video recorder. Still, the sound quality isn't that bad. As I played this at home, I found myself nodding my head and swaying to the beat. These folks (a 50-50 mix of NLB staff and friends) are good.

Here's Ridzwan (a Friend of the Library) doing a cover of an Emil Chow's Mandarin song. Ridzwan doesn't speak Mandarin. To his right is a library@esplanade regular, who sportingly went up on stage to "assist" Ridzwan. His job was to shake his head if Ridzwan got the Mandarin words wrong, heh.

This was a cover of a popular contemporary Malay song (the title eludes me). It's sung by Lynette (my NLB colleague), a Chinese lady who may or may not speak Malay (I think she does, 'cos she said she's Malaysian). OK, you spot the pattern here? : ) A quirky but effective way to spice up the performance.