Tuesday, July 31, 2007

SPH And NLB Sign Agreement For Digitisation Of The Straits Times Archives - Digitised Archives Available To The Public From The Second Half Of 2008

This was announced today at the SPH and NLB websites (excerpt):
SINGAPORE, 31 July 2007 – The National Library Board (NLB) and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) today signed an agreement to digitise The Straits Times (ST) archives dating as far back as 1845. The digitised archival content will be made available to the public at NLB libraries for individual research and reference purposes from the second half of 2008.

... In collaborating with the National Library, all available printed copies of The Straits Times will be digitised and made easily accessible to the public within NLB's network of libraries in Singapore.

Access and use of the digitised news content will be restricted to non-commercial uses in line with NLB's function in overseeing the National Library and public libraries. The National Library may also re-package the content to develop information products and services for personal and non-commercial reference work and research.

I wonder how database vendors, who currently index and store Straits Times articles (at a price, I'm sure), will react to this. Anyway, this will definitely be a boon for Singaporeans, especially students and teachers. And librarians.

I can't wait. :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The first public library blog in Singapore: library@orchard

I'm pleased to blog about the library@orchard blog that was launched this morning, in conjunction with the media conference about the closure of library@orchard and its subsequent relocation.

Here's NLB's press release on the closure and relocation. According to the official statement, "The closure is caused by the end and non-renewal of the lease on the space."

Some facts and figures shown to the media representatives can be found here (I obtained permission to upload the powerpoint slide to slideshare)

I played only a bit role in starting the blog. Anyway, starting one is easy. What's more critical is how the blog is maintained in terms of the "usefulness" of the posts to readers. The most memorable in starting the blog was how it was all set up overnight. A big thank you to my colleague from the IT Network department (InfoComms Division).

I've posted more of what transpired during the final hours prior to the "birth" of the blog, as a comment, which I've republished here:
Heh. Jamieson’s the network guy — the “unsung hero” for the blog.

Yesterday evening (24 Jul) Jasna (library@orchard manager) and I were casually discussing about the library@orchard blog, after an unrelated meeting. We told Jamieson that we’ve obtained approval to start the blog. But since we couldn’t inform him (the network side) in time for the media conference, we’d just say there’s a blog coming up.

Jamieson looked at us for a while. Then he asked his million-dollar “do you want to have it ready by tomorrow” question. He felt it would be a wasted opportunity not to show the actual blog at the media conference.
Should we try to get the blog ready by tomorrow? What's the URL for the library@orchard blog? What's the URL for the library@orchard blog?

So he volunteered to return back to his office that same evening. By the time he got the basics set up, it was around 11pm. I received his call and tweaked the blog a little, over MSN chat with him. At the same time, I SMSed Jasna and Jillian (who would be running the blog). They were still up, preparing for the next day’s media conference, I guess. Jamieson completed most of the blog set up around 2.30am.

Then this morning, Jillian spent more time posting pictures and content.

BTW, the library@orchard blog would be the first ever public library blog in Singapore. A pretty significant move, in my opinion.

Monday, July 23, 2007

¨The Twilight Zone¨- The Obsolete man (1961)

Librarians, watch this.

"Your occupation, Mr. Wordsworth?"

"A Librarian."


"A what?"

"A Librarian, sir."


"I am a Librarian. That is my profession. That is my occupation. If you people choose to call that obsolete..."


"A Librarian. Having to do... with books... There are no more books, Mr. Wordsworth. There are no more libraries. And of course it follows that there is very little call for the services of a librarian."

Hat-tip to Damien, who started the discussion thread at Librarians-In-Singapore after, he came across this article; and to Cris who alerted us to the YouTube video.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Podcast: At My Window (cover version)

Thanks to Jeremy for allowing me to perform and record his original song!

powered by ODEO
Composer: Jeremy Yew [see this post]
Lyricist: Jeremy Yew
Vocals, Instruments: Ivan Chew

[Download/ Listen at Archive.org]

Here’s a recording of Jeremy's original performance (recorded at the second session) — Listen to it here.

You can hear me unabashedly telling him "I can sing Seconds (i.e. Harmony)" to the song. Later I was so taken by the song that I uncharacteristically gave an impromptu performance near the end of that second meet-up. Frankly, I did a terrible job that evening! I decided there and then I had to try recording the song. When I asked Jeremy for permission to do so, I think he kinda hesitated. Perhaps thinking I might botch his song further. LOL.

More details of how this collaboration came about, and how the recording was made, over at MyRightBrain.

screenshot - GarageBand "At My Window" (cover version)

Gotta tell ya, all this came about because of the Songcraft Songwriting Circle.

RamblingLibrarian's Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Plug for Songcraft Songwriting Circle - next meetup on 27th July 2007

If you're into writing songs (instrumentals included), or interested in what makes some amateur songwriters tick, then you might want to drop by the coming Songcraft Meetup on 27th July 2007.

This would be their fourth session. They've consistent met over the last three months. Each time there were perhaps three or four core regulars, with about the same number of newcomers, or slightly more.

They've even done some collaborative works. Like a cover version of a Songcraft original. And a collaborative effort over email! Pretty significant, in my opinion, for people who only knew each other three months ago.

One of the regulars, Betty, decided to start a blog after joining Songcraft (go over and say 'Hi'). This fella, Jerron, has been really prolific in terms of coming up with new stuff, which he shares with the group in the mailing list.

Subscribe to the Songcraft blog feed; Jeremy (the bloke who started the group) makes it a point to blog about the compositions shared via the mailing list.

Speaking of Jeremy, it's nice to see him become more proficient in posting stuff online. He specially bought an MP3 recorder for meetup #2. Now he publishes audio excerpts of the meetups, like this one. Which is great 'cos I get to stay a little more connected with the group, even though I wasn't able to make it for the session.

Oh, if you drop by that post and notice YouTube clips, they're actually audio clips saved in video formats and posted to YouTube. Kind of a quirk of Jeremy, who says he's more familiar posting stuff to YouTube, LOL.

Related posts:

Podcast: Midnight Runner

I composed this sometime ago. Actually the guitar tracks were recorded in 2006, and I kept it in my "KIV" folder for a while. A few weeks ago, I added drum loops and other GarageBand effects to make it into a techno-ambient song. Intend to showcase this at the recent GB/Librarians meetup, but the sound didn't work.

So here it is. Enjoy!

powered by ODEO

[You can also listen/ download at Archive.org]

RamblingLibrarian's Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mac Meetup: 17th July 2007

"So, want to see my Leopard?"
"What mac do you use?"
"Can i see your iPhone demo?"

The first question sounds suspiciously deviant. But only if you're not aware that it's not a reference to the animal or a body part, but a Operating System.

Those were some questions I overheard at tonight's ME@N Mac Meetup (ME@N stands for "Mac Evangelists At Nanyang"). A bunch of us occupied an entire row at Suntec's MacDonalds for about three hours. Of course we gave MacDonald's business too (I, for one, ate there for the first time ever).

Pictures that Siva "live blogged", here.

At one point, conversations suddenly hushed. It was quiet enough to hear a Mac start up. Kevin played his iPhone demo. I saw a guy (not from our group) at other table turn and watch the video in rapture. [Kevin is in the midst of uploading the video as I write this.]

One reason why I turned up was to find an answer to this question: What do Mac users do at Mac Meetups?

I got my answer gradually, as the French Fries got chomped and the talk got going.

The Macs were brought out of their bags. Apps (applications) being explained. Kevin was, as usual, in his element by showing some game that involved him waving and gesturing in front of his mac camera (photos here, here and here).

But very little tech talk, apparently.

OK, I admit I have a stereotype of any gatherings involving geeks. I thought we'd be going gah-gah over the latest downloads or patches or hacks. Like, you know, hardcore stuff? But no. Nothing we discussed was that different from what most young computer savvy users won't be discussing nowadays.

I picked up new things here and there. Useful tidbits. Like how you didn't have to reboot the Mac to detect a projector; most Mac users don't seem to shutdown their machine but put them to Sleep mode; I was told of a Search app for my Nokia e61 phone (not mac related at all).

It was like sitting with a bunch of car enthusiasts, who rave about car performance parts. Or with soccer fans talking about their favourite teams. Or librarians all choked over taxonomies and AACR2 (nah, I'm just kidding about the part about librarians).

I met familiar faces and new ones. Some names I've known from the group postings and finally attaching a face to the pleasant personalities in the ME@N list.

There was Gayle the student (who's on a term break from her studies in Scotland and currently working during her vacation time); Timothy whose job designation says "User Research Specialist" (check out his business blog); Ann (whom I'd met at the MacRitchie Brisk Walk but I couldn't recognise her initially without her bandana).

Incidentally, Ann exclaimed, "I thought a librarian's job is just to tell you where the book is!" while Gayle said it was the first time she met a librarian in real life.


There's something therapeutic about such informal sessions. You forget about whatever worries you have from work. You listen and you talk to people. You learn more about them as fellow human beings.

I'm pretty convinced it's not the geek or tech that makes people turn up for such sessions. In this case, the Mac computers are just convenient excuses for people to build and cultivate associations and friendship.

That's what I think.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Media Socialists + GahmenBloggers + Librarians-In-Singapore meetup, 12th July 2007

Hmm... I forgot to blog about the meetup last Thursday, at Toa Payoh Community Library (7pm). Thanks to Vanessa who posted a summary at Websg.org.

The session was attended by a mix of folks from Media Socialists, the GahmenBloggers, and folks from the Librarians-In-Singapore group. The last time the GahmenBloggers met was back in October 2005 (wow, that long ago). There were also other new faces who didn't belong to any of this group.

I didn't manage to take down all the names, but good thing Siva did (he later explained it was a Mac Meetup habit of his). We were all there in our personal capacities of course:
Media Socialists/ Gahmen Bloggers - Kevin, Kenneth, Siva, Coleman, Vanessa, Walter, and myself

Gahmen Bloggers - Kelvin, Ai Lin, Victor (all three from NExus), Jason (who works at the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources), Ivan (who used to work for a government agency but now gets his pay from Yahoo! Singapore) -- GahmenBloggers

Librarians - Lynette (Music Library), Patrick (Tech Services), Su Yen (HSSL, ex-sci ref lib), Kah Ching (Central) - NUS Libraries; Hazman (NTU Libraries), Ivy (my colleague from National Library, who finally decided to come clean recently and openly associate herself with her blog, ha!)

Others - John Larkin (an Australian friend of Siva, who was in Singapore conducting some workshop for teachers), Harry (Educate Wandie's colleague), Iman (friend of Hazman from Wollongong Alumni)

We did the usual meetup thing and everyone introduced themselves. Quite a few said they were there to learn more about corporate blogging. I got the impression that they were on the brink of starting some new media initiatives and they wanted to learn and understand more from sessions like this.

I thought it started rather formal. Siva, in his own words, accused me for making the session formal just by being there, heh. But considering that quite a few were meeting each other for the first time, the flow of the conversation was quite good. No awkward pauses.

Well, at the beginning I tried a bit too hard to load lots of questions to the librarians there, so much so that Siva said "the librarians dominated the discussions". Heh, music to my ears.

I asked quite a bit about how NTU and NUS librarians got their New Media projects started. Seems that the push to start the projects came from the librarians; bottom-up. One of them candidly admitted that it helped when other similar libraries have started something.

Hazman has added the NTU blogs to the SG Social Media Directory page (Group; under 'N'). NUS Libraries hasn't got any up yet, but I think it should be soon.

John was nice enough to show us an impromptu demo of something called a "Swiki", i.e. a "Search Wiki", and how it could be incorporated into a blog. That got the group quite excited, in my opinion. I think everyone was either taking notes or glued to the screen.

Then I got a chance to show Archive.org. I was quite surprised some of the more experienced bloggers haven't really explored this resource.

Kevin then took the rest of the time to demonstrate Twitter, Jaiku and Pownce.

Someone commented to me later that from the meetup, he realised he ought to find a way to bring himself up to speed on the tech stuff. I thought it's not so much the "tech" stuff but the social software and social engagement aspects.

I was personally quite gratified to find the librarians and non-librarians engaged in discussions. The sharing was both ways. I think we librarians can use more of such informal sessions to interact with bloggers and social media practitioners.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Time to revisit the purpose of OPACs

The word OPAC is an acronym for "Online Public Access Catalogue". I say it's a word because it's one of those terms that have fallen into everyday use, and I suspect many people don't really know what it means other than it being a word.

One day, I might find myself telling this to kids: "Boys and girls, in the days before computers, libraries relied on Card Catalogues to search and locate individual library items."

There's a more comprehensive explanation of their history over at this LISwiki entry.

Anyway I rediscovered Kathryn's post on OPACS and User Privacy. I was drawn to these two images in particular:

Kathryn wrote she'd like to see them in OPACs.

So would I.

I think it's about time we do, and libraries had better do it quick. Especially with all this talk about Library 2.0. and New Media, Social Software etc. Let's put the money where our mouth is.

I mean, here's a tool/ service that almost every library user would make use of, at one point or other. And librarians have always compared ourselves with Amazon.com and we envy at the interactivity that goes on there.

But some librarians feel that an OPAC should remain as an OPAC. It's a tool meant for locating library items, and we should not turn it into some other animal.

I say that may be true in the 1990s, where all this social networking stuff hasn't caught on yet. So now it's time we librarians review the purpose of an OPAC, and what it means to the whole library business.

At it's core, the OPAC should still fulfill it's basic purpose of locating library items. So long we keep that focused, there shouldn't be a danger of it becoming something it;s not supposed to be. Then we build augmented services (that users would find meaningful) around that core service.

Of course changing the OPAC systems wouldn't be easy, but if librarians and libraries are commitment to do so, then it would be done.

In the past, an OPAC was just a computerised version of the card catalogue. And nothing more. Today, it can -- and should -- be more than that. Not simply because librarians want it to. But because more and more of our users find social networking meaningful. And Public Libraries serve a social function.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Post-talk reflections: MOE ExCEL FEST 2007, 13 July 2007

"Describe how Chicken tastes like," I asked a teacher in the audience. Guess what she said? Read the rest of the post.

If you're a teacher from my talk at the ExCEL FEST this afternoon, welcome! Here's the post with the links I covered in the talk.

Please feel free to post your questions, honest critique, suggestions in this post.

There was perhaps 50 to 80 teachers in the room. I wasn't sure. I didn't have time to count or take a picture. I arrived at the venue five minutes before the talk was to start. Way too close for comfort. Didn't have time to check my slides, so good thing I'd rehearsed it in my head on the way there.

There was a traffic jam along the road outside the school. The taxi driver was wondering what could be causing the jam, as usually around that time that stretch of road would be pretty clear. It turned out it was the hundreds of teachers who were making their way to the ExCEL FEST in coaches and other vehicles!

What was new to them
Almost everyone in the audience have not heard of Tomorrow.sg or Yesterday.sg. I suggested they visit those sites, as a way to spot blog posts by Singaporeans. They didn't know about SlideShare. I'm sure some of them would be trying it out soon.

Using YouTube videos
A handful of teachers were already using YouTube videos to incorporate into their lessons. But they were hampered by the lack of bandwidth in the MOE network. Maybe they could try what I did, in the next para.

The wireless connectivity failed. I couldn't give the teachers a 'live' demo of things like Flickr, Technorati, and SlideShare. Luckily I was still able to show them the YouTube videos. Prior to talk, I let the YouTube videos load completely in the browser. Then I left the browser open and shutdown my laptop in hibernation mode. When I reached the venue, I fired up the laptop and was able to run the YouTube videos without being connected to the Internet.

Thanks to people like Hazman, Kevin, Kenneth and Jude, who left comments in the earlier post, I was able to introduce the teachers to more useful sites.

New Media Tastes like Chicken
And I especially appreciated this comment from Jude, which gave me a great opening line to the talk. He wrote that he "would be careful about the term New Media"; that it's like saying "it tastes like chicken".

So in opening the talk, I asked a teacher to explain to the audience "what Chicken tastes like". She made a valiant attempt but had to acknowledge that she's describing texture but not the taste.

I used that to hammer home the point that trying to understand new media without actually trying it out, was like trying to experience what Chicken tastes like without eating one. BTW, for her effort, the teacher received a commemorative book published by the NLB, titled "Celebrating Libraries". Enjoy!

Challenges in New Media (for teachers)
I outlined these challenges that I thought teachers would face:
  1. Understanding what is New Media [To me, it's about the engagement and social networking aspect]
  2. Lack of time [I suggested they outsource it to their students. E.g. If they wish to start a blog for the class, appoint a Class Blogger, Class Videographer, Class Photographer. Rotate these appointments. Set some Dos and Don'ts. Get the class to write their own Class Blogging Policy]
  3. Not knowing where to begin [So I narrowed down the services to those that would be immediately applicable and most practical for a school teacher in Singapore. See this list here. I also told them to ASK a librarian, heh.]
  4. Online theft and infringement [My advice was to adopt what they say about investing in the stock market: Post things which you can afford to lose!]
  5. Unwittingly infringing copyright [This was more insidious because students are often the culprits without realising it. The teachers recognised that students often liked to incorporate music into their videos, not realising that they have infringed on copyright. I didn't have time to elaborate on copyright, but I pointed them to Creative Commons as a source of where they could get content legitimately, for free.]
  6. What goes up, Stays up [This was about the challenge of educating students of the dangers of exposing themselves online, without due consideration for the future. I suggested they show these two excellent 'Think Before You Post' videos - Everybody knows your name and Online Photos.]
  7. Teacher as Target [This issue was about students blogging or taking videos of teachers, for the purpose of embarrassing or ridiculing the teacher. I said I don't have answers to offer, but I showed them this video about Associate Professor Lalit Goel of NTU. It's a hoot! I suggested that the only way to cope with this issue was to learn how to roll with the punches.]
  8. How to sustain [I quoted the advice from Naked Conversations - Passion and Authority: choose something you love, and what you know.]
  9. How to engage effectively [My take was to start by reading and viewing what's out there. It's OK to start as a passive user. But one should then proceed to leave comments and engage in conversations. After that, progress to being a producer. Social Media is about social networks, which I think it's ultimately about practicing the art of conversations]

My concluding remarks was that the issue of "No Time" was very real. But there are ways to get around lack of time. The real question was whether it's worth spending time on whatever New Media initiative proposed.

So I left them with this: You decide if you want to taste the actual chicken, or let others describe it for you.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

MOE ExCEL FEST 2007, 13 July 2007

I've been invited to give a one-hour talk to teachers attending the MOE ExCEL FEST 2007, 13th July 2007, held at the Singapore Chinese Girls' School.

Title: Meeting Challenges of the NEW MEDIA FRONT
This talk explores the onset of the New Media Front that teachers have to grapple with. Some of the tools and online services introduced include YouTube; TeacherTube; SlideShare; Flickr; Blogger; and Wikipedia. Presenter Ivan Chew will also share examples of how these various medium are being used by educators, both in Singapore and abroad.

Attendees will walk away with a better understanding of challenges faced when adopting these new media tools, as well as when students adopt new mediums for school-related work.

I'd just looked over at the notes I prepared earlier, for the talk. And I threw out 80% of the outline.

Do other presenters or educators face this problem? When you look at your initial outline, you think you've got a winner; that the audience would love it. But only to review it later and find that even you're bored just going through it. I'm not worried about embarrassing myself by doing a bad job per se; I'm concerned that the audience won't get the most out of it.

On the positive side, I'm quite confident of delivering a talk off the cuff, if it comes down to it. But I'd have to prepare a few screenshots, just in case the Internet connectivity goes wonky on me.

You folks have any comments/ suggestions/ pointers for this group of teachers? I'd be happy to incorporate them into the talk (with due credit, always).


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Overview of library-related blogs in Singapore: My guest posting at Infobib (from Germany)

Ever so often, I'm reminded of the professional satisfaction I get from blogging. I would get emails from perfect strangers, who happen to be information professionals. And who're interested in what's happening in this part of the world.

Like an email from Sarah Lohre, about a month ago. Sarah hails from Germany and is part of a team who run "a little experiment" and call themselves Infobib (interestingly, I learned about how their experiment got started not from their blog but from someone else's blog post! They probably have an explanation somewhere in their Infobib post, but in German.)

screenshot - Infobib blog Features

I was asked to blog "an overview of library-related blogs in Singapore". Wow, tall order. Where do I even start? So I pretended as if I was having a conversation with someone, and I rambled about:

Overview of library-related blogs in Singapore [I wrote: "Now, there are about 15 active blogs written by Singapore librarians. Back in 2005, there was perhaps a quarter of that number."]

Singapore “Liblogarians” [I listed five librarians' blogs there. I chose them because they posted quite regularly... and YES, I was biased and chose only Liblogarians who worked for NLB! Of course that's not doing justice to other non-NLB Liblogarians in Singapore. But I was weak and caved in to organisational loyalty. I guess I should have been more objective. To make amends, you folks can check out my public blogroll of Singapore Liblogarians -- it's not exhaustive so if you're a SG Liblogarian, and wish to "come out of the closet", I'd love to hear from you!]

Library-institutional blogs [There's no official documentation of when library institutional blogs started, but I'm confident my information is correct as to when the first Singapore library-related blog was started. And it wasn't NLB's. I learned recently that there are more library-institutional blogs in Singapore, from NTU, so I'll find time to post about them later -- unless someone beats me to it first (yes, please do, heh) *Update: Hazman blogs about the NTU library blogs]

What do I expect from the future of library and library-related blogs in my country? I shall reproduce this portion in its entirety:
In the last 10 years, the reputations of many libraries in Singapore have improved tremendously, due to the many proactive changes adopted by the public, national and academic libraries. The image of librarians has also improved generally, although many people still do not really know what goes on within the profession. Stereotypes still abound.

I sense that younger librarians recognise they will be the ones to effecting that change in mindsets, about what the profession is about. So I think there will be more librarians taking up Social Media (like blogs, podcasts, and wikis) as a way to engage and connect with users and non-users alike.

Or to learn new skills in order to keep up with whatever’s happening on the Internet. I can personally attest to this part – I’ve learned so much from my blogging “experiments”, and you tend to meet many helpful people in the blogosphere. The amount of genuine sharing is tremendous. It works both ways.

I’d expect libraries and librarians to be around in Singapore for a long, long time. It’s clear to me that library and information professionals in Singapore have the fortitude to adapt and evolve according to circumstances and changing user needs.

Thanks again, Sarah and folks at the Infobib team, for this opportunity to share about the Singapore library blog scene. The full post of my guest entry can be found here.

You might want to take time to check out other guest posts they've invited, from librarians from other countries.

I particularly appreciate the posts, deliberately written in English, from countries where English isn't the first language. Like Spain, Hungary, Norway, Iran, France, Belarus, and many others in between. I'm sure more will be added.

Oh, they add that: "If you don’t see your home country in this list and you feel that writing an article about your country’s biblioblogosphere would be a good idea, please contact one of us."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Podcast: Seashore Days (Music Mash-up)

Another music mash-up, this time with Lekowala (who happens to be an ex-Secondary School classmate of mine, whom I was reacquainted with through Siva). Details of how the song came about, over at MyRightBrain.

powered by ODEO
[or download/ listen from Archive.org]

Thanks for this, Adrian! [Update 8 Jul '07: his account of the mash-up, here]

RamblingLibrarian's Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

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Promoting Arts Appreciation: Start with how it's taught in schools

Here are two art pieces I painted more than 10 years ago. A concise story of how they came about, here and here.
1995 (Aug) Scene adapted from "Record of Lodoss War"

1991 (Dec) Civil War

I'd almost forgotten I had them scanned. I remembered them only after yesterday's dinner at Dan Ryan's Chicago Grill with Walter and Vanesssa.

It started with a conversation with Vannesa's mother
Quite unplanned, Vanessa invited Walter and I to look at her home music studio. Over at her home, we met her parents. Her mother then showed us some paintings they'd collected over the years. We had an interesting chat about how Asians generally don't collect art works for the sake of appreciating the art pieces.

Walter said something about buying artworks as investment, but Vanessa's mum (whom we were warned not to call "Aunty" 'cos she's not that old, LOL) countered that there were better and surer ways in investing one's money. I mostly kept quiet during the conversation. I was questioning my own assumptions about arts appreciation and collecting art.

Admittedly, I also tend to think of art as something that only the very rich can afford, and that those who buy art do so as a form of investment. Good art is not cheap. Or is it?

I know of some retailers who sell oil pieces that are mass produced. Their strategy is to buy in bulk from the artists, and therefore sell at a more affordable price to the masses. Pretty nice pieces too. The shop that I know has been around for a few years, so it's business strategy must be working to some extent.

OK, maybe the lack of space is an issue. But one can buy little art pieces, or trade them. Maybe a BookCrossing equivalent for paintings and illustrations (hmm... I just might submit it to iJAM.sg).

Money and space isn't really the main issue. I believe it's more of an attitude and mindset. Ideally it should start at home, but if adults don't understand it, then the answer most likely starts in schools.

Teaching arts in schools
Schools teach the arts. Art lessons serve to expose students to mediums and techniques they otherwise wouldn't take up on their own. But unfortunately, the classes also serve to reinforce in some students' personal perception that "I cannot draw" or "I'm bad in art".

I had loads of fun during art class. I didn't have to study for them, and I could get by quite easily with the little talent that I have towards drawing and painting. I always found art lessons very relaxing (if only Science, History and Math classes were the same). But more than half of my classmates would dread art classes because it was graded and they often failed.

Thinking back, I wonder why art should be graded. Sure, you have to show some application of technique. But to say an art piece "passes" or "fails", it doesn't make sense to me now that I think of it.

I'm not sure if art lessons in schools now incorporate "Art Appreciation". By "Art Appreciation", I don't mean forcing students to research on artists' backgrounds or write essays on the similarities and difference between Modernism and Expressionism. Of course they are useful to teach the kids, but they shouldn't be the focus of art appreciation.

If I were to teach an art class, I'd tell the kids that their art pieces must tell a story. Get the kids to tell a story through that art piece. And along the way, they pick up different mediums and techniques, which would inevitably influence the way their story is conveyed.

Even a still-life drawing of a tea-pot can tell a story. Is the surface smooth or rough? How to you convey that using watercolours as a medium? Did you see that tiny chip at the tip? And did you observe the play of light and shadows?

Grade their level of undestanding, not how talented they are in drawing
For a start, the grading system has to be more clear than "pass" or "fail". Students should be told their work would be graded according to dimensions like 'application of technique', 'creativity', 'expression' and 'level of analysis and observation".

Granted that these dimensions are also subjective, but the idea is to let the students know they are being graded for more than whether the teacher likes their work or not, or whether they have natural talents and abilities in the arts.

The kids don't have to be great artists. But they'd have to at least explain or demonstrate they have observed those aspects when they draw.

The point of art lessons
Art lessons, to me, shouldn't be about "How well you can draw or paint" (if you can, it's a bonus). It should be about how well you observe the little things in life. It's about training your mind's eye to look at things which you might not have noticed before. It's about reading the story being conveyed from the medium.

Then maybe, people will start buying art for art's sake.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Hmm... this is like the Digg.com for 'Ideas':

screenshot - www.ijam.sg

It's an initiative by the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA), or specifically the Interactive Digital Media (IDM) programme.
i.JAM aims to create an environment that best captures innovative ideas and helps turn them into viable projects. We believe that innovative ideas and R&D need not be the domain of Institutes of Higher Learning or large industry players. We have witnessed the success of individuals who have taken their ideas and created truly breakthrough products and services, giving birth to new industry sectors in the process. The i.JAM platform seeks to help refine your ideas, and match them with the knowledge of technical experts, incubators and industry mentors to help them become realised.
More details at the FAQ page.

To add a New Idea, you enter information like the Title, Summary, Additional Details (if any), Tags...
screenshot - ijam.sg create an idea

... then complete the last part where they ask if the idea has been patented, whether you agree to the Terms and Conditions of sharing the idea and other legalese.
screenshot - ijam Create An Idea (part 2)

I tried it out by submitting this idea on WIFI at HDB Kopi Tiams. Oh, I think there's a bug there, 'cos I was able to vote for my own idea. Anyway...

The interface for iJAM.sg reminded me of Ping.SG -- a grassroots initiative by some young Singaporeans:
screenshot - Ping.SG

I wonder if they were responsible for designing and developing the iJam.sg site (incidentally, Ping.SG just celebrated their 1st anniversary, so congrats!)

It'll be really interesting to see how Singaporeans take to iJAM.SG.

I'm reminded of what an ex-colleague once shared with me, about a similar Ideas Portal he participated in (which was hosted in the US) during the early Dot.Com days. He observed that Asians generally had low participation rates when it came to posting ideas there. He suggested that the Asians generally horded their ideas, and tend to think that posting their ideas publicly would only result in the ideas being copied. He commented that the Americans, in contrast, posted their ideas in the portal like crazy.

Perhaps there's some truth to it. Which might be why the FAQ for iJAM.SG has this item (see item 6):
How will my idea be protected from being stolen and developed by someone else?

i.JAM is meant to promote the free exchange of ideas. In the process we hope that the collective wisdom of individuals will make the ideas more robust. If your idea receives a considerable amount of feedback, it is validation that your idea is a good idea and should be further developed.

In any case, I see iJAM.SG as a very good start. As for the quality of ideas being submitted, it doesn't matter if the ideas don't work. Quality is often subjective when it comes to ideas. I heard a successful entrepreneur say that the difference between a Dreamer and a Visionary is Success. Heh.

To me, the value (of submitting ideas to iJAM.SG) is in forcing a certain discipline on oneself; to think of something to submit. Your quality of ideas might improve when you receive feedback from readers and the iJAM.SG community.

It's about people spotting gems from raw ideas, rather than simply expecting really complete solutions to be posted at iJAM.SG.

I might whack in a few more ideas over the next couple of days.

The iJAM.SG marketing people might want to do roadshows at schools to encourage submissions. Maybe start a "Wackiest Idea" category and give a weekly prize.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Launch of BookCross@SG: Books need to be freed!

It's official -- Singapore has been recognised by BookCrossing.com as the first BookCrossing country.

And so mentioned Mr Scott Sorochak, President & CEO of BookCrossing.com, at the launch and MoU signing of BookCross@SG at the Plaza of the National Library this afternoon.
Scott Sorochak MoU signing between BookCrossing.com & NLB
The crowd

More details of how BookCross@SG works, at http://bookcross.sg

Apparently, "more than 2000 official hotspots have been selected to allow Singaporeans to exchange books".

The hotspots are not WIFI hotspots but BookCross@SG hotspots. Technically, you can leave books anywhere to be "crossed". But having a designated hotspot works just as well, particularly for those not familiar with the idea of random crossing a book (besides, having hotspots reduce the risk of a book being taken away by cleaners before they get a chance to be crossed). These hotspots will be given a customised BCSG sticker that will be placed at a prominent area for the exchange to take place.

It gets more interesting -- some of the hotspots are Taxi Cabs!

SMRT Taxis, to be exact. Hats off to my colleagues who pulled this off (and also the support of the SMRT Taxi company too). This was the cab that drove in as part of the launch.
An SMRT Taxi Cab BookCross Hotspot!

Quick, go buy your 4-D number now! LOL
The Cab

As part of the launch, the guests were told to reach under their seats. Taped to the bottom of each seat was an envelop containing a BookCross@SG book. Mine turned out to be a brand new Roald Dahl's "Tales of the Unexpected", yay! (Thanks to the kind sponsors who donated the initial lot of books for the launch).
My BookCross@SG book surprise

OK, I admit the first thought that popped into my head was to hoard the book. But it just wouldn't be right. After all, Books need to be FREED!
BookCross@Sg logo

Yes, yes. I promise I will free my book after reading it. Immediately.

Many of the guests gamely went to register the BookCross ID (BCID) of their book on the spot:
Registering the BCIDs

Where's the BCID?

You don't have to look for it like that! LOL (thanks to my colleague, Jillian, for posing):
Gee, I need my glasses!

It's usually at the back of the book cover:
Looking for the BCID

And here's my registered entry at the BookCrossing.com site:
BookCrossing.com website submission

Some of my colleagues were already into the advanced stages of negotiations to exchange their books. Hey guys, you're supposed to read the books first!
My colleagues attempting to cross their books

I understand that a few months ago, my colleagues involved in this project met with some of the management team members of the BookCrossing Singapore (www.bookcrossing.com.sg). I wasn't at the meeting. I'm not sure what were the details of the discussion. But I understand there's some cordial understanding of how both BookCross@SG and BookCrossing Singapore can collaborate together. It'll be nice if the Mainstream Media would give some coverage to the efforts of BookCrossing Singapore too.

BookCrossing Singapore... BookCross@SG... in my opinion, there's never too many groups when it comes to promoting the reading habit. It's definitely a good thing to have both grassroots and national efforts in encouraging Singaporeans to read.

Today's event made me dig up some of my earlier posts, where I'd mentioned BookCrossing:

Podcast: Happiness Is (2007)

I read this a long time ago -- "Happiness is not an objective, but an outcome of what we do".

Something like that.

I was hammering some chords on the keyboard, and this composition came about. I guess I was happy it sounded good upon the first few tries. One of those good days when anything I whack on the keyboard seemed to work.

powered by ODEO
[Listen/ download from Archive.org]

Which reminds me... Kevin just turned 30 not too long ago. He wrote: "Woke up this morning, realizing I was now thirty… and that there’s nothing I could do about it."

Heh. I'll make a song out of his post.

Happiness is:
a cake in a cup, from your mother;
discovering joy by accident;
standing by the sideline and watching the world go by;
when age makes no difference.

Happiness, is.

A Belated Happy Birthday, my friend.

RamblingLibrarian's Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast