Sunday, January 27, 2008

Social Experiment Update: Singapore Social Media Directory (wiki)

Last week, Singapore Academic and Journalist Cherian George emailed me to write an article for it, about the Singapore Social Media Directory.

Singapore Social Media Directory » homeI agreed.

Might as well provide an update on this Social Experiment from its start nine months ago.

Cherian suggested a progress report of sorts, on how it's evolved since then.

I'll do just that by sharing 10 observations on how the experiment went, and also share some thoughts on where this experiment will go.

For the full details of the Whys and Hows about the directory, read this post.

I wanted to see how Singaporeans would react to a community-managed Wiki. I called it a "social experiment" because anyone could edit the wiki. If we allowed anonymous edits, how likely would it be vandalised? And would the community contribute to it?

The directory/ wiki was created on 20 March 2007. As far as I know, it was the first of its kind and remains the only one today -- if you're talking about a community-managed Wiki focusing on Singapore and Singaporeans.

There are about 80 entries for Individuals and 60 Group entries (or 140 entries total) so far. I estimate about 85% to 90% of the entries were by me, with the rest contributed by others.
  • Avg. Daily Page Views = 28 (or 7,900 page views total; most no. of views for a given day was 93)
  • Avg. Daily Unique Visitors = 34 (or 9,750 unique visitors total; most no. of unique visitors for a given day was 107)
  • Top 3 visits by countries = USA (46%), Singapore (42%), China (8%)
Usage - Singapore Social Media Directory » stats

OBSERVATION #1 - No vandalism
None at all, in the nine months (after 7,900 page views and 9,750 unique visits).

And no one listed any spam entry or a link to an advertising site either. I also didn't get any complaints or requests for me to remove any entries.

Of course one could argue that the directory isn't that well used. The probability of vandalism increases with an increase in usage. Perhaps the directory isn't seen as important enough (like Wikipedia for instance), but I feel that's besides the point. There was no vandalism, period.

My view is that if we let the experiment continue long enough, vandalism and abuse is a really a matter of WHEN and not IF. But if there's pattern or threshold, I can't tell from this experiment.

I think the risk of vandalism tends to be overstated.

OBSERVATION #2 - Tendency to only include entries that "belonged to me", rather than those belonging to others
This was the second major observation. It was clear very early on that apart from myself, no one else added entries that belonged to others.

I made a point to check every link created by others. Of the estimated 10% to 15% of the entries were contributed by other people, all of them listed entries where they had direct association.

As Kevin once observed: "... from a motivational perspective... most people only added their blogs, rather than to contribute what they’ve found out on the web."

Some guesses why this was so:
  1. The communuity-contribution mindset isn't there yet. The prevalent attitude seems to be one of "I want others to find me" rather than "I think others should find this".
  2. Mindset of "I do not have their permission" and hence playing-it-safe by not doing anything. Perhaps there were concerns of intruding into other people's privacy.

OBSERVATION #3 - Not everyone wants to list themselves in the directory
I'd expected people to voluntarily list their blogs in the directory. However, that didn't seem to be the case.

Experiment: "Singapore's Social Media Directory" - listed at Tomorrow.sgThe directory was plugged at on 31 March 2007 (thanks to Walter), which led to a spike in the directory's page views and unique visits. However, the number of contributions didn't increase proportionately.

The entry registered about 490 reads when I took the screenshot today. That might be a major contributor to the visits to the directory, but it didn't automatically translate to the number of contributions.

Possible reasons why the 4,095 unique visitors -- from Singapore -- did not result in a corresponding proportion of entries:
  1. Not all visitors use new media services, so they have nothing of their own to add
  2. If they have, they might not see any value in being listed
  3. Their motivation for blogging (or using social media services) might not be to get widely noticed. So it doesn't really make a difference whether people find their blogs or not.
  4. Some may choose not to have people find their blog or site.
  5. Tendency is for people to "take", rather than "contribute" (submitting something to the directory did not occur to them)
  6. They are not sure how to contribute to the wiki
The possible reasons may not be mutually exclusive either, i.e. there could be overlapping reasons.

OBSERVATION #4 - Few "mistakes" made by contributors
Singapore Social Media Directory » instructions for creating entriesOf those who contributed, all of them managed to adhere to the specified format. I've had to do very little editing of other people's entries.

Most users did it the "smart" way by copying and pasting an earlier entry, and then amending parts of it. I think the trick was to provide an example, and people would be able to follow the required format.

OBSERVATION #5 - Volunteers do step up to help
One user, who was a stranger to me, took the initiative to alphabetise the entries in response to a discussion on how to arrange the entries (see user "ModernBurrow", 31 Mar 2007 entry at this page).

His gesture surprised me, pleasantly. I didn't expect anyone to voluntarily help out. However, I think the directory has dropped off his radar screen, as there have not been further updates from him/ her. It was a positive outcome, nonetheless.

OBSERVATION #6 - Lack of widespread interest and awareness
I didn't have any expectations about usage. Compared to some of my personal blogs, the directory's usage is quite good.

But what the experiment seems to suggest so far:
  • Few Singaporeans are interested in getting themselves listed. Some might do so after I tell them about it but there are relatively more who don't
  • I get better responses when I invite people to list their entries, compared to sending out general calls via mailing lists
  • Poor word-of-mouth by Singaporean bloggers. I searched for "Singapore Social Media Directory" in Google blog search and retrieved 13 links, of which about seven are by Singaporeans

OBSERVATION #7 - Profile of those who list themselves in the directory
I click through every entry created by others. Judging from the links to their entries, none of those entries belong to teenagers (i.e. 13 to 19). I get the impression most owners are in their mid-20s to mid-30s, from tertiary students to working professionals.

My guess is that teens don't really want to let the whole wide world know about their blogs. This impression is reinforced when I ask some teens who have blogs. They confirm that they mainly share their blogs with friends rather than deliberately let the world know that that they have a blog.

I suspect this is also true for adults who blogs.

OBSERVATION #8 - Spin-offs
About a month after the Singapore Social Media Directory was created, one Singaporean blogger (Clapping Tree) created a Asia Social Media Directory at I commented in her post that it was a good initiative.

Out of curiosity, I looked at that wiki's 2007 statistics today. By my calculations, the Asia Social Media Dir wiki has:
  • 22 Page Views Per Day on Average (comparable to the 28 for SgSocialMediaDir)
  • 22 Unique Visitors Per Day on Average P(Vs. 34 for SgSocialMediaDir)
  • Country of origin: 63% USA, 18% Singapore, 15% China (Vs. SgSocialMediaDir's 46% USA, 42% Singapore, 8% China)
The usage statistics seem to be consistent with the focus of the directory, i.e. more Singaporeans using the Singapore-focused directory.

I'd assumed that with its wider geographical coverage (Asia Vs Singapore), the contributions and access to the Asia directory would higher. But it doesn't seem to be the case (unless my calculations were wrong).

Perhaps being "Findable" is a factor (it helped that the Singapore directory was plugged by Also, although Asia has a wider geographical coverage than Singapore, the number of English-language blogs (and hence people who can read the directory) may not proportionately higher.

OBSERVATION #9 - Usefulness of the directory
Without any survey (formal or otherwise), this part is really my conjecture. Personally, I found the listings by Organisations more useful that individuals. Mainly because I've a greater need to look for institutional blogs than individuals.

OBSERVATION #10 - Keywords & Search is more critical than Categories
I deliberately avoided using subjects or categories for the directory. The only categories are alphabetical listings by "Individuals" and "Groups". The thinking behind this can be found here.

From using the directory, I found that that having meaningful keywords and having a reliable search feature is better than specifying fixed subject categories.

coverAs I understand from his book Everything Is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger suggests that the way to go with digital information is not impose any artificial constraints or limits on how entries were categorised. Because in doing so, we inevitably limit the scope of how items could be searched.

I find this to be true.

Even though I have created most of the entries, most times I rely on search feature to look for entries, especially for entries by individuals. I think the format (Title, Description, Keyword) is working out.

Of course the search isn't that precise, i.e. it lists the page which the entry appears but clicking through, you have to scroll (or do a FIND) to locate the exact entry. Still, it beats having to browse through each entry or page (or category, had we used it to organise the items).

However, that's not to say a directory-listing is useless. I think humans cannot yet move away from physical-world constraints. We're too used to having things compartmentalised. We expect things to be compartmentalised, if only for our psychological benefit.

I think having some categories (in this case, by Individuals and Groups) gives people an idea of what is IN the directory. But the real usefulness comes from the search feature.

If I were to build a Wiki, I'd pay attention to the search and indexing feature, and provide an easy way for users to tag keywords to entries.

FINAL REMARKS - Personal learning experience & future directions
After a year, I can say with greater certainty that the risk of a wiki being vandalised is not as great as one would think.

I'm glad I started the directory because from learning how it works and how people respond (or not respond) to it, I've gone on to help my NLB colleagues setup a Collaborative-Story Wiki for the Singapore Library Week (I was able to tell the developers specifically what features were needed, and discuss with my colleagues the likelihood of success and managing possible risks).

I've also created a wiki for my work with the IFLA Libraries for Children and Young Adults (see

Future directions
The Singapore Social Media Directory will continue to be available (so long Wikispaces continue to provide it as a free service).

It will still continue to be an experiment. I don't think the learning will end. I'll continue to update it, although I hope to see more community-participation. Perhaps after this update, more Singaporeans will learn about this and give ideas and feedback, if not actually contributing entries.

It is of some use to some people, I'm sure. If nothing else, I do use it from time to time.

Oh, I certainly DO NOT want this to be seen as "Ivan Chew's directory". I'd like to see myself as the catalyst. I also see myself accountable for the entries created there (someone has to).

That being said, I hope a core group of contributors will form sometime soon, from the Singapore online community. Student project, anyone?

Maybe at the appropriate time, I might propose that this directory be moved over to be hosted by the NLB Public Library Services, and then managed by library members. That would be really cool.

OK, comments and suggestions are welcome.

[Update: The entry at, here]

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Library of Congress (LOC) photos on Flickr (or, "Will Community Tagging work?")

Hmm.. a pretty significant development in my opinion. For several reasons, as I shall explain.

The Library of Congress recently launched a pilot project with Flickr (owned by Yahoo!) called The Commons:
Flickr: The Commons - Library of Congress photos

From its landing page:
The key goals of this pilot project are to firstly give you a taste of the hidden treasures in the huge Library of Congress collection, and secondly to show how your input of a tag or two can make the collection even richer.

You're invited to help describe photographs in the Library of Congress' collection on Flickr, by adding tags or leaving comments.*

Stretching the Copyright restriction
If you scroll down the page, you see this part about Copyright (my emphasis in bold):
"These beautiful, historic pictures from the Library represent materials for which the Library is not the intellectual property owner. Flickr is working with the Library of Congress to provide an appropriate statement for these materials. It's called "no known copyright restrictions."
Flickr: The Commons

I can only guess at why LOC is creating a new copyright category.

The LOC collections contain published and unpublished works. So rather than adopt a strict "We Can't Share This Because We're Not The Copyright Owner" position, they've adopted a more rational (gutsy?!) one where "We Will Share This Even If We Don't Own It, If We Have Good Reasons To Believe There Are No Copyright Restrictions".

That's my guess anyway.

It's significant to me because here's a library (a very well-respected one) taking a calculated risk to make some of its resources available as public good.

It could have easily adopted a conservative position and not do anything since the copyright issue may not be 100% clear.

They've made available about 3,000 images out of the 14 million prints, photographs and other visual materials at the LOC. And only those "which no copyright restrictions are known to exist".

Spirit of Experimentation
More information from the LOC Blog (yes, they have a blog and an informative one at that):
"... the project will help address at least two major challenges: how to ensure better and better access to our collections, and how to ensure that we have the best possible information about those collections for the benefit of researchers and posterity.

... The project is beginning somewhat modestly, but we hope to learn a lot from it.

We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves.

From the Library’s perspective, this pilot project is a statement about the power of the Web and user communities to help people better acquire information, knowledge and—most importantly—wisdom. One of our goals, frankly, is to learn as much as we can about that power simply through the process of making constructive use of it."

What comes across strongly is the willingness of LOC to experiment and learn from the project.

It's an important attitude to adopt if libraries want to tap onto the social networking phenomenon.

It's easy to know how to use a tool (like Flickr). And it's easy to observe, at the surface level, the way people contribute and socialise in that medium. But what's harder is understanding how libraries can successfully tap on those networks and user behaviours.

Research is scarce in this respect, and whatever has been done seems to generalise at best. So innovative and forward-looking libraries will be the ones who invest in their own experimenting and learning.

Will Community Tagging work?
As for whether Community Tagging would work, there's no successful model as far as I know.

I'm reminded of what Isaak shared this via the Librarians-In-Singapore group -- a blog post from John Blyberg. At the 5th para, John writes:
I’ll even turn the tables on myself and admit that I was wrong about local tagging in the OPAC. SOPAC was by-and-large a success, but its use of user-contributed tags is a failure.

John further explains, in response to a comment, why it's a failure. In brief, apart from the initial enthusiasm in community tagging (from one or two users) the "tags have not grown large enough to become meaningful".

Lack of Critical Mass of community tags
I also remember speaking to a librarian from Taiwan, at a conference in Singapore two years ago. She shared how they tried to involve baseball fans in tagging their images relating to Baseball. It didn't work from their perspective.

We didn't really discuss in details about what didn't work. My guess is that while their users contributed to the tags, there was perhaps a mismatch between the expected "quality" of the tags.

Maybe from the library's perspective, they were used to a more detailed description of materials (i.e. comprehensiveness), whereas users might only choose to focus on descriptors that was important to them only (i.e. individual importance).

Or it could be the same issue as what John described for his library's project.

User Education
Seems like user education is also needed.

Tell them they are actually encouraged to tag other people's photos. And that they are also part of making it work. Most of us are brought up to subconsciously think, "This isn't mine, so don't touch".

Also, tell them not to feel embarrassed or angry if their contributions are subsequently modified or even deleted. It's the nature of social collaborative platforms.

Give it time
If the lack of a critical mass of user-contributed tags is the main issue, then I think LOC's project might just work, because the number of people who potentially would actively contribute LOC's collections is more than the user base for John's library or the librarian from Taiwan.

So if costs can be kept at acceptable levels, I think LOC's project success is a matter of giving it enough time and publicity.


UPDATE: I made my first contribution by leaving a comment for this image. I suggested they include a link to the photographer's bio at the LOC American Memory page.
Landscape, Northeast Utah (LOC) on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Just realised that the LOC -- or any library that makes community contribution globally inclusive -- benefits from community tagging by contributors from different cultural perspectives : )

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary, 1919 - 2008

Excerpt from the NLB book blog, High Browse Online:
In our celebrity-obsessed era, Sir Hillary’s modesty seems a throwback to a much earlier time. He was self-depreciating, always claiming he was just an average bloke, never the smartest nor the best technical climber of his day. He however, possessed guts, an indomitable will and common sense. He was also known for treating those around him with courtesy and decency. In fact, he only admitted to being the first to reach the summit after the death of his climbing companion, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, in 1986.

Readers who wish to read more about this uncommon man with the common touch can visit these Guardian reports here and here.

At the first link to the Guardian article, Tim Watkin calls Sir Edmund Hillary "the last of the true heroes", and says "Hillary's true heroism was shown not on the summit 55 years ago, but years later in the Himalayan foothills, when he raised money to build schools, clinics, hospitals, bridges and airfields."

Sir Edmund Hillary, first man to the top of the world, dies at 88 | The Guardian | Guardian UnlimitedThe webpage of the other Guardian article has a documentary (filmed after the successful Everest expedition).

At the 2"10 minute mark, you hear Sir Edmund Hillary explain how he was saved by Tenzing from falling too deeply into a crevice.

The High Browse Online blog post lists two books on Sir Edmund’s historic scaling of Mount Everest, and also two books about Singapore's Mount Everest attempt.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

NLB archives Singapore blogs

As reported in The Straits Times, "Local blogs being added to S'pore's historical archives" (7 Jan '08) by Keith Lin:

The National Library Board (NLB) is adding blogs to Singapore's historical archives as part of its efforts to retain a comprehensive record of online content.

In all, the library aims to archive some 100 blogs by the end of the year.

Eleven have been selected so far, ranging from offerings such as Air-Conditioned Nation ( by media academic Cherian George, to the satirical Mr Brown (

Mr Raju Buddharaju, the library's director of digital resources and services, described blogs as an 'invaluable' source of news and social commentary for the present and future generations of Singaporeans.

'Content from blogs often offers views which would otherwise not be accessible from mainstream media,' he said.

Even so, the library is selective when it comes to deciding which blogs to archive.

Only those produced by individuals who are recognised experts in their respective fields of knowledge, famous personalities or award-winning blogs will be considered, Mr Raju said.

The library will take digital snapshots of the selected blogs at least once a year and post their contents on its web archive - available at Access is open and free to the public.


Said Dr George, who has three blogs looking at various aspects of Singapore media and politics in the archives: 'This is not about the authorities giving legitimacy to individual blogs.

'It is part of a welcome movement in Singapore to recognise the value of multiple perspectives in telling the Singapore story.'

Link to the free ST article, here.

NLB web archive - Advanced search page

Back in Oct '06, when the Web Archive Singapore project was announced, it drew the attention of well-known Singaporean blogger mrbrown, who created a special podcast episode on the topic.

So it's official mrbrown!

And you probably can sleep a little easier, knowing that snapshots of your blog will be available for posterity. : )

Incidentally I spotted Jean's post, where she wrote:
At first read, it seems like elitism at its best again. Then again, we shouldn’t be so petty about it, right?

She was responding to the web selection guideline of "choosing individuals who are recognised as experts in their fields, famous personalities or are award winning".

Just like for physical libraries, it's impossible to acquire everything there is. Inevitably there will be some criteria imposed on the What, When and Who to archive.

But just like the case of physical libraries, if you have something (i.e. a blog) that you highly recommend, make a suggestion! I'm sure NLB would give it due consideration.

BTW I don't speak for NLB. Some people have emailed me to enquire about the project. I'm more than happy to redirect your emails, though it's faster to enquire at NLB direct.

You can also read the FAQs about the Web Archive Singapore.
[related post: How to access the NLB Web Archive Singapore (WAS)]

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) XO Laptop

theory.isthereason » theorycast.35 :: OLPC = Really “Social” Computing"It's an education project, not a laptop project."

I've heard of the OLPC ( before. It was originally called the "100 Dollar Laptop".

But it's only after Kevin's blog post & video that made me find out more.

In the video, Kevin and friend gives a 18-minute walk-through of the USD$188 XO Laptop's features. They conclude that the XO Laptop isn't as powerful as "regular" laptop (it isn't meant to be) but it's impressive enough.

A summary of the XO Laptop's features, from what I gathered from Kevin's video and the XO Laptop feature & Specs page:

1) Design - it's handy, portable and stylishly designed. No sharp edges and ruggedised. Very child-friendly.
One Laptop per Child (OLPC), getting started: opening the laptop theory.isthereason » theorycast.35 :: OLPC = Really “Social” Computing

2) Hardware and software - It has what I consider the "basic" features, and more:
  • WIFI Internet connectivity & built-in web browser
  • Text editor (saves documents in text, RTF, HTML formats)
  • Built-in video & audio recorder functions (captures 15-second video clips with a button-push)
  • USB ports
  • Audio input/ output jacks
  • Simple graphic editing software
  • Simple audio player and editing software
  • calculator
  • Email and RSS reader
  • UNIX terminal
  • Something called the Acoustic Tape Measure (seems to measure the distance from one OLPC to another OLPC)
  • Instant Messenging feature (with other connected OLPCs in the vicinity, I think)
  • One key aspect is the "Neighbourhood" feature. It allows XO Laptop users to see who's connected on the network (Kevin says "designed for Mesh-networking and almost any application allows for collaboration"). This certainly makes the XO Laptop live up to its "Education Project" tagline.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a low-cost, connected laptop for the world's children's education

Kevin asks in his blog post: do you think the OLPC will actually help third-world students learn?

I'd say it will help them get connected, and become more computer-savvy. The ability for children to handle and use computers is no longer an optional skill. So OLPC is good in that way.

But to result in effective learning, that's beyond what OLPC set out to do.

Mission of OLPC
OLPC's stated goal is to "provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves".

It elaborates that:
OLPC is a non-profit organization providing a means to an end—an end that sees children in even the most remote regions of the globe being given the opportunity to tap into their own potential, to be exposed to a whole world of ideas, and to contribute to a more productive and saner world community.
The Five-C Equation
On it's own, the XO Laptop represents an affordable computing device. There are other "Building-blocks" that have to be present to make the whole equation complete. For illustrative purposes, I can think of Five-Cs in this "equation", where:
Effective Learning (in OLPC's context) = C1 x C2 x C3 x C4 x C5

With the five Cs being:
  1. Cost
  2. Content
  3. Collaboration
  4. Connectivity
  5. Committment

C1 - Cost

Given it's features, at USD $188, I feel it's cheaper. Definitely as affordable as a basic mobile phone. Of course, "cheap" is relative when it comes to monetary exchange rates.

But OLPC has a simple yet clever business model called "Give 1 Get 1" (for a limited time only, it seems). Essentially you're buying two XO Laptops -- one for yourself and the other for a child in a Third-world country.

OLPC has made it easier to narrow the Cost aspect of the equation.

C2 - Content
I'm referring to Educational and Learning content.

The XO Laptop doesn't come loaded with them. But it's not a major issue, with the XO Laptop's social collaboration and connectivity features.

Children will always find ways to do something fun through play. And play is learning. I see kids in Third-world countries creating their own content. They won't be distracted by the availability of ready-made games and toys, e.g. Xboxes, LAN games (I feel that the more sophisticated the toy, the less room for creativity). I see the Third-world children use the social collaborative features like ducks to water.

Potentially, educational software might also be created by software developers/ students in First-world countries for the XO Laptops. Like what's happening in Facebook now.

I'm also sure there will be innovative and passionate educators in those countries. They might be able to think of creative ways to incorporate the use of the XO Laptop in the classroom.

In a Web 2.0. world, apps and services have moved to web-based delivery systems rather than local installations (e.g. Google Open Docs, Snipshot's online photo editing, Blogs).

I see this "C" in the equation as well met.

C3 - Collaboration
Part of OLPC's Educational Proposition says: "Put this ultra-low-cost, powerful, rugged and versatile laptop in their hands, and the kids will do the rest."

True to some extent. Give children some room and they'd surprise us in pleasant ways. But I feel there will be a limit to what children alone can do.

You need altruistic developers to create interesting and meaningful apps, people who have money to donate, educators who are willing to invest time and effort to find relevant ways to use the XO Laptop.

What's also critical is to concurrently engage educators and parents in Online Safety. We know about potential dangers and issues that comes with the use and proliferation of Internet and social networking platforms. While we can't prevent the misuse, abuse and exploitation (those will happen), we can limit the danger.

This part of the equation is an unknown. A lot would depend on the particular community or country, not OLPC.

C4 - Connectivity
I mean this to be the infrastructural aspect -- power supply, Internet access, WIFI nodes.

Electrical power supply is fundamental of course. No power = no computing device.

If there's power but no Internet or WIFI access, I believe the individual XO Laptops can still "talk" to each other. That still presents opportunities for localised interactivity.

In short, the country's infrastructure needs to be in place. The onus is on that particular country's government.

C5 - Committment
The OLPC project and organisation was announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January 2005.

OLPC has made good on its promise to deliver an afforable laptop for children in Third-world countries (so it exceeded the laptop cost by USD$88... who's gonna niggle?)

But having cheap computing devices do not automatically mean a better educated and globally responsible child.

I believe it's the commitment from parents, the community, and the government that ultimately the key success factor (not just education but the whole country, naturally).

They play a major role in determining the importance placed on having their children complete school; making sure there are jobs available for those who complete their education; imparting meaningful values to children; equipping the child with the means to be able to work and contribute in a globally connected environment.

This C is the most important and the hardest to achieve.

OLPC and education in Third-world countries
So clearly, OLPC is just one building block in the larger equation of "Making The World A Better Place".

What's hopeful is that when you let children get connected and discover things for themselves, positive things tend to happen.

That's what I like about OLPC.

A noble cause.

Humanity needs that, if nothing else.

[UPDATE: Check out the Libraries and Librarians with XO Laptops Flickr group]

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

library@esplanade has a blog

I bet you didn't know about the NLB Public Library's fourth blog: it belongs to library@esplanade -

Not surprising, since the blog is barely a month old.

library@esplanade » AboutFrom its first post:
Through this blog, we hope to engage you, our users, by:

1. Updating you quickly on what’s happening at the library@esplanade

2. Highlighting to you our special collections services, programmes and promotions

3. Providing you with the resources to spark your imagination through the performing arts

4. Allowing you to participate in shaping this blog through your reviews, thoughts and opinions about music, dance, theatre and film

Besides updates, you will be given glimpses into what goes on behind the scenes at the library and get to know the library@esplanade team. You will be treated to musings by our very own librarians and library staff. You can also look forward to exciting contests (yes, besides those we already have in the library!) where you can win prizes. We also hope many of you will contribute to the content of this blog.

I discovered my earlier post back in April 2005, where WrkShy shared how she'd started a blog for library@esplanade when it first opened in September 2002.

But the experimental blog (since taken down) didn't take off. I wrote about four possible reasons why it didn't:
  1. Starting a blog does not automatically mean that it would be read.
  2. Having a blog is just half the equation. What makes it complete is for users to subscribe to its newsfeeds.
  3. There needs to be a "voice" -- a personality -- to the blog. If not, it's just another website or online brochure.
  4. No links or tags to the blog.

Now that I'm older and wiser, with 3.5 years (only?) of blogging hind-sight, I should say I was right about points 1, 3 and 4 (about the links).

Having a blog certainly doesn't mean people will know about it (you didn't until you read this post, right?)

It certainly needs to have a voice (and I must commend my EPCL colleague, Peck Keong, for giving the library@esplanade blog just that -- considering that he wasn't an active blogger until he was tasked to write for the library blog).

There needs to be links (he's been incorporating YouTube videos and links to people featured in the blog). And I've also seen him make what I deem to be baby-steps in leaving comments in other people's blogs and facebook groups.

library@esplanade » Blog Archive » Two Guys, A Girl and Amanda

Now I'm not so sure if having RSS subscribers was a critical success factor. I used to think it was. But until today, RSS is still not well used by many people -- even bloggers.

I suppose what I was trying to say was there should be a regular following for the blog.

But even that would be wrong, I just realised.

Because having readers of the blog (either regular readers, or those who find their way via Internet search engines) is really an outcome of doing the right things for your blog.

And doing the "right things" mean writing in a manner that your readers can identify (i.e. having that appropriate "voice"), posting relevant content, using titles and words that people are likely to search, post frequently, linking to others, leaving meaningful comments in other blogs...

... I suppose the most elegant way to put it would be to quote from authors Shel and Scoble, from their book "Naked Conversations" published in 2006:
  • Blog with Passion (i.e. what you love)
  • Blog with Authority (i.e. what you know best)

It's not so much that blogging with Passion and Authority would result in readers per se.

It might not (for other reasons).

But at least it would mean blogging -- especially if its work-related -- becomes fun, relevant and sustainable for the blogger.

That's pretty fundamental.