Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Post-workshop reflections: Introduction to Blogging workshop for 10-year olds

Two sessions.

An hour and a half each.

Ten year-olds.

Thirty kids per session.

Total 60 kids.


MOE Language Arts Festival 2008, 28 May 08

But it was fun. I found myself enthused and inspired at the end of the day.

Nice kids. Not too rowdy (I managed to reason with them most of the time, heh). All were enthusiastic about learning new things (it helped that they signed up for the course themselves, rather than being asked to attend).

The session, on how to create and manage blogs, was designed and conducted for the MOE Language Arts Festival 2008. I'm pleased to say that both sessions went well, even though I've not taught 10 year olds how to blog (last year's session was something else).

Well, I did learn that I SHOULD NOT force the boys to work with the girls, unless they want to. So this year, I left them to choose the people they preferred to work with, or to work on their own.

Session Outline
The session covered basics like creating a blog with, publishing a post, editing and deleting posts, creating hyperlinks, adding photos, changing the blog design and layout, how to delete a blog, how to set their blog as private, and how to manage comments.

During the session, I also wove in examples of how they should not assume that photos on the Internet were for the taking (a common assumption among these children), and to exercise cyber-safety and responsible forms of expression.

And I reminded them to tell their parents of the Google account they've created, and their blog URL.

Problems & Opportunities
I'd tossed and turned in bed last night, 'cos I was playing out all possible scenarios of what might go wrong during the sessions.

For instance, poor Internet connectivity (didn't happen), students not having email addresses and not being able to create blogger accounts (a handful of them), and disruptive participants (none).

My biggest worry was not being able to cope with 30 students. I had one very capable and helpful student helper but normally, for a hands-on workshop, I'd preferred a ratio of Five participants to One trainer.

Fortuitously, in the morning session, five students already had blogger accounts prior to the session and had made tentative posts in!

Incidentally, I asked why they chose to attend this introductory workshop. I got mostly shrugs. Some said they wanted to see if there were more specific things to learn (I was successful to some degree, but expectations differed among these students).

Anyway, there I was, wondering how I'd cope with 30 students for a hands-on workshop.

Temporary Lab Assistants!
Then in a moment of inspiration, I asked if those five students could act as my Temporary Assistants for the workshop.

"Temporary" as in, to help out at specific segments in the workshop. The rest of the time they would be participants.

They were to go around helping other students sign up to blogger (or create email accounts before signing up with blogger).

At first, they didn't know how to react (maybe they've never been asked to be lab assistants).

Then they quietly went around helping.

I thought they were bored and was sorry that I had to make them help me. But they were quite happy to help, even if they weren't acting excited. Because at one point, I announced: "This student needs help. Can any of my Temporary Assistant come over here?"

To my surprise, all five of the Temp Assistants ran over (yes, ran in that crowded lab)!

I tell you, I could've hugged everyone of them. :)

Temporary Assistants in the Afternoon
For my afternoon, I sought out Temporary Assistants again. This time I approached it differently.

There were four kids who arrived at the lab about 30 minutes early. I asked if they had blogs with blogger. They didn't.

Then I asked if they could help me as Temporary Assistants. While we waited for the class to arrive, I would show them how to sign up and create a blog. Then when the class began, they would have to help others.

Three of them agreed (the fourth preferred to play an online game). I assigned them to look after individual sections of the class. One of them tended to be shy in helping other students, but she went about rendering help in her own quiet way.

I should've called them my Special Assistants instead.

Thanks, kids.

Mission accomplished
All 60 kids managed to create their own blogs using

The few who already had blogs also learned new things, like creating hyperlinks and managing the blog.

All indicated, via feedback forms, that the session was useful and interesting. Three of them indicated that they'd expected more though. I spoke to one of them to find out what they expected in terms of "more". Apparently they wanted to learn things like how to add new blog skins, tag boards, music players etc.

I think their peers can teach that part better than I can, heh.

These two comments made my day:

"It's cool! Although I'm in a girls school I learnt how to share knowledge with others by blogging" (from a boy, obviously)

"This is the most fun I have ever had in a computer lab"

More Photos from the Language Arts Festival 2008
MOE Language Arts Festival 2008, 28 May 08

MOE Language Arts Festival 2008, 28 May 08

MOE Language Arts Festival 2008, 28 May 08

MOE Language Arts Festival 2008, 28 May 08MOE Language Arts Festival 2008, 28 May 08

MOE Language Arts Festival 2008, 28 May 08

MOE Language Arts Festival 2008, 28 May 08

[Related: Post-workshop reflections - Excel Fest 2007]

Monday, May 26, 2008

Resource: Screenshots on "Creating blogs with" + "Selected Tips"

Published these posts over at BlogCourseDemo in preparation for two blog-related workshops that I've been asked to conduct this week:
Blogger: Create your Blog Now -- FREEBlogger: Choose a templateBlogger: My demo blog - Basic SettingsBlogger: Dashboard

One course will be on the 28th, for Primary school students (as a follow-up from last year). This year, we've made sure they'll get to create blogs, and learn things like creating links, commenting, and the basics of managing their blogs.

There will be two classes of 30 students each. My challenge will be to ensure all of them get to create and post stuff in their blogs without a hitch. There's always an element of uncertainty when it comes to "live" workshops.

The other workshop is for teachers attending the NLB/ MOE School Library Symposium on 30 May. It's structured specifically for teachers interested in using blogs and social media tools in the context of libraries.

I'll blog about the outcome of the sessions later.
[Post-workshop reflections: Introduction to Blogging workshop for 10-year olds, 28 May 2008]

Creative Commons License
This work by Ivan Chew is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. For permissions beyond the scope of this license , please contact via

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The 3rd LAS conference: Kishore Mahbubani - (Part 4)

[From Part 3]

I didn't know Mr. Kishore Mahbubani has a website ( until I'd searched for Internet references on him and his books.

He was the keynote speaker for Day-Two at the LAS conference.

His talk -- "Remaining Relevant in Tomorrow's World: How Libraries Can Serve the Young, Restless and Global Citizen".

With a title like that, and with his credentials, no wonder the room was packed.
Kishore Mahbubani, at the 3rd LAS conference

Dr N Varaprasad, Chief Executive of NLB, introduced him by sharing "three unique and unusual" things about Mr. Mahbubani:
  • The only President's Scholar from a neighbour school (Tanjong Katong Technical, if I didn't hear wrongly)
  • The only Sindhi in public service (The Sindhi people tend to go into businesses than government service)
  • He belongs to a small number of public servants who write about public policies while still in office
That's a pretty cool introduction.

Mr. Mahbubani started by sharing a personal story:

He was "fairly poor" while growing up. He remembered how he accompanied his mother to pick up the weekly welfare cheques.

He was the only one among his siblings who entered university. The main reason he was able to do so was because of the "Joo Chiat Public Library" (closed in June 1974).

"It's clear if Joo Chiat public library had not existed and I'd not gone for it, I wouldn't have been a President's Scholar. That's why I'm passionate about libraries and why you librarians should not give up the fight."

[Woah. You can pick up a tip or two on speaking effectively. A brief personal story with a hook, and hitting the mark with the 'fight' analogy.]

He continued that he sensed libraries faced a battle. "It's possible that libraries can be displaced by Internet," he says.

Mr. Mahbubani suggested that libraries relevance could be ensured if we serve these three main aims well:
  • The search for knowledge
  • The search for history
  • The search for meaning

It's something libraries can do best and are hard to replace, he says.

Search for knowledge
The biggest problem today is not about the lack of access to knowledge, but about information overload.

Mr. Mahbubani cited his personal example of how he failed in his attempts to understand Einstein's Theory of Relativity until he found Bertrand Russell's book, ABC of the Theory of Relativity

His point was that librarians can excel in identifying critical books that help explain the world better. The "sunrise mission for libraries", he suggested.

The search for history
He proposed that Asia was going through its own cultural renaissance, akin to what Europe experienced as it discovered its colourful past while coming out of the Dark Ages.

As new societies become affluent, they would want to reconnect with their past. That was one area where libraries should establish itself as a key player.

The search for meaning
"Some things never change," said Mr. Kishore Mahbubani.

Like the question: "Why are we living?"

Classical Literature was an important source, to him, on the meaning of life. He named two Russian novelists (one was Leo Tolstoy and I didn't catch the name of the other) whose works "changed his life" (though he didn't elaborate how).

Question: How do you persuade people to keep going back to books?
Mr. Mahbubani asked that question aloud, and responded by saying it's very easy to persuade children to read.

"Persuade mothers."

He felt that Singaporean parents could save themselves a significant about of money from paying private tuition if they started reading to their children, and making the child adopt a reading habit at a young age.

He said his own children have been admitted into "reasonably good universities" but they didn't have perfect SAT scores. He'd learned that majority of those who were rejected by Yale University had perfect SAT scores.

The difference (in being accepted or rejected) was not so much in academic achievements but in one's critical thinking skills.

He believed strongly that the cultivation of such a skill went hand in hand with the habit of reading (incidentally, that was one reason why his wife is an active volunteer for the KidsREAD programme, where volunteers would read to children from low-income families).

Librarians cannot be passive
Mr. Mahbubani recalled how "the librarian rarely engages in conversation with users" when he frequented the public library at Joo Chiat.

"Now, librarians cannot be passive."

He felt that librarians have to understand and help people go through "too much information".

He said a librarian's job scope was going to be more difficult. We would have to be equally good as our customers in using technology.

Books may survive. Or not.
He made this statement: "It is not yet certain whether books will survive".

He said editors of prominent newsprint publishers told him that the average age of their readers was around 45 to 50, and rising.

There is a need for libraries to find a balance between print and digital.

"If you deliver quality, they will read," said Mr. Mahbubani (which made me think of the Harry Potter series). He believed there will be a "flight towards Quality". Libraries have to identify and acquire Quality (content).

I took his point to mean that libraries should not be so hung up about content formats. Our focus should first be on acquiring content that readers would want.

Finally, he ended off by saying, "Don't worry, you are very much in a sunrise profession."

One participant (a NLB colleague, Gene) took up Mr. Mahbubani's point about "the war that libraries are engaged in" and wondered if libraries are fighting the wrong war if we emphasised too much on making content accessible -- a "war of access" -- which was a war that libraries could not hope to win compared to the lights of Google.

The same participant added that the next war librarians might have to fight was a "war of intelligence". On how we could make meaning out of those books. To be the Bertrand Russells.

Mr. Mahbubani responded that librarians have got to read. To understand the literature very well.

My Thinking Aloud: We need to be our own Champion
It was brilliant of LAS to have invited a person like Mr. Mahbubani to be a keynote speaker. I'm sure his speech gave hope to quite a few librarians -- a refreshing change from the pessimistic reality that librarians hear, and see, too often.

During Q&A, Ms. Sylvia Yap (Head, NUS Libraries) and Dr. Varaprasad both thanked Mr. Mahbubani for his support for libraries and librarians, and hoped that he would convey his passion for libraries to other senior government officials.

Which made me think: While we need champions and supporters like Mr. Mahbubani, we librarians also have to be our own champions.

Tell the world our names. Share about our profession. What keeps us going to work? What are we thinking about professionally?

If we librarians speak of the need to have champions of our own professions, we have to walk the talk as well.

It's important to have external champions. Especially people like Mr. Mahbubani.

But we cannot -- and should not -- just rely on others to champion our cause, no matter how distinguished these people may be.

If you're thinking, "Oh boy, once again Ivan is going to suggest that librarians should blog".

Yes, I am.

Blogging isn't the only medium to champion libraries and the work that librarians do.

But right now, I don't know of any other means or platform that's more efficient, inexpensive and more friendly than the blog medium.

Not all of us will have Mr. Kishore Mahbubani's eloquence and influence. Not all of us can publish books.

But we have to try to get our words and thoughts out.

The future of our profession -- our jobs -- may just depend on it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Silver in SF: Faculty Innovation Award

Congratulations, David!

[David Silver gets the CIT Technology Award at the University of San Francisco]
Blog post
YouTube video

There was some mention of his work with the Spring 2008 Davies Forum. I'm sure that was one reason for him winning the award.

Nice guy, that David Silver.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The 3rd LAS conference: Choy Fatt Cheong - (Part 3)

[From Part 2]

Choy said he hesitated to talk about Librarianship.

"It sounded like an old-fashioned word".

Originally uploaded by Damien Wang

He confessed that when he started out as a librarian (he came from an engineering background) he wasn't too comfortable with being called "a librarian".

But the word became more endearing to him over time.

Mr. Choy, the head of NTU libraries, was the keynote speaker on Day-One. He titled his talk: "Librarianship: What is it about now?

What we do everyday isn't science, he said.

But the term was still relevant; it puts the library in the centre.

(I agree with Choy. Calling myself the Rambling Information Specialist just doesn't have the same ring to it, heh).

Still, Choy suggested that the term "Librarianship" failed to adequately describe what librarians really did for a living.

He shared how he polled his NTU library colleagues on what librarians did, and a recurrent theme seem to focus on "serving users".

This contrasted sharply with the time when he started his career, where librarianship seem to be focused on buildings.

"Today we are much more obsessed with the relationship with users, for very good reasons," said Choy.

He asked these questions aloud:
  • Do users still want librarians to help them?
  • Are people concerned enough to spend time and effort to obtain reliable information?
(Which I took to mean: Will librarians still have jobs?)

He qualified that it wasn't that libraries of earlier years weren't interested in serving users. Just that libraries could afford to "treat their users with less enthusiasm". It didn't mean poor service, just that "user-centered thinking wasn't a high priority". Meaning, in the past, the content and access technologies were only available to librarians.

The need to gain user attention
Choy remarked that librarianship today demanded much more thought on "how to gain user attention".

Librarianship was no longer centred in the backroom but at the frontline.

Librarians need to be able to "strive in the hustle and bustle of human relationships".

Choy suggested that (university) librarians should offer to help teaching staff set up class blogs, or customise digital libraries for users.

Libraries as Intermediaries
The quality of information on the Internet is improving in quality.

One needs an intermediary (like librarians) when there are barriers (to information). But barriers to information are rapidly dissolving.

However, he felt that intermediation roles still exist: Rules for sharing resources, and negotiation with information sellers.

Libraries and librarians face two obstacles in trying to play the intermediary role:
  • We're not on users' radar screens
  • Users may not want us as part of their equation
Choy says "early intervention" is needed to instill "good information habits". He said not enough is being done.

He ended his talk by saying "the intensity in which we interact with users will determine the success of libraries".

Libraries should make use of our current user-centric approach. Librarians should modify our current skills to create new and innovative value-add fuctions.

Originally uploaded by Damien Wang

My Thinking Aloud
I think Choy's speech provided context to librarians who joined the profession in the last five years.

But to the "seasoned librarians", Choy offered no specific answers, really.

In truth, I don't think anyone can.

I wished Choy had gone more in-depth and shared specific examples of the changes he's implemented at NTU libraries since he took over as the head. I've heard news of some developments. Like the decentralising and creation of subject libraries, the hiring of more librarians.

For instance, I think during Q&A, Choy mentioned about how he faced skepticism (from colleagues, I presume) when he suggested that NTU librarians send a letter to every single new NTU student. To offer themselves as the individual student's personal librarian.

His point was that not every student would contact the librarian. I agree.

And even if they did, they may not make the contact all at once. Or if they really did (like, nearing exams or critical assignment periods), I'm sure a competent librarian would be able to anticipate all that and put out information in blogs or the library website.

But I suppose he didn't want to make his talk to be "about NTU". A shame, in thought. It seems to me they are doing good work there.

Maybe Choy should start his own blog.

I know he'll say he won't have time (we've had a similar conversation before, heh).

But I feel he'd be blogging not for himself, but for Singapore Librarians in general.

Afterall, he's been the president of LAS for several terms, a former NLB Board member, an academic, a entrepreneur who ran his own library consultancy business, and more. And now the head of NTU libraries.

I'm sure he has lots of anecdotes and insights to share.

I'm confident he'll be on some users' radar screen -- potential NTU students -- at the very least.

[Next: Part 4]

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The 3rd LAS conference: Selected photos - (Part 2)

[See also: Part 1]

My colleague, Damien, was the official LAS photographer on the first day. He informs me of the pictures he posted to Flickr (via this comment).

Might as well clarify here: If you've seen me with my laptop open, No, I Wasn't 'Live' Blogging!

I was trying to complete several reports that were due the next day. On my right is Kuan, a colleague of mine. And no, that's not a Macbook Air I'm using (I wish!)
3rd LAS Conference - I Am Not Blogging!
Originally taken by Damien Wang

Damien took these shots while I was answering The Question:

Originally uploaded by
Damien Wang

Originally uploaded by Damien Wang

Seemed like I was conducting a talk, LOL.

In truth, I was nervous 'cos I was totally unprepared for the question. Wished I'd been more confident in giving my answer (the USF speaking engagement came to mind). Ah well, you live and you learn.

Originally uploaded by davidsilver

On Day-two, some librarians had the privilege of attending a dinner reception at the Istana, hosted by the President of Singapore (I didn't attend though):
President S R Nathan and Mrs Nathan hosted the first ever reception for over 200 Librarians and information professionals at the Istana this evening. The President presented LAS Professional Service Awards to 3 recipients.
Damien has blogged about the dinner reception, here.

Originally uploaded by Damien Wang

Originally uploaded by Damien Wang

More photos can be found at Damien's photo sets:
[Next: Part 3]

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The 3rd LAS conference, (or "Does the Singapore Public Library have a National Marketing Strategy?") - Part 1

[Views expressed in this post are strictly my own and do not represent the official stand of my employer. This is also a long, rambling post. Consider yourself warned! :) ]

Today was Day One of the 3rd Library Association of Singapore (LAS) conference (8 - 9 May 2008).

3rd Library Association of Singapore (LAS) Conference

I'd planned to blog its highlights from the keynote speech and papers.

But a chance encounter with a Question changed all that (as you will learn soon enough).

The way I answered the Question nagged at me; a mental itch that I have to scratch away.

I decided to blog about it as catharsis.

But instead, I ended up with an idea for next year's conference theme.


The Question
During one particular Q&A segment, an overseas delegate asked the panel, "Is there a National Marketing Strategy for Singapore's public library services?"

I wasn't in the panel, you see.

I was standing way back in the room. Wasn't even listening to the question, to be honest.

The current LAS president, Ms. Ngian Lek Choh, who's also the Director of the National Library and the Deputy Chief Executive of the NLB, took the microphone.

I heard her say something about asking someone from the public library services.

Then I heard my name being called: "Where's Ivan Chew?"


Me? I'm not on the panel.

What was the question?

(I guess my other senior colleagues from PLS weren't at the conference, so I was next in line to answer the question).

So I pretended to be cool and walked the 30-metres to the front.

Oh boy.

Took the microphone.

Whispered to Ngian, "What was the question again?"

She told me.

I faced the delegate who asked the question.

"Don't ramble," I mentally instructed myself.

My Answer
"We don't have one," I said, in essence.

We have marketing activities but not a marketing strategy.

Mentioned three points: that individual branches may carry out publicity acitivites like branch anniversary celebrations, and that the respective Children's Services and the Adult & Young People's Services may have their own promotional activities. But no grand National level marketing strategy.

OK, I didn't ramble (which was good).

But I felt I didn't fully explained why I said "No" (which is not good).

My delivery was terrible, I think.

During the break that followed, I was swarmed by colleagues who, not unkindly, suggested I should've answered, "Yes". They felt our public library carried out marketing activities and equated that with a Marketing Strategy.

But I still argued we didn't have a Marketing Strategy by definition.

What's 'Marketing' and What's Not?
Many people tend to understand "Marketing" as being equal to promotional activities like loan promotions, publicity posters, marquee etc.

A "Marketing Strategy" IS NOT merely "marketing-related activities".

That's what I understand from the Marketing courses from my Business diploma, and my Management degree programmes.

Let's take a look at definitions.

Here's one from
Written plan (usually a part of the overall corporate plan) which combines product development, promotion, distribution, and pricing approach, identifies the firm's marketing goals, and explains how they will be achieved within a stated timeframe. Marketing strategy determines the choice of target market segment, positioning, marketing mix, and allocation of resources. See also strategic plan.

The Wikipedia entry is also quite comprehensive (as per the Marketing textbooks I've come across). Look at this extract from the "General Corporate Strategy":
1) Target Audience 2) Proposition/Key Element 3) Call to Action

I explained to my colleagues I was aware how we had marketing-related activities.

But activities like "Promotions", "Publicity" and "Public Relations" are really just elements in a Marketing Mix.

Those we certainly do it all the time in the Singapore Public Library context. Some of them are effective. But they don't necessarily make up a Marketing Strategy.

The 4-Ps alone do not make a Marketing Strategy.

Anyway, all that discussion got me thinking: What does a National Marketing Strategy for public libraries look like?

Examples of National Marketing Strategies for Public Libraries?
When I have that mental itch, I just have to get it resolved.

The conference venue had no free WIFI access, so I called up the Public Library's ASK! Service (what else?! heh).

Asked my colleague if he could help me find examples of national marketing strategies for public libraries in other countries.

He sent me these links (thanks, Soon Huat):

I think the UK example is the clearest example of a Marketing Strategy. It has both a Marketing Strategy and a Marketing Plan.

In their Marketing Strategy document, they attempt to answer these key questions:
  • What makes libraries special
  • What role we want them to play
  • How we want people to think and feel about public libraries
  • The most important messages we need to communicate
  • What kind of culture they should reflect
  • Our vision for the future of public libraries
They've also articulated the aims and goals of the marketing and communication activities. They outline different emphasis (and approaches) for different target segments.

Then the Marketing Plan provides another level of details on "how to act" and "what to do" to achieve the outcomes stated in the Marketing Strategy:
"It takes the research, analysis and creative thought and identifies a practical programme of activity that will deliver against the marketing objectives." (page 3, Marketing Plan)

A "Marketing Strategy" Theme for the next LAS conference?
This year's LAS conference is themed "Innovate to Serve!"

The programme line-up, while interesting and relevant to current themes (especially the Web 2.0 stuff), doesn't include Marketing.

Maybe next year's theme could be on Marketing Strategy at these two levels:
  • Sector-levels (Academic libraries, the Public library, the National Library, School libraries, Corporate/ Special libraries, and Government libraries)
  • National level

The question I had to answer this afternoon asked if the Singapore Public Library had a National Marketing Strategy.

In writing this post, I've realised that we should think about a Marketing Strategy for all libraries and librarians in Singapore, at the National level.

Singapore is a small country.

Something like this can be done. We can present and showcase to the world an integrated, complimentary and cooperative Marketing Strategy for libraries and librarians, as a country.

A National Marketing Strategy for libraries and librarians in the broadest sense.

The Singapore Library Week would be the perfect launch event.

I'd imagine workshops and symposiums to be held before the main conference. These workshop sessions would be intensive ones, where participants would be guided and be able to develop a reasonable draft of their Marketing Strategies at their Sector levels, and National level.

Then at the main LAS conference, these ideas and proposals could be presented for discussion and debate.

The ideal case would be for delegates to agree to the implementation of those plans (including endorsements and in-principle budgetary commitments) over a stated period.

Some of those proposals could be tabled at government and Ministerial levels.

Or presented at a press conference as a statement of intent; of the Singapore libraries and librarians' commitment to serve our users and customers.

OK, while I'm excited about the whole idea at this point, I'm aware that the reality may be just "all talk and no action". I mean, the papers could be presented but no resulting actions due to differences or difficulties in implementation.

But I don't see that as a bad thing.

Because at the very least, through such an exercise, participants would have gained an awareness and understanding of how to develop or implement Marketing Strategies and Plans, at least for their own libraries.

And if the Library Association of Singapore is able to pull off such an exercise -- to reach a stage where ideas and draft proposals for a National level Marketing Strategy for Libraries in Singapore -- I say the association would have (further) proved its relevance as a professional organisation.

[Next: Part 2]

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Singapore Police Force in YouTube (or "Should our SPF have a blog?") - Part 3

[From Part 2]

If the Singapore Police Force (SPF) can find a handful of officers who (1) are passionate about their jobs, and (2) can write and think like a blogger, then I think they really should consider starting a blog.

Not a "outreach blog" but a "Community-Engagement" blog.

Singapore Police Force

By "engagement" I mean on two fronts: Its own blog space (i.e. allow people to comment) and other people's blogs (i.e. comment on other people's spaces and this includes platforms like Facebook, YouTube etc).

A Singapore Police Force (SPF) Community-Engagement blog: Youth Issues

First, the blog.

Focus on a specific issue. I'd suggest "Youth-related issues" rather than all crime-related alert (those can be directed to the main SPF website).

For instance, I'd like to know what are the common cases the police officers face on a daily basis in dealing with young people. Not necessarily offenders.

What are their success stories in working or dealing with youths? What are the heartaches?

Or how about posts to warn students that "low crime doesn't mean no crime"?

Personally, I'd publish a post with a title that screams: Don't leave your wallets or mobile phones unattended in the public libraries!

Question: "But if SPF starts a blog, wouldn't that open up the Pandora's box, i.e. receiving tons of comments about say, the Mas Salamat issue?"

My response: Set expectations first.

Take the LAPD blog for instance. At the right column, it clearly says comments will only be published after being vetted. It also informs what are the appropriate channels to direct certain enquiries and feedback.

I've said it many times and I'll say it again: "It's not so much about What you write but How you write it".

If I were the SPF Corporate Communications staff, I will post something about the Mas Salamat case in this hypothetical "SPF Youth Outreach blog".

But I'll just post exactly what is posted at the main SPF website, like this instance:
Singapore Police Force

Comments can be selectively published, i.e. the disclaimer in the blog.

Or turn off the Comment feature for that post and write something like: "We won't be publishing any comments for this post. But we welcome you to submit your enquiries to this email address..."

Question: "But wouldn't [the police force blog] get criticised for censoring my views? If so, why start a blog in the first place?"

My response:
(1) There will always be critics. Those who'd criticise you would do so anyway. If the purpose and focus of the blog is clear, then I feel it's reasonable to set certain terms and conditions of use.

(2) What censorship? No one's stopping commenters from starting their own blog and publishing their comments about SPF. If they do so factually and responsibly, then it's to SPF's benefit.

Police officers who are bloggers as well as police officers
It's not enough to just start a blog.

The second part of the equation is to encourage and empower the staff blogger to go out there and leave meaningful comments. As mentioned earlier in this post, engagement should be on two fronts.

Set up google alerts to "listen" to what others are saying in their blogs (I realise we're talking about a Police Agency here, but if you wish to interpret this in a negative way, that's your prerogative, heh)

Not every post out there deserves your response. Only those you deem necessary.

If nothing else, then getting actual police officers to blog and share personal views (but not official secrets) is a great recruitment tool. I'm sure it will give insights to what makes the Singapore Police Force tick.

One example I know is the Singapore Nurses Blog <>. I'll find time to blog about that separately.

Singapore Police Force in YouTube (or "Should our SPF have a blog?") - Part 2

[From Part 1]

Police agencies and Blogs
Speaking about the police force and new media, I always like to cite the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) blog -

I remember LAPD as one of the first (and maybe the only?) police force to use a new media platform in support of their official website.

The tone of the blog is NOT conversational. It doesn't speak to the reader. In fact, the blog posts are the same as their official news release (compare this, with this).

But the blog allows comments (whereas it might be distracting to have public comments peppered all over the official LAPD website).

The LAPD blog was very focused on publishing crime updates. Which meant I could subscribe to the feeds and get the latest and complete list of alerts and updates without having to visit their website every other day.

I also saw the value of the LAPD blog as an additional channel to solicit feedback, and to extend their reach.

In fact, I visited the LAPD official website AFTER I discovered their blog.

Should our police force (SPF) have a blog?
I used to think that our Singapore Police Force (SPF) should have a blog like LAPD's.

But that was before they revamped their website, as I just learned. I remember their site used to have a flashy landing page, where I had to click Enter, and then it brought me to a homepage that was cluttered looking. I didn't know where to start.

Now the SPF website looks like this:
Singapore Police Force

Less clutter, loads faster, and easier to find my way around.

Their center page really looks like a blog post that featured headlines and introductory sentences. Click on the headlines to read more. Works like a blog within the main official website.
Singapore Police Force

The "article link" is really a link to the individual press release:
Singapore Police Force - Media Information Centre

SPF ought to create a RSS feed for this section. It would make it really "blog-like".

And if they add categories (like "Missing Persons", "Unsolved Cases", "Public Information Needed") for each "post" or news release, that would facilitate browsing of information.

Oh, add a search engine too.

Those features -- the RSS feeds, the post categories, the search engine -- they can be easily incorporated .

So, I don't think SPF really need to have a blog per se.


Suppose SPF really does start a blog? What should it blog about? I have some ideas to share at the next post.

[Next: Part 3 - Ideas for a SPF Community-Engagement blog]

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Singapore Police Force in YouTube (or "Should our SPF have a blog?") - Part 1

Thanks to David for pointing me to the Singapore Police Force's (SPF) YouTube Community Outreach page:
YouTube - SpfCommunityOutreach's Channel

I watched this video. And I thought people of all ages, especially younger people at the age when they think they have all the time in the world, should watch it and listen to what those young people are saying in the video.
YouTube - SpfCommunityOutreach's Channel

Good move by the SPF.

The videos are already produced. Their aim is to get the message spread as widely as possible. Their target audience (young people) use digital mediums. Very logical.

As an employee of a government agency, I automatically note how they've allowed comments.

I think three years ago, the prevailing wisdom might be to turn OFF all comments, and even disallow embedding of codes. That is, if they even allow themselves to use a platform like YouTube.

Slow but steady progress, I guess. Heh.

From Local to Global in a matter of bytes
Singapore Police Force
It's also an example of how, by using a service like YouTube, their videos which were produced with local audiences in mind are now watched by a global audience.

I'd imagine people from a foreign country watching the videos and forming their perceptions about Singapore.

An implication being that any organisation that uses YouTube or similar video sharing sites for their outreach programmes have to consider local and global viewers.

I'm not saying SPF has to produce their videos for non-Singaporeans. I'm saying it's a point to be considered.

Next: Part 2, on 'Police agencies and Blogs'

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Cheaper (and Flexible) Solar Panels

It's the time of the year where the daytime temperature's hovering between 31 to 33 degrees Celsius. I come home to an apartment that feels like a brick oven. The fans are merely circulating the hot air around. I guess if baked potatoes could talk, they'd say "Now you know how we feel, buddy!"

Today I caught another documentary about Alternative Energy. This episode from the History Channel featured Plastic Solar Panels (a research project that has now been commercialised; see and also this article and this one).
Konarka can power electrical devices - Konarka's Technology


That got me to think about Solar Panels.

Imagine, each of my window pane (at least 12 in my apartment faced the sun directly, all day long) capturing solar energy to power some of my household appliances. Perhaps excess energy could be stored in energy-efficient batteries.

But large scale "conventional" solar cell production and installation is more expensive than current oil/ gas-based sources.

Which substantiates the HDB's position, as seen from their reply to a Cut Waste Panel suggestion (dated January 2005).
Based on current technology, the theoretical power generated by solar panels covering HDB rooftops would be only 3% of total electricity demand. In addition, the cost of generating solar energy is higher than that derived from other sources like oil and gas. Hence, for now, it is still not feasible to install solar panels on the roof-tops of HDB flats to cater to the demand of the residents.

Interestingly, in a February 2005 Straits Times article (posted at, an NUS academic argued that while the cost of solar cells were a real concern, one should not merely evaluate its implementation in just monetary terms.

I believe since 2005, HDB's position might have changed slightly.

At an Eco-buildings Conference in March 2007, the Minister for National Development said in his speech:
There will be solar panels to generate energy for lighting in common areas [in HDB estates].

And as I learned from Sparklette who visited the HDB Gallery in April 2007, the (selective) use of solar panels will become reality (if it hasn't by now).

According to this New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) press release (dated July 2007), the Plastic Solar Panels are cheaper and easier to make than conventional solar cells, so much so that:
"Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations."

I look forward to that day.