Making Light of Things

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The State of Digital Health Today

The democratisation of media has been one of the largest events in recent human history. The power to speak to the masses, once available only to a privileged few, is now made commonplace in the pockets of everyone with a mobile internet connection.

We are now surrounded by the products of this reality: blogs, social media posts, tweets, YouTube videos, Instagram and Snapchat photos and stories. Many of us share almost as a force of habit.

It has become time to rethink that habit.

Don’t get me wrong, many amazing and wonderful things have come forth from being able to share our experiences and perspectives, but I have been thinking hard over the past couple of years as to where things might have gone awry. The relentless push to make content generation easier and easier has led to a proliferation of overly-simplistic and malformed ideas; which in turn has incapacitated us with infinitesimal attention spans.

We have become a society that is not only unable to produce competently crafted content, but also to appreciate its complex flavours. The ramifications of this are widespread and dire. Politics - an arena that draws power from populism - is reduced to a pandering to the emotion du jour, and less about solving real societal issues which are endeavours that outlast the lifespan of a viral post or tweet.

That is the core of the issue, isn’t it? That in our drive to make content more easily generated and shared, we have shortened the lifespan of issues ideas, but the implementation of solutions to real problems require much longer timeframes. The twitchy and fickle waves of social sentiment become counter-productive to the ones who put their noses to the grindstone. It is slowly becoming impossible to find anyone who would devote large portions of their lives to solving big problems, both because the personal cost on these individuals is too great, and it is easier to focus on short-term project-based work because the risks are lower and the rewards more immediate.

Looking at my own online evolution from frequent long-form blogging to tweeting to instagramming, this has been true. I have often neglected writing in lieu of the quick photo, and many ideas and opinions have dissipated because of a reluctance to rigour. I am appalled at the deterioration of my ability to find words or construct sentences to convey thought.

Some things have to change.

The Golden Age of the Internet

The internet is always changing, its complexion the nexus of technological leaps and cultural fickleness, each affecting each other in an endless spiral. Arguments could be made about whether the spiral has generally led upward or downward.

It’s been twenty-something years since I first connected my external USR 28.8 to my computer’s LPT port and scoured for numbers of neighbourhood bulletin boards. The internet of today is such a different place, and I can’t help but reflect nostalgically on the past, what was beautiful about those times, and perhaps how we can recreate that magic for this new generation of digital natives.

The late 1990’s to early 2000’s was perhaps my favourite era of the internet. In terms of tech markers, we saw the arrival of the 33.6 and subsequently 56k modems; IRC was at its height; and Napster was the staple of all college networks.

Culturally, it was a vastly different place from the internet of today. For starters, it was a much smaller place. Large IRC networks like DalNet and EfNet brought together tens of thousands of users on really busy days, but smaller networks we frequented like GalaxyNet numbered in the thousands. You mostly stuck to the same few channels, much like how the characters in Friends would gather at Central Perk all the time.

The bandwidth speeds at that time were conducive to text-only interfaces and afforded the occasional image file. This meant people went by their chosen internet nicknames and not graphical avatars. Everyone started out anonymous, and it was only after many deep conversations where you’d learn the other person’s name, where they were from, or even their gender. I can’t even begin to tell you how liberating that was for a scrawny dark-skinned introvert like me.

The more I think about it, the more I am led to believe that what was special about that era of the internet was that it was populated by introverts. We invented blogging because we wanted a way to speak to the world without having to make eye contact with others. We had so much pent up inside of ourselves, and the ecstasy of finding others who underwent the same journey we did and understood was indescribable.

We understood how fragile all this was; how quickly it could be lost. Even when we organised the next inevitable step of actually meeting up with each other we did it so cautiously. We pondered over and over whether meeting face to face would change the relationships we had. If others would judge us by our outward appearance or social standing, or if our views would be discounted because they found out how young we really were.

Enter the internet of today, a confluence of broadband speeds, ubiquitous high-quality video cameras, and the possibility of fame made sustainable by online advertising. Enter the extroverts. Enter selfies - a million of them a day. Enter personal video channels where everybody can be their own talkshow host. Enter heavily photoshopped avatars.

We all love what continuous innovation in technology brings us. That Mandy Harvey could overcome her hearing disability to put on a stirring audition at America’s Got Talent is the tip of the iceberg of new possibilities we have today that weren’t there yesterday. We celebrate when anyone overcomes personal disabilities and gains acceptance.

The internet of today is a vastly more crowded space, and it often seems only those who are savvy self-promoters stand a chance of being found and appreciated. The bright lights and glitzy glamour is attractive to many, but the introverts have all but slinked away. In all the noise, we wonder if it’s worth speaking up to be heard. It has become that much harder to find each other.

I am thankful for the people I’ve met in my early years, and if you’ve been here reading I hope you know how much you mean to me. But I’m constantly thinking of how we can make this internet a more inclusive place with halls filled with bright lights, and also more intimate spaces where whispers can be heard. I’d like us to regain that sense of reverence and awe, to relearn how fragile great communities really are: how beautiful and precious each individual, and how we cannot go about our blustering ways expecting everyone to grow thicker skin.

I miss you and the times we could share the real things that matter. I miss the times we sat down and thought carefully about how we could make everything better for everyone.


There has been so much I wanted to capture here: the joyful moments during these holidays with the kids, or how fast Joshie is growing up. But I can’t bring myself to write anything happy because whenever I think about blogging, I head over to Eric Meyer’s blog and reread what he wrote as his daughter slowly died.

My heart breaks into a million pieces as I read about how he had to tell her that their search for a cure for her cancer failed. My throat literally goes dry, my eyes well up and I grieve.

Rethinking Core Values

Had a dream last night where I was back in the army. As the rest of the guys went through some sort of marksmanship obstacle course, I found myself sitting it out and feeling lousy for not being able to contribute to the unit’s score.

That’s been a feeling that has defined quite a bit of who I am for my adult life.

When I was in school I never saw the need for homework, and for the most part, never did it for the subjects I knew I’d never pursue anyway. It felt like it took too much effort to move thoughts from my head to paper.

So I’ve had a decade of schooling with many teachers who labelled me as lazy out of sheer exasperation. I didn’t think I was - I just wanted to spend time on more important things like daydreaming. Come to think of it, the time spent making fighter jets out of mechanical pencils and rulers gave me a pretty solid foundation in physics. I’ve yet to test my theories on manipulating spacecraft in zero gravity, borne from hours and hours spent playing with the geometry set we used in primary four.

It was in the polytechnic where I applied myself a little more diligently, but it was in the army where I learnt that limits were figments of the imagination, meant to be broken when a higher purpose called for it. It was there where I found that you could hone your body to run almost endlessly so long as you had food and water.

But it was also in the army where I tore my shoulder and had to drop out of training. I compensated by helping the unit out any way I could as a dropout. I swung around the monkey bars at the obstacle course with a piece of cloth to keep them dry for my mates so they’d have a better grip. It was only when I washed my hands that I discovered that the skin had shorn off my palms.

Looking back, I’ve really taken this mentality into my approach to work. Just in the last few years I’ve pulled myself back to the office four days after a hernia operation, totally ignored a nasty fall off my skatescooter where I hurt my elbow and wrist, and in the last few days, worked with sinusitis that makes me face feel like it is about to implode.

It is not that I serve under oppressive bosses. My bosses have been more than nice. Some part of me just ascertained, rightly or wrongly, that the mission objectives are greater than myself.

But I no longer have the immunity of youth, and putting my own wellbeing at the very bottom of family, work and country is really starting to take it toll. The sage advice has something to do with marathons and sprints, and well-meaning friends and family are probably right dispensing this advice.

I miss writing, taking photographs, and daydreaming. I’m probably more effective when I do these things habitually, and at some point I will need to rework my life to include time for rejuvenation and reimagination.

I hope to blog more. It’s been a good 13 years.

Nihilo Sanctum Estne?

My dearest friends, I have been writing here for more than 12 years now, and some of you have been reading my ramblings for almost as long. In the last couple of years posts have been a lot less frequent, somewhat due to the nature of my work, but more largely due to the stage of life I’m at.

Over the last decade of writing I have been, as I have been described only this morning, “an open book”. I still believe in openness and authenticity of speech, but these days my decision to be the open book I’ve always been involves more than just myself. While Faith has been ever the supportive wife, I tread carefully when writing about my children. I cannot in the chronicling of my life compromise the privacy of their childhood. Those stories are theirs to share if and when they are ready.

I finally downloaded Day One, the beautifully designed journaling app for both mobile and desktop. It is stunning in its minimalism and simplicity, though I wish it allowed the use of video as a means of journaling (it currently does text and photos).

Choosing the Chosen of Choice

Last week I had lunch with a successful Singaporean businessman who is now in his 60s. He had seen the world and lived in different cities. Halfway through the meal I decided to ask him, “What made you choose Singapore?”

He paused, thought for a moment, and replied, “To be honest, this is the place I feel least foreign.” He went on to talk about the places he had lived in, and how no matter how close he was with his friends there, a certain element of alienation existed. He added, “at some point in my life I made a choice. I chose that Singapore would be the place; that I could make a difference here, however large or small.”

That moment of clarity rang true for me. So many of us wander through life looking for the perfect home, the perfect partner, the perfect life — without realising that perfection is a quest in motion, not an end state. And that the quest begins only when we commit ourselves to it.

Today marks the 12 year of this blog. I remember the date because 12 years ago, on February 13th, Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, I had the fever of my life coupled with back spasms and thought I was going to die. It was then I decided to crawl to my desk and on to my chair, learn HTML and started this blog. Everyone in the dormitory had gone home for the holiday, and the blog was a means to reach out to my family many, many miles away. It was meant to add a trace of permanence should the fever claim my life that day.

I lived. And continued writing. And now, reading my old posts, I realise that many things have changed since, and I am thankful to have chronicled them. Starting a family with the most beautiful girl in the world; the birth of our two amazing children; the death of a close friend; many wonderful people I have had the privilege of knowing when the online community was small, only to have the years pull them into the stampeding crowd of Facebook profiles.

I am thankful to have written. I am thankful to still be writing. It was a choice I made, lying at what I thought was death’s door, though now looking back in retrospect I do not know whether to laugh at my adolescent penchant for over-dramatising everything, or the fact I turned to HTML for Dummies in my time of need.

My post for this Valentine’s Day has to do with choices. Not so much about debating which choice is right, but that at some point in our lives, we need to stop running away, stop hedging our bets, and commit.

Make the moments count.


It’s hard to imagine I started this blog 10 years ago.

It was the weekend of Martin Luther King holiday, and all the dormitories were empty then — everyone had gone home for the long weekend. The weather was cold, and I was suffering from the worst fever of my life. I had back spasms; it hurt to stand up or to lie down and my whole body was trembling non-stop.

There, thousands of miles away from home, I seriously thought I was going to die.

I wanted to tell the folks back home of my plight, and instead of calling home, I decided to haul my very sick body on to my chair, learn HTML, and wrote my first blog entry. The first design had notepad lines and was adorned with animated Calvin and Hobbes gifs.

Blogger hadn’t existed yet, so we all coded our online journals by hand.

The seemingly stupid decision to craft HTML instead of seeing a doctor that day changed my life. More than the fact it led to my current profession, the small blog community was close-knit. Folks like Nick Pan and Jimmy Liew were my first comrades into the field of web standards. Nick’s wife Pearl drew the most stunning illustrations at Dawn Mikulich had the most subtle and beautiful minimalist blog “A Life Uncommon”. There used to be a young teenager named Sarah who always left comments of encouragement in my guestbook (we didn’t have comments then).

It’s really been a while, and we’ve lost a lot of great bloggers along the way.

The blogosphere feels different these days. You could say that the loud blaring voices of PR agencies killed what we had going. When blogs hit the mainstream, followed by social media, it heralded the end of the living room and ushered in the marketplace.

At the risk of sounding too geeky: I miss how real and authentic online connections used to feel.

The Speed of Spread

Probably an act of misinformation I should have corrected earlier, but the last two weeks of my life was replaced by a flash of green, the smell of musty army equipment and the absence of any decent computing input device.

The Nokia E91 is a window of freedom, but its tiny keypad makes Twitter’s 140 character limit a godsend.

So a couple of weeks ago I blogged about the premature demise of my favourite teacher in all the world, only to receive an email from same said teacher, a Facebook invitation to connect and a comment to the blog entry.

He is alive and well.

My initial reaction wasn’t to panic that I had perpetuated “news” of his passing on to what could be a sizable number of people. It was one of relief.

Then my inner geek took over and I began analysing how misinformation is spread. My initial source of information was credible: a personal friend and a student at the same school, many years my junior. But names are tricky, and it was another Mr. Ng who suffered an untimely demise.

This probably won’t be the last time I blog, tweet, facebook or transmit misinformation, especially emotive pieces that spur one’s instinct to react. But if anything, it is a personal case study on the importance of triangulating information versus the trigger-happy gen-y tendency to broadcast.


A story based on discussions at last night’s Open Room. An analogy of the relationships between storytellers (old and new), their audience and advertisers.

You could say I’m blessed. I’ve been coming to the same watering-hole for the last 2 years. The lounge lizards still turn and stare at me whenever I walk through the doors, all of them hungry for my attention. I know the game; I offer them fleeting glances from time to time, feeding their hope. Some do get lucky, but mostly out of my whim. It is amusing to watch them scramble about, wondering what it is they did “right” that night. As if my choice were a direct result of their action. The guessing keeps them busy, and I get to maintain the titillation of intrigue.

Many people ask why I keep coming back to this place. Simply put, there is no better bartender in the next 4,000 miles. Oh, and the drinks are free. Or at least they were.

You see, John, the huge bloke sitting in that corner, used to pay for all my drinks. I used to give him the time of the day, but less so these days. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know why I’m not as into him as I used to be. It’s probably because of all the new guys in town: all interesting in their own cute way, and terribly distracting. Not all of them were good guys, a couple tried to get Bill the bartender to slip pills into my drinks.

It was embarrassing the first time I ordered my usual vodka martini (twist of lemon rind) and was asked to pay up. Didn’t Bill know who I am? I was infuriated that he would quibble over so small an item. For god’s sake, it’s just a bloody drink. Not wanting a scene, Bill finally caved and continued giving me free drinks.

That was 6 months ago. Now Bill says he needs to close down the bar because of financial reasons. Stupid bloke should have seen this coming before he set up shop in this god-forsaken town where I’m his only customer. I only hope I can still hit him up for a few more freebies before he heads out of town.

Pay for drinks? Are you friggin’ kidding me?!?

The Empress' New Clothes

Our story begins, as many stories do, with the fury of a woman scorned. It was’s first anniversary, and they held a blog awards ceremony. An up-and-coming blogger, Jayne had secured 4 of the 11 awards, a remarkable feat by any standards. However, as the ambitious are wont to do, Jayne threw a hissy fit when she didn’t win the largest award of them all.

Depending on whose account you heard, you either came away with the conclusion that people ought to learn how to lose graciously, or that the people in “power” were abusing their godlike status.

Fast-forward to present day. Jayne announces the registration of the Association of Bloggers (Singapore):

“Association of Bloggers (Singapore) is a non-profit association. It is dedicated to promoting, protecting and educating its members; supporting the development of blogging as new media. I hope eventually it can help to provide legal assistance to bloggers too. It is a professional body for bloggers in Singapore.”

This association was created, if anything, to coalesce power.

“[Singaporean bloggers were] easily manipulated and even banned for standing up against the foreign tyrant from self-proclaimed ‘community meta weblog for Singapore bloggers’.”

And if Jayne’s own blog posts are anything to go by, the association has a maniacal leader at its helm.

Personal disclaimer: I am a civil servant, a fact made publicly known numerous times in all my online discussions. I find Jayne’s broad sweeping attacks on public servants extremely hurtful and uncalled for.

I believe that a person who judges another by the place he is born (Chua Uzyn … is a ‘foreign talent’, educated in Singapore, enjoying our subsidies) should not be in a position to educate anyone.

It is my hope that the Singapore blogosphere would evolve to be an environment that fosters creativity and intellectual discourse. Starting behind a web of hypocrisy and an insatiable thirst for power is a bad place to start.

Attention Deficit

One of the reasons why its been hard to keep Tribolum updated is that I’m stretched a little thin over too many blogs. There’s Websg, where I keep the more technical stuff going (currently also terribly neglected) and my photolog, which has been a zen garden for me. Photography packs so much without the bustle of superfluous words.

There’s so much I want to say, but even more I want to feel; want you to feel.


To me the best thing about all this web 2.0 fanfare is the push towards open information. RSS, mashups, Google - all made possible because of information sharing.

The tricky bit arises when drawing the line between sharing and stealing. In his latest post, Greg Storey from Airbag calls theft on Flickr user Allig8torx for poaching photos from File Magazine (see FM’s Untitled by Byron Barett and Allig8tor’s astica3). Several Airbag readers defend Allig8tor (the nick is becoming such a pain to type), as it is possible that he’s just using Flickr as an online repository, rather than passing the photos off as his own.

Regardless of intention, the publication of someone else’s photos are a violation of intellectual property rights, unless permission is sought and obtained.

But what of aggregation? Surely there is added value when these individuals scour and collect the best resources out there and compile them for the rest of us. Patrick Haney’s Web Design Inspiration, also hosted on Flickr, is an invaluable resource. The works displayed aren’t his. I doubt expressed permission was sought in these cases as well.

The main difference is that Patrick attributes his sources. The URL of every site is listed; nothing was done to obscure the brand of the website. Not only does Allig8tor not name his sources or attribute the creators of the photos, he renames them in his set. It’s not exactly claiming them to be his own, but it removes all trace of ownership.

Mid-week Sigh

It’s Wednesday evening, and I’m so wishing for a nice long holiday.

I spent last Saturday doing housework, upgrading all my sites to Movable Type 4 and coding After some years of neglect, I decided to brush off the dust and put the pictures up again.

More than half full

I’ve been playing around with the Movable Type 4 beta quite a bit and here’s the verdict: It will rock your socks.

The user interface is slick, bugs are being quashed in record time and MT4 is becoming the full-fledged content management system all of us wanted.

I am so glad I stuck it out. Thanks MT folks!

Dear Six Apart,

I’ve used MovableType since you guys started, but nostalgia isn’t an extremely compelling reason. I’d really love to stay. Please tell me you’re working on some really cool stuff for MT.

I’m getting comment spam in the thousands. Anyone out there has a solution?

Social Butterflies

Last Saturday, we met up and played gods in our little social media sandbox. No one paid much attention, not even after we took out our toys.

Gadgets Galore


Back in 2000 when I started this blog, Blogger was a godsend. It made life easier. I’d no longer need to edit my archive pages whenever I added an entry, or cut and paste the little pieces of javascript I modified from a guestbook that enabled comments. It automated my online ramblings. And ramble I did.

There’s an odd weariness in the online air. Grandfather Zeldman is tired, and if you look around, Doug Bowman and Ryan Sims have stopped writing, Dan Cederholm and Dave Shea update once every solar eclipse.

I find myself sapped of enthusiasm, not because I have nothing to say, but because I seem to have outgrown the blog format. Greg sums it up best:

When content is forced through a entry-commment-trackback-pagerank strainer it all comes out looking the same no matter how the templates are designed. Sure this format is functional but it’s more like a Maersk shipping container than a Volvo s50. This is fine for commercial purposes, the blog is certainly the must-have online marketing device, but I miss those days when content wasn’t confined to categories, calendars, and links to vote a piece of content into a popularity contest.

I’ve grown as a designer over the years, and I feel the need to express myself in richer, fuller ways. There have been so many times I’ve wanted to design an entire page around something I blogged about. It’d have visual elements relevant to what I wanted to say. I eventually took, like I’m taking now, the lazy way out.

There is so much I want to tell you, but words got in the way.

Maybe it’s time to unblog. We have unconferences like Barcamp. It’s time to shake things up and code like it’s 1995 again.

The Advent of the Professional Blogger

Wait a minute, they’ve been around for ages, you say.

Yes we have the Dooces, Kottkes and Andrew Sullivans, but blogging isn’t a mainstream occupation. Yet.

I do foresee it becoming a “real” job in the very near future.

First off, bloggers need to realise that no one in their right minds will ever pay you to write whatever you want. Companies and organisations will only pay you to write what they want. It’s very simple, but somehow this message gets lots in the whole “but this is my blog” argument. The guy who pays the bills calls the shots.

This era of online publishing has empowered even the technologically clueless, giving them the power to reach the masses. Where it used to take a medium-sized agency to produce a publication that would reach a significant audience, a small team or even an individual is now able to do so.

The blogger for hire will be an option for companies who need to reach the masses, or who are currently paying too much for too little. Depending on your budget, you will be able to employ a blogger who is able to write, take photographs, create videos, soundbites, design webpages or work a layout for a print publication. The cost of mass communication has fallen, and the selling point these days is immediacy and honesty.

Advertisers are mercenary folks who consider selling ice to eskimos the highest compliment they can give their peers. Evangelists are advertisers who drank your company’s kool-aid. They believe in your product and endorse the values of your company. Evangelists are the best advertisers you can ever have, especially the ones not on your payroll.

How does all this tie in? Where once you needed a large enough group of evangelists to make a difference (think Apple), now you just need a small group skilled enough to herd the masses. The tipping point has shifted and is now more accessible, especially to smaller companies who live by their product and not their annual advertising budget.

New Media Anne-alogy

Anne at BreakfastFaith, Anne and I were having breakfast downstairs this morning. After a few mouthfuls of toast and a few spoonfuls of soft-boiled egg Anne decides to grab a spoon and help herself to the egg. She’s not really making great progress, but manages to smear her face with egg. Things get a little messy and we end up using half a pack of tissue paper to clean up the mess.

A train of thought ensued:

  1. Maybe we should buy toy utensils so Anne could play with them and practice feeding herself without the mess of splattered food.
  2. What if she associates all utensils with play? That’d make a heck of a scene in a restaurant.
  3. Should we stop her from playing with utensils altogether?
  4. But it’s a necessary skill that comes with growing up.
  5. Maybe she already is old enough to feed herself real food, and there’s no need for the plastic toys.

This was, in my own opinion, a perfect analogy of the decisions the Singapore government have before them with regards to online publishing. Are they going to take a sandbox approach? They would have to realise that online publishing has and will continue to step into mainstream media. Will they clamp down on it with an iron fist? This would definitely stifle the maturity of Singaporeans and cause a mass exodus of the slightly more intellectually adventurous.

But the big question is, are we mature enough we feed ourselves?

Anne, with a face full of egg, thinks she is.

Rolling with it

Companies usually get all freaked out when the blogosphere says something negative about their product. But here’s a model example of how you should deal with it.

Factory City writes about “neat Mac apps that help you concentrate”. He writes about Pzizz, an application which he says is useful but expensive. Rather than enter into a debate justifying the arguably high price, Edward Laing from Pzizz leaves a comment on the blog giving Factory City readers a discount.

So here you have it. Great execution, Edward!

What do you do if you have a really crappy product and the blogosphere picks up on it? Sorry dude, there’s no cure for a lousy product in the new economy. You may cheat us of a quick buck, but we communicate too fast for you to make a long-term career hoodwinking us.

Brownout - Why mr brown got canned

Standard disclaimer applies here, as it does to all of this site, that I write on a personal level and do not represent any views held by my employer…yadda yadda. You get the idea. Though I am aware riding on this train may get me fired.

When I read Kin Mun’s article on Today I knew immediately that this article was very different from the ones he normally writes. It was less tongue-in-cheek and more angsty. There is an impotence that comes with being humourous; the joker, whose presence is acknowledged, is never used in a game of poker where real money is at stake. If you follow mr brown’s archives you’ll see that he has become increasingly political of late, drawing national attention with the bak chor mee podcast.

Summarising it in roadside vernacular, hiding behind humour is like wrapping yourself in a sarong and hoping Superman can’t see you naked. He only pretend he didn’t see. MICA’s response to mr brown’s article wasn’t Superman using his x-ray vision to carefully analyse the arguments. It was Superman shooting laser beams out of his eyes and frying mr brown’s balls.

Continue reading Brownout - Why mr brown got canned »

Tomorrow's Imperfect Democracy

BlinkyMummy writes an arguably humourous post about how editors refuse to publish her content on the Singapore blog aggregator. Of course, to quell such allegations and to add a tinge of irony, the editors publish her complaint.

Now I’m going to assume she was being somewhat serious, because hiding behind humour and then saying you didn’t really mean it provides some form of protection from being made the next Singapore exile / bankrupt / bad guy.

First of all, I think it is unfair to expect to be a perfect democracy, where everybody gets everything they want. Though I haven’t lived on this fair earth long enough to see kingdoms tumble and civilisations being built, I’m pretty sure there is no such thing. And simply doesn’t set out to be one.

Let’s look at the model here: Lots of members and a few editors. Members submit links, editors approve links they think are interesting. Editors are in positions of power. Yes they abuse them. editor Agagooga commented in Blinkmummy’s post that

10) Brazenly insulting/challenging editors is not the best way to get your post published. And then you wonder why things don’t get published.

And this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this. But I’m not going to blow this point up out of proportion either. The editors were appointed to exercise certain powers, and the very act would be misconstrued as abuse by some and wisdom by others.

At the end of the day, it’s just a few hits. Temporary fame. You want to be the next Heather Armstrong or Jason Kottke? Write well, write consistently, know your audience and work hard.

Highbrows Online and Off

Some informal thoughts on PR Academy’s conference on New Media: The New Frontier In Communications And PR while I compile my notes on what the speakers covered.

It was a meeting of traditional media practitioners and new media practitioners. Journalists and bloggers. Though some of the more enlightened argued that the dichotomy between old media and new media didn’t really exist, it was quite evident there was a clear divide. There were whispers of war.

I twice overheard traditional media people telling each other that most stuff on the blogosphere was trash. Then Margaret Thomas from Mediacorp said it out loud on stage. Miyagi came across (to me) as rather snide when he told Margaret that Straits Times Interactive was digging its own grave by charging a subscription fee. A few hours later, a blogger who was at the conference wrote about how she had to refrain from rolling her eyes or giggling when the traditional media folk didn’t seem to know what RSS was.

They (traditional media folk) laugh at us and label us as infantile, while we laugh that they seem so slow on the uptake when it comes to technologies millions use on a daily basis.

But we have to see that both camps need each other.

Read the rest of it on

Gray. Dorian.

I was at a seminar on public relations and “new media” today. (I’ll cover the material on WebSG soon, I promise). While Mr Brown and Mr Miyagi were up there talking about blogs and the other speakers briefly mentioned social bookmarking, I experienced the real life manifestation of hyperlinks.

Aileen, who was sitting someplace else in the conference hall, called me over. “This guy wants to speak to you”. Being surrounded by what had to be a sizable portion of Singapore’s civil servants, I half expected “this guy” to tell me how bad a job I did updating MOE’s website.

But his first line was “You don’t know me, but I read your blog”. We did the usual blogger introduction. You know, shake hands, exchange names, blog addresses, then I’d proceed to tell him what went on in his life for the past 48 hours and he’d do the same. Standard blogger etiquette.

Then he asked the question I knew was coming, and dreaded.

“Why haven’t you updated your blog for so long?”

I smiled and told him I’d blog about why. I didn’t answer the question right there; perhaps it was because it was a long story and we didn’t have much time, or perhaps I didn’t come up with a reason fast enough. I guess the real reason was that I’ve been blogging for so long it felt a little too invasive answering a personal question face-to-face with a real flesh and blood human being, while feeling perfectly at home (pun intended) answering it to a thousand readers whom I cannot see.

Continue reading Gray. Dorian. »

Gadgets and Gadgetry

Over the last day and a half, I’ve been slaving away on my Apple. I emerge with great news.

Announcing the launch of, a place for the geek speak which brings about a hushed silence here in Tribolum. No longer will you be bored with entries of RSS feeds or my take on the deranged ramblings of godfather Zeldman. Tribolum will continue to contain the other stuff - mostly accounts (videos or otherwise) of adventures of amazing Anne, and how Faith and I try to keep up.

If you’ve any good tech-related news, feel free to contact us folks at websg. I am joined by the unnaturally effusive (it’s unnatural when she’s effusive) and internetologically brilliant Vantan.

We will be blogging live from SXSWi, bringing you the latest and greatest.

Coast to Coast

I think I just found a new hero.

Dusty Davis rode his motorcycle across the US and has amazing photos to document it.

I so want to go to Yellowstone.

Headed South by Southwest

Come March 9th, I’ll be flying down to the beautiful city of Austin, Texas for South by Southwest 2006. It comes at a good time - I really need to recharge my creative batteries and get in sync with the brightest and best out there.

It has been 3 years since, and I look forward to seeing familiar faces.

Four Things

Tagged by CC, so I’ve to give four answers to every question.

Continue reading Four Things »

Five Things

I got tagged by Joan.

Name five of life’s simple pleasures that you like most, then pick five people to do the same. Try to be original and creative and not use things that someone else has already used:
  1. Rolling in bed with Faith and Anne.
  2. Chasing down Waiting on perfect moments with camera in hand.
  3. Creating something beautiful, whether a photo, a piece of writing, a catchy phrase, a website, or even elegantly written code.
  4. Stirring shit up; changing the status quo, tinkering with established processes to improve things for the common folk.
  5. Dreaming.

I’m tagging:

In Peaces

BP says it best in her entry “ A piece of my mind for peace of mind”. Everything changes when you have kids to mind, a house to clean and work to be done. Maybe I haven’t exactly been the best father, husband, son, friend or colleague I could be.

There are times at night I’m just surprised I made it through the day.

James Seng Must Step Down

Some background for the sake of proper archiving. If you haven’t witnessed the debacle at, this was the original post, and these were the comments readers had. Kevin sums it all up quite nicely.

But this much is now evident:

James Seng (affectionately known online as Jseng) needs to step down from his position as an editor on He has a lot on his plate, and I’m sure he could do with more time to play his World of Warcraft game.

It is fitting that Channel NewsAsia ran a story on the recently deceased President Devan Nair, that “he once said his only regret in life was to allow himself to be persuaded to occupy a highly ceremonial office so contradicted by his temperament”. This is true of Jseng as well.

His online persona is caustic, in-your-face, inappropriate and unapologetic. Even people on his side of online arguments wished “he’d shut up”. He describes himself as “an asshat”.

All these things make for a terrible community leader. He’s probably a pretty good coder. I’ve seen his Movabletype anti-spam plugin and I must say I’m impressed. But as a moderator for, it’s a bad fit. You don’t call your users asshats, dim wits and idiots and get away with it. He has become detrimental to the community.

I would have left it were it not for the fact he moved all the comments from the thread regarding the Idledays fund to “C’mon Let’s All Bash”, which he wrote.

This takes the cake. I’d have expected James Seng, of all people, to understand the tenets of data integrity. You do not change the content of a post because the comments didn’t go your way. It’s not just found in Journalism 101, it’s Common-sense 101. He single-handedly labelled everyone’s comments as bashing because he had the power to do so.

I’m asking that he either relinquish that power, or that it be taken away from him.

There are places asshats don’t belong.

Righters Block

Are you spending too much time musing over life, and blogging about it that you forget to live it? Or are you too busy living life that you forget to write down the little things? Or is your life so mundane that there’s pretty much nothing to blog about?

Free Ones

The saying goes “there’s an sucker born every minute”. In the age of the internet, it’s much easier to find them.

Singaporean female bloggers pose in Maxim for free.

Born. Every. Minute.

Rants and Raves

So in the tiny island of Singapore, schools are starting to clamp down on student bloggers, namely those who “flame” their teachers online.

Youngsters rant. They have been doing it since the beginning of time. Sure, blogging now makes the information more publicly accessible and permanent, but the less heed you pay to it, the less permanent it is likely to be.

Back in the day I remember having an English teacher who wasn’t, how shall we say, very effective. The grades of the entire class was plummeting and resentment toward her and her teaching methods was growing. Feeling a need to say something, I wrote her a note in one of those journal entries we were supposed to pass up as homework. I had hoped that she’d take the feedback seriously.

She did. She took it so seriously the said journal entry made its way to the Principal’s office and the entire teaching staff. It was her hope that the rest of her peers would find it equally apalling that a student dared give her feedback on how she was affecting us. In the journal I had commended the disciplinary methods adopted by some teachers whom I named in the hope that she’d learn from what I described. These teachers came up to me, looking concerned but secretly pleased (you know the look), and said that I shouldn’t have said such things.

In the end all our grades suffered for it as the feedback was treated as a student’s disrespect of a teacher. I never had any problems with the language, but my assignments were constantly marked down, unfairly I felt, because of my bravado.

Granted, there are some very poisonous-tongued students out there. But teachers need to learn to be the bigger person. To give these young ones some space to rant, and perhaps take away whatever useful feedback they can glean from blogs.

Alternatively, you can always cane their sorry little behinds.

The Anti-Anti Xiaxue

Ok, for those of you who read the article in today’s Digital Life, here’s the “anti-hacker” post they quoted.

And for the record, I’m not anti-Xiaxue. I’m anti-anti Xiaxue. Which doesn’t mean I’m pro-Xiaxue either.

Pot, Kettle, and Crockery

I’ve never been a fan of Xiaxue. Sure, she’s won numerous blog awards with her brash, in-your-face insensitivity. After a brief read about how she didn’t give up her seat to a pregnant lady on the train because she “didn’t ask her to get pregnant”, I stopped reading. It was worth neither the time, effort, nor exasperation reading the writings of so callous a human being.

But when I read that her site got hacked, I felt sorry for her. Hacking into another’s personal blog is utterly repugnant behaviour. Even if our opinions didn’t agree, Xiaxue had a right to a voice. I thought I’d go see what the hacker wrote, and hoped that her archives were still intact.

Her site was up by the time I got there, with no visible signs of damage. Then I read the Xiaxue’s latest entry about how she doesn’t condone nudity on blogs. Not too long ago, Sarong Party Girl caused a ruckus on the Singapore blogosphere when she put up artistic photos of herself complete with nipples. She shot to fame thanks to the shock factor, largely similar to Xiaxue’s own, albeit slightly less visual, claim to fame.

I find it odd that Xiaxue, whose has quite the gigantic banner of herself wearing a short skirt, seated on a beanbag and trying hard not to expose her own genitalia while wearing a t-shirt that says “wholesome sluts” would possess such a conservative view. Doesn’t she know that she’s already an advocate for the behaviour she now says she abhors? You can’t blame the “young and naive”, as she puts it, for taking it a step further.

Xiaxue, you’ve always been a strong, opinionated woman. I wish you’d show more strength in your opinion this time round.

Blog Sport

Re-minisce says,

It still offends me that people use “personal blogs” as a vehicle to fame, since I’m one of the (if not the only) purists left who believes in words, and… people. And thoughts, and freedom; and sincerity.

I think you can only be a purist if you take out the people element. Once you establish the fact that blogging is a form of communication, however cathartic an activity for yourself, you write for an audience.

It’s like vanity. Some people are more concerned with looking good. They have open in another browser window to aid their use of big words in an attempt to come across as intellectual. Others take photos of themselves wearing miniskirts and sitting on the floor, then contort their legs in unnatural angles to come across as sexy and titillating. Others just go nekkid.

You can’t help but care what people read when you blog. It is only the extent of your obsession with the outward appearance that differs.

You want to be a purist? Write on pen and paper. But even then there’s the nagging agenda of people finding it after you’re dead. Do you really want them to know everything? I’ve heard of diaries that were written as a parting shot at a hated relative; a means of having the last word.

So here’s to the purists out there:

  1. Write on pen and paper
  2. Look at it hard and long; memorise it
  3. Burn it and scatter the ashes
  4. A week later, rewrite everything (plus the new stuff), so you don’t forget your memories

Making the L33t

Make a mental note of this: I was here first. This whole blogging business. Before Movabletype, Livejournals, Greymatter, Blogger, a few of us were hacking out our blogs on borrowed copies of MS Frontpage.

You speak of the “golden age of blogging” like it was a new thing. That Mr. Brown is the ah kong* of blogging. Xiaxue is the ah soh* of blogging. So on and so forth.

We’ve already had our golden age, long before these rookies came into town on their smelly little asses. Nickpan naming his firstborn after a PDA, one of the first collaborative Singaporean blogs Chronoscape breaking down because the writers had their own blogs going, or when this very site went down after getting 30 thousand hits in a day. You had to be there.

So don’t label me sceptical when I don’t as much raise an eyebrow with all this buzz on blogging. What I am concerned with, however, is the event that might destroy all that we hold dear.

*ah kong and ah soh - The Emperor and Jabba the Hutt respectively.

Continue reading Making the L33t »


There’s a conspiracy at hand. Shine!, a government initiative, is funding (even if it is only the refreshments) the first Singapore Bloggers Convention.

No longer will you be able to hide behind online monikers like AcidFlask or Mr. Brown. Participants, please register at the table with your identity cards and your URLs.

What: Bloggers.SG
When: 16th July 2005
Where: Woodlands Regional Library

Please get in line so they’ll know who to sue should you have slightly controversial ramblings on your “web blog”.

Update: Guess I’m not the only one who thinks so.

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