Making Light of Things

January 2010 Archives

An End and a Beginning

This is my last week at the Ministry of Education. It’s been a little over four years, and I find myself in a very different place from where I envisioned four years ago. My time in the government has been a most serendipitous and amazing journey, and I am indelibly changed because of it.

I used to participate rather actively in the great Singaporean pastime of government-bashing. I despised the way the government worked - it was easy to find points of agreement with the cab driver: Singapore is fraught with hidden taxes that makes living very expensive; the politicians earn way too much; the government is full of bureaucracy and doesn’t care for citizens.

All the points are valid of course. But the greatest lesson I took home with me is this: the government isn’t a faceless machine. She is made up of fellow citizens. True, some are self-serving. Some are in it for the money. But no more and no less than in any other large organisation, private or public. As citizens we should not waste our time here; we should be looking to nurture a culture of selflessness and empower noble intent. Rather than be mired in a never-ending spiral of self-despair and finger-pointing, we should engage in a constructive relationship with the government.

Web 2.0 ushers in Gov 2.0, and Gov 2.0 cannot exist without Citizen 2.0.

A friend from another country once asked me why Singaporeans complained so much but did so little. It really hit home. We could attribute it to fear, but to be perfectly honest, we complain because it is the easiest path to take.

I joined the government 4 years ago with the intention of changing the way Singapore government agencies create websites. To my surprise the people at the ministry welcomed my ideas and were willing to let Selwyn and I build the corporate website from the ground up. It was then I realised that the ministry was made up of real people, many of whom genuinely want to improve the lives of people living in Singapore.

The line between the government and her people is an imaginary line, and contrary to popular movie wisdom, neither has need to fear the other. Citizens who want to change Singapore for the better should not hesitate to join the government and effect change from within.

The Road Ahead

I have grappled with this decision for about a year now. It has become clear that it is time for me to move on. The entrepreneurial dream is something that burns within me and many of my friends.

But it has dawned on me that entrepreneurship is not so much a working arrangement as it is a state of mind. The entrepreneurial spirit is one that doesn’t tolerate the status quo simply because, but constantly questions and endlessly strive through continual iteration to improve processes, products and people.

I have decided to continue being an intrapreneur. Come April I will be joining the folks at Temasek Polytechnic. I was totally blown away by how much the organisation valued me as an individual rather than a unit of resource, and the hiring process was thoroughly outstanding. I am excited at the possibilities there, and thankful that God has provided for me and led me down a path filled with peace.


Dearest Faith,

I opened my eyes, escaping slumber for that brief moment, comforted by the fact I lay beside you, a place better than any in my dreams.

I love you.

Boys are for punching

This morning my 4 year-old daughter Anne picked up a small notebook that had a flower on the cover.

“This is for girls”, she stated.

And that’s how my notebook became hers.

“What would be on the cover if the notebook was for boys?” I asked. “A ball? A toy car? An aeroplane?” I suggested.

A cheeky smile spread over her face.


The Story is the Product

I’ve been following the NBA for many years now, and most would agree that the NBA is one of the most savvy organisations when it comes to using digital media.

While most content-producers are afraid of piracy, the NBA Youtube channel puts up high-definition highlights of games. It always astounds me how clear the videos are.

My blog layout can’t take the awesomeness of the full-size video. Do yourself a favour and watch the original size on youtube. Remember to click on the HD button.

While the NBA was arguably strict on its players’ use of Twitter, every NBA team has a twitter account from which they update fans with news and even in-game statistics.

The NBA understands one thing well - the stories are larger than the individual clips. By updating us on the small things such as scores and video highlights, we are kept intrigued by large story-arcs: whether the draft class of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony will continue to dazzle; whether CP3 will bring back the dominance of the little man; or whether the global game will change the way basketball is played in the NBA.

So when Bono advocates content tracking over the internet for policing of copyright violations, he comes across as trying so hard to protect an industry that should probably relook its entire product offering. Bear in mind that Bono made a lot of money from tours. His fans buy into his story, and the experience of a live concert. Those things aren’t going to be replaced by youtube clips anytime soon.

Perhaps it’s time for the music-makers and storytellers to go back to basics. They sure could learn from travelling musician Josh Wilson who lifted the spirits of passengers stranded at Newark during the lockdown.

Maybe the communal sharing of stories and music should take precedence over people making grotesque amounts of money.

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