April 15th, 2008

Blogger Friendly

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Was at the National Press Club in Malaysia to meet up with various bloggers.

Quote Rockybru “Malaysia is the most blogger friendly country in the world now.”

Strange world. 6 months ago, bloggers are jobless liars. Today, all politicians must have a blog “or else you are not a leader” :-)

Note to self: Don’t play scrabbles at National Press Club. ^_^

August 14th, 2007

Social Media : Singapore vs Malaysia

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Shel Israel did an interview with me a few weeks ago. As I was replying Shel’s email, it occurred to me there are sharp differences between the development of Social Media in Singapore and Malaysia.

First, there is no doubt Social Media is creating huge impact on media around the world, not just Singapore and Malaysia. Just not so long ago, both CIA & NSA acknowledged bloggers are journalists, signifying the amount of recognitions bloggers now have. This is no difference in Singapore or Malaysia.

Even as far back as in 2005, when AcidFlask was threaten with a lawsuit by Philip Yeo (the then Chairman of A*STAR), the Singapore online community flared up. While AcidFlask eventually pulled down his site, Philip did not pursue the case further which was surprising for those who knows him. There was no doubt the public pressure played a part, since the general sentiment portrayed Philip as an aggressor against a small-time blogger. As I told a friend who was pretty work up then, “We know, they know. That’s good enough.”

A side story: A year later, Philip Yeo made available the offending entry and it is quite clear he has a valid case. He probably should have make that available sooner (that I am sure the lawyers will freak out) when it is clear it has turned from a legal to a PR case.

A year ago, mrbrown’s incident with MICA also ended in a surprising manner. In precedence cases, academics made to apologies in public withdraw their report, journalists get fired and writers get a firm scolding. On the other hand, while mrbrown was “suspended”, there is no further action nor response, until much later, and even so, pretty mild. The public online sentiment and reaction once again make the government more caution in their response. It is yet another case of “We know, they know. That’s good enough.”

Another side story: mrbrown keeping quiet then also makes it easy for the government to do nothing without losing face. If mrbrown has not kept quiet, I am pretty sure the government will certainly not let things blow over, for they would not tolerate such disrespect nor symbolic insolence.

The government sometimes makes mistakes, but each time, they are able walk away with some face saving measure. Each time, they learn something and they make less mistake. To the extend, when Li Hong Yi (son of PM) incident blew up online, the army was quick to response and responded very appropriately, not by covering up, nor with usual army secrecy (“It is an army business”) but clearly and openly.

What turned the sentiment around was when Li Hong Yi’s censored letter became available (as a comment on If it was indeed planned, it was one of the most brilliant move.

This strange quiet pushing is what makes Singapore social media scene unique. The government continues to take lead in a slow but steady media reforms, at least on talking terms if not better with media socialists in Singapore.

Sadly things don’t turn out as well in Malaysia.

In the last couple of months, there are more and more severe warnings coming from Malaysia government. Bloggers get sued, Bloggers get detained, and threaten with revocation of citizenship. The Cabinet debating over it, the ruling government continues with their warnings. Still, nothing changed.

I don’t expect to see any change because both side are no longer talking.

There are several reasons leading to this situation.

Firstly, the unwillingness for Malaysian authority to open up several sensitive issues. When faced with difficult debates, like rights to chose religion, to PM re-marriage, racial affirmative action, each time, the Information Ministry issued a media blackout. That works in the past but certainly not now with Social Media. When bloggers ignored those media blackout orders, the government become upset as it is seen as a challenge to their authority.

Secondly, the confrontational-style the Malaysian bloggers adopted does not help with the situation. When bloggers stand on losing ground, they gathered among themselves with their readers, using public sentiments to hold back government. When bloggers stand on strong ground, they take no-prisoners and go for blood, leaving no route for government to retreat.

At the end, it is about “saving faces”. One did and one did not. One ends up with quiet evolution, the other is on the way to revolution.

* Some would remember my previous article: What is a Media where I said “And to those Singapore bloggers who try to argue how powerful the new media is, I think you are doing a disservice to the blogging community.“. It is my “we know, they know. That’s good enough” philosophy.

November 11th, 2006

Bloggers in Singapore


“Half of the teens in Singapore aged 15 to 19 are on the Internet, blogging or podcasting, and this figure is set to grow. This means there are 120,000 or so blogs by these youngster online.” Chua Hian Hou reported. (via Good Morning Yesterday)

Article also on Bangkok Post

October 4th, 2006

Group Blog by MPs

», a group blog is nothing new. A group blog by a group of (post 65) members of paliaments is worth mentioning. Welcome to Blogging,

I know, it is not “launch” but someone already submitted it to and I am willing to bet this is going to be on newspaper tomorrow.

Now lets see how long they will last…or get used to the hostility on the online world. Good luck :-)

* For non-Singapore readers, post-65 refers to member of paliaments borned after 1965.

August 22nd, 2006

What is a Media?


Just remembered a conversation I had with a friend who now works for the agency that regulate the media in Singapore a few weeks ago. The debate we had is “What is a Media?”.

Anyway, he holds the view that all these “New Media” stuff he heard are just nonsense, that it is nothing more than a webpage put together by amateurs. Afterall, the concepts has being around for years and now people are slapping a new label to it thats all.

I hold a different belief: What defines a media is the audience. A newspaper without readers is not a media but simple webpage with 100-thousands readers daily is one. The underlying technology (be it ink & paper or computer & internet) does not matter.

Currently, “mainstream media” is limited to handful printed publication (newspaper, magazine etc). So, if a “new media” has more audience than a “mainstream media”, what happened? Do we change the Act or do we change the definition?

Given MICA Minister (Dr. Lee Boon Yang) has often stated he prefers a light-touch towards the “new media”, I am glad that I did not convience my friend and we get to keep the definition as it is right now.

And to those Singapore bloggers who tries to argue how powerful the new media is, I think you are doing a disservice to the blogging community.

July 10th, 2006

Blogging in Singapore this week


It started with a innocently with a usual humor piece by mrbrown titled S’poreans are fed, up with progress! on his weekly Friday column on Today (a free press in Singapore). It isn’t the first time mrbrown (aka Lee Kin Mun), the self-acknowledge humorist who “documents the dysfunctional side of Singapore”, making fun of government policy but it is the first that got a very strong rebutal from the government: Distorting the truth, mr brown?.

What follows after went crazy. Supporters comes to mrbrown’s defense on his blog, upset at the statement from the government. Even Paris-based Reporters without border chipped in criticising the Singapore government. Then when mrbrown informs his readers that his weekly column was suspended, more people comes to mrbrown defense and sending letters to the editors, the CEO of mediacorp (owner of Today) and even to the Minister, the Prime Minister and the President.

Sadly, none of the letters was published. Today rejected all the letters essentially enforcing a news blackout on the topic but the debate goes on the Internet and on other prints, first on UFM100.3 (radio station), then on Straits Times and finally on ChannelNewsAsia.

To be fair to the government, I don’t think MICA “ordered” the suspension of mrbrown or the news blackout. The relationship between the media and Singapore government is fairly complex but could loosely classify as “master-mistress” relationship, ie ‘do whatever you like but never forget you are my mistress’. The fact that this was on the other main stream media is an attestment that there is no ‘secret memo’.

In other words, it is a ‘self-censorship’ enforced by Today management. Sadly, they have miscalculated the response. In most media outfit, the management will be screaming with joy, let the debate go on publishing both side of the arguments and watch their readership shoot through the roof. Unfortunately for them, the self-imposed censorship backfires with a population who no longer tolerates censorship so it becomes a double whammy – first slap by the government then second slap by their readers.
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November 22nd, 2005

Singapore blogosphere and Technorati

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First, congratulations to mrbrown on his third child. I received an email this afternoon from an excited mrbrown with his baby photo attached using his handphone. God knows how many other people he sent it to so let me also congratulate his mobile phone operator too.

Back to topic, I wanted to write about Singapore blogosphere. I know it is really so-2002 to blog about blogging but something puzzled me for a while with respect to Singapore blogosphere, specifically, and Technorati.

The observation I had is there seem to be a “Tomorrow-effect” on Technorati top 10 searches. The first time it happens was Sarong Party Girl in June and in July, the NKF incident actually made become #1 search on Technorati for a few days. As of writing this, the top 10 searches on Technorati includes “Daphne Teo” (#2) and “Dawn Yang” (#8) both featured on here and here.

The simple conclusion is that a lot of Singaporean (bloggers and blog readers) knows Technorati and are using it actively. But what puzzled me is how is it a small country like Singapore with 4M people (and thus a much smaller blogging community) could have such an impact on an International blog search engine like Technorati?

May 24th, 2005

Interview with ST


click to see larger version of Meet the Bloggers click to read larger version of Meet the Bloggers

Okay, I can come out clean now that ST has published the article on and also the Blogger Convention.

I was in a dilemna because on one hand, all of us are suppose to reply to the reporter and on the other hand, i really don’t want to appear on the local papers. So I come up with a perfect plan – answers which the reporter would never use :-)
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May 9th, 2005

Why I do Tomorrow?


I wanted to blog this some time ago but now that is on the Straits Time and there is a conspiracy theory about, its time for me to step out to clear the air.

First of all, to the “conspiracy theorist(s)”, about bloody time someone discover the SGNIC whois record! Where have you been, my friend? My involvement in was never a secret.

Now, is this an IDA thing? Hell no! As SGNIC whois record shows, it is registered to me personally. My boss in IDA is aware of it, but note it is “aware” not approve or disapprove, just merely aware. In other word, I screwed up, I am on my own. He is fancinated by all these Social Software and had given me a lot of leeways to indulge in this blogging stuff and I thank him for that.
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May 9th, 2005

Singapore CEO blog


Over the weekend, I learnt that the CEO of NTUC Income Tan Kin Lian actually have a blog. While I won’t say he got “it” (putting his press statement online is hardly blogging), but it is definately a start.

Hope to see more CEO in Singapore blogging :-)

And by the way, calling your journalists bloggers and changing your name of your website to call it a Electric Blog don’t make it a blog – it is just a name change from ‘Newspaper’. (See Cowboy Caleb)