January 26th, 2009

Association of Bloggers (Singapore)


Cowboy Caleb message me a few days ago whether I have seen the new Association of Bloggers (Singapore). I have and was one of the things I followed with quite a bit of amusement after the fury.

But I hesitated to comment on it because,

1) I could be one of the “foreign blogger” who is “controlling the Singapore blogosphere” she is referring to altho I am quite certain she is referring to U-Zyn and not me or Cowboy. While I acknowledge the “foreign” part is true, I am not so sure of the latter. is foremost, an experiment, pushing the boundary of what is allowed in Singapore (and towards that goal, with the results of what AIMS have proposed, I think we done our part) and a social management experiment (for me personally) to see whether a bunch of people with wildly different ideals can come together to work on a project. I couldn’t even get the editors to come to an agreement for lunch, much less “control” the whole blogosphere.

2) Given the vindictiveness of how ECL goes after U-Zyn after the award incident (I know U-Zyn and Veron so I kind of know the back story), she is one woman I don’t want to cross.

While I have an occasional (weakness) habit that I provoke people like ECL for fun, I don’t have the time nor the energy to engage in another blog flamewar right now.

3) Most importantly of all, while I may disagree with who is leading the association, I am not so sure I am against anyone trying to form an association. It is another step forward, yet another experiment, which may or may not work out, but something to watch.

There is an old saying in American politics “Decisions are made by those who show up (Aaron Sorkin)”.

There lies the answer to those who is against the association. Participate and make your vote counts (perhaps that’s the reason why they require council approval before allowing membership). Or form your own association. :-)

November 13th, 2008

Licensing Technology from A*STAR

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When someone ask you how much it cost to license your technology, the last thing you want to say is “depend how much you value our technology”.

1. You don’t know how much your own technology is worth.

2. You going to charge different people different licensing fee.

Most important of all, you sound like a hawker in some third world country bargaining, not a professional negotiating licensing for a major research lab.

And if you say “If there is no value to you, then don’t license”, I will walk away.

ps: Yes, I walked from the deal. It is just too silly.

February 28th, 2008

Foreign Talents in Singapore

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Several weeks ago, a prominent friend whom I shall not named here said something that stick to my mind ever since. “As Singapore grows to 6.5m people mostly via importing, the positive side effect is Singapore can control the IQ of its overall population.”

Population IQ is a statistic game. The IQ mean is 100. You cannot improve the mean by producing more babies. You can improve it by attracting the best and brightest professionals to your city.

In bigger country like Indonesia, Malaysia or China, their metropolitan cities has the advantage of not just drawing the talent pool from its city but all over the country. For example, most people working in Beijing weren’t born in Beijing.

Unfortunately, Singapore does not have other cities to draw its talent pool from. To remain competitive with the top cities, Singapore must be able to attract talents from the region/world with an open immigration policy. This is why the “Foreign Talent” policy is sacred cow, no debates within the government. Singapore survival in the long term depends on not just grooming its own talent but also attracting talents from other countries.

Yet, I couldn’t get the statement made by my friend out of my mind. Or rather, the implications of it.

What happened when you put 4m people with a mean IQ of 100 together with a carefully selected 2m people with a mean IQ of 130?

While the overall mean IQ of the population will no doubt improve, the original 4m people, ie Singaporeans born in Singapore would generally fall behind.

Most Singaporean would find themselves working for or under Foreign Talents. Only a small percentage of the best Singaporeans would be competitive. Even the once “middle class” may find themselves not so middle-class anymore.

With the progression of this immigration, it is inevitable that Singaporeans will see their colleagues layoff replaced by FT, a promotion they thought they going to have taken over by a imported FT, or their top-in-class child is no longer the top student because of smarter ASEAN scholars.

It is human nature to demonize a group for their incapacity. When the above happens, most people aren’t going to say “I just need to work harder!” but rather to blame foreigners taking their jobs, their woman and overtaking their kids. The knee-jerking reaction is to questioning and then opposing the Foreign Talent policy, and if that don’t work (it won’t under a sensible government), starting to resent these foreigners.

In my last 20+ years in Singapore, I never felt as unwelcome here than these two years.

I am also pretty sure the government is aware of the resentments against the foreigners. But it has consistently reminded Singaporeans that Singapore is not a welfare state and they have to work harder.

Singapore needs Foreign Talents. There is no doubt about it. It is part of the long term progress for Singapore.

But with Foreign Talents policy, the government must do more for Singaporeans as they will fall behind. As much as I agree to cultivating a good work attitude and habit, that no one owes you a living except yourself, no-welfare state policy should be reconsidered. Otherwise, it will breeds more anti-FT sentiments in the long run.


1 I wanted to blog this few weeks ago. Being an PR, even though I was here since primary school, means I am not allowed to interfere nor dabbles with Singapore politics. But following the IM session with Siew Hong last night regarding his latest speech, I think I should blog this, not because I have any politic agenda but what I think is best for Singapore.

2 I use IQ and talent interchangeably as I see IQ as a proxy indicator for talent, which may not be accurate sometimes but good enough for this article.

3 MOM publishes statistics showing more foreigner taking up jobs. This is a nature effect as Singapore imports more labor. That itself isn’t a problem since Singaporeans are still employed, just that the demand of economy demands more than the what Singaporeans can take up for. But it validates part of my analysis above.

It said: “With the lowest unemployment in ten years and employment at an all-time high, the number of available Singaporean citizens to take up new jobs over the next few years will shrink. “This is already occurring as shown by the proportion of employment gains going to Singapore citizens, which dropped from 45% in 2004 to 40% in 2005 and to 37% in 2006. This is typical of periods of robust and sustained economic growth, with strong employment creation. link »

– from via

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.