On Conversations With Stakeholders

In my line of work, I sometimes have to explain why I use Facebook and Twitter for my media platform.

A, an editor of a print publication, asked me: “What’s the use of Facebook or Twitter?”

I hemmed and hawed. Finally I said:

“We don’t really know how such social media platforms will turn out in the future so we’re just staking our presence there.”

B, the managing director of a firm, said over lunch that he is interested in entering the Facebook platform but not Twitter.

If I recall correctly, he dismissed Twitter as something of a fad.

Such dismissals are quite common in Singapore, which largely stems from a couple of reasons.

  1. Newsmakers’ clients are largely conservative and not tech-savy. Based on anecdotal evidence, this sample ranges from 40+ to 50+ years of age, which puts them in the silvering generation. Ipso facto, the majority of the spending power also lies with this group. They are the ones who buy Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Jaguars. And they are probably Mandarin-speaking, consume traditional media and have traditional family values. 
  2. Online media is not as advanced in Singapore as it is in the US. We have the daily broadsheet, The Straits Times, here, which is consumed massively in terms of circulation. Print media is still deeply entrenched in the mindsets of the population.
  3. Online ad units are regressive. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve is that even as technology advances with HTML5, Javascript, Flash, Flex and what-nots (I’m just throwing out names here), online ad units are still so backward and intrusive. They seemingly love to pop out of nowhere and fill up my screen. No wonder people use adblockers to kill off all the ads.

All these reasons, I realised, can be subsumed under one giant set: Compared to print, there is no money to be made on the Internet.

But

What’s the ROI from Twitter? A very difficult question to answer, yet you’ll find the solution if you can also measure: “Whats the ROI of a conversation in real life”. Since many brands have an objective (return profit to shareholders or owners) ensuring this is a high priority task will be difficult for many corporations.

Jeremiah Owyang, “Why Brands Are Unsuccessful In Twitter“, Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang

There are no answers right now. But having conversations with your stakeholders cannot be that bad. It’s called networking.

On Newspapers, Online News & Paywalls

Full disclosure: My opinions could be biased since I do work for an online news aggregator.

I see paywalls, vis-a-vis online news sites, as nothing more than defensive exercises to protect the publisher’s print subscription, and consequently, their ad revenue.

Print readership can be kept thriving – if such an adjective can still be used to describe readership in this contemporary times – by “walling” off the free Internet playground that is the free news site.

Ultimately that is the raison d’etre of paywalls. As much as publishers like to claim, I wouldn’t agree that the walls are there to monetise their content.

Still I think there are other models that work. For instance, a combined model of free news, albeit truncated, and paywalls a la straitstimes.com. But where would the ST go from here?

Then again,

Is it an absurb notion

that because people are accustomed to getting content for free on the internet, they have a right to do so and that charging money for online access to people’s work, whether it’s film, music, television or journalism, is ipso facto a form of extortion.

David Mitchell, “Rupert Murdoch May Be Evil, But That Doesn’t Mean His Paywall Is”, The Guardian

No thoughts at the moment. My fragmented multi-tasking online mind cannot take the singularity of this exercise. Hurhurhur.

“Why the humanities matter”

Here’s an excerpt of an interview first published in The Straits Times dated May 20 with practice Associate Professor Ian Macduff, 61. He teaches negotiation, conflict resolution, and ethics and social responsibility at the Singapore Management University (SMU).

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Singaporean youths are not that bad

A letter of hope to the Singapore press:

From Saturday, Jan 2, 2010 The Straits Times:

Don’t tar all youths with the same brush

I REFER to Thursday’s letter by Mr Seto Hann Hoi, ‘The young lack moral compass’.

I feel he has painted far too bleak a picture of youths in Singapore. While I firmly believe that the issue of youth-related crimes deserves critical attention, I find the categorical dismissal of all youths as lacking in a moral compass discomforting.

I have been involved in youth development work since 2005. Over the years, I have encountered youths from different family and educational backgrounds active in volunteering their time for worthy causes, involving helping their fellow workers, the underprivileged in society, needy children or the elderly.

I have seen youths spending months of their time after work or studies, on weekdays and weekends, rehearsing for a musical, just so people can understand the hardships our forefathers faced in the early days of nation building.

I have seen them spending many precious weekends taking underprivileged children out on learning journeys as their parents were unable to do so due to lack of time or resources.

I have seen them taking time out to recycle computers for redistribution to low-income families, and going even to the extent of arranging their own transport to take the computers to the families.

I have seen many other examples of youths making sacrifices for others. I am certain my peers in various youth organisations would concur with my experiences and observations.

In every society, as certain as death and taxes, there will be shining examples and not-so-shining ones. To close a mine just because a flawed diamond is unearthed is daft, especially since every diamond, flawed or otherwise, can become a priceless piece in the hands of the right craftsman.

Thus to lose hope in the young people of Singapore categorically is unnecessary and almost certainly overstating the case.

In the course of my own lifetime of 36 years, I have heard youths called many things – apathetic, ungrateful, soft and now, lacking a moral compass.

We can continue to invent new adjectives for youths in Singapore. Or we can reach out to them in a more significant manner by showcasing the positive real-life examples we see around us.

I choose the latter, as all of us were once youths, if not now.

Steve Tan

Mighty fine of Mr Tan to rebut and stand up for the youths in Singapore, when most of whom I see only hang about and loiter in Cineleisure. Granted, I never have a bright view of youths in the first place. But who am I to censure when the relevant censors don’t.

EDIT (or should it be a WISHB?): Further clarifications are in my second comment to Laremy, here.

On the interesting-ness of soundbites

Journalists should know better than to give soundbites and use the word “interesting” to describe things in the process. Even more so a journalist giving a soundbite to his or her own publication. “Interesting”. What does that word mean? It sheds no light for the reader other than to mean well, I can’t think of anything to say. People who use the adjective should be shot. And so should the publication.

I Sell Stone

As I stepped inside the university for the second last time before my commencement in July, I realised one thing. Probably it was the literary atmosphere of the campus, one that reminds me of the days spent buried in essays and research or it may have been the time I spent on my way here since I’ve always think best on the commute (I have no idea why but I think our country’s MRT should have a separate compartment for people who want to write with some semblance of privacy instead of scribbling their notes on a pad with others overlooking their shoulders), that made me remember my priorities.

Why do you want to work in the creative industry?

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La Lettre

Dear (implied or otherwise) reader,

If you are still reading this, I sincerely salute you. Let me buy you a drink sometime. For you must be a very patient wo/man to linger on even after I have stopped writing since a few years back. Forgive my temerity for mentioning my absence so many times not unlike a filler episode. It must have bored you. I know I was. Truly, I had no reasonable excuse except that my attention was caught up elsewhere, the trifles of which I shall fill you in with later on.

That, and also the reason why I stopped writing was because I found it increasingly difficult to write. Continually, I question myself. What is Guerrilla Moon’s raison d’être? Is it a vocalization of my innermost thoughts? Or is it an avenue for me to practise my rusting penmanship? How about an avenue to express, not my innermost thoughts, but my views about the world around me. Instead of a inward focus, why not outwards? Questions like these continually plague me. Who am I writing for? Definitely not myself for my act of writing presupposes a reader. Subsequently, who is my implied (and therefore, perfect) reader? Who is the actual reader?

La Liseuse, Renoir (1874)Who are you, dear reader? I do not know.

Perhaps now you know the reason why I stopped writing. Even as I mentioned earlier that I would resume writing, the very act of inscription stutters and splutters as I scribe.

It is not the inkwell that runs dry but rather, my thoughts run to a close. Unemployed, the cerebral organ residing behind my eyes shuts down.

Even as the words leave my pen, I cannot help but shiver. Who are you, reader? You who read what I am writing, are you sure you understand what I am saying? That’s one of the reasons for verbosity, you know? Verbosity somewhat presupposes miscommunication. Of course, this does not apply to your everyday neighbour who repeats the same stories to you over and over again. And again. And again.

In Boston Legal, the main character Alan Shore (James Spader) is known for his long, passionate closing arguments. It is not because he is long-winded or narcissistic that his closings are long. It is because it is absolutely clear that no one in court understands him. As a left-wing liberal, his actions to bring suits against the country has left him labelled as unpatriotic or traitorous. He has few friends. To him, it is more important than ever to get his point across to those right-wing hawks, people who don’t understand him. Short closings just do not cut it.

Unfortunately for Alan, language is all miscommunication. And miscommunication may most probably be the reason for my unemployment. No doubt it is not that I lack the required skills, that I am unprepared for the interview, that the interview occurred before an important, life-changing event (such as my final paper) that failed to get me the job but it is language as miscommunication that tripped me. Language, my best friend. I have worked with you for so many years and yet you do that to me!

Towards the end, my interviewer asked me, “Do you blog?” It was inevitable given that I was applying for a writer’s position. Nevertheless, one cannot help but cringe at the word, “blog.”

“Blogging” is such a discriminatory word. When you say blog, tH|s |s tH3 fiRst th|ng tH@t comes to my mind. I apologise for my poor example. The second thing would be people who actually write down every single event that happened on that day. I am not against that per se but really, do I want to read about that? Prose that proposes individuality amidst generality is an 18th century artform. Daniel Defoe did it in Robinson Crusoe and Samuel Richardson did it in Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded.

On hindsight, perhaps I should have replied, “No sir. Technically speaking, I do not blog. I write. I write in an attempt to explore different avenues of style and content, in an attempt to impress my existence upon the cosmos while not falling under the category of the epistolary form, in an attempt to criticise society which I see as a mode of patriotism. Critique does not necessarily equate to unpatriotic or a “leaver” in local parlance. And as such, if you attempt to label what I do as “blogging,” I consider it defamation and will sue the ass out of you.” Or something like that.

Unfortunately, in that split second I devolved into the maraschino cherry that you get with cocktails (those pretty little things). You could almost imagine a maraschino cherry replying, “Yes sir” and thereafter proceeds to give him its weblog address.

Woe be me! Now my potential employer knows the deepest darkest depths and thereafter, I shall never be hired as a writer by that company or any other for that matter! Despair! It is certain that certain thoughts ran in his mind when he entered this tomes.

“What an angsty person! Definitely not someone who should be a writer for a trade publication! And look at that verbosity! How many pages would we have to give him to accomodate just one of his articles? Even a full page spread wouldn’t be enough! Even so, we probably have to take out all the images just to make more room.” Or something like that.

Words, words, words. They can be so dreadful. They look like one thing but they may mean another. Does A really look the same to you? That “A” which was in the beginning of this sentence and the few “A” which appeared after it? Mee siam mai ham. It’s all miscommunication, I assure you.

Author’s Note: To be continued…this is simply too long for consumption. 964 words!