Dec 23, 2007

The Silent Singaporean

Elia Diodati takes a look at the Malaysian political blogosphere and is impressed by its lively, vibrant nature. He wonders why Singaporeans, in comparison, don't seem to speak up very much on important national issues. There are, of course, various reasons and here's one which Elia offers:
"..... Singaporeans simply work insane hours. If we can’t even get Singaporeans to procreate, despite tax incentives and other carrots, what more to get them to clear out several hours at a time to sit down and write coherent, thoughtful blog posts? Think of the vocal blogs you know of that have suddenly veered into neglected quiescence. I’d bet you that many of them were written by students who have since graduated, gotten sucked into the work-marry-birth-nurture dogma and suddenly find that there is no time or place for that mouthpiece."
Well, I work. I'm married. I have two kids whom I nurture a lot (I plan to turn them into little geniuses). Apart from all that, I not only blog a lot, but still find time to pursue several other interests quite seriously.

My secret is really no secret. If you wander into the 'Self-Improvement' section of the bookstore and pick up a book on time management, you'll know the secret too. But since many of you wouldn't be caught dead in that part of the bookstore, that's pretty much all I'll say about it for now.

For Singaporeans who want to blog more about national issues but feel that they suffer from a lack of time, the alternative strategy would be selective about your topics. Focus on the themes and topics that you already know very well, so that you can complete your posts in minimal time.

"But I don't really know any topics that well." Actually, yes you do. You just don't know it, that's all. Once you start to see that the events and circumstances in your personal life are often just reflections of the broader society in which you live, you will rarely find yourself short of topics to write about.

Angry Doctor is a doctor - he blogs a lot about healthcare issues in Singapore. Stressed Teacher is a teacher - he blogs a lot about education issues in Singapore. Cherian George is an ex-journalist - he blogs a lot about the mass media in Singapore. Yawning Bread is a gay man - he blogs a lot about gay issues in Singapore.

These are examples of bloggers who have converted the very stuff of their daily life experiences into blogging material. Well, actually all bloggers do that - but to go beyond the mundane level of introspective navel-gazing, you'll just have to take one step further. And that is to explore the wider social, political or economic issues behind your daily life experiences.

Do you use public transport every day in Singapore? Are you an SAF NSman? Do you study in a local university or polytechnic? Are you a financial planner who helps clients to plan for their retirement? Do you keenly follow the local sports or arts scene? Are you a working mother busily juggling career and family? Do you regularly volunteer with a charitable organisation such as Mendaki or Action for AIDS? Does your job involve ensuring corporate governance? Do you set PSLE exams?

A positive answer to any of the above makes you potentially an expert blogger in at least one distinct area. If you take that extra step ....


Anonymous said...

I work too.
I'm married too.
And you guess it right, I have two kids too!
And yeah, I would like to turn them into little geniuses too.

Care to share some tips? Or maybe steer your blog towards this direction in the new year? Or perhaps disclose the url of your other blog where you talk about such parenting stuff?

Alex Tan said...

i've seen a directive, or a sorta guideline, which says that all SAF personnels are not allowed to take any political sides or even make any political stand.

Anonymous said...

the problem i face with blogging isn't time, but motivation. i find little point in penning down thoughts that few or almost nobody will see anyway. usually what happens then is that i leave any thoughts i have stuck in my head, or otherwise i make minimal effort in any blog post (the result is usually a short rambling that makes little sense unless you're in my head)

maybe you could give me some tips on how you do it

Elia Diodati said...

"i find little point in penning down thoughts that few or almost nobody will see anyway."

That presumptive attitude, unfortunately, sets you up for a Catch 22. How do you know nobody will read your blog unless you try it? I'd say a little attitude adjustment could be the biggest thing to help you down that path.

As for the meaningless short rambling problem, it boils down a need to improve your writing skills. To blog is to write, and to write is to communicate. There are many books out there on improving one's writing and communication skills. Read a few and do what makes sense to you.

Here's my personal summary:

1. Have a clear, logical outline of what you want to communicate. If you have a very complicated idea, break it down into smaller pieces. Lists can help. If you have problems with rambling, avoid digressions. Stick to the point; omit anything that isn't immediately relevant. Be alert for logical fallacies: know what are straw men, false dichotomies, appeal to anquity and non sequiturs.

2. Be concise, but avoid ambiguity. Use words that are as simple as possible, while retaining the desired level of precision in meaning. If your writing is too vague, improve your vocabulary. Read more. Observe the subtle nuances in meanings with choices of words and contexts.

3. To communicate an abstract concept, bring it down to earth by telling a story, giving a concrete example and citing evidence to back it up. Pure abstractions bore people.

4. Be a merciless editor and your worst critic. Imagine you are a mean English teacher and you are marking your own blog post with an evil red pen. Ask yourself if you really need every word and punctuation mark to make your point.

5. Always check your spelling. With automatic spell-checkers, there is no excuse for unintentional misspellings! Be alert for misspellings that result in other valid English words, such as your and yore, dine and dime and its and it's. Pedants like me will be grateful. Really.

6. If you really have time, write multiple drafts. Wash and repeat; you will probably converge toward something well-written.

7. Blog often. Practice makes perfect! Edison didn't invent a practical light bulb the first time.

Some techniques that worked for me:

- Write an outline or draw a mind map. I find mind-mapping helps me connect ideas. Outlines help me figure out if a particular way of presenting those ideas makes sense.

- Imagine you are talking to someone else: a coworker, friend, enemy, significant other, or family member, etc. After writing every other sentence or so, I go back and ask myself, "Would this make sense to someone else? If not, how can I rephrase this sentence so that it would make sense?"

- Write up something, put it aside and do something else and read it again later. If what you wrote 2 hours ago or last night doesn't make sense to you anymore when you read it again, chances are no one will get it either.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Anon Dec 24, 2007 8:30 PM:

Yes I will steer my blog a little in this direction, in the new year. ;)

In the meantime you may be interested in checking out this blog (not mine) - The Boy Who Knew Too Much: A Child Prodigy.


But that is why we use a nick when we blog,don't we. ;)

Anon December 24, 2007 9:08 PM:

Oh, I could share a few ideas on how to increase blog traffic ... Will do that in a future post.


Here's another rule: your blog format must be reader-friendly.

Currently, as viewed on IE, your sidebar is covering part of the main text on your blog ...

Anonymous said...

c'mon, not everyone has the interest to be armchair bloggers!

you may be vocal, but do not assume everyone enjoy being a 'mouthpiece'. hey, but i enjoy reading. so i spend my time reading blogs.

any other extra time, i simply channel my energies elsewhere.

porcorosso said...

in case you are interested, Porco has a wine blog:

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Hi Porco! Nice to see you around.

Anonymous said...

I think it's simply a case of Bolehland having more blog-worthy happenings; such as demonstrations, racial tension, demolishing of churches and temples, religious police arresting non-Muslim couples, insisting on giving someone a Muslim burial inspite of wife's strong objections, refusing to allow people to convert to another religion etc. etc.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I think you are right about that, Singaporean.