Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Future of the Web - an Egalitarian Paradise?

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The third session at Nexus 2007, "The Future of the Web", was led by a fascinating presentation by Andreas Weigend, former Chief Scientist of Amazon.com. He spoke about Chris Anderson's Long Tail (Wired magazine, Oct 2004) as well as the following futures:

Future of the individual - From e-business to me-business, and from eco-system to ego-system.

Future of the group - Collaborative architectures from maintenance of relationships (eg Facebook, Linked-In, Ringo) to discovery (fridae.com for gays/lesbians).

Future of work - Disaggregation of the workplace.

Andreas shared further how the serendipitous act of discovery is taking over from the more task-oriented search function, and the advent of meta-data (or tags) as the basis for discovery. It centred on how web applications like Flickr shifts photography from events-based to "aimless-based". What one might also call the degree of "interestingness".

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After Andreas' primer, he was joined by Bobby Napiltonia of Salesforce.com, Reza Behnam of Yahoo! Southeast Asia and Nat Torkington of O'Reilly Media in a discussion moderated by Bernard Leong of SG Entrepreneurs (left to right above).

The group next discussed how information gathered from diverse sources such as RFIDs and cookies (not the Famous Amos kinds!) may lead to even greater mass-customisation. OpenID, one of the current hot topics, allows a person to access multiple web applications with a single sign in. However, it may also lead to possible abuses in privacy and identity theft.

Nonetheless, this potent mix of location-based services with personalised preferences could represent a whole new market for mobile broad-band services. An example was how Amazon was working with Federal Express to provide real-time information to its consumers on the whereabouts of their products - a stitching together of services. Integration of social networks with mobile broadband can certainly be a powerful combination.

The other topic covered was the "power of thumbs down" or how greater transparency in the web leads to a stronger voice for the consumer. Walmart's fiasco with its partner Edelman was highlighted as well as an interesting UK-based site for parliamentarians. Another interesting example was castingvote.com which lets you vote on practically anything and everything - politics, music, lifestyle, tech.

If that's what the future holds, it certainly sounds like an egalitarian paradise to me.

Friday, March 30, 2007

We, the Citizen Journalists of Singapore

Crowdsourcing the Media

Recently tackled as part of Nexus 2007, "Crowdsourcing the Media" looked at how citizen journalism was changing the dynamics of the media landscape. It saw social media provocateur Kevin Lim moderating a session with online media luminaries Kathy Teo of CNET Networks, Jennifer Lewis of SPH's STOMP, and James Seng, Editor extraordinaire of tomorrow.sg (Left to right above).

Discussions centred around citizen journalism and its various forms (youtube, wikipedia etc) and included fascinating insights into how CNET and STOMP operated. As Jennifer puts it, there tend to be more "loser-generated" rather than "user-generated" content, and she does get her fair share of junk being MMS-ed and SMS-ed to her via 75557.

A key term being bandied about was the "wisdom of crowds". It was felt that with more and more Singaporeans participating in blogs and online forums, their collective voices may be a greater force to reckon with compared to the old mainstream media dominated days.

An interesting point raised was that the average Londoner reads about 3.5 newspapers a day. This means that they get their information from different sources. Compare this to Singapore with only one dominant press, and we can see why citizen journalism and blogs are so popular here. People simply want to hear from alternative sources, and this is where platforms like STOMP, tomorrow.sg, and ping.sg comes in.

The session ended with a most interesting exchange between tomorrow.sg's James, ping.sg supporter ClappingTrees and its creator Uzyn. I am glad that it ended somewhat amicably, with both parties agreeing that competition is good for the Singapore blogosphere. There can never be one blog aggregator too many here!

For more, read Kevin's comprehensive post here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Web 2.0 in a Nutshell

Nat Torkington
Nat Torkington doing his 2.0-ish thang

At the recent Nexus 2007, Nathan Torkington, crowd favourite and Perl guru from O'Reilly Media, spoke about Disruption, Change, and Opportunity. In case you do not know, its founder Tim O' Reilly coined the term Web 2.0 and have been in the business of technology trendspotting for quite a number of years. Nat cited key developments in the technology landscape over the decades:

1988 - X Windows Documentation
1992 - Internet
1998 - Open Source (or not invented by Microsoft)
2004 - Web 2.0
2005 - Make

Nat later expounded about the Web 2.0 movement and what it all boils down to. In a nutshell, it is all about:

1) Applications moving to the web.
2) The evolution of richer interfaces.
3) Letting people accessing their data.
4) Anything with an internet connection.
5) Continuous improvement.
6) Analyzing everyone's data - eg Amazon.

Towards the end, I learnt about how the advent of open-source languages like PHP, Perl and Java are sounding the death knell for the client-server age. Its interesting to see how web-based applications are increasingly reducing our reliance on computer-based software and applications. This movement has also led to a greater democratisation of information, which is the basis on which much of the blogosphere is founded on.

The session ended with a couple of quotable quotes. The most apt is probably this one by sci-fi novelist William Gibson:

"The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed."

In the world of citizen-centric media, the web 2.0 movement is probably the most quoted and referred. It is the foundation on which a whole suite of online tools and resources - wikipedia, flickr, youtube, digg, del.icio.us, odeo, blogging softwares - are founded. It heralded a new age which makes the whole experience of online content creation, sharing, interaction and networking that much easier.

In a way, it returned power to the people and allowed everybody to be a "prosumer" - both creating and consuming content in an easy way while taking networking and peer-to-peer communication to new heights.

Monday, March 26, 2007

What Nexus 2007 is All About

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After hearing my fellow media socialists Kevin, Benjamin, Ivan, Siva, Coleman, Preetam and Vanessa talk about Nexus 2007, I decided that I simply had to check it out for myself. And boy was it a blast!

Before going into the heavy stuff, let me share some photos and tongue-in-cheek observations about what Nexus 2007 is all about.

Food, Glorious Food

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Despite paying only $15, we were treated to a non-stop smorgasbord of morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and even beer! All that tech-talk leads to a lot of bits and bites.

Bubbly Youthful Energy

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Organised by The Digital Movement, Nexus 2007 seem to be very much about youthful passion, drive and ardour. Most of the organisers were undergrads and their enthusiasm can be seen in the way they spoke with so much bright-eyed and bushy-tailed energy.

Testosterone

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It was quite obvious that almost 90% of the attendees were guys. Most were young, hot-blooded males, all rarin' to become the next tech-chick magnet. Of course, the two fine looking gentlemen here beat most of them hands down.

Conversations

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Well, they certainly don't call this the conversational era for nothing. Small group discussions abound at Nexus 2007, with many carrying on the discussions into the wee hours of the morning through IMs, blogs, forums and chats.

Weapons of Mass Distraction

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Part of the programme includes a "live chat" moderated by an organiser with a big screen flashed on stage. I found this mildly amusing at times when the chatters were openly lambasting the speaker on stage.

OK, this is just a teaser guys. Some of the serious stuff coming ahead in the next couple of days. Akan datang.

What were your experiences like at Nexus 2007?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Inspired by Iskandar


Iskandar Jalil's exhibition "The Pottery Voice of Iskandar Jalil"

Anybody who is a collector of pottery and sculptural pieces would be familiar with the works of Iskandar Jalil, one of Singapore's Cultural Medallion winners and leading ceramicist. Accolades, awards and acknowledgements abound for this inspiring master potter, touted as one of Singapore's best leading artist and a great teacher to boot.

Iskandar's recent exhibition at MICA's Atrium - Material, Message, Metaphor - The Pottery Voice of Iskandar Jalil - was very well received. In fact, I understand that 40% of his pieces were already sold, at prices ranging from $500 to as high as $8,000.

What makes Iskandar such a great artist?

First he doesn't take any short cuts. Those who have trained and learned under him can attest to his extreme fussiness over details. The perfectionist streak in him makes every piece that he produces a quality work of art.

Second, he takes great pains to learn and enrich himself over the years. A Colombo Plan scholar, Iskandar is no intellectual lightweight. Over the years, he has enrolled in numerous courses and travelled around the world learning, refining and honing his craft.

Finally, he nurtures and passes his legacy on to the next generation. Many have known him as a great teacher in the fine art and craft of pottery, and he has nurtured many proteges and disciples. A lecturer at the School of Design at Temasek Polytechnic, he is also involved in various academic endeavours at NUS, Nanyang School of Fine Arts, and Baharuddin Vocational Institute.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fishy Tales

Last weekend, I brought my family to Ka-Soh Restaurant, a famous old chain specialising in Fish Head Noodle. Tucked away in a nondescript corner of the Singapore General Hospital - of all places - the restaurant was literally sitting in darkness in the hospital campus when we arrived for dinner.

Despite its relatively inauspicious location, the restaurant had a good crowd when we arrived. Apparently, Ka-Soh is one of the original purveyors of fine fishhead noodles which does not use evaporated milk to thicken its soup. Instead, the milky white soup came from hours of boiling the bones of "Sang Yu" or snakehead fish. I understand that this dish is especially popular due to its purported ability to heal one's wounds.

Although the wait was somewhat long, we enjoyed our dinner that night. The decor and ambience was casually comfortable, with a modern and minimalist Zen look. Waitresses were also generally attentive towards our needs and even advised us not to order too much for fear that we could not finish our food. Our favourite dish without a doubt was the fish meat noodles and we lapped up every single drop of the yummy soup.


Ethan and Tina tucking into fish meat noodles. Notice the unhappy look of hunger on Ethan's face.


The second dish which we ordered was Seafood Horfun. Apologies for the blurry photo which didn't do justice to this yummilicious dish.


Newspaper and magazine reviews plus celebrity photos galore. A must-have for marketing F&B outlets in Singapore?


A close-up of one of the newspaper cuttings, which revealed a clever spot of guerrilla PR in the face of the SARS adversity in 2003!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Marketing Mix 2.0


Ye olde Marketing Mix or 4 Ps, courtesy of marketingteacher.com

Anybody who has studied marketing 101 will be familiar with the marketing mix. Better known as the 4 Ps of marketing, they are Product, Price, Place (distribution) and Promotion. Newer pundits championing Services Marketing have added another 3 Ps which are Process, People and Physical Evidence.

There is even an 8th P called Positioning (made famous by marketing legends Jack Trout and Al Ries) which some have alluded to in marketing books and texts.

In the new 2.0 world of social media, I have created 8 brand new Ps to complement the traditional marketing mix. You may call them Marketing Mix 2.0 or perhaps the Conversational Marketing Mix (to borrow a term from Shel Israel of Naked Conversations fame) since they are all about the new power of relationships and influence.

Personality

The first and foremost P in the new media universe is personality. Folks must be able to identify who you are, what you stand for, and how you feel. Faceless, nameless drones just don't cut it in this new world of social networks and conversations. You need to carve out a reputation and name for yourself.

Proximity

Being there is probably more important now than ever before. With even CEOs blogging, there is really no excuse for one's employees to hide behind veiled curtains (or worst concrete fortresses) and communicate only through press releases, TV commercials and other "one-way" communication channels. They want to hear a human voice. Go ahead and make their day.

Participation

Be plugged into the action. In the 2.0 world, there are no room for bystanders. If you want to know what a blogger, podcaster, youtuber or forumer thinks or feels, you need to be one yourself. Get down and dirty, and be one of them.

Passing It On

Spreading the word through buzz and Word Of Mouth networks is the new name of the game. Everybody is a node as they would tell you. The more connected you are, the better. So go ahead, do something buzzworthy, activate the "sneezers" and create some "Tipping Point" action.

Provocation

Having a point of view is better than being blah. The most popular social media personalities are those who tend to be a little outrageous and controversial in their views, thoughts and behaviours. Playing it safe is probably the riskiest measure as it will drag you down into the deep pit of boring, "ho-hum" obscurity.

Peer Approval

As anybody would tell you, rank counts for much less in the democratisation of information. With peer-to-peer social networks becoming the norm, you need to be credible and win the approval of your (no surprises) peers. You need to be credible and well-liked for your own sake alone. Yes, my dear, that means standing on your own two feet and not depending on the army of publicists to save your behinds when push comes to shove.

Pals

Relationships play a bigger role than ever before. In fact, I would even call the Web 2.0 movement the humanisation of the Internet. The most remarkable thing about this new age is how we are moving back towards the old model where people trade based on relationships, hearsay and referrals rather than what they just saw on prime time TV.

Play

Finally, in case you don't know, all work and no play makes Jack a Dull 2.0 Marketer. The most popular applications - Youtube, Myspace, Friendster - are driven largely by entertainment and leisure. The biggest bloggers in Singapore's blogosphere are all mavens of mirth like Mr Brown, Xiaxue, and Mr Miyagi. A sense of humour would probably be your greatest ally in navigating the social networks.

Any more Ps to add? Let's have fun folks!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Death of Mainstream Media? Not Just Yet


Singapore's ad expenditure in 2006. Source: Nielsen Media Research

Recent newspaper reports indicated that ad expenditure in Singapore has risen by about 4% to $1.94 billion last year. This reversed an 8.3% decline the previous year before. Entertainment outlets and services were the biggest mainstream media spenders at $202.5 million. This was followed by the retail industry with $136.5 million, followed by government and social organisations at $92.4 million.

What's surprising was that most categories have shown an improvement, with television pipping newspapers yet again as the number one choice for advertisers, while magazines showed the greatest percentage increase. On the other hand, radio advertising seemed to have fallen significantly. I suspect that this may be due to the migration of listeners away from terrestrial radio stations towards podcasts and MP3.

I noticed with chagrin that online media buys weren't anywhere in the reckoning. Surely the almighty Google, which is generating a kingly sum every month from adsense revenue, should be inside? How about Yahoo!, MSN, Asiaone and other portal kingpins? Shouldn't our A-list bloggers be seen as "media spaces" too? I hope that they are not excluded because the numbers are too small to be of any significance!

I guess web channels still aren't seen as mainstream marketing arsenal in this 2.0 oriented day and age. When I speak to my peers, most are still more comfortable with the usual advertising lingo like GRPs, TARPs, Viewership, Circulation, Readership and so on.

Ask them about page views and unique visitors? Some will start to scratch their heads. Number of links? Click throughs? Even more so. If I start to talk about RSS feeds, number of Diggs, technorati rankings, or del.icio.us tags, most will probably think that I am some alien life form.

Certainly, the above results show that mainstream media is still the kingpin. Most marketers prefer to fall back on the tried and tested - at least for now. With such a highly web savvy population extensively participating in citizen media, I am sure there is a lot more that we can do online.

I believe the trick in this transition period is to marry both traditional and new media to yield the best results. New media can be used largely for experimentation and trial while mainstream media provides the foundation to build on. That way, we can hopefully have the best of both worlds. In future though, the balance may change. But for now at least, mainstream media is still here to stay.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lessons from TCM



Our new ritual every Saturday noon is to drive up north to Yishun to visit a popular Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shop there. My wife has been going there quite regularly lately, upon the recommendation of her boss, and has also brought my son to treat his runny nose and cough.

Despite the place being fairly ulu (out in the boondocks) at Yishun Street 71, there was already a queue when we went there recently.

As you can see from this photo, the shop front looked pretty simple and nondescript. The interior of the shop looked even worst. It was somewhat dark and dank - like a prison cell! Still the crowds kept pouring in.

So what are the lessons that one could learn from the success of these TCM practitioners?

1) Be Remarkable. The Chinese doctor there was uncannily accurate in his diagnosis. For example, he was able to tell that my wife had lower back and shoulder problems, coupled with sensitive nose, just by looking at her! He needn't even take her pulse (a method of diagnosis in TCM). I heard that once he could even tell that a lady had a miscarriage through this diagnostic method!

2) Be Scarce. Unlike other TCM chains like Ma Kuang, Eu Yan Sang and others, there is only one medical hall here manned by two brothers who are doctors. They obviously didn't look like they were going to open franchise or chain stores!

3) Be Focused. I noticed that the core competence of these Chinese physicians were in treating patients, not in selling products. There wasn't a single poster in the shop touting the virtues of any "miracle" pills.

4) Be Holistic. In this day and age, people are increasingly jaded by quick fix medicines which can only treat the symptons but not the root. This is why more are going for traditional therapies like homeopathy, ayurveda and of course TCM. I like the focus on holistic healing which the doctors here emphasise on each time. They prefer not to be drug dealers but health helpers.

Of course, my son Ethan enjoyed the visit in more ways than one, as you can see above!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Chain of Bloggers - Z-lists

Ok folks, yet another link-love-list, this time courtesy of eastcoastlife. Apparently, this was started by Mack Collier of The Viral Garden. Yeah, I know I am very late in doing this, but well better late than never right? ;)

So How Do I Do It?
Write a post, and copy and paste my list from below into it. Make sure the links are active and correct. If your blog is on that list, remove it because your post isn’t about self-promotion. Don’t worry, because if your name is on mine, it’s on others and will spread. Add your favourite deserving blogs to the top of the list (not compulsory). Publish the post.

Step by Step
1) Create a new post on your blog.
2) Copy and Paste the entire list of blog links below (may be easier to do it via HTML)
3) Add any blogs that you want to include near the top of the list. (Optional)
4) Include the blog where you first got the list from, on the list in your post.
5) Do not include your own blog links on the list in your post.
6) Make sure that all links are copied intact.
7) Publish the Post.

My Add Ons:

Taking Up The Challenge
Good Morning Yesterday
Jblog
Places

What it came with:
eastcoastlife
zynamic-gala
teczcape
simple-america
Little Cozy Corner

A Journey Called Life
Dead Boredom Seeking Freedom
maverick
fishtail
lynnee
Lucia
Doris
Lillian
Ainee
Anonymous
Adam
Toil
Ah Pek
Blank Canvas
Home Office Women
Shoppingmum
PabloPabla’s Whatever
Blueapron
Make$ Money$
Owen of Ugh
Jules is Utterly Geek
Internet. Serious Business
The Sabahan
Critical Thoughts
Blog-Op
Carols Vault
Blog About Your Blog
Monetize Your Blog
Cosmin PTR
Make Money On The Net
Successful Online Money Making
Turn One Pound Into One Million$
Work at Home Blog
Blogging For Beginners
How to earn money online?
Dosh Dosh
Money Money Money
Money Making Quest
Connected Internet
Mike’s Money Making Mission
Time to Budget
Can I Make Big Money Online
Blogtrepreneur
Flee the Cube
Blogging Secret
Blogging to Fame
Million Dollar Experiment heads Down
Quest to make money on the internet
Kumiko’s Cash Quest
Calico Monkey
Internet Bazaar
Shotgun Marketing
bizsolutionsplus
Customers Rock!
BrandSizzle
Being Peter Kim
Pow! Right Between The Eyes!
Billions With Zero Knowledge
Working at Home on the Internet
MapleLeaf 2.0
Two Hat Marketing
darrenbarefoot.com
The Emerging Brand
The Branding Blog
CrapHammer
Drew’s Marketing Minute
Golden Practices
Viaspire
Tell Ten Friends
Flooring the Consumer
Kinetic Ideas
Unconventional Thinking
Buzzoodle
NewsPaperGrl
The Copywriting Maven
Hee-Haw Marketing
Scott Burkett’s Pothole on the Infobahn
Multi-Cult Classics
Logic + Emotion
Branding & Marketing
Popcorn n Roses
On Influence & Automation
Bullshitobserver
Servant of Chaos
converstations
eSoup
Presentation Zen
Dmitry Linkov
aialone
John Wagner
Nick Rice
CKs Blog
Design Sojourn
Frozen Puck
The Sartorialist
Small Surfaces
Africa Unchained
Perspective
gDiapers
Marketing Nirvana
Bob Sutton¡
Shut Up and Drink the Kool-Aid!
Women, Art, Life: Weaving It All Together
Community Guy
Social Media on the fly

Friday, March 16, 2007

Foodie Bloggers

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This post is dedicated to my friends who bake, cook, prepare cocktails and generally help to make life sweeter and more sublime for foodies and drinkers like myself.

Being a true-blue Singaporean, I love to have my carrot cake and eat it. Yes, we are a nation of foodies and many people live and swear by their hokkien mee, satays, roti pratas, and mee poks (a flat fettucine like egg noodle) here. There are also many food guides around (many with online counterparts) like the venerable Makansutra which has become a national institution for many here.

If you like to explore hawker centres and coffee shops as much as I do, you will appreciate the kind of marketing which they do. I always find it amusing how they use their accolades from Channel U's Yummy King, the Green Book, Newspaper and magazine reviews, and even celebrity photographs to great effect.

Blogging seem to have taken the F&B world by storm. In fact, many of the most popular blogs around either blog about baking, food recipes, restaurant reviews, hawker hunts, clubbing spots, cooking, and just general savoury indulgences. I have also come across a blogging cafe and even a blogging bouncer!

I wish that more leading restaurateurs and food entrepreneurs will blog though. It will be interesting to read about the inspiration behind the classic creation of chefs in Singapore, or the toils and troubles that a hawker experiences. Or perhaps how one experimented with a recipe over and over again until he or she achieved culinary perfection. Maybe stories about serving a very important customer (like a celebrity or politician), the day the cooking oil ran out, and how dating couples behave behind the bar. Or even a simple trip to the market early in the morning to hunt for the freshest ingredients (ala those perfection-obsessed chefs in Japan Hour).

Certainly, the F&B business isn't an easy one. I have heard and read about so many failures in this business (including those amongst personal friends) that I wonder why people bother sometimes. The hours are long, investments are heavy, and competition can kill. Perhaps blogging could help to draw customers? I for one love to read about my food and how it is prepared.

Any ideas out there?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Scientific Success


School kids making a beeline for the sake of science!

Since I was a kid, I have always enjoyed visiting the Singapore Science Centre. One of Singapore's leading attractions and a member of the Museum Roundtable, the Science Centre has managed to reinvent and rejuvenate itself over the years. This can be seen in its growing list of accolades - including one which stated that it is one of the world's best science museums. Visitorship has also been improving, with close to 800,000 visitors popping through its doors in 2005 and more expected this year.

What are the scientific techniques which lead to its growing popularity? Let me put forward a few educated hypotheses!

1) Sterling Partnerships. One of the things which I have noticed is how Science Centre has allied itself closely with the Agency for Science, Technology And Research (A*Star), a prominent government agency in Singapore promoting research and technology. Such associations help to make the centre more popular with parents, who want to ensure that their kids have a good headstart in life.

2) Big Name Blockbusters. In the last two years, Science Centre has brought in some of the biggest names in showbiz and added a scientific twist to it. They include exhibitions like The Art of Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings. Another biggie which always gets people (especially kids) excited are dinosaurs, the its recent show involving a couple of T-Rexes called Sue and Stan enjoyed roaring results.

3) Aggressive Outreach. To better reach the public, the centre has embarked on various initiatives such as roadshows at shopping centres and malls. It has also sponsored various contests, events and awards to draw attention to itself, often working closely with leading brand names like Sony. Such activities help it to enlarge its sphere of influence beyond the boundaries of the centre.

4) Pulsating Programmes. Think science is boring and only for the nerds and geeks? Think again. With an exciting calendar of events, the centre manage to attract not only lab rats but those with more mainstream interests. Its Omni-Theatre for example, has screened leading Hollywood fare like Superman Returns to reach a bigger group. More recently, it has joined hands with the National Heritage Board on an outdoor concert featuring leading local names like Electrico too.


5) Focusing on Key Customers. Anybody who has visited this attraction will realise one thing. Almost everything is geared towards making kids happy and smiley. One of the most popular attractions here is the outdoor water garden, which is always teaming with screaming pre-schoolers as you can see here.


6) Great Guides and Happy Hosts. I have never failed to be amused during its regular hourly shows by the animated show hosts who take time to connect with the audiences. Always ready with a warm smile, these ambassadors of the centre help to light up the environment and make it a fun experience for all.

7) Exporting Scientific Capital. Leveraging on its core assets, the Science Centre has travelled some of its prized exhibits overseas. Such initiatives help to strengthen the brand positioning of the centre, while helping it to achieve greater international acclaim.

8) Making Them Fans. To keep them all coming back, the Centre has also launched a series of membership and loyalty programmes targeted at various interest groups. These cover a wide range - from science clubs in schools to corporate memberships. Science aficionados who are keen to meet like-minded folks while enjoying generous discounts will naturally be drawn to these programmes.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Spartan Slaughterfest



"Return with your shield or on it!"

That was the urging given by the wife of King Leonidas, one time king of Sparta and a hero who led 300 men to face-off against the almighty god-king Xerxes the Great of Persia and his one million soldiers. Well at least that's what happened in the movie 300 which I just caught this morning.

I normally do not blog about movies. Somehow though, this one caught my fancy. Yeah, I know. The critics have said that "300" was all about testerone-fuelled blood, gore and lots of masculine masochism. I have never seen so many lobotomies in movies! Still, I found it highly entertaining and certainly a fabulous visual feast. The CGIs and rendering of the environments were pretty awesome.

There was something about the whole culture and society of the Spartans which intrigued me. How weak or sickly looking baby boys were left to perish. How 7-year-olds were enlisted to the Spartan army and kept there until the age of 35. And also how they had to go through a punishing process in their early teens out in the wild and to slay wild carnivores like wolves and other denizens of the forest. Or to steal for their food and not be caught stealing. The punishment for being caught was flogging - not so much because of the crime but because they can't do it well enough to escape being caught!

Maybe its the sense of escapism which the movie conveys? Maybe its the fact that them Spartans had it a lot harder than us Singaporeans? Or perhaps its just the need to let one's hair down and be silly once in a while?

Anyway, here are some of the other quotable quotes from the movie for all your epic movie lovers:

"Tonight, we dine in Hell!"

"Never retreat and never surrender!"

"For glory for Sparta!"

Friday, March 09, 2007

An Incredible Consumer Spectacle


Gadgets and geeks galore at the IT Show!

I recently visited the IT Show at Singapore's Suntec City (also known as our very own vertical Silicon Valley) to see if I could pick up a good bargain or two. It always amazes me how these computer fairs and exhibitions could attract such huge and massive crowds, all thronging the place to catch a piece of the retail action. The number of people streaming in and out are usually non-stop. More importantly, most who leave are seen happily carrying bags and even trolleys full of hardware, software and all manner of computer peripherals and accessories.

Why have these shows become such huge consumer successes? More interestingly, why are some other consumer fairs (like gifts, furniture, weddings, and health) relatively moribund while PC shows continue to draw the crowds?

First of course is the fact that such shows usually offer fabulous prices. Everybody loves a good bargain, and you can get lots of them here. What's especially prevalent are bundled packages where the deal is sweetened with one freebie thrown in after another plus a good cash discount to boot.

Next is the publicity and advertising that such shows carry. With extensive coverage in Digital Life (a companion magazine to The Straits Times, Singapore's largest circulating newspaper), full coverage at Hardware Zone and other geek hangouts, everybody's bound to hear about them. Of course, you should also count in the Word Of Mouth effect that such shows generate, especially if there are breakthrough products.

These events have also evolved into technology showcases. It has become a computer circus of sorts, where the latest and greatest consumer IT products are rolled out by loud and aggressive promoters, extolling the virtues of their latest widgets at the top of their voices.

An example would be Singtel offering its latest broadband access package at a blazing speed of 10Mbps which comes with a free notebook. Another such deal - one which I personally succumbed to - was an external hard disk drive that offers one-touch backup which covers Operating System.

Finally, I believe that Singapore is truly becoming a nation of geeks. Infocomm consumption figures by agencies like the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore show that we have one of the world's highest Internet penetration rate. Practically every Singaporean from kids to grandparents carry mobile phones (sometimes a few each), while more are blogging, IM-ing, and chatting each day.

For me, I was one happy customer that evening, bringing home a brand new wireless modem and router, wireless USB network adapter, colour printer catridges, an external HDD, and an optical mouse. Any other thoughts on this from my fellow gadget freaks?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Parking Lot Principles


I was piqued by this recent post on Seth Godin's blog which spoke about how a bank manager parked at the most convenient lot available right in front. An excerpt from it below:

"The manager of the Chase bank in Pleasantville parks right out front. Her branch is on a quiet street with parking meters available for customers to use. Figure there's perhaps a dozen spaces convenient enough to make it worth going to the bank... if they're full, keep on driving, because there's always another bank coming up soon."

This reminded me of exactly the same frustration which many of us face.

Visit any commercial or office building and you will see that the reserved or permanent lots for staff are always at the first few levels. At a certain building at Shenton Way, I remembered driving all the way up to level 5 or 6 before I could park! The rest were all in red and clearly demarcated for staff. Naturally, the CEO and Chairman lots were the closest to the door and lift, complete with their license plate numbers gloriously emblazoned on the ground for all to see.

Why not put the hourly parking lots nearest to the carpark entrance? After all, these are the ones used most frequently by our customers who need to scoot in and scoot out quickly. Let's then position those red reserved "I-work-here-so-I-am-almighty" ones way up at the upper levels (or lower levels for those with multiple basements).

I am sure the extra minutes taken to walk or take the lift to their offices won't hurt. Maybe it will even improve your health and well-being?

More importantly, your customers will end up appreciating you more for it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Why Bosses Should Blog


Jonathan Schwartz , CEO of Sun Microsystems and avid blogger

This post resulted from a series of email exchanges between Ivan Chew, Kevin Lim and a couple of other media socialists. The basic idea is whether it makes sense for people in positions of authority to blog, and if so, what benefits or drawbacks do they bring.

As a publicist, I have been involved in profling both my organisations and CEOs for the longest time. People are always interested to hear from the top dogs. This includes usual stuff like their vision, key thrusts, 5-year plans, ideas to revolutionise the industry, management style, to more personal details like favourite food, hobbies etc. They can also change an organisation's course for the future. This can apply to something as macro as a country's destiny, to one as micro as a product line's bottom-line.

Increasingly, at least in the Western world, more and more corporate chieftains are blogging. Prime examples are Bob Lutz of General Motors, Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban, and Sun Microsystem's Jonathan Schwartz. More recently, Vice President of CSR in McDonald's Bob Langert has jumped into the fray, and so has Bill Marriott of Marriott Hotels.

In Singapore, the only CEO blogger I know of is Tan Kin Lian. Unfortunately, he had retired as NTUC Income's chief so that will bring our total score to zero for now. I hardly hear of any senior management bloggers out there, though I am quite sure Mr Wang isn't just a junior flyboy. Most tend to be consultants or trainers, with the occasional tech-related entrepreneurs.

There are a couple of politicians who blog though - Foreign Minister George Yeo (who blogs at Ephraim Loy's blog as well as Beyond SG), and the P65 MPs. More recently is lawyer turned Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong who has attracted fans with his candid and transparent approach towards politics.

I wish more captains of industry would blog though. Blogging helps to demystify what your corporate culture is all about. It makes you more directly accessible to your various publics while drawing them closer to you. Some of your customers may also be keen to hear what goes on behind the scenes, and be involved - if not in helping to create the next product then at least in voicing their frustrations and complaints.

Blogging head honchos can also connect more directly to their employees. Your colleagues would certainly be interested to know your thoughts on various matters so that they know how they can better work with you (or under you!). Certainly, blogs are more informal and friendly than your regular staff conference or corporate newsletter.

Another benefit I see in blogging is what it does to your personal and corporate brand. Blogs certainly provide an added dimension to one's brand identity and positioning. It tells people what you and your organisation's values are, and helps to shape public perception in a more direct, conversational manner with a figure that they can identify with and trust.

In a way, blogging helps to humanise CEOs and senior managers. Too often, there is a perception that senior corporate guys live in ivory towers and are totally out of touch with their constituents. Blogging helps in positioning you as the guy next door, whom one can speak to in normal everyday language and get a frank and candid opinion.

The flip side however is that blogging may take off some of the sheen that corporate communications has bestowed on head honchos for the longest time. Being believable and trusted, however, may be far more important than all the accolades and awards that one can muster. Especially in this day and age where transparency and honesty are valued.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Creating Good Vibes

Recently, I attended a staff seminar where the theme of resonance was used. According to Wikipedia, resonance is a term used in physics whereby one system tends to oscillate a maximum amplitude at certain frequency.

Resonance is a powerful force multiplier. It is both a natural and artificial phenomenon whereby something moves in synchrony with another, for both good and bad. Witness how the powerful high pitched voices of soprano singers can cause wine glasses to shatter.


Marching soldiers crossing a wooden bridge at a certain rhythm can cause it to break. Even helicopters like the almighty Chinook can fall prey to Resonance! Watch this video below:


Resonance can exert an overriding influence not only in physical terms however. It can also be seen in emotional, cognitive and psychological areas. I am sure you have been moved before by a particular song, dance, or performance. Maybe it could be a scene in a movie, a book which you have read, or a particular photograph?

Blogging can become a powerful force to elicit resonance. There is something powerful about human-to-human conversations which occur every day over the blogosphere, connecting people across different societies, interests, geographies, cultures and demographies.

The key? Emotional connection, where one kindred spirit moves in melody and harmony with another.

If we talk about online communities, this can become even more powerful. Resonance is a key reason why big organisations have to apologise for seemingly inconsequential little customers. Resonance can also inspire, activate and become a clarion call for action. It unites hundreds of thousands in heart, spirit and soul for a common cause. It also causes customers to vote with their feet when things go awry.

I believe that in business, you need to create resonance with all your stakeholders - customers, board of directors, suppliers, and especially employees. When all the parts can move together in perfect symmetry and synchrony, there will be a certain rhythm, harmony and poetry in how you conduct your daily deals. Instead of antagonism and conflict, what you may then get is the chance to create beautiful music together.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Entrepreneurship 101



Singapore's economy is doing well recently. GDP is up, tourism arrivals are up, average household incomes are rising, and the job market looks white hot. With more potential customers with higher disposable incomes, plus the recent bundle of goodies for SMEs, there is never a better time for entrepreneurs here.

Rather than wait for the perfect job to come along, why not consider starting your own business? Before you take the plunge though, do consider the following:

Business Idea

Successful businesses have a well-defined niche product or service. Do market research and ask potential customers what they think of your idea. Ask yourself if your experience is useful for your business. Usually, the more unique and well received your business concept is, the better your chances of success.

Legal Considerations

The next important step is to register your business at the Registry of Companies and Businesses. Be familiar with the regulations for specific trades and seek clearance from the authorities. Ask existing business owners in the same trade what kind of procedures they have to follow.

Financing

Cash is the lifeblood of business. Calculate how much money you need for initial costs (rental deposit, equipment, manpower, renovations, etc) and ongoing expenses (goods, salaries, rentals, utilities, stationery, etc). Do profit and loss and cash flow projections to find out how long you need to recoup your investment and break even.

Pick up some basic accounting or hire an accountant. If you need to borrow money, shop around for the best rates. Nevertheless keep a lid on expenses, and start on a shoestring budget if you can.

Operations and Manpower

Think about the working hours needed. Are you prepared to forego weekends and evenings? Can you do it yourself or is help needed? If you must hire, familiarise yourself with employment rules. Include manpower costs like salaries, CPF, and other benefits in your financial projections.

Location

As the saying goes, its location, location, location. For retail businesses, look for premises with the right rental rates and target customers. Do a human traffic study to see how many and what kind of people walk past a certain area.

Sales and Marketing

Selling is key to success. Know where your customers hang out, their spending patterns and habits. Explore affordable means of promoting your business such as flyers, direct sales letters or email blasts. Word of mouth advertising and referrals are also effective. You can also consider writing to the press if you have a good story idea. Most importantly, provide excellent service to attract repeat customers. You should also observe how successful businesses sell and market themselves.

Striking out can be rewarding and enriching. However, you should always plan ahead. Hopefully, the above tips will help you prepare yourself for the road ahead.