Monday, January 31, 2011

When Quitting is Winning - Tips from The Dip

Is it true that quitters never win and winners never quit?

Well, the answer is no - at least according to Seth Godin, business blogger extraordinaire and prolific author of small "hit 'em hard" books.

In the 80 odd pages of "The Dip", Seth proclaimed that "winners do quit and quitters do win" - provided they do so in the right context. By focusing on the few areas that make a huge difference while getting rid of everything else, one could aspire to be the best in the world, reaping disproportionate profits that come with it. This "profit pocket" is where you should aspire to be in the Long-Tail (a concept by Wired magazine's Chris Anderson).

Courtesy of Seth Godin

One of the book's central idea revolves around three curves:

The first, called the Dip, is one which starts off easy during the initial stages, before plummeting into long and difficult stretch. To succeed, one needs to surmount the U-shaped pit and emerge victorious. It looks like this:

Courtesy of First 90 Days of Outside Sales

The second curve is the deadly Cul-de-Sac (or dead-end in French) where one just works and works without anything happen. This is the route of those who contend with just being average and getting stuck on a plateau. The third curve is the Cliff, where one could rise all the way to the top but suddenly plummet downwards. I think the corporate burnout of jet-setting executives could be symptomatic of this.

Courtesy of

The book next explained the entire strategy of quitting, and gives good advice on how one can quit smartly. Quitting in the Dip is a bad idea. One shouldn't quit in the midst of panic or difficulty. Instead, one should plan ahead on the appropriate juncture in which to throw in the towel BEFORE encountering the Dip.

Sticking to one's guns should only be adopted if one is absolutely sure that one is in a Dip that is worth persevering for. In Seth's view, projects stuck in Cul-de-Sacs like the Space Shuttle and the Vietnam War should have been terminated long ago. Pride shouldn't be a reasons for sticking it out to the end.

Do you agree that the Space Shuttle is a bad idea? (source)

Personally, I found the mantras in the book edifying. Focusing on the one or two things where one can be the "best in the world" is an invaluable lesson for many of us guilty of being distracted by the "flavours of the month". One is also challenged to consider quitting with foresight and preparation, and not when the going gets tough.

However, one should not use the book as an excuse to seek the easy way out in one's job, family life, social circles, or exercise regime. While aspiring to be the world's greatest is a noteworthy goal, one should also be careful about chasing after rainbows in the pursuit of perfection and end up becoming a serial quitter.

PS - Check out my buddy Daniel's review of this book too.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

An Example of Family Friendly Marketing

nex Shopping Mall

Catering to families can be a highly profitable venture for any consumer facing business. Don't believe me? Consider the following research commissioned in 2005 by Family Matters! Singapore and MCYS:

- Households with young children collectively spend $1.5 billion annually
- They tend to shop as a family nearly 2/3 of the time
- These households spend a total of $820 million annually on non-grocery shopping alone
- Family-friendly businesses enjoys 5% - 10% more sales than less family-friendly ones

While many establishments have sought to position themselves as family destinations, however, few truly cater to the diverse needs and considerations of a family unit. It is thus heartwarming for me to note that the Shabu-Shi Buffet Restaurant at the newly opened nex Shopping Mall offered discounts not just for kids, but seniors and students too. In fact, it is probably the only outlet I have seen thus far that have a four-tier pricing structure as seen below:

nex Shopping Mall

Having different prices for different demographic segments is a good idea, as it considers the unique circumstances of people at different life stages. For example, kids are unlikely to be big eaters, students are often broke, while seniors normally eat less than a typical adult.

Doing so also helps to remove the perceived 'high price of dining out' barrier that large and extended families commonly face.

The million dollar question, however, is whether it serves fresh and delicious food for its steamboat buffet. Unfortunately, my family and I were already full when we saw its outlet and thus we didn't have a chance to sample the buffet. If you did, do let me know how you find it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Pain Removal Solution

Remove Our Pain and We'll Reward You For it (source)

It often puzzles me why companies and businesses don't focus on the obvious pain points of their customers. Why do they not listen to the repeated complaints and criticisms that have emerged both online and offline by their regular customers?

Examples of commonly felt "pain" points include the following:

1) Being put on hold for 30 minutes or longer when calling telcos for much needed help.

2) Being asked to fill up lengthy forms repeatedly even though one has done it before for a different service.

3) Being made to wait... and wait... and wait... before a waiter or waitress (makes you wonder about the name of the profession) notices that you're dying from thirst/hunger/frustration.

4) Being made to dig through layers upon layers of a website before finally reaching the information that you're hoping to access.

5) Being made to stand or to miss a public bus day after day because it is too crowded during peak periods.

6) Most importantly, being made to feel like a stranger even though you've been patronising that company or business for months or years. Hello, I see you more often than my own parents these days!

Delighting one's customers is one thing. Sweep us off our feet with the sheer brilliance of your service and we'll remember you.

However, eradicating our most immediate, most acute, and most commonly felt pain points - BEFORE they occur - are probably worth a lot more than all the great after sales service that you can provide.

Don't forget that once we're bitten, we tend to be twice as shy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chief Culture Officer - A Book Review

On a recent visit to the public library at Bukit Merah (I love them for their wide selection), I managed to locate a copy of Chief Culture Officer by cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken.

With the tagline "How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation", McCracken proposed that a new professional - the Chief Culture Officer or CCO - is needed to keep corporations on the pulse of consumer cultures. While certain organisations has the fortune of having a CEO who is also a CCO, relying purely on the gut feel of executive tastemakers alone may be dangerous and un-strategic for organisations keen to differentiate themselves.

Adopting an anecdotal narrative, McCracken first gave examples of top executives who were CCOs themselves, distinguished between fast and slow cultures (see diagram below), highlighted why status was waning and cool was winning, and shared about the rise of pro-sumers.

While fast culture appear to be fads, slow culture is a product of heritage, ritual and tradition (courtesy of throughline)

McCracken next hinted how organisations can seek out culture through books, magazines, movies, insiders, hobbyists, blogs and other sources of popular culture. He advises CCOs to steer clear of naysayers, and furnished readers with a "How-To" guide complete with a "tool kit" and reading list.

A natural storyteller, McCracken weaves a compelling chronicle. He explains that any company worth its salt needs to understand and ingrain a deeper understanding of popular culture into its DNA. This is different from high culture which includes museums (ouch!), gallery art, classical music and ballet.

CCOs can play a vital role by helping to connect the organisation to its consumers (termed multipliers by McCracken to signify a more active and participatory role), and to both "breathe in" and "breathe out" culture. They need to venture beyond traditional market research tools like surveys and focus groups to embark on ethnographic interviews (which is a form of social science research). This entails noticing what's happening around them and demonstrating empathy while asking the right questions.

CCOs must get down and dirty to dig up scintillating gems of deep and useful cultural insight. They cannot shy away from speaking to people from all walks of life in order to gain an intimate understanding of how their products and services fit into their customers' lifestyles.

To bolster his case, McCracken showcased numerous examples of corporations that get it and those that don't. Winners include Apple, P&G, Facebook, and Motorola's Razr (it went downhill thereafter). Culturally astute heroes such as Steve Jobs of Apple, Mary Minnick of Coke, Silvia Lagnado of Dove, Geoffrey Frost of Motorola and the legendary A.G. Lafley of P&G are also lauded.

AG Lafley is the Chief Executive Officer of P&G as well as its CCO (source)

Offering tips on brainstorming and other acts of intellectual improv, McCracken felt that a CCO should leverage the interests, wisdom and knowledge of others in the organisation. A truly effective cultural strategy would permeate all parts of the customer-facing end of the organisation - from brand management/marketing communications, to design, to new media and planning.

Writing in a bold and sometimes provocative manner, McCracken has his fair share of pet peeves. He warns about over-reliance on consultants and "gurus", despises "too cool for school" cool-hunters, ridicules the over mechanical mindsets of engineers or economists, and even brings down his own kind - academic professors and anthropologists. Unfortunately, this is also where McCracken fell into his own trap of adopting stereotypical and prejudiced lenses while making bold sweeping statements!

Would I recommend this book? Well, the idea of a CCO is an ingenious one, although many of the proposed tools and techniques are not new to those of us schooled in Marketing. While the book is heavy on stories, it isn't meant to be prescriptive and thus may be more useful as a provocation for action rather than a reference tome. Overall, the book was a rather entertaining read, although certain sections tend to belabour their points.

One thing is certain though. Companies need to be more informed and alert to upcoming consumer trends and cultural tastes, and this book serves as a good base to build one's cultural strategies upon.

PS - Do also check out Kevin Lim's interview of Grant McCracken close to a year ago.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why I Love the 3 A's of Awesome

Neil Pasricha,
Neil Paricha - living an awesome life (from The Webby Awards)

Do you know who the man above is?

Well, Neil Pasricha is the son of two Canadian immigrants of South Asian origin, and a 30 something guy who faced some rather big issues in life. His wife divorced him recently, despite him loving her very much, and his best friend committed suicide.

Instead of giving up and giving in, Neil chose to make a difference in the world by shining the spotlight on the simple little pleasures in life. In his view, there are just too many negative things in the news - polar ice caps meling, the US Elections, wars - and he felt that he had to do something about it.

In a recent TED talk (see below), Neil shares with us the secret 3 A's of being Awesome, which are:

1) Attitude - Having the right attitude to overcome adversities in life

2) Awareness - Being alive and alert to the little things that make life "as good as it gets"

3) Authenticity - Being truthful to oneself, and knowing what one truly wants

Do view the video below and see if you're as inspired as I am. :)

If you want more of the good stuff, check out Neil's wonderful blog 1000 Awesome Things, which won a Webby Award. Launched on 20 June 2008, it counts down to 1000 positive little things that can happen to anybody's life (its currently at #325).

Neil is also the author of a best selling book titled (you guessed it) "The Book of Awesome" which is currently hitting the best-selling charts on Amazon.

Some of you may ask why I'm doing this free pitch for the guy. Well, like him, I find that the world has placed too much emphasis on doom, sorrow and suffering. Pressing us down every moment of our lives, the heavy air of negativity stifles our existence.

Instead of moaning and groaning, why don't we take a leaf from his book/ post from his blog and concentrate on the fun little things that happen to us? Why don't we count our blessings and celebrate the joy of being alive? After all, being contented is a positive step towards Godliness.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

nex - Colossal Cathedral of Consumption

nex Shopping Mall

To satisfy my curiosity and to keep in touch with what's new, hot and happening in Singapore's suburban towns, my family recently visited nex, the biggest shopping mall at the Northeastern part of Singapore.

nex Shopping Mall

Positioned as a shopping, dining and entertainment hub, nex boasts of a staggering 360 tenants and brands.

nex Shopping Mall

Anchor retailers at nex include Isetan, FairPrice Xtra, Cold Storage and Courts. One can also find specialty retailers like Challenger, Kiddy Palace, Virtualand, Charles & Keith and The Pet Safari, as well as the more run-of-the-mill mass market clothing chains like G2000, Esprit, Cotton On, and more.

nex Shopping Mall

What I particularly like about nex is its selection of food glorious food. One can choose from over 90 outlets to stuff one's face.

nex Shopping Mall

They include fancy new Japanese restaurants like Freshness Burger, fast food hangouts Texas Fried Chicken and McDonalds, as well as familiar favourites like Crystal Jade Kitchen, Soup Restaurant, PUTIEN, Paradise Inn and The Ship Restaurant.

nex Shopping Mall

There are also numerous coffee outlets, snack bars, cafes and two food courts to choose from - Food Junction and Food Republic.

nex Shopping Mall

nex Shopping Mall

nex also features a "wellness" area featuring hair salons and beauty parlours like Supercuts and more.

nex Shopping Mall

nex Shopping Mall

Movie goers and Karaoke kings and queens can also showcase their talents while whittling away their recreational hours here.

nex Shopping Mall

Perhaps the most unique feature of nex is its SkyGarden featuring a dog park and a dry and wet children's playground. Due to time constraints however, we weren't able to visit the rooftop this time around, but I'm sure we will do so the next time we're here.

nex Shopping Mall

Do check out the rest of our photographs here, and see if you'd like to shop and eat till you drop - like us!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Understanding Government 2.0

A view of what Government 2.0 could be (courtesy of ZD Net)

What does Government 2.0 mean? Does it merely entail government agencies embracing the use of multiple social technologies and community platforms? Is it reflective of a more open, engaging and inclusive approach to governance? Or does it epitomise the beginning of active citizenry in all public affairs?

As I'll be moderating a Gov 2.0 session on 'Connection' next week at Govcamp, I thought I should dig in deeper into this topic. For a start, here's a definition of what Government 2.0 means according to Gartner:

"...the use of IT to socialize and commoditize government services, processes and data."

A more descriptive definition of Government 2.0 is adopted by the Australian Government. The definition reads:

"Government 2.0 is about the use of technology to encourage a more open and transparent form of government, where the public has a greater role in forming policy and has improved access to government information."

Expanding on these two definitions, there are probably several pillars involved in embracing a Gov 2.0 strategy. In my mind, they are:

1) Increased citizen access to information, delivered in various formats

2) Greater degrees of citizen participation, engagement and dialogue

3) Delivery of e-services that improves convenience and ease for citizens

4) Use of social media platforms like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr and other community content platforms

5) Decentralisation of government services to citizen communities, companies and nonprofits

Many governments around the world, especially in Western economies, have embraced these core tenets of Web 2.0 in efforts to provide better services to their citizens. The core ideas behind these platforms is to improve the levels of connectivity and communication between government and citizen:

- The American Federal Government is one of the most 2.0 enabled government. There is an entire list of ways to connect with the US government through various social networking channels - blogs, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, webchats, photos, and more. Public officers can also network and share content on Govloop, a Federal government initiated space. By now, of course, everybody would have read or heard of how President Barack Obama employed Web 2.0 in a big way for his Presidential campaign efforts.

Obama's Social Media Strategy (Courtesy of Edelman)

- In the UK, several interesting possibilities have emerged, ranging from access to public health information, e-petitions to the government, as well as local grounds-up initiatives like FixMyStreet (where citizens report damages to public amenities), and Pledgebank (a platform for communal action and activism). British politicians are also bending it like Barack (Obama) and more are embracing social media.

- Down under in Australia, the use of Web 2.0 tools in providing public services is well documented here. In fact, the Aussies are so serious that they have drafted a comprehensive Government 2.0 Taskforce Report here. Of special significance are efforts in Emergency 2.0 which reported on social technologies for crisis management - check out this case study on using Twitter for the Feb 2009 Victorian bushfires.

- Many government agencies here in Singapore have adopted various tenets of Web 2.0. The recently concluded Youth Olympic Games (YOG) has seen a plethora of citizen engaging technologies being adopted by the team. Other examples include the Singapore Police Force's Facebook page, Health Promotion Board's Nutriline podcasts, National Library Board's various blogs plus Facebook application, and the National Environment Agency's regular Twitter updates on the weather. The National Heritage Board has also pioneered various initiatives here, most notably the blog, "I Love Museums" Facebook fan page, and Heritage TV on Youtube.

Perhaps a good way to understand the responses of Government 2.0 could be found in this post by O'Reilly (the folks who coined the term Web 2.0). According to them, there are three phases of Government 2.0 in the US:

Phase 1: Government 2.0 Surprise (200?-2008)

In this nascent stage, Governments are surprised by how prevalent social networks like Twitter, Facebook, blogs and wikis and significant. At this stage, Gov 2.0 was certainly at its infancy not just in the US, but the rest of the world. I suppose this was also the stage whereby governments around the world quickly tooled themselves up for the realities of this new space.

Phase 2: Government 2.0 Experimentation (2009)

This occurred after the Obama election, and particularly after his inauguration. In the White House, for instance, the "goverati" formed the core of a movement to bring the White House vision of a more transparent, collaborative, and participatory government to fruition.

Around this time, the term "Open Government" also became popular. This summed up a philosophy of how government should work for people, to social media, social networks, cloud computing, mobile technology, open source, open technology/interoperability, to topics like cybersecurity and privacy of citizen data. Experimentation was the key then.

Phase 3: Government 2.0 Solutions (2010-201?)

In O'Reilly's radar, the landscape of Gov 2.0 in early 2010 is shifting once more. A more critical and questioning approach is embraced in the use of technology, placing greater emphasis on stable, reliable, legal, interoperable, and complete solutions to government problems. Examples like Crisis Camp Haiti, the Iranian elections and other global issues show the way.

Many government agencies also beginning to take a more serious look at Gov 2.0 metrics which goes beyond the number of followers/fans/comments/links. The critical thing now is to measure "how many truly unique comments you get that are actually novel and useful, that actually lead to change". Its quality as opposed to quantity. A greater partnership approach is also adopted where governments link up with companies to provide services to citizens.

The Future of Government 2.0

So what's the future of Government 2.0 like? The way I see it, the adoption of social technologies and a more inclusive approach to governance appears to be inevitable, judging by the generational shifts from the Baby Boomers to Gen X, Gen Y and the Millenials (who are all digital natives).

Perhaps a more collaborative and engaging approach may be embraced, harnessing the power of social technologies (mobile or otherwise) to tap on the collective wisdom and imagination of the citizenry to resolve thorny issues. Government agencies may also work more closely with companies and citizens to jointly develop solutions to public problems or challenges, relying on crowdsourcing approaches that go beyond traditional face-to-face focus groups and feedback sessions.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to share them here at the Govcamp website.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

From Wet Markets to Web Markets

As my wife and I were having our breakfast and purchasing fresh groceries recently at the Redhill Market, I spotted this interesting signboard from a fish monger in the market. Apparently Pan's Fish offers fresh fish for sale (the kind you can cook) on its website and you can actually order them via e-commerce.

I believe they must be one of the first wet market stalls to be so proactive in encouraging online ordering. The cool thing is that if you can't make it during the unearthly wet market opening hours, you can always get your catch of ikan kurau, salmon, mackerel, prawns and more online, 24 by 7.

Now all they need is a blog, a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter account....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why Do Crowded Buses Still Happen?

One of the most befuddling things I encounter, day after working day as a bus commuter, is this:

Why are the same crowded buses always crowded?

On the flip side, why are the same relatively empty buses empty over the same period?

Naturally, there could be many different reasons why this is so, and they could range from the following:

1) Insufficient bus captains
2) Insufficient buses
3) Inability to forecast commuter traffic (yeah right)
4) Inability to make profits if bus frequency is increased
5) Inability to mobilise and redeploy buses quickly enough to meet demand (despite GPS, satellite technology, mobile networks, and other forms of artificial intelligence)
6) Bus passengers refusing to move to the back (a pet peeve of mine)
7) All of the above

While all the above points are probably correct to some degree or other, they don't really mean anything to the commuter who has just missed his or her bus and is going to be late for work, or has to stand in a thick and smelly crowd.

The most heart wrenching thing is that the lack of seats have resulted in an aggressive and anti-social behaviour amongst tired bus commuters. We have to be reminded to give up our seats, move in to the back of the bus, and to assist the elderly, the young, the pregnant, or the disabled.

An occasional lapse is perhaps forgiveable. But not when it happens day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

Do you have an answer or a solution to this?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Don't Lose Your Way (Garmin-Asus A10 Review)

When Alvin from first called me to ask if I'm keen to review a new GPS smartphone from Garmin and Asus, I immediately agreed. After all, I do know of Garmin's expertise in developing easy to use GPS navigation devices - an ever useful feature whenever you are driving abroad in strange roads around the world (like the one below along California).


Garmin-Asus is a co-branded alliance between Garmin® Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN), and ASUSTeK® Computer Inc. (TAIEX: 2357). The Garmin-Asus A10, a touchscreen smartphone running on the Android platform, leverages on Garmin’s professional pedestrian and vehicle navigation. It fuses the versatility of the Android™ platform with Garmin’s GPS location technology, a neat feature for folks who need to "topo" their way around foreign places like New Zealand's Lake Te Anau below.

Te Anau and Fiordlands 1

Apparently, the version of the A10 being sold in Singapore has Android 2.1 and is designed for urban professionals who travel frequently within city environments whether by foot, car or public transport with its top of the line navigation-centric system. With this handy tool in hand, one would never get lost again - even in crowded streets at night like this one here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Taiwan Feast Indulgence Tour

The package which I received from Omy came in two boxes. The first contained the Android smartphone itself, together with the usual phone charger and earpiece. The second box featured the powered car mount and speaker together with that usual suction device which helped the unit to stay securely mounted on your windscreen internally.

Garmin-Asus A10

Being a rather experienced user of Garmin GPS devices whenever I was driving abroad by car, it took little time for me to learn how to mount the device and begin using it almost immediately. I used it to get around to strange new places in Singapore, and found that it could get the job done quite efficiently, although the foreign robotic accent of the "voice over" (let's call her Jane) took some getting used to.

Garmin-Asus A10

Those who are comfortable with using GPS devices would have no problem with the Garmin-Asus A10. The layout of the various icons are conveniently and intuitively done in the usual manner and it doesn't take long for one to tap onto the places that one wishes to go to. Naturally, its vital to set the "home" address as the first place in the list of locations!

The phone was also came in useful during our recent day trip to Johor Bahru, and it was fun to navigate on foot and on a train while both my wife and I were travelling across the causeway. Peering at it as we took the train across to JB, it showed our locations moving along as the train chugged along Northwards.

Garmin-Asus A10

Featuring pedestrian-friendly navigation, the Garmin-Asus A10 helps you find your way with ease. Apparently, it comes preloaded with over 140,000 points of interests, so its pretty easy to find a nearby location or just use a few key words to tap out where you want to go. It was neat as we were walking along the strange streets of Johor Bahru without a map.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru

With Garmin’s proven GPS location technology on board, all the A10 device needs is to access its satellite from anywhere around the world. One can benefit from the easy-to-use interface that provides handy access to useful information, and a scalable map that can be viewed from any angle - 3D or otherwise. You can view a video showcasing the capabilities of the phone below:

Being an Android phone, the Garmin-Asus A10 comes with all kinds of nifty applications. It comes all equipped and preloaded with Google™ Mobile Services. Just sign-in to your Google account, and you’ll be connected to Google Calendar™, Gmail™*, YouTube™, Google Talk™, and more.

Finally, perhaps the most important question for those of you raring to go (travel, drive, walk, ride on a train, etc) is where can you buy this new phone? You can get it from most mobile shops around the island.

So that's it, right? Well, wait, there's more.... Before I end, let me relate two minor "misadventures" on the use of this phone.

Remember I told you about the "foreign robotic accent" aka "Jane"? Well, somehow the phone reads abbreviations in a different way from our local context. As we were driving along Kampong Bahru Road (abbreviated to Kg Bahru), we all had an huge laugh when the disembodied female voice of Jane went "Kilogramme Bear..." Apparently, Kg is the short form for "kilogramme" and Bahru is pronounced "Bear". :)

Courtesy of Kansas Bob

I suppose one needs to be mindful of the differences in how local names and places are articulated or you could miss the turn.

The other incident occurred as we were driving to locate a friend's place somewhere in Punggol. While following the directions given by the mechanical voice of "Jane", we ended up somewhere between the old Tampines Road, lots of trees, and this two alien looking twin towers!

We nearly ended somewhere near these structures! (courtesy of flattycharn)

I then realised that I have accidentally tapped the map somewhere else - I've got clumsy fat fingers - while trying to locate the address. Fortunately, all went well when we got back the address and we reached our destination in good time. Phew!

Personally, my wife was impressed with the navigational capabilities of the phone, helping to mitigate the chances of getting lost while travelling to new places. I suppose this is the strongest selling point of the A10.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Be a Participatory Citizen at GovCamp

Want to play a part in shaping how government can better serve you through social technologies? Got a burning desire to change the delivery of essential services? Why not participate in the first ever Singapore GovCamp?

Taking place on 19th Jan (Wed) on NUS Campus, Singapore GovCamp hopes to "connect the Government with the general public and private sector to communicate, collaborate and co-create government citizen services, improving and expanding citizen engagement and empowerment." Its the first time that such a platform has been mooted so I guess it should be pretty interesting.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that this is a FREE event open to everybody.

As part of the programme, you'll get to hear from several eminent speakers in this space. They include Zachary Tumin from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at the Harvard University, Barry Libert, the CEO of Mzinga, Pallab Saha from the National University of Singapore (NUS), as well as Ashish Lall from the Asia Competitiveness Institute of the LKY School of Public Policy.

Other than the few appointed speakers, the rest of the agenda is entirely open. So you can decide what you want to speak about and feel free to get something off your chest! The discussions revolve around two pillars: Co-create (moderated by my friend Preetam Rai) and Connection (which I'm helming).

The one that I'm moderating - Connection - looks at how you can contribute ideas on how we can leverage any technology to bridge the generation, perception, service, communication or any other gaps. I suppose its also about considering how networks or platforms can be created to allow the government to draw closer to the public. Join the discussion here.

To set your mind racing on the possibilities, here's a nice set of slides on Government 2.0 by Don Tapscott (courtesy of Marco Deksen) that illustrates some of its key principles:

In the spirit of Barcamp, all sessions are highly interactive, not one-way presentations. If there is a topic you would like to lead, you can propose it in the discussion section where it will be voted on by other attendees. The top sessions will be slotted into the agenda.

Register now by just filling up a simple form here!

Govcamp is jointly organised by ISS of NUS, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Microsoft, together with the support of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Day Trippin' in Johor Bahru

In my previous post, I've shared how my wife and I decided at the spur of a moment to take a train from Tanjong Pagar to Johor Bahru. Naturally, the train ride itself was an experience in itself. Upon reaching our nearest Northern neighbour, our mission was to explore its newest shopping malls, eat till we burst, indulge in some massage, and shop during the post-Christmas sale (especially for Chinese New Year clothes).

The trip was certainly an eye opener. It revealed how similar yet dissimilar JB is to Singapore. While the shopping malls were every bit as impressive as ours - give or take a couple of years in terms of fashion tastes and trends - what particularly charmed me were the old style kopitiams (coffee shops), hawker centres, and street scapes which can no longer be found in Singapore. Although the roads are more chaotic (and dirty) than the streets here, I love that sense of rusticity and nostalgia in JB.

We were also charmed by the hospitality, warmth and sincerity of the Malaysians working in the service industry there. Their earnestness, proactiveness, and friendly banter made all the difference in our shopping, massaging and eating experience.

Okay, enough preamble. Here are the photos for your vicarious viewing pleasure!

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
From JB's sprawling new railway complex, we crossed the bridge over to City Square, Johor Bahru (location here), which I understand is 70% owned by Singapore's GIC and full of Singaporeans.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
One of the first things I saw was a bubble tea shop called "Cool Blog". Hmmm...maybe I should open one called "Cooler Insides"? :)

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
These convenient money changing outlets were present in the new shopping malls that we visited. What's interesting was that the exchange rates were standardised across all of them - and were pretty competitive too.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
Starving and sleepy after an hour train ride, we tucked into some Old Town Kopitiam wanton noodles, coffee and tea.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
City Square was full of the usual retail chains, interspersed occasionally by some locally branded outlets.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
My wife decided to make good use of her time, and bought a nice pair of slacks from Mango (which was having a post-Christmas sale).

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
Hmmm... looks like they also have an Enchanted Christmas in JB, unlike our Christmas Fantasy!

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
Lavender is apparently a very popular cakery and bakery here. Prices are about half that of Bread Talk in Singapore.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
We next hopped onto a cab, which costed about RM 8 to 9 to bring us to a nearby part of town.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
Our destination was the newly inaugurated KSL City, which I understand offered some of the most expensive residential apartments in the city.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
A view of the atrium in KSL City, which was recently opened on 12 December 2010 in an event featuring MediaCorp artistes Mark Lee and Apple Hong.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
The MBO cinema at KSL City, complete with funky blue and purple balls as decor.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
Retail and F&B stands/pushcarts like these were commonplace. This crepe stall was exceedingly popular, and the crepes sure looked yummy!

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
More shopping for my wifey, this time for some blouses and dresses.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
After a spot of shopping, we decided to walk the streets to look for food. Along the way, we passed this old style hawker centre and market...

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
...before venturing into this coffeeshop for some much lauded Johor Laksa.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
The verdict for the spicy noodles? Nice and tasty, without being too heavy on the "lemak" side.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
We also tucked into some bak kut teh to satisfy our cravings for authentic coffee shop fare. The bak kut teh (pork ribs in spicy soup) here was generally more herbal and less peppery than those in Singapore.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
A view of a busy traffic junction, complete with highrise hotels and advertising billboards galore - something that you don't see very much of that in Singapore due to traffic safety regulations.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
Our final shopping destination was the older Holiday Plaza which was completed way back in 1985.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
The layout of the shopping complex was pretty old school, and reminded me of a hybrid between Queensway and Lucky Plaza Shopping Centres in Singapore.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
Unlike the earlier two shopping malls, this one appeared rather homey and unexciting.... yawns..

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
See my wife's glum face? (Actually she was tired lah... and the caffeine boost from the Wong Kok Hong Kong Cha Chan Teng did help)

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
On our way back in a cab, I took this shot Plaza Pelangi, another older shopping centre in JB.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
Finally, we walked through the spanking new CIQ complex at JB, complete with purple hued water feature and steel-and-glass architecture. Clearing customs and immigration was fairly easy, and I must commend the Malaysian officers for being polite and civil throughout.

Day Trip to Johor Bahru
Opting to try a different experience, we took the Singapore-JB Express bus, which brought us all the way back to Queen Street in air-conditioned comfort.

Would we return to JB soon? Most definitely. It has much to offer and is just a convenient train/bus/car ride away.