Recently, I was interviewed by a graduate journalism student from Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines. The graduate student works for a broadcasting company in Singapore. Here are some highlights of the interview. For part 2, read here.
MOTIVATION FOR BLOGGING
I started blogging some time last year on the encouragement of Alex Au of Yawning Bread.
Blogging, which is to me the same as writing, has helped to shape my views and also improved my command of the English language.
In fact, some of the postings have either been carried in other publications or led to longer contributions on other platforms.
The blog is also now an archive of what I have published in the past. I realised before setting up the blog that there was no comprehensive resource I could rely on on what I have shared in the past. This process of archiving is still going on.
BLOGS AND EXPRESSION
While blogs have enabled more people to express themselves, it has also come at a cost to some people. For example, the individuals in Singapore who have found themselves in trouble with the law over things they have posted.
It was this concern which led me to propose self-regulation of blogs. There was a mixed response to this proposal by the blogging community in Singapore. In fact, one blog, Singapore Election Watch, even colourfully labelled me.
But I still believe there must still be continuous efforts to educate bloggers and keep them out of trouble. Defamation, for example, is a complex area of law that your ordinary blogger will find difficult to comprehend.
The Nanyang Technological University had one such learning programme recently. The Law Society of Singapore also published an article on responsible blogging in its magazine. There is also now a regular bloggers' convention, which can serve as a useful education platform.
WHO RUNS SINGAPORE ELECTION WATCH BLOG
I am not sure who runs it but it's not important. What is important to me is that its feedback on comment moderation did help me to make improvements to my blog.
ANONYMOUS POSTINGS BY INDIVIDUALS
I have no objections to anonymous postings although my wish is to see more people coming out from this closet of anonymity. I think not being anonymous enables you to take this discourse a step forward.
For example, when I used to contribute to virtual forums some years ago, that was it - contribute. A lot of these discussions eventually degenerated into negative remarks so I stopped contributing to virtual forums. It was not helping me grow.
Instead, I now organise a regular Thinking Talkies session where I bring about 15 people from different walks of life together. And in one night I learn about issues spanning a spectrum of topics that these attendees would like to share. This has helped me as a person and it's something I won't have got as an anonymous poster.
Of course, there are some advantages in anonymous postings. For example, I know a university professor who has an anonymous blog, away from the attention of curious students, which he uses as a platform to experiment with his thoughts. And this has helped him to formulate views which he has later used professionally.
ANONYMOUS POSTINGS BY ORGANISATIONS
Recently, there was a lot of debate in Singapore when it was revealed that the ruling party here has used anonymous postings to help shape a more positive view about it on the Internet. This was not surprising to me since it is a strategy that even companies in Singapore and elsewhere use to pitch their offerings and reputation. Perhaps, an anonymous poster is more credible in sending out an unbiased image. But, in one way and as some have argued, it is also deception or unethical because you are claiming to be something you are clearly not.
It is for this reason in my organisation, we have a policy where we encourage our employees to blog openly and to recognise that, even if they don't tell others, it is possible for people to associate their views with that of the organisation. In fact, my former boss championed this by blogging himself. I strongly believe that such initiatives can help one's corporate image.
PRIVACY AND BLOGS
If you choose not to blog anonymously, you must also recognise that you need to take steps to protect your own privacy. Like it or not, we all have some skeletons in our cupboard and, in the wrong hands, it can land you in very unkind situations.
For example, in a television interview recently, Timothy Go - a Filipino news presenter who works in Singapore and has his own blog - shared there are various aspects of his private life that he would not discuss in the public sphere. And he highlighted it is important to do this in the interest of his professional image.