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An Eye on the Future of The Singapore Blogging Scene / A Brotherhood Perspective

Posted by intellisg on June 19, 2007

eyes.jpgTHIS is a recent interview conducted between J. Kompf and Darkness. Key developments in the Singaporean blogging scene will be discussed: growth factors, trajectory, direction and the various pull and push forces that will play a role in to shaping the eventual form and texture of the blogosphere.

Factors such as commercialization, business opportunities and the scope for creativity and innovation will also be discussed. Alongside these discourses an in depth comparative analysis between the MSM and blogosphere will also be examined – along with other issues, such as; the role of bloggers – their relevance – readership trends – content development etc.

Readers both new and old will also be able to gain an appreciation of the Brotherhood Press as it serves to clarify much of the philosophy, goals and common misconceptions.

Brief excerpt of interview “on the future of the blogging scene in Singapore.”


“The brotherhood refers to the advent of blogs as the period known as ‘the 1st protocol.’ During the initial phases when blogging first appeared in the US and EU much of the content resembled what blogs in Singapore are presently churning out today. I am sure you can concur with this observation Kompf and most cyber historians will probably register this as a veritable fact of life today.

The 1st protocol period typifies the apparent democracy of today’s digital content presently in Singapore where a strong anti establishment strain characterized most blogs.

Naturally, we knew this situation couldn’t last for very long based on our previous experience with forums in Hong Kong. Sooner or later, all social organisms move eventually from anarchy towards hierarchy (the laws of specialization proves surprisingly robust even to an abstraction like the Net), and whatever order emerges from the primordial chaos of the net will eventually be subject to the law of equilibrium (demand and supply).

A state of equilibrium: in this case is what we call the period of the 2nd protocol………………”

Q:We have in the years seen the brotherhood emerge in various forms, first in Hong Kong then in European and American sites. Now it appears the brotherhood is finally returning to Singapore. What is the cause for this change in strategy?
A: Firstly, I wish to take this opportunity to dispel a few myths and hopefully set the record straight – Yes, it is true, the brotherhood featured very prominently in those countries you mentioned.

Only because the online community in EU and US during those times had a very mature underground movement and this allowed us an opportunity to grow our number of subscribers.

Conversely around the same period, the Singaporean online community was still rigidly divided into forums and blogs – we felt rightly or wrongly, there was no point in trying to get people to buy into the idea of an underground movement – this doesn’t mean, we don’t care about Singapore as a market. All the facts suggested the timing was lousy.

Central to the decision nexus was the need to consider resource allocation and return on energy.

If you were me what would you have done, build a market from zero or expand the same energy to increase our subscribers: where I don’t even need to educate people about what being underground means.

In countries like the US and EU, the underground already existed and most people recognized them as an indelible feature of the online community.

Here some bloggers still considered us as “trolls” (lol), that is how far Singapore is, in terms of understanding what it means to be underground.

Having said that, we believe the time is right for us.

The valuable experiences gained from having successfully collaborated with other underground and mainstream netizens in the West – gives us a competitive advantage in terms of organizational skills and the capacity to rapidly deploy our resources to establish ourselves as the premiere underground movement who is able to deliver an alternative supply of content, perspective and style to most Singaporeans.

Q:The brotherhood frequently comes across a pro-PAP. How true or false is this assertion? Or are we to believe the pro PAP position of the brotherhood is simply driven by other factors?
A: I personally do not consider this an accurate or fair assessment of our posture.

Though I can well understand the reasons for this misconception.
Let me be very clear – the brotherhood does not support the PAP, the planet of the apes, Mickey Mouse club, Hare Krishna movement or any political party!

There are compelling reasons why we cannot afford to adopt a partisan stance.

Firstly, it doesn’t make any commercial sense! What you need to understand is: the brotherhood does not set either our political orientation (not that we ever had one in the first place) or for that matter, the final form of it’s content.

The final arbiter is always the customer. We are more market driven than you can possibly imagine. I am surprised you don’t know this yourself Kompf! (LOL)

The facts are simply this: Most of our readers do not wish to read the regular diet of anti establishment content which are typically generated by the vast majority of Singaporean blogs. Many of them feel the need to play the anti-establishment card because it is a way of garnering readers – they may wish to dress it up as something altruistic, but that remains their primary motivation. I am not for one moment suggesting these blogs do not have a loyal following. I am sure they do. Only all our market research indicates our readers do not fall into this category. Besides this market segment is already saturated, so it offers little in the way of a healthy return on energy. I really don’t see the point.

Most our readers are fatigued, tired and simply want an alternative besides the staid end of the spectrum read provided by either the mainstream media or blogosphere – I can give you plenty of illustrations to empirically prove this. Both our travelogue and stories for example continue to score significant hits. You can draw your own conclusions.

Naturally this means, we have decided to position ourselves right in the middle of the empty spectrum – but always remember, the decision to do so was a function of the sentiments expressed by our readership and never a design based on nothing – we didn’t even feature in the equation – they (our readers) made the decision with their mouse clickers!

To understand this further, I need to share with you some of our market research on this area.

The brotherhood refers to the advent of blogs as the period known as “the 1st protocol.” During the initial phases when blogging first appeared in the US and EU much of the content resembled what blogs in Singapore are presently churning out today. I am sure you can concur with this observation Kompf and most cyber historians will probably register this as a veritable fact of life today.

The 1st protocal period typifies the apparent democracy of today’s digital content presently in Singapore where a strong anti establishment strain characterized most blogs.

Naturally, we knew this situation couldn’t last for very long based on our previous experience with forums in Hong Kong. Sooner or later, all social organisms move eventually from anarchy towards hierarchy (the laws of specialization proves surprisingly robust even to an abstraction like the Net), and whatever order emerges from the primordial chaos of the net will eventually be subject to the law of equilibrium (demand and supply).

A state of equilibrium: in this case is what we call the period of the 2nd protocol -when blogs eventually differentiate themselves from other blogs by either specializing in one area or defining their own unique perspective to serve their respective niche markets.

Implicit within this operating equation is the assumption, no one blog can offer a “one size fit all” product that can aspire to satisfy the collective market. This means the math of market forces will simply shape the undulating contour of what blogs have to be, if they are to continue to thrive, survive and succeed – they either have to offer a range of content through out the entire reader demand spectrum. Or specialize by craving out one area of specialization. If they are to remain relevant, otherwise they will simply perish. Life is cruel Kompf.

A derivative of this rationalization also means blogs during the 2nd protocol period will cease completely to be like the proto-blogs during the 1st protocol primordial period – for one they would have gone through a period of intellectual sharpening and shaping and this simply means many of them would have started to define how they want to come across their readers. On the other side, readers in the 2nd protocol period have also started the process of defining what they typically want to read. Selective readership will eventually replace mass or general consumption – readers will begins to sieve, filter and select what they want to read – this reminds me very much of the history of automobiles when they were first commercially marketed. In the beginning you had the mantra, “you can have any Ford providing it is black” that’s only because Ford remained the sole mass manufacturer, but once people get used to the idea of owning a car and the competitive quadrants get filled up by new producers – customer demand and expectation increases correspondingly and this will naturally mean producers can no longer offer just “black T-Fords” if they want to stay in business. They have to offer more in terms of variety and choice. This naturally brings into sharp focus the whole equation of creativity and innovation.

This has yet to happen in Singapore, but we the brotherhood feel certain based on our own market survey – the time is ripe for us to consider leading the migration to the 2nd protocol – we want equity in this period of transition, because this is where we are best able to nurture a loyal band of readers and also build core competence on gaining a foothold on this emerging segment. Our travelogue series is one of our most successful diversification plans.

Please understand: I am not in any way suggesting the days of anti establishment blogs are dead. Only as we move on into the 2nd protocol, it’s relative pull factor will wane and as time goes by, it will simply be like throwing out canon balls to move a boat forward. Having said that, the paradox of literature is: it’s self selecting. Anyone who can read is free to participate in this ongoing democratic process of shaping the eventual form of blogosphere in Singapore.

As readers continue to suck up their respective preferred content, a certain percentage of them will inevitably, like marijuana smokers, get hooked on harder stuff – there by guaranteeing the survival of anti government blogs. Only one needs to recognize blogs do not exist mutually exclusively from their readers or vice versa. They are inter- dependent in more ways than I can possibly elaborate. [Most commentators fail to recognize how developments in blogosphere often driven by demand. Let me give you an example: we produce the travelogue because they are popular, but bear in mind their popularity differs considerably from socio-political blogs. In the case of the latter, readers will log in and more or less chew it up in a few days, but for travelogues, what we often observe the long tail effect – that’s to say many of the readers will read them even after months! So this ‘demand or pull trend’ ( for lack of a better word) challenges the whole definition of what is considered ‘good’ or ‘popular’ content. For example, if a socio-political article scores X number of hits in 24 hours flat. Does it mean it is more popular than a travelogue that achieves the same number of hits in 2 months? This is really something to consider: because in these two comparisons. I can argue, the readership profile, motivation and demand experienced is so diverse and different, it may not even be an apple to apple comparison. This illustrates what I call the ‘paradox of readership’ – it is at the end of the day self selecting] But that is another topic that is best left to another forum.

The brotherhood recognizes this and much of the content we offer today is based exactly on his technosocialogical development in blogosphere.

Another factor that must emphasised is: the average age of our readers is around 32 yrs – most of them are professionals and contrary to popular misconception all our readers are not women. The split is roughly 50/50. Though I do admit, when it comes to the coffee, 4-bit and product led stories, the gender swing may be significantly higher. [why is this observation important? Again this would color what we often define as popular. For example: if an article gets 1,000 hits in X number of days. What does it really mean? Conventional wisdom will suggest, there must be 1,000 readers. That’s bullshit, for all you know these ppl are scanning or browsing which hardly equates to actually reading and understanding. You always need to keep this in mind. That is the reason why, if a webmaster tells me so-and-so’s article is popular because it score X number of hits a day! I just yawn.

Fact remains, all of us have done it before, read a paragraph and move on, that I am afraid is a common misinterpretation of data: to assume quantity of readers translates into popularity or an indication of demand without factoring age and readership style leaves a lot of room for speculation and conjecture.

Fact remains older readers don’t log on everyday – they don’t blog either – neither do they always post – so although you may have 30,000 readers a month, it doesn’t mean 1,000 X 30. As far as the age differentiator is concern, it simply means you may even have close to 5,000 or 10,000 readers! That’s why the age segmentation is critical!

I can go on and on about this one area and I really have too many theories about this subject, but all of them must recognize the inherent difference between blog material and stuff generated by the MSM. In the case of newsprint, what will be typically read will be read within 48 hours, after that period, it’s toast – no one, unless he has just woken up from a 10 year coma will read old newsprint. The same cannot be said of articles published in the net. We still get many hits for some of our old articles, not a lot, but enough to suggest people are exploring, sieving and cross checking through the archives. Why is this important Kompf? Why should this observation be significant?

That in my view is the critical difference between MSM and blog content. The latter has a “memory effect” which allows readers the flexibility to go back in time and retrieve information. Whereas MSM offers does not and only offers a “snap-shot-in-time” account of what is cogent today. This of course throws out the question: which one of the two is a more accurate representation of the truth? For example, if tomorrow some reporters proclaims that the net is a free place – it will read as a free place from start to finish! But the same article posted in the internet blog will have ample historical references in the form of links that all adds up to create a chronological account of what is meant by “free place” – that is to say, it bring into focus the Brown saga etc. Why is this observation important? Because in suggest blog reading isn’t exactly a linear or what I term ‘clean slate’ reading, rather disjunctive and even piece meal and that I believe is a competitive differentiator that adds value to understanding as it offers a more coherent and holistic picture. That could be the reason why people often speak in terms of the ‘parallel universe’ whenever they compare the MSM with blogosphere. The latter has a memory like an elephant, the former suffers from terminal dementia – this naturally leads us to consider which one of the two offers a more accurate account? That is why when people in the MSM say content is king, they don’t really know what they are talking about! You can be 100% factually right about today, but can you be right without taking into account the historical baggage which all adds up to why today reads a today’s account? Again this is something to consider very carefully.

You can draw your own conclusion what this really means on a competitive scale when we compare the MSM and blogging. But you cannot say this is nothing. It’s something to think seriously about and I feel it has not been given enough research and attention.]

[Coming back to the main point] In short our readers simply don’t want to read government bashing comments –all our market feedback tells us, we have to move up to the level of the sophistication of the advent of the 2nd protocol period – we believe Singapore blogosphere is currently going through this exciting stage of transition and this is one reason why we have returned.

For blogs to survive and thrive in the landscape of the 2nd protocol period, it’s not enough to “play second fiddle” or “follow the leader.” This is where we believe, we are years ahead of the competition and as I mentioned earlier by illustrating the memory effect – this can be leveraged into competitive advantage – if you examine our content very carefully, it typically sets its own agenda for discussion. We are not saying we do not or never ever comment on what the MSM regular produces, but our preferred content focus has always been first to develop the core competence to develop our own content. This naturally means the level of creativity and innovation required is higher. The level of detail is correspondingly also deeper hence most articles are over 3 to 4 pages. This we have found to be very effective in turning away the teen crowd, they just don’t have the stamina to sustain the long read.

The last thing our readers want to read is an echo of what they just read in the morning papers. There is a word for this – it’s called “boring.” Neither will the old anti-establishment approach cut it either, most of our readers knows the government of the day isn’t perfect, but they don’t nearly think it is the big bad wolf which is so frequently depicted. That in simple terms is how things really are and anyone who tells you different just doesn’t know what he is talking about.

This I suspect is why there is a general misconception we are pro PAP per se. However, I would challenge you at this point to show me one example; how we have blatantly supported the government. If you can somehow manage to do this, I will of course retract everything I have said here –but as I have already taken the trouble and time to explain in the greatest possible detail – we can never adopt this policy, because as I have mentioned –the final arbiters who determine what we typically churn out is people like you – our readers.

Q:Throughout the history of the brotherhood. It has frequently used the two words, “growing businesses” -in the context of the brotherhood’s presence in the singaporean blogging scene – how do you aspire to grow? And what challenges do you see ahead?
A: How do we aspire to grow? Well allow me be very clear, we cannot do it by ourselves. Firstly, we can never aspire to offer everything, so the only thing we can really expect to do is insert ourselves in one quadrant in the demand and supply matrix.

History has shown it makes infinitely more sense from a return from investment and energy curve perspective to seek strategic alliances and leverage on the various options out there – I am of course talking about the prospects of collaborating with other bloggers. [however this collaboration is tacit rather than formal i.e we all produce, so we all offer something – it does not have to be something centrally planned or even organized. I call this the politics of the “ant hill” or “crossroads”, where people do what they do and it just adds up to offer a very wholesome genre of stuff very much like a flea market.]

However having said that let me be crystal clear about our ultimate goal – it’s to generate wealth [I really have to be honest about this without money or capital infusion, blogging will only remain strictly blogging. It can never have enough thrust to break out of the gravity of mediocrity and impromptu sound bites or to offer anything remotely close to challenging the dominance of the MSM. That’s the reason why, when I read that some bloggers claim the MSM is dying or heading inexorably towards extinction. I just say, they know very little about the nuts and bolts of economics and even less about making rational decisions!

The main reason why ST is a producer of choice is simply because it’s fueled by the marketing manifesto. By the same logic, if revenue doesn’t figure out a way to shake hands with blogosphere. Nothing will happen!

It cannot and will not! I really have no illusions here Kompf, let me just share with you the facts of life. You know that I regularly produce internet stories? Why? It’s simple – it makes money. Now I charge $0.30 cents per episode and it takes me roughly 2 hours to produce a chapter and on average 5 are produced a week. So if the number of subscribers is let’s say 30,000, that works out to be a fair sum! It’s not general motors or Boeing aeroplane group but I can tell you it isn’t crumble pie either. So there you have it – the simple economic truth. That is why I believe when people regularly talk about the internet taking over the world. Do you really notice, 99.9% of them seem to be suffering from dyslexia whenever they conveniently marginalize the financial spreadsheet and that in my view is like saying solar panels and wind power will solve all of our energy woes – that’s unrealistic, because it fails to take stock of efficiency, sustainability and more importantly the politics of gearing demand to meet supply. They are just talking invisible and odorless shit Kompf – and we all know that is the worst form of shit, because you don’t even know it when you are wallowing neck deep in it!] – this means whatever the nature of the collaboration, this must be firmly fixed as the linchpin and everything else radiates like spokes on a wheel out of it.

Our experience with alliances has been mixed as you well know and the main cause of the problem is because either we or our partners fail to dove tail their respective values and goals to focus on one clear and achievable goal.

I have not had the opportunity to discuss with Inspr3d in detail. Perhaps this platform can serve to highlight the salient points that must be seriously considered in such an enterprise.

Firstly, there needs to a recognition, no one single blogger can ever provide a supermarket content providing they remain out of the metaphor the wheel. Neither they or the brotherhood forms the final content of what they propose to present to the consumer – at the end of the day, we are simply one big happy family.

What they can sensibly expect to be is simply individual spokes which collectively add up to make up a product.

This naturally means, the person who constructs the wheel needs to make sure the fit is right. If you construct a wheel without a structured strategy, it will simply not turn! This of course will very much be shaped by the economics of producing and reading. I really don’t see one centralized body doing this as there really such a diverse mix of content out there.

However, what will eventually evolve in the blogging scene within the next 2 years will be something that is as close to a 360 degree perspective that very much resembles the form and shape of the MSM today i.e travel, food, politics and even gardening – the key word that will feature increasingly in the local blogging scene will be diversity – and this leads me to what I call the 3rd protocol. When blogs themselves do the very things the MSM are currently doing! [ I need to be very clear here! There has been many theories concerning what will happen in this stage. Most have postulated the idea if something is promoted, it will mean the demise of another. I do not buy into this model, that didn’t happen when the Berlin wall came tumbling down, neither did it happen when the Americans occupied Iraq, so that sort of argument has a lousy historical precedent. Let me give you a relevant example: TV has been around for the last 60 years and when it was first commercially marketed, many futurist suggested, it would signal the demise of radio – it didn’t. In fact radio continues to exist alongside TV as a complimentary media. In the same way, I do not believe just because US and EU newspapers are suffering loss of readership to the internet necessarily means we will see the same model extinction panning out in Singapore. I believe the MSM will always play a dominant role in providing content in Singapore, because there are certain key stone differences which lends even the best comparative studies with the US or EU experience inapplicable. This is really a subject that is too long to elaborate without inducing a comatose state.]

Having said that the business opportunities for the Singapore blogging scene is considerably heightened because the media is strictly controlled and regulated. There lies the difference between us and them (the Western MSM). In the West there is, the economic order lacks the impetus to migrate towards the 3rd protocal, the demand simply isn’t there, but that cannot be said for a restrictive news producing market like Singapore. We have done countless math models and in every simulation the results have supported this hypothesis. I believe this offers an incredible business opportunity which probably only presents itself once in a generation.

This is of course is a paradigm shift and I am realistic enough to remain cautiously hopeful.

All I can say at this point is the brotherhood continues to welcome all to the Singapore blogging scene and increased content means diversity and this will be key towards migrating towards the 3rd protocol.

As the clever money and technology intercepts the development curve. We will definitely see the blogging community offering more choices to the readers.

I cannot say for certain where the end of the road will be – but I do not expect it to differ from the logical outcome of all our previous collaborative programs, where eventually, we sell the site for a few million and split the money. That in a nutshell is where I see it all going.
Q: One controversial issue that has always dogged the brotherhood is tax evasion. What is the position of the brotherhood on this matter?

A: No comment. (subsequent reply deleted)

Oct 26th 2006.

(Interview Kompf and darkness in the virtual – The Brotherhood Press – 2007 / No EP ref –The Chronicler.)

7 Responses to “An Eye on the Future of The Singapore Blogging Scene / A Brotherhood Perspective”

  1. guppy said

    Sorry to post here. 30 cents per chapter, and you’d think, he could at least make the effort to get us all decent birthday gifts. Instead all we get every year is the same cheap chocs and a plastic stem rose. You hack! You call yourself a purveyor of dreams, you are a disgrace to all the men on this planet! I am sorry to post on this line!

  2. curios said

    hmm… you could send the chocs to me if ya dont want them.

    i love chocs. cheap or ex chocs, i love chocs.


  3. repairman said

    Hey, hey, hey! Guppygirl.

    I will have you know those are not any chocolates! They are imported and premium quality! I know they may not look it, but if you disregard the packaging, bland design and examine fine print. They are made from the finest Ivory Coast cocoa beans! Bet you didnt know that. Highest quality control. I bet even leonadis gets it from the same source.

    What do you really expect from our humid tropical weather? There is bound to be some settling and discoloration.

    As for the long stem roses. Pls note, no plastic is used! I don’t know what you are talking about. It’s manufactured to exacting ISO standards and only the finest Thai silk is used along with the natural UV resistant dyes. It’s also infused with real rose essence, not the chemical and synthetic variety. Furthermore,it’s waterproof and comes with a anti-static treatment, so that it wouldn’t be a dust magnet! Any idiot would prefer this to a real rose!

    The best thing is we are providing work to hundreds of third world contractors. How would you feel, if you received a real rose only for poor Abdul in Pakistan to remain unemployed?

    Every year I get enough mail to sink a battle ship abt how lousy our birthday gifts are.

    Another complaint and I am seriously considering just giving out tiger beer coasters to you level headed side table lot this year!

  4. anongal said

    A very honest appraisal. I don’t really think, it will make you are a very popular figure in the net, but I dont think you really care do you Bambi darkness?

  5. scholarboy said

    Good evening anongal,

    It’s always nice to hear from you again. Frankly, I dont think darkness cares very much abt being popular, trust me on this, just drove him to the airport. We had a long chat on the way there abt the net.

    I am glad to inform all of you, we will be doing a travelogue write up on Seville, Spain very soon.

    Have you ever been there? Its wonderful this time of the year.

    Good night and sweet dreams


  6. As It Is said

    Very few can distinguish between cheap chocolates and real cocoa because the taste buds in their tongues have been conditioned to taste only the “good taste of life” over a reasonable period of comfort and ease. The real cocoa has the supreme flavor, color and substance that only those who could combine raw brainy intelligence with street wisdom and rare natural instinct are able to savour its true qualities.

    With darkness in command, I believe The Brotherhood will have a very bright future. Discard the the regular irritations and nuisances being dished out frequently by the immature, the ill-willed, the hippocrates, the sycophants and the likes, and things will go a very long way.

    Just remain:

    AS IT IS!

  7. Mei Ling said

    Hello Bambi darkness,

    I don’t usually post. However, I found your comments concerning the internet refreshing and very insightful. I am slightly concern that your comments seems to be directional in nature. This suggest, a lot of planning has gone into this whole effort. That is good and bad. I am sure all is in good hands.

    May I ask when the next article is coming out? It would be very nice to have something to read during the weekend.

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