27 July 2006

The Mass Influence of Good, Bad & Ugly Bloggers

I left a long comment on a Singapore Angle post. I decided to post the comment here as well:

In all these discussions about whether to "educate or legislate", one point of great practical significance keeps getting forgotten -

99.99% of the blogs in the universe hardly have any readers at all.

When I start a blog, it is theoretically correct to say that the whole world can read it. In reality, hardly anyone will read it unless I put significant effort into getting it read. A blogger (and/or his blog) needs to have considerable amounts of at least three or four of the following attributes:

1. dedication & diligence
2. writing skills
3. marketing instincts
4. a colourful, striking or otherwise entertaining personality
5. unusual talent
6. captivating life experiences
7. sex appeal or personal charisma
8. a sharp intuitive sense of readers' interests
9. a knack for attractive presentation
10. technological know-how with devices like RSS Feeds, Technorati, podcasts, Photoshop, pings, feedburners, YouTube, aggregators

... before he will be able to build and sustain a readership of any decent size at all.

My point is that I think much of Su-Lin's concerns are unwarranted. It is foolish to be excessively alarmed by the idea that large numbers of seditious, racist, severely confused or otherwise socially undesirable persons now have vast powers (via blogs) to afflict and infect the vulnerable minds of our hapless fellow citizens. Yes, anyone can blog, but most bloggers will hardly be read. Some bloggers will gain prominence, but if any of them gain prominence for undesirable elements such as racism, then their own prominence is their downfall and they will quickly be shut down.

Where a blogger (any blogger) does gain wide currency, the factors involved in his success are usually not at all easily replicable. Example - Mr Brown's bak chor mee podcast. Why was it so popular? It was very funny; very intelligent; very topical; very creative; and very accurate in reflecting the views of a very large number of Singaporeans.

Now, YOU go and try to write something on your blog that's:

(a) very funny;
(b) very intelligent;
(c) very topical;
(d) very creative; AND
(e) very accurate in reflecting the views of a very large number of Singaporeans.

... and I think you will see how difficult this is. Good luck to you!

Technorati: ; .


Whispers from the heart said...

Mr Wang,

I think it is true that more of our young will be tuned in to the blogosphere in future.

My son told me 'Anyone that is hip and cool will have a blog, mum'.

Hehee, so this forty-year old mum went to start a blog, without any help. Must say, I am still struggling but hey, I am hip and cool.

But, his sentiments was something to think about.

However, as you rightly pointed out, most blogs do not even have a decent readership. I think most are not intended to have, in the first place.

However, it is not surprising that there will be over-reaction to things, especially in Singapore.

We have a very unique culture of jumping about and finding protection for every perceived danger.

Anonymous said...

Following your argument, how many Singaporeans heard Chee Soon Juan say to Goh Chok Tong, "Where is the money, Mr Goh"? If not for the state control media's contribution, 99.99% of Singapore would not even know about it. The corollary here being that anyone with an obscure blog will face serious jail time if some nosy journalist decides to make mention of it in tomorrow's papers.

Anonymous said...

You are right about 99.9% of blogs being unread.

I agree with Mr Wang's sentiments.
If not for the the media coverage, most ppl will not even be aware of the blogs.....

Mr Wang I really find your blog to be good.

Keep it up!!

Anonymous said...

That is the crux of the whole problem. The PAP doesn't trust Singaporeans to have independent thoughts and read/think for themselves.

It also does not want anyone on the blogosphere shattering its own infallible image, lest it seems less deserving of the obscene salaries.

Which succinctly explains why 'interesting people' kept writing letters to 'show concern' for tackling strawmen bogeymen like racism, when in fact they are stealthily advocating attempts to destroy what's left of the freedom left on the Internet.

le radical galoisien said...

Blogging is in its infancy...mind you I think the first "official blog" started only 9 or 10 years ago.

The Student's Sketchpad jokes about it being an examination subject and all, but in the end it will be a medium of communication and expression like anything else - making films, making murals, all with their own experts.

I would really say 90%, with 9% being of personal natures, perhaps. A good bulk of these are spam blogs anyhow.

Of course what I'm more amazed about is how quickly readership can increase, perhaps with hundreds of views of a blog per day just two months after creation, and then countless types of blogs with such traffic.

Bernard Leong said...

Hi Mr Wang,

Well, two counter-examples to your comment: Xiaxue and Sarong Party Girl. One achieved her status as being vulgar and crude, and the other did by supporting the famous advertising statement "Sex sells".

Perhaps, I suggest one more clause to your criteria: be controversial by saying the things that people don't want to hear.

Heavenly Sword said...

[Re: BL's comment] SPG did write some thought-provoking essays on gender-related topics. One might not agree with her, but at least she argues well.

And Xiaxue too - some of her posts actually makes interesting observations about society, although these interesting observations might be lost in the flood of posts.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I don't read Sarong Party Girl's blog. But Xiaxue does possess quite a number of the attributes I mentioned. There is:

dedication & diligence - the simple measure is the frequency and lengths of posts

writing skills - if you analyse her writing with a technical eye, you'll see that she is very good at connecting her paragraphs and sentences. The thoughts, in writing, connect very smoothly.

marketing instincts - the fact that she makes some real money from advertisements speak for itself

a colourful, striking or otherwise entertaining personality - this criterion is satisfied too

sex appeal - yes? To teenage boys, at least.

a sharp intuitive sense of readers' interests - this arguably is the most underestimated component of Xiaxue's success as a blogger. You may not belong to her fans, but she has plenty of ardent fans, and she knows them, and that's why she keeps them.

Michael McClung said...

One thing I would like to add is the idea of sustainability of readership. Almost anyone can write a post that will meet the criteria you set out. The real rub is, can they do it again? and again?

Anonymous said...

Risking Death and Dismemberment: Court Date with Destiny

Summons to an accused person

Dated this 4th day of July, 2006 (funny it wasn't stuck on the door until more than 2 weeks later)

Case ID: SC-019929-06
Charge No: TC-007025-2006

Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68) Section 158-160


You, KOH CHONG KIANG (NRIC No S1471858C), the leesee of Apartment Block 536 Upper Cross Street #11-245 Singapore 050536, are charged that you have failed to pay the outstanding conservancy and service charges for the months of December 2003 to September 2005 (actually, Dec 2003 to date) of $529.00 (actually, the number seemed to have gone up and down) due and owing to the Town Council of Jalan Besar within 14 days from the date of service on you of a written demand dated 10 March 2006 and that you have thereby committed an offence under Section 39(7) of the Town Councils Act (Cap 329A) and punishable under the said Section thereof.

You are hereby required to appear on the 3rd day of August, 2006 at 6.00pm in person before the Subordinate Court No. CT 26N at Singapore and you are hereby warned that if you shall, without just excuse, neglect or refuse to appear on the said date, a Warrant may be issued to compel your attendance.

1) There's only enough balance in my CPF to service the mortgage for 2 more months.
2) The utilities bill has been outstanding for more than 6 months.
3) Not taking into account other non-recoverable debt owing to Singtel, Starhub and M1.
4) Telling the MP Low Meng See in 3 visits but seeing his face only once, just before the election - so I was surprised to learn that somebody was privileged to sock MP Seng Hang Thong in the face - but not getting the message through, only to find him off the radar screen after the election.
5) Is it an offence to be poor and jobless?

At the time I'm due to appear in court, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin's application
to challenge the constitutionality of the summary judgment for the very simple reason that it does not allow for a trial to take place, the Courts scheduled the application to be heard not only on the same day but at the same time as the summary judgment - 3 August 2006 at 10 am, would be known.

Bernard Leong said...

Mr Wang and HS:

I am not disputing that they don't have the characteristics that Mr Wang listed. My view is that a lot of their fan base is driven by controversy. Face it, there is no such thing as good and bad publicity but only publicity.

Yes, SPG writes well and articulates interesting arguments on topics in gender, sex and philosophy. Even though she stands on the philosophy which I am totally opposed to, namely postmodernism, I will respect the notion that she have some brains. I am not sure about XX on that level since I only have been to her site once at the urging of one of her fans, but I will give Mr Wang the benefit of a doubt.

I am willing to hedge a bet with anyone that if we do a poll on this, ultimately, the real reason is "sex sells". :)

Here is a hypothetical example: if tomorrow anyone of us do something controversial and got slammed, the whole net will be doing a search on our blogs. Of course, Mr Wang has already gotten his fan base. :)

Have a good weekend.

Anonymous said...

What I find 'dead in the water' about SPG is she likes getting laid. Getting laid is fine. She then goes on and on to justify her freedom of choice. She may write well but it's no different from a hooker justifying her job. It gets really boring. What anybody wants from a hooker is to keep her trap shut and spread those legs, period.