Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 3 B / The Strategic Initiative (The Final Chapter).
October 30, 2008
[Due to the need to reconcile different writing platforms between the teams / you may experience either paragraphing and font variations - pls adjust your view size and font accordingly]
In Part 1. We highlighted the salient historical features which were deemed operable to shape the landscape of present day blogosphere. Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 1 / Preamble
In Part 2, a detailed attempt to scale accurately the operational challenges govt is likely to encounter in its e-engagement drive was discussed. Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 2 / The Challenges.
In Part 3.A, the first phase of the tactical recommendations, we refer to as “the foundation” was forwarded. As the term implies, this is the preparatory stage and the emphasis is on “what must be done first” 3.A is designed primarily to address the short ranged theatre. Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 3 A / The Foundation.
In Part 3.B which is the concluding chapter of this quartology – we will attempt to propose a series of strategic rationales and underpinnings to bridge the divide between the online community and govt; note; these are not specific “what to do” recommendations; we have remitted ourselves to only, “what should be the rationale of guiding the doing and why?” along with supplying their rationale and underpinnings. One reason why we have deliberately omitted specifics is because we are dealing with long ranged issues which usually have a long gestation period (3-5 years) and many of the attributions targeted for change reside deep within the systematic framework of govt. Given the complexity of this task the specifics would be better fleshed out by govt planners to take into account changes and the possibility of intervening events.
Our goal in this segment is three fold:
- Identify the key operable assumptions that will set the direction and focus of the strategy.
- Supply the rationale as to why we need to use a governing philosophy to effect these strategic changes.
- Identify the rough outline of the strategic assets we need to build and how are we going to couple this to the governing philosophy to create a total solution to manage change.
(2) What Is The Overall Goal?
At this juncture, it would serve our mission immeasurably, if we reiterated our goal again.
In part 2, we mentioned the goal of e-engagement should ideally be to craft a strategy to migrate from the current state of mutual mistrust to a constructive and cooperative relationship – to one that manages to fulfill the aspirations of the govt for stability and security, yet preserve the autonomy and independence of the blogging community
(3) What Is The Conceptual Difference Between 3.A (Tactical) and 3.B (Strategic)?
Please note 3.A (the last part) relates specifically to the tactical theatre of e-relations between govt and the online community, albeit with only one strategic recommendation.
These are designed to address the short ranged and supposed to operate ONLY at point level i.e minimal need for intra executive coordination or top down supervision. They are designed to deescalate conflict between govt and netizens at point level and remove many incentives with a view of managing conflict.
3.A recommendations are rated as “good to go.” They can enable speedily, cheaply with minimal executive supervision and if these recommendations are followed. They will produce measurable results almost immediately – here the horizon of predictability is very high / uncertainty low / complexity fair to low.
In 3.B the plans are long ranged, they frequently require extensive intra legislative and executive makeovers. If 3.A is a “point solution,” 3.B offers a “total solution.” The goal is to penetrate deep down to the institutionalized and systematic substrate of govt to effect transformational change.
Here the level of complexity is adjudged to be high to very high / and the level of intra executive coordination extensive / the execution complex as there is a need to deal with the politics of change / implementation should only be restricted to only senior servants with the relevant experience in change management / implementation should be stage and approval for restricted to the highest level of authority; cabinet and executive level / gestation period is expected to be 1 year and beyond / no immediate results can be realistically expected during the short term.
(4) What Are Our Strategic Assumptions?
Here the focus is on scalability i.e we need to size up what we are up against. Bear in mind, in scaling changeability, we have deployed three metrics; the cost of change / the penalties incurred during change / and the payout from pursuing the proposed changes / all three metrics would have to score a media of 7.5 index points to pre- qualify.
This leads us to consider why do we need to scale what can and cannot be effectively changed? The answer is simple; not everything can be changed. It is conceivable even govt attributes which should be changed cannot be changed, not rationally at least. As the expected payout may be low, cost exorbitantly high and proposed changes may even ripple to generate other problems downstream.
When we speak of change in the context of govt, one overriding constraint that must be appreciated is many of the attributions which need to be changed require either re-orientating their focus or realigning their trajectory at a very deep and institutionalized level of govt operations – they will have far reaching effects and there is a need to mitigate these impacts to good effect.
Here it is conceivable many of these entrenched characteristics within Govt are too:
- Resistant To Change; they may not be malleable or elastic enough to lend themselves easily to transformation change e.g the notion that the press has to play the strategic role of nation building and it should not assume the role of the fourth estate / this position is unlikely to change.
- Complex To Change; the attributes to be changed may be too intricately fused with existing legislative and executive frameworks which renders the whole idea of change impractical e.g we can very well issue an advisory that govt should jettisons the idea of hard power and buy wholesale into soft power as a strategic precondition; as this will facilitate them to better manage the relationship with the online community. However, since the persona, footprint and characterization of what makes up govt differs from the definitional terms of reference when compared to regimes in EU and the US where the legislative, executive and judiciary is clearly delineated to make this a workable plan / in the case of Singapore based on our modeling, these intra-legislative, executive and judicial linkages and networks are so inextricably fused to the idea of govt of the day. They are rightly or wrongly often perceived to be one of the same reality / in such a case, even if govt buys into the idea of soft power. They are unlikely to be able to use it to good effect.
- Culturally Rooted; this hardly requires any elaboration; form usually follows function for very compelling reasons; this is suggestive there’s an underlying logic why ALL oligarchies without exception assume a particular shape and form. Usually this orientating is to allow them to make the best use of opportunities and resources under a given set of conditions; tradition and culture plays a preponderant role in fossilizing these practices. In almost every single case; the culture of doing things in certain way or a way of making sense of the world is deeply embedded to such an extent it militates against the whole idea of change: e.g pursuing financially crippling defamation and libel cases is a very effective way of stymieing the competition / given enough time, the practice is even able to mythologize its set of rationales and reasons to legitimize it’s locus – this in turn shapes the structural form and inures the culture to function to serve the form. In our assessment these hard points beyond any hope of rehabilitation should NEVER engaged under any circumstances. e.g In conducting our trade off and cost benefit calculations, we came to the conclusion, it may not be a good idea to change for instance the Strait Times. It’s conceivable many of the human attributions, networks and linkages which makes up the ST is so riven with complacency and lack of imagination that it is cannot be rationally expected to play the role of the fourth estate even if it were given a limitless latitude to do so – what is likely to emerge instead is tabloidnism. Another reason why we don’t believe the ST should be changed is it currently fulfills the very important function of nation building role. This is a role that best complements its limited range of skills. We believe this role is vital to preserve social and political stability. Neither do we believe the ST should indulge in reportage, exhaustive analysis and investigative journalism. Instead, their remit should be further focussed to simply capture events as they happen with a high level of fidelity and accuracy. Any attempt to depart from this recommendation may further exacerbate events in the online community and confuse readers in the real world / blogging and the MSM should be clearly delienated / Under such circumstances while “change” can easily be justified under philosophical or ideological grounds; this does not fulfill the parameters of what we consider to be “good” change; in this case ideological based change e.g greater democratization of the press, may not be able to produce the “good” index to supervene the existing “good.” – as our methodology remains terminally blind to such considerations, since it is premised on a game theory quantitative footing.
- Some Things Just Cannot Be Changed e.g Fear cannot be realistically eliminated or eradicated as it operates deep within the substrate of the social engram; its corrosive effects can however be mitigated and minimized through pursuing a strategy of containment – see examples of tactical proposals in 3.A. Till to date we have found neither a means to effectively deconstruct fear or eradicate it. This part of our research has been a complete failure.
- Change May Not Produce The Desired Results, if the expectation is conflated; It is not realistic to expect a high level of cooperatism between bloggers and govt in the short term; Govt may have to re-evaluate their assumptions; the best they can hope to do is agree to disagree; in the long term we have not conducted any studies on this area.
- Unnecessary to Change, one of our most curious findings in Part 2 & 3.A which we noted was the best way to influence the social narrative in the internet is still through the traditional apparatus of news dissemination e.g newspapers, radio and TV / as we have already mentioned extensively in Part 2, one of the factors which militates against govt in its e-engagement drive is the complete lack of a confluence or meeting point / here the Urbana team noted AIMs may have inadvertently miscalculated when the assumed since in the EU and US political parties are migrating online to reach out to new online adherents; the internet must be some sort of wonder weapon; AIMs may have discounted one compelling reason for these western political parties for doing so; they don’t have the means to effect change through the MSM as most of them are independent and controlled by businesses run along partisan lines; in Singapore, the competitive matrix is weighted in favor of the government; here not only do they have a competitive advantage as the MSM is state run. But even the supporting networks and linkages are under their direct control e.g regulatory agencies; this raises serious doubts about govt’s on going plan to project online / Projecting online also raises a host of problems: where is the best locale to project online to cover the widest possible footprint? Set against this overriding constraint (since no such public square or confluence point exist online as the internet has balkanized into the long tail see Part 1 and 2), it suggest govt may not even be able to get their message across effectively online should they even project online – this would only lead to a diffusion of energy and wastage. What needs to be underscored is presently nearly 80% of the internet still imports material from the MSM and this trend is unlikely to abate; though proponents continue to claim the internet will somehow overtake the MSM one day; what remains telling is they forward nothing in the way of reason to explain how this might happen; based on our conservative assessment; we do not consider the internet in Singapore to be overriding force; it is would not be exaggeration to state it is simply an ingenuous platform to circulate news and its cumulative effect is equivalent to a kid circulating news on a tricycle. Against those realities; what is the impetus for change?
(5) If So Many Things In Govt Cannot Be Changed, Then What Is The Use Of Recommending A Strategic Plan For Change?
This is why we are NOT recommending a host of specific strategic “to do” plans as much as laying out the philosophical premise to effect many of these changes. This is one way of getting around the hubris.
We believe a philosophical basis for premising change will be able to work better since it sets the directional and not instructional focus; this will provision a lot of scope for improvisation to get around hard points.
This will ensure constancy and pin sharp focus of the strategic initiatives will be maintained.
The purpose of the governing philosophy is to:
- Vision: Set the directional and NOT instructional focus i.e this is where we are going to go – this will be the backbone of your strategic initiative as it will supply it with not only the ethos but set the tone for where we want to go.
- Mission: Instill a high level of discipline and constancy i.e this is what we need to do, to get there in being able to work towards the goal / this is especially important to for clarifying the roles and goals of stakeholders who may be the agents of change.
- Feed Back: Ensure a high level of clarity and a clear line of sight i.e this is what everyone must be able to do, if we are to succeed between what is done and to benchmark performance and results / this will be important since at strategy stage many of the goals will be divided into smaller milestones / to prevent teams from getting disorientated – they must have a clear mission and vision.
(6) A brief Recap and history of the net – to get a general feel of why we even need a governing philosophy to manage change – where are we now in the net and where do we want to migrate too?
Before walking through the various set pieces of how we identified the governing philosophy.
It may be a good idea at this point to revisit the main motifs which has traditionally featured in the medley between govt and the blogging community. This will enable you to appraise where we are in the competitive quadrant along with the relative strengths and weaknesses which feature in this quadrant.
For brevity sake we will attempt to coalescence many of our Part 1 (before) / Part 2 (during) and Part 3.A (after) observations to hopefully create one reflective narrative that will hopefully give you the reader a general feel of the key issues and how they might relate to the whole idea of how it fits into the general idea of a governing philosophy.
There are many places to begin this walk through, but a good place to start would be to ask why is govt so stricken by its inability to close the divide with netizens?
Here we can say many things. Whatever, the reason accounting for govt ineptitude, one thing remains certain it can’t be for want of opportunity or resources as govt controls virtually every aspect of the apparatus of mass assimilation.
Despite the overwhelming advantage in media assets; govt has not been able to prosper in the digital world. Neither has been able to secure a digital beach head to sensibly deal with the blogging hubris.
A bewildering array of strategies have been trained; some have attempted to modulate the attribution of the internet through STOMP, RazorTV and even promoting kosher blogs which govt considers to be “acceptable” models. Presumably in the hope of driving out the bad currency in the net and changing the anti establishment tone, but it seems the more govt endeavors. The more ground they lose – more and more people it seems these days get their news from computers and its not even from those sites which govt traditionally considers role model sites e.g the brotherhood press and this breeds a melancholy sense the trite govt message simply isn’t getting through – they have failed.
Then there are the embarrassments; the Mr Brown and Mas Selamat debacle. Along with a plethora of “out reach” programs which can only described as bizarre based on try anything and everything in the hope that something will work, like rapping and break dancing. Time and again these efforts fail to hit the mark as while they manage to capture some semblance of the form, since they are rarely complimented with the content. They frequently come across as insincere and contrite.
The latest initiative to reach out to bloggers is the AIMs project which has been tasked to study and make recommendations to govt to improve internet attributions. While it’s certainly an interesting idea govt may do well to first separate the theory and reality of e-engagement and ask themselves whether even that may not be a bridge too far?
Actuality suggest govt may already be too late. This may come as a rude surprise to many who believe, they can draw an imaginary longitudal line to define the start date of engaging the on-line community. In truth, e-engagement may have already begun a very long time ago. Perhaps even as far back to the moment when the internet first appeared to shape the social political narrative. What else can possibly account for many of the widely held views concerning the govt online? Along with its ability to forward a counter narrative to even hold its own against the onslaught of the MSM?
All this suggest before govt decides to project online they should seriously consider what accounts for their strategic deficits? What lies at the root of the anatomy of ineptitude? Otherwise there is a real likelihood all their initiatives like their previous forays would simply amount to a grande exercise in reinforcing failure.
As we mentioned earlier, the deficits are considerable and anyone wishing to debate them must be ready to argue all night and well into the next month; it gives us no pleasure to draw out these shortcomings (and we can really spend 20 pages here), neither are we deliberately bent on causing intellectual offence. If anything, this simply underscores our approach from the inception; that before real progress can be made; we would first need to scale these deficits within govt accurately and honestly if we are to even begin to craft a sensible way of getting on top of them.
How to do we propose to get on top of it? This leads us the consideration of the rough outline of the strategic framework than we hope to marry with the governing philosophy.
(7) What Strategic Assets Does Govt Need To Build?
In this part we will discuss very briefly the rough online of what strategic assets govt needs to build, if they are to get on top of the internet hubris? Bear in mind again, these are NOT specific “to do” strategies. As the remain very wide and general sweeps which are designed to convey the directional focus.
-Directional clarity; “If we don’t even what the game demands of us; then how can we even begin to develop the skills to play it well?””
One observation that has been often noted by both teams (two competing teams are always required in game theory modeling; as one team is the proponent and the other assumes the role of the opponent, devils advocate) during the course of this research effort is; its conceivable govt may not even subscribe to a coherent strategy as to how to best deal with the net; a large part of this beliefs stems from a lack of directional focus that usually characterize govt forays into the online domain.
Currently govt appears to be managing the internet through a bewildering array of snippets, sound bites and ambiguous directives; here it is not at all unusual for even civil servants, academics and stakeholders to premise their entire plan or what they might do based on a few sentences once uttered by those at the upper echelon of the political hegemony.
While this may be a very effective way of running a food court or a massage parlor; we in the ASDF, do not consider this an adequate way to manage something as complex and mind boggling as the internet; a governing philosophy is urgently required here; at it will not only set the direction focus by clarify the roles and goals of stakeholders. But will also inure the on-going process with a high level of discipline to convergence of efforts. To close the loop to further, this should be complemented with strategic assets to inure these initiatives with a clear line of sight as to – where are we going benchmarks, thus allowing planners to sensibly check off their progress against their way points. Currently no such terms of reference exist and this not only causes confusion but often leads to a mentality of atrophy – doing nothing. We consider this a serious omission and the main reason why govt is going around in circles.
These are our recommendations; establish:
-Clear terms of engagement; “If we don’t even know the rules of the game; then how do we even play it? ”
How are govt and netizens supposed to manage conflict; if both parties don’t even know what is permissible or acceptable?
Ordinarily this ambiguity concerning “rights” and “locus” should be provisioned by the enabling act along with case law to supply both the ratio and locus. However, in the Singapore societal context, since the enabling act is structured to cover an almost limitless ambit and case law in the absence of a governing philosophy provides no legal methodology guided by text, precedent, and history to identify clearly how these elements should and should not apply to the realm of new media. It’s almost impossible for civil servants to know whether they may err or be on the side of doing the right thing; supplying a clear terms of engagement through the instrument of a governing philosophy will imbibe govt with a high level of constancy and supplement many of the deficiencies present in the legal text and precedent. As these have traditionally being shaped by events prior to the advent of the internet.
Here both teams even went as far as to suggest in the interest of clarifying the terms of engagement; a new set of enabling laws should be tabled specifically to delineate it from existing legal provisions; this would presage well to take stock of media convergence into the internet and allow stakeholders to address internet issues without having to extricate themselves from the case law of enabling acts which may not have envisaged the complexities posed by the advent of the internet.
Real world attributions such as MSM and The opening up of Hong Lim Park should be clearly separated and delienated. Currently, MSM is playing a dangerous game that threatens to escalate the level of conflict further (see Part 1 & 2 of the report) when they regularly mix real world and internet attributions. While these constructs are relatively benign when seen in isolation i.e internet anti-establishment discourse / when they are coupled with real world attributions; there is a real possibility these create new linkages and networks which will bridge the real world and online attributions very much like bridges – it is arguable whether this is good or bad; but in our findings we do not consider this to be a condition that adds stability. It is highly likely if govt fails to act fast to delienate real world and online affairs by imposing editorial restrictions of what journalist can and cannot write about internet affairs these linkages may grow stronger and what we may even see is the foreseeable future is an “overflow” that will spill out in Hong Lim Park / the danger of it going out of control is 50/50.
We strongly recommend govt imposes a moratorium restricting all journalist from commenting and writing about affairs in the internet / the ASDF has also set up an emergency response team to further study these developments.
As the head of the ASDF, Vollariane mentioned concerning these latest developments:
“When you have a philosophy, but there is no practise, then it is quite useless; but when you have practise and no governing philosophy, then it’s very dangerous. Let me explain what I mean by this; when the internet, newspapers and Hong lim Park are clearly delienated and treated as separate and independent constructs; they are relatively benign, very much in the way one separates potassium nitrate from charcoal and sulphur;nothing can really happen; but when they are combined together they assume a real and present threat which no reasonable thinking person who knows this subject well can deny; gentlemen this is precisely what we have been trying to avoid; precipitous change that we can neither predict, control or even modulate. This stupid people do not know what they are doing when they mix all this into one big pot and give it a good stir; they might as well give a baby a hand grenade to play with….it’s only a matter of time before the pin gets pulled out….this will affect our economic interest……this is no good….from this point onwards…..we must contend ourselves with the real possibility things will accelerate and even take an unpredictable turn from this point onwards. This is what happens when something as complex and dynamic as the internet is not treated with defference – it will be inadvertently weaponized and it’s only a matter of time before they lose control.”
- A Set of Terms of Reference –“If people who play the game don’t have a clear understanding of how to play the game; then eventually someone will just come along and change the rules of the game.” For govt and the online community to move forward; material must be properly classified / threats must be accurately assessed / opportunities must be scaled along cost and benefits.
However, in the absence of a clear governing philosophy complemented by strategic assets how might ordinary civil servants, academics and stakeholders be expected to perform this highly contextual, intra executive task, which is historically deemed to be impossible in the absence of a clear and unambiguous guidelines as to what is worth and not worth pursuing?
A governing philosophy will allow ordinary stakeholders to participate in the whole process of change; by adding substantively to the repository of knowledge concerning what must be done to reach the goal and what is required to be done – since stakeholders have a clear terms of reference; they can synthesize new knowledge and this would allow their wide experience to be effectively recruited and profiled into solutions.
Here both teams severely noted; while govt may possess hard quantitative data concerning the internet e.g number of subscribers /average surfing time /sites visited etc. When it comes to the terms of reference that relates to soft data e.g shared beliefs, values, associations, myths, taboos, lore, imperatives, customs, tradition, manners and perhaps even a way of thinking and how things should be done.
It is conceivable Govt lags behind in these areas i.e they have failed to develop core competencies in scalability/ SWOT analysis of these online attributes to good effect, one reason accounting for this grave omission is the absence of a governing philosophy which would ordinary demand timely intelligence and anecdotal and not gut feel planning skills; as a consequence govt has no capacity to forward plan intelligently.
As one of our planners noted, “we are only gamers and yet we have the wisdom to create a strategic unit to study internet trends so as to facilitate our planning function; what more of a government?” This really sums up the scale of omission from our point of view.
Unless govt seriously augments these deficits by pursuing a strategy of building core competencies in this area; they are likely to be relegated to the role of playing catch up indefinitely.
Neither would govt be able to accurately scale threats and opportunities to ensure their plans hit the mark. Both teams recommended the creation of a think tank that will serve as a advisory first stop for all government e-initiatives / this body should ideally be interfaced with the rapid response team that we recommended creating in part 3.A.
(8) What Problems did We Encounter When We Tried To Fit Our Governing Philosophy With The Strategic Assets? A Chronology of Failure and Discovery.
Now that you know the governing philosophy is really like a three pin socket that allows the strategic plug to fit the terms of references; rules of engagement and set the directional focus to power change management.
We will take you the reader back stage into the inner sanctum of the ASDF planning unit. Here we will share with you how we fused these two ideas – this will hopefully serve several important purposes; firstly, it will splay out in great detail how we derived at our findings; this segment is considered necessary; as this approach is unorthodox and adjudged to be unconventional; hence this will also allow you to assess the merits of our approach; here it is worth mentioning, not all the members of the team felt it necessary to build the strategic plans on the base of a governing philosophy; many felt the uncomfortable with the idea of a governing philosophy, as according to them, it would add another layer of complexity to the planning function. The other half of the team felt, the governing philosophy was a strategic precondition this would instill a high level of central control into the planning function and ensure directional quality.
Believe it or not most of our tool sets used here are really not so different from how we may plan a full scale invasion of a planet in the virtual; it’s essentially based on a game theory concept – since mathematical games models operates by allotting numerical values to possible choices in any given conflict of interest. It works by positing, the method of accumulating the highest total would prove the most successful strategy. It’s based on the logical assumption by running through the list of probable permutations to determine the largest quantum of correct choices under a given set of conditions – the best approach can be identified and isolated for further review by our team i.e pay out that should theoretically identify the best approach.
This will form the basis of our methodology of how we crafted out the governing philosophy.
Caveat: Though possessing an unmistakable sheen of ingenuity – what must be stressed however is game theory remains a very crude attempt to impose discipline on many of the issues which we are trying to get on top of here. It would not be an exaggeration to say, it’s a bit like using a washing machine as a concrete mixer; if anything it’s really just a lazy man’s way of winnowing copious amounts of data to seek out the best possible strategy in a very short period of time.
In short it is a primal attempt to put Darwinian natural selection on a quantitative footing and we do not pretend to represent it otherwise.
Having qualified ourselves and scared most of you (I hope that you are still around?), we will now share with you how we managed to seek out the rough outlines of our governing philosophy. We already know why we need a governing philosophy. But why is it so important to the strategic initiative? How do these two concepts fit together to make sense of what we are trying to accomplish here? This requires some elaboration as the approach is unorthodox.
Here again what you always need to bear in mind is the governing philosophy really functions like a chassis of an automobile. It’s essentially a stable platform to accommodate all the strategic elements which all adds up to make a fully functional automobile e.g the drive train, suspension, fuel system etc – if the chassis is lousy, then it affects everything and it doesn’t even matter if it’s the best engine in the world. It’s no good. So always bear this in mind; the governing philosophy sets the upper and lower control units i.e what really ties in the differing constraints, opportunities and threats of both govt and bloggers and allows the best elements in each of them to be promoted or demoted.
We discovered our model by sheer accident (not to worry, we are in very good company as most inventions seem to accord to this pattern of discovery) during one of our many comatose inducing simulation runs (using a standard off the shelf Mordecai 61 gaming prog) one team was assigned to play govt and the other, the blogging community – a fatal error input was inadvertently programmed during run 59.
Here the operator had missed out a critical code to factor in the algorithm when he was busy wolfing down a pizza and entering code, the goal here is to effectively couple many of the assumption which we have originally crafted to attempt to stabilize govt and the internet attributions.
In this cock up, the operator had unwittingly caused both models to run independently without regard to these common assumptions. This lapse was unknown to the rest of the gamers, so when they begun to play out their respective positions what they noticed was they could for the very first time plan to produce a very high level of stability in all their assumptions.
Till then every single of attempt (nearly 56 in total / if you want the data you can have it and examine the arguments using your panel of experts) to stabilize the govt and internet attributions, proved an exercise in futility, but on this occasion when both models were effectively decoupled momentarily and allowed to run their course independently, not only did the teams manage to manipulate their models to produce a high level of stability but all this could be accomplished with remarkable ease.
We did not think much about this till the following day when during one of our cycling sessions – someone said, “if the goal is model stabilization, then why don’t we do it like the way we are not supposed to do it….maybe our assumptions are wrong.”
This prompted the ASDF, to conduct a detailed study on why decoupling these two models managed to eliminate the high level of flux which previously resulted in the high incidences of instability.
The following phenomenon were discovered:
Since the program did not realize the operator had failed to couple the operating assumptions to the interrelated models during the run stage. The following phenomenon was produced, this is an extract from the failed run log 15-10-08 at 1845 hr GMT entered by the marshals.
- During 148 minutes of the simulation run both models ran mutually exclusively from each other / they were independent through out the entire span of the run / since the master alarm wasn’t programmed to alert the players to this critical malfunction / they began to input their weightings to attempt to stabilize this respective models / through out this period, the assume incorrectly (as the master alarm had failed to prompt them) the other side were entering counter values as well / the link was severed.
- From a system standpoint this meant the program did not seek out (using a hunter code) equilibrium between two changing events i.e the postulates were deactivated / this way external factors which usually influence distribution functions to generate results (such as responding to a stimulus, or solving a problem) departed from terms of reference of the original architecture, the hypothetical network of interconnected processes which would usually have been expected to be influenced by external factors was severed. Under the assumption that all processes contributing to the overall performance time are stochastically independent. The program began to relate patterns of distribution functions by manipulating postulates based on ONLY internal and not interrelated factors. Thus such questions as whether the hypothetical constituent processes in the combined architecture and whether pairs of processes are sequential or concurrent to interdependencies originally programmed were absent. This was effective in fooling the program to study and generated results valid for only stochastically non interdependent postulates. Thus ALL the selective dependence of these external components and how they may have influence the selective external influence was excluded. According to this theory each component is representable as a function of two arguments: the factor set selectively influencing ONLY internet postulates, a component-specific source of randomness was excluded and deemed inoperable.
To be perfectly honest with all of you, none of us have the slightest idea what this ASDF report is trying to say – all we know is the operator cocked up! I guess if you gut out the gooble-dee-guck, what the ASDF is trying to say is what we were all trying to accomplish in the very beginning of this experiment was not so different from trying to balance two hyperactive kids on a park swing.
Every time, we gets child A to sit down, child B runs up and down along the opposite end of the swing. And mucks up the balance. So we have to run to the other end to get child B to sit down. We also give them incentives like sweets along with Ritalin to get them to remain still. But no sooner when we’re on the other side, child A gets up and does a runner. And this keeps going on till we are pretty much running back and forth like some silent movie character. Only to get a rough idea speed this up maybe by a factor of a few thousand times.
When the program decoupled, it’s a bit like sawing the swing in half and when that happened since each kid now has his own mini swing, we no longer need to keep running up and down. And since they no longer shared a common pivot, we don’t need to bother with what the other kid is doing on the other the swing. There was no longer any need to balance out these interdependencies. Neither was there any need to constantly seek out the optimum pivot point length along the swing arm.
To understand the crux; instead of trying to balance two kids; our solution was to separate them and treat them as separate entities thus not having to deal with the interdependencies.
This accidental finding led our team to revise many of our assumptions.
- Both govt and online attributions cannot be reconciled due to their multitude of differences.
- By decoupling, each system would have the autonomy to function independently without regard to the other.
- Since there is no need to reconcile any of these two systems their trajectory, speed and direction should does not require them to converge; here we expect them to diverge as time goes by.
(9) What We Discovered From Our Simulations – Revising Our Assumptions.
In this new reality, govt and bloggers may have to content themselves to the following assumptions:
9.1 Irreconcilable Differences;
There will always be a philosophical lag between the real world and the internet; they will always be out of synch and some of their differences may even be irreconcilable to suggest it, they will always remain difficult to bridge; this may require both govt and netizens to actively pursue peaceful co-existence instead, rather than pursuing resolution on common issues e.g by pursuing a strategy of contraction and convergence by seriously fleshing out the terms of reference and rules of engagement to manage these different standpoints e.g govt will seriously have to reconsider their “all or nothing” posturing, be it insisting “content is king” or to attempting to impose their reality on the online community e.g anonymity is perdition. If govt fails to recognize these differing philosophical realities, they may run the risk of not only reinforcing their failure. But they may even spark off a new round of non constructive arms racing; Govt may have to cede ground and consider agreeing to disagree. From a conflict management standpoint this would seem to make more sense in the long run.
9.2 Divergence vs Convergence
If assumption 8.1 holds true. Both the internet and real world attributions (Govt) will continue to diverge and not converge; this is expected to stress out current govt processes and systems even further. To manage this divergence govt may need to consider a dual track system of managing this fractured reality e.g we do not see how it is possible for govt to successfully manage the evolution of the net by resorting to its archaic set of enabling acts which did not even envisage the advent of the internet e.g Sedition Act / seriously deficiencies in existing legal text, tradition, precedent, and reason to effectively make sense of the internet reality render it almost impossible to enforce legal principles and logic expediently.. Govt may have to consider coming up with a dedicated set of internet enabling acts which can address many of the complexities of this new medium.
9.3 Lack of Controlling Elements
Govt may never be able to assert the degree of control and manage the internet as they do with real world assets; the lack of confluence points and the sheer immensity of the geography of the internet effectively cancels out the ability of the govt to crave competitive advantage even if they manage to project online – since reading is likely to assume a long tail model, readership will continue to fragmentize and balkanize to even smaller quadrants nullifying govt ability to reach all of these quadrants. Against this backdrop two factors will militate continually against govt e-relations with the online community; first the lack of predictability and secondly the inability of govt to respond speedily and decisively to online developments – to thrive in the online domain govt needs to continuously focus on change and innovation in order to make the best in dynamic environments. The ability of govt to develop and deploy processes requires that they continually seek out the fit between their processes and goals – this high level of strategic decision making requires not only a high level of knowledge about the context in which processes are defined, modified, and implemented, but it will take at least 5 years to develop such core competencies.
(10) What is the best model that best encapsulate both the governing philosophy and the Strategic Assets that should guide e-relationships between bloggers and netizens?
Our goal here is to seek out a real life model to premise many of things that we have gleaned out from the relationship between govt and netizens. Why is a real life model necessary? Firstly, this will supply us with a doctrine of precedent that will hopefully prevent us from making costly mistakes; since we can study how plans past from the realm of theory to reality retrospectively; we can reverse engineer many of these strategic plans to decrease the risk of failure and trauma to the system.
Secondly, a real world model is the best way to explain a very complex strategic proposal which incorporates in its framework a governing philosophy; note: not every strategic initiative is featured in this unusual manner. Hence the real world model will hopefully allow you to conduct further research into your area of interest; for example; if you want to know; what’s the best way of managing the legal framework between netizens and govt? The real world model will allow you do so by examining the specifics of text, reason and precedent – in short, it provides not only a conceptual comparative but also very expedient platform to transplant learning outcomes through case studies; this will assist you immeasurably in the strategic function; that is why for ease of reference this segment leverages exclusively on the real world model to make sense of the govt and netizen hubris.
In searching for the best model which best fitted the various elements of our governing philosophy and strategic assets we hope to construct; we decided on the one country, two systems model.
In 1991, Chinese planners developed the scientific concept of “one country, two systems” to deal with the realities of having to accommodate the return of a capitalist Hong Kong back to Communist China.
The hubris, the Chinese planners were trying to wrestle with; was how can China uphold the state communist system and yet accommodate the specific conditions of a capitalist Hong Kong? A further gloss was OCTS was conceived to palliate the fear of Hong Kongers who had witnessed the 1989 Tiananmen massacre – this we considered a very important observation as it complements our primary thrust in this and preceeding sections: theme of eradicating fear – in our exhaustive search, this was the only model that addresses the issue of fear head on without attempting to side skirt it.
One way of resolving many of the ideological disputes and mistrust between mainlanders and Hong Kongers was cleverly provisioned by allowing two diametrically opposing systems to subsist under one construct. Here, we can draw parallels between what we mentioned in Part 2, when we cited philosophical differences already divide govt and netizens and its even conceivable these positions have fossilized to such a point; seeking an agreement to disagree may be more expedient than pursuing an all or nothing strategy.
OCTS deals with these philosophical divisions in the following ways, China will continue to maintain the socialist system, while the existing capitalist system and way of life in Hong Kong will remain unchanged.
Under this new model Hong Kong would be a “special administrative region” and allowed to exercise a “high degree” of autonomy for at least 50 years after reunification with China. This meant that HK could keep, among other things, its capitalist economic system and common law legal system (which was a derivate of British colonial law).
(11) Why Is The One Country, Two System (OCTS) Model Such A Good Model To Base The Relationship Between Netizens and Govt On?
In this section what we are going fit, measure and build many of the strategic attributes that we want to build on the skeletal framework of our the governing philosophy which we have identified to be OCTS – if it goes well, this will allow us to use it to manage the relationship between govt and bloggers.
How do we know OCTS is the right model? We don’t know for certain whether this is the best model anymore than the original planners who came up with the idea of OCTS knew for certain they could effectively profile it as a basis to bridge many of the social political chasm which once divided the Communist Chinese from the capitalist Hong Kongers [we seriously advice anyone considering this strategy to conduct their own due diligence on ascertaining the veracity of many of assumptions and operating logic] –
What we do know is many of the comparatives that currently characterize some of the elements which make up the rifts between the Singapore govt and netizens do mirror many of the elements which once characterize many of the problems the Chinese had to grapple with when they politically and socially engineered the handover of HK in 1997 – chronic distrust ; incompatible philosophy and ideology; demographic and cultural differences etc.
It would not be an exaggeration to say, when we superimposed many of the problems that we need to resolve between govt and netizens with the OCTS model, it was a very good fit. We have given OCTS an approval rating of 86.3% after a rigorous round of testing on many of the metrics that we developed in Part 2 & 3.A and the results are impressive: four index point short of the gold standard / our runner up was the Deutsche Wiedervereinigung (German reunification model) that managed to score only a 55.8% rating and Nut Island Effect March 2001 (HBR).
One of the unique features of OCTS is how it manages to smooth out many of the divisive divisions which once characterized mainland Chinese and Hong Kong residents. These divides were NOT reconciled in the strict axiomatic sense with the idea of contracting and converging these divergent principles. Neither was it resolved by attempting to bridge the gap by hammering out one all encompassing philosophy which was able to harmonize many of the elements which made up the divisions.
Rather it appears these differences were accommodated by creating two contextual spaces without having to promote or demote the interest of either one at the expense of another – this we consider to be jugular to fulfilling the scoping of the strategy as one of the criteria’s we have set for ourselves on the onset is to ensure, both govt and netizens will benefit from this project.
On a planning front, the OCTS model offers many of our planners a wide berth and is adjudged to be very forgiving to miscalculations. Since it’s a very malleable contextual framework this allows for plenty scope for improvisation to get around a problem which usually mires any planning function i.e the classical strategic dilemma; since strategy requires a foundation of assumptions about how people and markets will react to a given set of conditions. But what if uncertainty features to such an extent rendering predictability impossible?
Under such conditions of acute uncertainty; the OCTS model provisions plenty of options to jettison some of the originally planned options at modest loss. Another added benefit which we especially like about this model, since each construct i.e govt or bloggers is structured to function independently in a manner which is not so different from how we solved the problem of trying to balance the perpetual hubris of the swing with two kids by sawing it in half. Planners would not need to deal with the complexities of having to dovetail two strategic plans in tandem as is usually required in most strategic initiatives. Since the proposed pace of change is incremental rather than revolutionary; it provisions many fail safes to ensure the penalties for error will always be contained and mitigated.
This in no way suggest OCTS severes the linkages between Hong Kong or China or vice-versa and both are completely independent. On the contrary, the relationship is characterized by an unusual high level of interdependence – the government of the special administrative region (SAR) for example concede defense and foreign policy to the mainland government – very much in the way, most bloggers would be expected to concede that when it comes to hate, faith and racist speech all these would be better handled by government as they don’t have the expertise to deal effectively with these matters.
Why is this observation important? Because what we see here is a form of cooperatism that is based partly on the give-and-take cost benefit calculations which allows both parties to effectively conduct pay outs; this appears to be a departure from ideological based take-it-or-leave-it bargaining which is essentially an all-or-nothing, one throw of a dice destructive game – we don’t know exactly how the details of this cooperative game works, but what we can observe is a high level of interdependence is required to make the whole idea of one country and two system work.
Three aspects of OCTS was deemed to be transplantable to manage the relationship between govt and netizens:
- Firstly OCTS, was primarily designed to palliate fear of human and capital flight in HK. This makes it especially relevant as a means of continuous improvement to further deconstruct the climate of fear e.g in this case another Tianamen massacre in downtown Kowloon.
- Secondly, it’s based on a give-and-take cooperatism, which shifts the focus from ideological based change and MAD (mutual assured destruction) e.g freedom of speech / right to protest – and proves reliable to deescalate the level of conflict between both parties.
- Thirdly, it confers a high level of autonomy both parties. Thus guaranteeing their political, economic and social independence of each other – here since a healthy balance of power is maintained (HK as a financial center) and China (with its hinterland and superior military strength). No one party is able to assert their will on another without incurring penalties.
While OCTS has been a resounding success 10 years after its implementation in the HKSAR – It’s important to recognize OCTS remains an imperfect instrument of ironing out many of the divides between Hong Kong residents and Mainland Chinese. Neither does it promise to produce a utopian state – observation suggest serious problems do persist especially where interest impinged on freedom and independence; some of these remain vexing as they relate to human rights and first amendment rights i.e universal suffrage in HKSAR and the methodology of nominating the political hegemony in HK remain divisive even till this day.
However, despite these kinks; these contentious issues are well within manageable thresholds as both parties have sufficient incentives in the game theory construct to pursue peaceful co-existence under the OCTS model. This is highly suggestive OCTS as a social political theory provides both our govt and netizens with a comprehensive basis to deescalate the arms race and gravitate towards a quadrant where they can work towards the idea of agreeing to disagreeing without running the risk of engaging in mutual assured destruction.
Since a main montage in the idea of OCTS is the antithesis no one universal narrative is able successfully the bridge the dichotomy between Communism and Capitalism anymore than any timeless and universal text is able to effective resolve many the deep divisions between bloggers and govt. Here govt would do well to consider whether they are even able to perforce their social narrative on a online community that has not only successfully held out its own against the version stamped out by the mainstream press?
At this juncture just to gain a relative strengths and weakness appraisal; it would do well for us to ask; what is the nature of these divisions we regularly see in govt and the blogging community? What’s their historicism? How entrenched are they? On what basis are they premised? And at what conditions do they operate under? Are they rooted at an entrenched and institutional level which will militate against change very much in the way communism in China isn’t a statecraft as much as it remains a way of life for most ordinary Chinese? Do many of these philosophical and ideologically rifts operate at value and belief system? Would, the cost of changing them be exorbitantly high? Can many of these divisions be even harmonized and reconciled?
The OCTS model provides many answers to some of these disturbing questions. As a model it’s expedient in so far as we don’t need to reinvent the wheel or to try out some great social experiment which doesn’t have a doctrine of precedent; here we envisage by superimposing OCTS as the model to manage the govt and blogger relationship; planners would be able to draw on plenty of case studies in not only the social political sphere; but they may also be able to look closer at how the mainland Chinese accommodated the legal and jurisprudential system posed by common law / along with perhaps scaling; issues such as dealing with the differing mindset between communist and capitalist.
This not only allows us a sensible basis to craft a workable perspective to how we might choose to frame the divide between the blogging community and govt, but it’s also suggestive this model even provides us with underpinnings as to what’s to be expected from each party – for one there must be a shift from absolute terms to one where both parties concede the merits of each system. Here truism gives way to pragmatism.
As we can see, it is only through an implicit recognition that there exist more than one way to cut the cake can both bloggers and govt really move away from their entrenched antagonistic positions which has produced nothing except mutually destructive competition – the adoption of this new paradigm will presage well for both parties as at the heart of many of these proposals is a rallying cry for intellectual restraint and even the idea this lamentable state of affairs between bloggers and govt cannot continue in perpetuity.
Unless both parties can buy into this greater wisdom by denying the destructive proposition; progress can only be made if we you agree with me or buy wholesale into my beliefs.
Then it is unlikely that we would ever be able to put an end to the idea progress and war belong to the same family of continuum.
Instead if we insist vigorously on denying this, there remains the hope of a better tomorrow for us and our children. This remains the fervent hope of all of us in the brotherhood press, writers and readers alike. We wish the govt well, and hope that you take many of our barbed repartees in the spirit of chupatz. We mean well and we wish you all god speed in your endeavors. It has been a most interesting and rewarding experience and we hope you have learnt as much as us.
Finally, we would like to thank the Lady of the Lake and her esteemed associates from the very bottom of our hearts for making this research proposal possible with her kind patronage and generous grant. Her ladyship hopes;
“This proposal will add knowledge to better understand our internet so that it will always be a vibrant, free and intellectually stimulating place for Singaporeans, residents and netizens through out the world; who may wish to take an interest in the happenings in this part of blogosphere. Her hope is that this will continue to inspire the curious minds to set them thinking about making this sliver a better place to work, play and live one day for our children.”
[This report has been compiled by the ASDF, The Strategic Think Tank of the Brotherhood / with extensive collaboration with the Mercantile Interspacing Guild and our Channel Partners the Confederation of Gamers – This has been brought to you by the Free Internet Library Board Based in Primus Aldentes Prime – The brotherhood press 2008 – retrieval codex: 876238903-387873 DOBERMAN]
Dear Valued Readers,
We have received many questions from some of you, especially those from the PBK and Strangelands I & II read clubs concerning the substantive aspects of this proposals. I have to say many of the questions are indeed insightful. However, it is not possible for us to answer ALL of them. What I will do instead is pick out some questions which reflect the general sentiments of the type of questions which have been asked and I shall try to make arrangements for an interview with Vollariane, the head of the ASDF to answer many of the questions some of you have posed.
Please stay tuned.
Y2K (The Director General of the FILB)
Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 3 A / The Foundation.
October 12, 2008
In part 1. We highlighted the salient historical features which we deemed operable to shape the landscape of present day blogosphere. Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 1 / Preamble
In part 2, a detailed attempt to scale accurately the operational challenges govt is likely to encounter in its e-engagement drive was discussed. Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 2 / The Challenges.
In part 3.A (of this report) – the first phase of strategy, we refer too as “the foundation” will be discussed. As the term implies, this is the preparatory stages very much like prepping the ground before sowing the seeds or setting the foundation before constructing a building. In this part, the emphasis is on “what must be done and why?” Hence there is a strong tactical emphasis in this section (with only one strategic proposal). Note this part should not be confused with Part 3.B (still to be released) as that segment refers exclusively to strategy formulation process of e-engagement.
(2) What is the goal?
At this juncture, it would serve our mission immeasurably, if we keep a clear line sight between the suggested solutions and the goal. What is the goal again?
In part 2, we mentioned the goal of e-engagement should ideally be to craft a strategy to migrate from the current state of mutual mistrust to a constructive and cooperative relationship – to one that manages to fulfill the aspirations of the govt for stability and security, yet preserve the autonomy and independence of the blogging community.
(3) Preparing The Foundation.
This section discusses the factors conditions or preconditions which must first be rehabilitated, augmented or deconstructed before govt can successfully project online to enable e-engagement. The following problems have been highlighted:
-How can the climate of fear be deconstructed?
-Can govt move forward without a governing philosophy?
-What assumptions must government revise if they are to successfully e-engage?
(3.1) Problem: How do we dismantle the climate of fear
The corrosive effects of fear, hardly requires any elaboration in the Singapore societal context. This is an elephant subject and while it’s all too easy to submit theory. Attempting to propose a workable solution is another matter.
In our assessment, any proposal that fails to adequately scale the pervasive influence of fear exhaustively on how it may set the complexion in the virtual and real world realm renders ANY proposal invalid.
This is one reason why in this section. The authors have felt a need for an extended commentary.
Why is it a strategic precondition to deconstruct the climate of fear? The answer is simple. It’s the biggest road block that is expected to militate against e-engagement on EVERY front. It would not be an exaggeration to say “fear” is the ONLY recurrent theme that was regularly encountered during ALL our simulation runs.
During our numerous simulation runs, fear was not only a persistent unknown quantity (as none of us could even agree how to quantify it), but it also stymied many of our efforts to stabilize ALL our models (simulations can usually accommodate no more than 20% of variance – to accomplish this task specific weightings are ascribed to key causal drivers – we were not able to accomplish this successfully). This is suggestive what we commonly term the climate of fear operates at many levels and it’s really a prism that means different things to people.
We would be happiest if we were able to treat “fear” as a quantifiable theory or science. For one this would allow us to construct an objective Archimedean lens to enable us to run many of our simulations smoothly. Since quantification will allow us to treat it either as an aberrant impulse or as a response to particular sorts of provocation or stimulation, the inference being that if such triggers to fear can be identified, weighted and put on a quantitative footing, then “fear” as a science can therefore be palliated or eliminated. Unfortunately, we were not able to accomplish this satisfactorily despite our many attempts to do so. We have failed in this section.
Having said we were not able to successfully characterize “fear” this does not in any way imply it remains an unknown quantity that cannot be sensibly worked on. Neither does it prevent us from going around the problem. We may not be able to fight it head on as a theory or science, but we can certainly develop a host of counter strategies to blunt its corrosive effects by specifically removing the incentives which breeds a state of fear – the strategy is really like not being able to predict when or even why do graffiti artist deface trains. But this doesn’t prevent us using surface materials which may remove the incentive for vandalism, such as coating carriages with a film that prevents paint from sticking effectively. Or putting in place a regular clean up program, so that graffiti artist would not be able to revel in their handiwork. So this is the methodology we have deployed after trying and failing for nearly two weeks to get on top of this problem.
Why is this extended clarification on our methodology worth highlighting? It’s conceivable as a planner, you too may experience the same constrains. This advisory will hopefully allow you side step many of the problems we encountered.
Our inability to successfully quantify “fear” led us to revise our operating assumptions:
(a) Since we are unable to fight fear directly as it remains an unknown quantity. Instead, we will identify the causal drivers for fear and take these elements out surgically. Notice here; the strategy that has been deployed refocuses the attention to the various networks and linkages which makes a state of fear possible and real – this strategy is not dissimilar to avoiding a full frontal assault on the enemy and instead cutting off his supply and logistical lines – the goal is to starve the main body of the force so that it is not be able to effectively regenerate itself and hopefully can be contained within manageable limits.
(b) We may never be able to eliminate fear completely, it will always be part of our social engram.
While we readily admit this is certainly not the gold standard, it does at least provide us a workable chassis to sensibly test out many of our formulations to good effect.
We began our analysis by first constructing a fish diagram i.e Ishikawa chart to identify the various elements which makes up this multiple layered term. (see vidrun @38)
Based on the finding of the cause-effect chart; we were not only able to identify and define many of the causal factors responsible for fueling fear, but more important isolate a few recurrent themes – the first of this is “uncertainty.”
It goes without saying “uncertainty” plays a preponderant role and is highly correlated with “fear.” But what remains less certain is the valence between these two constructs and how they even operate and sustain each other.
The second stage required to map out these causal drivers using a simple topology which allows us to track the symptoms fear usually solicits in players.
What we were able to isolate from this second analysis is when the notion of “uncertainty” is combined with officialdom. Then “fear” as an idea is elevated into a science and theory that very closely resembles psychological warfare. Here it’s important to highlight, unlike general fear which doesn’t feature deception as an operable element / psychological warfare is a sustained effort. This may explain why the blogging community suffers from such an entrenched pathology of terminal skepticism and cynicism towards anything remotely govt. One aberration this typically produces is the perception, the state is leveraging on “lies and disinformation” to further their own agenda to consolidate their hold on power.
While commentators often claim no end the internet is a place where unmitigated lies and disinformation proliferate no end. All too often they fail to discuss the missing narrative; why are netizens so skeptical and cynical in the first place?
It is our firm belief, “uncertainty” plays a large part in catalyzing this state of mistrust that will militate against e-engagement.
One illustration of this occurred recently, during the Mas Selamat debacle, where netizens confected a range of theories accounting for how a man with a bad leg could successfully reenact a Shawshank Redemption in a high security installation – the theories ranged from a simple cover up to alien abduction, but what’s worth underscoring here is govt inaction and ineptitude following the incident i.e failure to supply timely information not only exacerbated the already heightened state of skepticism, cynicism and disbelief, but it also created the perfect conditions for rumors to foment.
Our point is this; not only does the state of uncertainty encourage posturing very much in the way, cold war spawned the cat and mouse game – but it’s often the catalyst that’s responsible for not only precipitating the arms race, but also escalating it’s intensity.
So our first recommendation to govt;
(3.1.a) Cultivate a zero tolerance attitude towards conditions which may generate speculation and rumor mongering. Develop core competencies in responding speedily and accurately to online information lags and gaps.
The goal here is two fold:
-Eliminate the incentive for online speculation and rumor mongering.
-Short circuit the informational pathways by interdicting critical nodes where conspiracy theories can take root and spread.
-Simplify and reduce all communication pathways to the power of one – do not allow civil servants to engage netizens without a clear terms of engagement reference.
- The MSM will always suffer from an informational time lag as compared to the internet due to operating constrains; it is not an effective platform to disseminate information speedily
- The unsustainable cost of accuracy and fidelity. Currently govt benchmarks and criteria’s associated with information dissemination is highly weighted in favor of ensuring accuracy and fidelity. We recommend the criteria to be changed to take stock of the trade off / opportunity cost / penalties associated the cost of slow response. Planners need to appreciate there is a real cost associated with pursuing ceaseless “accuracy” and “fidelity.” Usually when juxtaposed against internet happenings, the cost is exorbitantly high, as by the time Govt responses, it’s already too late, truth has given way to fiction – trade off benefits to support, “something is better than nothing” communication should be seriously considered to augment this operational deficit / standard operational procedures towards information must be revised to ensure a higher level of discretion is accorded to civil servants to manage this type of rapid response information dissemination systems.
- Govt can no longer afford to play goal keeper if they want to successfully manage the information supply chain. Currently all their assets are placed at the back end; the system only kicks in when the shit hits the fan, by then it is usually too late; they need to shift their interdiction capability from a defensive position to support first strike pre-emptive mode / planners here may need to simplify the supply chain by reducing the number of nodes, filters and persons who needs to be consulted before committing to a release of information / the current system is not only multi layered but does not in any way support rapid response / it is conceivable planners may need to re-route the supply chain of information by reducing it only a single track, manned by persons who are have a high level of anticipatory capabilities to conduct these trade off’s and cost benefit calculations / the current system involves too many people and all communication should be streamlined to be managed by only one rapid response team / dedicated liaison officer should be the one stop point for all communication in the internet / the current system is too cumbersome involving too many persons from different ministries.
The idea of zero tolerance – though no govt in the world can actually afford to have literally no tolerance at all – goes back to an article that George Kelling co-wrote in the Atlantic Monthly in 1981. In his article “Broken Windows” Kelling made public detailed research in the South Bronx area of NYC. His research team noted the following: if you broke one in a deserted building and mended it the following morning, the building will stay intact. But if no attempt was made to mend it, every window would be broken within a period of 72 hours.
This discovery provided much of the theoretical basis for the ASDF to make these recommendations.
(3.1.b) Redesign processes, systems and methodologies to support a program to drive out uncertainty at the very beginning and don’t waste time and resources firefighting the after.
The adage build quality in and get it right the first time is universally considered the gold standard (best practice) in world class manufacturing – we do not see any reason why this maxim cannot be effectively profiled by govt to ensure a high level of certainty in the way they communicate to the online community.
Please bear in mind, this section should NOT be confused with the above; in the latter, the goal is to supply information speedily, there we acknowledge and even accept there will always be a decay in quality in either accuracy and fidelity to the information forwarded – in this section, this refers to official explanations, communiqués and informational exchanges, here the onus on quality is significantly higher and time is not of the essence.
The goal here to two fold:
- Eliminate systematic gaps in the information supply chain; by rendering clear and unambiguous govt initiatives and policies.
- Create simple and common terms of reference of terminology to facilitate deep spirited understanding.
It would seem as a casual observer this is closer to common sense than special knowledge. That is because it is the former. It is not unusual to note, even a cursory perusal of net parlance would lead any casual observer to question the wisdom in which govt regularly communicates to the online community. We strongly believe the common usage of shadow or hall of mirrors terminology should be jettisoned. [e.g ceremonial censorship, calibrated approach, deliberative democracy etc.] As they do very little to bridge the divide between netizens and govt.
While we don’t dispute the common usage of shadow or hall of mirrors terms serves the vital function of being able to iron out many of the dichotomies and contradictions which supports an incremental method to move forward on net related issues – what must be vigorously emphasize is the following:
- Often they lack a clear and unequivocal terms of reference.
- Meaning is often loss and it is instead replaced by conjecture and speculation.
- They is often a gross failure to define the upper and lower limits of their definition.
- Their scope and operating logic remains unclear.
In order to understand how these hall of mirrors terms perpetuate the cognitive dissonance that mires the relationship between netizens and govt – an cursory examination net parlance provides us with a very reliable barometer for getting a feel of how these terms actually translate at grass roots level; what needs to be stressed is parlance unlike vernacular is a highly compressed term which not only able to convey a certain attitude and train of thought that is unique and specific to an online community.But since they leverage exclusively on the figurative they also manage to encapsulate the various emotional hemispheres of how the online community usually deals with the issue of govt “uncertainty”; take the example of “OB markers” for instance [a common parlance that describes what is and isn’t permissible for discussion] – what does that imagery conjure? Certainly, not golf. A mine field? A no man’s land? A terra incognita perhaps and probably much more. Here it’s important to acknowledge that while languages may evolve, and a word can come to mean something different over time. It’s also important to identify the catalyst for the myth making process. In this case not only does the term OB marker refer to a high state of uncertainty, but it also describes aptly the attitude which is effective online to anything govt – a high state of befuddlement and confusion.
Our point in this section is to illustrate the nexus: how ambiguity and uncertainty does nothing whatsoever to solicit trust and certitude online. Instead all too often when govt deploys a plethora of hall of mirror terms like “calibrated approach” and “ceremonial censorship” – it’s often treated as synonymous with a disparaging label for any euphemistic term perceived to be uttered in bad faith. Not only does it not go down very well with the online community, but it’s effective in perpetuating the pathology of fear, in three ways.
-Govt is covering all their bases; they don’t want to be clear; so that if they anything goes wrong, they can just make up the rules as they go along.
- Government is playing mind games with us; if they are clear, then we know what are the rules of the game; if they remain uncertain; then we will never be in a state of complete ease; they are leveraging on the unknown to perpetuate their hold on power.
- Govt is not sincere, if you want to do something, state your intention clearly and communicated it to all, use common and simple terms to describe what you really mean; if people do not know what you even mean; then how do you expect them to even buy into it? Government just wants to perpetuate the climate of fear.
-Govt is line dancing; three steps forward and maybe two or three steps backwards. That’s what you normally do in barn dancing. Why? Because the rules are unwritten and so there is really a whole lot of room for that sort of improvisation; they just want to make sure; they have the unlimited scope to do what they need to do.
We strongly recommend that the govt put an end to this corrosive practice and perhaps issue out copies of the Oxford English Dictionary to its various ministries to help them to communicate effectively – use simple and understandable words. If you are not certain of the future, then state your case clearly with proviso and caveats, but please don’t confect new terms and come up with new words that no one really understands.
(3.1.c) Govt planners need to shift gears from a tactical (non-committal approach) to a strategic (committed approach) if they are to succeed in e-engagement.
At the crux is the issue; how does the planning function of the govt co-related with uncertainty? And how does it sharpen and heighten the divide between govt and netizens?
One recurrent theme that emerged from many of our simulations is not only were able to successfully identify “uncertainty” was the primary catalyst that is responsible for the current climate of cynicism and skepticism that mires the relationship between netizens and govt. We were also able to gain remarkable insight into why this occurs.
It’s even highly conceivable during our numerous simulations, many of our planner may have suffered from the same bunker mentality as govt planners. The usual range of constrains faced by our planners were expressed in the following terms:
- The internet is a dynamic and complex construct; we have to be very careful; if we move one step, we must make sure we have plenty of latitude and flexibility to change our plans in one blink of an eye. It is not reasonable for the ASDF to direct us to plan this on a good olde one, two and three step approach. That cannot be done.
- Many of our assumptions are blue sky (theoretical and unproven concepts) – we lack primary data on how to realistic reach key way points – frequently to deal with this high level of uncertainty, we will design plenty of fail safes – these are basically like if plan A fails, the system to reverts to plan B and so on and so forth – that means we would have to rely solely on tactics and not strategy.
- A tactical approach limits our ability to move rapidly; this is how it works; we move one step forward and if we see that the ground beneath us doesn’t give way, we will move another step; if the floor boards creak, all of us run back to the start line / this is not a very good way of moving forward efficiently and it is not our fault, as we have to regularly deal with blue sky assumptions and manage lousy intelligence – the ASDF has set us an impossible task.
What needs to be stressed here is while the planning function remains fraught with considerable uncertainty which lends itself well to a tactical /incremental approach. A derivative of that attitude also breeds a short term mentality and a complete lack of appreciation how the planning function actually triggers off a vicious cat and mouse game [which we found to be strikingly similar to the cold war practice of deliberately testing the operational preparedness of opponents] between netizens and govt.
We discovered this quirk by sheer accident during the course of our simulations. We noticed under certain conditions, where the levels of uncertainty was high to very high – this would embolden players with added incentives to test out the boundaries of their opponents by continually seeking out their strengths and weaknesses to maximize their payout. In this case the trigger that sets off the arms-race involves bloggers crafting more innovative means to test out the upper limits of these OB markers while government evolves more effective means of interdiction.
What’s important to understand here is the primary impetus isn’t malice as much as to satiate the interest of self preservation i.e if I know the level of threat, I can prepare myself to meet it.
The relationship can be expressed in the following terms:
“The higher the levels of uncertainty; the stronger, the valence in expect payout i.e where govt is “uncertain” or “contradicts” itself, this creates the perfect condition to support anti establishment blogging. Conversely, where the levels of uncertainty remain low and govt actions and initiatives are characterized by a high level of coherency; the valence in pay out is dramatically lower; thus negating any gains in pursuing an anti establishment posture.
By shifting the planning function from the tactical to the strategic govt will be able to overreach many of the problems which allows for a high state of uncertainty to take hold in the internet. We believe this would not only be effectively in dismantling many aspects of this cat and mouse game, but it would effectively deconstruct the tendency for ceaseless arms racing by removing the disincentives.
(3.1.d) What does govt need to do FIRST if they are to effectively move from a tactical to a strategic footing on how to manage e-relationships.
To the perceptive reader you would notice this is our first strategic (long term 3-5 years) recommendation / in our other sections, the tactical approach was recommended, as they are able to reach the set way points cheaply, speedily and economically. We have tried to do the same in this section, but here we would have to recognize, there are serious constraints to rely solely on a tactical approach.
As we noted earlier what really accounts for the non-committal half way house approach of the govt? Is really a function of:
-The inability of government to wrestled successfully with the dynamic and complex nature of the internet / it is evolving in such an erratic way that an incremental approach seems to suit it better.
- The need to always provision a back door and escape plan should anything go wrong.
-Lack of primary data and unreliable intelligence which could add value to the strategic planning function.
- it’s natural for planners to provision extra latitude and increased flexibility to ensure they don’t get stuck in a quagmire – there is a need to move prudently and cautiously.
While from an operational standpoint it’s almost impossible to fault the wisdom of designing a strategy with plenty of fail safe’s which probably accounts for the evolutionary concept of how light touch transitioned into lighter touch. The problem appears to be; take that logic too far and what it’s likely to produce is a condition commonly referred too in planning circle as “defense in depth” i.e if something fails, there is a back-up system to limit the harm done, if that system should also fail there is another back-up system for it, so on and so forth. This may possibly explain why planners have a tendency to lean towards an ultra prudent and incremental approach.
We would like to emphasize this is not a stricture on the planning function of govt; we fully understand this is a condition that afflicts even the best planners.
Only what needs to be vigorously stressed is while this approach may be amenable to fulfilling the operational criteria of being able to implement plans incrementally – it also exacerbates the already chronic levels of uncertainty to renewed heights. And as already mentioned, one aberration that this non-committal approach usually produces is double-speak, ambiguities and circumlocutions – which does absolutely nothing in the way of palliating and soliciting trust and certitude in the online community.
It is even conceivable the deployment of these “uncertain” abstraction especially when it’s couched in officialdom elevates fear to renewed heights where it assumes a science and theory which even closely resembles psychological warfare / it is this that is most worrisome to us as by this chronic stage all the elements are present to spark off another level of arms race between bloggers and govt – we strongly recommend govt to do the following:
-factor the cost of uncertainty and hubris / the equation can be expressed in the following terms; where govt initiatives are characterized by a high level of ambiguity and uncertainty, this is likely to solicit, mistrust, skepticism and cynicism – we concede this may not be easily accomplished, as till to date no one has successfully manage to isolate emotional response on a quantitative footing. We have no specific suggestions on this area, except to restate the need for increased clarity when rolling out govt initiatives of a policy vein. Failure to heed this advisory may result in cases where the govt inadvertently commits itself to double speak without even realizing it.
-Our second recommendation involves buying into a governing philosophy that is able to bridge the divide between the internet and govt attributions. This section will be discussed later for the sake of brevity / suffice to say, we have noted, one additional reason why govt is frequently split about how best to approach the internet is the overriding need to balance its effects and impacts with how they may pan out in the real world – we believe a common terms of reference in the form of a governing philosophy would instill a high level of coherency and discipline to ensure these divisions are adequately managed.
In the final part of 3.B we lay out the strategic recommendations.
[In keeping with the brotherhood press plenty of spelling and grammatical mistakes have been deliberately incorporated to enhance your reading enjoyment and to heighten the impression of authenticity / This has report has been compiled by the ASDF (The Think Tank) of the Brotherhood and jointly funded by the “Lady of the Lake,” – “In the loving memory of Darkness always” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK2Mn-XgHjA – and the Mercantile Interspacing Guild / Consolidated by the FILB (Free Internet Library Board) – The Brotherhood Press 2008]
This proposal may or may not be an unsolicited reponse to AIMs / The brotherhood is currently not in the position to either confirm or deny this / however, please note ALL the proposals forwarded here has not been copyrighted and is considered an ex gratia gift by the Lady of Lake & friends to the greater blogosphere of Singapore for the benefit of anyone may be find it useful – the ASDF of the Brotherhood thanks her ladyship for her generous patronage in making this report possible.
This article has been published in APICS, PBK and will be carried on Monday by the Singapore Daily – it is also available in the Intelligent Singaporean – see right hand side ticker bar under “New IS” – http://intelligentsingaporean.wordpress.com/
Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 2 / The Challenges.
October 3, 2008
In part 1 of this three part series. We highlighted the salient historical features which we deemed operable to shape the landscape of present day blogosphere.
In this part of the report, a detailed attempt to scale accurately the operational challenges govt is likely to encounter in its e-engagement drive will be discussed.
(2) What did we learn from Part 1 and how will we use it here?
(2.1) V1 – Prior to Mr Brown vs MiCa period: MSM’s antagonistic stance towards blogging community triggered off an arms race which spawned the cult of sniperism – counter reportage –
Summary of relationship: MSM: Content is King! / Bloggers: Pravda means the truth, but there is no truth in Pravda.
(2.2) V2 – Post Mr Brown vs MiCa period: The sudden appearance of aggregators escalated the arms race by homogenizing and centralizing net culture and attributions leading to a calcified state of terminal skepticism and cynicism which we commonly attribute to the net today.
Summary of relationship: MSM: The internet is full of lies and disinformation! / Bloggers: The MSM is just the second fiddle of the gahmen.
(2.3) V3 – One year after Mr Brown vs MiCa: Blogosphere by this stage had begun fashioning a distinctive culture and identity that is broke away from mainstream terms of reference – from this point onwards, it has begun not only to fashion it’s own oppositional narrative against the government.
Summary of relationship: Govt: pragmatism, honesty and dependability / Bloggers: We don’t believe you!
(2.4) Super V3 – Present day: Blogosphere continues to resemble a balkanized and fragmented state in this stage.
Unlike V1 and V2 which saw net attribution shifting from the chaotic to hierarchical to assume a monolithic model.
In Super V3, specialization of blog material led to the rules of the game being structured along the lines of anticipatory versus complex systems – where not only does the skill of arms assume an increasingly ritualized and stylized form, but there also a strong suggestion principled and philosophy based arguments will continue to temper blog material. In Super V3, readership appears to be self selecting unlike V1 and V2.
Summary of relationship: Govt: pragmatism, honesty and dependability / Bloggers: Freedom, liberty and fraternity.
3. Where should we go from here?
It doesn’t require a leap of imagination to forward the obvious; the gold standard quadrant which bloggers and govt should ideally gravitate towards – ideally this should be an enhanced mutual understanding and trust towards a constructive and cooperative relationship – that manages to fulfill the aspirations of the govt for stability and security, yet preserve the autonomy and independence of the blogging community.
In simple syntax terms, the relationship can be expressed in the following terms:
“Yes, I can see why you choose to do it that way, but maybe you should consider this way.”
Here the shift is subtle, but what it embodies as an operating logic is the idea of moving away from the antagonistic stance and posturing which has traditionally mired the relationship between govt and netizens from V1 to Super V3.
As mentioned earlier, while these goals are easy laid out. The vexing problem is how does one proceed to transition from the realm of theory to reality?
It’s conceivable such a plan will always remain sterile. As it depends on not focusing too hard on the details of an internet and govt whose divisions in principles, methodology and philosophy are so endemic and entrenched. It even threatens to overwhelms such lofty ambitions.
However, we in the ASDF do not believe these problems are insurmountable.
In fact based on our computer modeling of net and govt attributions, we are even conservatively confident a degree of success can be accomplished without too much fuss.
A few salient observations support our optimism.
3.1 Both the internet and govt has never been more level headed before. There is no better time to act
One positive aspect of going through the growing pains of V1 to Super V3 is both sides have now reached a realization what works and what doesn’t – govt’s may have probably realized by now hard power while an effective tool in the real world, does little to solicit trust and certitude online.
Conversely, bloggers have also correspondingly gravitated upwards by jettisoning their primordial skill-at-arms of the cult of sniperism, in favor of principle and philosophy based methods to perpetuate their class politics in blogoland.
Both actors have reached a terminal stage where they are fully aware of the attritional liabilities associated with pursuing a strategy of perpetual confrontation and ceaseless arms racing.
In our computation analysis – in the competitive matrix – the balance of power between the blogging community and govt has never been in a better state of equilibrium.
While in V1 & V2, govt still resolutely held to the belief (real or imagined) they still retained the competitive advantage to consolidate their hold on power using traditional means.
What’s evidently clear in Super V3 which follows in the wake of the Malaysian experience is many of their assumptions may have to be revised to take account of the internet and how its able to assume an expensive weapons system.
This leads us to the conclusion both sides are amenable to rewriting the rules of the game.
3.2 The internet has never been more stable before;
Flowing from the above, while principle and philosophy based methods currently adopted by bloggers do clearly confer them a competitive advantage to better nit pick govt policies and initiatives – what must be emphasized is this highly evolved skill-of-arms also means the aperture for new entrants coming into the social political sphere has diminished correspondingly.
Implicit within this assumption is the logic; where entry level is low; this usually results in a high influx of visitors, readers and tourist. In V1 and V2, one reason why the net was so feral resembling a zoo was due primarily to the high number of participants who found it relatively easy to play the online game of bash the government; the same logic holds true for the period that spawned the cult of sniperism. In this stage since the skill-at-arms of counter reportage was relatively easy to master. It became the equivalent of the ubiquitous AK47; five minutes training and anyone could just plug & play.
While V1 and V2 may be a boon to any blog owner or aggregator since visitor hits are high; in our experience this also contributes very little to a stable and predictable net.
In Super V3, we have a reversal. In this stage bloggers have begun to specialize their writes to service their respective niche markets e.g [brotherhood press readers regularly complain our articles are too short! Despite running sometimes 4 to 5 pages. Go elsewhere in blogosphere and it may be considered long winded. This serves to illustrate reading is essentially self selecting.].
In this competitive quadrant, the acquisition of a very specialized skill-at-arms like learning how to weave principle & philosophy based underpinnings into writes; is not only laborious, time consuming but it dramatically raises the bar preventing new entrants from entering the game.
Another derivative of principle & philosophy based blogging is it imposes discipline into how one should fight and score a win point – this leads to ritualizing and stylization of war making methods.
Once again this has the effect of ensuring new entrants cannot come in; this is an interesting observation and it may actually point to the first prototypal stages when bloggers themselves seem to be differentiating to ensure their readers don’t migrate to other blogs.
Both conditions are ideal to prompt blogosphere to move towards the long tail model – where not only is writing assuming a specialized form, but also readership.
Why are these 3 observation so important? And in what way can we relate them back to the question of internet stability?
This is suggestive, blogs may already have a constancy of regular readers. Note in V1 & V2 stages, constancy of readers was notably absent – an examination of read patterns during that fractious period suggest, reading was too sporadic to pin point either groups or sub groups.
Stability is a precondition for rooting cultural attributes deemed necessary for any game to perpetuate itself. As for any game to be played in our experience two components need to be operable sustainability and interest. Lose either one and the whole game unravels. You always need a mainstay of players. And our point is, in super V3 not only is there stability on the producer side, but there is also stability on the consumer end – the circle is complete.
4. What Challenges will government encounter when they decide to project Online?
In this segment we have identified 4 critical stages which we consider to be imperative to project online successfully to support e-engagement initiatives.
- POSITIONING – This refers to the process whereby govt decides which quadrant they want to insert themselves in blogosphere. Positioning correlates strongly with the strategic planning function where govt may be required to define strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to react to these changing elements in blogosphere. Position or ally yourself with the wrong partners or confluence and you may just be talking to yourself. Go the other extreme and you would simply be so inundated with nonsense post, that you find yourself having to fight your way out with a machete. In both cases it’s game over. Balance the two strategic attributes to good effect i.e sustainability and interest and govt will be able to maximize their opportunity cost for e-engagement to produce the desired results – if strategy is the rook, tactics the bishop, delivery the horse, then positioning must surely be the Queen. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough to planners – in our gaming simulations one fractional change in positioning values can alter the outcome so dramatically, that it has to be treated with the highest level of attention and care.
- STRATEGY – This refers to the methodology which should be ideally employed for e-engagement – should govt’s empower civil servants to e-engage? Or should they reduce the communication pathway to the power of only a few? Ultimately, strategy will determine not only the extent of the govt’s persuasive power online, but it will also set the upper and lower limits of how they will project online.
- TACTICS - How can govt ensure their message gets across effectively in an increasingly distracted and noise infested environment to ensure a good return on their e-engagement opportunities?
- DELIVERY - How will govt successfully navigate through an increasingly fractious net, where readership is fragmenting to assume a heterogeneous as opposed to a homogeneous form?
A cursory examination of V1 to Super V3 assumptions leads us to the logical conclusion. The best opportunity for govt to insert strategically into a quadrant that allows for maximum optimization of interventionist policies is during the V2 stage i.e the period when aggregators started appearing in blogosphere some 2 years.
Unfortunately, this golden opportunity has lapsed.
The problem faced in present day Super V3 is no one blog or aggregation site currently exerts an all pervading gravity to hold the entire geography of the collective consciousness of blogosphere – not even TOC despite the MSM promoting it every other day – in effect what this only produces in the short termism in the guise of tourist hits and not real and sustainable readership.
What’s important to understand here is social political blogs unlike Mr Brown and Xiaxue type blogs are differentiated by a strong vein of modeled habit readership.
The mistake most planners regularly commit during the planning stage is to wrongly assume there is actually an eclectic class of infinitely well educated people who would be persuaded to read discursive accounts rather than vignettes as to how to lose weight or how to look cool with false eyelashes.
Fact remains no such class exist either in Singapore or elsewhere, not in significant numbers at least. This reality check is important as it puts the discussion on an accurate and scaled platform.
Reality suggest a very different outlook; the median entrant rate for social political blogs per month is approximately 5.8% with a drop out rate of 2.89% / compounded through an annualized series – real growth minus compounded sequencing stands at roughly 12% to 14.6% per annum / Source: ASDF
The actual number of social political readers number roughly 1,500 at any given period – there isn’t anymore so forget the wild-eyed optimists, the gloom-and-doom pessimists, and the glib amateurs who doesn’t really know anything – they’re basically the run of the mill tourist crowd, the MSM funnels in whenever they promote a particular bog – for the purposes of this segment, we adjudge them to be insignificant and a statistical aberration.
Hardly even worth analysing.
We understand this may rile the sensibilities of some who may be under a false misapprehension that an effective short cut to modulate net attribution may rest somewhere in the alchemy of attempting to change the demographics of the net by encouraging trans migration from MSM to internet – only in our opinion, this has to be closer to fantasy than a workable logic based on our discursive account on the high entry level of Super V3 type blogs – that logic may have been amenable in V1 & V2, but to extend it by analogy is in our considered opinion, stupid and unimaginative – well deserving of the rubber dodo bird award.
Fact remains social political blogs all suffer from the New York review cum fin-de-sicile syndrome –they’re all without exception specialty reads wholly indulged by specialist; high entry barrier explains why the number of readers remains modest and growth low as to even suggest there may well be some cult of smartocracy.
What planner need to do is winnow and identifying the core 20% who is responsible for modulating much of the attributions we currently see in blogosphere – to paraphrase, the operating logic consonants which may be effective based on standard binomial theorem of Pareto which states - 20 percent of the customers bring in 80% of the revenue. By the same token, only 20% of blog material determines 80% of content regularly produced in blogosphere.
Why is this observation so important?
Firstly, it myth bust certain assumptions
The mathematical nuance such as number of visits may not always be equatable to readership. The Singapore Daily for example enjoys more hits cumulatively that TOC, Xiaxue and Mr Brown combined. But what most people don’t realize is most visitors are only interested in checking out scantily clad girls.
Why is this important?
As we mentioned earlier social political readership is finite to the point where it remains numerically low; this in part is due to the high entry barrier. Hence they cannot reliably influence net narrative, as the idea of a common platform or a point of confluence that allows for optimal interception no longer exist to support this strategy.
One notable feature in Super V3 is blogs have by this stage, begun the process of specialization in earnest. They have begun to assume their respective social and political orientation across the entire readership spectrum to serve their cachet of readership.
This long tail model poses considerable challenges to govt since there is a real danger they may not even be able to get their message effectively across in blogosphere.
There is a real risk Govt may not be able to project effectively to ensure a good return on their energy or investment.
Planning Suggestion: This leads planners to consider very carefully whether a better approach would be to consider recreating V2 architecture in the net so as to facilitate a common confluence point to allow for maximum projection – please note: there are currently no confluence point or common public squares in blogosphere, this is non existent and should never be assumed into your planning recommendations! Read next section to gain an understanding of this operational constrain.
4.2 STRATEGY – Govt may stand on a soap box to shout out their message, only remember, there may not be such thing as a Hong Lim Park in Blogosphere.
The metaphor of an all encompassing public square that is able to successfully recruit the blogo consciousness no longer holds true in modern day blogosphere. As already mentioned this is an accretion of net attribution assuming a long tail model where reads normally produced are not designed to serve a homogeneous group of readers as much as a heterogeneous group with very diverse and niche taste – not even Mr Brown these days can claim to have a direct hold over the collective consciousness of blogosphere. This is one distinctively difference between Super V3 and V1 and V2 stages of prototypal blogging.
In Super V3 – a far more accurate depiction of present day blogosphere resembles the balkanized collection of independent fiefdoms where some blogs are cut off from other blogs like distant far away planets – they share uncommon constellations and they have very little in common with each other and readership migration is often low.
This underscores the importance of creating a common square or a confluence point that will allow govt to effectively project online effectively.
Planning suggestion: In designing a confluence point planners should ideally structure it like a game that embodies a reward and penalty system; please note: no one is going to click on a government site, just because it is a government site; if they really want to do that, they might as well read the newspaper, so a reward based system must be build to prompt a high level of interest / bear in mind when building such an architect please be considerate to netizens – do not intrude on their right to privacy – if possible structure it with a prerogative where the actors have a right to say, “no.” However, provision enough incentives and rewards to ensure there is a strong valence between saying “yes” and a reward or win.
4.3 TACTICS – It is getting very noisy here!
In Super V3, the decibel levels, has increased to critical heights rendering common platform communication impractical.
Against this din, govt may very well have to struggle with the competing noise, to get their message across – they may even have to reconcile to the reality, no body is interested in what they may have to say.
This a largely a function of diversity and consistent with the balkanization of blogosphere.
As previously mentioned this pathology has traditionally been wrongly diagnosed by planners as net apathy. We do not agree with this simplistic prognosis as it fails to take into account the inherent social and political complexities of the net in Super V3.
What planners need to understand is unlike V1 and V2 stages where the cult of sniperism reduces targets to only a select few by virtue of being able to funnel writers and readers into one quadrant at any one time, thus characterizing this period with a high level of commonality which can be described as unitary and homogeneous.
In Super V3, it is conceivable blogs have begun to synthesize their own version of their counter narrative to the extent – they have begun to be proponents of their own thoughtware. Thus they have begun to set their own trajectory and agenda’s in earnest.
This not only increases the number of preferred targets; but a corollary of this diversity is an steady increment in the level of noise in blogosphere – this increasingly diverse competitive environment may explain why blogs these days are marked by a higher level of autonomy from mainstream narratives.
Unlike V1 and V2 melee’s which relies implicitly on stalking the MSM to produce a “kill” or “win” point – in Super V3, most blogs have attain core competence in terms of being able to successfully “wing it on their own.”
In today’s blogo landscape, nothing exemplifies the case, “the noise is increasing” better than a comparative of blog material usually produced in V1 and Super V3 periods.
It’s even conceivable the level of unitary, homogeneous and single trackism that was so evidently demonstrated during the Mr Brown vs MiCa episode can no longer be replicated these days.
This diverse environment is expected to militate against govt efforts at e-engagement especially if it relies exclusively on a one size fits all strategy. The ‘reality’ suggest, not only have netizens successfully fashioned the counter narratives to that commonly forwarded by officialdom, but they may also have fashioned their own metrics as to how to define personal and organization success which may even stand diametrically that advanced by government.
4.4 DELIVERY – Lack of cooperatism in blogosphere – you go your way; I go my way!
While the cult of sniperism in V1 to V2 proved effectively in fostering an unusually high level of cooperatism between bloggers which even made possible the fashioning of anti-establishment culture in the net.
What must be strenuously emphasized is in Super V3 stage mutual dependence is considerably less pronounce to support you jump and I jump blogging trends – we are not suggesting for one moment blogs no longer mimic each other, they often do just like newspapers tag on and ride the wave of their competition.
Only what must be re-emphasized very vigorously here, is there is a higher propensity these days for blogs to strike out on their own to carve out their competitive quadrants independently.
Why is this observation of less cooperatism so important?
It’s expected to stress govt e-engagement in 2 fronts:
- An increasingly diverse blogosphere may render null and void one size fit all communication efforts.
- Since it’s an attritional impossibility to respond to every single online infraction; govt in all reasonableness would have to profile a trade off /opportunity cost formula to discipline online responses. How are they supposed to intelligently accomplish this task in an increasing diverse blogosphere that serve niche markets?
It’s worth reiterating unlike V1 and V2, where skill of arms of sniperism conferred a clear advantage to organize bloggers to hunt in packs e.g leveraging on common readership cachet and interest etc.
In super V3 blogging, most major blogs have already cultivated their unique cachet of loyal readers and adherents, so they have less incentive to leverage on common readership cachets.
We are not claiming aggregators no longer play an important role in funneling readers to the reads of the day – only what needs to be recognized against this new competitive matrix is readership is increasingly assuming not only a very pronounced self selecting mode. But blogs have at this stage begun to be more sensitive to serve their readership.
This renewed role of readers as a Force majeure, is notably absent in V1 and V2 type blogging – hence there is less incentive to cooperate with fellow bloggers as links, re-routers and aggregation, no longer form the back bone of how most major blogs these days garner their readers. We do not discount, these linkages and networks are still very important for lesser known and especially entrant blogs.
To exemplify the case, these days, as far as brotherhood press is concerned, only 5% of reads come from aggregation sites these days as compared to nearly 90% in V1 and V2 stages – the difference is dramatic enough to suggest the shift in readership pattern is pronounce – we are not saying this is a universal trend. The speed, form and shape readers of certain blogs assume is still very much a matter of conjecture and we don’t have any primary data to date to support this contention, other that our own reference.
This is suggestive readers in Super V3 stage have begun to leap frog over the role of aggregators, they are taking initiatives to seek out their preferred reads which mimic classical economic models of the free market enterprise.
This is a very important observation. It’s importance can never be underscored strongly enough, as it rubbishes the myth, blogosphere is a domain that is marked by a high level of cooperatism – the reverse may actually hold truer to the case in point – blogosphere is becoming increasingly more diverse.
The hubris this poses to planners is how do government’s profile an effective response strategy to effectively address this increasingly diverse mix of writers and readers – one common omission that is often committed by planners is to assume net attribution to be homogenous and monolithic.
We don’t doubt this assumption simplifies the planning function immeasurably as its attribution can be treated as a fixed constant – but against a dynamic framework, where the net is increasingly assuming a diverse, heterogeneous and eclectic form – how do govt’s even ensure they are speaking a common language that can be widely understood by netizens?
5. Caveat & Disclaimer
In this segment, the various push and pull constraints and opportunities highlighted in V1 to Super V3 will form the basic assumptive skeletal frame work of the competitive model.
The ASDF has registered a lot of criticism for this approach from many of our readers. Many have described our approach as heretical, bordering on the surreal and fantastical.
The ASDF makes no apologetic claim that the model employed is either anecdotally correct or true to any academic axiom or tradition.
The ASDF maintains this is simply one very reliable way amongst many to simplify a very complex problem and to accurately understand, scale and put the problem on a footing to be worked on to produce meaningful results.
The ASDF till to date cannot think of a better way.
Please note, the epistemology (for lack of the better word) used here closely resembles linear programming (LP) logic.
This will be used as a primary chassis for the optimization of the various linear objective function. We fully appreciate the limits of this unorthodox approach, but due the need to factor in so many dynamic assumptions and to reduce the assumptive noise, it has been decided by the ASDF, this method of using linear equality and inequality constraints will hopefully infuse a higher level of objectivity in scaling the challenges.
As we can very well see govt’s interest in projecting online whilst completely legitimate. But the gap between ambition and complications of the task is enormous.
Pls note: In Part 3, the concluding chapter of this 3 parter – the ASDF will recommend strategies as to how best to project online – stay tuned.
[This report is from the ASDF (the think tank of the brotherhood) / assistance has been rendered by our foreign channel partners in collaboration with the Mercantile Interspacing Guild – The Brotherhood Press 2008.
This report is made possible by the kind patronage of the Lady of the Lake - who seeks a better tomorrow for blogosphere and has dedicated this to in her terms to,
"the loving memory of Darkness" - we all miss him dearly.