AN INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR GENERAL OF Y2K BY THE PBK – WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE FREE INTERNET LIBRARY BOARD? (FILB)

July 27, 2008

Q: Can you share with us briefly what is your vision of the Free Internet Library Board?

 

A: To record the history of our local internet.

 

Q: But isn’t the National Library Board doing the same thing? Tell me does this include the influence of foreigners as well?

 

A: They may be, but this doesn’t preclude us from doing roughly the same thing albeit on an amatuer scale. I think the main distinction is how we go about the task and more importantly the philosophy. We take the position history belongs to everyone. No one institution has a monopoly or claim over it. As for foreigners, you need to ask yourself how would our history read like, if we didn’t take stock of Sir Francis Raffles or maybe Parmawersaran or completely forgot about the Japanese occupation in the 1940’s.

 

IMO you cannot pick and choose history especially not internet history just because it’s expedient to keep it pure along dogmatic, nationalistic or even country lines. That may work if our internet is hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world. I don’t think it’s wise to exclude anyone who may have once played a role. Like the motto of hardrock cafe; we love all and serve all.

 

 

Q: Do you believe NLB squandered their credibility in that regard?

 

A: I think we are not in a position to judge them. Besides only time can tell; how will people piece together the historical record of the Singapore history in the future? It’s best, if you put that question in a time capsule and pose it to them (LOL). One thing is clear what we say now is really not very important in the scheme of things to those who may sieve through why we said the things we once said; history proves that very robustly.

Tutankhamun’s history was once rewritten by Nefreti, but when everyone goes to Egypt, all they want to do is visit the former’s tomb. No one even remembers Nefreti. I don’t believe it’s that easy to manipulate history or to even pervert it’s natural course.

Yes, you can say, human rights is so and so and the IBA may say this and that, but at the end of the day how true you really are is really a function of how people in the future choose to measure what you once said against the ebb and flow of what most people regard as “good” in the social political landscape.

People would do well to always remember this. Now with the advent of the internet history is really like an elephant, it never ever forgets.

 

Q: What is Darkness view of what the NLB has done so far?

 

A: He thinks they lack wisdom and sound judgement.

 

Q: Do you agree with the position they (the brotherhood) have taken?

 

A: No comment, but I can understand how it has reached this sad point.

 

Q: How persuasive is his (Darkness) line of logic?

 

Don’t be surprise if you poll it’s nearly 99% of netizens agree with them- I think most of us know history is one way in which ALL oligrachies perpetuate themselves – that also means, if its practical they will block and possibly suppress the counter narrative and only promote their own version.

 

What I feel is worth highlighting here is many in the brotherhood believe this has happenedm, real or imagined. 

 

Q: Can you share with us briefly how your approach differs from the NLB? And how you have managed to define your own direction and approach?

 

A: I don’t really know whether I am the right person to answer that question. You see for starters. I don’t even know how NLB goes about recording our internet history. What I can say to you perhaps is to date not a single one of their blogs which they consider worthy of recording is even anonymous, despite the fact 98.4% of the Singapore blogosphere is largely anonymous – and out of that 87.4% of the content produced is anonymous. All I can really say if the criteria is drafted so narrowly then only a few set pieces will ever appear, Mr Brown, Xiaxue and Mr Wang – what about the rest? As a reader I think you need to think long and hard about this.

 

I cannot comment about their approach. Perhaps someone in NLB may want to clarify.

 

All I can do is perhaps share with you our philosophy and methodology. Generally, we try to take the whole sweep of blogosphere – the good, bad and the ugly. We don’t have any specific criterias of prequalifications unlike the NLB. You don’t even need to be famous or even be a producer with a following.

 

One reason for this attitude is none of us in the FILB have any real experience in archiving. That means none of us have been scripted to understand what is appropriate, proper or even acceptable – this certainly has shortfalls. Having said that I have also found this is may well be one of our greatest assets. Since none of us have any preconceived notions of how best to go about accomplishing this task. What’s likely to emerge is going to be very much a bi-product of experimentation.

 

Of course we have historians and librarians, but I also like to add we also joined by archeologist, anthropologist and one person who specializes in cartoon and anime history.

 

On top of that there is the existing brotherhood people who are always acting as advisors and facilitators, such as the mercantile guild. So its really a very interesting rojak.

 

As I said, I am not in the position to give you a firm answer, not yet.

 

Q: I don’t want to sound skeptical, but many have asked; is this another brotherhood initiative? The reason why I have asked you that question is many people know that personalities such as Darkness were not very happy with how our NLB went about the whole task of recording internet history. Then coupled with this proposal for community moderation by the blogger 15 and their friends. How independent is the FILB really?

 

A: Yes, I can see how such sentiments can take hold. Many things were after all traded in the community moderation debate, but it’s important to go back to the crux of the issue.

 

I believe Darkness clearly stated his views on this area here with regards to how he perceived internet history: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2008/01/all-quiet-on-blogosphere-front.html#c7332817029612554937  . You have to decide for yourself whether what he says makes sense against how NLB has set about the whole task of recording our internet history http://www.biinary.com/journey/2008/01/06/local-blogs-archived-by-nlb/ .

 

I really have to leave the final decision to the readers once again. As the newly appointed director general of the FILB, I don’t really believe it’s appropriate for me to comment on this issue further.

 

As for the independence of the FILB, that is a question that is better answered sometime down the future. It’s still early days, but let me say this, they (the brotherhood) seem to be giving me full support and I have been granted direct access to all materials. I am not saying its smooth sailing. There has been some minor and irritating problems, but all in all, they seem to be very compliant and supportive.

 

Q: Can you briefly tell us why the brotherhood saw the wisdom in creating the FILB?

 

A: One curious thing about the brotherhood is they don’t blog conventionally like most of us. From what I see they don’t even seem to have a clear format of how to post or to even reach out consistently to their pool of readers. Neither do they have a systematic method of recording what or where they post, it seems to written in one book and that’s not much use either as there exist gaps and blind spots that makes traceability virtually impossible. If you want to know what I am talking about just google around. You will find their articles are posted in over 13,000 sites throughout the world. Some of these sites are quite bizarre such as hardware equipment reviews and even in sites that has simply been abandoned for years by people who used to start blogs. Their general policy seems to be where there is an electronic parchment. This is where I will write my story. Sounds very romantic, but that’s not a very good way to make coherent history. That is the reason why, read clubs started cropping up. They were a response to mitigate this erratic style of posting. It’s not known exactly whether this is deliberate or even a marketing ploy that they deliberately encouraged to heighten the illicit thrill of the reading experience. But if you look at the IS here: http://intelligentsingaporean.wordpress.com/2005/02/12/the-confessions/ you see its very neatly put together, but what we don’t know is originally it was posted all over the place and with no means to navigate around it.

 

Based on my research, the first proto read clubs first started emerging sometime in HK during 2004, when Darkness first started writing his serial love stories. These were snippets and they were usually indiscriminately posted very much like a spam. And it attracted quite a huge underground following. Since most people are either too busy with work to hunt for reads. The function of these read clubs is very much like first generation facebook sites we see these days. Someone finds the site where the reads are posted and it is disseminated through these social grapevines.

 

So one of the goals of the FILB is to track down many of these lost reads and bring it to our readers.

 

Q: Many people may say why should we read old material? What’s your response to that?

 

A: That’s what I thought as well originally, but I have read some of their so called ‘old’ material. However, I feel they are still very relevant as many of the issues mentioned in the past are really echoes of present and possibly future scenario’s.

 

You will be very surprised how much of history is actually recyclable in the way it manages to repeat itself. This never ceases to surprise me. That is why we use the term, “reconstituted,” to describe the process of retrieval and treatment. Many of these reads are given a new polish to give them a sense of relevancy to what is happening today. 

 

Q: Could you give our PBK readers one specific example that the FILB has worked on to illustrate the nexus between “old” and how it can be successfully juxtaposed to the “new?”

A: Of course, we uncovered this article once written at the height of the NKF scandal. For some strange reason, it was posted in an obscure camera review site –  do read my commentary on at the end. What we clearly see here is many of the issues once raised are still basically the same, very little has changed, when we consider this article against the foreground of what’s recently happened in the Ren Ci saga.

A HEART TOO FAR – A LAMENT ABOUT CHARITY AND GIVING

 
 
 
 

 

Q: Many readers have charged that you are ineffect rewriting these BP articles which were once published. How would you response to that comment from the PBK readership?

 

A: It will always be a controversial subject. It’s really like a being a fine art conservator working to an ancient mural; how much dirt do you lift off? Bear in mind you’re not really restoring as much as sliding the ticker along the time line when you decide how much to reveal. It will always be controversial, but if we don’t reconstitute these articles, then many of our readers will not even be able to make head or tail. So it’s a fine balance between relevancy, history and readership.

 

Q: Can you share with us briefly what really drove you to do this? And what do you get out of it?

 

A: For me it’s something that appeals to my personality. I used to be an avid collector of comics so there is a lot of commonality between that hobby and what I am doing right now. Most people don’t know this, but comics are really not so different from blog postings. Every time one gets published, new characters are born, but they are also figures who reflect very accurately the politics of their age. Comics hasn’t always been considered worthy of serious artistic or literary consideration, but some scholars recently have started to look at comic books as modern mythmaking presses. Take the case of the Joker, he emerge in Marvel comics during the early 40’s and its interesting to note the color of his disguise is white, red and black – the same color as the Nazi flag. It was really a social response to how most Americans saw Adolf Hitler and his diabolically evil but brilliant brinkmanship as he seized territories in Europe during that period.

 

I get a lot of personal satisfaction from finding the missing jig-saw. I guess it’s hard for most people to relate to this as fun unless they too happen to be hobbyist themselves, like finding that missing comic that completes the collection – it’s deeply satisfying to see it coming together.

 

Q: Do you consider this to a distraction that takes or does it add to your personal development?

 

A: Frankly, it’s too early to say. I will however say this, most people who volunteer for the FILB do so because they believe, it will either add knowledge or broaden their perspective. By this I mean most people use this as an opportunity to test out things which they don’t normally get the opportunity to do so in the real world. For example in the virtual I run the FILB and I really have unlimited access to not only technology, but it’s also a good opportunity to learn about conflict management and how to manage myself and others.

 

The brotherhood are not easy people to get along with. Some of them can really be so aggressive they are just a pain in the ass. If for instance they had a situation like Mas Selamat, many of them will just crowd around Wong K.S in a big circle and throw him a ray gun. I am serious. They don’t even take it personally. It’s like business as usual. These are quasi tribal and nomadic customs derived from their gaming culture and it carries through into their dealings.

 

I think that is why they have so many issues with the rest of our blogosphere. They don’t seem to be able to differentiate that world and this. To them it is just one glob.

 

Having said that if one is able to break into their way of thinking or inner circle, the learning experience can be very rewarding. As these people have accumulated know-how that is really unparalleled in certain niche areas. They don’t even consider Singapore to be a market. In those areas they are really up there with the big boys. And it’s really in these areas that I get not only to manage cutting edge technologies, but also to custom design many of my tools and test out my ideas.

 

It’s really like being able to play with a multi- million dollar simulator, the beauty is one can still crash and fly again. So it’s a very good way for me to test out theories which would be impossible to do in the real world. This has definitely enhanced my understanding of how things actually past from the realm of theory to reality. It has not only dramatically changed my POV about how work should be done, but I have also been able to transplant many learning outcomes to add value to my day job.

 

So on the balance, I must say there are definitely more pluses than minuses, but I can do with less attitude sometimes.

 

Q: I understand you had a meeting with Darkness. Can you share with us the details?

 

A: I knew this question will crop up sooner or later. As Darkness is really quite a mythical figure. And I’ve gone through most of the interviews write up to know this is a question that invariably comes out due to reader demand. To be honest with you, I didn’t consider him exceptional in any way whatsoever. Not even a bit. If anything he came across as a very average Joe.

 

The first thing that struck me about him is how 180º different he really is in real life from his online persona. He came across as a very, very soft spoken and even shy person; very well mannered, hardly the sort of thunder and lightning figure that one expects to see – a very good listener, so good that at the end of the meeting, I realized, I was doing most of the talking and I hardly even managed to ask a single question. He seemed to be more preoccupied with whether I was enjoying my makan, which I might add was excellent. Retrospectively, he was controlling the conversation without me even realizing it. A very good negotiator.

 

There was however one thing that struck me about him; he has fast reflexes, like a boxer; there was this incident with a bottle, I think the waiter fumbled with it and it tipped over and he just caught it in mid-air. For a moment, very briefly, I did see a change in his demeanor, hard, cold and even measured but it was only for a few seconds. I think it’s fair to say, he may be holding back, people like that usually put on a public mask and regularly sell themselves short to give others a false sense of security; it’s hard to really know who is really the real Darkness, I don’t want to sound conceited, but that was the first time in the meeting when I realized, I may be dealing with a very complex person.

 

I think if you speak to Mr Kompf, Inspir3d, Missy Dotty and even many of the PBK people who have met him before you will get the same feeling – Darkness is certainly not an open book.

 

Not at all, one is always left with the indelible feeling something is amiss, this man is cryptic an enigma even.

 

Q: What are your long term goals for the FILB?

 

A: I haven’t really thought of it in those terms. I know I should but I haven’t really. Right now its still early days and I must say, I am enjoying myself too much. There is a lot happening. And everything is so new, so I am really just taking it all in. Why don’t you ask me that question in the next interview?

 

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing blogosphere right now? We all know Darkness was quite flustered about this whole idea of community moderation, tell me do you share his sentiments?

 

A: The sudden closure of the BP. And the protest action undertaken by the writer’s guild. We still don’t know when they are going to restart the engine. All I know is everyday the protest continues, all the networks, linkages, nodes and crossroads that used to unite writers, researchers, readers, commentators and read club members are slowly rusting away. In the long run this cannot be good.

 

I think it’s very easy to dismiss Darkness as a crackpot. That I believe is the main strategy of the blogger 13 and their friends. That’s why they are deliberately avoiding the strategy of constructive engagement at every turn. To the extent of even limiting the discourse in blogosphere to a minimal.

 

You have to ask yourself; “why is real gold so afraid of fire?”

 

But if you really spend sometime dwelling on why he believes this whole idea of community moderation is such a threat to the independence of our internet. Or why he believes their proposal has nothing to do with freeing the net. You will very rapidly find this man has not only a very good grasp of systems, processes along with an extensive knowledge of strengths and weakness which can only be describe as comprehensive. That is one reason why Darkness seems to be able to garner so many votes in Primus.

 

I don’t believe anyone who has read it will readily deny this. We are definitely not dealing with someone who just came out of school, or who is just spouting unsubstantiated diatribe as much as someone who is posing very pointed and legitimate questions which in my opinion deserve answers.

 

You will notice till todate, not a single question posed by Darkness, not even one, has even been answered by any of the blogger 13 or their friends.

 

You really need to consider whether that’s an indictment to their mission or maybe they just haven’t read any of his post? Or how believable is the latter?

 

My advice is simple give the man a fair run and read what he has to say first here: http://magnezium.blogspot.com/2008/06/internet-deregulation.html especially here: http://singaporedaily.wordpress.com/2008/04/27/sgdaily-roundup-what%e2%80%99s-hot-in-week-17/#comment-1902 Then and only then decide for yourself.

 

I don’t really believe it’s appropriate for me to embellish the final account by commenting further beyond this point. I have my views, but I don’t believe it’s constructive to add further.

 

I believe rightly or wrongly, its best to leave it to the final judgment of the readers.

 

At the end of the day, their opinion means everything. I am really just a service provider, a book stacker.

 

Sharon: Thank you very much Y2K.

Y2K: Thank you. May I take this opportunity to relay a message from the brotherhood; they have told me to inform all the PBK readers @ 0500 GMT Primus Time 20-8-08 / a brand new Liberium Class Star Cruiser will be christened the ” KDD Randy Pausch.” It’s a science deep space vessel and their hope is it will con’t to inspire many others to greater heights.

 

[This is has been brought to you by the FILB – this interview has been conducted by Sharon X – The Brotherhood Press 2008

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