Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 2 / The Challenges.

October 3, 2008

(1) Introduction


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) V1Prior 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 V3Present 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.


6. Summary


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.]


2 Responses to “Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 2 / The Challenges.”

  1. shoestring said

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