Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 3 A / The Foundation.

October 12, 2008

(1) Introduction

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.

 

Why?

 

        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.

 

Why?

 

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.

 

Netizens believe,

 

-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 circumlocutionswhich 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.

 

4. Summary.

 

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/

 

 

 

7 Responses to “Suggested Solutions for managing e-relationships between netizens and government / Part 3 A / The Foundation.”

  1. inspir3d said

    hi… just to ask… what’s the idea behind creating multiple mirrors of the same article

  2. dotseng said

    You really want to know what I think, they have all gone completely bonkers paranoid as they have spent so many weeks locked up in Astroboy’s garage munching on pot noodle working on this AIMs nonsense. You notice they hardly ever write anything any more? All this mirror copies are to prevent ppl from tracking their readership, some sites are decoys, some are red hot live others blink like faulty lightbulbs. They have been moving us all around, even we are so confused now that no one wants to read the BP any more, it is impossible to work under these conditions and they say the gahmen is promoting confusion, pot calling the kettle black! I am very angry with them!

  3. dotseng said

    Last week I was supposed to meet up with a few of them in east coast park to go night cycling.

    As they promised us they will show us the new NP connector to changi village.

    I told them, I would probably bring a few of my gf’s along, one of them happens to have a sister working for ST as an administrator.

    When Astroboy heard about it, he told the rest, the ISD is coming to spy on them.

    When the day came not a single one of them turned up.

    These days it doesn’t take alot for them to start drilling holes into walls.

  4. inspir3d said

    oh well… why don’t we just do our own night cycling without them

    😉

  5. Y2K said

    Hello Dotty.

    I happen to know AB personally and I can assure you he didnt say anything of the sort that you mentioned to the others. I didn’t know about this.

    I dont think the lads are avoiding you or anyone.

    If anything, I believe they are just bogged down by work.

    So they dont seem to have much time for anyone these days, including me.

    I am not defending them, but that is just my honest take.

    On the day, we were supposed to touch base in east coast park. I believe we (me included) waited for you for nearly 30 min. When no one came, we just rode on.

    And it is very normal practise to switch off handphones for safety reason.

  6. Y2K said

    Why dont you look at how much effort they have put into this whole e-engagement paper?

    That is the thing. I cannot seem to understand.

    It is very easy to misunderstand, harder I believe to seek to understand.

    Much harder it seems.

    Y2K

  7. Y2K said

    You can say anything about the brotherhood, but when blogosphere needed them, they all came together and bore arms.

    They set aside their personal differences (trust me they are too many to mention) and they said, we will unite and take a hachet to the yoke of fear!

    No one in the history of blogosphere has ever done that!

    What do they ask? Nothing. Nothing in return, not even the slightest morsel of recognition, nothing.

    Infact what saddens me is they expect to be ignored even further, that sadly from what little I see is the fateful of all those who serve mankind without any expectation.

    Shoestring a regular reader of the BP once said this in this vid. I think it sums it all up beautifully.

    Do you really believe they care about your petty concerns? I really don’t believe so.

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