Monday, October 31, 2011

Aussie Pete A Fence Sitter? Absolutely Not!

Following on from my recent appearance on BlogTV, live on Channel NewsAsia, I've had a few people tell me that they thought I was 'sitting on the fence' in relation to some of the questions posed to me about controversial blogger, Peggy Heng. They even went as far as suggesting that perhaps I was avoiding conflict, because of the fact that I was seated right next to Peggy on the panel!

I'm guessing that maybe I came across this way, because being only a short half hour (TV air time - another 15-min either side of that online streaming), I was told up front by the show's producers that my answers need to be short, succinct and to the point... my regular readers (and friends in the real world) know that's just not my style.

So to clear the air, I've included the 'long'(winded) version of the answers as I had thought about them, prior to the show going to air.

Also, I've managed to get at the streamed version of the segments and uploaded to YouTube - so if you missed the show on TV and do not have the appropriate media player to view on the BlogTV website, you can check them out here and now!

What did you think of the publicity stunt by blogger Peggy Heng?

As long as Peggy feels that she remained true to herself, then I don’t personally have any issues with what she did. The idea was to promote a dating event for young singles, right? Then if the audience that she was after stood up and listened and attended the event, then maybe it worked? Having said that, Peggy must have known that in Singapore’s relatively conservative society, the netizens were going to take umbrage and express outrage. So, if she’s comfortable with the reactions and is ok for her family to see her in the light that she portrayed, then all kudos to her.

VIDEO SEGMENT 1: HOW LOW WILL YOU GO? - We ask the panel how far they will go to get hits for their blogs:

Did you think it was a smart way to get traffic to her blog?

I firmly believe that it’s really ‘every blogger for his or her self ’. The thing to remember though, is that even if you one day delete your blog with the intention of burying the past, due to aggregation and republication of articles as well as any media coverage that your actions might bring about, it really is the case that anything that appears online remains there forever. This is extremely important – I would never post anything online that I would be concerned for my kids to read or see as they grow up (perhaps through a simple Google search of my name). Also, it is well known that many companies (large and small) use the internet and social media when making recruitment decisions. HR departments in most MNCs are completely experienced in this method of screening… once again, if I thought that any of my actions or writings might jeapordize my career, there absolutely is no way that I would post it online.

Was it necessary in your opinion to go through those measures? Would you have done it differently?

There are many other ways to promote an event and attain clicks. I definitely wouldn’t pursue the same path as Peggy, because I have too many people – loved ones and colleagues – that would potentially be hurt by such actions. If it were me, I would use my already established networks to promote the event.

VIDEO SEGMENT 2: SENSATIONALISM SELLS - Our guests tells us what users want to see in blogs:

How would you drive traffic to your blog?

I used to be almost obsessed by traffic and hits to my blog, but over time came to realize that aside from SEO techniques, the important thing is quality content – once this is under control, the traffic will take care of itself. Worrying over short-term spikes in traffic, just led to too much time, stress and heartache in trying to increase the stats. I think there comes a point in time (perhaps once a blog has sustainable and long term readers) that it’s no longer important.

Controversy often creates short term hits – I’ve found that sometimes (for example, when I wrote about the ‘crushing bunnies’ fetish in China before it hit the mainstream media), traffic will increased hugely (in this case, almost quarter of a million hits in the one month), but this is not sustainable. Although I got a ‘buzz’ from the spike, it’s often the more informative articles that deliver returning traffic and have stood up to the test of time.

I also have come to realize that (in my view) the interaction through comments is not that important – I used to receive many comments on certain articles (especially when I didn’t have moderation on my blog) and sometimes readers were disagreeing and even arguing amongst themselves. By keeping this in check over the last year or so, I find that most ‘serious’ readers will reach out to me via email if they really want to discuss a topic or get extra information etc. This has really helped reduce the ‘noise’ but had no real detrimental effect on traffic.

How would you promote dating and being social?

I’ve never been interested in or been a big promoter of online dating – I think some bloggers turned business people have done a great job of it though… take for example my good friend, Violet Lim of Lunch Actually. She’s shown there is a market out there that if managed professionally is well untapped today. If anyone asked me personally where they could seek dating help, I would have no hesitation sending them Violet’s way. Her business model is one that is very unique and morally adept.

Being social is a little different – my family and I have met some wonderful people through moving out of our comfort zone. In the early days of Facebook and our early days in Singapore when we knew very few people, we met up with members of social groups – (usually surrounding food interest), and some of these people have remained as our long-term friends – one couple is getting married this November and we will be there to take part in their celebrations.

Although I probably wouldn’t recommend social media as the best way to get out and meet people, I think it can definitely assist, especially for people who might otherwise have problems mixing and getting to make new friends.

Notice I’m talking about social media, and not suggesting that provocative videos combined with sensationalism online is necessarily an effective way to promote a dating or social event.

VIDEO SEGMENT 3: DADDY, I'M A BIG GIRL NOW - We make a call to Peggy Heng’s father to ask him what he thought of the stunt!:

What are the most tasteless things you've seen done on blogs?

Personally, I’m not big on the whole ‘colourful’ language thing that many bloggers these days utilize. As an Aussie, I’m obviously not unaccustomed to four letter words. Just head on down to any bar on a weekend down under, and it’s enough to make even the most hardened potty mouth blush. However, nothing is more annoying to me, than reading a blog article where every second word is a curse word. Perhaps I could forgive the odd F-Bomb to get a point across or if the author is passionate about a particular subject… but some bloggers seem to have redefined the entire English dictionary. I sometimes wonder what their parents or children think of this?

I recently read an article by a very well know Singaporean female blogger whose previous articles I had never actually read before (let's just call her 'X** X**' - I don't wish to be her next target), who was upset about an ‘anti-fan’ who had posted videos on YouTube about her – at first, I was a little empathic about her plight, but as I read the article I soon realized that it would be all too easy to make fun of her potty mouth – she lost me after the first couple of paragraphs… they say that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit… I think that splatterings of swear words throughout all a bloggers articles suggests an even lower form of intelligence.

UPDATE: After the program was aired, I saw a retweet from this same well-known blogger - once again, potty mouth was tweeting about Peggy having a 'c*ck' in her mouth... hmmm - very lady-like indeed - actually, very sad if you ask me!

What do you think Singaporeans want to read?

Around 74% of ‘Aussie Pete’ readers are from Singapore (sustainable readers and subscribers). The main spikes in traffic due to controversial topics to which I referred earlier, often arrive from international audiences. In my experience, although I could be antagonizing and stir up netizens by writing negatively about things that many Singaporeans are passionate about (eg. immigration policy), I could definitely increase traffic, but I would not be being true to myself. I try and be as respectful as I can to all people – I am grateful of my place in local society and therefore completely tolerant and understanding of anybody’s point of view on any topic. From my experience, my local readers are more interested in informative content – whether it’s a ‘foreigners guide to Singlish’, ‘buying a HDB flat as a permanent resident’, how many cars could be bought in other countries for the current cost of COE, my views on Singapore traffic or cycling on footpaths – these are the kind of articles that continue to deliver sustainable hits, many months and years after I first wrote them.

The entire general election period was interesting, and as a PR and non-voter, I was careful to keep my (sometimes strong) views in check – although I did garner much interest and even a little bit of hate email at the time).

VIDEO SEGMENT 4: THE FUTURE OF BLOGGING - We discuss in which direction bloggers are trending toward to:

Do you think blogger's have a responsibility to censor?

Absolutely! – However, I think the level of censorship needs to align to an author’s particular blog, their intentions around audience and should display some level of diligence. For example, if an author wants to write using many curse words, I would not want my children unwittingly opening and reading their articles. Any ‘unsavory’ material –words, images or videos’ - should carry a warning or disclaimer and should be highlighted as unsuitable for some readers.

I am an advocate for freedom of speech (especially on the internet), but the onus is on every website owner to manage their content in line with their country regulation and censorship laws, as well as be sensitive to the fact that what they publish could be read by an audience that may find their content offensive or even harmful. I have absolutely no time for intolerant authors that write in abusive or racial tones or suggest individual differences as a subject of discourse.


Anonymous said...

Hey Pete - when u say X** X*** u mean 'xia xue' (xiaxue) right? Why not just say her name? U scared already?

Aussie Pete said...

Hey there, anonymous! I'm not brave enough to fight that battle :p so I'll just leave it as x*** x*** :p