Blog on, bloggone it!

Even my blog snubbed me. I couldn’t post a word over the weekend as the blog shut me out.

I turned to my kindly web hosts who did their magic and managed to post to my blog. But when I tried to post, no dice. The blog seized up. It wouldn’t publish my bloviations.
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Yesterday once more on TuneIn.com

TuneIn.com

TuneIn.com

It’s night time in Singapore, another new day in America and a radio station in Florida is playing oldies, taking me back in time as the music rings clear as a bell from my computer. The joys of internet radio.

The DJ comes on and talks about the songs we just heard: Love Is Strange by Mickey and Sylvia, Come On by Chuck Berry, Matchbox by Carl Perkins, I Wish You Would by The Four Tops, Johnny’s Still Singing by The Five Wings, and Big Bad John by Jimmy Dean.

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94% of internet users in Singapore are on social networks

Merry Christmas everyone! I see “merry Christmas” is trending both in Singapore and worldwide on Twitter. Twitter and Facebook must be deluged with Christmas greetings since almost every internet user in the world today visits social networking sites, according to the internet marketing research company, ComScore.

In Singapore, 94 per cent of the internet users are social networking, as you can see in this chart showing social network usage around the world. It is taken from a ComScore report released a few days ago. Facebook has more users in Singapore than The Straits Times has readers, as we will see later in this post. The figures in the chart show the percentage of internet users using social networks in October. Ninety-eight per cent of the internet users in America and Britain use social networks, 96 per cent in Australia and 95 per cent in India.

Social network users worldwide

Social network users worldwide

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How words get into the Oxford English Dictionary

I have seen the word "linguaphile" (meaning word lover or language lover) on Dictionary.com and the Free Dictionary, but it's not there in the Oxford English Dictionary. It no longer tries to be comprehensive. "The language is expanding so fast this may be an impossible mission," said Edmund Weiner, deputy chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Mark Abley recalls their conversation in his book, The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English, where he also writes about Singlish and other variants of the English language, as I mentioned here.

"The Internet poses problems," said Weiner. "We tend to avoid citing the Web unless we feel we really have to. What we've tended to cite are newsgroups and discussion groups – they guarantee to archive them for a long time. We've occasionally taken quotations from websites. But we don't like doing that."

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Facebook, not news, reigns in Singapore

Singapore has more broadband subscriptions than people, according to the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

But the top Singapore news website attracts only 2 per cent of the total broadband subscriptions on any given day.

The Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) portal asiaone.com gets about 100,000 daily unique visitors, according to Google Trends.

Facebook, on the other hand, gets about a million daily unique visitors from Singapore, according to the same source. Twitter gets more than 60,000.

Singapore (population: 4,987,000) has a total of 5,257,800 broadband subscriptions, including 1,400,300 residential subscriptions, according to IDA.

Just over 1 per cent visit the second most popular news site.

Channel NewsAsia gets about 70,000 daily unique visitors.

Singapore's leading newspaper, the Straits Times' website gets a little more than 50,000 — less than a seventh of its print circulation. The SPH newspaper has a circulation of more than 380,000. Its citizen journalism site, Stomp, gets fewer than 25,000. And just over 15,000 visit the website of Today, a freesheet jointly owned by SPH and MediaCorp, which also owns the TV news station, Channel NewsAsia.

The BBC gets more than 40,000 daily unique visitors from Singapore while CNN gets over 20,000, Yahoo News over 100,000, and the New York Times and the Times of India over 10,000 each. Google Trends didn't show 2010 data for several sites, including the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Malaysian papers and Chinese news sites.

Asiaone_straitstimes_channe

You can create charts like this for other websites too on Google Trends. It shows the number of daily unique visitors, where they came from, what other sites they visited and what they searched for.

Just go to google.com/trends, type in the internet addresses of the websites you want to check, press enter, and see the charts appear on screen. Read here how Google collects the data.

Here are separate charts for each website so you can see the figures for the last 12 months.

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Avatar No 1 on the Net: Indian words in English

Viagra sounds like the Sanskrit word for tiger — “vyaghra”.

Henry Hitchens points that out in his delightful book, The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) notes the similarity but doubts any connection between the two words. The “vi” of Viagra possibly comes from virile and virility, it says.

That may be so, but there are plenty of Indian words in English. Think of the Oscar nominee, Avatar.

That’s another Sanskrit word, which means incarnation. It was first used in English by the Orientalist Sir William Jones in 1784.

But how did avatar come to mean a computer graphics icon? OED offers no explanation for this new incarnation of avatar. It simply notes the word has been used in this sense since 1986.

Indian words may not be a dime a dozen in the English language, but they are certainly among the most common.

Think of curry, cot, bungalow, bangle, pyjamas. They are all from India. Cot comes from the Hindi “khat”, bangle from the Hindi “bangri”, pyjamas from the Urdu “pyjama”, bungalow from the Hindustani “bangla”. Curry is from the Tamil “kari”, which means sauce or relish for rice, says the OED.

Now let’s do a Google search to see which appears most often on the internet.

And the winner is …

Avatar!

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Obama: I’m a big supporter of non-censorship (but) there are times I wish information didn’t flow so freely!

Frank, open, candid — that's Barack Obama for you.

He did say: "There are times when I wish information didn't flow so freely". But then he went on to add: "But the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear."

Here is the video of the Shanghai townhall meeting where he criticised internet censorship and praised freedom of expression — and which was censored by the media, according to the BBC.

First, the clip where he says "I have never used Twitter" and "I'm a big supporter of non-censorship".

And here is the full video where he talks about various other issues as well, including how to succeed in life.  A complete transcript is provided by the White House.

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Singapore lags behind China, Mongolia, Kyrgyztan in Internet upload speed

Pity the blogger and anyone else who wants to upload a file or a photo on the Internet from Singapore. Even people in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia can upload stuff faster, not to mention those in Japan, Hong Kong, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan and China.

You don't have to take my word for it. Visit Speedtest.net and check out the stats.

Singapore ranks 51st in the world with an average Internet upload speed of 0.75 Mbps, reported the Straits Times newspaper in Singapore, quoting AFP, a few days ago.

The average download speed is faster – at 7.32 Mbps, Singapore is ranked 24th in the world. America is 28th, reported AFP, quoting the Communications Workers of America.

But that's comparing apples with oranges. Singapore is a city-state whose Internet connection speeds should be compared with those of other cities.

Singapore_internet_speed

This chart is taken from Speedtest.net where, if you dig deeper, you will find Singapore lags behind not only Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea but any number of American cities and the 10 top regions in the UK, which include areas in Greater London, Plymouth, South Yorkshire and Scotland.

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Net speculation about Singapore and Facebook warning

The internet can promote greater openness in countries like Singapore, writes Evgeny Morozov on the Foreign Policy website.

He also points to the dangers activists of any kind face on social networking websites like Facebook in his article, Why promoting democracy via the internet is often not a good idea.

The internet cannot make much of a difference in western democracies nor in "authoritarian" states like Russia and China, he says. But it can have greater impact on other countries, he writes:

Free and democratic states do gain from internet technologies, even though their impact is not most significant, as there is a limit as to how much technology could accomplish in countries that already have a vibrant civil society and well-functioning democratic institutions.

On the other hand, mixed regimes – those that are not outright authoritarian and have respect for some basic human rights (Singapore comes to mind as an example) – might stand to lose most from the proliferation of internet technologies, simply because the online mobilization benefits bestowed upon their nascent civil society could not be met by the equal degree of repression of activists – at least, not without the country losing its "mixed" status and becoming a dictatorship (which, in most cases, would also carry prohibitive economic costs). 

The wording is curious: Why should a so-called "mixed regime" like Singapore lose from the growth of the internet? On the contrary, Singapore allows free internet access. And the talk of "repression" and "dictatorship" seems very far-fetched in the Singapore context. Singapore has a popularly elected government. But, yes, the internet has made a world of difference by providing new channels of information and interaction.

Morozov cautions about Facebook:

Facebook activism could also easily backfire for it has one inherent flaw: it allows authorities to quickly and easily identify all dissenters – even those who were willing to lend only their virtual support to the campaigns – and put them on their "to be watched closely" list (and then to actually rely on technology to carry out their surveillance).

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The newspaper’s the problem, not the blogs

I just had a look at a Straits Times weekend article after reading about it now on The Online Citizen (Moderating the internet – let’s hold the horses ). Of course, bloggers should exercise restraint for their own good. How many want trouble at work or school or with the authorities for that matter?

But the problem is not so much with the blogs I read as with the Straits Times itself. It’s the Singapore newspaper’s rah-rah cheerleading that induces netizens to say that’s not all there is to the story.

Take, for example, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech to employers and unionists at the Singapore Tripartism Forum. The Straits Times website came out with its usual rah-rah about Our not-so-secret weapon — about how a Latin American leader was astounded when he heard that Singapore’s labour chief Lim Swee Say is also a government minister. ““He looked at Swee Say, and looked at me. He said: ‘Is that really true?’ He could not imagine it,’” said Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, reported the Straits Times.

That made me wonder how a Latin American leader of all people could be surprised at a labour leader being a government minister.

Doesn’t the Latin American leader know the backgrounds of the leaders of his own region?, I asked in my previous post, An easily surprised Latin American leader.

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is a former union leader. And so is Bolivia’s President Evo Morales.

I was so surprised that the Straits Times covered the prime minister’s speech from that angle that I actually bought the newspaper today. It carried the same story with virtually the same headline, Tripartism, Singapore’s not-so-secret weapon.

Why rah-rah ain’t all right

That might have been all right 10 years ago. But now we have the internet and a multitude of news sources, plenty of which are credible. One can easily cross-check a Straits Times report with what others are saying.

Singapore’s tech-savvy prime minister – who graduated with a first in mathematics from Cambridge and has a diploma in computer science – knows that.

What the report should have said

In fact, he had a great deal more to say in his speech. Brace for tough times: PM, says the headline on the Today website. He gave a sober thoughtful speech where he candidly spoke of the problems facing Singapore. “Over the next four to five years, if we can get 2 or 3 per cent growth, I think that’s not bad, 3 or 4 per cent growth, I would say we’re lucky,” he said. He also spoke of Singapore’s strengths and the measures the government is taking to tackle the downturn.

Why didn’t the Straits Times go with that instead of highlighting a Latin American leader’s surprise at a union leader being a government minister?

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