Saturday, October 29, 2005

Google Maps Restricted By Singapore?

Google maps seems to have restricted viewing of Singapore. About a month back I could zoom in until I saw my HDB block. But now, the level of zoom is quite high up.

Perhaps it would seem the Singapore government has pressurized Google not to show the images?

Sad day. :(

Friday, October 28, 2005

Does Blogging Make Money?

Most bloggers blog for the love of it. Just putting your thoughts out, helps to unload what's been on your mind and store it for retrieval later. It's very much like a pensieve in the Harry Potter world.

But blogging takes time, and is it really worth the opportunity cost to spend about 1-2 hours each day writing your online journal when you could be doing something else more productive?

Well some anecdotal research seems to put that successful blogs can actually earn their writers annual incomes of 6 figures, and for some blogs even a million dollars.

However, further research shows that most bloggers earn nothing or close to nothing each month.

Just as there is a software engineer who is the richest man in the world, in other words Bill Gates, so will there be a handful of exceptional bloggers who can make big money from their blogs.

The only approach I can recommend to making money, if that is your goal, is not to look at blogging as blogging.

Those who make money from blogging aren't really blogging. They're really professional writers, who have used the web as their publishing platforms, writing for a specific audience with compelling content that advertisers are willing to pay top dollar to put their ads on their blogs.
Their blogs aren't really blogs at all, they're more like online magazines with them as content creators.
The one blog that I researched that almost makes a million dollars is really a company that employs 14 full time writers, creating content for their web log.
However, blogging becomes more mainstream, in the end, the age old market forces will sift the winners from the losers. Porter's 5 forces business model of substitutes, competitors, new entrants, suppliers and clients applies here.
Blogs with untargeted content, that write everything from what they ate for breakfast to the economic impact of hurricane Katrina will probably lose out to specific targeted content.
Branding will be more and more valuable. The barrier for entry to create a blog is virtually nil. Branding will be differentiator, as blogs that are well known or written by people who have made a name for themselves will create a gravitational effect to attract more and more viewers. All other blogs will be space dust.
Tie-ups and alliances may come into the picture as bloggers will need to increase their mindshare, lead more readers to their website and to stave off competitors.
Blogging however should not be seen as the main source of revenue for a writer.

Revenue streams from blogging:

  • Advertising: 'nuff said. Google AdSense is one of the main suppliers of ads. Though other competitors like Yahoo! also want to have a piece of the pie.

  • Sponsorship: Another form of advertising I would say, Xiaxue is one of the local Singapore that has had the fortune of getting sponsors, albeit for a short while after they pulled out due to her profanity laced posts.

  • Affiliate Programs: Almost all of my movie and book reviews have links to Amazon.

  • Publishing: Packaging your blog, editing the content into a book can spell out another source of revenue or their content published in newspapers or magazines.

  • Donations: Tipping through Paypal to your account from generous readers who like your writing.

  • Merchandizing: Zazzle and Cafepress allow you to have an online store to automagically with a few clicks of the mouse, selling tee-shirts, mugs, baseball caps, bags, etc.

  • Asset Sales: Your blog can be turned into a full blown commercial content website. is one of the most famous soccer websites that started in a 17-year old boy's bedroom and was later sold to ESPN.

Another side effect of being a famous blogger is the building of your own name and credibility. The Internet being the platform as it is, allows you the writer to build a reputation for yourself so that you can gain side income consulting, speaking and lecturing.
The more and more I read Problogger, the more I believe that his claims of earning 6 figure incomes or a million dollars a year are highly exaggerated or using convenient examples. You'll find that he also charges people phone seminars to listen to him how to make money blogging, charging in the range of US$300-$400. This raises my conman defences, as one of the rules that has served me well in life is to "never trust completely someone who stands to gain something out of you."
A quick calculation depending of the page views needed based on page views only (however click thru rates are higher)
Assuming $8 per CPM, to get $1,000,000 you will need to make $2739/day or about 342,000 page views a day. That's something like the circulation of the Straits Times in Singapore. (Assuming one reader only reads a page).
That being unrealistic, you will need to have several blogs, each on different specialist subject so as to charge higher rates. This again is much like the newspaper business which has general news sections, money, tech, lifestyle, kids sections etc.
My only advice after writing this post is to not let money be the goal of your blog. Do it because you're passionate about writing your subject matter and not for the money. The more and more we chase after an end result like money, fame and even happiness, the further it will elude us.

Flightplan: Flies Into The Face Of Disbelief

First, the good news, Jodie's Foster's acting is top-notch in this movie about a mid-air abduction of her child which no-one else has seen.

The bad news is that that is one of the only high points of this movie that leaves too questions and plot holes to be answered and filled in.

Warning: Spoilers Follow.

Jodie's Foster portrays a distraught mother who has lost his husband in an accident and on the flight to New York from Berlin with her husbands body in the cargo hold, her child is kidnapped.
Noone else on the plane has seen her daughter, and the first part of the movie tries to tempt us into believing that she may really be the one who is crazy.
However, this is where we have to start suspending our disbelief. On one hand she is distraught but on the other hand, she is quick thinking enough after a while to realize that there are conspirators onboard, and at one point in the movie to realize who the real hijacker was and quickly think of a way of foiling him.
Jodie Foster's acting is one of a thespian par excellence, the emotion of losing her daughter strikes us as well as her desperation. As an actor I believed that her tears in a scene were real and inspired me to be able to act at her level.
The end of the movie reveals that her husband's death was part of an elaborate plot to smuggle explosives in his sealed coffin onboard and a chance to ransom the airline for $15 million dollars deposited into a Swiss bank account.
But that leaves us with too many, "But.." questions.
  • Why was her husband was killed just so to get a coffin onboard? The funeral director could have just waited for when a coffin will be flown on a plane and used that as an opportunity.
  • I mean how sure was there going to be a coffin? What if she cremated her husband instead?
  • How could the hijackers know that she will be on the same flight as the coffin?
  • How could the hijackers be sure that no-one will ever see her daughter?
  • If she was the first one to board the plane, why wasn't she sitting in first class rather than economy?
  • How could the hijackers be sure that they will be able to kidnap the daughter quietly,with no-one watching?
  • How could the circumstances be so right that she will be sleeping in the back with noone else around?
  • To sabotage the flight manifest would need more than just a funeral director, an air-marshall and a flight attendant.
  • There was also the issue of someone needing to send a false death testimony of her daughter to the plane.
  • How could the air-marshall and stewardess be sure of being assigned to the same flight as the one as Jodie Foster's?

With so many points of failure for this hijack/kidnap story, you'll just have to suspend your disbelief for the 2/3 of the movie just to enjoy it.
Because of this, the movie gets a 3 out of 5 stars.

In Search Of Excellence

I think I understand my disatisfaction with working in companies here in Singapore. Most of the projects I work on are ad-hoc, project basis. The solutions are company specific, not easily ported and resold.

What I really want to do is to work on a project that is used in at least more than one principal. Something that is reused.

One of the reasons why most projects I work on cannot be reused is because of shortcuts used. Because of "budget constrains" the manpower is always never enough. And because of the shortcuts used, the software is always never portable or reusable outside of the company.

And what is the reason for that? Because management involved are not looking long-term. They are watching they're own internal agendas of getting the items done for their bosses.

Most software companies in Singapore are not utilizing the power of software. I.e. It can be reused. Development put into software is a one time thing. If they were to have at least some vision that software can be resold and used in more than one installation, they will realize the benefits of creating a good piece of software that is packaged and resellable.

However, most managers are not concerned about this; and that is because they are rewarded for the objectives they meet, not software sales.

I will learn from this. Any software that I develop must be able to be sold twice. Never only once.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

12 "Christian" Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy

  1. It's selfish to have my needs met.

  2. If I'm spiritual enough, I will have no pain or sinfulness.

  3. If I change my behaviour, I will grow spiritually or emotionally.

  4. I just need to give it to the Lord.

  5. One day, I'll be finished with recovery.

  6. Leave the past behind.

  7. If I have God, I don't need people.

  8. "Shoulds" are good.

  9. Guilt and shame are good for me.

  10. If I make the right choices, I will grow spiritually.

  11. Just doing the right thing is more important than why I do it.

  12. If I know the truth, I will grow.

The World Is Getting Dumber

Global IQ: 1950-2050

"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning." Rich Cook

Scientific proof of Cook's statement at last!

Retirement Was Never Made For Employees

What is retirement?

I discussed this with a classmate the other day. Why do people look forward to retirement to do the things they want to do?

You can retire anytime you want to do the things you want. Just hand in your resignation letter. Whether you have enough money saved to put the food on the table for the next few years is a different issue.

In the end, the discussion boiled down to this. Retirement was created for employers not employees.

Retirement is so that they can retrench older workers without fear of compensation.

Retirement is an invention of the modern world, the industrial world.

Previously, people worked until they couldn't work anymore.

Retirement allows employers to replace less productive workers with newer faster and cheaper workers.

What makes retirement attractive to an employee? It's if he's in a dead-end job, then his a burden. Only then will someone look forward to retiring. If you love your job, wouldn't you want to do it everyday?

The term "retirement" in other words means "mandatory retrenchment with a set deadline".

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Verse Of The Week

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (2 Cor 9:8)

What Would Jesus Blog?

Wired News: What Would Jesus Blog?

"Attended wedding in Cana today. They ran out of wine. Didn't really want to show off but mother insisted."

Interesting article featured on Wired.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Interesting Fact Of The Week

You can't tickle yourself. Try it.

Sleeping With The Enemy

Norman Vincent Peale in his book The Power of Positive Thinking writes that we cannot sleep with two bedfellows simultaneously.

They are guilt and fear.

Modern science has thought society to forget that we are spiritual beings.

Now the word spiritual often depicts mystical connotations, something mysterious. And unfortunately, many Christians believe that miracles or in Christian jargon "a touch from the Lord", or "an anointing" is magic. Altar calls sometimes seem to be a wish for God to wave his magic wand on us and '1-2-3-4 alakazam" all our problems are gone.

And sometimes this does happen. God can and still does work in mysterious ways. But more often than not it doesn't.

For me the word spiritual just means will and meaning. The logos or tao if you may call it that.

This conclusion I gathered from thinking about where human free will comes from.

Can we cut open the brain and find the source of our free will?

Science tries to explain from the point of cause-and-effect. Then where is the cause of free will?
And that is how in a nutshell that I concluded that the free will is a product of the mysterious.
There is no cause for free will. It comes out from out of thin-air. Magic or miraculous if you want to look at it.
Yes, there are chemical forces in our brains that can cause a change in our moods that can make us irritable or feel depressive but even under such pressures that mind is still alert and can choose his response in the midst of pressure.
Now if free will is magic. Then we are living amongst miracles everyday.
We can explain the movements of the planets, we can understand how the sun gives out its light, but how do we explain free will? (Though of course some people have tried to explain free will using Quantum Theory and random neutrinos to do so. If that is the case, we remove responsibility and blame it all on neutrinos. The following link is a discussion on this subject. This deserves further study on my part)
We look to God for miracles, mysterious healings, and multiplication of food. But these are just magic tricks designed by God to get our attention.
The amazing thing is that the even the Almighty God cannot do some things. And one of them is to take away our free will.
Now what does our 2 bedfellows introduced in the opening paragraph have to do with the notion of free will?
The link is that in order to banish fear and guilt in our lives is the exercise of our free will.
The miracle of free will is a manifestation of the power of God in our lives.
The first habit of Coveys 7 Habits is to be proactive. I.e. the exercise of our free will.
Authority and structures of command are the ordering of the miracle of free will.
And it is because of this I believe that spiritual warfare is really a warfare of the will and authority between the powers of good and the principalities of evil. It isnt about magic powers, horny tipped and pitch forked creatures. Its all about our free will.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Prisoners Of Our Thoughts: Viktor Frankl's Principles at Work

Somebody borrowed this book in class and I glanced through it during the break.

Viktor Frankl has been a favourite author of mine, (Hey, my specialist subject for "Singapore's Brainiest" was the life of Viktor Frankl).

Frankl wrote one of the most life changing books in history "Man's Search For Meaning" and was the inventor of a form of therapy called Logotherapy, derived from the greek word "Logos".

Logos is also the greek word used to describe God and Christ in John 1. "In the beginning was the Logos. And the Logos was with God. And the Logos was God."

I wrote down the brief summary of this book that can be found in the beginning of the book:

  • Exercise the freedom to choose your attitude.--In all situations, no matter how desperate they may appear or actually be, you always have the ultimate freedom to choose your attitude.

  • Realize your will to meaning.--Commit authentically to meaningful values and goals that only you can actualize and fulfil.

  • Detect the meaning of life's moments.--Only you can answer for your own life by detecting the meaning at any given moment and assuming resonsibility for weaving your unique tapestry of existence.

  • Don't work against yourself.--Avoid becoming obsessed with or fixated on an intent or outcome that you actually work against the desired result.

  • Look at yourself from a distance.--Only human beings posess the capacity to look at themselves out of some perspective or distance, including the uniquely human trait known as your "sense of humour".

  • Shift your focus of attention.--Deflect your attention from the problem situation to something else and build your coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and change.

  • Extend beyond yourself.--Manifest the human spirit at work by relating and being directed to something more than yourself.