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Monday, May 30, 2005

The problem with Tomorrow.sg (and similar blogs)

Tomorrow.sg
Ladies and gentlemen, I am writing something that is bound to earn the ire of many a (Singaporean) blogger, but I'll go ahead anyway.

It's about Tomorrow.sg, or rather, why I think it's still a half-baked idea.

Mind you, when I say "half-baked", I mean that it has a lot of good ideas, but can do better (can't everything?). It's informative, up-to-date, and -- extremely important -- local. Sometimes, if I have nothing to do, I'll be hammering its server/s almost every other minute, just to see what local bloggers have written.

But my main problem with Tomorrow.sg -- and any other similar blog that depends on user contributions -- is that it depends on user contributions. This produces a classic chicken-and-egg conundrum:
  1. Tomorrow.sg's readers must contribute (interesting) articles
  2. Tomorrow.sg must provide (interesting) articles to lure readers
I don't have any statistics, but I'm sure that Tomorrow.sg receives thousands of hits every day. However, the number of posted articles is far smaller than the number of hits, because of these two numbers:
  1. the number of articles that are contributed by readers, and
  2. the number of contributed articles that are approved by editors.
If (i) is small, and since (ii) is a fraction of (i), then the final value of (ii), i.e. the number of posts, will be very small. Taken to the extreme, if no reader contributes articles, then (i) = (ii) = 0, or if the editors decide that there are no interesting articles from the day's contribution, then (ii) = 0. But this will defeat the purpose of Tomorrow.sg in providing content for readers and, if it uses a per-hit revenue-generating stream in future, reduce its income.

Will this happen? I don't think so. In the first place, it is in the best interest of Tomorrow.sg to provide content, so there will always be some (interesting) articles that are approved by the editors.

On a larger scale, consider the following statistics: As of this writing,
What this means is that there are thousands upon thousands of individual blog entries that could potentially be contributed to Tomorrow.sg, but only less than 1% actually make it.
Why is this so? I don't know. I've contributed a few articles to Tomorrow.sg. But if I could hazard a guess, it would have these three parts:
  1. The majority of Internet users are unaware of Tomorrow.sg or its contribution service.
  2. The majority of Internet users who are aware of Tomorrow.sg's contribution service DO NOT USE IT.
  3. Those who do use Tomorrow.sg's contribution service do so very selectively.
Of course, it will be very easy to prove me wrong: simply contribute this entry -- provided you were unaware of Tomorrow.sg or its contribution service prior to reading this. On the other hand, since I've already told you what to do to prove me wrong, your contribution will not be an effective rebuttal of my entry.

Also, it is very easy for me to complain about Tomorrow.sg, like how Singaporeans like to sit in coffee shops and complain about the government but don't do a darn thing about it. Well, actually, I did -- from a certain point of view.

One of Tomorrow.sg's articles was of someone complaining about the it, and I gave my $0.02 in a comment that I would like Tomorrow.sg to feature blogs that are not so popular or visited/linked by popular bloggers. (Darn it, I can't find the article nor my comment!) Something like a "Side B" in those old-school cassette tapes. The reply I got was effectively: "Tomorrow.sg provides the tools for free, go figure it out yourself!" (Tomorrow.sg's code is based on the free Drupal.)

Well, I would, if I had the resources, which I don't. And I suspect many people who wish Tomorrow.sg could be more also share the same limitations. But if I did have the resources, I would do a "Side B"-type blog, and if it turned out to be a bad idea after two years, I'd eat my own words (metaphorically-speaking).

What I can do -- and what you should do -- is to contribute at least one Singapore-related article every day from any blog. That's barely scratching the surface of the Singaporean blogosphere. But if the thousands of Tomorrow.sg's readers do that, then we're talking about thousands of contributions (and nightmares for the editors). And don't worry if the contribution is juvenile or whiny or whatever, just contribute it and let the editors figure it out (which is easy for me, a non-editor, to say, ha).

And now, I shall sit back and see if my voice is heard in the blogosphere...

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4 comments:

jseng said...

it is heard alright

http://tomorrow.sg/archives/2005/05/30/the_problem_with_tomorrowsg.html

Anonymous said...

http://tomorrow.sg/archives/2005/05/30/the_problem_with_tomorrowsg.html
loads fine when I dump the full URL into the browser.

However when I load tomorrow.sg (even when browsing thru the older archives), I am unable to find Yuhui's post. This is as guest/anonymous user without logging in.

The site is acting a little strange..

Yuhui said...

It's under Views on Tomorrow, or tomorrow.sg/opinions

Cowboy Caleb said...

Hello, all our operators are busy at the moment. Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line..

Just kidding. We heard you.

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