[Sponsored and IRAS-Approved] If Your Mother Was Trained at Kai Garden

The Wife and I were invited to Kai Garden for a food tasting, the same day I was called up to provide a soundbite for a New Paper/AsiaOne article on the IRAS-social media influencer debacle. Amidst an flurry of reactions from the blogging community that I was also embroiled in, that ranged from confusion to anxiety to frustration to why-should-anyone-care and this-is-what-the-70%-voted-for-you-happy-now, I was determined to both get my opinions aired in the hopes of someone in the IRAS actually noticing the can of worms they’ve just opened, and going to a sponsored food review at a high-brow Chinese restaurant. Kind of ironic, but let’s see how this works.

kai-env

So I left the office and arrived early (I drove 9.7km, which, for an estimated 15km/litre fuel consumption calculated on $2.10 per litre after discount, plus $3 at the Bugis ERP gantry cost me -$4.36). Mother of Xander took the train to meet me there with kids in tow (-$2.38) It was a quiet Wednesday evening at the restaurant, but we were to find out later that their dim sum lunch hour was popular among the working crowd in the surrounding offices, and of course, dinner business does pick up from Thursdays onwards through the entire weekend.

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Of course, we were joined with some other friends; the Sims from Life’s Tiny Miracles, who brought their daughter and toddler son along, as well as Ah Soh, her husband and three kids. Together with the Mother of Xander and our own two chipmunks, we took up a table of 10 adults and 3 toddlers. These numbers come into play at the end of the dinner, so bear with me.

kai-dace

We start the dinner off with Braised Home-made Dace with Black Bean Sauce, which brought back memories of my teen years of cooking my instant noodles with canned dace of the supermarket variety. But to be fair, this one was most definitely made from scratch and had a very delicate sweetness and far less salty compared to its mass market brethren. In an establishment such as this, it’s actually really good stuff for $11.80.

kai-chix

Braised Chicken with Flower Crab (we were served the full $88 portion, but they also have a $48 half version), thick sauce infused with the rich flavour of the crab, though the kampong chicken was a little tough on my 38-year-old teeth.

kai-prawn

It starts getting a little more interesting with the Sautéed Prawn with Dried Fish Maw ($35). It may look unassuming (and we were starting to notice a theme here), but the dish bears a thick, rich gravy reminiscent to the previous dish, which contributes well to meld the fragrance of the tiger prawn together with the beautifully light spring when you bite into the savoury maw.

kai-other

There was also the conventional but Baked Whole Eggplant with Special Sauce ($18) which melts in your mouth like a savoury cream, the Wok-fried Garoupa Fillet with Spring Onions in Stone Pot ($38) which I wish I had more of (and very likely will at some point in the future), and the Grilled Pork Rib in Special Honey Pepper Sauce ($22)–big on honey, not so much pepper, covered in sliced almond for an added crunch.

No, that's not the waitress.
No, that’s not the waitress.

Dinner was as advertised; family favourites with a homecooked feel, unassumingly presented, much like how your mother might do it… if she were an established Hong Kong chef. The service, though, was certainly well worth the 10% service charge ($31.40); the staff in attendance were certainly attentive amidst a quiet, half-filled night, though as we would sometimes experience, the patrons didn’t quite know what to make of us bloggers with our cameras and constant moving around taking pictures of everything, short of the food on the other guests’ tables.

kai-dessert

To top the night off, we ordered a round of dessert; chilled fresh coconut puree ($6.80 per serving), chilled fresh mango puree with sago ($6.80 per serving), aloe vera in lemongrass jelly ($6.80 per serving), and mango sticky rice (give me a minute, I need to check the price). The dessert chef is Thai, so understandably the dessert range had a very distinct Thai signature. Since these weren’t explicitly provided  as part of the tasting, I spoke to the restaurant manager to pay for the dessert, but she very politely smiled and generously told us it was on the house.

We drove home very full and very happy, but I thought of the restaurant manager’s friendly generosity during the 17km drive (-$2.38, same variables as the drive to Marina Square); she probably didn’t read the news about how we were now required to declare everything  we ate at food tastings for tax purposes (oh, which reminds me: 7% GST, $24.24).

And here it is:

Non-monetary Benefits
(calculated for 3 pax – my wife, my son and me, excluding the toddler who tried to eat a chopstick but failed)
Braised Dace: $3.54
Chicken and Crab: $26.40
Prawn and Fish Maw: $10.50
Eggplant: $5.40
Garoupa fillet: $11.40
Pork rib: $6.60
Dessert: $27.20
10% Service charge: $9.10
7% GST: $7.01

Monetary Benefits
$0.50 (my daughter found it in the shopping trolley she was sitting in during a grocery run just before the food tasting)

Total income from this food tasting: $107.66
Expenses
Drive from office to restaurant: -$4.36 (Note: I was told S-plate car expenses don’t count)
Train fare from home to restaurant: -$2.38 (Nope, can’t declare this)
Parking: -$2.20 (Nope)
Transport from restaurant: -$2.38 (Nuh-uh)
Electricity used to write this post (4 hours at night, with the TV on to break the quiet and the air-con as well because hot): $1.40 (Nada; “considerable amount of private use tied to this period”)
Internet usage (4 hours): $0.40 (Crap, also cannot)

Total expenses from this food tasting: $13.12 $0.00 (What the hell.)

This being my first post of the year (sorry, I was busy), including the annual expenses incurred by maintaining this blog: domain name renewal ($216 per year for 4 domains), webhosting ($76.80 per year), and software for image editing and website coding ($66 per year), I have $263.46 $250.70 to go in order to break even. Actually, I’m doing pretty okay, if I don’t need to take leave in order to attend any blogger events (a half-day of leave will set me back $80). Some of us also periodically plonk down money for Facebook post boosting and Instagram ads, and others will buy their own giveaway premiums during the course of the year, too.

I could probably also claim my laptop, camera, phone and time spent coming up with all of these words and images in the first place, but it’s 2.30am now, I’m tired, I still have to go to work in the morning and I really don’t do food, product and service reviews any more.

***

Contrary to popular belief, we actually aren’t too bothered about declaring income from blogging (and if we are, we really shouldn’t). It’s just that for a state authority to suddenly tell us in the middle of tax season that we have a month to declare “non-monetary benefits” most of us never even thought of tracking, is just plain insensitive. (Congratulations to IRAS, by the way, for pulling off the most successful influencer campaign Singapore has ever seen, and all it took was a handful of letters.) But I’ve said what I wanted to say to IRAS in the papers, in the hopes of opening a dialogue with our community to sort things out; I hear it’s already happening, so thank you.

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Troll of the day.

Posted by Winston Tay on Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The public seems to have a skewed opinion of us; I can have my name and occupation clearly stated in the damn article, and I can still be referred to as “a very stupid woman… who always writes about fashion or plastic surgery or gossip”, simply because the article is about bloggers (also, the photo slapped in the middle of the newspaper article doesn’t help). I wish I could correct that perception in a single blog post, but oh well. Another day, then.

I really wrote this post for my fellow bloggers and social media influencers. Maybe this is a good thing. I initially planned for the income/expense breakdown above to prove there’s really not much non-monetary benefit worth the effort in declaring. Granted this is just one food tasting and there’s a whole spectrum of other food, products, services and experiences of varying value that we similarly have to track, but I started to look at the whole thing a little differently after doing the numbers. Besides such an exercise being able to help us sieve out what’s worth writing and what’s lipstick, it isn’t until we’re forced to show the value of our work, that we actually see the value in our work. Maybe it is time we took our blogging–and ourselves–a lot more seriously. Like, IRAS serious.

On the other hand, we’re at least being recognised by a state agency as a legitimate professional body. Now we just have to convince the rest of the country.

kai-empty

Dear Friends of Media Friends

Dear Friends of Media Friends,

How are you? (Yes, I know you won’t answer that question, because I never did when you asked me.) Hope you are also well. (I just wanted to “hope” you back after all the times you hoped the same for me.)

The Blogfather would like to thank you for contacting me with your exciting product/service/event/offer/idea. I’m really, sincerely appreciative of having you think of me/include me/mass-mail me the invitation for your campaign. Unfortunately, The Blogfather will no longer be taking on any marketing/PR engagements for the foreseeable future.

Don’t be sad; I’m not dead, dying, nor am I going to stop blogging (although these days, I find that to be very dependent on my mood). I’m just going to be blogging for my 138 loyal readers, my 7-8 family members, and myself.

Those are real estimates of my blog traffic numbers; because everyone keeps re-reading my posts multiple times every week on various computing devices, my monthly readership clocks in at about 2,000 on average (1,500 since my father passed away, so I think he may have been giving me about 500 clicks every month while he was still around). And seeing as I’ve been in the marketing and PR industry myself for a while now, I know full well having studied my blog statistics and comparing it with any of my parent blogging peers that there is really no real PR value in engaging me (or for that matter, using monthly unique visitor statistics).

So again, thank you; you’ve been a dear, really. I have loved everything that you’ve sent me, shown me, fed me, and paid me, but I’m going to try and put my very successful Internet celebrity status of being worshipped by my 146 or so curious parents behind me and get back to just blogging like a normal person.

You may remove me from your media list now.


Regards,

Winston Tay
https://wordsofwinston.sg
http://dear.xander.sg
http://ohmyword.sg

Bringing bloggers to hell – and everyone else, too

This post is written in response to Bertha Henson’s “Bringing Bloggers to Heel Part 2“. I also have qualms with her Part 1, but I’ll likely be taking that up in another post. Bertha: don’t take this personally, k?

I’m also publishing this now (apologies to the old man) because of the Advertising Standards Authority has voiced its interest in stepping in to formulate a social media advertising code, and The Blogfather feels it urgent enough to butt in on this discussion and put some things in perspective before we all run amok with these great ideas we have right now.

What the hell happened (well, for Singapore bloggers, anyway)

When news first broke that Xiaxue decided to give Gushcloud a Christmas present wrapped in stale scandal, many bloggers in my community said it was just another overly melodramatic, orchestrated show to possibly revive the blogging career of a waning Internet starlet.

Source: The Online Citizen
Source: The Online Citizen

But while it may have been fun for most to watch those involved waving verbal attacks and legal actions like spell incantations and wands in the episode of “Fairy Blogger and the Order of the Personal Protection“, the exchange was raising genuine industry malpractices that media practitioners have been all too familiar with, and I verily believed this was the beginning of a paradigm shift for the blogging community at large.

Who is qualified enough to define our sins?

While it is true that no one has thought of publicly discussing ethical guidelines for paid blogging (although in the private blogger circles I hang out in, ethics have been actively raised for years now), some of us will remember that the then Ministry of Information and the Arts did moot the possibility of an Internet code of conduct, going as far as to set up a Council to moot the idea. But it ultimately fell flat, mainly due to opposition from the alt news community.

yaacobsuggestion

Now, this may not be an apple-to-apple example of what is happening now, seeing as the context to that discussion arose from a dismal lack of manners and etiquette in the local online sphere, rather than a need for regulation in blogging as a commercial undertaking. But it just goes to show that the online community has been acutely conscious of its own shortcomings (over various perspectives at that) for a while now.

Then again, on the point of “paid blogging” — it goes by  other names as well, like “sponsored blogging”, “blogger advertising”, “social media marketing”, “influencer marketing”, and this latest which quite a few of us seriously don’t think is going to catch on, “digital tastemaking” — call it what you want, but the vast majority of Singaporean bloggers, be they lifestyle, parenting, food, recipe, sociopolitical, or any other field of interest you can think of, don’t see ourselves as commercial entities (actually, nobody considers us commercial entities). Sure, some of us may be represented by blogger management agencies such as Gushcloud, Nuffnang, and you can maybe even count Singapore Press Holdings’ own blogger club Omy, but by and large, we’ve all still got day jobs – if we’re not students, retired or stay-at-home parents. And we’re just doing all this for fun (yes, I actually find write serious responses to ex-SPH editors fun), with the reassurance to ourselves that we can stop any time without much consequence (kind of like smoking).

That said, we do understand that the longer we do it, the more reputation we build, and the more opportunities we open ourselves to as a result, so those of us that have been doing it for more than a couple of years now do take our online activities rather seriously. A number of us are even  aware of (and actively adopting) a set of digital advertising disclosure guidelines by the US Federal Trade Commission, based on basic advertising laws, not unlike our own Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP) for media practitioners (which also explains why the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore is now looking to step in with new interactive advertising guidelines).

SCAP-Cover

Except that where the US government sees fit to regulate the advertising industry by law, Singapore’s SCAP is a mere self-regulatory initiative that has to depend on the industry’s endorsement in order to work, and one that continues to see limited success. Bertha Henson has remarked that advertisers try to push their luck with buying editorial mentions, “to lull readers/viewers into thinking that independent judgement has been exercised and there was no lure of the lucre.” And that is the reality; offline and online commercial publications alike still offer advertising term packages with editorial tie-ups, media still accept and keep product samples and working units, food, drink and complimentary services in return for reviews and write-ups, and company press releases are accepted and published with little or no edits, all without any form of advertising disclosure. Though I understand that during her time with the national daily, Bertha worked hard to implement strict house rules to avoid these very activities, at best she could only have enforced these rules in her house. And as respected a veteran journalist and newspaper editor as she is/was, she now no longer lives in that house.

Everyone, welcome to hell

You probably get the idea now that trying to come up with a set of “ethical guidelines for paid bloggers” is a rather myopic, narrow-minded, and quite honestly, stifling approach to a much larger problem (which is why I am very glad that we can all still blog about it for public scrutiny and discourse). This is a dirty game we’re all playing, where the words we print in black and white are coloured with 50 shades of media advertising tactics, and no one wants to take anyone seriously, not the government, not the professionals, not the non-professionals, and not any of our readers and followers. So bloggers, media practitioners, marketing and PR agencies, advertisers, and authorities alike: there’s going to be a place in hell for every single one of us (with Fairy Blogger sitting in the throne), unless we all clean up our act.

And for that to happen, we’re all going to need to have a serious talk together.

Blogging Under the Influence

I’m out of hiatus now. But this may not be business as usual for The Blogfather any more.

Since the nation is currently throwing a ridiculous hissy fit about “social influencers” – or let’s just refer to them in the original context they were raised in: bloggers – not explicitly declaring that they do sponsored posts when they do them, I’m going to put in a disclaimer of my own to The Blogfather right here.

DISCLAIMER: I am a public relations executive. And no, this is not a sponsored post.

Why is this significant? Because now that I’ve announced this, PR agencies will think twice about engaging me because I am a rival, and bloggers will be more wary of me because PR executives have a reputation in the media and marketing industry of being, um, agenda-drivers.

Now, the agencies shunning me, I can deal with. Honestly, my day job pays much better than my online superhero alter-ego. It’s what the declaration of my job title does to this online alter-ego of mine that concerns me.

Over the last decade or so, the modern media marketing mix has inducted social media as a de facto marketing tool, thanks to their ability to reach and command the attention of wide audiences through peer-to-peer interactions in ways traditional media was never able to. Blogs became media vehicles, bloggers became media owners and content creators and media owners, and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as well as major various search engines, became channels for both content distribution and audience engagement. Amongst the use of other social networks, blogging held the  greatest potential for side income, whether in cash or in kind; some of us were so good at it that it even turned into viable full-time work.

I, too, do sponsored posts.

Admittedly, I quite enjoyed the attention The Blogfather was showered with by PR agencies, in-house marketing executives and even business owners who would offer me and my family free products, complimentary services and experiences, and even cold hard cash to write them into my daily conversations. I would be selective who I accept offers from in order to suit what this blog is known for: no-nonsense, at times funny, at times surprising, always insightful family blogging.

Watching first-hand how marketers try to build rapport with bloggers, I started getting curious about how the social media marketing ecosystem really worked – curious enough to explore practically the entire relationship web through a string of full-time endeavours, first in content creation (as a writer), then subsequently advertising and marketing (as a copywriter and sometimes campaign strategist), and now as a public relations practitioner.

My job now consists of thinking up story angles that journalists, writers and bloggers can use to create content on their newspaper/magazine/TV programme/radio talkshow/website/Facebook/Twitter/table they use a packet of issue to chope seat with. In other words, consider me the influencer that influences the influencers to write the posts and articles that will influence the public to think of and talk about my clients.

This entire journey through the media/marketing industry started more than 2 years ago, and it hasn’t stopped since. It may not be that long, but it’s long enough for me to now take issue with the term “social influencer” being used on the lifestyle bloggers that have inadvertently been in the spotlight the last few weeks.

In the world of social media marketing, the bloggers, Facebook users, Tweetizens, Instagrammers, anyone online with a following, a drawer full of agency name cards, and an inbox littered with Dear Media Friends emails, bloggers hardly qualify as influencers.

Through my own time as a magazine feature writer and blogger, I had to be very conscious of the expectations of those that read me, and balance the knowledge against the marketing assignments I accepted; The Blogfather has previously rejected requests to talk about cheese slices, and once, cosmetics imported from Korea – and it all started with a post about cakes.

Delifrance_Blossom

So it goes, to maintain our popularity as online personalities over the various platforms we utilise, we have to submit to the influence of our followers to give them the stories, opinions and positions we take in our postings. And then we submit to the influence of marketers looking to get us to talk about their brand, product or service with our followers.

We are the influenced.

When I first joined the PR industry, a blogger friend messaged me saying I should declare my occupation, since there is a conflict of interest between the job and the (up until recently, very chatty) family blogger community. I found the notion slightly disturbing, since the whole point of public relations is to build relations, not conflict, especially with media, including bloggers. Nonetheless, I complied, so that disclaimer at the beginning of this post isn’t news to the blogger community.

But I’ve learnt that what seems sound in theory, sometimes doesn’t play out in reality.

I was invited to a small gathering of bloggers recently, during which the topic of blogger engagements came up. As the conversation went into specific examples, one blogger looked at me and said in jest, “Woop, better be careful what I say. Someone from the other side is in the same room.”

I laughed along, because it was the polite thing to do. As a blogger, I agreed, because I’ve had to deal with countless PR execs throughout my years as The Blogfather. With my current job as a PR practitioner, I now feel like a pariah in a community I have been so actively involved with over the last 3 years. I imagine this same feeling is coursing through everyone in Gushcloud, and perhaps many in our local lifestyle blogging community, with all this public scrutiny the last few weeks.

And as someone who’s now sitting on both sides of this influencer-influenced see-saw, I find myself pondering over a moral dilemma. This “social influencer” issue has affected the integrity of even those unaffiliated with the parties involved, and a number of us find ourselves addressing the allegations in our own terms, whether to ride on the wave of social commentary, or to maintain our integrity despite what has been said.

But I’m also conscious of a larger part of our audience, including a subset of bloggers that don’t actively participate in the marketing mix who are wondering why anyone should even take issue. And the PR exec in me agrees. What is wrong with influencing and being influenced in a fledgling media industry the way advertising and PR has done with the entire modern civilised world for more than a century? Why are there “other sides”?

Why am I torn?

An Unexpected Note

I received this in my email last week. It’s part of an invitation to a blogger’s food tasting session, but its introduction was just too sweet to ignore, so I wrote back to ask permission to republish the first paragraph of the note as a keepsake with all the other letters for Xander published here.

Dear Xander,

I recently read your dad’s very amusing blog (www.wordsofwinston.sg) and I was very touched by his love for you and respect for your privacy. I’m sure your dad will find a way to balance the pros and cons of being a parent blogger. I just want to say, I enjoy reading about your experiences as a family and I hope somehow I’ll be able to continue reading those great posts filled with wonderful photos.

***

Warmest Regards,
Carrie Sim

Read the follow-up post at The Blogfather.

The Price of (Parent) Blogging

A couple of weeks back, the Wife asked me while we were driving home, “When should we stop writing about our son?”

It seemed a weird question to ask a parent blogger, but I have considered its stark reality at one point, from the view of a protective father ? just that I forgot one thing.

My children are going to grow up sooner or later. That means they will want to live on their own terms, make their own decisions, and most pertinent to the conversation with the Wife, take ownership of their own privacy. My own stand as a father has always been to never be the obstacle in my own children becoming their own person.

When the Wife asked this question, and spent the rest of the drive explaining why she asked this question, I got that deep, dark sinking feeling some of us parents might get once in a while when we realise we’ve been doing it wrong with our kids the whole time.

My kids have their own online presence ? I thought it would be useful for them to have their own domain names, email addresses, and maybe a social media account or two, to futureproof their lives. I write letters to my son, detailing the hard as well as soft aspects of our lives together as father and son, not so much for the world to see, but so he has something of his dad’s to refer to when I’m no longer around. My life is as open a book here in The Blogfather as It is on my Facebook profile as people know I am in person, because I pledged to live an honest life so that I would never need to hide nor live in shame for anything.

Just that I forgot one thing ? do I have my children’s permission to do all this? Will I have their permission, when they turn 9, or 16, or 21,or 36?

Blogging has provided us with a whole new lifestyle we would otherwise not have been able to imagine for ourselves ? we get great toys, go to great places, learn great things, and at one point, make some cake, too ? but there is a price to pay for all this. And you wonder why some bloggers would charge a hefty premium for putting their lives out there for PR and advertising. The Blogfather will very confidently tell you, none of us bloggers, parent or otherwise, thought to do this as a business when we first started journaling our lives, and most of us still don’t.

And given the latest revelation I’ve had about what I’ve been doing to our children the last 3-4 years, I can also very confidently tell you, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

Some advice would be nice.

The Blogfather, in the SG Blog Awards?

Well, this is unexpected.

I was in the midst of a rather serious discussion on Facebook when suddenly my little FB message and notification icons started exploding with, uh, messages and notifications. Apparently I’m a finalist in the Family Blog category at this year’s Omy’s Singapore Blog Awards.

SG_Blog_Awards

The first 30 minutes, I was still wondering what to do. Should I call my mother and try to explain to her I have a blog and there’s this thing called the Internet that I’m part of, and now I may win something for it? Should I go around my constituency, say hi to all the aunties and uncles, shake hands with all the young people, hold a random baby and offer free Hokkaido chiffon cakes from my wife to canvas for votes? Maybe I need to go to the police station and apply for a permit to hold a rally. Or stage a magical blackout at the ceremony just as they are announcing the winner.

Then I thought, “Let’s not go there. Just bloody write a blog post.” I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

To tell you the truth, I parachuted myself into the SG Blog Awards largely after encouragement from the wife, a number of other mum bloggers, and the Daddy Matters blogger community. “Register for the Awards,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.

Well, thanks, everyone. I wouldn’t have registered if not for this big, boisterous blogger community telling me there was gonna be a party involved. And this blog would really not be as happening if I didn’t have readers; you – each and every single one of you – shaped this blog and everything that gets posted here. So if you’re gonna vote for me, know that you’re effectively voting for something you made happen.

Let the fun begin.

The SMBM – Wow, What an April Fool’s Joke

Yes, the Singapore Man Bloggers Group is an April Fool’s Joke.

The responses were nothing short of amazing (more on this later), though a small handful of you (I count 1 from the real SMB channel) may have caught the very subtle discrepancies from yesterday’s spoof post. I will say that the first half of what was written is true, right up to the part where I start talking about the SMBM (credit to Adeline of The Accidental Mom Blogger for the acronym, though she wasn’t in on the joke). As for the parts that aren’t…

First… dat logo. Oh, god, that logo.
SMB-spoof

I can do better than this (now I feel like my primary school teacher writing a remark on my own report card). In fact this took me just over half an hour to do.

The logic of it is:

1. it has 3 stars as opposed to the current SMB logo (We are men! We must have more!)

2. I made sure to work in the Superman chest emblem into the design (to pay homage to male chest-thumping), and

3. I made it red and white with the crescent hugging the cube, because Singapore.

Somehow the dad bloggers started visualising the 2 stray stars as nipples, and the SMB acronym as represented in the logo became Singapore Man Boobs. (Sigh. Men.)

“… we realised we have to differentiate even as we consolidate, hence the double-emphasis on the initial for “M”an.”

If I were to start a community of bloggers, I wouldn’t stop at just the guys (I’d have to start with the dads though). I’d make it a free-for-all — men and women, single or married, young or old, food, beauty and lifestyle, parenting, socio-political, Ministers of National Development, ex-SMRT CEOs, all would be welcome. I don’t really believe in segregation, because we’d learn a lot more from a diverse community. It sounds really nice, but the more I think about it, the scarier the idea gets administratively.

Plus, I may be free with my Singlish, but I would never add unnecessary initials to an acronym, real or otherwise. Some things about English usage I simply do not compromise.

“…we will start off by sending invitations to select Singaporean male bloggers (not just dads, because let’s face it, how many Singapore dad bloggers are there?)”

In fact, there are quite a number of dad bloggers out there. Not as many as the mums, of course. The collection is growing over at my Mom & Pop Mafia page (I’m?gonna add a Moms’ section very soon, and that is not a joke).

…the SMBM will also get some access to the Singapore Mom Bloggers Facebook Group page… (a separate member category with different access rights for the guys will be created within the FB group).

First, there is no such setting on Facebook groups. Second, I put that in there to freak the mom bloggers out, but nobody caught that one, despite the issue being discussed almost a year ago among the SMBs, when I first tried to get Rachel to add me into the group.

“… the combined strengths of the Singapore Mom Bloggers and the Singapore Male Bloggers will guarantee great sponsorship and paid opportunities for everyone!”

One dad blogger I know definitely took issue with this little nugget, to which I say to him (again), I know what you’re saying, and from our very first, really honest conversation about it, you know I agree. That’s why I included this “guarantee” into the prank in the first place.

I’ve said before, “I must live an honest life. I will steer well clear from being a hypocrite, ensure I stand firm to my beliefs or don?t believe in them, and I will not lie” (except on April Fool’s Day).

I’m still staying true to my words today.

No one can ever guarantee any kind of monetary returns to you. No organisation, company, not even your own blogging self. Sure, they can help you (and you can help yourself), but no one can ever, ever guarantee it. Remember that.

Besides, we all have our own motivations for blogging, and one thing I’ve learned since I started meddling in “emergency HR” back in my old jobs: it’s almost always never about money. Nor should it be.

That being said, we’re bloggers; we’ve chosen to be open books to the world, much less our own community. I take a quote off my FB discussion: “(…) lest we misjudge, we need to really get to know why a blogger blogs. And I’ve come to realise in my 1 years’ experience, if you wanted to know what motivates a blogger, all you need do is ask.”

“Members are only required to adhere to 3 major group rules…”

There’s a little truth in this one. The rules were pretty much lifted off of what I’ve been told about SMB, and only the 3 major ones. I’m sure there’s a longer list in their group documentation, but I’m not an SMB member… yet.

I’m a big sucker for servant leadership though, so I would really just allow the community to run itself (with a bit of a nudge here and there, admittedly).

“The SMBM group will be managed by yours truly, with Rachel acting as advisor…”

In fact, I conspired with Rachel to execute the April Fool’s joke. For it to work, I needed the SMB founder to push the announcement into the group. Now I’m waiting to see if she’s going to complain to me that membership has dipped as a result.

The result was not what I expected. Even with the SMB-targeted loopholes I placed, in the end, it was both the moms and?the dads that got really vocal about it. The passion for an idea like this (for the dads, particularly) is really giving me second thoughts about keeping the original Blogfathers! SG idea on the shelf.

“… but I have no doubt the SMBM group will eventually evolve into a (very manly) blooming flower of its own.”

Seriously, that “no doubt” bit is a lie. The truth is, I don’t know. But judging from the amazingly supportive responses I got yesterday as word of the prank spread, I won’t dismiss the possibility that an open blogger community may happen in the future.

I’ve said during yesterday’s discourse about the SMBM that “… there’s only so much you can learn and so far you can improve when you’re blogging on your own.”

As for it being run by me…

I gotta think.

(Please don’t kill me.)

Introducing the Singapore Man Bloggers Group

logo-200x20013 months ago today, I set up Blogfathers! SG to bring the local dad blogger community together. In fact, the idea was pitched to me by Rachel Teo, owner of Catch Forty Winks and the person behind the Singapore Mum Bloggers (SMB) group.

Over this span of time, Rachel and I maintained contact and shared advice with each other about blogging and the online parenting community at large. Recently she even invited me to join her Trials and Tribulations linky party, which I was more than honored to participate in.

smbgreyTo be honest, I’ve always wanted to be part of this very exclusive inner circle of bloggers, who share more than just blog tips, but honest questions and opinions about parenting and life in this little city-state. I have, on more than one occasion, tried to apply for membership, first as a father, then as the blogger husband of a mum blogger, and I even showed Rachel (and her entire community) my cross-dressing wedding photo (which just today reared its beautiful head again in Mummymoo’s dedication to wedding day memories) in the hopes that they see enough woman in me to accept me as one of their own.

Alas, I was rejected every time.

My efforts did not go entirely to waste, though. Over the last two weeks, we discussed the possibility of forming a male faction of the currently mums-only SMB community. The more we spoke, the more detailed the discussion, and the more it looked like it could actually happen.

Well, it’s happening.

***

Today, it is with great honour and greater pleasure that I present the spinoff faction to the country’s most tightly-knit community of parent bloggers.

SMBM

We’re calling this new group the Singapore Man Bloggers Group, or “SMBM” in short, because we realised we have to differentiate even as we consolidate, hence the double-emphasis on the initial for “M”an.

Over the next few days, we will start off by sending invitations to select Singaporean male bloggers (not just dads, because let’s face it, how many Singapore dad bloggers are there?) to be a part of this group, to share their experiences as hobbyists, professionals, and everyone in between.

As part of this sharing experience, the SMBM will also get some access to the Singapore Mom Bloggers Facebook Group page, subject to approval from the mom blogger’s group (a separate member category with different access rights for the guys will be created within the FB group). At the same time, the combined strengths of the Singapore Mom Bloggers and the Singapore Man Bloggers will guarantee great sponsorship and paid opportunities for everyone!

Members are only required to adhere to 3 major group rules:

1. You must be a man.

2. You must be a blogger who is able to maintain a publishing schedule of at least one post a month.

3. You must wear the SuMerBan SMBM badge proudly at the top of your sidebar.

The SMBM group will be managed by yours truly, with Rachel acting as advisor during the initial setup period, and as it begins, the group will be borrowing heavily from the SMB group infrastructure, but I have no doubt the SMBM group will eventually evolve into a (very manly) blooming flower of its own.

About Last Week…

I came to a realization after reviewing my last 3 posts. For that matter, I took a long hard look at my life to find out what went wrong.

3 years ago, I decided to embark on a career in writing, and 2 months ago, against all odds, I did it.

Or so I thought.

The 2 months was a journey of hard knocks, mismanaged expectations and errors in judgment that came to a head on 28 September, when I resigned from my position as editor in the one company I truly believed was willing to take a chance on a rookie writer. The circumstances behind that decision were not at all pleasant, and the decision itself was the most difficult one I ever had to make.

Despite the support from my family and friends, the week that followed was a lonely struggle (in a sense) to stay positive. I spent the better part of the week thinking of an excuse to celebrate my new-found free time; a friend graciously sent me an international calendar of public holidays to justify why I was not working. My 9-to-6 weekdays were spent at the library, fervently writing for this previously neglected blog, determined to put Blogfathers back on track, with everything I learned in my short stint as a full-time writer, my own beliefs as a parent, and more importantly, with the remaining part of my heart that wasn’t worrying about where my next paycheck is going to come from and when.

I only realised my true emotions had found another outlet for release without telling me: my writing.

Much as I was told otherwise, I felt like I failed, in my career, as a father, as a writer, and as myself. And I was angry. I was so, so angry, with what happened, what I did and where I am now. I didn’t even realise what I was doing — what I was feeling — until I re-read my posts here and on Dear Xander, clicked through the e-mails I sent out, and remembered the conversations with everyone I spoke to, following my departure from what I thought was my dream career.

I absolutely hate writing to drive web traffic; it was a major reason why I had to leave my job. I live only for content, and so I stand by my beliefs as reflected in my words of the last week, and in all my writing; my one driving force in all that I say has been — and will continue to be — to stay true to myself, and make no compromise about it. As I pushed out those posts from last week, I knew I was going to step on some toes, but I didn’t expect the toes I stepped on the hardest to be my own.

The support I have received over the last week from my wife, my family, my friends, and you, the readers, has been nothing short of overwhelming, and I cannot easily put into words how humbled and thankful I am to have everyone tell me I’m doing more than okay with the craft I am still very passionate about honing.

And so comes the big question: can you expect more of what you saw last week, last month, or even since Blogfathers! started? You bet (but I will try to calm down a bit, okay?); I’m even reconsidering my previous position on taking up endorsements (I am unemployed now, you know).

I am only just bloody getting started, people.

But I realise that Blogfathers! cannot be a voice for all fathers, much less a community of dad bloggers, many of whom I have come to know and befriend, and very evidently have wonderfully loud voices of their own.

So one thing must change. I’m removing that “s” and making The Blogfather a singular term (good thing I purchased both domains). The site will be getting a revamp, too, logos and all (I’m anal). While the spirit of sharing fatherhood stories from the dad blogger community lives on in the Blogfathers! FB page, I am humbly relegating this site to just my own actions and my own voice, sharing what I learn from my own fatherhood experience, from my son, and from other fathers who are willing to teach me; my About page has been updated to reflect that sentiment. And if I sully any name with my writing, let it be my own and no one else’s.

From time to time, I ask my wife if she feels she made the right decision in marrying me. Her reply is always consistent: “With you, there’s never a dull moment.”

So let’s keep things interesting, then.