TODAY: Where history can repeat itself…

0803VOL028_m.jpgSnippets of Singapore’s past are being preserved in audio, video clips online

A LOCAL daily on Saturday said Singaporeans had what it termed “collective amnesia”, highlighted by the passing of former Second Deputy Prime Minister S Rajaratnam.

Last week, I wrote about bloggers who admitted it was the first time they learnt that it was he who penned the National Pledge.

While I won’t add to the argument about what causes this “amnesia”, I’ll give you several reasons why this sickness is likely to be a thing of the past — given the available online tools and the enthusiasm with which Singaporeans now use them.

Last month, the biggest thing in the blogosphere — and I mean the entire blogosphere, not just the local scene — was the leaked handphone sex video scandal.

Read more at TODAYonline: [pdf][text]

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Various permutations of search terms and phrases on the matter, such as “Tammy NYP” or “NYP Sex Video”, prevailed in the top five of blog search portal technorati.com’s list.

(Bloggers want to write about a scandal and for the most part, want to be read. So, they “tag” their articles — by adding some not very complex HTML code — with a word or phrase relevant to the topic at hand. And when readers search those keywords, they turn up the list of tagged blog posts. Such a “research” method is sometimes inaccurate as people do abuse tags and keywords.)

Now, you might argue that anything to do with sex or a scandal would naturally arouse interest, just as the National Kidney Foundation enjoyed similar “popularity” in technorati’s top five last year. But really, the true significance of this is that Singaporeans are tagging their blog posts and making searches seemingly more often than any other collective group of netizens outside of the United States.

Then there are blog aggregators — metablogs — that collect and archive blog posts written by others about a particular topic or field of knowledge. These aggregators work on either an editor-vetted system or a reader-voted system of publishing links to posts. But generally, these websites invite readers/bloggers to submit relevant articles or links to them.

Tomorrow.sg is one such place where the public submit blog posts relevant to Singapore. And just last week, the National Heritage Board launched a new website — Yesterday.sg — inviting readers to contribute their snippets of Singapore’s past.

Starting with the nuggets from a small group of contributors, known as “friends of Yesterday.sg”, short but interesting and rare quips about life in the old days are starting to populate the site. Mr Victor Koo reminisces: “In the 1960s, on the street where I lived — called Cheng Yan Place — every afternoon at more or less a fixed time, an Indian man would traverse the street on foot from the Queen Street side towards Victoria Street. Always with him were his two cows, one brown and the other white. He was a street dairy (also daily) seller.

“If you wanted to buy some milk, he would stoop down and milk it straight from the cow for you. He would then bottle the milk into a glass bottle right in front of your eyes.”

And if you found that interesting, you might also enjoy Mr Lam Chun See’s revelation that the canal near Bishan Street 14 used to be called “Dead Chicken River” in Cantonese. I had previously highlighted Mr Lam’s own blog (goodmorningyesterday.blogspot.com), and you’ll find links on Yesterday.sg to other blogs of a similar ilk.

It is significant that “snippets” are being increasingly recognised as an essential component in any history’s archival.

Tag them and aggregate them, and you’ll get a valuable adjunct to traditional sources of information, archived online.

Mr Miyagi aka Benjamin Lee has been entertaining readers at miyagi.sg for over a year, and uses his own archives to remind himself of things like his mother’s birthday.

PIECES OF THE PAST: A five-step Process

Step 1: Listen to your parents, grandparents or any older relatives and take notes or record them. Either video or audio is fine.

Step 2: Start a blog. Put each anecdote into a separate post or audio/video podcast.

Step 3: Tag each post with “Singapore” and any other phrase or keyword relevant to the snippet.

Step 4: Email all your friends about it and tell them to tell their friends about it.

Step 5: Submit your posts to both Tomorrow.sg and Yesterday.sg

Even if your posts aren’t published by either website, don’t fret — you’ve just archived your stories and if someone tries to look up something on the Internet relevant to what you’ve written, your posts (and audio/ video files) will turn up on their search results.

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