Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Research

I was never really an academically-inclined person. I did well enough in exams when I was younger but I never liked studying much, especially as I got older. I think that's largely to do with the fact that I was studying subjects that I did not like. I went into Science Stream because that's what all the "smart" people are supposed to do. But I'm a right-brainer and the Arts Stream would have certainly been more suitable for me.

These days, I'm back to studying (and researching) again but on topics that I find interesting, notably social media for business use and judo.

Social media is such an crucial part of our everyday lives, it makes sense to understand it better. And to do this, you need to study it. Of course you learn things through trial and error too but that's certainly not enough. You have to learn from those who are experts at this. People who understand the nuts and bolts of it. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources online that you can tap onto. Some are free and some you have to pay for.

The same is true for judo. There's lots of free video content online but some you have to pay for. If you really want to learn, you must be willing to pay for good content, which will complement the free stuff you can get.

But it's not just money that you must invest. You've gotta invest time too. Sometimes that's the hardest bit. To put aside time for learning is difficult because of the opportunity costs. Time spent studying or researching is time that could be used for generating income, exercising, pursuing a hobby, being with friends and family or simply resting. All those other things are important too. And it's all too easy to forsake studying things when you are no longer in school.

But study and research you must if you want to continue to enhance your knowledge and skill sets. I had an early start in social media because I had to research it way back in 2008 when I was working for a telco-related research organization. But social media changes so fast and many new developments happen all the time. You can't rest on your laurels. Gotta keep learning.

Judo doesn't evolve as quickly as social media but judo does change. Rules get changed and new trends emerge while old ones fade away. As much as I know about judo, there's still plenty for me to to learn. As with social media, it takes learning from the experts (thank goodness for the online resources) and it take studying hours upon hours of contest footage. No way around it.

But because I am genuinely interested in social media and judo, I don't find it burdensome to study and research these topics. I find it tiring sometimes -- research is hard work -- especially when I've been busy doing other stuff during the day. But I don't find it a chore. 

Continually learning new stuff and discovering things you didn't know before can be very fulfilling. It certainly keeps my mind active. Thank goodness I have things that I'm interested in enough to want to learn more about them. How boring life would be without that.

Things change


It was a bit of a surprise to see Google News this morning, with its drastically changed layout. I can't say I'm a fan but it could be that I'm just a creature of habit and am not used to the new design.

The change in Google News is yet another reminder that in life, nothing stays constant. Things change all the time. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, and sometimes it's just different (not necessarily better or worse).

It's a big mistake to assume that whatever you like about something will always be there or stay the same. When I was working in Singapore, I used to love eating at a prawn mee stall that had what I thought was the best prawn mee ever. Then one day, it just disappeared. I guess it must have moved to another location. And with that, my favorite prawn mee stall was gone.

I've had similar experiences with websites. There used to be a really good, free judo video website that I frequented. One day, a big portion of its archives went missing. I guess they needed to clear up their servers to make more space for new content. Then, one day, even the new stuff was no longer accessible when the site closed down. And all of a sudden, one of the best judo resources online was gone.

Whether in the offline or online world, things never last forever. Assuming they will is a recipe for disappointment. But if you make a point to appreciate things as opposed to taking them for granted, you will be much happier. And when they are gone, you can still be happy appreciating the times when those things were available to you.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Great definition of content marketing

This is a great summary of what content marketing is all about by Rose Burberry-Martin, Marketing Coordinator for Chisholm, Chisholm, & Kilpatrick:

Content marketing informs, entertains, educates, and offers utility. It’s also there when people decide they want it, rather than trying to thrust itself upon them.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The art & science of e-mail interviews

Time was when interviews had to be conducted live, in person or via telephone. Then the Internet came along and gave us e-mail, which is a different avenue for doing interviews.

There are pros and cons to e-mail interviews. The most obvious cons are that they are not live and therefore you will never get spontaneous comments and follow up questions are delayed, which again will rob you of any opportunity to get spur-of-the-moment quote, which sometimes can be very colorful and can help liven up an article.

There are advantages to e-mail interviews too. The interviewee can answer the questions at their convenience. The answers will not be off-the-cuff but that can also be a good thing. The fact that the interview is not happening live means the interviewee can take their time to think about a question and give a perhaps more thoughtful and more accurate response.

That said, it is of course always better to have a live interview than an e-mail one. But there are times when doing so is not practical and you have to go with an e-mail interview. Here are some tips for how to do this well.

1. Do some research on the person you are interviewing. If they are any person of note at all, there will be something on them online. Google them and see what you can find. It would probably be interesting to see what they post on social media too. It will give you a better sense of who they are.

2. Even if they are expecting the e-mail, give a brief introduction about yourself and the publication your write for, as well as the nature and purpose of the article.

3. I also make it a point to encourage them to elaborate as much as they can when replying and tell them that providing too much information is always better than too little. (Longer answers will give you more flexibility to edit their responses.)

4. Start with asking them about their background -- family upbringing, education, first jobs, etc...

5. Other types of questions to ask:
- Factual stuff about what they are doing
- Their motivation(s) for doing what they do
- Anyone inspires them?
- What they like and don't like about what they do
- What's the most surprising thing (most people are not aware of) regarding what they do
- Biggest challenge and success so far
- What makes them unique, special, different from others in the field?
- How to stay competitive?
- How technology comes into play?
- What's coming up on the horizon?

When you receive their reply, you will have to edit the answers for clarity and for length. If an answer is a bit confusing or too wordy,  you can edit it but take care not to change the meaning.

If a response is not particularly interesting or if the interviewee had veered off topic you can opt to leave out that question and answer from the final article. As the writer, you have the right to pick and choose what to leave in and what to leave out. If something is not clear and needs clarification or if something could use a little elaboration, send a follow up e-mail and alert them about it (through Whatsapp or SMS or Facebook Messenger).

After you have written up the article, put it aside for a while then re-read it so you can finetune it. Just as movies sometimes need reshoots you can also ask additional questions if you feel something is lacking.

That's it. That's the process to do a good e-mail interview.

Monday, May 08, 2017

PJ, Ampang or Melawati?

This report caught my attention... and then I found it utter confusing. Is the restaurant in PJ, Ampang or Taman Melawati? All are mentioned in the article but they are not the same place!


This was the apt response from one reader who knew a thing or two about geography!