18 November, 2009

High Spirits

Last night the Alphabet team were the proud recipients of a 'Spirit of Enterprise' award, for our "inspiration to fellow entrepreneurs".

There was a marching band, a bun fight, a Senior Minister of State, music from The Carpenters, a wine shortage, Michael Ma (the chap who established the 'IndoChine' collection of high end nightspots), a hapless MC from BBC World, some bad girls in stilettos, and my six year old daughter Saffy. Altogether a rather surreal experience, but then welcome to the wonderful world of the SME.

My excitement was tempered by the fact that the award was a particularly cheap and nasty looking piece of perspex, and the accompanying certificate managed to combine UK and US versions of English - but a gong is a gong, and it has now been added to our groaning awards shelf in the reception area of Alphabet Towers.

04 November, 2009

Paint ball

Institutions often develop a prowess for particular sporting activities over the years. Schools and regiments carefully groom their talent on the rugby field or cricket pitch. At the corporate level in Singapore, overseas chambers of commerce have developed reputations for dragon boating.
Here in Alphabet Media, the pasttime of choice is paintball. We went through boot camp in July at the Singapore Discovery Centre and all graduated with honours (despite a lot of cheating and firing after the whistle was blown etc). The measly 50 round allocation wasn't enough for most of our would-be terminators, causing finger strain on the final shoot out as we tried to keep the enemy's heads down with sustained bursts of automatic fire. Boot camp was tough, and we left splattered with paint and with some more longer lasting bruises in between the many gaps left in the protective clothing.
In December for the Christmas Party, we're doing our first overseas tour of duty in 'tam. Batam that is, where we'll be fighting it out to the last man in the jungle.
Watch this space ....

27 October, 2009

Disclaimer: I'm not looking for freebies*

Faithful readers of the blog will know that we're quite fond of Hill & Knowlton, because:
1. They've astutely hired some of Singapore's best IT journalists over the years, who are able to talk the language of my editorial team
2. They throw the best media parties
3. The Alphabet team covered itself in glory at their last party

But today they added another reason to recommend them: they were attentive and friendly enough to send through a bloody great big bunch of flowers to the team, wishing us well on our big move to Prince Edward Road.

I do have to admit that as the little man walked up the length of our office to my table, I did for a moment think that Valentine's Day had come early for me ... so there was a slight quiver of disappointment when it turned out that the flowers were not from some Asian hottie. But in an age of social media, it made a pleasant change to receive something real which has helped brighten up the office, rather than receiving a nudge, poke or having a (virtual) sheep thrown at me.

Which brings me to my point. Media - that which helps mediate information between multiple parties - is a relationship-driven business. Hill & Knowlton understand this, and live up to this in their interactions with myself and my team of journalists. We appreciate this socially, and take note of this professionally. Companies looking for PR agencies who walk the talk should take note of Hill & Knowlton's gentle activism as well.

*I'm not looking for freebies ... however my colleagues are tugging at my elbow, and want me to mention that we also have space for an XBox 360.

17 October, 2009

Like a rolling stone

The deed is done. Yesterday Alphabet upped sticks and shifted six years of collective baggage to 12 Prince Edward Road. Thanks to an excellently marshalled moving committee consisting of Kelly, Chris, Katrina and Patrick (and ably assisted by Alex), there were remarkably few tears as we said 'goodbye to all that'.

Parting is such sweet sorrow ... unless you've a heart of stone like Sam(antha) in which case, c'est la vie. But I'm more emotional about these things, and so my enthusiasm for moving to our new office at Bestway Building next to Shenton Way in Singapore's CBD was tempered by nostalgia.

Almost all that Alphabet has achieved, for good and ill, sprang from the poky, poorly ventilated, oddly shaped, largely gloomy premises that have been our home since August 2004. I'm going to miss Aunty Katherine the hapless cleaning lady (though probably not as much as she's going to miss us), Pauline the dipsomaniac landlady of our local pub, the pastel parallel lines painted on the wall a lifetime ago, and the archaic central airconditioning unit that has struck fear into several generations of female Alphabetters. I won't, however, miss the toilets.

Goodbye Evershine & Century Complex, and farewell.

28 September, 2009

Research: hot off the press!

Yes, it's been a while ... please don't start having a go, I've been a little bit 'under the cosh' at work. But I just wanted to update you on our new research offering. FutureGov Research is the sister arm of FutureGov magazine, and in tandem with our events, regularly canvasses our community of 10,000+ government officials to see what keeps them up at night.

I'm just back from India (more on that another time) where we were launching our latest research report on the attitudes to efficiency and effectiveness, sponsored by Juniper Networks. It was great to be able to shed light on some of the working practices in India's public sector - particularly in the run up to our FutureGov Forum India event in a few months time.

We've now conducted quite a number of research reports for the likes of SAP, EMC, Kodak, Fuji Xerox, Bluecoat and Juniper - so we'll be shortly revealing a new section on our government portal where these will be available for free download.

However in the newfound spirit of enquiry that has swept the office, I thought I'd let you in on the very latest research we've generated by asking the FutureGov team. Feel free to tell us your opinion!

Should Ris Low be allowed to be Miss Singapore? [Click here for context]

Yes: 4

No: 8

Who is s Low?/Out for lunch: 10

16 June, 2009

With great power comes great responsibility

I'd like to thank J1 for giving me the pleasure of being able to post on the Alphabet Media blog. After months of - pretty lukewarm I must admit - pestering he has agreed to let me loose.

Wow, what a double-edged sword this has turned out to be! For the sake of maintaining some semblance of professionalism I have to post something mildly intellectual and interesting (or at least funny!). I must admit that its a rather tough undertaking. To be honest the only reason I'm writing this drivel is so J1 stops bugging me to blog!

Soooo...thanks for coming and i promise that when I've come up with something 'blogable' - that's a blast from the past - I'll post.


P.S read this quick before it gets deleted!

15 June, 2009

How time flies

Hello again. Yes, I know it's been a while since I last posted. In part it's because I 'discovered' Twitter and decided to experiment there; in part it's because (apparently) there's a recession, and I figured that people had quite enough on their plate without worrying about whether I'd blogged or not.

But not blogging became a slippery slope ... and the things is, we've had rather a lot to celebrate of late, which has started making me suffer 'Blogger's Guilt' for not writing. So in an attempt to make amends, here's a quick list of the little victories we've enjoyed ... as well as a hearty promise to blog more in future!

10 reasons to smile if you're an Alphabetter:
  1. We won an award for the best B2B online publication (for FutureGov.net) by the Magazine Publishers' Association of Singapore
  2. We had another beach volleyball tournament - and this time nobody left in tears. Okay, well we had one person leave in tears - but as a proportion of the expanded team, this is still an improvement!
  3. We had two really successful events in Singapore (economic crisis? where?): FutureCCTV Forum - and the absolutely rocking Government Information Forum (228 government delegates!)
  4. We discovered that nerf guns can be a great way to get your point across in internal meetings
  5. We launched a Chinese-language version of FutureGov! Hen hao!
  6. We opened an office in Hong Kong!
  7. We welcomed two of Singapore's best trade media sales ladies into the Alphabet family (poor old Questex!)
  8. We launched 'FutureGov Research' and are currently delivering custom research into the attitudes of senior public sector officials for our friends at EMC, Kodak, Juniper Networks, Fuji Xerox, and a few others!
  9. I was invited over to Putrajaya by the Malaysian government to speak at their National ICT Conference - and despite there being 650 delegates, managed not to get stage fright (there's hope for me yet)
  10. Jeremy Godfrey, Hong Kong's Government CIO, kindly agreed to open our Government Information Forum Hong Kong conference (poor old Questex!)
  11. We're imminently to launch FutureGov TV
  12. We had another Doughnut Day!
  13. Not content with having random Doughnut Days, we've supplemented that with the occasional 'Cupcake Day', just to mix things up a little bit
  14. We're going to have our first Alphabet baby in October - May Yee is going to have a girl :-)
  15. The Head of IT for China's (and the world's!) largest hospital became one of our new bloggers at FutureGov.cn - and helped us with our new Chinese healthcare conference!
  16. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, subscribed to our FutureGov e-newsletter!
  17. We went bowling - and crowned J2 the Alphabet Media bowling champion for 2009
  18. Alphabet went crazy and got itself a corporate yacht (well, Tim kindly allowed to take clients and staff out on his wife's yacht - the well-appointed 'Swiss Marigold', a 36ft Jeanneau Sundance)
  19. Ellen made it to the last round of 'My Lovely Mum 09', before being beaten by a transexual
  20. Robin was appointed to be a judge for the BBC's annual development projects competition: The World Challenge
  21. We have successfully increased the ratio of girls to boys - we're now 50/50!
  22. I met many world leaders this year
  23. I got tickets to see Blur's Hyde Park gig
Okay, that's it. I'm scraping the barrel a bit now. But I promise to report back again soon!

11 June, 2009

Party like it's 1999

I had a client meeting yesterday with a vendor who shall remain nameless but the name rhymes with saleshorse – who said that their marketing budget had been increased. I felt like I was in a time warp and it was dot com boom days all over again. I wanted to go out and party like it was 1999.
I’m getting so used to clients saying that their budgets are being slashed and ‘gone are the days ...’ and how they must prove ROI. (The Economist quoted Bank of America’s claim this week that they make $3 of profit for every $1 they spend on sports marketing with the comment “if it can make 300%, it should do nothing else”).
Having said that we seem to looking at 100% YOY growth ourselves. Good job we’re not called “FutureBank”, I suppose

17 February, 2009

A penny for my thoughts

It has come to my attention that there are very occasionally a few instances of foul-mouthed utterances in certain corners of the Alphabet office. Naturally I take a pretty dim view of this, as I like to think of the company as being a beacon of graciousness.

So you can imagine how dismayed I was when, after establishing a 'Swear Box', it rapidly filled with loose change. It's only been six hours, and it already has S$11. And the worst of it is that I currently account for all S$11 of vituperative spleen.


26 January, 2009

Ushering in the Year of the Ox

It's a funny old world. Even as many of my industry peers in the conference and publishing business are anxiously slimming down their operations, I've never seen Alphabet with such a full sales pipeline.

Our first event of the year, Government Information Forum in Singapore, has broken all records for the numbers of sponsors and delegates signed up for our longest running government IT event. Meanwhile FutureGov and Asian Security Review magazines have never been so well supported by the solutions provider communities. I almost have to pinch myself when I say it, but business is booming.

Perhaps it was ever meant to be this way. I remember five years ago, when drafting the business plan required to support my application for an 'Entrepreneur Pass' in Singapore, I mentioned that one of the benefits of establishing a business focused on providing content to the regional public sector was that it was "a great counter-cyclical". And so it seems.

So even as the marketing pie shrinks, there seems to be a rush to quality media platforms, as well as a rush to public sector markets. On both counts Alphabet scores. Because we only do public sector, we really know what we're talking about. And as importantly, government, education and healthcare decision-makers know us.

Because there's nothing quite as nauseating as someone mouthing off about how clever and successful they are, I'll conclude by saying that the Alphabet team is lucky to find itself in the right place at the right time. Now it's time to roll up our sleeves and make sure we work hard to deliver for our government readers and delegates - as well as the companies that work with us to reach them.

30 November, 2008

Doughnut Day 5

Even as our near neighbours down the road are shedding staff to cope with a fall in revenues, Alphabet celebrated closing our biggest deal this week in time-honoured fashion: doughnuts.

Chocolate ones, jam ones, peanut ones, and of course frosted ones (Amelia & my personal favourite). 

It's been a few months since the last one, simply because I've been too busy to pop down the road and get armloads of the sticky pastries. Happily a chance conversation with the members of my editorial team led me to cast my mind back to the last doughnut day - and then Chris stepped in to make the trek down Beach Road to Raffles City. That man is a bloody hero.

Needless to say the result of this sudden doughnut gorging was several hours of slothful afternoon activity, and another notch to untighten on my belt. But there were smiles and contented burps from the rest of the office, and a particularly heartfelt comment from Katrina, our Queen of Admin:

"I’ve heard so much about doughnut day in Alphabet Media, and after being with Alphabet Media for 6 months ------- finally, I’m having my first Alphabet Media doughnut day!!!!!!! J"

So if anyone out there is reading the blog with a view to sizing up whether to join us (don't do it, I'm a slave driver and we're all backstabbing bastards), then please note that Doughnut Days are pleasantly random occurences.

14 November, 2008


Before you all rush to ask whether I can fix you up with a foreign bride - I'm referring to matchmaking in the corporate sense. Okay, you say disappointedly, but why?

Lately I've been giving some thought to what it is that Alphabet does, through its two magazine-driven communities of endusers. My little grey cells have been exercised by the challenge and opportunity presented by the global economic slow down.

Happily one side of the business is showing tremendous growth - and this is the provision of content for government and security endusers. This demand can be seen in the ever-increasing traffic to our web sites, the requests for new subscriptions to the magazines, as well as the rising number of paying delegates we attract to our events. So demand for information is not being adversely affected by the wider economy - in fact, the economic malaise may be encouraging our communities of endusers to review their decisions more thoroughly than before, leading to greater demand for the content we provide.

However despite this, the challenge facing a media company like Alphabet is obvious - how best to weather the commercial storm that's beginning to break in Asia? 

Marketing is often one of the first things to be trimmed when customers become scarce, and Alphabet's business has historically been very dependent on the marketing budgets of the region's key IT and security companies. But before we all start wailing and gnashing our teeth, there's plenty of opportunity out there too.

Happily Alphabet has been diversifying its revenue streams over the past 18 months - so income from delegates to those conferences I was just referring to, and more recently from the training courses we put on for our security and government audiences, is not directly linked to any reduction in marketing budgets. We've also been diversifying geographically - as our events in India and China demonstrate.

But even in our core business of providing marketing solutions to companies looking to sell into government and security, I see quite a lot of silver lining where others only seem to see clouds. Here's why.

Question: What do you do when your marketing budget gets cut? Answer: You think bloody hard about how best to spend the few pennies you have left. 

Companies don't stop their marketing spend in a recession - what they do is focus it on the marketing programmes that reliably deliver the best ROI. 

In other words, if your business has been based on creating 'copycat' events, or mediocre content - and if you don't really have the audience you say you have, and aren't really as focused on the needs of your customers as you should be - then you might want to consider updating your CV.

Happily the FutureGov and Asian Security Review brands have been fully stress-tested. Our readers and delegates love our content; our advertisers get to be seen by the people that matter; our events sponsors regularly gush about the very high standards of the events we organise, and how they enjoy unprecedented and sometimes very quick ROI.

So in any flight from mediocrity to quality, Alphabet stands to be a clear beneficiary. That said, before smugness sets in, it doesn't mean that we can rest on our laurels. It's incumbent on any company to always ask questions like 'Do my customers know how seriously we take their business? Do they know how much harder their marketing dollars work when they give them to Alphabet?'

Because everything Alphabet has done over the last five years has been built ground-up from the needs and interests of the readers to our magazines, and the delegates to our events, our brands mean something. If you're looking for a trusted provider of information on public sector modernisation - then FutureGov is for you. If you need the lowdown on anything security-related, then reach for anything with the Asian Security Review logo on it. Our magazines are genuine stamps of approval - not because I say so, but because our readers do.

So since we have created and sustained this reader trust - they're open to the companies that partner with us. And because our readers and delegates are open to listening to what our advertisers and sponsors have to offer - we're able to offer guaranteed lead generation, by matching interested buyer to willing seller. In other words, matchmaking.

I won't say here how exactly we do it, as the last thing I want is for copycats out there to start offering the same service and confuse the marketplace - but we've been doing it for a while now, and the participating magazine advertisers have been pleasantly surprised. If you want to know how it's done, get in touch with myself (+65 97635123) or J2 (+65 6336 0859). 

I believe that there's always opportunity out there. You just have to look for it in the right places.

13 November, 2008


As you probably know, Patrick our Marketing Director has a beard and is from Germany.

Most interestingly, Patrick has a thing for dressing up as a Spartan warrior whilst doing his household chores [see picture].

The Spartans were known for their beards, their martial prowess as well as their 'manly camaraderie'. Which of these was the inspiration for Patrick I can't say for sure. But in the above portrait of masculinity he claims to have been celebrating passing the 300 subscription mark on one of his online pet projects.

As many of you know, Patrick has been kept pretty busy with the redevelopment of our web sites, as well as the establishment of professional networking communities for our government readers. At the moment the latter are only in Beta mode, but as you can see he takes progress on this very seriously. That's why he's such a good Alphabeter!

22 October, 2008

FutureGov Summit photostream

21 October, 2008

FutureGov Summit: a tale of government, toy ducks and bad suits

Pictured: John Suffolk, GCIO of the United Kingdom, meets the Duck of Luck.

Although we had less transvestites and elephants than in 2007, last week’s FutureGov Summit ticked pretty much every other box. 120 very senior government officials; 17 sponsors; distinct strategy and technology tracks; afternoon break out sessions; and more gamelan music and Balinese dancing than you can shake a stick at.

In addition to the support of the world’s two largest IT companies – Microsoft and IBM – we even had a track sponsored by the Singapore authorities to profile the work of the city state’s ICT vendors to build a world class e-services infrastructure. So this year, even more so than last year, we saw the FutureGov Summit ‘arrive’ as a valued and valuable experience for top officials in the region, as well as the world class solutions providers looking to reach out to them.

I think back to how it all started and I’m amazed – not just at how far we’ve come, but also at how many of the people who were involved in that first event are still involved, lending their very considerable support to the work of the Alphabet team.

I’ve spoken before about Laurence Millar, New Zealand’s GCIO, and his sincere support since our initial event in The Fullerton Hotel. Back in 2005 that event was essentially the ‘first birthday’ celebration of Public Sector Technology & Management magazine (since renamed to FutureGov magazine). Besides Laurence, we were able to welcome back longstanding friends such as Tim Diaz de Rivera from the Philippines; RS Sharma from Jharkhand; J Satyanarayana from India’s NISG; Dr Salim Al-Ruzaiqi from Oman's ITA; Reshan Dewapura from ICTA in Sri Lanka; Juthika Ramanathan from Singapore’s ACRA ... and many others. Additionally, it was great to receive the ongoing support from the teams at Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Juniper, Kodak and NCS – all of whom are previous sponsors who liked what they saw and came back for more.

Because we really are a community of practice, our events bring people together for a genuine idea exchange – and this is something that’s part of the DNA of both the company, and the structure of our event. Instead of classroom seating, our top officials (including local and state government ministers from China and India) all sit around a hollow square, enabling them to face one another and debate issues openly.

This sense of community was on display at the gala dinner of the Government Technology Awards at the end of the event. Here we celebrated the very best government technology deployments across Asia Pacific and the Gulf States. 450 government nominations were distilled down to a shortlist of 55, which after much pontification by our judges, resulted in 11 very deserving winners. Check out Alphabet Media’s corporate site for the official PR release about this.

By the time the end of the evening came, there were a lot of hugs and back slaps and photo snaps as all the participants – by now friends – prepared to return to their respective offices with new relationships, new ideas, and a definite spring in their step about meeting the challenge of public sector modernisation in the region.

As I mentioned in my remarks at the gala dinner, the team at Alphabet Media is small – and an event of the scale and ambition of the FutureGov Summit is not an easy thing to pull together. However the reason we’re able to do what we do is simply that we really are very committed to supporting the essential work of public sector officials to improve their productivity, service delivery and transparency. There’s no more important work in the region, such is the vital role of government. I’m proud of Alphabet’s role in bringing people together – and even more proud of my team for all their hard work in the making of this event over the last 12 months.

Of course nothing runs entirely without hitch, so in the interests of full disclosure, I can admit to the embarrassment of leaving both of my freshly-tailored suits behind in Singapore. The cheap and nasty thing I managed to pick up in the back streets of Kuta was really the only cheap and nasty thing about FutureGov Summit. Happily it has already been handed over to the Salvation Army, though they didn’t seem ecstatic to receive it.

Ps. Thanks to Microsoft’s Chris Levanes, we even managed to serve ‘Duck Tartare’ for the lunch on the last day (see photo). NB. No Ducks of Luck were harmed in the production of this event.

01 September, 2008

On your marks, get set, go.

The good burghers of Alphabet Media rarely pass up on an opportunity for hard work or public humiliation - and in the case of the recent Nike 10k Human Race, we were able to combine the two.
I'd rather naively assumed that I'd be running in the midst of crowds of similarly out of condition mid-30 year olds, and so was rather unnerved to see myself surrounded by lithe early 20-somethings instead. As 12,000 youngsters limbered up excitedly around us, Patrick puffed on a couple of cigarettes to calm his nerves, and I considered whether I could be invalided out of the race with honour by feigning injury with a mock fall somewhere along the route.

Our race times:
Amos  -  58 minutes, 9 seconds
J1  -  62 minutes, 4 seconds*
Captain  -  76 minutes, 9 seconds
Patrick  -  89 minutes, 44 seconds
Katrina  -  97 minutes, 18 seconds
Kelly  -  97 minutes, 18 seconds
*For the record, I nicked into the Penny Black for a few minutes halfway through the race, and as I later discovered was running with a cracked rib ... but next time I shall prevail!  ;-)
As we posed for the obligatory pre-run photo, I wasn't sure whether red was really our colour - but fast-forward a couple of hours to sweaty, heat exhaustion, and I think you'll agree that it matched our complexions perfectly. Anyone for the Standard Chartered Marathon??!!

11 August, 2008

The big one

Alphabet Media events are a bit special, but none more so than this October's annual FutureGov Summit (4th successive year now).

Happily for us we have just confirmed both Microsoft and IBM as Platinum sponsors - so now the race is on for us to sell out the remaining slots, like last year.

You can certainly see why the event is in demand - nothing like it has ever been organised before in the region, and I'm genuinely looking forward to hosting this three-day 'unconference' where with light guidance from myself and my editorial colleagues, we tackle the key issues facing public sector agencies in a freeform discussion ... click the link to take a look at the programme!

03 August, 2008

Our finest hour?

There have been a lot of (legal) highs at Alphabet - but I think last Thursday must rank amongst the greatest achievements of the lads and lasses, even greater than our dominance of Symantec's pub trivia quiz.

At Hill & Knowlton's annual media party (this year's theme was 'Moroccan') the editorial team - Jianggan, Amelia, Alice and myself - with a special guest star appearance from Asian Security Review's Kelly, swept all before us.

Hardcore fans of the blog may recall my sorrow last year when a perfumed ponce from SPH prevented us from winning the beer sculling competition at the corresponding 2007 event. Happily this year Jianggan and I weren't carrying any dead wood, and we gobbled, guzzled, and dribbled our way to glory, with a little help from our friends. Notwithstanding almost drowning in Heineken, I consider myself well pleased - particularly with Jianggan who almost singlehandedly brought us back on level terms when we got off to a poor start in the final round. At least my dear old Mum can see that her boy's expensive education wasn't entirely wasted.

As the medics were pumping my lungs free of Dutch beer, Kelly proceeded to wiggle it, just a little bit, and dance her way to a resounding victory in the bellydancing competition. From the photos I don't think she has much of a belly, so clearly there's room for improvement for next year - but it was a glorious second victory for Alphabet media.

But there was more to come.

No sooner had I freed up my airways to order a couple of glasses of bubbley, then the night's Master of Ceremonies, Raoul Le Blond, announced the winners of the fancy dress competition: Kelly and myself! As you must be beginning to appreciate, I have a pretty competitive streak, and so earlier that evening we'd all gone round to our local fancy dress shop and splurged on exotic costumes. The fact that people thought I was a shepherd from a Nativity play was not enough to deny me a second stab at glory - though as you can see from the photos, there wasn't anything to split me and Jianggan, or Kelly from Amelia and Alice.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better Jianggan promptly won a mobile phone, at which point adrenaline, Heineken and champers combined to force me back to the divan where the Alphabet gang were hunched over their kebabs and fingerfood.

Now that I don't attend so many PR events it was nice to catch up with some of the nice boys and girls from HK (Fenix, won't forget your name again, promise). There was a pretty healthy crowd, and it's got to be said that HK does tend to throw the best parties. Sadly I didn't bump into many vendors; I'd have thought that HK would have benefited by creating a platform for both sides to socialise. Maybe next year.

All in all, a pretty good night. Though I may be avoiding the Heinekens for a while.

08 July, 2008

Alphabet 2.0

We've come a long way in the last five years, and in a sense we've celebrated our birthday early with the relaunch of 'Public Sector Technology & Management', our original magazine, as 'FutureGov'.

Oliver Bell at Microsoft rather kindly donated the name at the end of last year's Government Technology Summit (which has also been renamed to 'FutureGov Summit'), and then our new bearded Marketing Director, Patrick, developed the magazine's new look, and Captain did the lion's share of the layout. J2 and Chris did a terrific job filling the magazine with advertising (it was our biggest earning issue ever), and then most importantly of all, my editorial team raised their game to create some really rather great content.

Looking at this thing of beauty, and at the lovely people who helped make it happen, it's hard to imagine that it was possible to come so far. 

So now we're finishing work on the new web site to accompany the magazine. The content of the old PSTM.net is being ported over to FutureGov.net - which by the end of this month will be the gold standard of B2B magazine web sites, not just in Asia, but further afield too. 

I think that the print magazine will remain the flagship platform, because our most senior readers still prefer to engage with the printed word. Nonetheless the web site plays an essential role in refreshing and expanding the community; you can't Google (or LiveSearch) the content of our print magazine - but information hungry public sector officials can search for the wealth of unique content that FutureGov presents online. The web also allows us to strengthen and enlarge our communities of public sector officials, as our friends in the public sector introduce their peers to the expanding network.

In a sense the coming relaunch of the web site takes the business full circle. It was actually the original PSTM.net site which kicked things off for the company, building awareness, attracting the first government end-users to contribute their experience and time. All of this from an upstairs flat above my Nana's place in an English seaside town. 

She's gone, the flat has gone, in fact a lot of things have changed since then. But even as the quality of the web site takes a leap forward just like everything else we do here at Alphabet, it's important for me to remember where it all came from, as well as why.

30 May, 2008

Gone fishing

Yesterday was Prawn Fishing day at Alphabet, with the entire office decamping in a convoy of minibuses (well, three) up the motorway and to the back of beyond. The reason? No real reason ... I think it's coming out of our socials budget.

Happily some bright spark had got some tinnies for the journey, so by the time we arrived at 'Bottle Tree Prawn Fishing' in Sembawang we were nicely lubricated - and the poor prawns never knew what hit them.

The secret to a good haul is to ensure your rod is properly baited - so we came to the pond prepared, with as much freshly diced chicken hearts as any hunter of big game could wish for. Then you need to site yourself, preferably far from the madding crowd, so that you don't have too many rods competing in the same patch of water - though crucially you still need to be close enough to the beer garden in order to ensure you're constantly being topped up with Tiger. Wrestling with prawns turned out to be thirstier work than I'd imagined.

Amos Hong was the first Alphabeter to get off the mark, bagging a little beauty. After that, we collectively got into our stride - and by the end of proceedings, we had seriously dented the prawn population of northeast Singapore. I think special mention should go to Captain and myself for both managing to grab a prawn each with our bare hands. Anyone who pooh-poohs this feat of arms should look closely at the sharp claws on these things - these are seriously hard arse bastards, my friends.

Favouring brains over brawn Dawn, Kelly and Jovita got the most prawns - with Dawn just pipping the others for our top prize. Little had I realised that after the fishing was over, there were more thrills and spills to come.

I had imagined that after we caught the prawns we'd cheerily wish them well, pop them pack into the pond, and they'd swim off to talk about their close escape with their mates. Sadly a rather more gruesome end awaited them: think sharp satay stick, struggling prawn, and King Edward II.

It was grim work, and frankly I've seen enough anguished prawn faces and rectums to last a lifetime. But my squeamishness did pass after we'd barbecued the buggers and dipped them in sweet chilli sauce...

... and naturally, this being Alphabet, we managed to find a bit of time for some drinking games, as evidenced by the last two photos.

04 May, 2008

You don't have to be thin to work here...

... but it sure as hell helps.

We're bursting at the seams here at Alphabet Towers, with the recuitment of four more girls and boys to the Alphabet family. Aside from strengthening the boy's football team, and supporting the growth of some of our new business units - this means that it is beginning to get a little cramped. I may have to cut down on the doughnuts in order to ensure I can squeeze in behind my desk...

Shut up fatso and tell us who's joining, I hear you ask.

Alice Kok starts with us as a journalist, joining myself, John, Jianggan and Amelia as we prepare for the exciting relaunch of PSTM under its new guise - FutureGov - as well as to help spread the workload in the run-up to the overhaul of our web sites (mid-June, I'm guessing). She cites French existentialist literature and body modification as interests.

Patrick Schulze joins us as our new Marketing Director, having overseen niche high-value marketing campaigns for the finance industry in Europe. As a champion of social media, he fits in nicely with Alphabet's community-driven approach to publishing, training, research and events. And he has a beard, something the company has been lacking up until now.

Ling Oh joins us to work on our training programmes initially, though we plan to migrate her to selling high-value research once that part of the business goes live later this year. I'm pleased as punch that she's an ex-Turtle, as there are way too many alumni from ICPCQCP here these days.

Last but not least we have Amos Hong who joins Dawn and Melissa as our new Conference Producer. This is a key role as we start ramping up for our annual FutureGov Summit, which is being held this year in Bali. Amos has been persuaded to ditch a life in rock and roll to throw in his lot with the cool cats at Alphabet. However he's still available on a freelance basis for children's parties - if you're interested you can contact him here: amos.hong@alphabet-media.com

03 May, 2008


No, it's not a quote from the Jackson 5. Well, actually it is, but that's not what this post is referring to ... rather I just wanted to declare that FutureGov magazine is now audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations Singapore.

9209 copies of the magazine, distributed in the region (not including to the vendor community). And the great thing is that we're still growing.

So far it's been a great year for the magazine, with the successful relaunch as 'FutureGov', the recuitment of new faces to the editorial, sales and marketing team, and the imminent relaunch of the old PSTM.net online community.

Next in line for a bit of serious loving is Asian Security Review, and then shortly thereafter our new soon-to-be-launched magazine.... so watch this space!