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iPrepNS website

Posted in design, web by coleman yee on May 29, 2008

A website that I’ve been working on for over half a year has finally been launched.

The website iPrepNS is for guys who are about to enter National Service in Singapore. It aims to prepare them for their 2 years of National Service.

The website covers 3 main phases –

  • pre-enlistment, where there are a whole slew of activities that need to be done even before a boy enters National Service;
  • the enlistment day itself, the big day when the boy enters National Service;
  • and life as a recruit, the first few months in service.

Probably the most attractive part of the site is the pixel art banner, which unveils some of the memorable moments covered by the website.

Like when a recruit gets his crew cut.

There goes my hair!

It adds a touch of humor, which is quite unexpected from an official website by the Singapore’s Ministry of Defence.

Another of my favorites is the interactive on learning the basic foot drill commands.

Besides drawing lots of chuckles from people who’ve tried it, it serves a very real and common need mentioned by recruits we interviewed during our research phase.

Many recruits were unsure of the foot drill commands during their first couple of weeks, which added to their stress caused by all the adjustments they had to make. So this interactive was designed to help them learn the bare basics, without overwhelming them with the more advanced commands.

Similar is the interactive on identifying ranks. We decided on putting only 7 ranks that was most likely to be encountered by a recruit. Anything more would be overwhelming.

What I appreciate most is not the flashy stuff, but the move towards honesty and transparency in the content, especially in the section on recruit training.

Boys who haven’t gone into National Service would have heard stories on training from those who have gone before them. What they have heard may not always be accurate, since human memory is malleable, or simply because the training itself may have changed. It was thus important to include training information that is current and accurate.

We presented the information like how an informed older brother would – informing and advising, being honest about the difficulties to be expected, yet encouraging and being positive about it.

For example, in page on field camp, under “what is it like”:

The 6 days of field camp are tough, but you will definitely remember these days as they are packed with new and interesting experiences.

[…]

Mosquitoes: They’ll always be there, buzzing around when you’re training or trying to sleep, and giving you a bite or two in the process. You’ll be issued with insect repellent, so don’t forget to bring it along.

This honesty about the negative side of training is important for the credibility of the content.

You may have noticed that we even have a section on “safety concerns” on every training page. We found this section important after interviewing parents, especially mothers who were worried about their sons’ safety.

It’s been months of hard work, traveling to different camps and even Pulau Tekong numerous times, doing numerous interviews, taking countless photographs and video footage.

It was thus quite gratifying that the project won the first prize within the Ministry for Defence, and so was launched officially by the Minister of Defence Teo Chee Hean yesterday:

Minister for Defence trying out iPrepNS

Here’s the official news release from the Ministry of Defence.

My colleague Maish also blogged about this project.

Update: The project went on to win the Gold award for the National IQC Convention 2008.

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How to sustain your corporate blog

Posted in all posts by coleman yee on May 18, 2008

A client recently asked me to give a presentation about blogging – how to make blogging successful in their organization.

I didn’t have to convince this client that blogging is an important medium with great potential – they already believed it. In fact, they’ve already made a number of attempts at different forms of corporate blogging.

Except that most of these efforts eventually fizzled out, often because the bloggers eventually became “too busy”.

This problem is common among many other organizations I’ve dealt with. They’ve tried out blogging, sometimes with great fanfare. But the results have turned out disappointing. The blogs, hardly updated, and mostly uninteresting, mostly fade slowly into oblivion.

Corporate blogging isn’t an easy and straightforward matter, if you want it to be successful and sustainable. It’s not just a matter of setting up a blogging system, and convincing some volunteers to contribute.

Sustainable corporate blogging needs to be approached systematically, with the following factors accounted for, otherwise it will be just a hit-and-miss affair

Intrinsic motivation of blogger

Is the blogger motivated to blog? Or are they just an unwilling volunteer?

I’m not talking about extrinsic motivation here (“I want to blog so that I can get a raise”), but intrinsic motivation. The blogger has to believe in blogging, that their voice through blogging can make a difference to the organization.

Don’t even bother if you don’t have an intrinsically motivated blogger.

Ability of blogger

Just because a blogger is highly motivated and enthusiastic about blogging doesn’t necessarily make them the right person to blog.

Can your blogger write in an engaging manner, or are they effective sleeping pill substitutes?

Your blogging efforts (and your readers, if any) will soon doze off if it’s the latter.

Sociocultural support

Your motivated and competent blogger does not blog in vacuum. They are affected by their peers and colleagues.

Is your blogger eyed with suspicion and disdain? Do they become the butt of “harmless” jokes at the water cooler? Or is the blogging role encouraged and admired by colleagues and peers?

If your blogger does not get social support from co-workers, motivation will soon wilt.

Top management support

The corporate blogging effort probably has top management approval, but how strong is it?

Is the blogging project some stealth project that top management can quickly denounce if something goes wrong? Or are they fully behind the effort?

If the blogger wants to interview the CEO, does the CEO welcome the interview, or is the CEO “too busy” and puts the blogger on hold? Indefinitely?

Top management’s actions towards the blogger speaks volumes about their attitude towards blogging, no many how much lip service they give. And their attitude towards blogging often cascades down to the rest of the organization.

If top management fully supports blogging, then the rest of the points should come quite easily.

Resource support

If the blogger requires additional resources for blogging, such as a digital camera, does the blogger get it? Is there a real and reasonable budget allocated for blogging? Or must the blogger beg, borrow, or steal to get necessary resources to support the blogging effort

Time

Blogging – quality blogging – takes a lot of time. Is blogging an additional responsibility for the blogger? Or is the blogger relieved of some other responsibility, so that they actually have the time to blog?

This point is so obvious, but yet it’s almost always overlooked. We somehow expect bloggers to keep blogging consistently, in addition to their normal work, and despite their already-packed schedules. Unless your blogger is wildly passionate, obsessive, or slightly insane, you can expect the blogging frequency to decrease.

Extrinsic motivation and accountability

Congratulations if you’ve met all the previous criteria – your corporate blogging efforts already has a very good chance of sustaining, even without this point.

Extrinsic motivation is how the blogger as an employee rewarded for their performance in blogging. (What “performance” means in this case is another matter.) Is blogging among their KPIs? Is their performance bonus tied to their blogging performance?

Closely related to this is accountability. Who is accountable to ensure the blogging performance? Who is held accountable for non-performance?

Many bloggers reading this might balk at this last point, since they’ve only known blogging out of pure passion, and think that extrinsic motivation and accountability might kill the passion.

It would, if this was the primary motivation.

I would emphasize that extrinsic motivation and accountability should be put in place last, only after all the preceding points have been put properly in place.

Once the preceding points are in place, extrinsic motivation and accountability then becomes an additional and official recognition of the blogger’s role. Just like every employee should have the extrinsic motivation and accountability for whatever their work is.

Conclusion

When you hire someone to, say, be the salesperson of your product, you find someone who likes sales, who can sell well, and you put in place structures to support their sales activity.

Corporate blogging should not be treated any differently from any other kind of work activity if you want it sustainable.