Wednesday, October 23

Why I set up Sarawak Public Feedback on Facebook

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A BRIEF exchange of words between one of my member followers on my Facebook public forum called Sarawak Public Feedback and a newly-installed MBKS councilor triggered today’s topic, which I am putting to pen now – to explain and put forth my reasons for having set up the page on Jan 19, 2015.

The member had mentioned that after 16 days of posting his ‘complaint’ on my public page, no one in authority or any enforcement unit had attended to it. The councilor had told him that the proper complaint bureau was announced recently by the Minister of Local Government Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian, and that he should use that channel instead and the link was then given by another member. This member retorted that most of the time after complaints were made on my forum, they were mostly swiftly attended to and resolved.

When I first started Sarawak Public Feedback, it was called Kuching Flood Feedback, when the great floods of January 2015 had caused much destruction of properties and some loss of life. I had wanted to use it as a forum for people to channel their news, views, and updates as to the locations that had needed the most urgent and critical attention; this had happened just before the phenomenon known as WhatsApp had been invented and began to play an important role in sharing of instant news of natural disasters and other events.

If WhatsApp had been available at that time early in 2015, I very much doubt that Sarawak Public Feedback would ever have seen the light of day. WhatsApp group chats have become ‘crowd talk’ at the speed of light: Facebook is still only a social media platform with the ability to connect and inform people who are on it.

Let me share some statistics of Sarawak Public Feedback as it stands today. This comes directly from Facebook itself.

As at Oct 3, 2019, Sarawak Public Feedback has 54,387 members, and it has shown a consistent growth of about 1,000 new members every month since its inception. I changed its name from Kuching Flood Feedback sometime back in March 2015 after the floods had receded – I had wanted to close it down, but the then over 1,400 members thought that it should be kept going, but with a wider agenda giving it a push into all kinds of ‘feedback’ – politics, socioeconomic issues, travel, tourism as well as food, entertainment, and what have you.

At the present time, Facebook reported that between the period of Sept 4 to Oct 1, there were 4,889 unique posts by members; this seems to be typical and about average. Male members outnumber females by 61/39 in percentage; of this number over 53 per cent are between the ages of 18 and 54. What the marketing boys would call the demographics of people who would make the most difference, in public opinion and in purchasing power.

It’s rather amazing that 54.4 per cent of all members are ‘active’ and fully participating. That’s 30,124 out of the 54,387. In most public forums of this kind, we have a lot of silent members who are there just to read and scroll through the posts and comments.

A full 87 per cent of all members are from Malaysia; of which Kuching alone accounts for 41 per cent. Surprisingly there are some 1,044 members from Singapore; 858 from Indonesia; 708 from Philippines; and 540 from India as well. We have members from exactly 100 countries.

However, it shouldn’t be a surprise that 78 per cent of all posts and comments dwell on one subject – politics. Of the remaining 22 per cent, these are usually on socioeconomic issues, local complaints on littering, bad maintenance of public property, irresponsible driving and parking, and so on and so forth. There’s also a small group of members who post about local Sarawak food, drinks, tourist attractions, events, new places to explore, and new products and services.

Personally I wish there could be an even balance of politics, local news, and complaints – of around one-third of each. But on my own I try and make up the difference on the non-political postings to even up the score.

I have declared that I am not a card-carrying member of any political party; but most members know where my heart is and whom I support in the political arena. I had hopefully done my small bit in helping May 9 happen last year by highlighting and sharing many posts and comments, which were not published nor posted in the mainstream media nor other public forums, except for a few.

Today I continue this line of work in Sarawak Public Feedback. I share more of those news and posts which bring to light the many continuing abuses during the days of the old regime; repelling and disputing all the fake news and propaganda still being spewed out by the cyber-troopers of Umno/PAS, and the many doubters who are trying to make proper and honest governance an uphill battle for the new PH government.

As an ‘impartial’ administrator, I personally vet through all posts from all different political views, news and opinions. However, I remove those which are blatantly personal, rude, obscene, and unverified. I have also been known to remove posts after they’ve been proven to be false or the thread of comments had gone down an irresponsible alley. I have also either blocked or removed members who had continued to persist with their antics despite having been warned. I also don’t take kindly to any threats, bullying, uncouthness, rudeness, and fanaticism of any kind.

Many times I had to trash posts of an extreme religious or racial nature. It’s not easy to be the sole administrator of a public forum; I get both the flames and the flowers. But then again more often than not I would tell myself, if you can’t stand the heat, just get out of the kitchen. After all, it’s pretty much a thankless (and there’s no money in it for me either) job but it has helped me fulfill a long held personal boyhood idyllic dream.

Comments can reach the writer via [email protected]