Fill In The _ _ _ _ _ With Your Ideas

An informal monthly gathering is jazzing up Singapore by getting a diverse crowd to bring their ideas – any ideas – to the table.

They say the best ideas come from joining the right dots and making the right connections. But it is tough when you are always mingling in the same social or professional circles.

If you are a design thinker seeking “transdisciplinary” perspectives, an officer needing fresh ideas, or simply wanting a change of scene, you might want to check out blinkBL_NK (pronounced as blank).

Bernie Quah, an active participant of the blinkBL_NK sessions, recorded down Eugene Tay’s talk on the Green Corridor in a visual way. All photos contributed by Marcus Ng.

Every first Wednesday of the month, a veritable mix of people – artists, academics, geeks, hackers, writers, adventure travellers, entrepreneurs – converge to share their insights, tales, projects and philosophies on the top floor of BluJaz Cafe at Bali Lane.

In the laid-back space, three speakers, each given 20 minutes, take turns to intrigue, entertain and surprise the audience. They then take questions from the floor.

In between the talks are the free-for-all “brain food” buffets – where people mingle, pick one another’s brains, and make new connections. The ideas flow, alongside music curated by Syaheed, a music producer and founding collaborator of the event.

If you are a networking newbie, this could be the least intimidating place to start. It’s dark and there’s music and beer. Some civil servants have been spotted here too, giving talks or listening in.

Now into its 21st session, the event has presented 64 talks that have ranged from the geekishly offbeat (“How to build a starship in 100 years”) to the more academic (“Why math education doesn’t work and how to fix it”), as well as the esoteric (“Tabla and the genius of Indian rhythm”).

Music producer Syaheed is in charge of sound and music at blinkBL_NK sessions.
At a recent talk, Adrianna Tan’s sharing of her solo “hardcore” travelling got the crowd abuzz. People wanted to know how the 26-year-old funded her globetrotting adventures at such a young age, and how she found her way around in countries like Syria and Yemen.

The wide range of topics is deliberate. “BL _NK is for fill in the blank,” explains Isaac Souweine, a founding collaborator, who works in the tech industry. “The space is open-ended and can be filled up with anything that the speakers [and the crowd] bring to the table.”
Isaac Souweine introducing Urban Sketcher Cheryl Chung’s talk.

Mr Souweine, who was inspired by Nerdnite in the United States and TedX events in Singapore, wanted to create “a space for people to interact in a casual but intellectual environment”.

So he roped in Syaheed and Vikas Enti (a robotics researcher who has since left Singapore) to found blinkBL_NK. They branded it as an open event to welcome speakers and crowds of all types, not just the geeks and hackers.

“The environment is self-selecting. If you really have the guts and drive to get up there and speak for 20 minutes, then you will probably do OK,” says Mr Souweine.

blinkBL_NK hosts Kay Chew Lin and Isaac Souweine.

Public officer Kay Chew Lin was one of the earliest speakers. She was roped into the blinkBL _NK team after she proved to be prolific at referring speakers. Now she co-hosts the event with Mr Souweine, and is in charge of speaker recruitment.

The Health Promotion Board officer says the richest reward comes from participating actively. “What I enjoy about blinkBL_NK is how people share their ideas,” says Ms Kay. “Those who speak have their ideas clarified a little when people ask questions. People who don’t speak learn a little when they listen to something new, or when they talk to their neighbour.”

The crowd is a mix of expatriates and locals, many of whom are former speakers. Business Times reporter Teh Hooi Ling has been to a few sessions, each time bringing friends along. “It opens up the mind,” she said, impressed by the mix of topics. She was inspired by a previous speaker who had quit her job to travel.

While not all the dots might join at one blinkBL_NK session, it certainly paves the way for new connections to be made.

And if nothing else, it is “enjoyable frivolity”, in the words of a repeat attendee.

The blinkBL_NK crowd is a mix of expatriates and locals, many of whom are former speakers.

Keen to speak at blinkBL_NK? Just email

    Jul 18, 2012
    Bridgette See
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