Last Thursday I met up with Dr. Lyn Jeffery, Research Director of the Institute of the Future and co-author of the excellent blog Virtual China. I invited her to stop by ChinesePod HQ to see what it was all about. Since what we’re doing over there is the “education of the future,” Dr. Jeffery was very interested in ChinesePod.
At lunch we chatted about internet usage, Chinese BBSes vs. American blogs, the China Blog List, our blogs, and other things. You know… the future. (The future is clearly very nerdy.)
At the time I opined that the Chinese probably prefer BBSes in general because blogging is very much an individual activity, putting one person in the spotlight, whereas BBSes offer a sense of collective security. Sure, BBSes can get shut down too, but no one person is likely to be targeted for action if the BBS members keep the scope of their comments within certain limits. Bloggers, on the other hand, are taking more of a risk. I admitted, though, that I’m no expert on Chinese BBSes, nor do I even read them often at all. I’m no Sam Flemming.
I later talked about this issue with a Chinese friend whose job in Shanghai is intimately related to the internet. He had a less political take on the issue. He felt the Chinese prefer BBSes because blogs are seen as private. BBSes are public forums, places where you can post something that can be read by thousands if you write something worth reading. Sure, blogs can be read by thousands too, but a lot of time and hard work is required to build up that kind of readership, and many just aren’t interested.
I consider myself very priveleged to be in a time and place where I can do work that appeals to me and just really stimulates me creatively and intellectually. It’s all part of the crazy exciting China feeling. Next week there will be a new editor to help me out with some of the day-to-day academic work at ChinesePod, so that will free me up for more creative and progressive work.
Frank Yu set up the meeting, and I thank him for that. It was good to see him when he visited from Beijing for ChinaJoy recently.
Anyway, recently Dr. Xie visited Shanghai. He stopped by ChinesePod to discuss some academic issues with Ken, and I also had a dinner with Dr. Xie during which we chatted about the state of academia in the PRC, thesis topics, and other fun things.
During our chat, he talked about what it was like, as a native of Shanghai, to make periodic visits after living abroad for twenty-odd years. Never mind the tremendous changes in the city; here’s an exchange he had with a cab driver:
> Driver: So you’re visiting Shanghai from abroad, huh?
> Dr. Xie: Why do you say that?
> Driver: Well, I know you don’t live here…
> Dr. Xie: How can you tell?
> Driver: Well, first, you speak flawless Shanghainese, but you gape at everything around you like a tourist. Second, you don’t dress like a local. And third, you don’t smell like a local. You use some kind of fancy perfumey stuff.
I found this conversation highly amusing.
* Note that in the paper Dr. Xie translates “podcast” not as 播客, which has enjoyed popularity in the PRC, possibly due to its cute similarity to 博客 (blog). Dr. Xie uses the term 网播 for “podcast.”
I have been asked to help spread word about some Chinese blog awards. I have to admit I don’t pay much attention to these myself, but I do think they’re a good thing. And in one case, you can actually win real money! (Well, real monopoly money, anyway.)
Best China Blogs is the China blog awards event giving away close to 10,000 RMB (over US$1000!). “The Admiral” of China Moon is organizing it. (Some of you might know him as a regular commenter on TalkTalkChina.)
I noticed on Danwei that there’s another Asia Blog Awards going. AsiaPundit is a great blog (I wish I had time to read it more often), so I’m sure it’ll do a good job.
> Danwei probably does not count as a blog any more: there are too many contributors, and we are trying very hard indeed to sell out, by accepting advertising. If you are interested in this type of award, please vote for another website.
First let me say that I love Danwei, and it’s a truly excellent site. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better group of dedicated people putting out original, quality content for an independent website (ESWN is only one person, and arguably superhuman). But I don’t think that saying “we’re not a blog anymore” works.
The reasons Jeremy gave as to why Danwei is not a blog don’t stand up to even mild scrutiny: many blogs are group blogs, and many blogs sell advertising. (No, I don’t mean just Google Ads; there are plenty of blogs that sell real advertising.) So what’s the deal?
Well, I think it’s clear that Danwei very much wants to be seen as a news source. Danwei TV has taken a big step in that direction. The Danwei team obviously works very hard and puts out excellent researched content. Blogs are often seen as childish or faddish, and Danwei perhaps aims to rise above the label because it quite clearly offers content superior to 99% of the blogs out there. If any blog ever deserved to transcend the blog label, it is certainly Danwei.org.
But can you cease being a blog simply because you don’t want to be seen as one anymore? I’m not sure what it would take for me to see Danwei.org as something other than an excellent blog with some non-blog features, but for me, at least, it’s not there yet.
When was the last time you heard that a blog is an “online diary?” The inaccuracy of such a narrow definition is becoming more and more apparent. Blogs are getting so specialized it’s sometimes surprising. Recently the China Blog List received a submission for a blog called USA and Chinese Nurses. In the first post is a description of the purpose of the blog:
> My name is Mary Jane Evans and I am a Nursing author and instructor in the US who has travelled extensively in China. While in China on a lecture tour, I met many nurses at Universities who wanted information on the realities of emigrating to the US for employment. My experiences left me to wonder how I might help .
> My answer is one nurse at a time, through blogging and direct communication with as many nurses as possible. A former Assistant Director of a 900 bed Hospital in the US, it is my wish to repay the kindness of so many Chinese nurses toward me by devoting some of my time each day to you.
Now the question I have to answer is: is this blog a candidate for the CBL? I’m leaning towards no, because as stated on the CBL help page, blogs listed must be “mainly about China.” This one is about nursing, with a Chinese audience.
Have you ever heard of Exploding Dog? It’s a website where Sam Brown, the artist, takes suggestions for titles, then turns them into simple, awkward drawings that can leave quite an impression. I’ve known about Exploding Dog since way before my more recent affair with webcomics, and I’ve even linked to it here once (wow, that old entry feels a little embarrassing now…).
Anyone at all familiar with Exploding Dog knows that although the drawings are very simple, they have a very distinctive style. Therefore when 21st Century (China Daily’s youth-oriented English language newspaper) put an Exploding Dog illustration on its front cover, it wasn’t hard to recognize. The use of the image was not approved. The illustration is only marginally relevant to the text beside it, and Exploding Dog isn’t featured anywhere else in that issue.
Click on the image at the right to see a larger image of the newspaper cover featuring the Exploding Dog art. Apparently someone removed the text from the original artwork and then did a mirror image of it.
Ah, plagiarism in Chinese news. Not news, really. I just happened to notice it this time because, being an “old-timer China blogger” I was interviewed for that edition. My painstakingly crafted interview responses were then trimmed way down and branded “EASY.” Heh. Take a look.
The phenomenon of foreigners blogging in Chinese was once extremely rare. I remember when I started back in early 2003 there didn’t seem to be anyone else doing it. Then Alaric came along and blogged in Chinese with dedication (something I’ve never pulled off). He has gained quite an online following. Then came Todd, offering Chinese readers similar dedication and a different point of view. Another very noteworthy blogger is Carlo. His written Chinese is superb. A friend of mine has even started up his own: 帅土包子曰.
I fully expect the number of foreigners blogging to continue to grow. There’s a name for these blogs: CSL (Chinese as a Second Language) blogs. Now, they have even made it into their own page on the China Blog List. Bloggers represented in the list come from Japan, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.
If you read Chinese, check out the CBL CSL list (RSS feed to come). If you’re studying Chinese, these bloggers just might inspire you.
A big thanks goes to Todd, who collected about half of the links in the list.
It’s something I’ve wanted to implement for a while, and the new China Blog List made it possible. Although its main function is still to list China blogs written in English, The China Blog List now features a separate listing of non-English (non-Chinese) blogs about China.
If you’re interested in blogs of only one language in the non-English list, you can easily bookmark that one language (and RSS feeds are on the way). So far, the languages covered are:
C H I N A B L Ä T T E R (German): the format looks like a German ESWN (except fancier, hehe), but I think it’s more like a German China Digital Times. (No serious China blog can compare with ESWN content-wise, right?) A lot of the links are for English articles.
Max (French): An entry on English Corner caught my eye. I was curious what a French speaker would think about this oft-reviled Chinese tradition. Translated by Babelfish:
One meets full with world, especially people culturés thus trés interesting.
Assailed by questions, people are intrigued by our presence… or you come, what you do make here, how you are called, is what it is beautiful Paris, you préferes Chinese girls or the European ones?… One do not know any more or to give head…
Good experiment, dice which I have a little time the week end I go back there to do to me a little pocket money…
Trés interesting indeed. I don’t read French, so I’m not sure if that was supposed to be dirty or what…
Micah recently did a summary of the Chinese Blogger Conference. Then he updated it with a link to Rebecca MacKinnon’s thoughts on the matter. Wow. I thoroughly enjoyed her post, and was glad to be able to read a condensed list of key ideas. I recommend you read her whole article (blocked in China), but here are some key quotes to represent what I considered the most interesting ideas:
Web2.0 is potentially a very Chinese thing.
One of the most important words in the Chinese language is “guanxi.” It means “relationship.” Whatever you think about the term “Web2.0”, the point is that social networking and relationship-building are at the core of today’s most exciting web innovations. The Chinese happen to be the most natural and skilled social networkers on earth.
Individual empowerment with Chinese characteristics.
A key theme of the whole conference was how the semantic web empowers and amplifies individual voices. On Sunday afternoon, Blogger “zuola” described how his blog is his personal platform for his own ideas. Blogging, he believes, helps us understand our lives better. Chen Xuer, one of the bloggers who volunteered to work on the conference, said he started blogging and reading blogs because he wanted “to hear the truth and speak the truth.” Sound familiar?
Web 2.0, just like Web 1.0, is not going to spark a democratic revolution in Chinese politics any time soon.
People here find it annoying that the Western media keeps framing the Chinese internet story within the question of whether the internet will or won’t bring down the communist party. The real story is about the cultural and social implications of the semantic web as it continues to spread among China’s fast-growing pool of internet users. In the very long run, cultural and social change may have political implications, but to people here any attempt to speculate on that is counter-productive.
So yes, I was curious how it went. Did I read Micah’s whole account? Yes. Do I wish I had gone? No. (I had to beat Shadow of the Colossus over the weekend! Man, that is a truly awesome, ground-breaking game.)
I think we can expect another account of the Bloggercon from a different angle out of Chinawhite very soon.
This is a pretty crazy week for me; I may take a short break from blogging. After that, I’ll be tackling some subjects/projects on Sinosplice that I’ve been postponing for a while…
A while back I decided to try an experiment. I said that I would begin posting one entry every morning (China time), Monday through Friday. And I’ve been doing that, for over 14 weeks now. So how do I feel about it?
Well, it wasn’t that hard. My inspiration (or desire to write uninspired posts, as the case may be) comes in spurts, and during those times it’s pretty convenient to write up a bunch of posts and schedule them for the next week or so. I like that.
The problem is that for the past two weeks or so I’ve been really busy. So when I thought of something I wanted to write about, I would think of a title, make a note or two, and save it as a draft. Then I would still end up writing the actual full entry the night before, in most cases. Sometimes that can be pretty inconvenient.
But what’s the point anyway? I don’t think it improved my readership or my content. It improved the quantity of my content, maybe. But big deal.
So I’m going to stop with the clockwork posting. I’ll probably post just as often, on average, but my rests won’t always be on weekends. And my new entries won’t always appear sometime from 7am to 10am Shanghai time.
Why blame it on John B? He was the one who mentioned he liked my weblog (to at least appear) more spontaneous. I think I agree now.
I don’t read a lot of blogs these days, and the topics I write on tend to come from my own experiences rather than the internet. Here’s one blog entry on Harvard’s Global Voices Online that I have to point out, though (via Peking Duck):
I’ve been having a lot of trouble accessing Flickr from Shanghai this past week, and it was going on even before I made my trip to the U.S. on July 3rd. This is especially annoying because I had started to use Flickr to host the images I use in my blog, and I was planning to move all my photo albums onto Flickr too. I already upgraded to a pro acount on Flickr and everything. ::sigh::
I wish the major web powers would be more vigilant about monitoring their sites’ accessibility in China. Yahoo owns Flickr, and Yahoo is supposedly buddy-buddy with the Chinese government. You’d think they would have the weight to keep their sites from being slowed to a crawl in China.
I’d love to hear how Flickr is loading in other parts of China.
I’ve been writing this blog for over three years. It has become my hobby of choice. A lot of bloggers burn out or get bored, but I find it easier than ever. Most days, there are about ten potential entries I could write if I felt like it. Granted, a lot of those entries would be “filler” entries. The other type of entry, which I like to think of as the “quality” entry, requires inspiration and more time to write. I haven’t written a good “quality” entry for a while, but there will be more. (This is another “filler” entry.)
The point of this post is to announce that, starting today, I’m following a blogging schedule. There will be a new entry every weekday morning. This is pretty easy to do, because I’ll have the entries written ahead of time and scheduled in WordPress to be posted at a certain time. I haven’t decided what exact time is best to post, but I’m starting with 7am (China time).
There was a time when I would have thought that a “blogging schedule” was ridiculous. However, I no longer feel there will be any problems thinking of topics, I still like writing, and writing entries to be posted at a later date helps me manage my time better. While I was visiting home, I loved being able to neglect my blog for a whole week while new posts continued to appear every day. It’s a better way to blog.
So that’s the news. Sinosplice Weblog: Monday through Friday, one new entry a day.
Personally, I think “favicon” is a really stupid name, but that’s what Microsoft came up with. A favicon is a tiny little icon (.ICO file) which goes on your bookmark (favorites) list in your browser when you bookmark a website. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Yahoo has one. Google has one. Most major sites have one. This site even has one. If a site doesn’t have one, IE users will just see .
Several people have asked me how I made mine, so I thought I’d give a little description of the process. There’s actually plenty of documentation on the web about it, but if you don’t know the name “favicon,” it can be kind of hard to find.
First, a .ICO file is not just an ordinary image file in a tiny size. It’s a special format, and the only one that can be used for the purpose of creating a favicon for your website. Second, the favicon must be 16×16 pixels big and be in 16 color mode. All the instructions you need can be found on this site, as well as links to the one small program you’ll need. There are many ways to make an .ICO file, but I think the IrfanView image viewer (also linked to on the above page) is the easiest way to go about it, and I’ve done it several different ways before.
2. Choose or create the image file you want to be your favicon. The more exacting favicon creators will probably want to start big in Photoshop, then shrink the file down to 16×16 pixel size. Make the appropriate modifications if you don’t like how it looks tiny, then save it as a .BMP file. (I do not recommend creating the icon file from scratch pixel be pixel. You will get very choppy-looking results.)
3. Open the image file in IrfanView, and then save it as a .ICO file. Remember, it must be 16×16 pixels, and only 16 colors.
4. Upload the favicon.ICO file into your website’s root directory.* That should do it!**
* If you don’t have your own .COM, you can still have a favicon for your site. Refer to the page above for detailed instructions.
** If you had a different favicon before, or have already bookmarked your site before, you will have to follow the steps explained on the page referenced above in order to see the favicon. Unfortunately, your readers will as well. New readers will see the favicon as soon as they bookmark your page.
It’s actually simpler than it sounds, but you see very few favicons on personal sites. I’m thinking bloggers just don’t realize how simple it is, but if they did, we’d see a lot more favicons out there. I’m hoping, anyway.