Recently Andrea invited me to Douban. I had never heard of it, but I checked it out. My first impression was negative. Although it’s not a photo sharing service, the site’s design and “Web2.0” social networking structure was completely ripped off of Flickr. But I explored a little.
I found that I really liked Douban! The site allows you to share what books you are currently reading, what books you have read, and what books you’d like to read. Obviously, the real value is in the “sharing” aspect of it. It’s great to see what books your friends are reading. It’s also great to see that one of the books you want to read is currently being read by one of your friends also in Shanghai (that’s you, Phil!). It does all this with attractive book cover images and the same navigation that Flickr has made comfortable.
Douban also does the same thing for music albums. This is cool too, although I’m way more impressed by Last.fm for my music Web2.0 social networking needs.
Douban was originally launched in Chinese (called 豆瓣), and has been so successful that it just launched this Beta English version. The Chinese version allows users to share movies in addition to books and music.
I think one of the things that impresses me most about Douban is that it started out as a Chinese service, and then it branched out to embrace an English-speaking audience. I’m not totally up on all the new Chinese websites (I would have known about Douban long ago if I were), but I’m of the opinion that this is rather rare. What you see much more often is something akin to what happened with Flickr. Flickr came up with a great new service. Some Chinese users embraced it, but before it could really catch on in China, a handful of Chinese companies copied and translated Flickr as best they could and released it to China. Most Chinese surfers would then go with the Chinese copy. Either they don’t know about the original, don’t care, or don’t want to bother with English. All understandable.
I think that the resulting division of the community is a real shame. If all the social digital photographers in China were using Flickr instead of whatever second rate Flickr clone they’re using, it could be a huge boon to the community. Furthermore, I think the Chinese users would really feel a difference, using the service of the original innovator instead of a poor imitation.
Even though Douban is not especially innovative (none of the ingredients of the site are new), the execution is good, and I like the effort of bridging to English. There’s even talk of merging the two systems, I hear. Not sure how that would work.
It makes me wonder, though… what can an innovative new service like Flickr do to avoid losing their potential Chinese audience to second rate imitators? The only solution I can think of is to release a Chinese language version of the site as early as possible (and make sure that the servers are fast in China too).
Read more about Douban on the great new blog China Web2.0 Review. (If you hadn’t heard about it elsewhere, you would have known about this blog a few days ago if you follow the new CBL additions.) China Web2.0 Review is part of the same network that does blog中文翻译.
Ever since Flickr moved its data to servers in the US, I’ve been complaining both online and offline about how maddeningly slow Flickr pages load in China. This weekend, though, Flickr suddenly started loading normally again. Afraid that it wouldn’t last, I immediately did something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while: I moved all my old photo albums onto Flickr. Each photo album became a “set” on Flickr. (You only get unlimited sets if you’ve paid for Flickr Pro.)
The reasons I moved to Flickr:
1. Convenience. Putting photos online and creating albums is so easy, with the automatic resizing and everything…
2. Bandwidth. My photo albums get hit quite a bit, thanks to Google Images and other online photo indexing engines. Once I remove those albums from my own webspace, I’ll be using a lot less bandwidth serving photos, which means I free up more bandwidth for other things.
3. Mobility. If I ever have to move to a new server again, I won’t have to move my photo albums. Without the photo albums, my site takes up a lot less disk space, which means a simpler move.
The downside is that I will now be paranoid that Flickr will get blocked by China, and then a huge proportion of the images on my site will no longer display for visitors in China. I’m really banking on Yahoo (owner of Flickr) keeping a good relationship with China and keeping its services unblocked in China.
Anyway, check out the new Sinosplice Photo page (also accessible via that handy menu at the top of this page). Only the album index is hosted onsite; the albums themselves are on Flickr.
The photo page has been redesigned in keeping with the more uniform look I’m trying to give the site. You’ll notice I’ve also done the same with the About page and the Language section. More to follow, all in accordance with the master plan…
I’ve been using this blog layout for some time now, and it’s comfortable. I’ve gotten some complaints about the green, but for the most part I ignore them. It’s true that this color doesn’t look good on some people’s monitors, but it looks good on my monitor, and I like it. However, the reasons to change my layout are starting to pile up, so I finally did a redesign, keeping the elements of this design that I like. The new design will go into effect next week.
Warning: what follows is an extended discussion of the current layout which you are likely to find extremely boring. I’m recording this to keep a record of my own thoughts about my layout more than anything else. If you’re too cool for or have no interest in such a geeky topic, then by all means, stop reading now.
1. A child dancing around a supermarket parking lot, overjoyed to be deemed worthy of photography.
2. I think I ruined all the fun of that ride for the kid. (Sorry, kid!)
3. The ZUCC gang never shies away from street food.
4. Have a closer look at that menu. Yes, that’s right: 5 sticks of meat for 1 RMB! What’s that, you say? You’re hungry for bull testicles too? Will that be large (10 RMB), or small (5 RMB)? If you’re low on funds, we recommend the bull penis itself (1 RMB).
5. Oh, so that’s why the meat on a stick is so cheap… it’s tiny!
6. Baijiu prices at 东方饺子王 (the number with the degree sign next to it is the percentage of alcohol).
7. This car has seen better days.
8. Where’d the gang go?
9. Four dead fish, their origin a mystery.
10. The Chinese love them some watermelon.
The connection problems I reported having with Flickr a while back are all but gone now. Flickr is still not as fast as it was when the server was still in Canada, but at least it actually works without a proxy now.
The typhoon passed through Shanghai over a week ago, leaving behind lots of water and more than a few toppled trees. Fortunately, it also left a few of us with some great photographs. Check out Shanghai Sky‘s typhoon set on Flickr: Train Station. (Hey, better late than never, right??)
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.
Browsing Flickr’s Shanghai-related photos, I came across A Taste of Shanghai, a “food photo diary” by user yusheng. The intro states:
> Let me just say, right off the bat, that aside from maybe Beijing and possibly the Pearl River Delta region, Shanghai has, by a wide margin, the best food in China. Of course, the rest of China’s food is barely edible (IMO, obviously), so it’s not that difficult be the best.
> That said, Shanghai’s Chinese food is still far, far behind HK and Taipei. And Western cuisine? Let’s just say Shanghai isn’t even good enough to hold New York’s jock strap when it comes to Western cuisine. Of course, to be fair, New York’s Chinese food stinks to high heaven as well (with a few exceptions, of course).
> On the plus side, if you know where to look, you can find incredibly cheap (and I mean incredible) good eats.
Whether or not you agree with the guy’s opinions, the point is the pictures of the food. Note that each picture has its own detailed description which you can read if you click on the thumbnail.
I am just starting to get into Flickr. I’m a little slow to jump on that bandwagon, yes, I know. I’ve discovered that I’m too lazy to bother designing photo albums anymore, and somehow even something like Gallery doesn’t seem that appealing. I’m still exploring Flickr, but I may end up using it in the feature.
Frank Yu is responsible, in part, for what this site has become. It was because of Frank Yu that I first discovered in 2002 that there were other people blogging about China too (gasp!). Shortly thereafter I started the China Blog List (which seems to be blocked now; working on it!).
Anyway, I’m glad to see that Frank is alive and well in Beijing and snapping away…