September 26, 2006
Strength in numbers

The SCMP reveals that more than one in four Hong Kongers blog...

Two million bloggers in Hong Kong will be able to use copyrighted creative content legally and free on their personal blog or webpage when an online content database is launched by the creative industry later this year.
That count includes George Adams. It pays to at least try and think about these things before putting finger to keyboard.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:16
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November 30, 2005
The economics of blogging

As part of Mariginal Revolution's pledge drive, Alex Tabarrok explains why you should make donations to bloggers:

MR is never going to be a paying venture but donations help us to cover our costs. More importantly, donations help to solve a serious economic problem. Efficiency says that goods with zero marginal cost should have a zero price but without prices not only is the incentive to produce diminished but so is information about what to produce. (See Coase's 1946 classic, The Marginal Cost Controversy, JSTOR). Donations allow prices to be set at MC while at the same time providing a (noisy) signal about where true economic value lies. In particular, Tyler and I know that we can appropriate more of our marginal product from professional work than we can from blogging yet it is conceivable that our marginal product is higher in blogging. Thus, to decide how much to invest in this venture we markup donations to get an estimate of our social value and we put positive weight on social welfare in our utility function.
If that's gone over your head, it translates as "give money to bloggers". Perhaps this inspires you and you've got left over change after donating to MR? My Amazon wish list is ever-growing and there's only 17 shopping days to Christmas*.

* It should be noted the idea of "shopping days to Christmas" is completely irrelevant in the online world. Also, don't let my Jewishness put you off buying Christmas gifts for me. It's hard to be a Jew on Christmas.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:23
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» river belle links with: river belle

November 15, 2005
Collaborative blogging

Slowly but surely blogging is morphing: while plenty of solo sites exist, more and more sites are adopting a group blog model. ESWN is appealing for like minded people, Jim has been joined by Paul and Shank and Asymmetrical Information has taken on a third blogger to name three recent examples. For some time I've been fortunate to have Dave as a faithful contributor to these pages, not to mention the various contrubutions of guest bloggers during my breaks.

There are several factors that drive this trend. Firstly as sites evolve and develop followings, those readers rightly expect and demand output to keep them coming back. However bloggers have day jobs, families and lives outside of the cyberworld (believe it or not). Just as mainstream media products are the collective efforts of many contributors, some blogs will imitate their erstwhile rivals. Spreading the blogging load allows sites to evolve into a more continuous stream of output and hopefully thus (hopefully) make them more useful and so draw more visitors.

To that end I have a question and a request. The question is simple: would you like to see this site evolve in such a way, with a roster of 3 or 4 regular contributors? A diversity of views around this blog's major themes of China and Asia (with occassional diversions and tangents) can only be, in my opinion, a good thing. But I owe it to you, the reader, a chance to comment. The alternative is to carry on as now, while acknowledging there will be times where output may drop to zero for stretches of time.

The request is also a simple one. Would you be interested in joining the SW team? The requirements are simple: be able to type coherently in English, have an interest and opinion on the themes of this blog and be able to make regular contributions. If you've never blogged before, you need not worry - the software is simple enough for even me to use. If you already have a blog, I would ask that if you make the committment to becoming a contributor that you take that committment seriously. I am not looking for cross-posters. For example Dave posts daily on his site, with its different theme of Hong Kong and Asian history, while making regular posts on this site of more contemporary nature. If I am going to give you the keys to this car I need to feel confident that you will drive it responsibly, and that you will drive it regularly! The rewards are a regular and diverse readership, vibrant comments and a chance to make your voice heard as part of the democraticisation (or atomisation) of opinion.

If you are interested, have a comment on moving to a group blog or other feedback, leave a comment or send an email to simon-[at]-simonworld-[dot]-mu-[dot]-nu

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:03
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October 31, 2005
Top 10 China blogs and firewall trick

As part of the China Blog List project, John asked me to list my top 10 China blogs. It wasn't easy narrowing it down to ten, but 10 I did. Check out the list at China Blog List's Recommended page, and then come back here to tell me why I'm wrong and what I left out.

On a related note, I got the following email today:

Chinese users of the latest version of the popular Firefox [1] extension CustomizeGoogle [2] are happy. A new feature [3] modifies the Google Cache urls so that they are no longer blocked by the Chinese firewall.


I've no idea if this works, but if any China users try it let me know.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:13
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» poker casino148 links with: poker casino148

October 28, 2005

Tim Worstall has put together the Wikablog. I'll let them describe the idea:

Here at Wikablog, you can, in just a couple of minutes, create a page about your blog or someone else's with a few words saying what it's about. Then other people can add to it. And you can add links to other similar blogs, and talk about the blog's history, and recount the tale of the great Himalayan Blog Controversy of 2002, and whatever else you like. Soon enough, any blog can have a detailed page on here, telling us all everything we could ever need to know about it short of bothering to read it. If you still can't imagine how valuable this service is, slap yourself.
It's a great idea and has the potential to bring order to the chaos that is the blogosphere. I've already setup a page for Simon World, which you are free to go and add to and edit. Just like the China Blog List, these directories and Wikis benefit bloggers and readers immensely. Singaporean Cowboy Caleb has a much edited and soon to be deleted Wikipedia page. Now you can set up a page on a Wiki solely dedicated to blogs. And you needn't be the blogger. Readers can setup pages on their favourite (or most disliked, I suppose) blogs.

Go check out Wikablog and edit or start a page today. (OK Tim, where's my cheque?)

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:22
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October 24, 2005
China Blog List

The new and improved China Blog List has been launched. John from Sinosplice explains the new features and improvements of this essential tool for English language Chinese blogging.

It's your one-stop China blogging shop. Go check it out.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:36
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October 14, 2005
Cyber-Journalist Handbook

Alecks Pabico at INSIDE PCIJ announced a one-day conference on October 22 in Manila for mainstream journalists and bloggers. Pabico has a link to Reporters Without Border's Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents (.pdf file). RWB's Handbook covers the basics, Dan Gillmor's Ethics, testimonials, and ways to circumvent censorship.

As I've said before, I'm sceptical of the blogosphere's claims to perform journalism. "Cyber-Journalist" sounds less Stalinist than "Citizen-Journalist", but then both sound like something Wiley Coyote would say. Perhaps blogging reminds me too much of three old ladies playing bridge. Or, that I knew the most about anything when I had a security clearance, and I'm glad not to have it anymore. There's just no joy in knowing everything. I just like to see everyone talking, not just the suits.

Cross-Posted at Barbarian Envoy

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[boomerang] Posted by Infidel at 16:05
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August 19, 2005
Everything you wanted to know about blogging but were afraid to ask

Or what they don't teach you at Havard Blogging School

There are plenty of good guides to blogging and I was going to add my $0.02 to the pile. It's the thing to do once your blog reaches a certain age, and I figure turning one turning two is about the right time. However I'm going to break with blogosphere tradition of jumping on the bandwagon and instead present a collection of various appropriate links at the end of this post. What I am going to share with you is all the things they don't tell you about in blogging school.

1. If you want to start blogging and have huge amounts of traffic instantly I can recommend one of three things: be an established journalist/opinion maker; be Glenn Reynold's brother; or porn. Otherwise face facts: you've got an awfully big hill to climb.

2. Never get your brother to guest blog for you. Trust me.

3. Before you start, read other blogs and get a feel for what they are like. Then completely forget everything you've read and seen so you can establish a new and distinct voice that will get noticed. This also helps a common problem: a really sucky first post. Trust me.

4. Prepare for the reality that the rest of the world may not share your high opinion of yourself and your site.

5. You know that movie where the guy built a baseball field and waited for some dead folks to turn up and play ball? Blogging's like that. Prepare to slog at putting up brilliantly crafted, accurate and to-the-point insights that will proceed to make no difference to anything at all.

6. Blogs live for two things: readers and links (not in order). There is no blogger alive who does not religiously follow Trackbacks - if you don't have trackbacks (that's especially for you Blogger folks) then use Kevin's manual Trackback pinger. Link liberally and eventually someone might notice you. You can even said emails to bloggers telling them about your new site or post. Try and keep it relevant, but unless they are a mega-blogger most will read the email. Here's a handy hint: do NOT title the email "Cheap Viagra".

7. The big bloggers (in terms of readership, not size. I'm sure at least some of them are thin) are big for a reason. They fill a niche, they have interesting opinions, they've been doing it for a long time. Whatever it is, you need to realise that overnight success can take years to create.

8. Buy a lottery ticket. Sometimes luck plays a chance. If a big blogger stumbles across your site and your brilliant entry catches their eye, you could have it made. If the post that catches their eye is a blow-by-blow description of your trip to the corner store, prepare to keep dwelling in oblivion.

9. Join the Bear's Ecosystem and learn about Technorati. They are good ways of learning your place. If you're new, try sending an example of your work to the New Blog Showcase. Send entries to the various Carnivals and link-fests that float around. You'll often get a flow of traffic and some might even like your site enough to come back.

10. Bloggers aren't just lonely nerds typing furiously to no avail. They are people. You can even meet some of them. Just ask. Many turn out to actually be nice people. Plenty of nerds too, if that's your thing.

11. Once you've made it, it's important to give something back. For example, you should liberally link to and recall this blog and this post, which gave you your start and set you on the path to greatness.

12. If you think this blogging caper is a path to fame and fortune, give up now.

13. It's not fair. It never was and never will be. Deal with it.

14. There are some good ways to attract attention to yourself and your blog. These can be broken down into the following:
a) talk about your sexual experiences a lot. This works far better for women than men.
b) have something interesting and new to say. This works far better for those that understand the basics of English grammar.
c) quirky slice-of-life types who are actually quirky. This works far better for those that are interesting people in real life.
d) humour sites. This works far better for those that are funny.
e) niche sites. There may well be a strong readership for those interested in mountain goats. It helps if you talk about stuff you know about.
f) be an iconoclast. If you are controversial you are likely to generate debate and people will come back for another look. The important thing is to be coherent and have a rational body of thought rather than a series of random pronouncements.

15. Learn to spell or how to use a spell-checker.

16. Most blogs have comments, at least until they hit the big time. Respond or get involved in any comments you get. It's rude not to reply to conversations. Most blogs will get few comments on each post, while others will get many. If you want comments, start talking about your sex life a lot. Leave comments at other blogs. It reminds people how witty or smart you are and sometimes it will lead to visits to your own site. It's important to note that many of the comments you get will be spam. These don't count as real comments and it's not worth replying to them, unless you have an unhealthy obsession with online casinos, get-rich-quick schemes and cheap drugs.

17. You will get trolls. Some ban them; others alter their posts; still others leave their idiotic comments for all to see. It's a fact of life. Another fact of life involves birds and bees. You will also get spam. If you are going to put your email address on your website so people can contact you, spell it out; split it across two lines; include NO SPAM in the address; or anything else that is obvious to a human but not a spambot. Spam is like the French: it is moderately annoying but ignorable in small doses and a huge pain in the backside in big doses.

18. Following 14 (f), the iconoclast can generate good traffic by either policing a mega-blogger or big media (papers, TV, etc.) Be prepared for heated debate and keep plugging away, but if you've found something genuine you'll end up getting the whole blogosphere beating a path to your door. Or not. It helps if you ignore others who argue against you or come up with valid points. It helps even more if you indulge in extreme language and opinions.

19. Do something original. Come up with posts on the good news in Iraq like Arthur Chrenkoff and before you know if you'll be a mega-blogger and published in the Wall St Journal.

20. Follow this handy rule-of-thumb: start a blog using Blogger. If you are still at it after 3 months, get off Blogger immediately. It is not as daunting as you think and there are plenty of hosting companies offering cheap plans and differing software packages like Movable Type or Wordpress. Make the move.

21. The golden rule of computing always applies: back-up. If you are drafting a post, do it in Notepad or in an email that can get saved as a draft. Cut and paste it at the end into your blogging software. Sometimes the software crashes and takes your valuable post with it, and trust me, you won't feel like writing it again. This also lets you do something essential: proof-read. Consider a post like an email: if it's trivial a quick skim might be OK, but if it's a manifesto on all that's wrong with the world you'll want to take care with it. If the world's going to ignore you, you may as well it's ignoring something that makes sense.

22. The great thing about blogging is plagiarising is encouraged. That's why so many academics blog. The only trick is plagiarising needs to be accompanied by links back to the original...because links are the lifeblood of a blogger. So go ahead and steal.

23. Learn blogging etiquette. Blogging is like golf: you can cheat but you need to be polite about it.

24. If you're thinking of blogging from work, read this first.

25. It's your site so you can do whatever the hell you like.

26. Like all esoteric fields, blogging has plenty of terminology. I've used a lot of it here in this post. Trackbacks, pings, permalinks, blogrolls: know what they mean and how they work. Alternatively enjoy having your Mum being your only daily reader.

27. Time in the blogosphere is frighteningly fast. By the time you link something, it has already been done. There's nothing you can say that hasn't already been said, probably better and funnier too. The one time you do hit across a link or idea that hasn't been linked elsewhere, someone else will find it and get all the kudos. It's not fair. Deal with it.

28. The one time you put up a joke post or idea, it will immediately get massive attention and be taken seriously by far too many people. This is called the Overblog phenomena. One blogger's joke is another's insult.

29. Forget what your schoolteachers told you. Form matters more than substance. If your blog is a hideous pink colour the best content in the world won't get people coming back. Invest effort in your design, or get a pro to do it for you. People respond a lot better to good designs. The key is simple: if you think you right good stuff, keep the design simple. If you write cr@p, then use as many distractions as you can.

30. Just like in life, extremism beats moderation and emotion beats logic. If you want reasoned discourse prepare to dwell in oblivion. If you want invective and ill-considered responses, watch the hits come in.

31. A good way to publicise your blog is tell people about it. A good rule here is to ask yourself if you'd be embarrassed if that person could read what you write. If not, tell them about it. Just once, though. No need to turn into a stalker.

32. Many bloggers adopt an alias or nom de plume. There are many reasons why this can be a good or bad decision. Just try and choose a good alias. The blogosphere already has several Tom Paines. As far as I know it doesn't yet have a King Kong.

33. You will visit your own site a lot. Sitting in front of it constantly hitting the refresh key does not count as genuine hits on your site.

34. Checking your sitemeter every hour will not increase the number of visitors to your site.

35. Learn to insult creatively.

36. Logic and reason are for the weak. Knee-jerk and off-the-cuff reactions are for the blogger.

37. Blogs are the perfect diversion. They send you on more tangents than a calculus class. Just remember that when reading blogs time seems to go much faster than normal.

38. There is no great diversion than your own blog. You will spend hours getting the coding right, the format right, the content right, fixing links, trying to get readers, reading other blogs. You don't get paid for it. In fact blogging is the one game where the more successful you are the more it costs you (e.g. in bandwidth charges). It really is a sucker's game.

39. Blog is an ugly word but we're stuck with it.

40. If you crave hits then try this simple technique: think about important upcoming or potential events, and write a blog entry with an appropriate title. That way the search engines like Google will give your entry prominent billing when people start searching for that information. For example: if you title a post "John Kerry's love child", should it turn out he has one (and I'm not saying he does, it's just an example) then Google will deliver you more hits than a crack addict in a crack-house.

41. Just like real writing, sometimes bloggers are hit with blog block. There are three ways to deal with this. Firstly, talk about your blog block. Everyone else has, you may as well tell everyone why your creativity sucks so badly too. Secondly, just post nothing. Sure you'll lose the 3 readers you had, but it's best not to make them sick by posting crap. Thirdly, fight your way through it by posting crap. This could involve recycling old stuff you wrote in a desperate "best of" kind of thing or just keep linking to others until you get inspired again and can write stuff on your own.

42. The stupidest, most off-the-cuff posts tend to get the most comments.

43. A good way to get people to visit your site is to visit theirs. Blog owners check their referrer logs religiously and when they see a new URL in the logs, they go check it.

44. You will encounter plenty of ignorance in this blogging caper. Much of it will come from other blogs. However even more of it will come from your friends and family. Blogging is like renovating: you find it endlessly fascinating, but no-one else gives a sh!t. They are unlikely to have even heard of blogs. It is your job to talk their ears off about it. Bamboozle them, tell them how great it is, print business cards with the URL on it. They all think your mad already.

45. Once you've started a blog, encourage others to do the same. The purpose is two-fold: it will get you links from these newly established blogs AND if you're going to be rabbiting on about blogging to all and sundry, you may as well have other people to talk to once your friends and family disown you.

46. You need to face reality: p0rn works. If it's a meteoric rise you're after, starting including images and/or stories about that age-old vote winner: sex. It helps if you have a new angle (so to speak), for example sex and politics (the Wonkette/Washingtonienne route).

47. A good way to get traffic and links is to have a major life event such as a birth or marriage. Of course this will mean you get traffic just when you ease off posting because real life has intervened. That's the thing about blogging - it's got a solid sense of irony.

48. If you're looking for material, a nice long list doesn't hurt. Especially if you include lots of gratuitous links to others. Many people do "101 things about me" lists and provide a link to them. The toughest part about this is most people don't have even 11 interesting things to say about themselves, let alone 101.

49. So sometimes list need padding to make it to a nice round number.

50. Ignore all the conflicting advice you get, including this.

Now go and enjoy, because if you're not enjoying it then why the hell are you going to bother?

Listed here is a selection of some of the better hints and tips on blogging from around the blogosphere. If there's one thing bloggers like to talk about it's themselves, so this is by no means a comprehensive list. But like many things in the blogosphere the same points tend to get repeated ad naseum so this should cover most of the basics:

  • Jim's golden Rules of Blogging

  • Dean talks about both Blogging Etiquette and Blogging Tips. He also has an interesting way of thinking about blogrolls and traffic (both your own and others).

  • Kate on blogging and with more here.

  • John Hawkins has 11 tips for newcomers here, 3 cardinal sins here, how to create a blog and how to promote it. It's all good advice from an experienced blogger and webmaster.

  • Daniel Drezner's tips, more here, here and even more advice.

  • For a more humorous look, try Paul's Blogging 101, 102, 103, and 104. There's more than a little truth in each of these.

  • The Commissar's entire Blogging Category is a treasure chest of gems, for example his unified theory of blogging.

  • Living Room's How to blog is worthwhile.

  • Harvey has good tips for getting traffic plus his 12 step blogging program and Kevin talks about how to get an Instalanche (with Glenn's response here). Laurence explains how not to be seen.

  • Bill, who has the lessons he learnt the hard way, also explains how and how not to go about getting links via comments.

  • Keith Robinson's guide to good blogging is short and accurate.

  • A List Apart's writing guide is essential. If you're really keen read the Economist Style Guide - it has the added benefit of improving all your writing, not just blogging.

  • Gaping Void has a guide on how to be creative, although I'm not sure it's something you can teach.

  • If it's some heavy thinking on blogging that you're after, try Dan Gilmour's book We the Media.

  • Rusty has the Seven Deadly Sins of Blogging.

  • You can even get an ISSN for your blog.

  • UPDATE: I will continue to add links here as I come across them that add to this bibliography.
  • Amy has a comprehensive Blogging Basics guide.

  • Somehow I missed Kate's fantastic look at Schizoblogophrenia.
  • Says Uncle has advice here about blogging on blogging, here on blogotics. This also pointed me to Silflay Hraka's take on blog fishing.

  • Via American Mind Rebecca Blood has tips via a Q&A format (she wrote the book, literally).
  • James Joyner has alternative way to create a popular blog.

  • John Hawkins also has the pros & cons and the running of a comments section.

  • Phil Windley also has some good tips on starting a blog (via McGee).

  • Stephen Taylor adds some useful extra tips to this list (although I recommend rereading my point 28 too). He also has posts on Blogging Etiquette, building traffic and the 5 technical things he wished he done before starting his blog.

  • Zombyboy offers the rules he follows in his blogging.

  • Technorati's Blogging Basics covers terminology, definitions and elementary blogging.

  • Ted has compiled a great guide for reading blogs on your PDA and he explains how anyone can create a PDA version of their blog.

  • Laurence neatly explains how to not get traffic.

  • Dave Pollard looks at overcoming the Power Law and the keys to becoming a break-out blog. He also has 5 tips for improving your blog and another 5 to draw traffic. You can check his Table of Contents for a complete list of postings on blogging.

  • Evangelical Outpost has a great series on How to Start a Blog, the building blocks, how to become an A-List blogger and how to market your blog. Basically everything I've said here: not as funny but far more accurate.

  • Three pointers for those aiming to be a blogging rock-star.
  • Iowahawk has the product and guide on how to blog good.

  • Cowboy Caleb discusses how to build an audience for your blog.

  • 31 days to building a better blog.

  • NOTE: due to comment spam comments are closed. If you have something to say, please email to simon-at-simonworld-dot-mu-dot-nu Comment spam is the bane of a blogger's life.

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    [boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:22
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    July 01, 2005
    Who said there's no money in blogging?

    Some of the bigger names in blogging have been able to turn the venture into a money spinner or full-time job: Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, Jason Kottke to name a few. But that's nothing compared to BlogChina. From the SCMP:

    The company that launched China's leading blog portal plans to list on the technology stock-heavy Nasdaq exchange by the second half of next year and hopes to achieve a market capitalisation of more than US$1 billion, company officials said yesterday.

    ...the dominant mainland weblog portal [had] more than two million bloggers as at the end of May. With business expanding rapidly, [BlogChina founder Fang Xingdong] expected this number to reach 10 million by the end of this year.

    BlogChina, established in June last year, has gone from just one employee to 210 staff. "We are adding 50 employees a month at the moment," Mr Fang said. The company was started with US$500 million [Ed. - I assume that's a least I hope it is!] in seed capital from Softbank Asia Infrastructure Fund and will receive a second round of funding of US$10 million this month from a group of six venture capital firms based in China and the United States.

    Revenues have grown from about 400,000 yuan a month to more than two million yuan last month. boasts a list of high-profile advertisers such as Dell, HP and IBM. Advertising and wireless charges form its primary revenue streams. The company is introducing a pilot virtual payment system this month in which bloggers can charge for their content and pay a share of their earnings to BlogChina.

    China leading the world, again. Although can a company turning over 2 million yuan (about US$240,000) a month really be worth US$1 billion? There's one founder and a bunch of venture capitalists hoping so.

    Eat your heart out, Western capitalist bloggers.

    Other reading

    China Stock blog has excerpts of an interview with Fang Xingdong.
    Kevin Wen on the business of
    Social branding on BlogChina.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:30
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    » keso links with: 昨日新闻 - 盗版10å¹´

    May 12, 2005
    Fighting Poker Comment Spam

    This post has little to do with Asia, but a lot to do with blogs. I apologize for this diversion from your normal blog reading. If you own or manage a blog, this post may be important for you.

    Above the fold, a list of hyperlinks

    Read more to find out why

    This morning I was responding to a post on a South Dakota, USA blog, when I saw my comment didn't turn up right away.

    The blog's owner later emailed me. He said that posts with hyperlinks have to be approved by hand, because of all the comment spam from poker sites -- more than a hundred a day! Unethical businessmen make comments on blogs that are nothing more than ads for their online casinos.

    One reason the casinos do this it to increase their position in search engines. Most people click on the #1 search engine link, so being the top spot in Google or Yahoo for gambling searches can add up to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in revenue. Plus many of these sites will also try to install spyware, causing millions in lost productivity and computer repairs.

    So far webmasters have been defensive -- creating "blacklists" that ban certain posters and approving some comments by hand. It is time for bloggers to be aggressive.

    My solution is to link to reputable results for these searches on my blog. I chose to hyperlink to articles on Wikipedia, which is a community-based encyclopedia. But you can also reference Encarta, the Encylopaedia Britannica, New York Times articles on the subject -- anything!

    Thus the hyperlinks.

    We can win this. You can help.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Dan tdaxp at 23:31
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    May 02, 2005
    A-Bian Gets Trapped

    A guest post by Kelvin, because Simon hasn't stopped the party yet. :P

    The Communist Party of China is an incredible entity: one moment it'd look like a bumbling buffoon, the next moment it's whipping the butt of its political opposition. Of course, the people of Hong Kong already well know how good the CCP is at making its opponents look like jerks. Now the folks in Taiwan get a glimpse of the CCP's dexterity. Consider, for example, how A-Bian and the DPP gets totally creamed by the CCP and KMT on the issue of the mainland's guided missiles:

    Step one: the DPP tells Lien Chan that he's not allowed to do anything serious.

    In the press release from the President's Office, President Chen Shui-bian wishes Lien Chan a successful trip, and reminds Lien does not have authorization from the government, and cannot legally sign any agreement with the mainland related to national sovereignty or government authorities. Chen also anticipates meeting with Lien after his return to Taiwan.

    Step two: the DPP admonishes Lien for, um, not doing anything serious.

    Hu Jintao and Lien Chan agreed to work toward resuming talks, avoiding a military confrontation, and strengthening trade and investment relations. But Joseph Wu [Minister for the Mainland Affairs Council] points out that these are empty promises, and says that Lien's visit can be said to be the “five nots”: not making mainland China recognize the truth in the existence of the “Republic of China,” not making mainland China correctly understand the value of democracy and freedom in Taiwan, not making mainland China reduce its belligerence toward Taiwan and lowering its missile threat, not giving Taiwan the freedom to participate internationally with dignity, and not making mainland China correctly understand the extreme displeasure of the people of Taiwan against the Anti-Secession Law and non-peaceful methods.

    Step three: the CCP releases the trap, pointing out its own generosity and that the KMT was handicapped from seizing the deal of the century.

    Media in Taiwan are reporting that during Lien Chan's meeting with Hu Jintao, the issue of a cross-strait “peace agreement” came up. Hu actively proposed that if both sides returned to the foundations of the “Understanding of 1992,” eliminate belligerence, and both sides sign a peace agreement, then the mainland “can naturally remove the missiles.” The KMT side, however, understanding that they do not have government authorization, did not approach or reply to the offer.

    End result:

    • CCP: look great by showing magnanimity, especially after the Anti-Secession Law.

    • KMT: look great by showing willingness to work with others, gain brownie points by being able to claim that the DPP are getting in the way of progress.

    • DPP: look bad by seeming like obstructionist ideologues who wouldn't let partisan bickering go in favour of the people's well-being.

    EastSouthWestNorth has more on the impact of the CCP's new approach and how it's affecting Taiwanese politics.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Kelvin at 08:30
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    April 30, 2005
    Our Badge of Honour

    My fellow guest bloggers: put this on your website and gain notoriety! Or if you're really gung-ho, get it tattooed on your forehead!

    I guest blogged at Simon World and I didn't even get a crappy T-shirt.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Kelvin at 16:09
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    A Look Back at Anti-Japanese Protests

    Simon's itching to return and clamp down on our vibrant and sexually confident guest blogging movement (J/K), so before he gets here, I thought it'd be appropriate to bring a fascinating analysis of the whole anti-Japanese protest movement and the domestic political ramifications for the People's Republic:


    Ming Pao: Iam Chong is an assistant teaching fellow at the Department of Cultural studies at Lingnan University.

    Anti-Japanese protest demonstrations have returned to quiet, as authorities again use heavy language to discourage citizens from going onto the streets. Sporatic arrests have also begun in major cities throughout the country. Some say this is to avoid the upcoming May Fourth anniversary, as well as the sensitive months of May and June.

    When the demonstrations were red-hot, some people in Hong Kong were still discussing whether they were self-organized or planned by the authorities. It appears that such discussion is no longer necessary. From the perspective of the authorities, they first generously tolerated, and even assisted, the demonstrations, and then followed with social control. The political powers of the country no longer embarrassed themselves in front of the world's media, like in 1989, when their spectacular methods turned them into oppressors. Hu [Jintao] and Wen [Jiabao] today, as well as local governments, maintained a superficially open attitude, as well as the magnanimity of a great nation.

    In this series of protests, not only have the authorities grown smarter, but the public has changed as well, demonstrating a new political relationship: let me use an anecdote to elaborate.

    A friend in Beijing told me that there was a pop music awards ceremony at the Great Hall of the People. Singers from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the mainland gathered, as well as throngs of fans. A passionate group of fans near the Great Hall unfurled a banner toward the [Tiananmen] Square to support some singer. Some were even distributing pamphlets. Public security immediately confiscated the pamphlets and dispersed the fans, dampening spirits. Another group of “smarter” fans wearing identical uniforms unfurled a banner as well, but faced against the square and toward the Great Hall at a 45 degree angle. Public security did not intervene at all, and things ended happily.

    Many self-motivated individuals have worked with the authorities long enough to know their bottom line, and have a firm grasp on how to find the possibility, time and space for group activities. They also are self-restraint in the extent of their words. The authorities have also learned that the key to controlling society is to not casually show their ugly side and use violence to intimidate.

    Demonstrators threw bottles at Japanese restaurants and legations. Public security gently used dissuading words, and the crowds replied, “ we are not contesting the government!” Shanghai public security announced “walking advance paths” to direct the protesting crowds. As the tone of the authorities tightened, the Internet became quiet over the past few days. For example, anti-Japanese messages have disappeared from the front page of “Blog in China” for some time, probably the result of self-restraint and self-examination by the people.

    Will this year's May Fourth be like that of sixteen years ago? I am not optimistic that the people will rally forth: today's China can no longer be understood by the idea of two contesting elements of “society” and “the regime,” and the political powers no longer rely on “unitary systems” to directly control society. New power networks are developing in Chinese politics, and minor transgressions and resistance are swirling and struggling in these networks. Apparently passionate anti-Japanese protests appear to be only a minor test of the hidden and secure power networks, and cannot be said to be confrontation and subversion.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Kelvin at 16:00
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    The Tomorrow of Yesterday

    An interesting tidbit on contemporary Sino-Japanese history:

    Xu Dunxing, former Chinese ambassador to Japan, says that when then vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping went to Tokyo to attend the exchange of authorizations for the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship on 23 October 1978, he responded to a Japanese reporter's question as follows: “We call the ‘Senkaku Islands’ the Diaoyu Islands, and we have different names and different viewpoints on these islands,” “We believe that the wise course of action is for both countries' governments to avoid this problem. Putting it aside is not crucial, and there is no problem to wait for ten years,” “The next generation will be smarter than us, and will eventually find a mutually acceptable way to resolve this problem in the future.”

    In some ways, I agree with Deng that the future generations will be better at this, but that generation is at least eighteen years late.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Kelvin at 04:00
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    April 28, 2005
    Rule of Law or Lack Thereof

    In a move to advance the rule of law in mainland China, authorities are reforming jury trials (via Horses Mouth).

    BEIJING, (AFP) - Around 27,000 jurors will report for duty in China next week, state media said, as the country introduces jury trials in an attempt to reform a system widely criticised for its lack of independence.


    Under the current system, judges are the sole arbiters in court cases but they have been widely criticised by the public for lack of independence from the government and the Communist Party.

    The legal system is also riddled with corruption.

    While China already has jurors, they are largely hand-picked by a court or approved by court officials after they received recommendations from local authorities.

    Lack of jury trials is an issue that has historical causes: trial by judge has been the historical norm in China for millennia. A related legal phenomenon unique to China is the petition system. But while such a system has obviously served China sufficiently for millennia, it is apparent that they are not adequate in keeping up with social and technological changes in the past century. Attempts at legal reform are therefore at least a bit encouraging.

    On the other hand, in a move that probably preserves stability, but at the expense of the rule of law, the NPC Standing Committee has given its rubber stamp approval of the two-year interpretation of the HKSAR CE term length.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Kelvin at 01:25
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    April 26, 2005
    Shanghai Mob vs Japanese Car

    There's peaceful demonstration, and then there's the sick mob that terrorizes a Chinese woman for driving a Japanese car. Stuff like this makes me ashamed of my compatriots.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Kelvin at 14:42
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    Lien's Historic Visit

    Before the whole China-Japan textbook controversy, the biggest news in China was the Anti-Secession Law and the subsequent KMT visit to the mainland. Today marks the next chapter in that story, as KMT chairman Lien Chan flies across the Strait and returns to a mainland China that he had not been in for over fifty years. As I've blogged about before, the last visit was quite the PR success for the Kuomintang, and even A-Bian has been forced to go along with it.

    Personal spam: please visit my website at, if you're not offended by my shameless self-promotion.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Kelvin at 11:10
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    Protests at Nanjing Thwarted

    Protester at Nanjing, 22 April 2005.  © Reuters/Toru Hanai

    Because so many people seem to be complaining that the last batch of protesting Shanghai beauties weren't angry enough, here's a lady from an anti-Japanese protest in Nanjing Tokyo [ed. Thanks Bingfeng!] on Friday that's showing a lot more passion, although probably not as hot.

    Worth noting is the story that this picture came with: Nanjing authorities arrested a man for planning an anti-Japanese protest.

    State media reported on Monday that Chinese police have detained a netizen attempting to launch an anti-Japanese protest on May Day.

    This is the strongest sign to date that China is trying to avoid a re-enactment of this month's violent anti-Japanese protests. Chinese people believe that Japan is whitewashing its history of invasion through authorizing revised textbooks, leading them to the streets in anger.

    The Yangtze Evening News reports that the arrested 20-year-old male has the Internet alias YMAKELOVE [ed.: *snicker*], and had been encouraging people on a popular chat room to follow after the protesters in Beijing and Shanghai. The thousands of protesters in the two cities had thrown rocks and bottles at Japanese legations.

    The newspaper also reports that he threatened to detonate car bombs at the protests, to create a stronger effect.

    This man had encouraged protests in the chat room on the evenings of 19 and 20 April. Police then traced him to an Internet cafe, and arrested him in the morning of 21 April.

    Police says that he left school last year for poor academic performance, and accuse him of “fabricating and broadcasting false terror messages.”

    After capturing this man on Thursday, Chinese Public Security vowed to severely discipline anyone participating in unauthorized protests.

    Previous, protests occurred in many major Chinese cities, lowering Sino-Japanese relations to their lowest point in decades. The Communist Party has launched an advertising campaign to encourage citizens not to hate Japanese people.

    Personal spam: please visit my website at, if you're not offended by my shameless self-promotion.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Kelvin at 05:19
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    April 25, 2005
    Shanghai Babes

    Shanghai Protest Babes.

    To the subscribers of the "Hottie Theory on Political Revolution" (including myself): what are the political ramifications of this Chris Myrick photo, taken at the Shanghai anti-Japanese protests? (via Jing)

    Personal spam: please visit my website at, if you're not offended by my shameless self-promotion.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Kelvin at 12:19
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    April 24, 2005
    Promised Goods

    How would you feel if you were promised something when you were very young and later realized that those promised goods may never arrive?

    I teach at a prestigious economics and finance school in Shanghai, China. My students, freshmen and sophomores, have started to realize that the happiness that they were promised as a youth may never arrive.

    Chinese culture is known for its focus on education. Students are told that if they study hard they will get high marks, high marks will mean getting into a good university, a good university will result in a good job, and a good job will mean a happy life.

    One student in a recent class proclaimed loudly during a discussion that she was not happy. Her classmates, with their facial expressions, agreed with her proclamation. When will the happiness arrive that we were promised when we were young?

    University students are often placed into their major on their first day of college. This means no liberal studies during the first year or so to try and "find themselves" and what path they should take in life. Further, Chinese schools discourage the switching of majors by their students. What is a second year accounting major to do when they realize their passions are elsewhere?

    The China Daily recently reported that "... 10 out of every 100,000 Chinese college students once attempted suicide...." and earlier reported that "Among some 2,500 middle school students surveyed in Shanghai, 24 percent contemplated killing themselves."

    This issue of happiness is something that needs to be addressed immediately in the Chinese education system.

    You can read my blog at

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by DaveInChina at 21:04
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    Diction and Translation

    I'd hate to start my Simon World appearance with a post against another guest, but open discussion of the issues never hurt anyone, and I've always been known to be something of an @$$. Plus, I'm mostly duplicating what a mainstream newspaper is Hong Kong is saying, so it's not like these are fringe concepts. I hope Enzo isn't offended. ;)

    As Enzo mentioned previously, Japanese PM Koizumi has once again issued a statement of apology on Japan's historical aggression. How the PRC government will respond is still not certain, but a Ming Pao article reflects on the sentiments of many Chinese people on the sincerity and forthrightness of Japan's words:

    According to the original Japanese transcript provided to Ming Pao via the Japanese consulate, Koizumi used such terms as "deep introspection" (痛切なる反省) and "heartfelt apology" (心からのお詫び), but the English translation used such terms as "deep remorse" and "heartfelt apology" [see note below], which was used by most non-Japanese media, creating confusion. When asked by reporters on whether Koizumi did in fact apologize, PRC Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said that "it depends on how you translate it."

    Note: Babelfish translated 心からのお詫び to "apology from heart", but "heartfelt apology" translated back into Chinese is 衷心道歉, which is somewhat stronger. Notably, 心からのお詫び is passive, but 衷心道歉 is active.

    Some knowledged Japanese in Hong Kong point out that when Japanese people wish to express remorse, they can use "owabi" (お詫び) or "shazai" (謝罪). "Owabi" is a lighter form of apology, while "shazai" is considerably stronger. Some experts point out that although Japan has "apologized" for war on multiple occasions, they have continued to avoid using "shazai".

    A lot of people would probably see such distinctions as nit-picking and trite, but a lot of people in China and Korea are hoping to see Japan feel apologetic (by whatever definitions they are using), not just to utter the words. I think that the PRC government has done much damage in not clarifying on exactly what Japan has said and done over the past sixty years on this issue. I also think that a lot of the protest tactics and extremist sentiments in the mainland are conducive to solving anything, and are downright revolting. But I don't think it's all state-sponsored anger. This is particularly true in Hong Kong: no one has yet given a good explanation to me how PRC censorship has made Hong Kong also so angry at Japan too. Indeed, "a lighter form of apology" seem hardly appropriate for the heinous atrocities that Japan committed in 1937-45.

    Personal spam: please visit my website at, if you're not offended by my shameless self-promotion.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Kelvin at 07:15
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    April 07, 2005
    Talking amongst yourselves (Updated)

    Almost a month ago Kevin Drum pointed to a study on blog behavior and the self-reinforcing nature of bloggers and their links (the full study is "Divided They Blog"). In the extended entry is a chart that demonstrates the links between 40 of the top left and right wing blogs (20 from each side). The diagrams show very little interaction between the two sides. It's no surprise that those with similar partisan viewpoints should link to like-minded others more often - also called incestuous amplification. What is surprising is the lack of any significant linkage between the two sides at all. When it comes to political blogging there is plenty of preaching to the converted but little real debate.

    It means is blogging, rather than being different or better, is merely a reflection of the partisanship common in politics. Instead of a chance for real debates over ideas it is far more common to find invective, insults and ridicule. That's a shame because it leaves much of the potential of the blogosphere wasted. Here is a vast, diverse collection of expertise and opinion that rewards insularity and punishes outreach. It is easy to see why.

    Blogs live for two things: traffic and links. The bigger blogs derive significant revenues from their advertising, thus making it even more important to increase visitors. The easiest way to do that is to latch onto bigger bloggers with similar politics and views. With so many blogs all clambering for attention "the squeaky wheels get the grease". The more extreme and partisan the greater chance bigger blogs will link and more readers will be exposed to that site. And once it starts working the system re-enforces itself - what worked once will work over and over again. The audience dictates the message and at least in these early days of blogging those most likely to read blogs are the politically active. These readers already have views and are most comfortable with sites that reflect them. Should readers go to sites with who's views they disagree and dare post comments, they are quickly shouted down, although it should be noted often those who post comments at "opposing" sites are asking for trouble.

    In short, extremes outweigh moderation. Partisanship outweighs consensus. Shouting outweighs debate. And all that extremism and partisanship and shouting achieves virtually nothing.

    I've been fortunate enough to be part of a recent email debate amongst some great bloggers. I commented at one stage how intelligent and civil the discussion had been, despite some firmly held views on a controversial topic. Those involved include William Rice, Nitin of The Acorn, Dan of tdaxp and Bill Roggio of the Fourth Rail. Bill put it best:

    I think the conversation is civil because we are like minded individuals interested in a freer and better world. Our ideas or outlooks may differ, but in the end we are working towards the same goals - greater knowledge and the sharing of ideas. We aren't discussing silly conspiracy theories but serious issues that have many different angles that must be addressed.

    I am always looking for new ideas and different perspects, and will not cling to my own to the death. If there is a better view than my own, I want to hear it and incorporate it. I have a feeling we all hold this view, hence the healthy debate.

    It's not hard to hold a civilised debate. It involves some simple skills and two basic rules. Firstly treat each person with respect; secondly follow Bill's advice and keep an open mind. That's the way of rationality and reason. It involves listening and thinking. It involves adapting and questioning. It involves learning and research. It is not easy. But things worth having rarely are.

    We need more links across the divide. But the blogosphere will be a much greater place if we can bridge the chasm. Is the blogosphere ready for sites dedicated to open debate without ad hominem attacks, with moderate or multiple viewpoints, where people follow the rules of listening, respect and having an open mind?

    More reading

    1. Gene Expression examined the same phenomena based on a study of red vs blue books and finished with this:

    I'm wondering whether the Blue-Red schism is really more a manifestation of intellectual apathy on the part of the populace and less indicative of the ideological differences.

    2. Dean Esmay disagreed with some of Kevin Drum's assertions but notes:
    I believe that, with rare exception, most of us who have been at the blogging game for more than a year or two simply don't like cross-blog pissing matches, and in a year like 2004, back-and-forth link volleys between Bush and Kerry supporters was almost guaranteed to be nasty. Some people enjoy that sort of nastiness but I don't happen to be one of them and I know I'm not unique in that respect.

    It was a very trying and difficult year [2004] and I must admit that during the period from the Democratic convention until election day, I don't think I enjoyed blogging much at all. I hope we never have an election year like that again.

    Which proves my point that there has been no room for middle ground. Perhaps it was a reflection of the passions felt in the broader American polity leading up to the election. But shouldn't blogging aspire to being more than that?

    Update 4/7/05: Dean Esmay responds and (civilly) disagrees, calling this the "echo chamber myth". He has three key points:

    1. Dean doubts blogs "get powerful by being 'yes men' to each other".
    2. I've missed that bloggers link opponents and explain why they are wrong.
    3. Dean would like me to point out successful blogs based on this premise.

    I'll start out by making an important point: all generalisations are wrong. Put another way, there are exceptions to every rule.

    Sortapundit has a study of Instapundit's linkage patterns which highlights my point. Now it's impossible to ever read anywhere near as many blogs as one would like, and Dean is right that Glenn Reynolds does sometimes link to both sides of debates and those who disagree with him. But Sortapundit's study demonstrates this feedback loop perfectly: the same blogs cross referring and linking. It's not a matter of "yes men"; it's a matter of like-minded people re-enforcing each other's views. Look at the list of those linked by Glenn: most if not all of those blogs have similar opinions and views. There's your example, Dean.

    Bryan in Dean's comments notes that many bloggers consider other blogs important sources of information but also ranked newspapers and news portals as significant sources. That makes perfect sense - blogs aren't generally trying to become news sources themselves (although occassionally they are, such as Captain Ed at the moment). But that's not relevant here. I'm not talking about news sources. I'm talking about linkage and opinion.

    Plenty of people talk about the "long tail". While I have no proof, I suspect that to a large extent this echo chamber effect is a natural consequence of many blog readers also being bloggers. The blogger will read from their blogroll and that roll will rightly contain those "big" blogs with whom the blogger prefers. It is a human tendancy that we prefer like minded people...just think of your friends. You may differ, perhaps even over politics, but you will share many of the same values and ideas. It's a core element of friendship. Blog linkage can be thought of the same. Just in mainstream media, the big blogs largely lead the daily blog agenda, and smaller blogs take that lead and link to similar pieces. That's how the echo chamber effect flows.

    That's not to say bloggers don't ever link to those with differing views. Dean is right that bloggers love to link and discuss why they are wrong. This current exchange is a perfect example of that. But in the main, at least for the blogs I follow, this kind of exchange is rare. It's the exception. In my reading I find the same posts being referred to with similar comments/thoughts by similar bloggers. If it's to link to an "opposing" blogger, it more often than not consists of ad hominem attacks rather than reasoned discource.

    Coming back to Sortapundit's piece. The top ranks of blogging tend to be stable. Big bloggers are big for a reason. I haven't done the numbers but certainly in the almost 2 years I've followed blogs the main ones have not changed a gerat deal. The only new "big blogs" are either journalists joining the medium or those that are more extreme than existing big bloggers.

    I find this comment by Dean interesting: It is true that in the final few months of the election I was probably linking a lot less lefty blogs. Why? I couldn't bear the nastiness. The concentrated hatred spewed at and about Bush nauseated me. Even then, I still occasionally linked Kerry supporters like Kevin Drum and Andrew Sullivan. Perhaps the 2004 election was a particularly polarised time in the blogosphere, just as it was in the USA. But that statement by Dean is backing what I am saying. The "nastiness" is not as prevelant at the moment but it's still there. (As an aside it's interesting that comment implies Dean is "right" even though his previous paragraph argues against that).

    Scott Kirwin asks the same above referenced study be redone in a non-election year. I'm all for that. I suspect the results would not differ significantly. I'd dearly love to have more time to provide more and better examples as proof of my thesis. Until I get that time I'll leave it to each reader to decide if my original premise - that more extreme bloggers get more readers and links and real debate is rare - is correct based on their own reading.

    I don't deny civil debates occur in the blogosphere. We're in the middle of one now. But they are the exceptions, not the rule. That's the shame of it.


    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:32
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    April 01, 2005
    Lions versus Lychees (Updated)

    Singapore and Hong Kong are well known rivals. Usually Hong Kong has the upper hand. But when it comes to blogging Hong Kong is, let's be honest, woefully behind Singapore. Singapore blogs have bigger readerships, are more diverse and more interesting.


    Update at 18:03 1st April

    I had my own thoughts before posting this question but didn't mention as I wanted to see what others thought. There are some great comments.

    Mr Brown and I have been conversing by email and he has agreed to my posting the results.

    Mr Brown's first email:

    Intriguing thought, your post.

    Miyagi, Cowboy Caleb and I were just talking about it over dinner last
    night. [Ed. - what a great dinner that would have been!]

    Could it be the fact that Singapore is the orphan child of British Colonialism?

    Also I think we seem to buzz more because there is no real place for Singaporeans to speak their minds. Blogs offer anonymity and a chance to vent, rant and articulate thoughts that may get you in trouble offline. This is not to say that we live oppressed lives here. Most of us are quite happy and the perceived lack of freedoms is often over-stated in foreign publications. blogs and media. It's not that pathetic as it seems.

    We could use more freedom offline but for now, blogs (and even, ahem, podcasts) are pushing the boundaries of tolerance, freedom of expression, and wit. Hopefully, this will spill over to the offline world too.

    There seems to be more expats running English-speaking Hongkong blogs, I have noticed. Are there local language blogs booming there? I don't read Chinese blogs, so I am not sure.

    I think it also helps that in a very informal way, the core blogging Singapore community sees its role as encouraging the rest of the Singapore blogging community to grow. Sexyblogger was, in part, an attempt to raise the profile of the many Singapore blogs we have. Let a thousand flowers bloom, I say. While not a formal grassroots effort, there are many Singapore bloggers passionate about blogging, and that helps too.

    If Singaporeans get used to speaking their minds online, then maybe, just maybe, they will also start asking for their rightful space offline too. Then it will be grand to have played a small part in making that happen.

    My dashed off reply:
    I had suspected many of the points you (and others) have made. HK is not as English-centric; I can't read Chinese but from what I know there are some but not many of those blogs in HK. Nevertheless the lack of a solid English language audience is certainly a factor. But then why are most Singapore blogs more personal and local compared to those in Hong Kongers? Could it be for the political speech reasons you allude to?
    Mr Brown's even quicker reply:
    That is an interesting point you make about the local and personal nature of Singapore posts. I suspect that we as a people have been so used to being careful about political talk that it spills over to our personal talk as well. So blogs offer that space of expressing both the political and personal.

    But the truth is, much is changing, and our new leaders are trying to open up, It's an eternal tension that our leaders have to deal with. How much is too much freedom? I think this generation and my children's will see many changes. The Internet has opened too many doors and economic opportunities for the Government to ignore. The change towards greater openness is inevitable. The only question is that of rate of change.

    I agree that language plays a part. I am sure there are many kick-ass Chinese blogs in Hongkong. Just that Miyagi and I, being of the infamous ACS school (our Chinese very lousy), don't read those.

    And so let me expound a little more on my own views and please feel free to contribute more.

    1. The language factor is key. Hong Kong is dominated by Cantonese speakers with English quickly being relegated to the third language after Mandarin. Much to the elite's chagrin English proficiency is decling in Hong Kong. Thus those that feel most comfortable in writing in English are expats or "international Chinese". The downside to this is my inability to read Chinese excludes me from much of what happens locally in both the media and out there in the real world. On the other hand in Singapore English is a primary and commonly used language.
    2. The nature of blogs in the two places is also shaped by the social and political environment. That's what Mr Brown was getting at and I can only agree. I have nothing against personal diary style blogs and indeed enjoy reading many of them. but the potential for blogging as a new medium and political tool is vast and only just starting to be realised.
    3. Blogs themselves often reflect their setting. Singapore seems a more collegial place compared to the individuality of Hong Kong. And so it is with blogs.

    There's far more to this and I welcome more debate.

    More importantly I implore the Hong Kong Government to not sit idly by while Singapore overtakes our beloved city in this cutting edge field. To the HK Government here's my proposal:

    1. Give an immediate grant of HK$50 million to me to set up a project to develop and expand blogging in Hong Kong.
    2. I need exclusive use of a Government jet to travel back and forwards to Singapore and other places to better understand the issues.
    3. I need a massive grant of free land, cheap loans and preferential treatment to develop a massive property venture on Hong Kong Island, to be called Blogport. To help fund this I will need to be allowed to build 10 luxury condiminium complexes. It's happened before.

    There's no time to lose!

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Simon at 19:37
    Permalink | Speak Up (24)

    October 13, 2004
    The Professional Blogger

    Reading the online symposium hosted by John Hawkins, with Michele, Ace, Bill of INDC and Frank J I came across the following exchange:

    John Hawkins: Speaking of which -- take a look at the following numbers. This is how much money the following bloggers are making per week off of Blogads if you take how much money they charge for a weekly ad and multiply times the number of ads they have. Keep in mind that these numbers will be a bit high because rates longer than a week are a bit cheaper...

    Frank J.: Instapundit is making more than my salary as an engineer.

    John Hawkins: Daily Kos $14,500, Talking Points Memo $8500, Eschaton $6000, Instapundit $3250, Andrew Sullivan $5200...

    Ace: John, You're killing me. Crushing me.

    Bill: Jesus.

    John Hawkins: Hugh Hewitt $3000...

    Michele Catalano: A week?

    John Hawkins: MyDD $6200 , Wonkette $4000


    John Hawkins: So is money changing the blogosphere in your opinion? As far as I can tell, it's only changing it for the better.

    Frank J.: I know I wouldn't post as much if I weren't trying to improve my traffic so I can charge more for ads.

    Michele Catalano: I think it shows in how much people post.

    Ace: I've gotten no money thus far (save from donations), but I know I'm tempted to cool down my rhetoric in exchange for a little jack. (my emphasis)

    There's more. Blogging is going the way of the internet before it: it is going from the hobby of amateurs to the domain of professionals. But Mammon is a funny old God to worship and there are serious questions that need to be considered. Ace's comment is the key: it would be natural for bloggers to "adjust" their message to persue advertising dollars. In this bloggers would simply be following in the footsteps of mainstream media. Despite journalists protestations to the contrary, most media are aware who pays the bills. That's natural and that's capitalism. Now it's blogging's turn.

    Much has been made in recent months of blogging as a new medium and its impact on mainstream media. Yet it seems to me that at the same time money from advertising is luring some blogs into a spiral: a blog serves a niche and thus delivers particular readers to advertisers and so that blog continues to specialise and specialise in that niche to attract more ads. Perhaps it is inevitable. Blogging is strange in that the more popular you get, the more expensive it becomes. There are reverse or dis-economies of scale.

    I don't begrudge bloggers trying to earn money from their sights. Hell, the idea that at least some might follow in the steps of Andrew Sullivan or TPM and become almost full-timers is an exciting prospect. What I would like to see is that each blog that accepts money via Blogads (or similar schemes) has a post somewhere prominent clearly explaining the blogger has considered the issues that come with accepting money from advitisers. Issues such as how potential conflicts-of-interest will be dealt with. What ads will and won't be accepted. Any explicit influences advertising has over content. In other words, I'd like to see bloggers facing up to the same issues that other media have dealt with on this issue.

    It is great to see blogging rapidly change from a hobby to something far greater. The arrival of money is a part of the evolution of this new field. It brings both risks and rewards for bloggers and their readers and it important that both are considered, rather than just rushing for the money. And while I accept that bloggers are fully justified to recoup their costs and be repaid for their time and effort, I also feel an ambivalence. One of the great aspects of blogging in its earlier guise was that it was the work of amateurs and that it wasn't done for money, but only for the hell of it. Just as the Olympics seemed to lose a special something once professionals were admitted (and Rugby Union while we're at it), so blogging to seems to be losing a certain something about it just as it is gaining credibility and respect. Call it nostalgia.

    I'd be interested in others' thoughts.

    Posts on the Symposium:
    * RWN
    * IMAO
    * INDC
    * Ace
    * ASV
    * Others listed here.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Simon at 19:41
    Permalink | Speak Up (7)

    October 06, 2004
    Laws of linkage

    I've been reading the round-up of reaction to the Vice Presidential debate at The Moderate Voice (via Dean) and Allah's, both impressive efforts. Knowing how much work goes into link-fests, it is even more impressive and a great way to quickly summarise the general reaction (which in this case appears to be mixed) to the debate. But it has lead me to formalise something I've been thinking about for a while, which I now dub the Law of Linkage:

    The value of any one link in a post is inversely proportional to the total number of links in that post.
    For example, if there is only one link in a post, then that link is extremely likely to be followed by interested readers. If there are 10 posts, the chances of jumping to the links are significantly decreased, because if you start following the links you're going to lose the gist of the original post. I admit that on occasion you can find yourself jumping from link to link in random fashion, but usually you're at a particular site because you want to read that site, not others. Obviously if the link is a key part of that post (e.g. an entry reaction to a post at another blog) the chance is that link will be followed; but again the chances are that will be the only link in the post.

    When it comes to link-fests there's a second law as well:

    The likelihood of any one link being clicked in a post decreases with each additional link that precedes it.
    In other words you may even follow the first few links in such a post, but you're not going to be spend hours following them all. In that case the ones at the start are far more likely to be followed than those below (with the possible exception of links at the very end of a post).

    These are issues I've been conscious of in constructing the regular Asia by Blog series. It comes down to weighing up being comprehensive to being practical. Going forward I am going to restrict the number of links in each edition in order to make each link more "valuable", albeit not at the expense of providing appropriate coverage. Thoughts welcomed.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:32
    Permalink | Speak Up (1)

    October 05, 2004
    Natural blogging

    Michele eloquently and accurately pops the latest blogging bubble. Her premise is simple: that the very moment blogging is getting wide exposure, blogging is also reaching a low point. While I agree with her sentiments I can see a silver lining in the current clouds.

    At least some blogs are mutating into quasi-journalists, hunting for scoops and trying to break news as a direct result of the success of the Rathergate (what a horrid name; it's such a cliché to add "-gate" to any controversy. Surely the blogosphere could have come up with some better?) and the large spike in traffic that resulted. The emergence of advertising on blogs and the rush of such exposure has turned some blogs into "scoop junkies".. This inevitably leads to pressure to break the next big story. But just like Big Media, news isn't like that. There are occasional big stories separate by the more humdrum and mundane. Sometimes several big stories break at once, but then there are periods of relative "quiet".

    Some bloggers whom have hit upon the idea they may be journalists may be right. As is so common, whereas initially the blogging medium was composed mostly of generalists, we are now seeing the rapid specialisation by some blogs. This narrowed focus creates blog experts in particular fields and allows readers to jump immediately to certain nodal blogs for information on particular subjects. This is, I think, what Michele is lamenting. But specialists are following their interests and their traffic. The rewards (either financial, in readership or otherwise) are there for those that follow their focus. Yet there is still room for generalist blogs, although their popularity may suffer. Every day there are more blogs, there is more to read and yet God dictates there are only 24 hours in each day. You could compare the changes in the blogosphere to the general pattern of evolution - a combination of survival of the fittest and the best adapted. Generalists retain their niche and specialists find theirs, all coming together in a "blogosystem".

    However at times the output of the blogosystem as a whole can disappoint readers, particularly long time ones. Blogs change over time as the interests of the author(s); some blogs that are now branching into journalism are a case in point. Along the way they will lose some readers and gain others. It is part of the constant process of change in the evolving life of each blog within the blogosystem. Just as the blogosystem as a whole evolves, so do the blogs within it. I share Michele's disappointment that some previously favourite sites have changed for ways I consider less interesting. But thankfully there are plenty of others out there to take up the slack. Another analogy is a marketplace. Stores change their wares to capture new or different customers or enhance their profits. Some older customers don't like the changes and have to find new stores to replace them. It's a pain in the backside, especially after finding a set that you like and can rely on. But eventually you find others to take their place. The stores (blogs) follow their self-interest and the shoppers (readers) follow theirs, and Adam Smith's Invisible Hand creates something greater. It's laissez-faire capitalism in action.

    Longer time readers will note that the weekly "Enemablog" feature, where I summarised some of my favourite links of the week from around the blogosphere. It was for a simple reason: each week there was less and less I thought interesting or worthy enough to link to. I understand the intensity of the coverage of the US election; the importance of breaking the Rather story; and the other top stories floating around at the moment. They bore me to tears. The constant incestual linking between certain blogs is danger of becoming a constant cycle of mutual admiration to the exclusion of anything interesting. There seems to be so many more important things in the world worth talking about: Darfur, Iraq, events all over Asia. But if my previously favourite blogs choose to focus on things that no longer interest me, then that is fine. I'll simply move on to those that do. Like Michele. Or Joe. Or Dean. Or Helen. Or any one of the other blogs on my blogrolls. Time and content permitting, I'll bring that weekly feature back once I start seeing links again worth hanging on to.

    We bloggers and blog readers have a choice. Thank God for the blogosystem's diversity.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:45
    Permalink | Speak Up (4)

    June 28, 2004
    In defence of blogging

    (cross posted at Showcase)

    Mac Diva from the blog Mac-a-ronies has posted a half-hearted endorsement of the Showcase at It is an interesting article that demands a response.

    Firstly let me clarify a misunderstanding. The Showcase differs from its predecessor in that it is NOT a contest. I encourage people to link to posts they like but there will be no weekly "winner" at this showcase. It is literally a display of new blogs and nothing more than that.

    However the following is the core of the article:

    My reservations about a revived New Weblog Showcase are based on what blogs really are, instead of unrealistic bloggers' delusions. The blogosphere has developed into a place where a few people with grandiose, often bullying personalities, have gathered sycophants to them. The networks of sycophants trade links back and forth among themselves. Based on this totally artificial construct, bloggers in the networks develop a sense of importance completely out of touch with their actual status in society. The members of a given network also regurgitate the brain droppings of their 'great leader' on demand. As a result, the blogosphere is an echo chamber of the know-nothings much of the time...

    The risk with this contest is that it will become another way for the networks to support their participant, regardless of the quality of entries submitted. Awful entries will win votes because they have been smiled on by one of the larger networks. Excellent entries will fall by the wayside because the independent bloggers lack cheering sections. The results will say everything about the organization of the blogosphere, and nothing about thinking and writing well.

    So, it is with ambivalence that I link to Simon's New Weblog Showcase and urge people who qualify to consider participating. There are independent bloggers who post entries that are well-researched and ably written. But, based on what I've observed in the blogosphere, we are a minority. If new bloggers adhere to basic standards of journalism, I welcome them. However, there are more than enough bad bloggers already.

    As I have just explained there is a misunderstanding in that this is not a contest. But that aside there are some serious issues raised that need addressing. Mac has an underlying assumption that all bloggers are attempting to be journalists and that blogging is attempting to become the "new media", replacing "old media". Furthermore Mac alleges the blogosphere revolves around incestuous linkage and sycophantic linkage in a self-deluding cycle. I will address each in turn.

    Firstly the showcase itself can be compared to a trade fair. It is a display of products (blogs) that may not otherwise receive exposure given the large number of blogs. In true capitalistic fashion the market will dictate which of these blogs will gain a wider audience and which will not. Some will find a particular niche and others will attempt for a broader audience. The Showcase will not make a blog successful. Only consistent and good content by the blogger themselves can do that. The Showcase can help bring a blog broader exposure, something akin to advertising.

    The Blogosphere itself is a microcosm of the internet. Some sites are obscure either by design or due to limited appeal. Others have a broader appeal and wider readership. A very few dominate their category, much like Amazon or Ebay. Very few blogs even pretend to be a replacement for established media. They are not disseminators of information and fact nor rivals to big media. Some, and again this is a limited category, act as an adjunct to media. Some act as monitors, finding fault with big media and its reporting of news. Some act as fact checkers, reflecting the author's particular expertise and bringing it to bear for the wider world to consider. Very few pretend to be objective reporters of fact. What blogs do bring to bear is almost immediate punditry and opinions. If others finds certain blogs that reflect or challenge them they will gain in popularity. Blogs gain and lose readership depending on that core ideal of serving the readers what they want. It should be noted that many blogs are not written for an audience, but rather as an outlet for creative writing or opinions to be read by none or all. As I have already said, most do not pretend to be "journalism" so it is difficult to understand why blogs need to adhere to so-called journalistic standards.

    That's the thing about the blogosphere. It's a marketplace of ideas and opinions. Like any market some sites are popular and are mass-market products. Others are products filling particular needs. Many of these blogs do not survive for long in the harsh world of the blogosphere as it takes sustained effort to provide content consistently. The ones that succeed are because they have found their market and cater to that market, be it large or small.

    As for the charge of incentuousness, the blogosphere is guilty. But again that is to be expected. Firstly the blogosphere acts as its own police force. If someone, especially a "big" blogger, posts an item that is factually incorrect you can be guaranteed that someone will pick up on it quickly. Secondly the blogosphere reflects what happens in Big Media but in a more honest fashion. Few newspapers or TV news shows will admit it openly, but the news agenda tends to be set by the very biggest in the media game. Others follow, often syndicating reports from the dominant players. This is not a surprise. The big players are big for a reason and have the resources to do these stories. Alternatively they have a particular angle or access that others must necessarily rely on (for example Al-Jazeera). This is the big media equivalent of linking, except it is nowhere near as obvious. Thirdly the blogosphere as a whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. The constant linkage is its greatest strength and leads the reader direct to the source, or to alternative opinions, or instant responses, or responses to responses. It is the written form of that most basic human interaction: conversation.

    Blogging is still in its infancy. Even given the speed of adoption in the world of IT it is not yet significant compared to greater internet use. But this is rapidly changing. There has been fast growth in readership, blog numbers and influence. Don't believe me? Howard Dean, lauded for his use of the internet in his campaign, maintained a blog. Leading politicians have followed this lead. The Democrats are giving bloggers credentials for their convention. Blogs have forced the New York Times and the LA Times to make corrections and blogs were directly responsible for bring the Trent Lott story to the fore. Blogs' readership may not be broad but largely consists of IT professionals, political types (including politicians themselves as well as political junkies), news hounds, journalists, media types and academics. As a whole this group could largely be called the intellectual class. With such an influential audience blogs can punch far above their weight in readership simply by those whom they influence. Any reader of blogs will find, as I have, that many issues and ideas are opened up to them that they might never normally have considered or even come across. It is this broad exposure in the marketplace of ideas that makes reading blogs such a worthwhile experience. It also acts as a feedback loop: those blogs that enhance the experience develop a greater readership and extend their influence, bringing in more readers and linkage.

    In the end, however, the influence of blogs is only as great as the readership allows. Most readers of blogs are aware of the limitations of a single person or small group of people maintaining a website of content on a part-time and voluntary basis. Some are moving to a semi-professional basis such as Josh Marshall and Andrew Sullivan. However these types will always be in the minority. Most blogs are labour of love, not methods of financial gain. When reading with all of this in mind blogs are enriching, stimulating and broadening experiences. They should be enjoyed for what they are while bearing in mind the necessary limitations of their form. Like any modern market the reader has the ultimate tool in exercising their discretion: they can read as much or as little (even none) as they like. It is their loss.

    As for me, I will continue to enjoy this new medium and feel flattered to be a very small part of it. The blogosphere will find its place in time and it is fascinating to watch it unfold. Most of all I love the diversity, the broad spectrum of opinion and the instantaneous cut and thrust of it all. If you don't, the newspapers and TV remain there for you to use instead.

    UPDATE: read the comments for some more great insights.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:53
    Permalink | Speak Up (1)

    February 20, 2004
    Moses and email

    Email. It is reckoned to have been "a good thing", saving paper, speeding communications, enhancing workplaces and information flows. It is cheap, quick and convenient. It has a lot to answer for.

    Email is an excuse for laziness. Its very convenience lends itself to people engaging it without thinking, much like talking. Often email acts as a written one-sided conversation. It has the advantage that you can tackle it at a time and place of your choosing. You can delete, edit, reply, forward, copy, import, export, bend, twist and (sadly) live for it. It's cheapness and format are such that people rarely think about it. That has to stop.

    So I hereby humbly present some Laws Of Email:

    1. Before adding someone in the To or CC box, ask if they really need to see it.
    A sender's instinct is to copy far too many people on emails that may have little to do with the recipients. This breaks down into three main reasons. One is arse-covering - if everyone's been copied no-one can say they didn't know. The second is the arse-sucking - look at me, I'm so good, I just did this, aren't I clever. Lastly is the arse-draining - regularly sent blocks of information churned out and blasted as more information fodder. The best way to think about it is to put yourself in each recipient's shoes and ask if you would read it if you were them.
    2. Replies to emails are worse than the originals.
    Replies are usually instantaneous reactions. They are rarely well thought out considerations of the issues and topics brought up in the original. Often it leads to a quickly disintegrating cascade of misunderstandings and insults that finally gets sorted out in the traditional manner: by speaking to each other.
    3. There is no email in the world that deserves a one-word reply.
    Don't send me an email saying "Thanks". It's 3 seconds of my life I can't get back.
    4. Just because it's an email doesn't mean the rules of English grammar don't apply.
    Little things like punctuation and capital letters are really not too difficult to find on a keyboard. Or so you would think. English grammar is not particularly easy but the basics are. Once you work out how to write complete sentences and where pesky commas should go at least I've got a chance of understanding your intent. Going overboard is a danger too. Three exclamation marks don't make the point any better than one. Smileys and abbreviations have a place but don't go overboard either, unless you want the email look like alphabet soup.
    5. Email is not a replacement for the telephone (or other person-to-person interaction).
    Email is a static medium. It is not a form of dialogue. It is the modern era's form of correspondence. There's a world of difference. Don't be a lazy idiot because you can't be bothered picking up the phone or walking around the corner to talk to someone. This leads to...
    6. Don't call me to tell me you sent an email.
    I look at emails when and as I can. I don't need a minute long phone call telling me to look at my email. Especially when you could have told me the contents of that email in the phone call.
    7. If you are relying on a spell-checker, at least use some common sense.
    Just because Microsoft says a word is spelt wrong, you don't have to agree. Some people are no good at spelling and checkers work for them, but for God's sake use your brain a little and make sure the result is still in English.
    8. It is not a crime to read over an email before you send it.
    Just because you dashed it off doesn't mean you've got to hit the send button. The email doesn't evaporate. Do the world a favour and read it once. You'll be amazed at the baloney you've written.
    9. Make each message brief and to the point.
    The best emails have the main points in the first few lines; if you have other guff then add it below. We've all got inboxes stuffed to overflowing so the quicker and more simply you can get the information across the better place the world will be. Here's a hint: why not make the title of your email descriptive enough that people will know the contents before they open it.
    10. Don't forget there are other forms of correspondence.
    Email can be a great way to keep in touch with distant family and friends. But really the ancient art of letter writing needn't be discarded at the great altar of technology. Handwritten letters, even with scrawling writing and crossing outs, is far more personal. You may even remember how to write with a pen if you use it once in a while. And stamps don't set you back that much.
    11. Spam is bad, don't make it worse.
    Look at your email and the people you sent it to. If your name wasn't there would you call it useful? Helpful? Or a waste of space.
    12. Viruses are bad, don't make them worse.
    Don't open attachments unless you are 100% sure you know the source and are expecting the file. Morons who haven't realised that opening that ZIP file from will get what they deserve, but you needn't join them in the 7th circle of Hell.
    13. Etiquette is not a four letter word.
    Don't use all capitals. Don't even say "Oops I had the Caps Lock on" half way through. Just use the Backspace button and try again. Just because it is an email being polite is not a crime. You needn't sign off with a Your Obedient Servant, but putting your name at the end is a good start. That said you don't need an all singing signature either. Avail yourself of some pointers and advice.
    14. Get organised.
    You needn't reply to every email straight away. Many are junk and useless. But not replying at all is the same as picking up the phone but not saying anything. Replying too quickly can get you in trouble (as mentioned earlier) but taking days or weeks to reply certainly doesn't help either. If you're getting overwhelmed with email, do something about it. Start sorting mail into folders. Use the filters and rules. Start asking people to take you off lists. Stop getting Dilbert and Joke-a-Day sent to your inbox if it's getting clogged up. Be diligent and prioritise. Look at the email - does it need immediate action? Can it wait? Can it be deleted without reading? Don't wait for later. Later never comes.
    15. Encourage others to follow the rules.
    The world isn't go to be a better place if you do it on your own. Encourage others to follow your example.
    16. Stop whinging and start doing.
    The ritual of returning from holiday and impressing everyone with how many emails you have is quickly replacing other forms of measuring importance such as status, fame and success. Your job competence is not related to your inbox size; indeed the better you are at handling email the better you will be in your job. Everyone's in the same boat so get on with it and stop talking about it.

    This is by no means comprehensive. Additions or comments are welcome.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:24
    Permalink | Speak Up (8)

    December 05, 2003
    Blog disease

    This blog suffers from a disease. Don't fear, it's not contagious. I choose to call it Nice Blog Disease (NBD). It's similar to Don's and Jim's diagnosis of Nice Guy Disease (NGD). Like NGD it punishes the nice and rewards the wicked. And it is just not fair.

    There are all sorts of blogs out there. They fall into 3 main categories. Firstly there's the political ones. These rant and rage against all that is wrong with the world, which tends to be anything they don't agree with. Secondly there's the humour ones. These find some niche and spin comedy from it. Sometimes these are combined e.g. Allah. Then there's the rest which are best described as slice of life blogs. These are diaries, reflections, observations. Of course many blogs are combinations of various elements of these. However keeping it purely in one of these three categories is the first step to blogging success. The next step is to take your category to an extreme. So in politics, take a view and push it hard while slating everyone who cannot see your point of view. In comedy, stick to your theme and redo it over and over again. In the slice of life ones the more open about yourself the better. If you expose demons or expose your life to the world you'll get the hits. Just as people like to stare at car crashes, the same with lives.

    I am not saying I don't enjoy any of these kinds of blogs. My blogroll contains examples of each and I enjoy them all a lot. Otherwise they wouldn't be on the roll.

    What I do have a problem with is simple. Those blogs, such as this, that are a mix of these categories tend to not get the publicity. The hits. The links. The notice. Especially if you're on a periphery, such as Asia. The Blog-iverse is based primarily around the USA, so that puts Asia right on its outer extremes. There are exceptions of course, such as Gweilo or Jim. There are no slice of life blogs that come close to approaching the dominance of political ones such as Instapundit, with the possible exception of Lileks.

    But I maintain blogging is like life. Often, nice blogs come last. Any ideas for curing NBD? Perhaps post a whinge about NBD?

    [end of whinge]

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:16
    Permalink | Speak Up (5)

    November 07, 2003
    On Blogging

    I have previous stared at my blogging navel in contemplation of the world of blogging. However something has happened today that has caused me to reflect and think some more about blogging and in particular this blog.

    What is a blog for? It really is an unanswerable and probably useless quesiton. Whatever the writer intends for a blog to be is irrelevant to what it becomes. The blog simply is whatever those who read it deem it to be. If it accomplishes the goal of the blogger as well then that's a bonus. But like most things on the net how it's used is more important.

    Nevertheless the blogger is doing it for a reason or reasons. People are free to read or ignore each blog as they see fit. Most bloggers are at least in part driven by a need to be read, because if no one's reading then they never will accomplish their goals. On a further level it is about influence: either through humour, thought or otherwise. Most blogs contain elements of persuasion to a point-of-view, even if it is only oblique. The successful ones are often measured in hits but I would argue even more important is what influence they have on their reader. Many might read Instapundit daily because it provides a quick overview of what's going on in the blogosphere and world, without ever being influenced by Evil Glenn's thoughts. That's what I mean by the difference between a blogger's intent and a blogger's impact.

    Let me talk about the one blog I know something about: this one. There is a mixture of purposes here. I am trying to keep family and friends in touch with our lives in this foreign land. I am trying to make observations about this land I am in from my unique point-of-view (as anyone's views would be unique from their point-of-view). I am trying to use a mix of humour and thought in discussing whatever pops into my head. Sometimes I am simply just having fun and experimenting with this medium. And for whatever reason you have found this little corner of the net and are reading this now. So obviously somehow that mix is working.

    But I don't post everything on this blog. I make no apologies about my self-censorship. I hide the identity of my family, though it is not hard to work out who they are. I like to think the characters are obvious enough without pinning pictures and real names on each. I disguise where I live, not because I think I will be stalked (Brittney, email me for the address), but simply because it's not relevant to the goings-on of this blog. I do not comment about my workplace. I try to avoid too much commenting on topics that overlap with my work for the same reasons. I am always mindful that this blog is in public and essentially here for all time (which in blog terms is about 5 months, but you get my drift). I do think about some of the people who read this such as family and co-workers. If I choose to say my boss is the greatest guy in the world I expect he will read that sometime. Hopefully he will then see fit to pay me a whopping great bonus so I can retire. Like a newspaper the writer needs to be mindful of his audience as well as his purpose.

    The question comes as to where to draw the line between what goes on here and what stays off. There's no rules for that. I make that decision each time I post something. Usually it is not such a tough decision. The question is usually what to post because it is interesting or it fits or just because. I spend more time worrying that I'm using too many contractions in my posts and breaking too many grammar rules like using prepositions to start sentences or having long sentences that are a series of clauses joined with conjunctions in differing tenses and voices and finally ending a preposition that is unrelated to the previous phrase, but.

    This post is not like that. All this has been prompted by some very unsavoury events at the Disneyland complex where I live. The man in question is a friend of several of my co-workers. I've posted the article because it is obviously relevant to my life here. But I've been deliberating whether I should and to be honest I'm still not sure I've made the right decision. Murder happens all too often but thankfully it is rarely this close. But when it does come so close to home (both literally and metaphorically) it causes a pause for thought. This time it is not happening to that mythical "them", it is happening to "us". I can't put that mental distance that's needed in order to make the news feel safe enough to comment on. Instead I'm simply waffling on in a metaphysical dissertation on the nature of blogs. It is really overly self-indulgent in the extreme.

    So now we're at the end of this post and you'll soon move on to the next one or to another blog. Just like in a novel or newspaper though it is important to remember that these words are written by someone with an agenda and a motive. The process of writing always involves judgements such as these: what to include, what to exclude; what to say, how to say it; and when not to say anything at all.

    Sometimes those judgements are extremely difficult to make.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:48
    Permalink | Speak Up (3)

    October 30, 2003
    Blogging Metaphysics

    Who reads blogs?

    There are plenty of blogs in the world these days. There are the political, the comedic, the personal. Some are dedicated to sport, criticism, business. There are some by pros and plenty by amateurs. While most of the biggies are based in the US and are thus US-centric, there are plenty from other places, including Australia and Hong Kong.

    This blog is a random mix of family news (for the family and friends back in Oz), Hong Kong happenings and other bits I pick up on from time to time. It is deliberately like this and in keeping with this theme there are deliberately no categories to sort through the mess. The blog reflects whatever comes into my little head at the time. My thoughts are not in order or in categories and neither is this blog. For that I make no apology. Hopefully there's something interesting enough to keep you reading, otherwise skip to the next entry and it will be on something very different.

    But back to the original question. Who reads them? My theory is mostly they are read by either other bloggers or those who know bloggers. It is an ever-growing circle but it is still confined within itself. There are few outlets from the blogweb to the wider world or even into the wider internet.

    This grouping of bloggers is a self-selected elite. Why an elite? It is easy to start blogging but there are still barriers to entry. You have to find a host, work out the format, decide on what your blog is for, create it and then post content. You need to be comfortable with technology and have a rudimentary knowledge of the net. Inevitably this requires a few things: computer and (usually) high-speed internet access, an ability to write at least moderately well and having something to say. Something different to say, otherwise your blog will remain visited by yourself and your Ma and no one else.

    The blogweb is a slice of humanity. It is not representative of all humanity. It is not even representative of all internet users. It is diverse with different views and some ways. In others it is very much all the same. There are so many original voices and spending some time following link to link can lead to the remote parts of the net. But what does it all add up to? Do blogs really do much? Can they influence anything in the real world? Or are they like those newspaper editorials that everyone gets wound up about but don't do anything to change anyone's mind? Doesn't all this diversity get monotonous?

    All these blogs are just (mostly) talking to each other. Ideas and memes just spin around the blogweb at a hundred clicks a minute, but do they go anywhere else? Are there any examples where the blogweb has had an influence on the "real" world?

    I sometimes imagine that all this blogging is a great diversion of energy for lots of intelligent people. It is the human equivalent of putting the 1,000 monkeys with 1,000 typewriters in a room to come up with Shakespeare. From my limited knowledge blogging has only caught on in a big way in the last three years. Maybe it's all too early to tell if it will amount to anything more than giving people an outlet to vent and have a mutual admiration society for each other. A way to say to the world: "I'm an individual," followed by the blogweb's "We're all individuals. We're all different," with apologies to Monty Python.

    I've changed my mind because I read "XYZ" is something you rarely read in the blogweb. I don't know the answer. When is the last time you saw that in a blog?

    To answer the original question of who reads weblogs? Everyone and no-one. Everyone in the blog web (or with connections to it). No-one that matters.

    I'm ready for someone to change my mind.

    The truth is I don't know the answer.

    show comments right here »

    [boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:21
    Permalink | Speak Up (5)