Monday, November 07, 2005


Since I translated the schedule of the conference on this weblog before, let me take a new angle on the Chinese Blogger Conference; there were several different groups of people present at the conference: the media, commercial interests, evangelizers and experts, and hobbyists (and probably the PSB, but let's not be paranoid).

The media are at the conference to cover new trends in the Chinese internet, because that is where the money is right now and they can sell papers if they cover that topic. These guys and girls, depending on their level of Chinese proficiency, were either sitting in the conference hall listening for interesting quotes in the talks, having a smoke in the hallway outside chewing the fat with other journalists, or running around the Green Room trying to get quotes from the last speaker or other stars of the Chinese weblogging scene. They carried laptops, checking their Bloglines accounts and listening in on the official IRC channel, and recording devices and pen/paper to jot down keywords and quotes on the themes they were covering. Sometimes they had a translator or photographer tagging along. The Chinese press had a larger presence the first day, but the foreign contingent stuck around on Sunday while their local counterparts left to take care of other business.

Big business was not at the conference, but startups from both sides of the Pacific were represented: I saw representatives of VC firms, Feedster, Blogbus, Seehaha, Toodou, a consultant friend, and I'm sure there were more. The conference was really low key, so there was little chance to advertise products. I'm thinking the weekend was more about schmoozing and establishing relationships during the off-hours. Several business representatives had places on discussion panels.

The conference's speakers were drawn mostly from the "evangelizers and experts" group. The conference "godfather" Isaac Mao gave a very polished keynote speech summarizing the general state of the Chinese weblogging situation as the vanguard of the World Wide Web. Rebecca McKinnon of Global Voices moderated a panel of Taiwan and Hong Kong bloggers on "Blogging Beyong Borders," covering translation, language and culture. Professor Zhuang of Beijing Normal University gave the talk on Weblogs and Education that flew over my head. Professor Li of Hong Kong University executed the transition from the Web 2.0 discussion to a talk about weblogs and the challenge they present to traditional media. And various other pro-ams led talks and panels on things like podcasting (an exciting talk that got off-topic and wandered into copyright and libertarianism) and RSS (a "social" talk where the speaker called various bloggers up to give their perspectives on RSS creation and usage). This being the first event of its kind, this was the first time that many of these people had the chance to meet face-to-face, but the camraderie felt was deep because lots of these guys have been very good friends online for years. It's my feeling that, in contrast to the American weblogging scene, the Chinese scene is weaker on the technical side and so the cultural motivations behind pushing forward the weblogging trend dominate over the logical, technical reasons, or at least that the culture is the driver rather than the technology; this is also due in part to the political scene that exists in China. Think back to Chinese history for examples.

The hobbyists, I think, had the most fun. These are the guys participated in the conference as volunteers handing out goodie bags and nametags, surfed the web on their laptops during the sessions chatting on IRC and refreshing the Flickr page, riding around on the kiddie-construction-machines brought in by a toy company sponsor (a la dot-com-boom startup), snapping and uploading pics to Flickr, checking the live broadcast on SeeHaHa, laughing at speaker jokes, and acting as pro-am speakers for many talks.

Here are some random notes:

  • My impression was that the number of Windows notebooks far outnumbered Macs. I saw two notebooks running Linux.
  • We got T-shirts. One T-shirt with signatures of all the speakers is going to be auctioned off to pay for expenses. After all, we only payed about USD 12 for a two day conference that included a T-shirt and two lunches!
  • The entire conference was conducted in Chinese, with a liberal sprinkling-in of English buzzwords. Still I learned a lot of Chinese buzzwords too, like 语义网 (semantic web) vs 语境网 (contextual web), 微支付 (microformatspayments; thanks petechen, who suggests 微格式 for microformats), 开源 (open source), and 标签 (tag).
  • Thanks to Wi-Fi, Professor Zhuang's laptop announced on the projection screen that she had 7035 unread Bloglines entries. Yikes!
  • Dave Winer got a rave endorsement during the RSS talk.
  • Lunch was in the cafeteria upstairs, so Joon and I played hookie: Bifengtang for Hong Kong dim-sum on the first day, and a canteen-style hole-in-the-wall place I know just a few yard from Jing'an Temple for Shanghainese xiaolong bao and noodles on the second day.
  • I know it when I see it.
  • "Acronyms of English words are easier for Chinese people to remember and say", I figured out as I struggled to understand what BSP and SNS are (Blogging Service Provider and Social Network Service), and observed the sudden blank-faces-to-smiles-of-recognition that happened when Dr Li switched from talking about Counter-Strike to talking about CS.
  • Friggin' everyone uses GMail.
  • Friggin' everyone uses Firefox.
  • We got a look at the visitor stats for gets about half the visitors from Baidu that it does from Goole, but gets about 200x the number of visitors from Baidu as it does from Google. One of the top searches (3 or 4) that lead to the Wikipedia mirror is 色情影片, "erotic films".
  • Each participant received a goodie bag on registration with the schedule, meal tickets, conference stickers, and sponsor materials, including a dolls-of-the-world sample, and a die-cast double-decker "Blog Bus", a play on the name of one of China's biggest, and probably most forward-thinking, blogging services.
  • Only at a Bloggercon in China can you talk about ideas that "pop-up出来" and have people not blink an eye.
  • My three favorite talks were the keynote speech by Isaac Mao (currently suffering a non-Slashdot Slashdotting, so check out his Flickr photos), the Podcasting panel moderated by Hopesome, and Horse's slick introduction to Web 2.0.
  • Next time, I need to make up some personal business cards. This time, I either apologized, or went punk rock and Sharpied over some business cards I didn't want.

This year there were 200 seats in the auditorium and there was a little bit of overflow. Next year's Chinese Blogger Conference is tentatively slated to take place in Beijing. But remember, like Yining said, this is it's not the begining of the end, but an end of begining (is English the new Latin/Classical Chinese?).

UPDATE: while she was not moderating a panel, Rebecca McKinnon was busily typing away at her laptop and communicating with Global Voices colleague Angelo Embuldeniya over IRC. The result? A pretty complete English-language transcript of the Conference. Thanks for the heads up and congrats on the excellent job, Angelo and Rebecca.

Also, Wang Jianshou snapped portraits of just about all the major names at the conference. It's worth checking out.

Rebecca McKinnon has also written a post summing up the conference and speculating on the future of the weblogging and the internet in this part of the world. It's filled with lots of good quotes; essential reading.


At Nov 7, 2005, 8:25:00 PM, Blogger Angelo Embuldeniya said:

Nice blog... nice pics and most of all good to know that everyone was using gmail & ff @ cbc2005 :)

i've covered it session by session, leg by leg (thanks to seehaha - live webcast and live irc running english translations)on blogspot and wp (i figured virtual/physical non-mandarin/cantonese speaking audiences would get a better view of the conference via both text and screen grabs put together in real-time.):

.. why 2 blogs.. well i started off the blogspot one like the first day.. and 4 hrs into the conference someone tells me that blogspot is banned in china.. well i got out a proxy link to it.. but that aint the same thing... so undersound got in a wordpress invite and up came the worpress blog overnight.. so the second day i had the blogspot and wp blogs going on again... .. i think u could consider the blogspot blog as a mirror to the wp oneand vice versa...

stats on the blogspot blog - no idea... forgot to get a statcounter on it.. but for the cbc wp blog, there's been over 1,500 visits (not counting internal hits) from 5th to 7th novemeber...

i look forward to more blogger cons and blogging live though remote for them :)


At Nov 9, 2005, 2:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

hurrah for proxies!

At Nov 9, 2005, 8:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Thanks for the blogsavvy Chinese words. I especially like the phrase "pop-up出来" and can't wait to use it in conversation.

At Mar 24, 2006, 9:53:00 AM, Blogger Micah Sittig said:

Oops! Yes, thanks bunches petechen. I didn't learn 支付 until recently, ordering a birthday cake for my wife. A Google search confirms that 微格式 is a common--and perhaps the preferred--translation for microformats.


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