訪問:New kids on the blog


New kids on the blog
By Carrie Chan

MEET SIDEKICK, one of Hong Kong’s more quoted bloggers. A media-industry worker, she started her internet musings with reflections on her daily life. These days, though, her topics range from the latest gadgetry to comments on song-writers or the legacy of China’s struggle against the Japanese invasion.

To her surprise, the postings attract one of the highest readerships among local blogs (short for web logs), and are frequently linked to other sites. But with about 300 to 400 visits daily, that’s a far cry from the following that prompted Microsoft to put tech expert Robert Scoble on its payroll to help engage critics. Even Xia-xue, the persona adopted by 21-year-old Singaporean blogger Cindy Cheng, boasts 10,000 hits daily.

In a world in which blogs seem to spread like viral infections (the blog search engine Technorati estimates that 80,000 blogs are created every day, while the latest Nielsen/Netcast survey says blogs now draw 29.3 million visitors), Hong Kong’s blog presence comes across a little like a damp squib.

Still, after a slow few years, blogs are beginning to take root in the city. More locals are either publishing online journals on an ongoing basis, or adding their views to blogs. Local internet host www.bloghk.com claims to have had more than 7,000 members last year.

It’s a good publicity tool. Pop stars such as Edison Chen Koon-hei and Eason Chan Yick-shun keep fans updated through their online journals. Civic Express, launched by think-tank Civic Exchange, tries to stimulate discussion on social issues through the blogs of former legislators such as Cyd Ho Sau-lan and radio host Ng Chi-sum. A group of designers started the blog Flying Bricks to encourage so-called art jamming on the web.

As with Flying Bricks and Civic Express, it’s the opportunity for networking and exchanging ideas that draws Sidekick to blogging.

“I just hope to create a social community,” she says. “I don’t confine myself to big statements like writing about the July 1 demonstration, Ching Cheong [the journalist who was charged by mainland authorities for spying] or June 4 commemorative events.”

What’s most important is the amount of discussion she can stimulate among bloggers, who are aged from their teens to their 40s. She’s proud that her blog on anti-Japanese sentiments among Chinese people attracted comments from across the mainland and Taiwan.

Even so, Sidekick concedes that the blogging culture is much livelier elsewhere in Asia. Blogs are expanding so quickly on the mainland that some host sites are seeking listings on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

South Korea probably leads the region in blogging. Most famously, Ohmynews, the South Korean blog host site launched by journalist Oh Yeon-ho, gave rise to 36,000 so-called citizen reporters whose postings helped propel South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun to election victory.

Sidekick attributes the thriving exchanges on the mainland and places such as Seoul to bitter encounters with political crackdowns. Hong Kong internet users have yet to learn to treasure the freedom of speech offered in cyberspace, she says. “For Hong Kong people, it’s not very important whether they’re allowed to express something or not.”

Mainland media researcher Hu Yong says the difference in the development of blogging in Hong Kong and on the mainland isn’t necessarily politically related.

“It’s not because people can’t discuss politics openly,” he says, pointing out that most blogs on the mainland are about personal experiences. “People in China have a stronger yearning for individual identities.”

In any case, it’s only over the past year that blogs have been used in Hong Kong as an alternative news outlet rather than personal diaries, says IT researcher Rikkie Yeung Au Lai-kit.

“People may have come to the realisation that the room offered by mainstream media is shrinking,” says Yeung, who is also a director of the think-tank SynergyNet. “There isn’t that much diversity in the voices heard in established outlets. They’re moving from the stage of writing personal diaries to discussing social issues in blogs. I reckon it won’t be just a fad.”

Ip Iam-chong, a researcher at Lingnan University’s Department of Cultural Studies, was among the first bloggers to use the tool to stimulate exchanges on topical issues. Noting increased restrictions on the local press, Ip and several like-minded friends launched the blog host site In-Media last November. Despite the passive environment, Ip says he aims to introduce and cultivate the concept of citizen reporters.

“Generally speaking, Hong Kong people’s interest in words is low,” he says “Even if they’re interested, they’re not able to write prolifically. I think it’s because of the media landscape here. Our newspapers are picture-laden.”

Put another way, many Hongkongers are too used to being spoon-fed. Blogging requires a lot of initiative, which young people here lack, says Ip. “The do-it-yourself culture here is very weak. In Taiwan, people build servers on their own.”

Nevertheless, Ip’s blog site is fast gaining popularity. In-Media claims it has 1,500 regular users and about 120 people have registered as columnists.

Commercial Radio’s controversial dumping of a series of talk-show hosts helped galvanise interest, Ip says. “We wanted to set up an independent media without government intervention. We wouldn’t just want to post personal diaries,” he says.

Their blogs tend to focus on such issues as December’s World Trade Organisation meeting, the future of Wan Chai, and Disneyland as a symbol of globalisation. Cultural debate can be heated: blogger Little Wolf’s challenge of a campus magazine article equating the Japanese comic Boy’s Love with pornography drew dozens of responses.

Many blogs now include podcasts, with music and images. But Sidekick reckons blogging and podcasts aren’t about to take off in Hong Kong. The market is small compared with the mainland, and Taiwan makes it unattractive for locals to develop blogging tools. “China and Taiwan always have plenty of discussion on the latest tools,” she says. “Their communities are worth more money. And Hong Kong is always slower in picking up IT trends.”

Entertainment value certainly seems to come first for many local blog visitors. Pig, a 30-year-old Hong Kong scientist, can testify to that. She produces both an online journal and light-hearted podcasts about her life, but it’s the latter that’s more popular. “You can be very creative with blogs,” says Pig. “But some media observers urge parents to keep an eye on the blogs of their kids.”

Even so, blogs have an edge, she says. “Blogs serve as a way to interact with friends. This is unachievable through podcasts. The blog community is becoming more cohesive.”
T-Salon: SCMP on Hong Kong Blogosphere



10 thoughts on “訪問:New kids on the blog

  1. sidekick, when i was working on my wp, i have the same problem for the side bar. but later, i realize it is becuase of the pixel number of the page width is less than the sum of content and border and sidebar. in the beginning, i just caculated content plus sidebar but i forgot i have border (the tiny lin in between the content and sidebar). so i just add the pixel no to the page width and it works fine later.

    i am not sure if this is your problem. just want to share with you.

  2. 阿晨, 謝!
    你說的情況, 也會出現, 不過小奧說的, 是另一個問題.
    ie 的 div 很怪的, 寫threaded comment 作者已寫了一個trick去防止comment 浮在文章上, 但當我再加一個div, 去修窄留言時 (不蓋在左列的藍色bar上), 卻因為再多了個div, 令情況再現…:arrow:

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