To Focus or Not?

This is the my thrid article on blogging this month. The previous one are:

This post is triggered by the discussion on the topic of blogging by Isaac, Fons and WebLeOn (Chinese site). I want to continue the discussion and share my thoughts.

Whether to Focus on a Subject

Regarding blogging, it is widely recongnized “focus” is the key to any success. So here is the question for every blogger: “Whether my blog should focus on a specific topic or not?” I was seeking for an anwser and here is what I got so far.

Hey, Focus! Focus! Focus!

In April 2004, I asked for advice from a very kind guy in advertisement industry in Amsterdam.

BTW, as you are in the advertisement industry, would you give me any suggestions on my site? I am thinking about moving to the next level, but don’t have any idea. Do you have any suggestions?

Here is his advice:

Keep the promise you make: Events (in Shanghai) that affect my life (and others’)

I miss the focus on this proposition (you offer so many other categories)! Try to make (especially ‘the others’ part) as distinctive and appealing as possible! (i.e. special guided tours or hidden places in Shanghai things only you can offer!!) Try to become an outstanding point of information! Try to be as intrinsically appealing as possible. If you are.. the press will pick you up! And if the press (online/offline) picks you up, your site will spread like wildfire and advertisers will call you!

If you do not feel comfortable with your promise, try to find anotherÂ…close to you and your target group.

Greetings from Amsterdam, all the best


Marked implied I have too many categories and should keep only one Shanghai category and focus on it. I got many suggestions like this to keep a focus. This is also what I learnt from text book on marketing, on anything….

However, I felt a little bit boring when I keep focus. I post articles like bus information and Shanghai hotel review, but occassionally, I feel so excited about something that is out of the focus (Shanghai topic) and I’d like to share. That maybe on computer, on my personal life, on blog or on breaking news. I just cannot resist the tempation to share them. This is exactly the problem Fons described.

Like most other bloggers in China, I’m lacking that focus. Sometimes I think I should focus on economic developments, then I get taken away by a subject like this and write about the internet media. Wangjianshuo had his own development, first by dumping his potentially very interesting writing about his employer Microsoft as a possible subject, then trying to focus on services for visitors of Shanghai. Like most of us, he is still searching. (src)

Meanwhile, many readers are directing me to the opposite way.

Be Personal

Carroll is a kind reader who is always the first to jump up and post comment on the smallest things in my life – the wedding, the car. This is what she told me:

I would have to count myself among the readers here who found you first when searching for information about Shanghai, but I have stayed because of the occasional personal glimpses you have allowed us into your own life, and because I enjoy learning more about other parts of the world through the eyes of people who live there. In the process, I have also learned a couple of interesting new things about computers (among all the things I didn’t even come *close* to understanding when you write about the technical stuff ;-) so that’s an extra benefit for this techno-dinosaur. Your site, and the way you present things, appeals to a wide variety of people and helps many of us broaden both our interests and our knowledge of the world. Thank you for sharing so much with so many!(src)

She continued:

Well, it’s worth noting, Jian Shuo, that if you hadn’t made the decision to add a few of your personal insights, both about your surroundings, which of course was the original point of the Shanghai part of your blog, and about your personal experiences, I would have had neither the reason, nor the courage to comment at all. I think this is ample proof that the more people open themselves honestly to each other, the better the world will be. (src)

In the recent post, Carroll explained it in a more details.

You would not have kept my attention just by posting news links to other people’s stories, and I’m sure I would never even have been interested in, for example, Shanghai transportation issues, if it had not been for how you approached telling us about them from a personal standpoint.

George said:

A personal view of things is so much more entertaining and genuine than

either newpapers or guide books that always have their own and impersonal agenda.

This gave me great encourage to keep the site unchanged and keep its original pace and style.

Be Personal is More Important than Focus

In conclusion, I found be personal is more important that focus in blogsphere. I totally agree focus is important for a website – like any traditional websites. Blog can also be successful if it has a clear focus, like Google Weblog, but if you treat it as a personal stuff, instead of a serious business, to be personal is more meaningful for both readers and the writer. (I mean if you want the readers to be your friends or family).

Well. Enough about the theory. I like to insist on personal instead of focus on a topic. Back to Wendy’s question “Don’t know what to write… Should I write it as diary or around a fixed topic? Am I writing to myself or to others?” (which started this entry), I would suggest to keep a focus with strong personal presence. :-D

11 thoughts on “To Focus or Not?

  1. WJS, when i visit your site the feeling is like dropping by a good friend’s sitting room for a chat. yes, i like it PERSONAL :) and thank you for a great time always.

    michael wu

  2. WJS, keep it your own style and keep it personal. Please don’t make your blog site into yet another website full of ads. If you’re trying to make more money, focus on your MSFT job. If you’re trying to express yourself through this blog medium, then keep what you’re doing. Your site is pretty unique actually. I’ve never seen another person give so much private info away on their blogsite as you have. And it’s nice that you’ve been able to stick with it for so long. So many blog sites have come and gone–especially the ESL teachers in China–but your blog site has persisted for such a long time. Frankly I’m amazed you’ve stayed the course for so long. I’m always afraid one day I’d come to visit for some needed update on Shanghai and find your site gone. But so far, each time your site is still here and updated very frequently. Keep up the good work WJS!

  3. Don’t worry about focusing. You have done a fine job keeping focuses—you focus on many subjects instead of just one and that is an appeal of your site.

    Don’t worry about being personal. Your site is among the most personal, as many have testified.

    What’s more important than both above? It is: “Be yourself. Be true.” There was a Chinese expression: follow the feeling (gen zhe ganjue zou). I’d encourage you to follow your own feeling. Or as westerners say, follow your heart.

    I am an advocate of individualism. You are a unique individual on the net and have your own audience (BTW, if you have an audience and a commenting population, that is whom you write to, you are NOT writing to yourself). Your style works for this audience, don’t struggle to change it. What works, don’t fix it, right? Your audience is different from the audience of any other website (they may be the same people but their interest in your site is different from that towards other sites) so you don’t have to do what others fashion. In other word, do not lose your uniqueness by following what the rest of the net may be doing. As time goes on, it is only natural that your focus (and your English, writing style, etc.) may change and expand. Change will be good as long as it keeps your audience and grows it. It would be helpful to find out what your core audience’s interests are from time to time and address them accordingly. However, I see you are already doing it by responding to comments.

    The art (individualism) of advertising (selling) has evolved and matured in the following sequence. Decades ago the motto was to sell the product, then it changed to selling the best product, later redefined to selling the product I like the best, then smarter it became selling the product I think you like the best, now it is selling the product you think (and tell me) you like the best. The future, I predict, will be to sell the product that suits the individual taste of each one of you, then to the product that changes with you, and by you.

  4. Oh my! (((JSW))) <-(a big hug from California) I’m happy if my thoughts played any part in your decision to continue this way, Jian Shuo, and even happier that I am not the only one who feels this way. I truly believe that “international blogging” will have more positive effect on the world, in a shorter time, than international political organizations such as the United Nations. The more we come to care about each other on a personal level, the less impact differences among our leaders are likely to have. Yay for us, I say!

  5. Wangjianshuo, it is great to see that you are still here through this blog downturn. Yes, this site should be what YOU want to write about, not what others want you to write about. Write about a topic that you have been thinking about or that seems interesting to you. It is sad that some people want you to focus on one particular subject, as it makes it boring and you will rum out of topics. Mix it up. That is the reason that Carroll, bigbro, Lance, me and others keep coming back. We come back not just for the Shanghai info, but we come out for “a life in Shanghai”. Keep it real and write from your heart.

    PS WJS will you update the map to the 2004 version?

  6. You’ve watched your visitor count go up, so you know you’re successful.

    The previous comments are correct: Persistence has paid off, because your site offers continuity; and personal orientation has paid off, because you are a person of many interests and extensive curiosity.

    It also has to be said that you are fortunate to be located in a place that will be the focus of great – and growing – international interest for the forseeable future.

    I teach in a US business school, and you should know that you have given me points to discuss in class and that your blog has provided me with discussion points that have assisted in getting some of my Chinese students to contribute additional insights in their written work and in class.

    And I enjoy being able to feel the enthusiasm with which you approach your life.

    Keep doing what you do!

  7. I envy you that you have so many loyal readers.

    I agree with your conclusion. Be Personal is More Important than Focus.

    There is a saying “To satisfy others, satisfy yourself first”

  8. much have been said and commented already so i just wanna say that i agree with what they’re saying. it’s more interesting and enticing to read a personal standpoint, opinion and experience than a merely focused yet constricted and boring topic of discussion. you have a right to freedom of expression so just be yourself! i love your good work, JS! keep rockin’!:D

  9. There are already so many other websites which offer enough information that people are looking for. However you are different and that’s why I like to spend more time here with you than with other websites. A lot people come here not just for information, they come here to relax,just like to visit a Friend. It is another way of communication.

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