Category Archives: Blog Tips

Don’t Force Me to Write on Topics

From time to time, I saw frustrated readers commenting on this blog about less coverage of a “very important topic”. Here is one example:

yeah…what about China? Hmm….well let’s see. How about more than a 100 children with kidney stones from contaminated milk powder in yet ANOTHER contaminated food scandal? This doesn’t catch your attention, WJS? Let’s face it, there’s shady companies all over the world, but contaminating food for children seems to be something the Chinese particularly excel at. Assuming they’re able to eat anything from underneath the rubble of buildings that government safety inspectors didn’t bother checking, in an earthquake prone zone.

Think of this while you write the “Chinese economy just keeps expanding.”

So does the pile of bodies….

I always love reader’s feedback about what I should write about daily, but please don’t force me to write anything or claim that I am ignorant if I don’t write something. Let me take the chance about my phylosophy about topic choosing.

1. Writing on something means I care.

2. Not writing on something does not neccessarily mean I do not care.

There are many reasons I don’t write for something. Obviously, my blog is not a newspaper, in which lack of important news or attention itself is a mistake. I am not creating a newspaper.

They key reason I don’t write on something that I care is, I just don’t feel my value in writing about it.

If you look at the tag line of this blog, you will find this:

Events (in Shanghai) that affect my life (and others’)

This tag line is not well noticed, and didn’t change from 6 years ago, but it is an important guideline for me.

I want to write on something:

1. Around me (may not neccessily be in Shanghai – that is where the parath is all about, which means optional, but it has a strong Shanghai focus.

2. That it has affected my life directly, which means, I only try to write on something I have first hand personal experience. Sometimes I write about things that affect others (without first hand experience), but it is not I am good at.

For the Poison Milk problem, I do care, but there is not too much I can say about. Maybe not everyone agree, but I think there are enough “opinions” almost everywhere in this world, but there are too little “facts”. People are good at talking opinions before verifying facts. This blog is about the life of a real person – what he sees, what he does, what he hears… I am trying to use a completely different angle than a newspaper – the angle from the eyes of a normal person in Shanghai – to see and report this very small part of the world. (To be more clear, there are 5 billion definition of “world” by 5 billion people in this world. My world is just 1/5 billionth of it).

For the milk case, again, for example, I will write about it only when:

1. I know someone who are directly affected by it and I have talked with him/her.

2. I observed the untrust in food, milk, water, medicine, or anything that goes into people’s body spread out around me. It is happening, and that is the reason I MAY write about it.

3. Someone post a comment on this blog and ask me to write about it, and I am indirectly affected by it. That is how the article you are reading at comes from.

Meanwhile, please don’t feel bad about posting comment like Brian did. It is completely fine. Don’t worry. I am not offended at all. It is very fair to ask for that type of article. I just want to take the chance to clarify again how I choose topic, and clarify that “not writing does not mean not caring” and when “not writing” happens.

Write Articles, Not Blog Postings

Jacob Nielson (the usability Guru) wrote a recent article named Write Articles, Not Blog Postings. The article is very well written.

To treat every entry on the blog as an standalone article that is valuable even after years is a very good way to think of blog.

What is a Blog?

The word blog refer to too many things, in just one word.

It can mean blog tools, like MovableType, or TypePad, or MSN Space. However, you can create not only blog with blog tools. For example, MovableType can be a useful Content Management System for creating help center for a website.

Blogging means the behavior to create one journal per day (or at other fixed frequency). You can blog without a blogging tool. Paper and pen, for example, are good for blogging (if you share what you write publicly).

Blog also means the result of creative work of bloggers. Blog refers to the articles on a blog, or created by a blog software, or created by a blogger, or of any combination of these three elements. For example, a blogger without using blogging tool, or a non-blogger with a blogging tool.

Blogger, of cause, refers to the person who blogs – like me.

Separation of Blog and Articles

The idea to write an article per day is great. When I do reflection about why I started blog, I remember the initial thoughts was just to write one article per day, no matter what topic I write. If you look at the first few articles I wrote, you get some idea about what Wangjianshuo’s blog initially looks like:

  1. MovableType Successfully Installed on Windows XP
  2. Network Infrustucture in my Home in Shanghai
  3. ODP – Not As Good as Zeal.com
  4. Korea: The Bandwitdh Capital of the World?

Well. As you can see, there is no Shanghai information at the very begining. Later, when the time past by, and I found by sharing my personal life, I am sharing about what is happening in this city, and then the blog became THE Shanghai blog. This, of cause, didn’t change the initial idea of writing an article every day and accumulate something big. This exactly echo what Jacob suggested: write articles, not blog, although I am using a blogging tool, and write daily, and I am called a blogger.

I hope I share my small piece of history with my readers who also write blog, and we all remember to create something valuable for Internet, instead of creating noises, or information pollutions on the Internet.

Google AdSense and its Impact

I cannot believe it that I have put Google AdSense on this blog for more than 4 years. It started as an experiment but later became a pretty good revenue source for this blog – at least I got more than what I pay for hosting, domain and everything related to keep this site up and running. Well, pretty more than that.

That is a good thing (to cover the cost so I don’t need to pay to blog), but there are some side effects. When I do the annual reflection about what is good and what is bad, I found the Google AdSense does not positively impact the quality of the post. Sometimes, I found to write a topic that is easier to get some Google traffic is more rewarding (in terms of page views, and so with the small amount of $$$ from the program), I feel I am losing the faith to create an article (I do mean A-R-T-I-C-L-E), and sometimes started to create blogs. By blogs, I mean the general meaning of the term blog: things like what is going on? what is the whether? how does my friends doing, blah, blah…

Maybe (I guess) the biggest difference between my blog and millions of other blogs is, I am writing articles that is useful, maybe only after several month when a real traveler found the site, and he/she happens to be on the road in the next few days or weeks. So keep what I am proud of.

So, I want to look back with my readers together and refresh the belief of writing articles instead of blogs.

Lulu.com to Turn Blog into Book

lulu.com is a great service. They offer personal publishing. Just like MovableType offers online personal publishing, they actually publish the book!

Some interesting features I like:

ISBN

With 99 USD, they can assign a ISBN to your new book! This is valid ISBN that you can even sell your book in Amazon.com or bookstores. They (lulu.com) act as the publishing house for you.

Publishing House

With 149 USD, they even can list you as the publisher, that you own the ISBN…

Free PDF Creator

They can convert the Word document into PDF that allows your users to download (free or at a fee).

Binding and Shipping, and Print (just in time)

They cover almost everything about publishing. That makes printing a book as easy as creating a Word document or write a blog.

I am Going to Try It

How about I publish some books? Something like this:

Wangjianshuo’s Blog (2002 – 2006)

Living in Shanghai – From the Eyes of a Blogger

Discover Shanghai

….

I can put the related topic (categories in this blog) into a book.

Then I can print the book. Anyone interested to get one?

How to Start a Blog?

This is my answer to my friend who is going to start a blog, and asked me how to get started. He is thinking about WorldPress but concerned that it may be banned from China.

It is great news that you finally started blogging. That can be very interesting. You asked the right person. :-) Let me tell you everything, if you want to know such details.

In case you didn’t find an answer to some of your questions (even future questions), you may want to check my articles on blogging at:

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/backstage.htm Backstage of my site (42 articles)

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/blog_tips.htm Tips for Bloggers (15 articles)

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/hosting.htm All About Hosting (30 articles)

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/blogging.htm My Own Blogging Experience (30 articles)

You can start with WordPress, but I strongly recommend you to host it with your own hosting plan and software, if you take it seriously. I am so happy that I started from the day one to use my own domain (you already got one), and my own system. WordPress is sometimes banned (most of the time is OK), and so does all major blog providers in U.S. (blogger.com, typepad.com). Even if you map your domain to wordpress, it will still be blocked. They block IP and domain.

I’d like to recommend MovableType. I am a happy customer for 5 years, and never doubted about my choice. ( movabletype.org). You can get a hosting plan (like bluehost.com, which is good) at 84 USD per year, and setup your own software. Since you don’t want to spend too much time on setup and maintenance, I am happy to ask my friend to help you out if you want. I even have some hosting package that you can leverage immediately. Anyway, I think it is better to have it on WordPress – one) it is hard to ban (your destiny is controlled by yourself, not others who share the same server) two) it allows you to do more things than blog, like BBS, photo sharing and even some small applications (all under same domain).

On blogging topics, your experience is definitely valuable, and you should share them. Just one tip for you – don’t try to write too much at the very begining. There is something different between writing blog and writing a book. It is all about writing frequently instead of writing in depth (of cause depths is also important but not the No. 1 factor). Frequent blogs get audience (like feld.com).

I think the topic may also include something about yourself, and companies, people you meet everyday, because this garentees that you have something to write, to share, and readers have some reasons to come. I do have too many friends who started, and write two or three articles, and then pause, or completely stop. Non-bloggers cannot imagine how hard it is to keep writing a blog at fixed frequency, even one article per week or per month is hard.

So, happy blogging

Too Many Entries in a Blog

Wendy complained to me. She has a friend relating to Shanghai. She wanted to share some information about Shanghai with him. She thought my blog is a good place to get started, but later, she found out there are just too many contents in the blog, covering too many topics, that she was not able to send a single link (besides the homepage) to her friend.

This is true. Livid once wrote a blog article about this issue:

One day I found a nice blog, so I carefully read all the entries on the home page. I became interested in this blog, but when I read the long list on archive, I found it is a pity that I cannot read the long list of article, since I don’t have enough time to do that. What a pity. I believe it is a pity for the blog owners as well.

Any solutions to this problem? If this is solved, it will greatly increase the page view per user metrics…

No one is able to read all the articles on my archive list, and the category page (example) is too confusing now. That is the reason why I have 1300+ entries, but Pageview per visit is still 1.80. It means in the first six months of this year, on average, people visit 1.80 pages on every visit. That is very low for a website. :-)

Any suggestions on how to solve this problem?

A Blog is All About a Person

What happened to this blog? Why it is shifting away from its propose – a blog about “Events (in Shanghai) that affect my life (and others’)”? Why there is an entry as short as this one: Productivity Tips – Small Things in Strategic Way? It has nothing to do with Shanghai.

I believe this may be the question in many people’s mind. Let me explain why.

A Blog is All About a Person

I believe a blog is all about a person. It evolves as the person grows up (or old).

The focus of one person many shift along with the time and the responsibility he/she holds.

This year presents much more challenges to me that require me to be more productive than any year I have before. I have to lay out aggressive learning plans to catch up. I am happy that the responsibilities I have and the opportunities I need to catch up are much more than many people at my age. In short, the focus in my personal life shifted a lot.

Tools Shifted with the Owner

Blog is a powerful tool, as you may discover. I decided to use the tool more often to help me organize my knowledge, my activities, and my life. The decision is that I won’t shy away from putting something useful for me on to my PERSONAL blog although it is not about the topic I set at the very beginning.

The focus of the previous three years was on life in Shanghai. In the future, it will not change a lot. The only noticeable change will be, it is more focused on business in Shanghai.

Learning from a Person or from an Expert

Despite of many people’s expectation, I am not an expert in daily life in Shanghai. I am not the right person to tell people where to go out for dinner or buy good stuff (maybe Wendy is). What I did was just to share the little knowledge I know about the city, and it happened to be helpful to others. Just because I was not the expert, many practices are more useful since most of people have the taste of a non-expert. :-)

It is the same when I talk more about personal development, productivity, and business. To observe what one single normal person does in his/her one day may help you to get more information than a comprehensive statistic report from a professional research organization. That is why I think it is still of great value to share at this blog.

When I start to judge whether I should put it into my blog or just keep it as a Word document in my hard disk, I told myself: 1) Don’t treat the blog too seriously. You don’t have to take the responsibility of an editor of a portal or a national wide newspaper. 2) In case it happens to be useful to someone…

P.S. On Productivity

Personally, I found those two articles helped me a lot. I cleaned my mail box within 15 minutes, and give everyone the response they needed. Then I spent time to setup my Email Reference System. It was proven to be very helpful to me. The links happened to come from Microsoft website. I got email challenging me to promote MS product on a personal blog. Well. I proudly put the disclaimer that I was am EXMSFT, maybe the tips only helps those former Microsoft employees? Maybe.. ha-ha.

Update: Febuary 18, 2006

In the morning, I used 30 minutes to process all the back log in my company email folder and my hotmail folder. For the first time in my entire life with Hotmail (since 1996), my inbox of hotmail is empty. Small tips work wonderful for me. Now almost all the inbox in my email account (except Gmail one) is empty now. Good.

P.S. 2. Shanghai Snows

It snowed heavily from 10:00 to 12:30 in the morning. No wonder why recently Shanghai is so cold. It is preparing for the snow. I love snowing, but there is no way for Shanghai to have the snowy scene in Beijing or even in north China like Luoyang.

It is good. Good! Good!

Privacy of Blogging

Yesterday night, we discussed about what to blog and what not to.

I found many bloggers treat blog as a private diary and wrote something that they will never tell anybody into the blog. I don’t think it is a good approach.

Blogging is NOT a private diary. Here are some suggestions on blogging:

1. Treat blog as a TOOL. Don’t do something you won’t do because of the tool, and don’t stop doing something you have already be doing because of blog.

2. Blog has to be useful. Useful blog for someone himself/herself may not be helpful to others. It is very common and I encourage people to blog even if it is not so helpful to others if it is helpful to himself. To be helpful to others may not always be helpful to himself. It is also common. In both cases, blogging has some value. If you found it neither helpful to yourself, nor helpful to others, it means the blog doesn’t have too much value, and I recommend you to give up and stop wasting time.

3. Blogging just for blogging? It is good to try new things by starting a blog. It is good. But if you don’t feel it fits your need in some way, the solution is simple: quit blogging, although it may seems cool, hip, fashionable for others.

4. Protect other’s privacy. Privacy is defined (by some source) as the right of not to be known. People can choose whatever he/she want to write about his/her own life, but don’t involve other people’s life. The rule of thumb I use is, ask for permission if you reveals the information for other persons. To tell people what you eat for last dinner is no problem – you can share whatever about yourself, but to share what the other person ate last night seems violating this person’s privacy.

BTW, exposing too much private life without any meaningful impact also does not make too much sense. Just my 2 cents on blogging.

P.S. Technical changes

I hate to fix technical problems now, but I spent about one hour to fulfill my commitment to my friends by fixing the problems they faced. I hosted blogs for other people, including mvm, my Chinese site, claire, elfe, and wendy. Due to the server move, I only successfully moved my Chinese site and mvm to home.wangjianshuo.com and have to leave claire, elfe, and wendy on the old server. So to keep the URL unchanged, I did the following:

Under their folder at home.wangjianshuo.com, upload file as blow:

name:

.htaccess

content:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteRule (^.*) mirror.php

name: mirror.php

content:

<?php

$BLOG_MAIN_SITE = “http://wangjianshuo.com”;

$BLOG_MIRROR_SITE = “http://home.wangjianshuo.com”;

$entryfile = $_SERVER[‘REQUEST_URI’];

$file = fopen (“$BLOG_MAIN_SITE$entryfile”, “r”);

if (!$file) {

echo “

Unable to open remote file.\n”;

exit;

}

while (!feof ($file)) {

$line = fgets ($file, 1024);

echo $line;

}

fclose($file);

?>

Job is done.

Topics Selection Guidelines

The entry of previous day Picture in Shanghai got a lot of comments. Let me explain more.

One’s Imagination v.s. Fact

I wrote about “depressed” because there are a lot of tough decisions to make on the business side, and I don’t think I will reveal it. “Depressed” is a good feeling that encourages people. I am grateful to what I am given so far at the age of 28. It helps for me to grow more mature. Not everyone has the opportunity to face the business size as I do. Well. Enough about me.

It is interesting that we see comments that relate my mood to the picture and made conclusion that “Old Shanghai” made me depressed. It is natural though, since we often mistakenly take what we imagine as the fact. I also do so. So don’t worry, farawaypanda.

On page 25 of the Art of Travel, On Anticipation, Alan de Botton said:

If we are surprised by the power of one sulk to destroy the beneficial effects of an entire hotel, it is because we misunderstand what holds up our moods. We are sad at home and blame the weather and the ugliness of the buildings, but on the tropical island we learn (after an argument in a raffia bungalow under a azure sky) that the state of the skies and the appearance of our dwellings can never one their own either underwrite our joy or condemn us to misery.

It applies to Tony‘s case. There are many moods people can have when treated badly. But it all depends on how you think instead of how others think. I can dramatically feel the different I feel when I go to shopping malls. I know the city does not change too much but I did.

Peace

Thanks everyone for “supporting” me in the previous thread, but as I always said, Peace in Discussion is critical for this blog. I encourage people negative voices as much as supporters. So relax.

Topic Choosing Guidelines

farawaypanda proposed an very interesting topic: why I write and what I don’t write. The simple guideline is very simple:

1. I choose the topic, not others.

2. I will see if it is Events (in Shanghai) that affect my life (and others’)

There are many things that is big, astonishing, but if it does not has impact to my life, or others’ life, chances are, I don’t write about it. I don’t write does not mean the event itself is not important – there are much more important things in the world than a personal blog can cover, it means I don’t think it is valuable for me to add one more article based on what I read on newspaper or TV. The Shen 6 event for example, I just don’t see any neccessarity to post a picture that I copy from sina.com.cn and say something like: “Excited…”

The world should have many voices, and I just want to contribute something unique to the Internet.

When Nothing to Blog

If there is no topic to blog today, how about try thinking about these ideas:

Event?

Will it be a conference, meetup, or events coming soon? If so, write about it. What is the propose? Who will come? Will you go there? If yes, why? If not, also why?

New product?

See if there is a new product, new release or new plugin. Try it, describe it and write some comments on it.

to be continued…

Updated July 25, 2007

Reflection

If there is nothing to write, how about do some reflections? Thank about the past, and think about the days you blogged, and think about what you have believed in. Are you still doing what you believe is true? Are you still believe in what you believed? Why? Why not? That is the value of a blog – to help (or the better word – to force) you think. To explain one’s thought beautifully is a power everyone should manage.

OOB

If you really don’ t have too much to say, an OOB (Out of Blogging) notice is also good – to tell people why you don’t want to blog, and that can be an interesting blog as well. The bottom line is, you keep up your blog and don’t let people worry – what is going there?

Of cause, it is OK to pause for a day or two.

Pictures

A picture is better than thousands of words. Try to post a recent picture and it will well explain what is happening…

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 wangjianshuo.com 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 another…close to you and your target group.

Greetings from Amsterdam, all the best

Mark

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

Blog, to Host it or Not?

blogcn.com, the largest blogging hosting provider (like blogger.com), has been down for about 8 days.

screen-blogcn-down.png

Captured from blogcn.com’s homepage on July 21, 2004. Screenshot in courtesy of blogcn.com

Massive bloggers were affected and became homeless. It breaks the update pace of bloggers and caused big problems in the blogsphere. I am using my RSS reader to pull RSS from other bloggers. 1/3 of them are hosted on blogcn.com and now, the source became unavailable.

To Host or Not

“Where to host my blog today?” is the question in many bloggers’ mind. Many changed BSP (blogging service provider). When a service goes down, people have to think of ways of migrating it to another service. Sometimes they lose all the previous post. It will be heartbreaking.

I will NOT Host on BSP

I don’t want to host my blog at any Blog Service Provider. Instead, I choose ISP (Internet Service Provider) to host my virtual host and run blogging software by myself.

The baseline is to keep the URL of my old article never change.

Run Your Blog Under Your Own Domain

I regret I didn’t start my own domain earlier. My first homepage is hosted on Kali with URL http://www.kali.com.cn/myhome/wjs in 1997. The site does not provide free personal website service now so my site disappeared permentantly from the earth.

If I have had more money at that time, I may have started my own domain. (Actually, it is a matter of mindset. Everybody has money to have a nice dinner, which is enough for one year of domain hosting. Yes. In Shanghai, 30 RMB per person can be pretty good dinner already) The domain name is life long assert. I may change my server but the URL remains the same. Nobody noticed my server switch (first time, second time) or IP change, since my URL remains. What if I switch a BSP, for example, from www.blogcn.com to www.blogbus.com or others. The URL changes. Readers get lost and old links break. Linkage is called by somebody to be currency on the Internet. The more links you have, the more Internet Assert you have.

To register a .com domain name has dropped to 6.95 USD at GoDaddy.com. It is not expensive.

Considered to Host Your Site at Home?

Technical guys like to host a website on personal computer at home. Run is doing so. Hacky also did so. I did it too at early stage. Later, I gave up. I explain it to people this way: “When I start it for the first week, it is exciting. After two week, I started to wonder the meaning of running the server, consuming electricity power and sending out noise and heat. Just to serve the 20-50 visits per day (30% comes from myself)?

At last, I decided to put the hot potato in a cheap server room. 380 RMB is not bad for me (at companycn.com)

Start Your Own Domain and Hosted, Blogcn Users

I suggest people who suffer from the pause of service of blogcn to register a personal domain rightaway and host your blog under your own name. Since blogging is part of personal identity on the Internet, so should your URL. Then find a cheap hosting provider and install blogging software like MovableType. Then you are sure that it will follow you for a long time.

Resources for the Move

To Continue or Not? Confusing in China Blogsphere

Blogging in China is at its turning point. I just feel it.

Wendy

Wendy posted this entry yesterday. Here is rough translation: “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?”

The feeling of confusion was quickly acknowledged by Eddie and Claire.

Claire

Several days before, in July 13, Claire posted similar entry titled Continue or not…. In that post, she shared her experience to start the blog, to publish her blog URL to all her friends (including Wendy and me), and the initial excitement to see the increase of page view and the warm comments. However, in the end, she started to question:

Along the way to today, I often ask myself, am I going away from the initial motivation of blogging? Am I recording the true feeling or recording the feeling I want others to see? There are some direct and frank feelings I shy away from writing, because I know he is reading. I shied away from the private details, because I know they are reading. I don’t write the deepest thought in my heart, because I know….

Others

I searched in Grassroot and found many blogger posted the similar thoughts in the recent two months.

  • Youxing Education Blog: Don’t want to blog. “Life is simpler and simpler, no phone calls, no TV…”
  • smile to life Hesitate whether to continue blogging. “It is hard to blogging nowadays. You write about everything, some will say you are a man/woman of characters, others say you are SB (ill minded). If you write selectively, like completing teacher’s composition assignment, even myself don’t like to read, why I should write?”
  • By myself: Don’t want to write. “It is not necessary to write about everything, haha”.
  • Help me: Long Pause of Blogging. “Don’t know why. Is it that I don’t want to write, or I have nothing to write? The fact is, I didn’t write anything in the last week.”

Slowing Down, China Blogsphere

According to CNBlog’s unpublished research (via IsaacMao), the blog number growth rate in China is about 34% in the 2nd quarter of 2004, comparing to 47% in 1st quarter. It is another indicator that some gradual changes have happened in China Blogsphere.

My Suggestions

I chatted with Jack recently about what I see the blogging. The time when I started blog is different than recent days. In 2002, it is widely believed that 911 event is the trigger to the popularity of blogging. After that event, people in U.S. started to pay more attention to the inside world (mind and heart) instead of the outside one (job, work, financial data). So people want to find some way to express, so Blogging comes into stage.

At that time, blogging was defined as daily updated chronically personal pages. I am still using the daily update (at least two day update) as my criteria for blogging nowadays.

I also started to wonder the meaning of blogging some times, in early 2003. But now, it is part of my life and I am pretty sure my blogging will continue.

  • It is NOT a Diary

    Firstly, I don’t treat it as a diary. Diary is the secret log for myself (which I never continued for more than one week). If you are not comfortable to write something, just skip it. It is NOT a diary and don’t feel guilty if you cannot face yourself in the most frank way.

  • It is About YOU and YOUR World

    Secondly, blogging is about YOU, not a topic. Some use blogging software to maintain company website, or a project portal, or on specific topics, but if you want it to be personal, just keep in mind that it is all about yourself. Anything related to you can be put into the blog – the ONLY place in this world that represent yourself. So Owen calls it personal portal and topku call it personal branding. No matter that name you give it, it is just the ONLY place in this whole universe that clearly expresses you. You name is associated with this blog and whenever something wants to know YOU, they come here. Of cause you decided what you want to be perceived by others. Having that in mind, I don’t suggest any blogger to work hard to grab funny pictures, useful content and unfiltered links onto his/her blog. The attempt to do a better job that portal website or news website will eventually fail. People will go away. At last, you will go away. Remember, write about YOU and YOUR world.

  • Any Topic Needs Your Own Presence

    At last, if you are lucky enough to have enough readership on a specific topic (I feel lucky), stick to it, without losing the presence of YOU. My Shanghai topic won’t be interesting to anyone, including myself, if it is not my own experience and from my real story – why bother quote some good review in my blog just because it is well written? So remember, any topic needs your own presence.

Great Guidelines from Mark

Mark’s 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web is my favorite guideline on blogging. I often review the guidelines in the last two years. I even sent a hard copy of the guideline to Eric yesterday.

  1. Write for a reason
  2. Write often
  3. Write tight
  4. Make good friends
  5. Find good enemies
  6. Let the story unfold
  7. Stand up, speak out
  8. Be sexy
  9. Use your archive
  10. Relax!

Best wishes to every bloggers! You should continue.

What does Successful Blog Mean

Dragoning (China site) posted a comment about his new blog. It is a starting blog with 94 entries already. It has solid content and fresh ideas. Meantime, from the frontpage of the blog, I can see the traffic is not hight. It has Google PageRank of 0 (better than “not ranked”) and there is no comments or trackbacks on any entry that is listed on homepage. Despite of the lower readership (I am guessing), Dragoning kept writing with great care. I believe one day, the site will enjoy higher PageRank (so get more attention) and will be successful soon.

BTW, what is the definition of a successful blog? Readership is certainly one of the important factors. Everyone enjoys seeing huge traffic everyday and many people respond to articles on the site, but there is more than readership.

The reference value for him/herself is one of the other important factors. I love to check what happened the same day in the last year. What did I do at that time? What was in my mind in those old happy/bad times.

Do you still remember what happened on June 5, 2003? I do. It was a Thursday and I was preparing my trip to Chong Ming island by bicycle: Riding a Bicyle to Chong Ming Island. On June 10, 2004, I Returned from Chong Ming and posted many pictures. Wow. That is a fantastic trip. I am happy that I posted something so I can recall and remember one year or ten years later. I would want to do it if it is a personal diary. This is what I call a successful blog – a blog that runs for at least one year.

In the first half of 2004, blogging starts to spead quickly in China. I see new bloggers coming every day and find nice blogs every day. Of cause, I also see many quit after posting some entries. Anyway, technology is changing people’s life, but is not the whole of people’s life. I am so happy that I received a SMS from my dad’s cellphone. It reads: “Mom is learning to send this SMS”. Sweet. Mom don’t have a mobile and now, she is able to talk with his son via SMS. Maybe one day, she will send me an email and say: “Hi, son, this is the link of my blog and you can find the latest penoy pictures I took.” That would be realy nice. From comments from other computer-illiterated people, blogging is easier than any application of computer – even easier than email. If the blogging page is the home page of his/her IE, all he/she needs to do is writing something and click POST button.

Getting a Link is Like Receiving a Gift

“Dave Sifry, founder of Technorati, told me once that getting a link is like receiving a gift. It’s a social gesture.” (via Scobleizer). What a fantastic idea. I pays attention to my referral log to all incoming links – just curious abut what others say about me or my blog. It should be the same for most bloggers. Gift is a sweet word, just like the feeling of getting a link. Let me distribute some gift today.

Isaac

Isaac is a smart guy. His personal website isaacmao.com (Chinese site) is a FVS for me (I just invented this abbr. FVS = Frequently Visited Site). His is among the first few bloggers in China. Later, he co-founded cnblog.org. Now, it is the gathering place for academic bloggers. By academic, I mean most contributors to cnblog.org are taking blogging serious and doing research on blogging as a technology and social phenomena.

There is always interesting stuff on his site, especially his english site. It has a cool name META.

Topku

I never met Topku yet. topku.com is a popular site. The nick name topku has an interesting story behind it – it should be read as To-PKU, where PKU means Peking University. Topku is an active contributor to cnblog.org and a firm fighter against Fang Xing Dong’s blogchina.com

Zheng

Zheng is another famous guy that I wanted to meet for a long time. I read a lot on his blog http://blogs.51.net/ (Chinese site). His article quality is super good, with good thoughts, although I cannot understand (or have patient to think hard enough) all the posts (example).

Other websites

Here is some of my friend’s blogs.

Claire’s Blog – Claire was an intern here. She can speak French. She stayed in France for some time and worked (as an intern) in U.S. for some time. Her blog is among the most emotional blogs. There is another emotional blog Chinese tea. :-D

Eddy wrote a lot about his son. He uses his blog to record the days his son grows up. How lovely! The domain name yinzirui is the name of his son.

Eric is a geek. This is what I wrote about him in LinkedIn

Zi Ying is among the smartest people I know in this world. He is a great developer with unexceptional knowledge of computer. He is also a high-tech geek who never stops explore new things. He owns blue tooth equipments and changes his PDA more often than I change my tooth-brush

What I said is true. He ran to me yesterday and show me his new SmartPhone. He changed his mobile again. Thanks to Eric that I am able to use the GC75 GPRS Modem so I could update this blog at home in the last month.

I have several geek friends in my friend cycle like Eric. Xiao Gao is another. His girl friend is studying in Switzerland. He named his domain name by his girl friend’s name – Tanqi.

He is the kind of guy who digs into the technical details. I am very surprised that he bought a IBM tablet-PC like equipment at only 800 RMB. The 14′ LCD display comes with a PC inside, a touch screen and wireless LAN PC card. Now it is running Windows 98. Haha… He spent too much time on programming at Tanqi.com. Before Tanqi.com migrated to SPS, it has forum, wiki, blog with comment, pictures, font replacement functions, but with almost no articles, so with not many visitors. LOL.

Frank is of strong characteristics. He quitted Microsoft and joined a college to teach computer. He is going to Kanas this August. I am not sure if I can go there as I planned.

Grace uses her blog as part of her work. If she starts a personal blog one day, she will definitely become a good writer because she always has the latest news.

run2me.com is a continuously updating site (although not everyday). Check his trip to Paris. It is very nice. Run is so humorous that he issued 5 website logos to celebrate one month’s opening of his site in Nov, the last year.

Eddie told me excitedly that after I put a link to his site, his site got 500 visitors in the following three days.

Write Better Weblog

When I started writing my blog in late 2002, I read the Mark Bernstein‘s 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web from A List Apart. At that time, not many people run bloggers, especially in China – actually, people say 911 event is the push power for the popularity of blog since people began to stop the work on their hand and to start thinking and recording about their own lives. It is the same as Muzimei’s role in the Chinese blog world – the one of the important tipping points of the popularity in Chinese blogging world.

Mark’s article was the guideline for my blog writing. In his article, there are some important rules I’d like to recommend to everyone to follow.

Write for a Reason

“If you don’t really care, don’t write.”

“Show us the details, teach us why they matter. ”

“Write for yourself; you are, in the end, your most important reader.”

“Write honestly. Don’t hide, and don’t stop short. ”

Write Open

“If you don’t write for a few days, you are unfaithful to the readers who come to visit. Missing an update is a small thing ?rudeness, not betrayal ?and readers will excuse the occasional lapse.”

“If you cannot write for a time, and the reason for your absence is interesting, write about it.”

Write Tight

“Omit unnecessary words.”

Make good friends

“Read widely and well, on the web and off, and in your web writing take special care to acknowledge the good work and good ideas of other writers. ”

“Weblog writers and other participants in the Living Web gain readers by exchanging links and ideas.”

Find good enemies

I didn’t under this rule at the very beginning, but later, I found an enemy is good to better clarify the nature of the idea. The anti-spam effort and SARS events report are good samples.

“Disagreement is exciting. Everyone loves a fight, and by witnessing the contest of competing ideas we can better understand what they imply.”

Relax

“Don’t take yourself too seriously.”

“Don’t worry about the size of your audience.”

“Do let your work on the Living Web flow from your passion and your play, your work life and your life at home. ”

Note: All sentences in quotes are cited from Mark’s original article 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web.

My Practices

Owen from T i M E aNd T i D E (Chinese site and blocked in China. Why?) posted an article: Be True. He quoted Scobleizer‘s quote of my post Living Cost in Shanghai (Ops. What a wired sentence). Owen suggested to focus on small things. I was flattered by his article. Actually, focusing on details is a great way to amuse the writer him/herself, and the readers as well. I often check my previous posts and only those with great details about the day – the weather, the grass or some details attract my own eyes. These posts act as a training to bring me back to the old days via a time tunnel….

I do have a lot of friends. I feel guilty that I didn’t put link to their articles as often as I should. This is the problem to have an English weblog – I am aware more than half my reader cannot read Chinese and putting a link to Chinese site may be difficult for them to continue reading. I do want to share the good ideas generated by them. :-D BTW, Billy Qiu started English blog site: HitHat. He shares something similar with my blog: focusing on the small things in the city of Shanghai. He just posted an article 24-Hour Self-service Banks: Can We Really Count On Them?. Worth reading…

More Blogs

The largest list of blogs in China is Sinosplice’s China Blog List. According to Sinosplice’s description, “Many of them are written by foreigners in China, although a few are written by non-Chinese elsewhere or by Chinese people.”

Tips from Successful Bloggers

Top 47 key tips from the world’s best bloggers via cnblog.org

  • If you want to bring more traffic to your blog, participate in other projects hosted by other bloggers as it’s one way of getting noticed. J Rannie (www.photojunkie.org)
  • As with all Web pages, update it frequently and put interesting stuff on it. J Quin Parker (quinparker.com)
  • A lot of people start writing without thinking about what they’re going to say. J Quin Parker (quinparker.com)
  • Don’t try to please an audience, and don’t post simply because you feel like you ought to ?only post when you have something to say. J Fraser (blogjam.com)
  • Don’t write about work, and avoid writing about people you know in general. You’ll end up offending someone. J Fraser (blogjam.com)
  • Avoid “today I did this?posts, unless what you did was extraordinary, or unless you can turn it into something extraordinary. J Fraser (blogjam.com)
  • Don’t worry about who’s reading, and just write about what’s interesting to you. Don’t try to please some external person, just focus on writing about stuff you think is interesting.

    J Meg Hourihan (www.megnut.com)

Run Your Blog with Your Own Domain Name

A lot of people are very interested to know how to run the same website as mine (http://home.wangjianshuo.com). The questions are:

  1. How to get a domain name with my own name?
  2. What do I need to do after I get the domain name? Where should I put my pages.
  3. What is the software you are using to publish your website?

Well. They are all good questions when you have know idea about the Internet world. I’d like to help.

Domain name

Believe it or not, you can get a unique top level Internet name at blahblah.com. Anything you can think of before it is taken.

Here is the tool you can type in your name with .com at the end at my favoriate Domain Name Lookup tool – GeekTools. See if it is taken or not. If they return “no information for that domain”, then congratulations and you can go ahead to register it.

P.S. Here is the domain information for my domain.

You pay: 120 RMB or less per year
You get: Your right to assign an IP address to the domain name and change it at anytime you want.

Read on to see where to get your IP address.

Webhosting

Domain name itself is only a record at the central domain registration administration. It will point your visitors to your website. Having a domain name is just to get a car plate. You have to buy your car seperately. For the website, you need to find the website hosting service. They provide the real machines, hard disks, the Interenet connections to you.

You pay: 300 RMB per year
You get: 1) An IP address, which you can give it to the domain name hosting company

2) An username and a password, by which you can put your own webpage and pictures to the hosting server.

Blogging software

I suggest you to run MovableType, which can be downloaded free of charge at http://movabletype.org. Be aware that it is a little bit difficult to configure and run it for non-technical people. Read my article MovableType Successfully Installed on Windows XP for more information.

Begin blogging

Let me know if you have setup your blogging with your own domain name. I would like to provide link to you on my site. I am very careful to choose which site I link to. You are entitled a link on this site only if you meet the following criteria.

1) You created your site by following the instructions listed above.

– or –

2) You are inspired by this article to begining your blogging with your own domain name.

– or –

3) You followed the instruction in my article MovableType Successfully Installed on Windows XP to run your copy of MovableType.

Let me know by comment here and I will create a special section and link to you – the very unique community on the net.

Questions

Post it here and welcome to join the blogging world.

Blog, More than Software – Isaac’s Speech

I just returned from Isaac‘s speech at ASTI.

I have to say, it is a wonderful presentation, and I really enjoyed the 3 hours with friends from different background and working in different companies. Here are some key take-aways from this session.

  • China is not a country good at writing. – Isaac
  • 6 keys of blog: WGTETL (Write, Gather, Think, Enjoy, Taste and Learn) – Isaac (The original word in Chinese sounds beautiful.)
  • Idea: It is a great idea to broadcast events by blog.
  • Find the person to help you go aross your boundary
  • Blog should be the information gathering tool

Note: Pardon me that I don’t have time to record the details of the events :-) But anyway, this further helped me to understand the importance of finding the person to help me to cross my boundary of life. Hao helped me to get to know the software engineering community. Michael from ShanghaiExpat.com introduced the expat gathering to me so I can enjoy the happiness to talk with people from different country. Prof. Ju also opens to door to IEEE and other commitees to me as well.

I’d like to thank Hao and Xun to organize this event. Thank to Isaac for the great speech. I will mark 9 out of a 1 to 9 ranking system for this speech. I enjoyed the discussion with other participants too.

Celebrating Holidays and Special Occasions on Websites

Celebrating Holidays and Special Occasions on Websites (Alertbox Oct. 2002)

Celebrating Holidays and Special Occasions on Websites

Summary:

Even small holiday decorations can increase joy of use and make websites feel more current and more connected to users’ lives and physical environment. The key is to commemorate without detracting from your users’ main reasons for visiting the site.

I has been a reader of Jakob Nielsen‘s Alertbox for one years. There is always very good suggestions and guidelines from Jakob on usability. This issue is no exception. I am going to implement it on my own site to see how it works. Let me know your comment on how it works.

I’d like to recommend Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox for everyone who owns a web site or who is responsible to deisng something – no matter it is software, architecture or others.

Update July 25, 2007

I reviewed the original alertbox article and my own comments on this (after 5 years), and the both Jakob (5 years ago) and I (who is 5 years younger than me) shows up before me vividly.

That is the good thing of blogging – it is just like a refrigerator – to keep your memory in a can and you are able to get back to it even after 5 or even longer period of time. I am so glad that I started blog 5 years ago…

What are the major holidays we want to celebrate in China (and internationally)? I would say:

  • Spring Festival
  • Christmas
  • My birthday (yes, a little bit personal cult)
  • Olympics
  • World cup
  • National holiday

I have ever put on snow on my homepage during Christmas, and that worked great.