September 26, 2009

Comparison Between Chinese and Western Blogs

Blogspot User Report 9/26/09

I have only been using the Blogger for a few days, but already the experience blows me away, especially when compared to my previous blogging experiences.

My other blogs are all hosted by Chinese internet companies, except for a couple located in MSN Space. Most of them are now abandoned since the updating requires too much work. One is still alive, probably because it is semi-popular and because I have simplified the publishing process to the point where it has become more of a routine than burden.

No matter which Chinese blog service provider is being used, I continue to notice the same issues. So here are some of my itches.

First, none of the Chinese big providers support IFRAME or Javascript. In not doing so, they pretty much castrated the whole creativity process, because customers are limited to the standard templates and layouts. All the customization must be done within the framework the companies offer, which means there is not much customization one can do. By contrast, the Blogger makes the source code of the blog template available--as long as the users have some familiarity with coding, they are free to do whatever. The only limit is set by their own technical expertise.

I don't know whether or not this flexibility is characteristic of all Western companies that offer blog service. If so, then this is more likely a matter of culture differences again. Or differences in company practices.

Second, there seem to be very few, if any, comment filters in Blogspot. On Sina, for example, if I so much as refer to "Sina" in my comment, it will be deleted. If I talk about love for the homeland, it will also be deleted. If my comment unfortunately juxtaposes the character "sun" (Chinese: 日) and "basic" (Chinese: 本), it will be deleted faster than the blink of an eye...apparently, talk about Japan (Chinese: 日本) is not allowed.

What's even more ridiculous is that as of yet, I have not met a company that does not filter out URLs in the comments. Sina does this in its blogs; Baidu follows suit in its forums. Suppose I respond to an article with some relevant link (, within minutes the comments will be sucked into a black hole, never to appear again!

The official reason for this is that the companies do not want rampant advertisements from Chinese who want to promote their side business one way or another. But I suspect there is another reason: they want to hog all the internet traffic and users to themselves. What evidence do I have for this? The obstacles one encounters when one tries to integrate Blog into, for example, an RSS reader that is not by the same company. A smaller Chinese website I sometimes go to carries this to an extreme. On their site, one cannot so much as mention the names of their competitors, because the names (yes there are several competitors, and they are all filtered )will show up as meaningless black squares instead of normal characters.

Third, sensitive topics are not to be discussed or they are severely censored. When the 2008 Olympics was going on, I had a hard time writing my blog in English. It didn't matter what the subject was, even if I were talking about peeling onions, the article would undergo hours of scrutiny before it was published on my blog.

Blogspot is blocked in China, probably because Google does not impose these word and subject filters.

I remember that one of the almost-complaints against Chinasmack is that it never ever discusses politics. Well, one usually acquires the habit of not doing so because of the censorship that is present. I won't talk about politics either--part of the reason is that I am not enthusiastic about the subject; another part is that despite of all the problems, I believe China will become better; what it currently experiences are just growing pains. So what's the use of constant complaints? It becomes old quickly and is not very effective.

Fourth (this is directed towards no one in particular), there are almost no Chinese users on Blogspot now....

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