Hong Kong Blogosphere News

To be accurate, these are news coming from the Chinese-language side of the Hong Kong blogosphere.

This first item got any number of bloggers interested.  This is a case of plagiarism, and the subject was not any academic treatise or newspaper article.  Rather, someone was stealing blog posts!  Is this proof that blogging has really arrived?  Why would someone steal your blog post unless it was worth something?

Here is the initial find at Unemployed Philosopher.  He happened to come across a post at hompy.netvigator.com.  I will just use the opening sentence to illustrate:

Blog 這個玩意兒真有趣,它不過是一處讓人寫寫個人感受的地方,閱讀價值其實不高,卻會令人每天都那樣興緻勃勃地在那裡徘徊遊蕩.

[translation]  This blog thing is really funny.  It is just a place where people write about how they feel, and the readability factor is not high.  Yet, it makes people hang around and wander there every day.

Overall, the entire blog post sounded very familiar to him.  So he went back and found his own post (on February 22, 2005), in which the opening sentence was:

開始左寫 Blog 之後, 自然密密上網, 有時在別人的地皮留言, 又會緊張睇下人地覆左未, 結果除了近視加深了之外, 經常每日都有最少兩小時用在網上.

[translation]  When I first began to blog, I naturally went on the Internet frequently.  Sometimes, I leave comments at other people's territories, and sometimes I am anxious to see if others have made comments.  Beyond increasing my myopia, I usually spend at least two hours a day on the Internet.

This does not seem identical.  But the development of the rest of the post followed the same conceptual scheme, albeit it was re-phrased.  The most telling sign was in the last two sentences:

需要在陌生人面前訴苦, 還是想要聆聽/窺探其他人的內心世界? 突然想起Fight Club裡,那個拋家棄職住危樓的 Edward Norton

[translation] Do I need to complain before strangers, or do I want to listen in or peek inside the inner worlds of other people?  Suddenly, I remembered Edward Norton in Fight Club abandoning his family and job to move into a delipidated building.

compared to:

乃至於要在陌生人面前訴苦, 或者每天聆聽其他陌生人的思緒 -- 這是否有點像 Fight Club 開埸時的 Edward Norton ?

[translation]  As for complaining in front of strangers, or listening to the thoughts of other strangers all day -- is it like Edward Norton at the beginning of Fight Club?

Uncanny.  In fact, too uncanny to be plausible or possible.  O, forget the wishy-washy language!  It was flatly impossible for anyone to have the same associative memory of Edward Norton in Fight Club!

From then on, there was an invitation for other bloggers to proceed to that area and identify their own works.  Indeed, there would be other plagiarized blog posts (more properly, they were re-worked renditions) (see Sidekick).  Complaints were sent to Hompy about the behavior of this member of theirs, and the incident was also publicized at the Hong Kong Bloggers Group.

The net outcome: Hompy issued an official statement and warned its members about its policies and the plagiarizer apologized on his/her own blog and to the bloggers.  The whole matter was wrapped up in 24 hours, because so many people were riled up and got involved.

Except there are some residual problems (see Hong Kong Google Group).  The plagiarizer wrote that he/she apologizes to all the bloggers and netizens.  But he/she explained that this was because he/she was in the habit of copy-and-pasting interesting texts, photographs and music immediately to share with others, and he/she does not always remember to attribute the authors, not all of whom were known.  This explanation was deemed unacceptable by the bloggers, because this was clearly not a case of copy-and-paste; instead, there was a deliberate attempt to conceal the origin by changing the text while preserving the overall conceptual development and structure.  If the purpose was to share a good blog post, then it would have taken about two seconds to copy-and-paste, with or without attribution; but why spend so much time re-working it?

Meanwhile, some responses from Hompy members were sympathetic to the plagiarizer.  Since there was neither money nor fame in this process, someone could not see why the plagiarizer would go through the trouble.  But while people have not reached consensus about the theoretical rights and wrongs of this case or about plagiarism in general, there is at least an awareness that such behavior will lead to a lot of grief when caught in the act.

As for me, you can plagiarize my blog posts without attribution.  I blog because I want whatever message to go to the public and not for my self-aggrandizement.

The second item is a follow-up on the matter of the proper name for the term 'blog' in Hong Kong.  In these two previous posts, Hong Kong Blogosphere Up In Arms and Weblogs as Online Diaries, the background was that a cable television program and the Sing Tao newspaper equated the word 'blog' with 'online diaries' in Chinese.  The bloggers discussed among themselves and constructed an open letter to the media and other organizations (see Blog Is Blog).  Will that change anything?

Ordinary Gweilo was pessimistic:

OK, so a small minority of blogs have intelligent commentary and serious political content, and a few of them are widely-read (and, of course, American bloggers are hugely influential, as Dan Rather will tell you), but the vast majority are shallow and trivial. So it's not unreasonable for blogging to be portrayed in that way, and no amount of pompous letters from bloggers "to media/organizations/scholars" are going to change that. 

Well, I am more optimistic because I am counting on an elemental desire -- nobody wants to be called out in public as being an idiot, as the cable television program and Sing Tao had just been.  Maybe those directly responsible in these two cases and their respective bosses don't read blogs and that explains their miscomprehension.  But sooner or later this is going to get through to them as well as others through what might be called 'osmosis.'  It may be their colleagues, their peers and it may even be their children.  That is what I call negative reinforcement.  No one can live up to something that is indefensible.

Besides, why wouldn't you want to show off that you are knowledgeable about something that is trendy and cool?  That would be positive reinforcement.  So, on May 25, 2005, the Ming Pao newspaper devoted most of its page D12 to the subject of 'blogs,' translated in Chinese as "online journal" (網誌) as recommended in the bloggers' open letter.

Here is the Ming Pao section (and there are five other sections on other aspects of blogging) that explained what a blog is (via Yahoo! News)

Blog原名為Weblog,最早由JornBarger1997年提出。1999年由Peter Merholz使用略詞Blog19996Pyra Lab推出blogger.com,簡單易學,可直接將Blog發表在個人網站上,而毋須有一定的電腦知識。



[translation]  The original name of "blog" was "weblog," and was first proposed by Jorn Barger in 1997.  In 1999, Peter Merholz used the abbreviation "blog."  In June 1999, Pyra Lab introduced blogger.com, which was easy to learn and enabled people to publish blogs on personal websites without a lot of computer skills.

According to blogger.com, 'A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world.'  There are many translations of the term 'blog' in Chinese.  In mainland China, blogs are called "博客"; in Taiwan, they are "部落格"; and in Hong Kong, most people use "網誌".  There is no commonly accepted Chinese translation as yet.

Sources: www.blogger.com, Ming Pao information library.

Are we winning or what, one newspaper article at a time?  And if someone departs from this party line, the Hong Kong blogosphere shall attack with full force and make them look like the idiots that they are!!!

The third item is about viral marketing, which was brought up in the comment section of the Ordinary Gweilo post.  This quote is from Phil of Flying Chair:

The vast majority of blogs/journals are readerless shells but there are some that have a considerable following and they are the ones that interest people like me (with their professional hat on).

Product seeding seeks out the people who set trends rather than follow them (about one in a thousand people statistically) and targeting select blogs is one way (not the only) of seeding new products. The thing is you target the product before it is released because then you have people saying I helped shape that! 

There is presently an empirical example of a (non-corporate-funded) spontaneously self-organized viral marketing/product seeding project in the Hong Kong blogosphere.  It is a song written and sung by a female secondary school girl named KellyJackie.  She seems to be in her fifth year, which would make her sixteen or seventeen years old.  This song was not released by a record company, and only exists in mp3 form (or other formats as well) and is distributed freely on the Internet.  The title of the song is He Dates Me To Disney (他約我去迪士尼).  You can listen to it here, here, here and any number of other places (note: if those links are dead, just copy-and-paste the Chinese title and google it, and there should be dozens and dozens of links).

I learned about this song only because any number of Chinese-language Hong Kong blogs talked about it.  Not everyone likes the song; some people referred to the song and then promptly wrote blog posts about the evils of Disney, McDonald's and Coca-cola.  But there is no such thing as 'bad' publicity, and it has certainly got the buzz right now.  Maybe it got mentioned first at a blog with 10 readers per day which does not mean much; but who knows how many blogs have mentioned it already or will mention in the future?

I cannot say that I love this song, and I am not a good representative of popular taste.  I am mentioning this song on this blog as part of the spontaneous, self-organized project to demonstrate the power of product seeding/viral marketing through blogs.  If this song ever gets anywhere, I can say that I was part of that viral marketing campaign.  I urge my readers to link to this post (or even plagiarize this post) to propagate this virus.

Postscript: Sing Pao and Ming Pao (June 6, 2005)

The song He Dates Me To Disney is currently the top search item at  Yahoo!.  Over the past six months, it has received more than 200,000 hits/downloads.