Monthly Archives: August 2008

Hey, That’s Me!

My friend, Jason Miks, is a good reporter and writer, although he may be too humble to admit that. Currently¬†based in Japan, Jason works for the English newspaper Daily Yomiuri, which is probably the least interesting job he is doing right now. ūüėõ It is not that working for a paper is boring (knock wood), but other works he does fascinate me more. As a freelancer, he¬†has been writing¬†for numerous entities, such as TCS Daily, World Politics Review, etc. He is also the managing editor of International Affairs Forum. To me, writing about international relation issues as a freelancer sounds like a dream job.

We know each other because I translate some of his works into Chinese online as a practice, which are later found out by Jason via Google search. Then we start to do emails, and finally meet each other in person in Tokyo in July this year, when I was going to attend iSummit. It’s a joyful experience to meet people face to face after so many exchanges and contacts via internet, especially to me.

Anyway, since we know each other, I have provided a tiny little help when he tries to write something about Taiwan regarding politics and others. His excellent writing skills transform my poor words into fine articles. In the post No to Apathy! he writes for a new British magazine Total Politics, Jason touches upon voter turnout issue in elections. He looks at why turnout in Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, are much higher than that in European countries. I and my opinions are luckily included in this piece.

Before the presidential election in Taiwan in March 2008, he also interviewed me for IA-Forum because he wants some perspectives from a nobody, which I am perfectly qualified. I am not used to baing interviewed, so it takes some time for me to reply. Overall, however, I hope the results are not too bad.

So far, seeing my name on others’ posts is still quite surreal to me. It’s like two little people in my mind, one saying “Hey, that’s me!”, while the other saying “Is that me?”

Is it?

To Take Or Not To Take

2008 07 31 033(photo by Flickr user shinyai) 

I¬†am not good at photography. I usually enjoy watching others’ pictures on Flickr more than uploading mine. I¬†have been¬†struggling whether to¬†pay¬†$24.95 to upgrade my¬†Flickr account for at least two months.¬†In the past, I am really hesitant to take photos, as it costs much to buy films and develop them. Making mistakes will lead to a waste of money.

Several years ago, my brother bought the first digital camera in the family, but it didn’t encourage me to take photos. Although it doesn’t need films anymore, and it can save files online or in the computer, that camera is very big and heavy. By the way, my brother is good at buying heavy stuffs. My last laptop, which he bought, weighs 2.6 kg, for example. It seems to have many fancy functions I will never use, so I am still not interested in photography.

Taken by myselfLast year before the Hong Kong & Macau trip, I finally picked up my first digital camera, a Casio EX-Z75. It’s lighter, and it has a 2.6-inch screen. From Hong Kong, Macau, Budapest, Tokyo to Sapporo, I gradually manage to take more photos. I also learn to take a photo of me by myself. It is a necessary skill if you travel alone or if you don’t want to bother others, although it looks pathetic sometimes.

This time in Sapporo, on a bus ride to airport, I see a beautiful scene. I instantly look for my camera, but it goes away so fast that I fail to capture. I feel disappointed, but at the same time in a meta-analytical way, I question myself when I start to be addicted to taking pictures. Before I have a camera, I feel satisfied just to see many things by myself. Now with a camera in hand, however, I lose the pure pleasure of seeing things. Maybe I have spent too much time trying to record with technology, but not enough for simple appreciation of what in front of me.

Then I put down my camera.

Music for Summer

Summer is very hot and humid in Taiwan, in my opinion, so I am always looking for some ways to cool down. Sometimes, the most effective way can be music:

This is a duo from Taiwan named śėäśĀ©Śģ∂Śģ∂ (pronounced as Hao-En Jia-Jia). I love their album so much, probably the best one I have heard in Taiwan for the past two years.¬†The following¬†is another one from this duo:

It’s a Japanese old song she learns from her grandmother. Some of you may be surprised that they sing in Japanese. In fact, Taiwan is deeply influenced by Japanese culture, not just because of geographic proximity. Taiwan was colonized by Japan for 50 years during our grandparents’ generation. Many people¬†then, including my grandmother,¬†received their education in Japanese. The younger generation is attached to Japanese culture because of pop culture, such as manga, music, literature, movies, etc.

Anyway, these two songs are very cooling to me in summer. Maybe their album can be the best present for the next GV summit! ūüôā

My friends, what do you listen in a hot and humid summer?

Someday They Will

Breaking news in Global Voices are often appreciated by some English media. Our serial posts on South Ossetia¬†is¬†the latest example. Some people in GV Lingua do translate those breaking news into their languages quickly; others don’t. I do that seldomly. Breaking news translations sometimes bring sudden hikes to¬†Lingua sites, such as the Akihabara post from Japan. This particular post increases traffic of Chinese site almost fourfold on the day.

Most members never think we can compete with mainstream media, and I don’t think we should. Actually, we don’t intend to do that. It’s not our mission, in my humble opinion. GV Lingua has a role to enrich the online contents in each language. Our Lingua Bangla editor Rezwan said in GV Budapest summit that in certain subjects, there is virtually nothing in Bangla online. By translation, people will find GV content useful one day when they need to find some information online.¬†GV provides contexts to them, in their own languages.

I share his view. If you want to look for news more than a week olds online in Taiwan, you have to pay to access media archives. Once GV Chinese contents are online, they are always there (unless we take them down). It’s free to use and read.

gv summitOur Rising Voices Director David says he was a bit disappointed when “no one seems to care” even if he is “begging you to read what they write”. No one leaves encouraging comments to these new bloggers. Rising Voices is really a meaningful project. It helps people in developing countries learn to use blogging and other online media tools. They has many inspiring projects, including Prison Diaries, FOKO Madagascar,¬†Voces Bolivianas, and many more. They all worth a visit.¬†Rising Voices¬†is trying to close the digital divide, and David has¬†been doing¬†a wonderful job.

I had the same little disappointment towards Lingua in the past.

Although we offer great contents regularly in many different languages, we receive only a few, if any, comments or feedbacks. The traffic stays the same no matter we publish three posts a day or one post¬†every three days. Some editors say we need to think about our readers when we choose and translater posts,¬†but it is very difficult to imagine them when I have no idea¬†about their preference at all. We don’t know what our readers want.

Some people have questioned me: “Who cares about those news in Georgia, Chile, Pakistan, or other places afar? Who will read them?”

This question is somewhat solved one day when I was reading Google Analytics July statistics of Lingua Arabic. The top three posts, if we link back to English sites, are this, this and this. If you take a closer look, these posts were published in late June, last November and last October. Interesting, uh?

The same phenomenon appears in other Lingua sites as well. The second most popular post in July on Lingua Japanese site, for example, is about Tata Nano car, published in January. The most read post in July on Lingua Spanish site is the one appeared in early May.

This emphasizes my belief. Content is still the most important matter. Readers are always there. They may not be reading our posts today, but someday they will. Whenever they want to do some researches, or want to know something not on local media, GV and Lingua will always come in handy, even if it’s about a country afar.

Someday they will.

Because It Feels Good

I feel honored to be invited to talk about Global Voices, especially Project Lingua, several times before. One recurring question from the audience is: “Why are you doing GV/Lingua?” I spend¬†much of my time on Lingua currently, even more than my life-earning translation jobs, which I shouldn’t, in fact. People are encouraging, but I can still see some confusions on their faces, including my mom sometimes. She loves me, but she is worried I spend too much time in front of computer.

During¬†the GV Budapest summit in June 2008, many people have mentioned the importance¬†of connecting GV authors and Lingua translators in differently ways. After that,¬†I decided to start the Lingua digest with little consultations from other members in the community. Some members question its values to outsiders, but in fact I didn’t think about them when I started.

After one month of digest, I send individual emails to each author whose works have been translated by Lingua in July. Authors seem to be amazed to receive the letter. Many of them reply with a grateful note. David, our Rising Voices Director,¬†even turns it into a blog post. Amira, GV MENA editor and manager of Voices Without Votes, says in her email: “I don’t know how you managed to do that (sending email to each author).” To tell the truth, I do that one by one, typing email address, copying and pasting the translation list, and press the “send” button. This month, 63 times.

People keep asking, “why are you doing this?” The reason is simple: because it feels good. Thanks to internet, we can now publish and communicate online. However, I still love human connections. If sending emails can create connections,¬†I will be more than willing to do that. If no environmental concerns, traditional posts with ink, paper and stamps sound even better to me. Why am I always talking about Global Voices? Because working with it feels good. It’s the compilation of hundreds of good wills. Translations help spread the good will.

Doing digest and sending monthly emails are asking for recognitions to these translators. As a professional translator, I am used to being invisible, but these volunteer translators may need some kinds of recognitions from the public, readers or authors as incentives. I hope they feel good when seeing their names on the digest.

As to sending emails to authors one by one, I tend to feel better when I receive a personal letter, rather than group mails like spams. I assume they feel the same. Fortunately, they do. It feels good.

iSummit08 Experience 02

Plug-ins are important to computer users. In Global Voices Summit this year, I really feel this issue. Participants all gather around plug-ins, and I face tremendous problems during the time because my converter doesn’t fit. This time in iSummit08, the situation is much better. I don’t need a converter in Japan, and better of all, I bring my own extension lead. Sitting comfortably on the chair, looking for plug-ins is never a problem to me.

But we have to look for food.

Japanese people, or people overall, love the word “limited”. It has magical power to make people crazy, either in a good or a bad way. They line up for hours, days, or weeks for limited items, such as luxury bags, toys, concert tickets, and even donuts. I personally hate to line up and wait for anything, especially for food.

In iSummit08, however, you really have to run for it.

You have to observe carefully when the food is available. You certainly don’t want each session before lunch ends up late. Don’t get in line, act quickly, as the food is limited. In the reception, I didn’t remember this tip. In the end, it seems like my staple is souse. This definitely doesn’t create a positive towards the whole event when people face nearly empty plates. At the second day, I learn to either leave the session five minutes before¬†it closes, or run instantly after it’s done. That’s how people get¬†a little mountain of food with a victory smile.

It’s also not a very good idea to place coffee machines at one place. That will only create a long line waiting for a small cup. Separating coffee crowds in two areas will surely look better.

Overall, never underestimate how hungry, thristy or greedy participants are when organizing a conference.

Another frustration in this summit is about language.

Chris Salzberg’s post on GV has touched upon this issue already.¬†All I want to do is add a little personal flavor. There are Japanese-English simultaneous¬†translation service during keynote speeches, but other than that, you’d better choose your field/session carefully. My English-speaking ability is not good enough to compete with native speakers in several sessions, obviously. Maybe it’s¬†because of¬†free and open culture, everyone with compatible English comprehension can freely cut off others’ words and start their counterarguments. Don’t pause when you talk, even just one or two seconds, otherwise others will start.

Several people I talk with during the summit have mentioned the same experience. It makes me understand more clearly how important translation and interpretation is, which is my current job. Language can be a very high barrier in a meeting or conference. In this regard, GV summit has done better. Audience can raise their comments by talks, online messages, or notes. In the closed meetings, our moderators always remind people to respect other people when they are talking (thanks David and Solana).

This experience really brings me a mixed feeling. It’s so good to see new and innovative ideas, but it’s sometimes not so good to feel like an outsider.

iSummit08 Experience 01

Chris, Hanako and I, representing Global Voices Online, visit Sapporo, Japan, for iSummit08. I am probably the one who has the least knowledge/understanding toward free/open content idea in the whole conference. 

You will never know what keynote speech will turn out to be. They are all big names in this field. Some are received and talked about like a star, but in their speech, they only touch upon very general issues or challenges. Those are disappointing ones. Others are amazingly (or unexpectedly) wonderful. On Day 1, one of the best keynotes is from Mohamed Nanabhay from Al Jazeera (also a GV Arabic person). He mentions very concretely about what Al Jazeera are doing, why it is doing them, what channels they are using (YouTube, for example), etc. His speech clearly explains their goals and approaches.

In the Local Context Global Commons lab, I heard several interesting/exciting/amazing projects. Instead of writing posts about iSummit08 for GV, I will probably do several (email) interviews with some presenters I met here. I think it will be more interesting.

Five Minutes to Midnight is absolutely a good one. They hold workshops, for instance, for young people in Kibera, one of the largest slums in the world, learning to use digital cameras to record their life. The results are wonderful and showcased in their book Kibera. In the presentation, Wojciech Gryc, their representative in the summit,  explains what challenges they have in the process, including lack of internet access, high costs of technology, and need for ICT training. It sounds quite relevant to GV Rising Voices project, in fact.

There are more good ones. I will write about them later.