Category Archives: Global Voices

Missionary Needed?

In the past, I believed as long as we work on contents, lots of people will be attracted to the website, sooner or later. However, this principle doesn’t seem to hold true anymore.

Or I should say, contents alone won’t translate into traffic.

I read an post the other day (Sorry, source forgotten). It mentions we no longer live in the era that solely good quality of contents can make a website famous or popular. Presentation matters. User interface has influences. Even promotion has to do it deliberately.

Global Voices is doing the same as well. To increase readership in the Chinese site, everyday we repost links on Facebook page. Editors try to add a line or two as attention grabber or as a tagline, so it won’t look like being done by robots.

It’s not a traffic-oriented website. We simply hope more people will read and spread the information, and maybe benefit from it, since we already spend time writing and translating. Then a friend of mine mentions, “actually, what you need is recruiting missionary”.

By “missionary”, it means some people who religiously enjoy reading contents on Global Voices, and share the information repeatedly on whatever channels or platforms they can find.

Those missionaries definitely have some unique characteristics, so they can do promotions so comfortably and blatantly. I, for one, don’t have that talent.

Besides, I always find religious missionaries a bit scary and intimidating, with their proactive and aggressive attitude. In my imagination, they will literally drag you into their spaces, if laws allow. And I don’t like crusade stories either.

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Less Expectations

It almost becomes a norm nowadays. When it’s close to the end of semester in high school, traffic in Global Voices Chinese site will somewhat increase, especially searches for old posts. It seems to be students looking for presentation materials for their history classes.

There is another emerging trend going on as well. As new semester begins, college students sign up for translation courses seem to “discover” GV from their professors, and enthusiastically send us letters to volunteer for Lingua, our online translation project. They may quickly register a post or few posts they would like to translate into Chinese, and hope to contribute to this “great project”, as they often mention. How many of them, however, will be able to finish their initial post, or even continue, remains a big question.

GV Chinese editor Portnoy and myself used to have some expectations when we are invited to talk to college students and share GV experiences. We are well received, and they seem to be interested.

Will it turn into higher traffic or more contributions? I don’t know. It depends on how much you believe in humanity.

My answer is on post title, but of course, I’m still grateful to people who do read and/or contribute.

The Unspoken Undercurrent in Global Voices

For many times, we have been elaborating how wonderful to see Global Voices growing. During our Santiago Summit in early May, we have once again witnessed the dynamics of contributors, authors and translators alike, in person. These people, coming from all over the world, fly as long as 42-hour flight+layover to Chile not just because of, thanks to donors and sponsors, free tickets and accommodations. It’s not just because they happen to be available during that week. It must be something more about those monetary elements. It could be love, some say.

As many people may know, vast majority of our contributors are volunteers. A small number of editors, managers and directors receive compensations, but almost definitely not enough to cover their monthly expenses. Global Voices Online, no matter in English or in other languages, is still working until now, mostly due to continuous enthusiasm and active participations of volunteers/contributors. At least I am grateful to them EVERY SINGLE DAY. It may sound cheesy or cliché to some people, but I am always delighted to see new articles on the site for me, as a reader, to understand more about the world. I am always inspired to see new translations on our Lingua sites, so other people can benefit from these information in their own ways (and their languages).

Afterwards, some people, within or outside GV, ask me, what the difference is between Budapest Summit 2008 and Santiago Summit 2010. The obvious answer is bigger. The number of GV people is bigger, the venue is bigger, and even people are bigger (both age and size). But, there is actually an undercurrent before, during and after the summit this time, that I didn’t notice in Hungary.

Some (long-term) contibutors are leaving, or at least considering to leave Global Voices.

Several editors are very curious, during the summit, in learning how other teams/editors recruit more contributors. It’s of course a good news seeing more people joining in the community. This time in Santiago, however, when I talk to people in private, leaving Global Voices seem to be like a popular topic not on the agenda.

Global Voices now almost has a standard welcome rituals for new members in the community. First the designated editor will send out a notice to our (by far) biggest Google group mailing list to welcome new people. Then, people will receive dozens of emails from all over the world, saying welcome in different ways (and often in different languages).

Isn’t that warm and sweet?

But when people decide to leave, they disappear quietly.

They leave the community by stopping receiving emails from mailing lists, by not participating discussions within groups, and by not writing or translating articles in Global Voices. Sometimes it’s a sudden end; often it’s a gradual ebb.

I am not saying that no people left GV after Budapest Summit in 2008. There were, and quiet a few of them, but at that time, their major reasons were different. Some people started a new job, some people started a new stage of life (e.g. marriage or having a baby), and others moved to an new industry not related to internet anymore.

This time in Santiago, however, many people are leaving, or thinking about leaving, because of some frustrations.

Maybe the community has grown so big and complicated. Maybe the information within the community is longer transparent enough. Maybe they feel insufficient communications between teams. Maybe their suggestions are never recognized or adopted.

The topic becomes so common in the venue and in the hotel, that makes me even start to wonder if I am just too complacent with the status quo in GV.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I never feel frustrated with current situations in Global Voices, which I believe some people have heard from me before in private, but I am still here, not intended to leave yet.

This topic makes me think about what happens, though. These people join the community, sometimes long time ago, with wholehearted passion, ideas and insights. What happens that make them feel disorientated, disillusioned, disappointed, disconnected and disenchanted enough to leave Global Voices? Where is the downpour from to put out the inner fire to write/translate/contribute to Global Voices?

I assume there must be a reason. Why do they, if as authors, no longer feel excited when seeing their articles are translated into more than half a dozen of languages? Why do they, if as translators, no longer feel eager to translate new articles into their languages for local readers? Whey do they, authors and translators alike, no longer feel overjoyed when their contributions are read and spread by thousands and thousands of readers, directly or indirectly, around the world?

So far, I don’t have a short and clear answer, but as a middle director of this growing community, I believe it’s part of my faults. Honestly, it’s never easy to manage an online community, especially like this one with so many different cultures and backgrounds involved. Clearly, I am never a good-enough director. I am still learning and thinking of new ways to serve these contributors, and hopefully my learning curve will be able catch up with growing curve within the community. Otherwise then, it may be my time to say goodbye.

Last Night in Santiago

Busy and chaotic, I haven’t got the chance to sit down for a long time with my laptop to think about how the past ten days go, partly because internet connection in the Summit hotel is less than impressive, and it’s already my last night in Santiago. So many things accumulated, I don’t even know where to start. This trip, location and people, provides a lot of blog materials. It’s like a ball of yarn, lots of storyline in one, but I haven’t found the lint.

Lots of inspiring stories are spread around in GV Santiago Summit, as the last time in Budapest. I’m sitting here, in the TV room in Che Lagarto hostel, listening to Catalina from Colombia about her stories. She mentions how much she has gained since joining Global Voices, getting to know more people, travelling to more places, understanding more cultures, and how her friends are envious of her experiences and opportunities. I believe she represents lots of people in GV, including myself. Thanks to GV, we travel of some unexpected places in the location. If not the Summit, I have no ideas when I will cross the equator to the other side of the world. She is now even learning Mandarin Chinese in Colombia, after she is exposed to the multilingual environment in GV, and her teacher is from Taiwan. Another surprising development to me.

Most attendees have left Chile and back to their home sweet home. Everyone has brought back various objects for memory. Pictures, postcards, paintings, presents, and pisco sour. I am lucky enough to have all of them in my luggage, but most important of all to me, it is people that makes this experience so precious.

Tomorrow I’ll as well leave on a jet plane, and don’t know when I’ll be back again. The summit, for sure, is another memorable incident in my life. I’ll try to retrospect later to all those faces and stories.

Waiting in Dallas

I’ve flied Taipei – Tokyo – Dallas, and now it’s four hours away from my 9-hour flight to Santiago, Chile. Thanks Dallas airport for providing free internet access. It’s so good to be connected online again.

So far I am not too tired, although I am not impressed that I don’t have electricity access for my laptop on American Airlines flight. That stops me from doing translation. lol

About to Go

It’s almost 7am in Taipei on May 3rd. My flight to Chile is 3 hours away. I’ll be leaving one hour later. Just for the record.

Hope it’ll be a smooth trip.

I don’t have a smartphone, so unless I find free wifi or public computers in Tokyo or Dallas airport, I’ll stay offline until I settle down in the hotel in Santiago.

But I haven’t figured out the time difference between Chile and Taiwan. Hum…

By the way, this is the cutest thing I’ve found recently: Mr. Drew Zuckerman.

Time Needed

I'm Attending Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010 Global Voices Summit will take place on May 6-7 this year in Santiago, Chile. My ticket is ready. My visa is at hand. This will be my first ever trip to Latin America (and Southern Hemisphere). In theory, I should be reading lots and lots of travel info now, preparing to make the best use of my short visit there. As a person like me, by now, I should have known how to get from airport to hotel. I should have bought a travel guide. I should have been insomnia for thinking about it all the time. I should have contacted other GV people.

But I’ve done nothing so far, and I totally blame myself for it.

It’s really hectic this month. I put myself in a situation that I am sleepy all week long. Although I always laugh at myself as workaholic, this is really not a good sign. Many blog topics have emerged, but I simply don’t have time or energy to put my hands on them.

On my way back to Taiwan in March, I watched Up in the Air while flying in the air. I’m totally in love with the film, and completely identify with the obsession towards frequent flyer programs. I really want to tell someone how I feel about it, and what researches I’ve done recently about in-flight magazines, but I am simply out of time.

Deadlines are driving me crazy recently. Usually, things I hate to do are done to support what I enjoy doing. We all need to put something on dinner table, after all. Recent weeks, though, I am overwhelmed by things I hate.

I also have an article about death in mind, but before that, I need to get rid of another deadline.