Category Archives: internet

Life Takes Turn as It Wants

“What are you working on online?” my mom asks. First of all, my mom is not online generation, let alone “born digital“, so you should at least admire her for saying the word “online”. Secondly, to be clear, she now uses computer and internet on weekdays, but only to check out stock prices. That’s why, to her, having a son working as freelancer (= insecurity) and working online (= intangible) can be one of the most confusing concepts to accept.

Ever since she knows I want to be a freelancing translator, she keeps encouraging me to translate at least a book, which is “more substantial”, in her own words. True, my translations can be around you all the time, on product instructions, in press releases, PowerPoint presentations, or even as a website, but you normally won’t see my name attached. We are invisible translators. I have shown to her my works on Global Voices, with my name on it, but it’s still not persuasive enough to her.

And now she is more confused. Why would someone invite her son to give talks for works he’s done online?

See me speak at SXSW 2010 ( Mom, it just happens. I wasn’t aware four years ago that my life and career will be deeply connected with internet. But now it is.

South by Southwest Festival came to me for the first time in my life in this post on GV by Juliana. At that time, it looked cool to me, but I didn’t expect to attend at all. After all, it’s in faraway Texas. It’s a long, long flight from Taiwan. (Yes, I know, the flight from Taiwan to Chile is even longer, but we’ll deal with that later.)

Not until one week ago.

That morning when I opened my inbox, I saw an invitation letter saying hi to me, so two weeks later, I will say hi to Austin, Texas.

Also fortunately, I have experience the painful US visa application last year, otherwise I won’t be able to travel with such a short notice. Phew..

Working online connects people in unexpected ways. My life indeed takes turn as it wants, especially since I start to work online. I really cannot say for certain where in the world I will visit this year, but the picture is getting better and better.

Another turn of my life from online work is coming soon. I’ll unveil when I can.

But now, at least we can enjoy SXSW Promotional Video:


Hell Must Be Huge

It’s fun to learn all different things in every part of the world. Among new info I got in Tokyo trip in November, I get to know a new blog, thanks to Jennie (or Tomomi?).

The moment I see the blog, I know lots of my friend in the circle will understand or recognize many circumstances described in it in different ways. The author of Clients From Hell is a graphic designer, who has to deal with clients from all directions. He records many terrible behaviors or words during their interactions. Be it designers, writers, editors, journalists, translators or interpreters, if you have ever done any freelancing works, you must be familiar with at least some of those stories.

I like one of his recent post titles: “Family members can be the worst clients“. Oh, tell me about it.

If we believe bad clients are all from hell, hell must be huuuuuuge.

When Herdict Sheep Speaks Chinese

Herdict is a project created by Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University. It collects people’s reports on website accessibility. Others in the same country can verify these reports by trying yourselves. With its efforts, we will have a better picture about the world filtering and censorship.

Yes, you are right. This project has the same origin as Global Voices. When Herdict team tries to make the site multilingual, Global Voices, unsurprisingly, is a good linguistic talent pool for them. Many GV people have been involved with the process in various ways. In their YouTube page, introductory videos have different language versions. The Chinese version, as follows, has the voiceover from me:

The website is also going multilingual. After the Arabic edition translated by fellow GV author Yazan Badran, Chinese version, translated by me, is launched yesterday. (Self disclosure: Unlike GV translation is volunteer works, this translation is a paid job)

Inaccessibility has lots of reasons behind. Sometimes geographical; others ideological. This is, of course, only the first step, I assume. But just like what Priti Patel from The Southern Africa Litigation Centre has said at the end of this GV interview:

[…] this first stage is very important because we need to have the knowledge of what is happening and a sense of what should not happen, then we will be able to act. […]

It is Digital Divide

Nigerian students power up their OLPC laptops by inju.Talking about digital divide seems to be a popular trend. To increase internet penetration, engineers and technical experts develop OLPC. It’s not enough. We need people to spread and bring in skills and knowledge. However, you won’t realize what exactly digital divide is until you stand in the classroom in front of a groups of eager students, young and old. It’s not a phrase. It’s a reality.

Portnoy shares an experience he encountered last week, when he went to a country village in southern Taiwan with Project Puncar. He stood at the blackboard, writing an URL for students to copy and type themselves. After he finished, many kids and adults looked at the keyboard and were lost. Reminding by others, he realized he wrote the URL in lowercase, while English alphabets on the keyboard are capitalized. When students are struggling with recognizing alphabets, it would definitely need more time for them to catch up, or even bridge the digital divide.

It is a small thing, but it says so much. What we take for granted is truly a high barrier beyond reach to others. We need to do more in all ways to improve the situation. After all, we, writing and reading this blog, are the luxuriously lucky ones. Only when getting to the cliff of digital divide, can we try to understand how abysmal it is.

(I may be annoying, but I have to say this again. If you have a great idea with concrete plans to minimize digital divide, apply for Rising Voices Microgrants. The deadline is January 18, 2009.)

(credit: OLPC picture from inju’s album; )

For You: Rising Voices Microgrants Application

We are often told that durning economic downturns and financial crises, many NGOs and cultural institutions face budgetary difficulties, as their donation sources shrink significantly. Everyone in related sectors are looking for all kinds of ways to survive.

Most of us agree that citizen media is a good idea. It hands pens, the microphones and cameras back to the general public, just like you and me, to highlight stories relevant to most people, but maybe not to traditional media owners, editors or reporters. However, starting from ground zero is painful and difficult, if you have silimar experiences. You need connections, devoted people, mobility, technology, internet access, skills… and money of course.

risingvoices1.jpgHaving a vision is always great. To transform visions into realities, however, requires practical means. If you now have a vision and some practical means in mind about citizen media, Rising Voices, an outreach project of Global Voices, can help you be equipped with the initial financial resources you need. Please hand in your citizen media-related proposals before January 18, 2009, and you’ll have a chance to receive a microgrant up to US$5,000.

US$5,000?! I know it may not sound much for a project, but it can definitely help you to work out your visions with first steps. Every big pyramid starts from a piece of stone, right? This microgrant will provide you a stepping stone.

Other people have utilized their microgrants to achieve great goals. Voces Bolivianas has not only successfully worked in Bolivia, but also started their wonderful initiatives in Argentina. If you start, there are always possibilities. As internet is borderless, your citizen media-related vision has a chance, if implemented, to become a worldwide legendary.

I know this blog doesn’t have a large readership, but you happen to have a citizen media project in mind, or you happen to know someone with that vision, please don’t hesitate to apply for Rising Voices microgrants. Please feel free the spread the information. We all know how difficult and uncomfortable to keep a great idea in mind for good. Don’t keep it as a secret. Say it out loud, and make your idea helpful.

Freedom to Live in … Anywhere

The CultureMondo Roundtable in Taiwan is finished. We’ve got more than 30 guests from 20 countries to join us. Here’s the one-minute video we show on the opening ceremony, briefly introducing everyone here.

Luckily, we’ve got three beautiful and warm days in a row. Everyone seems to enjoy the sunshine and 20+ degrees Celsius temperature. A guy from the Netherlands just stays in a park and under the sun for a whole day, even saying maybe he should move to Taiwan for the sun and the city.

Why not?

Some of us are luckily enough to have a job nowadays, such as translators, or work for an online/virtual organization, such as Global Voices, that we can basically work everywhere with a broadband connection and a computer. Being mobile is such as a luxury to some people, to tell the truth. They have to wake up at certain time every day, change their pajamas (or not), leave home and fit into their office table before nine, for example. Maybe some people like that routine life, but not me so far. I now work with an NGO and help them do some works, so I get to experience sitting in an office twice a week. I think it is enough for me. 😛

The conference is interesting as well, providing some sparks during discussions. Some speakers, such as Geert Lovink, are more skeptical towards social networking sites and web 2.0, and ask us to imagine a life without Google services. Many of us are now living closely connected with many Google services. It’s will be more difficult for me to work in Global Voices and Lingua teams if no Google services, though not impossible.

Then I am thinking, if we are possible to physically live anywhere in the world with my current works, in the cyberspace, however, can I live in and work on any sites that may provide similar services as Google and Yahoo? Many of us are using G&Y because they combine lots of services under one interface and one account. Google says users can export all their data and materials anytime they want, but how many of us periodically save backups, in case one day suddenly we have to leave G&Y (or they file for bankruptcy and terminate all services at once)?

I am not worrying about privacy, but imagining the life without G&Y. Hopefully alternative sites and services will soon all adopt something like Open ID, because that will make our lives much easier.

My friend Chris is trying to move away from Gmail, saying he doesn’t want Google to know everything about him. I am just trying to find alternatives, so I can be fine without G&Y and live happily hereafter anywhere in the cyberspace.

Read, Write and Learn

Is Global Voices covering Obama and the US election too much recently? That’s what a friend questions in GV mailing list. No, many people respond, it shows how this topic is universal. Most people in that thread would like to continue the coverage, as Obama fad is all over the world. David believes Obama is one of the few topics that everyone is interested in discussing, whatever their backgrounds are, and one that everyone seems to have sufficient knowledge or information to engage in a conversation.

Very true. The price of Big Mac may be different around the world, but the word “Obama” means the same thing, same person, and same face to almost all people. If you have no idea how the world is crazy for this man, take a look on Voices without Votes, and you’ll get a better picture.

Hundreds of millions of blog posts all center on one person: Obama. Politicians are eager to compare themselves to him as a symbol of change, a new era, and self-confidence. Should Global Voices reflect this reality?

Some say “Yes”; others say “Yes, but…” I am closer to the latter group.

To me, Global Voices is a learning process. If someone still questions why read/write/translate Global Voices, it’s because you learn from the process, at least I do.

Last night, I wrote and published a post about New Zealand’s parliamentary election on November 8. Before I start, I know Helen Clark, the outgoing Prime Minister, I know an election is going on, and I know lots of immigrants living in NZ. I didn’t follow the election, I don’t know who John Key is, and I have no ideas about what will happen after voting day. I decide to write a post about it, partly because GV doesn’t have an NZ author, and partly because I want to know what and who these things above are. So I start my journey and write about short post about this election.

It is not a comprehensive post, not even close, but I believe at least it provides a possibility for me and maybe others to get to know some different things. This is the joyful part of being in Global Voices. We can learn because of our innocence. Global Voices posts will not turn you into experts immediately, but they open up doors for you to explore. I don’t know how many people will actually read my post about New Zealand, but I am certain that I am one of them who benefit the most.

Is it easier to talk and write about things that we already know? Absolutely. That’s one of the reasons why people are indifferent towards international news: they don’t find any relevance to themselves. Some people think only domestic affairs matter. Only local stuffs are qualified for headlines.

From Obama case, we can clearly notice the strong power of mass media: It makes people everywhere believe that they know enough about the guy named Obama, and they are able/suitable to share their views with others. Mass media makes people think Obama is as important as an domestic issue. His victory is on the frontpage and headline of countless newspapers.

US election and Obama espeically is indeed one of the rare cases that becomes a common topic worldwide. Can we learn anything from it? Of course. Can we learn from other issues and topics? Of course, and I perceive Global Voices is a good place to start, to put one step out of our comfort zone.

Just put it simply: Isn’t that fun and joyful to learn something that we don’t know?

My friend, Hanako tells me Canada has held a federal election before US presidential one. I don’t know much again, but would be interested in knowing who Stephen Harper is, what will happen since he continues in power and what Québécois think about the results, although GV doesn’t have coverage on this yet. I can read and learn.

David says:

In each place I had to invest uncountable hours of reading newspapers and Wikipedia to have the basic context in order to have a conversation with locals.

But I think it’s very worthy when you see faces delighted when they find someone knows and cares about their country. From my experiences, I think it is.

2008 New Zealand General Election photo from sirwiseowl