Monday, March 16, 2009

Manifesto

Gosh, infamy at last!

According to the traffic-monitoring gizmo I use (Statcounter), I typically only get around 40 or 50 unique visitors each day here on Froogville (and slightly less on companion blog, Barstool Blues). As at 6pm today, I'd had very nearly 700 uniques in the last 3 days. Well, I always have a bit of a spike on Mondays, but..... yes, that is a huge jump in traffic.

Such is the power of The Duck! Veteran China blogger Richard Burger kindly recommended my frivolous post about China's online 'angry young men' brigade on his celebrated forum on Saturday.



I should be chuffed about the influx of new readers, and I am, I am, but.... well, I am also just a mite anxious. I've been writing my blogs for just over 2 years now, and I've always been quite content with a readership in the dozens - mostly personal friends, and a handful of random passers-by. I'm not sure that I want either the responsibility (of maintaining quality of posts, avoiding giving offence too much, monitoring comment threads and responding promptly to pertinent challenges or enquiries) or the potential hassle (of being overrun by freaks, loons, and dingbats) that comes with a wider readership.

I'm especially concerned about not attracting any fenqing types over here. When I want to play the fenwai and engage in some verbal fisticuffs with these guys, I go somewhere else - and I don't post my URL.


So, for any of those 700 first-time visitors who might possibly look in here again, and to any other newbies who might look in over the next few days, I thought I would try to set out what this blog is supposed to be about.


And, to adapt the immortal words of Jerry Seinfeld (or wasn't it actually George Costanza?): It's just a blog about nothing.

There is no theme. There is no purpose. There is no agenda.

It is purely and simply a 'hobby blog'. I thought it would be useful practice and self-discipline for me to try to force myself to write something on a daily or almost daily basis, and to try to write in as broad a range of styles and on as many diverse topics as possible.

Also, because of the demands of fitting such profuse production into an already rather overfull life, this tends to be a very unpremeditated blog. I try to write as quickly as possible. I very rarely plan anything out in advance (other than, occasionally, to try to keep in mind a topic I think is promising); I almost never do any substantive polishing or re-drafting (though I am a bit anal about checking for small stylistic inelegances or careless typos). I just sit down with a cup of coffee or a beer at some point in the day, and spend 40 or 50 minutes typing the first things that come into my head.

And what comes into my head, or out of it? Well, just about anything and everything. I wouldn't like to try and pin it down too much (I've always struggled with choosing 'categories' for my output).

This is not a humour blog; although I hope that the tone is generally light even when I am at my most serious; and I like to think that I have a few good jokes here and there.

This is not a 'China blog'; although, since I've been living here getting on for 7 years now, I do inevitably write about my experiences in this country from time to time.

This is not a political blog; although, again, I do have strong political views about many things, and may occasionally touch on them here; but most of the time I maintain a discreet silence about such things. Fenqing types, I think, will not find enough fuel for their indignation on here. Well, I hope not, anyway.

I like to think of this as primarily a literary blog - both in that I am concerned with the quality of my writing and am striving always to improve it, and in that favourite writers, books and poems (and films and songs) are amongst my most regular topics.

It is also a very personal blog - not just in the fragments of autobiography that I scatter through these posts, but in the self-examination I often conduct on here. I am a very meditative and philosophical person, and I like to think of my blog(s) - sometimes, at least - as a kind of spiritual journal. I imagine it can get a little too personal for many people: my writing here has been variously described as either "refreshingly honest" or "painfully frank".

Above all, I try to make my blogs a celebration of things I like - and that includes many aspects of life in China. (I have felt an uncanny affinity with China since my early childhood, and I may write more on this shortly, as I am about to pass the 15th anniversary of my first extended visit here - a major watershed in my life.)

However, since I am a frail human like everyone else, my blogs also occasionally serve as a place to vent about things that are pissing me off - and that too includes many aspects of life in China.


Overall, though, my blog-writing is very carefree, cheerful, frivolous, and superficial - and has fairly little to say about China or the Chinese government. So, if there are any fenqing (or fenwai) lurkers reading this, please move along. There's nothing for you here.

7 comments:

JES said...

Love that this post has gotten absolutely no comments. Don't you hate that -- the sense (based on a semi-objective measure like blog stats) that people, especially provocateurs, are suddenly paying attention? and then when you try to head them off with a pre-emptive strike, they seem not to even notice?

By the way, I've been meaning to direct you to a post on a third party's blog. (Full disclosure: a nephew of mine writes for this blog, although this post wasn't his.) It presented an angle on China and the Internet which I'd previously, utterly missed. It's here.

Froog said...

Thanks for the link, JES. I found the original NYT article (or was it Time?) that the blog picked up on quite interesting, although it's rather old news here in China: 'Internet addiction' has been a hot topic here for 5 or 6 years at least, I would say.

I thought you might be interested in this photo essay on the ChinaSmack news website about a feckless Chinese mother being brutally bullied by her wayward 10-year-old son. It's rather similar to the first example in the Net addiction article - an extreme, but not uncommon example of the 'Little Emperor' syndrome, the blowback from the One Child Policy.

Yes, the silence is rather deafening, isn't it? Although, on the whole, I think I'm rather relieved to be able to slip back into obscurity.

Do you know if there are any Net-wide stats on what proportion of blog visitors leave a comment? I'm fairly selective in my blog-reading, and mostly enter into friendly reciprocal relationships with other bloggers such as yourself - but even there, I suppose I leave a comment barely 10% of the time. I seldom or never leave a comment on a blog where I'm a one-time visitor.

I rarely have more than a handful of comments per week, although I am supposedly getting 300 visits per week on Froogville and nearly 250 on The Barstool.... so, maybe 1 or 2% commenting rate. Is that unusually low?? I used to have two regular and sometimes prolific commenters, but they've both deserted me of late. How do you fare?

Perhaps I should try to be more provocative....

biilb said...

Bu hao yisi...I'm not a blogger. I don't even really know what that means, but "random passers-by" works for me. I've lived and worked here for going on six years now, but mostly in the suburbs. i don't get out much (anymore), but when I do, I hang out with my co-workers, who are Chinese and also, mostly out of towners. So, my association with the expat community, as well as the more 'sophisticated' elements of the Beijing society, has been limited. When I happen on a copy of "that's Beijing" I wonder what planet those folks are living on. My Chinese is OK, although, considering the amount of time I've spent studying, IT SHOULD BE BETTER. For instance, I have no idea what the terms 'fenqing' or 'fenwai' mean and so I'm not sure if I'm being encouraged to move on, or not. If you could help me out here(I get the feeling that these may be terms it would embarass my collegues to explain), I'd appreciate it. This will, of course, require that I return at least once more, which is not a problem 'cause I think you write pretty good.

Froog said...

Hi, er, Bill(?),

How did you blunder upon this? I think there were links in the post to two other posts explaining the terms. Immediately before this one, if you were viewing the whole blog page - it's been a bit of a theme over the past few days.

My Chinese was poor when I got here (remembered a little bit from visiting in the 90s), and has got steadily worse since. I manage to fake my way quite well, though. I pick up a lot of slang online, and through friends who are translators.

The fen means 'angry'. And the qing is short for qing nian meaning 'youth'. The wai is short for waiguoren, i.e. foreigners like you and me. They are terms used on the Internet for particularly persistent and belligerent blog commenters. fenqing are the super-wound-up nationalist youngsters of China, and fenwai are the rather older expats addicted to baiting them. Both are rather sad, really.

Hope that helps.

JES said...

Sorry for dropping the thread... duty calls. Or called.

The whole thing about comments is rather frustrating, from one perspective: absent comments, one never knows if one is really "getting through" to visitors. I get lots and lots of hits on just a few key words and phrases, pretty much all involving posts which were one-off, on topics I don't deal with daily or even monthly. But those visitors come to a page and leave from the same page, so I have no idea if their visit was fruitful (wouldn't mind getting a "thanks" sometimes) or pointless (providing the opportunity to use my blogging software's comment moderation or editing features, heh).

Do you WANT more visitors and/or comments?

An interesting post on the subject is here, with some apparently anecdotal percentages. E.g.: "I would say that 80% of the blogs out there average less than 1 comment per post."

Too many comments would overwhelm me, I think. In my head, the ideal would be the sort of comments in which the visitors speak with one another about the topic, rather than addressing me directly. That just about never happens, though; maybe it's my magisterial tone?

Froog said...

I fear I too lapse back into the modes of my first career as a schoolmaster from time to time. Perhaps we should try setting "homework" at the end of our posts.

I have occasionally finished on a question or a particularly provocative station, followed by the single-word exhortation: "Discuss".

Froog said...

"Station"?! Statement, statement! What is happening to my brain?