By Perry Wu
Bloggers in China complaining recently about their inability to access weblog tools and websites like BlogSpot, Blogger, WordPress, and FeedBurner should shut up or put up.
Please don't confuse my admonition so much with blaming the victim. It is too bad that bloggers in China often can't use services hosted overseas. But I do blame China-based bloggers, especially foreigners blogging in China, a tad for not taking the bull by the horns and changing the situation. But enough with cliches: let's talk about solutions.
For many foreign bloggers operating in China, they blog for business-based needs. For example, as part of the sector within which they work, they might blog about law, technology, media, medicine, environment, or logistics to lend credence to the occupations they hold in China. Like great salespeople, writing profusely on a subject in China often lionizes that writer as a "China Expert", regardless of their true expertise on their written subject. But too many of these expert China bloggers often use services like Typepad, WordPress, or Blogspot, which intermittently provide no visibility in China. Likewise, hosting services overseas like GoDaddy.com often have problems in China–many GoDaddy.com websites and emails can't make it to China-based users.
But these same business-based bloggers complain when their free accounts on Typepad, WordPress, or Blogspot become blocked in China. Why complain when they can do something about it? For as little as US$40 a year, a blogger can buy a domain name and receive web hosting overseas. For the price of one Starbucks latte a month, a China-based blogger can be independent. If a blogger is serious about getting his/her word out among the world's netizens, then a good brand such as MyChinaBizBlog.com is much better than MyChinaBizBlog.BlogSpot.com.
What's the difference? For me, it shows a deep commitment to blogging when a business-based blogger buys a domain name and gets web hosting. I can't take a guy seriously if he says he is running a business and then gives me his email address as [email protected] or [email protected] And especially since many of these same bloggers, regardless of their area of expertise, also wax poetic about the machinations of technology regulations in China, it shows a bit of intelligence when a blogger runs an independent blog. Why trust a vegan who critiques a steak restaurant?
It also shows a lack of permanence when someone uses a freebie service for an otherwise money-earning venture. So goes blogging: a blogger who seriously blogs for business-related reasons should spend an hour buying a domain name, renting server space, and then starting a blog. Create your own identity, rather than have others create one for you!
Another area of recent complaints by China-based foreign bloggers has been the supposed lack of access to RSS storage and aggregation services like FeedBurner. Again, why use FeedBurner and why worry about it?
Bloggers use FeedBurner because they want to know who is using their syndication feeds. But if they own their own domain name and host their own blog, they can use their own free log file statistical reports to gain similar data. Bloggers also use FeedBurner, and like-minded services, to provide easy access to users to store and subscribe to those feeds. Yet with good browsers like Firefox and the latest Internet Explorer 7.0, this is not necessary anymore. Other bloggers use FeedBurner to ping aggregation services when they post new information on their blogs. Again, this is unnecessary because great weblog software like MovableType and WordPress already have fields that allow serious bloggers to automatically ping an unlimited number of aggregation services. Finally, FeedBurner is used by people who want a perceived eternal/permanent XML feed. Again, with the simple use of htaccess files on their own hosted blogs, bloggers can point people to anywhere on the web. It's your identity; it's your blog!
The only good reason I see for someone using FeedBurner is to divert bandwidth away from their blog and to the FeedBurner service. But as many China-based bloggers have less than a few thousand RSS subscribers (if even more than a few dozen), this is far from a problem. Or if their server is eating CPU, then they can install a simple cache script on their blog to decrease load. There is no argument for using FeedBurner, and no reason to complain if and when the service is inaccessible in China.
If you are a serious blogger and what I've described so far seems very technical, it's not. And you should understand all these things (and more) if you plan to blog and use the Internet for the next few decades. Kids in elementary school today are going to be stealing your job in a few years because they understand how the informations on the Internets move around the world. It's time you too climb that wall and create your own identity!
About the author:
Perry Wu is a writer and correspondent for ChinaTechNews.com and can be reached here at the site. Perry Wu does not hold any positions, long or short, on any of the Chinese or American company securities mentioned in this article.