Friday, 21 May 2010

Week 12

As part of the requirement of assignment 3, I’m supposed to write down my observations of at least one blog or website I read regularly. I haven’t really touched this area in my previous blog posts because the blogs I read regularly are all written in Chinese. Of course I read English blogs, but I don’t follow any particular one. Since last year, I have been trying to find an English blog that I’m interested enough to follow, but I still don’t have any luck so far. I’m certainly not criticising blogs written in English. I’m following certain Chinese blogs simply because I’m interested in reading articles on two topics: 1) International title trading between China and other countries; 2) issues about culture difference between Japan and China.
Eventually, I decided I would just write about the blogs I really love rather than trying to say something fake about blogs I don’t read.
Grayhawk is created by a Taiwanese literary agent. He usually publishes news about the coming titles he’s excited about, book reviews of the titles he’s trading, and trading news in the industry. Recently he has been talking about exporting Chinese titles to western countries. Particularly, he has been updating stories about selling Gold Mountain, the biggest title in the Chinese market last year, to publishers in Europe and North America. I have to admit his blog has become a very strong channel to promote his titles. Anyone reads his blog would be moved by his passion and enthusiasm towards the books he talks about. And anyone reads his blog would tend to share the same passion with him. Looking at the feedbacks, it’s not difficult to spot readers who said they would go to buy books mentioned in his blog after reading his articles. In fact, I bought Gold Mountain right after reading his series of posts about how he sold the title to publishers in ten regions and countries around the world.
Learning from Grayhawk, I think we have to show the real passion and love towards what we are talking about. If we don’t sound excited, how can we make our readers share the same excitement?

Jiangfeng’s Blog, Sasu’s Blog and Xiuhui Looks at Japan
Jiangfeng is the chief editor of a Chinese newspaper in Japan. He publishes features in his newspaper on his blog on weekly basis. He categorises his posts into several sections including relationship between Japan and China, social problems in Japan, problems Chinese people have in Japan, life of Chinese people living in Japan, Japanese current issues, Japanese history, etc. What I found really convenient of his blog is that he has all categories on the left side of the homepage and all articles recommended by readers on the right side of the homepage. Once I click into a particular article, I can see all the related articles under the same category on the right side of each page, which will encourage me to keep on reading.
Sasu is one of my favourite blogger and writer. I started to follow his blog after reading his book Being Neighbour with “Ghosts” (Chinese used to call Japanese ghosts during World War II). Sasu is actually an IT engineer working in Japan but he writes about everything on his blog, including current affairs, history, fiction, technology, etc. Most of his posts have something to do with Japanese society.
Xiuhui Looks at Japan is very similar with Jiangfeng and sasu’s blog. He focuses on showing the interesting aspects of Japanese society too, but judging from the titles of his posts and pictures, his blog probably appeals more to male readers.
I noticed many Chinese blogs started to include mini-blogs (like tweets) on the homepage. It’s become a more direct platform for communication between authors and readers because authors tend to write less formal and much shorter sentences on all sorts of topics on mini-blogs. Surprisingly, there are lots of people replying to their tweets in the same way as they are replying to blog posts.
Moreover, mini-blog is more user-friendly in a way than Twitter. First, if you reply to a mini blog post, both the post and your reply will appear on your page as well as on the page you reply to. It's visually more like Facebook. Second, when you "retweet" a person's mini blog post, you can write 140 words comments, which will appear with the original post on both your page and the other person's pages.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Week 11

We had a test run on our website last week. I think the major thing we need to finish now is to decide the layout (which mainly is determined by the theme if we are using WordPress blog). It’s not just our group – most groups in the class are having the same problem. I personally think we should have the categories (or at least some navigation) on the left column of the page, but most themes have everything on the right column. So I guess eventually it becomes a matter of balance between what we want and what we can have.I really prefer the lay out of blogs provided by Chinese websites. For example, Xiuhui Looks at Japan has the logo, inks, mini-blog, recommended posts, awards on the left column, and the categories, search engine, video clips, hot posts on the right column.

Furthermore, after getting feedbacks from Sarah, I realised my writing was probably too advertisement-like in the past. So I need to revise the bookshop review I have done. And I also deleted a book review I wrote. I think I need to work on the voice of my articles, which didn’t really fit our indented audience.

Finally, I kind of get this feeling that our website looks really serious and probably will alienate people who are simply looking for something light and fun to read. Increase the variety of our articles probably will help.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Week 10

This week has been the test run for our website. I think we are still struggling to get the site on the right track. The major problem we are facing is that whether we can get enough content on time. I’m thinking about using contributors’ articles if we can find any. I’m already trying to contact people who may be willing to write articles for us, but I will definitely bring this up during our next group meeting to make sure other group mates are comfortable with it.
This is off the topic but I feel pretty excited about Google Editions, which is in the news a lot recently. Such idea of selling e-books that are compatible with both computers and all major e-readers directly to the consumers is very intriguing to me. That means I won’t have to buy Kindle nor iPad to read e-books, but I can download and read the books on my 10-inch netbook (which was only half of the price of an iPad). When I actually get the money to buy an iPad, I can just transfer the book from my netbook to iPad without buying the book again on iTune. With Google Editions' four million titles, I guess it is soon going to be another mogul in the e-book market.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Week 9

During the discussion Tuesday night, we decided our website’s name and tagline will be “Open Book – Open a new chapter everyday”. At this stage, we have all written one or two piece(s) for different sections of our website. Juliette suggested that we should do a poll every Friday instead of doing stories on random topics. Polls will be able to ignite discussions and debates, and will be helpful in terms of engaging users. We will go online next Monday, so I guess we will have enough posts for the first one to two weeks after launching.

I think the next thing we should do is to finalise the design of the website. I mean we have a prototype already, so now we just need to make it look more stylish and professional. Also, we need to create as much content as we can by next Monday.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Week 8

This week, we have already decided the name of our website will be “Open Book”. Briony managed to come up with a prototype of our website. I think I really like the colour and the overall style—clean and serious.
During discussion earlier, we have divided the jobs of writing the contents between us. Briony will do news wrap up. Matt will do kids’ literature. Juliette and I are going to do bookshop review. And Christine is doing events. At least this is the plan for the first two weeks after launching the website next month. We think each of us should come up with one article each week. And the articles should belong to different categories to keep the contents of the website in balance.
The next thing we need to work on urgently is creating a tag-line and a window title. We will have a discussion about these next Tuesday.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Week 7

I have been very sick so I left early during lecture and didn’t manage to participate in the group discussion this week. But I passed my thoughts on the categorisation of our site to my group members.
According to the emails my group members sent me after class, the final decision was to have the following sections:
  1. News wrap up (selection of top stories from other sites)
  2. Kids
  3. Bookshop review
  4. Events
  5. The fifth section will contain random topics that have our attention

As for the name of the site, we are having a voting now through emails and I’m sure we will be able to come up with the final decision next week.

I think our next step is to decide the voice and the writing style of the site so that we can proceed to the next assignment.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Week 6

This week after getting feedbacks for our proposals, we decided that we should do a broader theme. Initially we thought the website would be about Melbourne bookstore reviews and literary events, but after discussion on Tuesday, we are thinking about doing a book-related website includes a bit of everything — literary events, bookstore reviews, book reviews, a children’s literature section, writers interviews, and top 5 stories from other sites.
I personally think this broader theme probably will appeal to real book-lovers in Melbourne but we shouldn’t go any broader than what we already have. Otherwise, when we are trying to do too many things on one site, the site will lose its identity — in other words, there won’t be a clear position of the site in audience’s minds.
By next Tuesday, each of us should come up with five proposed names for our website and also a proposed site structure. Hopefully, we will make real progress soon.