(Photo courtesy Kevin Wen.)
Chinese A-list tech blogger Keso gave the keynote speech at this year's Chinese blogger conference. He spoke very frankly about a number of things. He talked about how blogging has transformed his life, and put him in touch with a whole network of people he would never have known otherwise. He warned against over-commercialization of Chinese bloggers. He also addressed the latest hurdle to free speech in the Chinese blogosphere: some government authorities here are calling for new regulations that would require Chinese bloggers to use their real names. (See the translation of a blog post he wrote about this issue here. I have posted some other links about the controversy here. Also see Danwei.org's translation of Wang Xiaofeng's sarcastic critique here.)
Keso said that blogs are a technically very simple but socially very complex tool. They are used and viewed in different ways by different people. Some use blogs as a diary, some use them as media, others use them as p.r. vehicles, others view blogs as enemies. Keso said recently some people want to control and limit blogs. Suddenly, with blogs, people we thought had nothing to say actually have a lot to say. Some people confuse the proliferation of speech with chaos. But blogs are not as scary as some think. Blogs, Keso said, are as varied as people. Those who think that blogs are violent or threatening only see it that way because they view society as threatening. Blogs are not a threat, he said.
Keso also spoke about the issue of "objectivity" and the criticism some people make that blogs are not objective. He said people should stop going on and on about the lack of objectivity. His blog is objective from his point of view, as he speaks honestly about how he sees things. What our society lacks, he said, is not objectivity but honest thought and ideas by individuals. The more people express their perspectives, a more representative objectivity will emerge in the aggregate. Objectivity is not just handed down to you by some authority from on high, he said, the way some people might like to think.
He also talks about the issue of advertising and commercialization of blogs. Keso believes blogs by their nature are fundamentally non-commercial, which is why he stopped putting ads on his blog. If everybody thinks they can make money on their blogs, and if they are using their blogs to get traffic and ad money, then that is dishonest. "Blogging is a way of life, it's not a way of supporting yourself," ye said. He worries that commercialization is changing the nature of blogging - it's too simple to think you can support yourself just by putting ads on your blog.
He then spoke about the question of trust and credibility. When he interacts with a person's blog he feels he is having a direct dialogue with another person. Blogging has changed his life the same way having a car changes a person's life... the biggest change happens when lots of people start using cars, and it changes the fundamental nature of society. Same with blogs. The critical mass makes a difference. In the past there was no vehicle for people to know your views and thoughts as an individual. Now with more than 10 million bloggers in China, people speaking their minds and discussing their ideas, this is a fundamental change.
The nature of trust between blogs and bloggers, Keso believes, is very different than the relationship between a person and a commercial website. When you interact with a commercial website its cold and transactional. "You dont interact with them as you would with a person who you have come to know." But when you conduct a transaction with another blogger, after having developed a trusting relationship with him through interacting with his blog, its like working with a friend. Keso believes that in future everybody can develop their own personal brand through their blogs. Some will be big and some small, but this personal brand is established by people getting to know you over a long period of time. Social capital and personal trust is built slowly. It takes time to establish. Therefore he believes "the trust and credibility of a blog is far beyond normal media or commercial sites" because those brands are built with money. Credibility of blogs is built with the value of a person's integrity.