Mind the Gap Saturday: Content

Content. The King of the Internet. No content, no nothing. But even here, both the Chinese and the Westerners have different views on content. What’s good content. What’s bad content. And what’s the kind of content everyone tries not to create.

Good content: Original content

Good content on both sides of the pond, you ask? They’ve a lot in common. If it’s original content, both sides of the pond will love it.

Quality content in China, in fact, is often zhuanzai-ed, or reposted. As long as you have a Chinese site registered with the Ministry of Information Industry doing news, you’re free to repost official news. Sometimes, that news can be of real use to you (we’re not talking about this or that big conference-ish news; we’re talking more about things like informative analysis pieces). And what do you do? You spread the good stuff — you repost it.

Even better, however, is outright original content. These come with two big Chinese characters — yuanchuang (原创), literally “originally made”. A site doing all-yuanchuang content is likely to win a lot of readers, get its content zhuanzai-ed, and make a deep — and good — impression upon the readership.

Many a Chinese forum often ding (or vote) up a good zhuanzai post. The reaction to a great yuanchuang article, though, is even better. In forms where you operate a points-based incentive system, your rating goes up.

Bad content: Porn

So yuanchuang is good. The opposite goes for “blue” (or in China “yellow”) content, or pornography. Not the very least — because it’s either banned by a great many Web hosts in the Web — or totally forbidden in the whole of the mainland Chinese Internet. The writing is on the wall in China: post porn, get found out, and lose your site. And possibly lose money (as in penalties).

Child pornography is illegal in much of the Western world, while adult sites are legal but not for those under 18. In China, both are strictly illegal and many a porn site have been shut down by the Net police.

So how do those pornographers (or “dirty people”) manage to find themselves around the ban? They post borderline content. A story about what a man and a woman did in bed sounds pornographic in China, but the reality is many of these borderline text ads live to survive to another day.

Sometimes the content can get outright “nakedly pornographic”. Tech sites in China sometimes sport pictures of two virtually naked breasts, or young ladies morphing into ghosts. Ghastly stuff. Yet with lax legislation or an inability to legislate further (in terms of details), those who want the money only (and never the morality behind it) will do borderline content till Kingdom Come.

And dirty up the whole Chinese Internet.

Angry content: Flame wars

Flame wars take different forms on the wrong sides of the pond. In the Chinese world, an angry post would be a yelling post with massive red characters, blinking emoticons, and about a million exclamation marks. In the west, graphical and downright explicit language is used in plain, 12-point size text.

There’s an interesting point here — as Chinese has no ALL CAPS feature, how do you show that you’re really mad as hell? The answer is to add what must be a Yangtze River full of exclamation marks. That gets you about the same effect as yelling in ALL CAPS in the west.

The smart idea, of course, when you spot a flame war — East or West — is to stay away from it. Joining in does you no real favors.

And it potentially sinks you deeper into that hornet’s nest.

Avoid This Kind of Content in China

For what they call “all kinds of reasons”, politics and religion are two no-nos in the Chinese Mainland. In particular, if you start a charged tirade about all things Party or government-related, the Net police will descend upon you and might just dump your site altogether. (They think that the content is either “erroneous”, “misleading”, “reactionary” or outright “unhealthy”.)

The other kind of content to avoid is more recent — egao, which roughly translates into “parody with bad intentions”. It probably goes without saying that if some local official has been egaoed, something… bad, that is… will have to give.

And a website will have to go.

Avoid This Kind of Content in the West

The Western world is probably more tolerant when it comes to the latest government mess-up, but they’re probably less tolerant about copyright violations. That’s right: post pirated software on the Web, or copy mass swaths of text from somewhere else, and you’re — good as dead beef, legally.

This, of course, is a bit interesting when you do the comparison. In China, you’d want to stay away from politics and religion. In the West, though, they’ll jump on you when you start doing piracy in any form. Come close to pirating text or software, and — your site will go, too.

Identifying Good Content

So having had a look at what’s good content, what’s bad content, and what’s the content you’d want to keep away from, how do you identify good content? It’s there — you just need to tell folks where it is.

In the West, we’ve services like Digg and Technorati. Digg up a good article — and that’s how you’ll be found. Or possess good Digg Authority figures. For the moment, that is, TechCrunch and even the former blognation China will win over techblog86 — because of the Authority figure. Techblog86 hasn’t been dugg (much), yet — but hey, we’re only like about half a month “young”.

In China, services like Digg and Technorati exist, but more often than not, good content is zhuanzaied and dinged, as in reposted and get a lot of replies to. If you see content with about a hundred dings or replies (as in votes of confidence), you know you’re headed somewhere.

Somewhere good, that is.

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