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Taiwaneasy has been on the same course for quite a while. I still like it, it still gets traffic, and it costs very little to keep it running, but it's not doing anything new. And our registration page for new members is not working right now, which is my top concern. Secondary issues are many - directory, articles, forums are all in need of a major revamping.
I'm talking to some professionals about doing exactly that, starting with our registration page. But before I start putting significant money into the site, now's a good time to ask, what do we want to be? What niche are we trying to fill?
WRT forums, Forumosa, by all accounts, is getting traffic, but it's not the same place it was ten years ago. You can argue that it's better or worse, but I think there's no point in Taiwaneasy trying to become what Forumosa has become. And for Taiwaneasy to become what Forumosa used to be means that a sense of community would have to be re-sparked. Taiwan used to have that. People knew each other by their usernames, and associated real-life identities with those usernames. Now that I'm finally turning my head to getting a new registration page up, I'm wondering how to get that again, or if it can even be done. Has FB taken over the idea of web communities completely?
One idea I had is to take total anonymity out of the equation. That is, profiles would have to be linked to another online identity, either FB or LinkedIn, or maybe Google. Googling a real name wouldn't show the posters username, but anyone who clicked on the "profile" button of a user would be able to find out which other online identity was linked to that username. It wouldn't be foolproof, there are plenty of fake accounts out there, and anyone who was seriously paranoid or concerned about privacy could always go to lengths to create a fake online identity. The bonus is that posting behaviour would be a little more intimate and accountable. This is something I really like about FB. In most cases, if I want to know who someone is, I look for mutual friends, public posts, etc. and I can get a good sense of who they are.
What other itches should a website like Taiwaneasy scratch? I still think a directory, an events calendar, and articles would be useful. Your comments are appreciated.
Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.
Agree. It ain't going to happen.
Only because (I suspect) foreigners were a bit thin on the ground. There is less of a need for such a community these days. Forumosa is little more than a place where people can talk bollocks in English; most of the topics are only tangentially related to Taiwan.
Its success on the front, I suggest, is down to a core of regulars who are interesting, intelligent people; it's like Cheers, except nobody knows your name.
I think this would be a bad plan. I absolutely loathe those sites that use Google or FB for login credentials. I do not want my every real-life move monitored by their AIs. It freaks me out that Google is capable of knowing when I took a dump unless I switch off all the tracking features. I don't have a FB account at all, I use Google for Web searches, and I use Gmail as a dumping-ground for junkmail.
Anyway, nobody wants to be "accountable" on the internet. It's part of its attraction.
As for "what should Taiwaneasy be?" I can't offer any simple answers, at least none that would bring you enough income to make it worthwhile. If you think about it, the idea of a country-focused website is inherently problematic these days: imagine a similar one established in, say, Canada for non-Canadians. What could you really put there that isn't available on somebody else's site via Google (or on one of Google's own services, eg., Maps)? It might be time to rethink what you're trying to achieve from a business point of view. There probably ARE some services that foreigners would value - eg., food imports - but they have nothing to do with what Taiwaneasy is right now. Articles might work, but that basically means a blog. You'd have to have some good (semi-professional) contributors, and you'd have to figure out who the biggest target audience would be if you want to achieve revenue or search-engine visibility.
Actually, I think you're in the minority. Many, many people I know IRL have nothing but disdain for forum sites because of this. Yet they're active on FB. They like to know with whom they're speaking.
I would argue that Taiwaneasy isn't "country-focused" as much as it is "community-focused". There is a world of difference between the international community in places like Taiwan, Shanghai, Saigon, etc. and the places like NYC, Berlin, or Toronto. Regardless of the reasons, the non-local communities here are much more cohesive.
Niches that I see need filling go beyond online community forums, though. I think you're right about articles, but not a blog, more like a content aggregator. How does one find out what's going on in town? What's playing? Where are the best restaurants to celebrate a birthday? Or get engaged? What are Taiwan's best beaches? Taiwan's official websites are crap, and relevant FB groups and blogs aren't always easy to find. I look at That's Shenzhen or SmartShanghai as places that offer relevant information to non-local people, regardless of whether they're tourists or residents. TimeOut also does what they do well. Like TimeOutDubai.
Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.
If Taiwanease starts to use real names, I'm outta here. There's no place on the internet worth using real names, unless you're a business person selling something. Facebook is a horrible company, and they've had enough scandals that you should have a plan in place to welcome over users who are looking for expat discussions.
Every hobby has their entry-level & advanced users. These users will seek out different communities for their online discussions. The same should apply for expat communities in Taiwan. Let the whiny, whinging people go elsewhere. Let this be a place for more knowledgeable, professional, courteous discussions.
I'll be honest, I come here to get advice from Dragonbones on food. Two things that I've found to be a problem are that all of you know each other in real life & I'm just an outsider, and this place is very Taipei-centric.
Show me an example of an online community you'd have us aspire to? Is there anything on the Internet that you like? As for me, I hate trolls and trollish posts. So I post in places where that doesn't happen much. FB is great that way - I only stay in groups where the vibe is good. There are so many helpful groups of friendly people on FB that I wonder if there is even a point in trying to create something else that is positive. If it's just a raucous free-for-all, I'm not really interested.
I hear you about the Taipei-centric-ness of expats in Taiwan. I remember it when I lived in Jiayi, even before the Internet made the distinctions even more apparent. Any suggestions to get around that?
Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.
The best thing about this place is that most people know each other in real life. For me that's the feature that makes taiwaneasy different to other places. For this place to grow, that's probably the thing to capitalize on. How to do that, I don't know. Directories, and event calendars, and forums are great extras, but I don't think they are strong enough to beat the Facebook hive mind.
Yes, and are know-able. It would be great to have a community that people can become part of easily. But anonymity hinders that.
Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.
Ditto. I believe I've never registered to a site using Facebook credentials - I certainly never will. I've only got a few things that are registered with gmail, and when I remember that's how it's set up, I now try to change it to a different log-in; I try very hard to avoid services that require me to use one or the other. I have no idea how small a minority people like Finley, SlowRain and I may be, but we're definitely out there (and they probably overlap significantly with the more tech-oriented set who would choose a forum over facebook). With every month, we learn more and more about how toxic Facebook is, and I avoid the place like the plague.
Kind of ditto again. Maoman, I think you may overestimate how much of a community forumosa used to be - to me there was a slightly alienating cliquey element that is now gone (er, moved over here). I recognize that is NOT anyone's intent, and everyone is welcoming, but there's often a sense of walking into a party where you're a stranger and everyone else knows each other. I have no idea how to avoid that sort of thing when most people do know each other.
I'd love an aggregator of what's going on in Taiwan, plus interesting articles about Taiwan. But that kind of content needs money, and I very much doubt there's a profit to be made with it. The magazines and websites that used to provide such services folded, didn't they? When I think about what I most want to be added to my daily life in Taiwan, it's a good list of local restaurants to try. The different tourism sites like TripAdvisor to a decent job of introducing the foreign restaurants - but the locals often seem to know the best local noodle joint, and I'd like to somehow have access to that information. But I have no idea where that information is, or how to make it accessible.
I have an RSS feed in Feedly that shows me articles about Taiwan. I forget how I set it up - probably just something like "Keyword Taiwan". A page like that may be of interest to people. But I'm not sure how parasitic or legal it would be to have a page of someone else's news articles, someone else's restaurant reviews, someone else's tourist articles, someone else's list of events, and so on.
Is there something else on the site right now?! All I ever see is the forum page. If there's something else, it definitely needs to be more visible. Put it in a menu bar at the top.
Back in the day, the blogroll at the side of Michael Turton's website was a godsend, but blogs have mostly died out. Links like that, if they still exist, would be nice.
I remember being really impressed with the breadth of information on IndiaMike, but I used that ten or twelve years back. I don't know how useful it is these days. Plus, of course, a site for India is going to have a lot more demand than a site for Taiwan.
Coffee is a thing for me, so I'll give you two coffee-related websites to check out. Both claim to be professional & knowledgeable, one of them actually is.
(I don't know what your current efforts involve, nor do I know how much time and money you have available for this, so I apologize if this comes across as a bit presumptuous.)
You can't sit at a computer trying to start up a real-life community. People are going to have to organize meet-ups and go to them (say monthly). Initially, it'll just be the regulars--perhaps for a few months. But, if you can't be bothered or make time to meet up with each other, how can you expect others to want to meet up with you.
Secondly, moderators have to ditch Facebook for all Taiwan-related discussions (but, please, keep all the in-jokes on there). If Facebook is better for you, it's better for others, too. Moderators have to make acquaintances with people who know what's going on in the various cities, and be people who are in the know within their own cities. This may involve travel, and may involve opening up a spare room at your places from time to time if you expect people in other cities to open up a spare room for you.
Recruit experts/knowledgeable people to your site. What do foreigners here need? Help finding things, for one. But also scooter advice. Travel advice. Food advice. Advice on children and schooling. Legal advice. Computer advice. Entrepreneurial advice. Language learning questions. Teaching advice. Co-worker advice. Cultural advice. Etc. Also, I know enough not to trust TripAdvisor for coffee & food, so don't let expats here rely on them, either. But the emphasis here is to work at recruiting people who actually know the answers. And give those knowledgeable people a reason to want to be here.
What's going on locally? That deserves its own special mention because it's one of the biggest things foreigners don't know.
Keep discussions on-topic and Taiwan-related. For example, discussions about news stories in other countries have no bearing whatsoever on life in Taiwan. There are other websites for those discussions. General fashion advice is irrelevant; what fabrics to wear in summer and where to find them is. The latest cellphone news is irrelevant; what is the best cellphone available in Taiwan is. Don't give people the opportunity to show their greed, racism, etc. by discussing US politics, for example. Shut down discussions when they're going in circles or are just people complaining (this gets rid of trouble-makers anyway; don't worry if this gives you a bad reputation, the kind of people you want will appreciate it). Make this a positive-focused, productive, knowledgeable group.
If you're thinking that other places already do all this, and you're not willing to put in the required work to be a contender, then put up the chairs and turn off the lights. I would be sad to see that happen for three reasons. First, while I've never met any of you in real life (and, contrary to your insistence, don't feel I need to in order to enjoy some good-natured online chit-chat), I had fond memories of the old website when I first moved here (sorry, I forget its name). Second, I find many of the discussions on the other website banal and too many users belligerent. Third, I hate Facebook.
It was called Oriented, right?
Forumosa might as well change its name to 4chanmosa these days. It's become (even more of) a horrific mix of bigotry, sexism, homophobia and racism.
I don't see much of that on the flob. There are a couple of religious posters who are a bit fixed in their beliefs with regards to sexuality, but in general there's not much bigotry. The IQ thread at the moment is pushing the boundaries a bit.
One of the things I like about forumosa is that one can have discussions about contentious topics without someone screaming, "racism!" or "transphobia!". Sometimes it gets a little ... heated, but that's OK. I can't be doing with the modern habit of shutting down anything "offensive" - which is pretty much anything other than "look what I had for dinner today". And even that is at risk if your meal has been culturally appropriated.
Minus of the no-longer-new forum software: you can't screen out posts from specific users.
Giant plus of the software: you can screen entire parts of the forum or threads out of the Active view. I enjoy forumosa, but these days I mute A LOT of threads. I'm dimly aware the stuff you talk about is on there, but fortunately I don't see it.
Maoman originally raised the issue of accountability, civility, etc.
A forum (if Taiwaneasy retains the forum) inevitably gets boisterous. Where you draw the line between 'boisterous' and 'uncivil' is important - err on the side of caution and you're likely to get a forum which is just boring.