Monthly Archives: March 2009

Tune in: Beijing’s underground music scene

I’ve recently been tuning into local Chinese sites like NeoCha to listen to bands from Shanghai and China and found some really cool gems. I’ll share some of these later – when 9-5 work isn’t so pressing. But for now, sit back, relax, and watch this video on China’s underground rock scene by CNN. It’s a good primer of what to expect.

What does IE 8 say about Web development in China?

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) was released late last week – another browser, “whoop-dee-do”, right? Well maybe, but, the new browser release is an interesting insight into the way Web development seems to happen in China.

In non-geek speak the new browser uses a new rendering engine which more closely follows open standards such as the Firefox and Safari browsers. This will, and has, caused many popular sites to break around the world – including Microsoft’s own sites. To combat this problem the Redmond company has released an ‘incompatibility list’ which display sites in ‘non-standards’ mode if the tool is downloaded and installed. To keep it simple, ‘non-standards mode’ reverts to the old rendering engines of previous Internet Explorer browsers – IE6 and IE7.

It’s a useful feature, but, what is striking about the list is the high amount of Chinese Web sites on it. Many are high traffic Web sites in China which haven’t updated their code to work with IE 8. For example the recent list included Tencent, Baidu, Sogou, Ku6, Tudou, YouKu, ZDNet China, Taobao, NetEase,, QQ, and Google China.

I’m not quite 100% sure of the reason; Is it lazy coding? Is it too soon to upgrade the code? Was there not enough testing time? Developers too busy with other priorities, Were Microsoft’s communication channels to Web developers in China poor? Is Internet Explorer 8 not worth targeting in China compared to other browsers? Are Web developers in China poor at building sites that comply to open Web standards?

It’ll be interesting to see where this goes in China, the world’s largest Internet population, in terms of market share for Microsoft. Not only does Redmond have to compete with Firefox, Chrome, and Safari but other browsers popular in China such as Maxthon.

I won’t publish the full list of incompatible Web sites here, because, they are constantly changing, but you can download the most current file from Microsoft here.

Top ten bottles of red under 100RMB

One of the constant grumblings of lush expats in Shanghai (guys like me, I’m a guy like me) is the lack of decent ‘drink now’ red wines available for a reasonable cost. The casual bottle you can regularly buy and pour a cheeky glass or three for dinner, or, swill with a visiting neighbour. Unfortunately, most of the good stuff – imported wine – carries a hefty import tax which makes a casual glass of plonk more expensive than a regular illicit drug habit in many western countries.

Such are market forces.

However, it’s well worth the plug to link to the fine folks at Grape Wall of China who undertook the laborious task of uncovering, drinking, and judging 10 top wines under 100RMB. Excuse my gratuitous plagerisphere quoting but red wine bandits in China should definitely link and bookmark this site. From the site:

On March 13, a dozen expert and consumer judges met in Beijing for the Grape Wall Challenge and tasted 23 red wines that retail for less than RMB100 in China (see gallery). The experts rated each out of 20 points, while the consumers had four choices – “love it“, “like it“, “dislike it” or “hate it“. The wines were from France (6), Chile (5), Argentina (4), South Africa (3), Australia (2), the United States (1), Spain (1), and Italy (1). Cedar Creek Shiraz (Australia), distributed by Top Cellar, took top honors.

EXPERT PANEL: Top 10 Red Wines

1.Cedar Creek (Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon) 2008, Australia / Top Cellar, RMB92
2. Callia Alta (Shiraz, Malbec) 2007, Argentina / Torres, RMB72
3. Santa Carolina (Cabernet Sauvignon) 2007, Chile / Aussino, RMB98
4. Las Condes (Cabernet Sauvignon) 2008, Chile / EMW, RMB86
5. (tie)
Leopard’s Leap: The Lookout (Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cinsault) 2006, South Africa / Aussino, RMB95 AND
Concha y Toro Frontera (Cabernet Sauvignon) 2008, Chile / Summergate, RMB79
7. Michel Torino (Malbec) 2007, Argentina / Palette, RMB98
8. Domaine du Landeyran AOC St. Chinian (Grenache, Syrah) 2005, France / BJ Winestore, RMB85
9. Foot of Africa (Pinotage) 2006, South Africa / Torres, RMB99
10. Catena “Retamo” (Bonarda, Malbec) 2007, Argentina / Summergate, RMB89

Photos: Hong Kong Graffiti

One thing you don’t see much of in Shanghai is hip-hop inspired street graffiti. As a massive urban centre, it’s quite an unusual scene compared to other big cities. That’s not to say there isn’t graffiti – I’ve seen slogans in Chinese characters and paintings on public walls but it seems to have a different motivation and influence than in western cities. Maybe someone who is more educated on such matters than me has an explanation or commentary, however.

That said, China has a history of expressing themselves through graffiti – Mao Zedong apparently holds the record for the longest piece of graffiti which contained 4000 characters to criticise Chinese society before the communist revolution.

These pictures below were taken on a recent trip to Hong Kong where it’s not unusual to see welcome and unwelcome street art and scribbles influenced from hip-hop culture.

Stop spitting ad from 1950s China

Spitting: It’s bad manners, spreads disease, and illegal in public. Unfortunately, the habit is still rampant in Shanghai with spitting on the streets, public transport, and even on restaurant floors. That’s not to say authorities haven’t tried to curb the problem – take this ad from the 1950s for example:

Will China vote Ying or Yi for the “Best Job in the World”?

Meet Yao Yi, a 30-something year old from Guangdong, and Yu Ying, a media professional and documentary maker from Beijing. They’re the lucky Chinese candidates shortlisted from over 34,000 YouTube video entries submitted from all over the globe for the ‘best job in the world’ – Caretaker of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

And now its in the hands of the world’s biggest Web population to vote one of them to join the Wonka tour interview in person for the job on Australia’s Hamilton Island.

The worldwide marketing campaign set up by Queensland Tourism, a group set up to promote tourism in Australia’s north-east state, was initiated to find a suitable caretaker and spokesperson for the world heritage marine park. Responsibilities will include; Exploring the islands of the Great Barrier Reef to discover what the area has to offer; report back via weekly blogs, photo diary, and video updates; Feed the fish; Clean the pool; Collect the mail via the aerial postal service. Sounds tough, right?

To be in the running job applicants had to create a YouTube video on why they should have ‘The Best Job in the World’. The carrot set the Internet abuzz via various online social networks and even coverage on TV, radio, and print around the world.

Within the last week the top 50 shortlisted applicants representing over 22 countries, including Ying and Yi from China, have been announced. Queensland Tourism will choose the top 10 applicants based on their own judgement but the final wildcard position will be decided by Internet voters around the world. The successful top 11 will be flown to the Great Barrier Reef for the last round of face-to-face interviews to determine who gets the final job. Oh, and for their trouble, the winner will get a salary of $150,000 Australian dollars – a lot of $USD money until a few months ago.

At the time of writing, Yi and Ying were a long way from the lead and sitting in 13th and 14 respectively. Clare from Taiwan is out in front with a country mile lead of votes. The question is, can China’s netizens – the biggest Web population in the world – rally behind Yi and Ying and get one of them to the top?

To vote visit the Web site Voting closes March 24. The site is in a variety of languages, including simplified Chinese. Two thumbs up to Tourism Queensland for an interesting – and so far successful – online campaign to promote Australian tourism.

Here are the video applications:

Yao Yi

Yu Ying

What does Australia mean in Chinese?

One of the first things I learnt in Chinese class a while back was “Wo shi Ao Da li ya ren” – meaning “I am Australian”. It’s a good ice breaker when speaking to locals because many assume you are American or European. It usually follows a similar conversation you’d have in parts of America about Australia – “Yes, back home I ride a kangaroo to work”, “Yes, Koalas are vicious animals who lurch on unsuspecting children”, “Yes, a Platypus is what happens when a duck has sex with a beaver” (yes, somebody really asked me that in Wyoming).

Suffice to say people overall seem to like Australians even though they are “fat” and “drunks”. Guilty as charged.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. When Chinese assign a name to some countries (not all) I hear they find words in Chinese that sound like the syllables of the name and somewhat reflect the image of that country. They then use the characters which stand for those syllables. As I’ve said, Australia is “ao da li ya”. If the translation is right this means: harbour, big, advantage, Asia.

Australia in Chinese

Why doesn’t outdoor advertising meet digital in China?

Excuse me while I put on my marketing and semi-serious hat on today. Walking around Shanghai and other large cities in Asia and you’ll see eyefulls (yeah, so what if that isn’t a word) of outdoor advertising. In fact, you’ll see outdoor advertising on top of outdoor advertising. With so many people living and working in urban areas – especially the tier 1 cities in China – the real estate for marketing a big outdoor campaign is big business.

Even in the short time I’ve been in Shanghai I keep noticing an increased amount of digital outdoor banners, screens, touchscreen taxis, and metro TV. The city is basically plastered with LCD and digital screens. And, as today’s picture below shows, behind these digital screens are computers. Computers that can do whatever you tell them to.

As an example of the reach, in 2008 Nielsen and Digital Media Group (DMG) released results of a joint study into the effectiveness of LCD screen advertising in Shanghai’s subway system over a period of two weeks. According to the results DMG’s 4,110 multimedia displays on four Shanghai subway lines were viewed by 3,055,000 passengers. I can’t seem to find the exact methodology behind this study but as a regular rider of the subway I can attest these screens are everywhere on the squeeze-fest that is the metro.

With so much technology around one wonders why so many of the advertising campaigns are mostly 1-way banner ads in digital photo or video form. That isn’t to say there aren’t any cool campaigns. Touch Media’s touchscreen taxi LCDs have videos and games customers can interact with and DMG have some entertaining content like their own exclusive subway soap opera.

Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places but it would be cool to see more of these outdoor ads and offer some sort of 2-way interaction through mobile devices, the Web, a competition, or existing online or offline communities. Personally, I’ve never lived in such an environment where so many digital natives congregate in one city in such close quarters. My hunch is that it’s going to take a lot more than a regular outdoor campaign to grab their attention away from their digital devices and stand out from the sea of other poster banners.