This entry was originally written in 2007. Since then, Taiwanderful has changed significantly and my initial misgivings no longer apply. The site no longer emphasizes monetary considerations on its front page, I believe it now shares 100% of blog post earnings with the authors of those posts, and most importantly the pop-up ads are gone!

A while back, I noticed that Forumosa, the largest community site for foreigners in Taiwan, had a new guide for Taiwan. It’s called Taiwanease: The Knowledge, and it’s a wiki, which means that anybody can add articles to it and edit it. This sort of site usually takes a lot of work to get going, but once it’s big enough there will probably be quite a few people volunteering their time and knowledge to make it a better site. The most famous wiki is Wikipedia, which has grown into an absolutely gigantic, non-commercial online encyclopedia.

Unlike Wikipedia, though, Taiwanease: The Knowledge is commercial. There are ads on every page of it that I’ve seen, and if it ever gets the kind of traffic that the Forumosa forums get, it will be a money making machine indeed. A money making machine largely built by the community, that is. It’s largely for that reason that I haven’t felt very compelled to write or edit anything for the site. That and the fact that the top level navigation is broken (it uses Javascript rather than standard HTML links, breaking the middle-click to open a tab functionality of modern browsers). I like the Forumosa guys, and I contribute to the forums on occasion, but I don’t think I’ll be writing articles the that particular wiki.

Recently, David and Fili have made another site with similar aims, called Taiwanderful. It’s run on Drupal, the same CMS as the Taiwan Blog Feed. It is also very commercialized- not only does it have prominent advertisements on every page, but it is also set up so each book in its “Online Store” links to Fili’s affiliate program. Like Taiwanease: The Knowledge, Taiwanderful encourages users to build content for the site. What makes it different, though, is that they will share some of the revenue such content generates.

If I were to write an article for their site, the revenue of half of the ads displayed on my article would go to me and the other half would go to David and Fili. At first glance, one might wonder why anybody would ever write an article there rather on his or her own blog, where 100% of the Google Adsense earnings would go to the author. There are a couple of possibilities. If the site grows very large, then the traffic to its articles would be more than twice the traffic to the potential writer’s personal blog. Another reasonable strategy would be to simply cross-post articles and get revenue both from one’s own blog and from the site.

Still, I have some misgivings about the system. Is it really necessary for David and Fili to take half of the revenue each article generates? Any article posted to Taiwanderful will make Taiwanderful a bigger and more useful resource, and bring in more traffic to the site over time. Also, as I noted above, the site is already filled with ads on pages other than those for specific articles, and it makes use of the affiliate program, too. I’ve been asked to write for the site, but it’s a little bit hard to considering that every article I might write earns David and Fili more than it earns me, and that it helps build their business in the process. It would feel almost like being their employee.

Bandwidth isn’t that expensive. Community sites aren’t that difficult to build, either. It would be really nice to see a Taiwan community site that took the idea of revenue sharing and didn’t try to take such a huge cut for itself. If somebody made one, I’d love to contribute to it.