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Tag: Michael-Turton

What I’ve learned from blogging for an entire decade

Part 1: before the blog
Part 2: meeting other bloggers (you are here)
Part 3: how blogging helped me as an entrepreneur
Part 4: The biggest drawback to blogging

Blogs were popping up everywhere in 2005

Soon after I started writing this blog, and sharing one post about teaching English as a foreign language in Taiwan, other bloggers started adding me to their blog lists. Notably, John of Sinosplice added me to his China Blog List and Michael Turton of The View from Taiwan added me to his massive blogroll.

From there, people started showing up and commenting. Even with only 300 visits per day, I often got 20 or more comments on a post. This seems to have been more common back before Facebook sucked up so much of people’s online writing time. It was an interesting time since nobody really knew what blogs were or were supposed to be, but it was very social.

Meeting the actual bloggers

It wasn’t long before, I started meeting this site’s commenters in real life. In Taiwan, there were a number of meetups. When I visited Shanghai, John put me up at his apartment for a week! In Beijing, I met David (then running Adsotrans), Brendan (a more fantastically talented foreign learner of Chinese than I’d imagined existed) and a number of other online friends. Other online friends, like Angelica actually moved to Taiwan from elsewhere and ended up in my offline social circle.

It was an odd world. In 2006, none of these people, except maybe John were making any money online and everyone’s focus was on the ideas they wrote about. Though some of us wrote about language learning or ourselves, others wrote mostly about politics, photography or travel. And we all put each other on each other’s blogrolls—lists of links to other bloggers on the side of our sites—just because we were foreigners with websites in Taiwan (or China). Sure there were some overlapping circles and others that didn’t. Some of the Taiwanese bloggers focused on politics weren’t adding a bunch of China bloggers to their blogrolls. They probably weren’t adding TEFL blogs from outside of Taiwan that I was following either.

People were almost always wonderful

It was really refreshing and eye-opening seeing how nice everybody was. I had originally created this blog with the goal of helping other teachers and students, but for some reason I hadn’t expected the internet to reciprocate.

Other than being offered a place to crash when I visited China, I got immeasurable help from people who had learned more Chinese than I had, people who knew more about getting around Taiwan, people who knew more about running a blog, people who knew more about programming and people who were just really friendly in general. People I met on this very site helped me find apartments, set up websites, set up a business in Taiwan (which was an entire story itself) and all kinds of other things. Even the people who constantly argued with me helped sharpen my ideas about language teaching and my understanding of cultural differences and local politics.

Arguing on the internet

duty calls

XKCD: Duty Calls

Given how many bloggers in Taiwan at that time were focused on politics, it’s inevitable that there were arguments. It wasn’t just politics, though. For me, the longest and most contentious arguments were about language teaching and search engines. I also argued about using standard Pinyin. Actually, my biggest comments on politics generally revolved around issues that related to foreigners in Taiwan, which included romanization. At the time, the DPP very much wanted to adopt or create a romanization system different from China. Due to squabbling and repeated attempts at this, the signs were really confusing for me before I knew enough Chinese to understand the characters and I hated that. “The locals don’t read romanized signs anyway!” I thought. At one point, I had a protracted debate about the merits of including tone marks on signs!

All in all, I feel the online arguing was worthwhile but that there were rapidly diminishing returns. It was fantastic for getting new ideas and seeing how others thought of my ideas. On the other hand, habitually digging in and making a third pass at an argument is very costly, not only socially but also in terms of personal growth. I certainly don’t agree with everything I’ve written here in the past, and in more than one case I’ve gone back and appologized to people I’d interpreted uncharitably in the midst of a disagreement.

The dark side of online visibility—safety concerns

Given how blogs and the internet in general make it easier to put oneself in an echo chamber filled with agreeing voices, online communities tend towards polarization. Paul Graham, a prominent essayist, believes the effect goes far beyond online communities and is a society-wide refragmentation. I think he’s probably right. People, at least within the US and the Anglosphere generally, have diverged into increasingly separated cultural camps. Nowhere is this more visible than in online mob behavior. Twitter has probably been a net positive, but it’s very possibly 45% destructive.

The absolutely most unpleasant experience I’ve had on this site was with a certain person from a country in the southern hemisphere who had an online presence in Taiwan. We had a disagreement which had originally seemed a hope trivially minor misunderstanding—I had corrected a couple of minor errors in what he’d written about me on his site—but his reaction was over the top. He left disturbing sexualized messages both in my email and voice machine, and contacted my business partners threatening to sue over a blog post. Years after I had moved away from Taiwan and I’d had no contact with him whatsoever, he emailed out of the blue swearing to follow me the rest of my life, to ruin it and that if he had half a chance he’d “pay somebody to knock me off”.

Though I had heard others speak of his behavior enough times that I knew I was far from the only person on the internet he’d unexpected flipped out, it was terrifying. I lived in a different country than he did, so there wasn’t a completely credible death threat or anything concrete that the police in the US could do. That one blog post that upset him is the only one I’ve ever taken down at someone else’s request.

I feel hesitant to write about the experience even without naming the individual. Hopefully this serves as an alert to my peers who might think that only huge or exceptionally contentious sites have real risk associated with them.

Also, FWIW, writing online has been a net positive despite this experience.

Lasting bonds

One really great thing about an online presence, or putting yourself out there in general, is that you can choose who you want to spend more time with and who you don’t. I didn’t like everyone I met. Guess what? I don’t follow them online or hang out with them now! Conversely, most of the people I got along with best in 2006 are still friends. Some are close friends, some are weak ties and others are just people I’ll follow online.

I many ways, this is the good side of the societal “refragmentation” mentioned above. In this past decade more than ever, people have been able to find kindred spirits and form like-minded communities.

Next is Part 3: 3 Comments Read more

Recently, Michael and Karl have expressed some surprise and doubt at the claim that the Taiwan dollar has fallen over the past several years. Here are some graphs that should show it quite clearly.

This first graph is based on the Euro, and the TWD is compared to the Korean Won, the US Dollar, the UK Pound, the Canadian Dollar and the Australian Dollar from 2000-2007.
The TWD came in dead last, with the USD barely edging it out.

This second graph is based on the US Dollar, comparing the same currencies over the same period of time.

Once again, the TWD is the clear loser, but what is most striking is how closely it hugs the US dollar graph. This is undoubtedly the result of the Taiwanese government’s unofficial attempts to peg the TWD to the USD. Some have argued that this is part of why consumers here in Taiwan are seeing rising prices.

Now to answer Michael Turton’s question:

Yes, (the TWD has) plummeted from…..28 to the Aus$ all the way to….$30, and that only the other day. In August it hit 25. Clearly there is a great deal of variation. The Korean Won? Well, in May it was 27.7, and on Friday, it was 28.2. Where is the cliff?

The AUD’s outperformance of the TWD is clear from the charts above. Here’s TWD graphed against the KRW:

Yes, there are short-term variations. However, the difference between the long term trends of the TWD and the KRW is stark. The difference is so great, in fact, that it could be argued that that’s the major reason Taiwan has seen less than 1.2% nominal GDP growth per year since the year 2000 while Korea, a very similar economy in many ways, has seen over 8.6% a year.

Update: Since Karl has accused me of “cherry picking” the data, here is ten years of currency data, starting from 1997. Even with the Asian Economic Crisis that decapitated the Korean Dollar, it still beat out the Taiwan Dollar. Furthermore, the Taiwan Dollar lost nearly 20% of its value against the US dollar, and about 40% of its value against the Canadian Dollar and the British Pound. It really would take “cherry picking” to find any long term span in which the Taiwan Dollar has beaten the Korean dollar in recent years.

Related Post: The Weakening of the Taiwan Dollar
Related Post: Economy: Taiwan vs. Korea 2000-2006

In Taiwan, it seems that media is even more partisan than it is back in the States. Recently, the Liberty Times, a pro-Taiwan independence newspaper, suggested that English speakers not use the phrase “Chinese New Year” and that they replace it with “Lunar New Year. Here is an excerpt from the article:
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I saw this on Michael’s website, today. For those readers convinced that “there is no prejudice against white-people”, maybe this will open your eyes a bit. One reader of my blog argued vociferously that me being kicked out of my appartment a couple of years ago (along with all the other white, but not the Asian-American/Canadian tennants) had nothing to do with racism. How about overt violence?

Recently, a man was dragged out of a club and beaten by three others with a baseball bat. The reason? He was a white guy dancing in a club. That’s it. Here is an account from one of the people involved:

Then he began to tell me that shortly after we’d danced, some men told him that he had to go i.e. leave the club. Some men took him outside and before he knew it there were three men beating him up with a baseball bat and baton. They hit him in the face, on his back, stomach, legs and knees.

More from Michael:

Anti-foreigner prejudices run deep here, and sexual jealousies are just the ticket to bring them to the surface. Lots of foreigners out with their Taiwanese wives and girlfriends have bumped up against this problem. As Feli notes in her original description:

So the five of us ended up going to a local dance club, located behind the Sogo and Mitusoki Department Stores in downtown Kaohsiung. I haven’t been there in about six months because I’d heard about a number of incidents involving Caucasian foreigners being beat up or hit over the head with a beer bottle for simply talking to, or dancing with a local Taiwanese woman.

While the police picked up the victim, so far the attackers have been unpunished. To make it worse, the Apple daily misreported the events, again. I don’t know if it’s because blogging is bringing more of these events to light or if there’s a genuine increase in these kinds of crimes, but I’m hearing more and more about them and meeting more and more people who have been involved in them.

I went back to Taizhong today to hang out over at Patrick’s place. I met his wonderful wife, his exuberant children, as well as Michael Turton and family. There was also another blogger, by the name of Carl, whose URL I can’t remember. Like Michael, he’s also been in Taiwan for a long, long time. Everybody had interesting things to talk about, and it was a great time all around. Micheal snapped a few pics and put them up on his site. Check it out!

Update: The geeky tools Michael said I showed him are Google Finance and Zooomr.

Update: Patrick put up some more great pics on his new blog at

I’ve decided to re-organize the links on my blog a bit. I’ve moved Michael Turton’s site into a new category for political blogs. He’s an American who has lived in Taiwan for a long time and has very strong opinions about the political scene here. He’s staunchly anti-KMT. He also does great round-ups of all happenings in Taiwan blogs each week. Joining him in the political blog category is his counter-point, Battlepanda. She’s a Taiwanese woman who lived in America for a long time and has strong opinions about the political scene there. She’s staunchly anti-Republican. Rounding out the political blog category is Darin, who blogs mostly about Japanese politics.

I’ve moved Daniel’s Suitcasing to the general links section, and added The Register, which is one of my favourite news sources. Finally, I’ve added video editing whiz and satirist extraordinaire, Tian.