Blog Bridges Six Degrees of Separation

This is a translation of a media report by Steven Lin that originally appeared in Chinese in Economic Observer on August 3, 2006.

The Economic Observer_report_2006_8

In the About Me section on his blog, Oliver Ding said, “I work for private investors, conduct investment banking on their behalf, and provide financial services to businesses by cooperating with agencies and investors. My responsibilities involve writing business plans, being engaged in IPO due diligence investigation as well as consulting and start-up consulting for B2B brand strategy. By 2000 I had worked for 6 years in the advertising and communications industries.” Known on the Internet as Microspace because of his unique views on communication and marketing, Ding has attracted a group of avid followers and dedicated readers and maintains contacts with many people in related fields.

Ding, a vigorous advocate of the Internet, has helped other bloggers with visual design projects by sharing his professional experience. He recently designed a new logo for the Chinese Blogger Conference. “The core design will not change, but some slight modifications will be made; for example, the background will change from blue to green when this conference is held in Hangzhou. The ambience of each city is quite different.” The first Chinese Blogger Conference was held on November 4–5, 2008, in Shanghai. Ding attended the conference, excited not only because the visual design he created enlivened the whole event but also because he met many bloggers with whom he communicated online for a long time but never had the opportunity to meet.

Other people feel the same way that Ding does—surprised to find many “strangers” calling his name. Over 200 participants of varying ages and backgrounds came to the conference from different cities. Some were college graduates, some venture capital managers, and some scholars studying abroad. People with such diversified backgrounds rarely find opportunities to gather.

In the 1960s Stanley Milgram, a social psychologist from Harvard University, the idea of Six Degrees of Separation. He stated that if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person known by one of those people, then everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on earth. He believed that through a maximum of four people, anyone could establish an effective relationship with any stranger. Blogging has nearly made this concept a reality in the digital era.

The prototype of the blog appeared in 1994s, when 32-year-old Justin Hall instituted his own web log. He is now regarded as one of the earliest bloggers. In the early stages of the blog, bloggers had to upload the software to a hosting space because no blog publishing software or blog service providers were available. At this time the blog acquired its basic feature; that is, entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. Later as blog tools became increasingly convenient and simpler, the public enthusiastically embraced blogs; and the reverse-chronological order of entries is still in place in the Blogosphere, enabling a reader to become familiar with the blogger, often more familiar with the blogger than with friends or colleagues.

When Ding initially came to the Internet in 2000, the most popular websites in China were online forums. Switching from advertising to his present industry, he hoped to keep in touch with advertising pioneers; thus, he joined an online forum called (also known as Internet Advertising Pioneer) to discuss the Internet and the advertising. He became acquainted with many interesting friends through this website and met some of them off line occasionally. Then as more and more people went online and more useless information appeared on the Internet, Ding moved to a new Internet application: blog.

“By the time I started blogging, I had already become disillusioned with the online forum. It is kind of waste of time and the organization of topics is chaotic. It is too difficult to follow a topic efficiently,” Ding said. “In contrast, a blog provides a good way to present and share your ideas continuously and clearly.” With RSS readers, he can easily follow updates on his favorite blogs. The flashing yellow flower sign on the MSN name list also serves to notify users about updates logged by their contacts. That is why when bloggers gather offline, they seem to have known one another for a long time.

Except for enabling readers to follow a writer continuously, a blog can also help readers find interesting writers and topics through hyperlinks that multiply in the blog world. With the help of permanent links and trackback, each blogger build his or her networks. With a click of mouse, readers can find people through other people in the social network.

From the blog of Issac Mao, a venture capital manager, Ding learned about the Opensource Opencourseware Prototype System (OOPS). Then he visited the OOPS website and became a member. Later he designed the logo and T-shirt for OOPS. In 2005 when OOPS was very popular, Ding’s work frequently appeared in media very often. He attended the OOPS Mainland China Volunteers Convention in Shanghai in June 2005 and met with Mao, who talked about organizing the Chinese Blogger Conference. Ding designed the visual identity for the event.

Issac Mao is one of the earliest blogger in China, and under his leadership the website CNblog, a group blog, introduced the blog to Chinese communities. Now Oliver Ding, Issac Mao, and many other bloggers are organizing various discussion groups on the Internet. The topics of the groups range from organizing the 2006 Chinese Blogger Conference to new Internet technology to Internet entrepreneurship. Everyone shares his or her experience and knowledge as well as expands networks.

One blogger writes, “To give an example, in my contact list, there is Oliver Ding. You don’t know about him, but you can know him through my network. He has many friends in venture capital on his network. If you want to know these people, you can do it through his network.” It may have been impossible in the past, but is possible now.

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