Sina Weibo is best described to a Western audience as a hybrid version of Facebook and Twitter, and over the next few weeks I set out to find out why. In my previous post, Melissa精彩, I discussed the signup process I went through to gain a Sina Weibo, this week I’m going to report back about my first week using the social networking site.
One of the founding features of Twitter is its limit on how many characters you can tweet, this being 140, which is also a feature on Sina Weibo. I wrote my first weibo (which literally means microblog in English) using a translated version of the site, assuming that it would turn my English characters into simplified Chinese once posted, because of the Chinese orgins of the site, but it did not. Despite the site not translating my posts, I thought I would of received the equivalent amount of characters in English, but this was not so. 140 Chinese characters allows the user to be significantly more expressively than 140 English characters as you are not forced to abbreviate like I often am on Twitter, which implies by using English I would be significantly limiting my weibo capacity (Gao, Abel, Houben and Yu 2010).
Having realised that my posts didn’t translate, I decided to explore and see if I could find any other accounts that used English, my results were negative, however I left my post in English along with my biography, which also didn’t automatically translate, to experiment. A few days later and I have received zero likes on my post, despite 59 people having read it. I also only gained 4 followers, and all the private messages I received were still in Chinese (this feature being more closely linked to the Facebook feature). Even upon discovering that there were other Australian accounts on the site, I still feel like an outsider, as they have taken to using Chinese, so this suggests I really should also.
Last week I also downloaded the Sina Weibo app to my phone, presuming when I found out it was English that it may actually translate certain things. I was mistaken and the only thing it enables me to do is navigate around the app because those are the only elements in English. All notifications, posts and messages are still in Chinese, so it’s a lost cause for me use it, not knowing an ounce of Chinese. Interestingly, the partial English interface for the site only eventuated last year, whilst the app has been around since April 2011 (Custer 2013).
So next week I’m going to give up attempting to use the app except to examine posts in Chinese, and try using Google Translate to translate my posts and see if that enhances my popularity and experience on Sina Weibo. I also intend to start mapping out my research report, which I have decided will be an investigation of Chinese social media through the methodology of Sina Weibo.
Custer, C 2013, ‘Sina Weibo Launched an English Web Interface, But Why So Little So Late?’, TechInAsia, 10 January, viewed 11/9/14, < http://www.techinasia.com/sina-weibo-launched-english-web-interface-late/>
Gao, Q, Abel, F, Houben, G.J & Yu, Y 2012, ‘A Comparative Study of Users’ Microblogging Behavior on SIna Weibo And Twitter’, Unknown, pp.88-101.