What a relief!

Posted August 3, 2010 by Crystal Zhang
Categories: Feeling & thoughts

Finally, the submission of final project draws a period to my whole academic years.

elephant sculpture in Bond street

 I learned a lot during the year that has just passed, even more than the 4-years’ Bachelors, and my ability was greatly improved, no mater academic ability or self-independence.

 I had a tough time  doing my final project, mainly because of limited time. It was a TV documentary  about endangered Asian Elehants. Because of habitat loss and ivory trades, more and more elephants are now facing danger.

 To help saving these endangered creatures, a charity called Elephant Family launched an art event– “Elephant Parade“, hoping to raise people’s awareness of peotecting Asian elephants.

I even went to Chester zoo to film elephants, because that’s one of the only zoos in the UK that has Asian elephants.

Chester is a long way from London. I got up at 4:30am, catching the 5:35 train to Euston, and arrived at Chester central station at 8:30am. When I entered the zoo, there weren’t many people, so my interview with the elephant keeper went smoothly, which was out of my expectation because the press office lady told me that she couldn’t guarantee if the keeper would talk to me.

There’re altogether 7 elephants in Chester zoo, and most of hem were born here. To them, this sand field is their “natural habitat”.

Asian elephants in Chester zoo

It was pleasant and satisfying to see a documentary-in-mind becomes something real. I did everything on my own: contacting interviewees、filming、interviews、editing、doing voiceover, and script writing, etc. This is my first time doing everything totally on my own, and I have to say it’s a great opportunity for me to practice all that I’ve learned.It was such a relief to finish everythng within a relatively short period. I was doing internship at the same time, so that means I can only focus on my project after work and only on weekends. Can you imagine how hard and intensive it was? Fortunately, I managed to deal with both at last, and I believe nothing could beat me as long as I’m determined and work hard.I’ll post the doc later when I finish uploading. Please do tell tell me what you think. 🙂


Our website goes live!

Posted March 21, 2010 by Crystal Zhang
Categories: Feeling & thoughts


A perfect team of nine--“About Us”

After almost two months’ of hard work, finally, our LondonDivercity finally goes live.


Too much was devoted into this website. It has almost taken up 80% of my time and life. I’ve never worked on something sooo hard that I felt so much pressure during the whole period.

But as a reward, I also learned a lot from the painstaking process: learn flash from the tutor, from my classmate, from youtube, from everywhere… As you devote a lot, you gain a lot.

As my tutor David said, we’ve done something in six weeks which others will do in a whole year! That was awesome!

The website is just like our child, and nothing delights us more than seeing its born.

Go to our Divercity website and don’t hesitete to tell me if there’s anything we need to improve. I’m sooo proud of my team, and everyone deserves a total break!

Chinese ‘Xiaonei’ beats American ‘Facebook’

Posted March 20, 2010 by Crystal Zhang
Categories: Feeling & thoughts

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As a Chinese “Facebook”, Xiaonei.com tested out its own way of success. Its user number exceeded its American counterpart, and has become the NO.1 of SNS in China.

Li Lin is an overseas student missing her friends. She turns on her computer, clicking on QQ (China’s top instant messager, similar to MSN) to message her friend, and searches for the latest news with Baidu (a Chinese search engine). She spends almost an hour looking through her friends’ profile on Xiaonei before going to bed.

Xiaonei.com, xiaonei meaning: On campus

Xiaonei.com, a self-proclaimed Facebook in China, is the most popular social networking website among Chinese students. It was started in 2005 by a Tsinghua University graduate and provides users with groups, albums, marketplaces and other services to meet their needs for association, entertainment and trade.

The ‘Facebook of China’ was takenover by Oak Pacific Interactive (OPI)—a holding company with a number of online communities in 2008, and has raised a whopping $430 million investment by SoftBank ever since.

How Xiaonei develops:

According to one of the company’s investors, another $550 million investment is expected in anticipation of being listed at the stock market Facebook—the world’s biggest social network, entered the fast-growing Chinese Internet market in June 2008 with its Chinese version.

It has raised $378 million in total, including from venture firm Accel Partners, which has also invested in OPI.

“They invested the money into OPI in 2008, but the money will mainly be used to help expand Xiaonei.com,” an Accel Partners official said. The backing gives it a larger financial war chest than Facebook, and sets a vague scene with the American company.

Users numbers: Xiaonei VS Facebook

According to the latest report released by Pacific Epoch, Xiaonei had more than 26 million registered users by March 2010, including 12.7 million daily users.

“I use Facebook too,” said Li Lin, “but I don’t check it that often unless my foreign friends send me messages. Most of the time I still chat with my Chinese friends and play on-line games on Xiaonei.”

Following the unsatisfactory performances of some multinational firms in China such as Google, eBay and Yahoo, Facebook hasn’t gained much momentum either: with a total of 200 million global users, only an insignificant 300,000 users are in China.

There’s an online description of Facebook’s situation in China: “they came, they saw, and they left Chinese social networking websites fight amongst themselves for the market”.

Why Xiaonei successes?

Why do the prospects of foreign companies in China look so gloomy? And what makes Xiaonei.com—with a yearly-profit of over one billion yuan last year, such a great success?

According to Chen Yizhou, CEO of Xiaonei.com: the reason why the overseas players failed is because they don’t understand the culture and thinking of the Chinese people.

“We are heading in different directions, although the platforms may look alike,” he said, “Xiaonei is based on the users’ own circles, so that even introverted people can enjoy themselves with social networking. Facebook on the other hand, encourages communication between you and strangers, which does not quite meet Chinese people’s cultural mentality.”

How does Xiaonei make money?

Most social media networks in China do not make a profit, but Xiaonei has tested out its own ways. For instance, companies like Coke Cola, Nokia and P&G try to reach student consumers since the main Xiaonei users are college students, and their ads take over most of the space on Xiaonei pages in different forms.

Apart from the ads from big companies, Xiaonei also sells virtual gifts, virtual pets, and virtual goods. It reminds you when your friend’s birthday is approaching, so if you want to buy a gift for him from its online shop, you’ll have to use its own currency called “Renren dou”, each one costs 1 Rmb.

Xiaonei Farm

Online games such as Farm, Parking Wars, and Xiaonei Restaurant are an indispensable part of SNS, and they are perfect tools for operators to make money, and also familiarize fresh users with these websites.

Take “Xiaonei Farm” as an example. The daily profit made from it is approximately 50,000 Rmb ($7,325). With a monthly profit of 1.5 million RMB ($220,000), this is only one of hundreds of applications.

Xiaonei also opened its Internet payment system in 2008.

Xu Chaojun, a major stakeholder in Xiaonei.com said that this payment system has established cooperation with many Chinese banks and third-party payment software developers, so that an entire payment process can be easily handled on this platform.

For now, in China’s hugely competitive SNS market, Xiaonei is considering to open more Applications such as mobile platforms to attract more users and generate more profits.

As Li Lin says goodnight to her friends and logs off Xiaonei.com, Facebook is waking up to a gloomy future in China.

Chinese New Year——新年快乐!

Posted February 14, 2010 by Crystal Zhang
Categories: Feeling & thoughts

Tags: , , , ,

Red lanterns in China Town

This is a special day. For the first time, I’m now here, in the UK, spending the most important spring festival, alone.

Dragon and Lion dance in China Town

Spring festival is one of the most important festivals to Chinese people. It represents a reunion and get-together for every family in China, and every Chinese people pays special attention to it.

During spring festival, most Chinese people eat dumplings and Tangyuan (sweet dumplings made of glutinous rice flour) to celebrate it. 

We made dumplings by ourselves!

I’ve never made that before because usually we just buy them from the supermarket or the market. But here, the only way to eat it, is to make and cook them by ourselves.

Family members will go back home before the New Year’s Eve no matter where they are, and how far they are away from home.

“Home” is a very important notion in Chinese culture, and whenever a whole family reunites together, it’s the most satisfying and happiest moment ever.

Tangyuan are round because they represent unification for families. That’s why we eat them. For the first time, I learned to make dumplings and they tasted great!

Tangyuan--sweet and round dumplings made of glutinous rice flour

For me, not staying with parents made me even stronger. I learned how to cook and live independently, and I enjoyed it.
Of course I miss my home ver much, but I know this is an indispensable process to grow up. But wherever I am, I’ll never forget all the Chinese custom and how important the festivals are to us Chinese people.
No other country like China has so many people love their own country so much, and not a single culture has so many traditions and passed-on custom as China.
That’s why this nation is great– people will always miss her wherever they are, and the further they are away from the country, the more they miss her!

New Year in China Town

Typical “American” Avatar

Posted January 21, 2010 by Crystal Zhang
Categories: Feeling & thoughts

Tags: , , , , , ,

Too high an expectation always leads to disappointment, well, at least in most cases.

I heard too many recommodations about the movie <Avatar> so that I can’t wait till February to watch it in IMAX any more. I went to see the 3D movie yesterday in Harrow, but maybe because it was Wednesday so that only a couple of people were in the cinema watching it.

It’s a routine to watch ads before films start, but the ads before Avatar were sooo long that they lasted for 25 minutes! That is to say, we were forced to spend an extra almost half an hour sitting there and watched a series of ads. People could have all their popcorns eaten even before the fiim starts!

I found it irritating although I knew that this is inevitable before any movies, but I promise it was the longest padadvertisement I’ve ever seen!

Back to the movie. It was the same old topic: the environmental issue, but expressed in a more convincing and powerful way. I really liked the way the ideology was presented. The director– James Cameron was really imaginative, who combined together the cruel reality and the fantastic fairytale world, and conveyed to the audiences how cruel and stupid human beings are, and the urgency of protecting the homeland.

Most people were amazed at the dazzling stunts and 3D technique used in this film, and I guess that’s also why it took the director 15 years to produce this movie. There are breathtaking natural sceneries, strange-looking and scary animals and plants, and kind-hearted and brave blue-skin people.

These elements outstand this movie, and are an important reason that glorified it and  pushed it towards the Golden Global Award. But somehow for some reason, it wasn’t particularly appealing to my flavour.

I think it was the typical American complex of being a hero& save the world that made me feel bored. Still the same old story, you know, the Americans always see “saving the world” as their mission, and almost everyone who act suspicious will be seen as a terrorist. I don’t like their arrogance, and still, the typical heroic ending, isn’t that an old convention?

They are the ones who opened the box of Pandora, and also the ones to save the world, ironic huh? If there’s anything we can learn from it: Never open the gate toPandora!

They are not alone!

Posted January 15, 2010 by Crystal Zhang
Categories: Feeling & thoughts

Tags: , , , , , ,

The resources on the earth are becoming less and less, but people never stop consuming and producing more things. Fortunately, there’s a group of people who have realized the pressure on earth, and are taking actions towards it. 

——this is a video from youtube, which is about the life of freegans and an introduction to freeganism. 

I interviewed two people on Tuesday for my radio feature assignment, and I learned a lot from them. 

Polly Higgins is an International lawyer and an environmentalist. She was recently invited to Copenhagen climate conference to draft the Copenhagen treaty. Although the meeting was a “disaster”, she said she’s happy to see so many people uniting together and are fighting against pollutions. 

With Polly Higgins

 “We elected the leaders to do it for us, but they failed to do so, so we have to depend on each other and do it on our own now.” 

Polly is really a friendly and kind peoson, and she is very very busy because she’s now preparing for the COP16. I really appreciate her meeting out with me. 

She told me that her pc screensaver says “Save the earth”, so that every morning she wakes up, she would feel full of energy and that she still has jobs to do. 

I admire her spirit. 

The other interviewee is a freegan. This is a group of people who are against over-consumption and over-production. They try to live simply and reduce the pressure they place on the environment. 

What they committed to do surprised me a lot. I didn’t know that there is such a group of people, who do the dumpster-diving and bin-raiding things almost everyday. They want to save the declining resources as best as they can, and share the food that are wasted with others. 

When I asked him whether his family approve of his way of living, he turned very sober. 

“Well, some do, some don’t,” he said, “there are some minor details…” 

Alan Wright, a freegan

 He thinks he is going down the right road, no matter what others say, he just hopes to follow his conscience. He says that’s the benefits he got from this organization, and the feeling of self-satisfaction is what he’s after. 

This is really an adorable old man. To us, dumpster diving and bin-raiding may seem odd, but they insisted doing so and are calling for more people to act towards the waste. 

The commonalities between my two interviewees is that they are all concerned about our planet, and are promoting actively to the environmental issues. 

I’m glad to see they are not alone since more and more people have realized the problem, the climate protest in early December last year is a good example. Of course, protecting the earth is not only their responsibilities. We really cannot expect too much from our leaders, what we should do is to depend on ourselves and help each other. 

True, so long as we follow our conscience, the world will turn into a much better place.

Sunday Mirror correspondent killed in Afghanistan

Posted January 10, 2010 by Crystal Zhang
Categories: Feeling & thoughts

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It’s such a shock to hear this news. I always thought that death is a remote word for contemporary journalists, but in reality, it’s not.

The Sunday Mirror’s defence correspondent, Rupert Hamer, who was embedded with the United States Marine Corps, got killed in an explosion in Afghanistan. His colleague,  a photographer Philip Coburn, is  in a serious but stable condition, BBC reports.

Speaking of the embedded correspondent, I just finished an essay about it. Military forces like to embed war correspondents in their troops, so that the reporters would record down all that happened in war fields, and be of great help for the propaganda applications.

An embedded civilian photographer snaps a picture of the soldiers in Panama. Source from: Wikimedia commons, taken by Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel

Of course, this is of benefits for both sides. From Vietnam to the Falklands, the Gulf War to the Iraq invasion, media played a very important role in  promoting government ideas and spirits. Journalists would accompany troops on the ground and get a more nuanced picture of soldiers’ activities.

That’s why Phillip Knightley famously argued that “truth is the first casualty in reporting of any wars.” He doesn’t believe there are any truth in war reporting, because what the journalists see in war fields are just what the military want them to see, report what they want them to report, and the so-called truth are often filtered by the military first.

Truth is the first casualty, and how about the war correspondents then? They are actually also in a very dangerous condition since they should accompany troops to anywhere they go, but few has really concerned about their lives.

I think there are two catagroies of journalists. One is the paparazzis, who is just like flies, so annoying that they humiliated the fame of journalists; another kind is  just like the war correspondents. I always admire those correspondents who are in war fields, especially Iraq or Afghanistan. They are really daring that they even ignore their own safety and lives in pursuit of the first-hand news and truths, althouh the truths may be embellished.

This is professionalism. Real journalists are fearless, straight-forward and upright. I really feel sorry for this brave war journalist. He deserves the admiration.