Social Media in China

Source: Ogilvy's 360° Digital Influence.

Sina Weibo:

WeiboScope (fall 2011)

So what is WeiboScope?
A visual version of Weibo "trending topics"
-- Ethan Zuckerman, MIT Center for Civic Media
A program that can recover deleted posts
-- Joanna Chiu, South China Morning Post
You can use it to find funny GIFs and perhaps pick up a story idea.
-- Steven Millward, Tech in Asia

Before going to China

Life before 2009

The places I call home: Montreal and Hong Kong

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The place where I'm from, the place where I (used to) live

Media I followed as a kid growing up in Quebec who wanted to know more about China

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(Obviously, that was before the Internet age.)

Bridge blogs

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EastSouthWestNorth Blog (ESWN)

Roland Soong: blogger of ESWN

What the Chinese are saying is often not being represented in English. My website presents what the most interesting, popular Chinese news are.

Social news on ESWN

Chinese memes on ESWN

How do I follow China stuff today?
Mostly through this:


Living and working in Hong Kong

From 2009

The Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC) at HKU

People of JMSC / HKU

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From left to right:
Dr. King-wa Fu (PI of social media data projects at JMSC),
David Bandurski (Editor of the China Media Project website),
Prof Yuen-ying Chan (Director and founder of JMSC at HKU)

How did our social media data projects start? (summer 2010)

  • Blogs and forums
  • American SNS: Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
  • Chinese SNS: Sina Weibo and QQ Weibo.
Understanding and Analyzing Online Public Opinion in "Hong Kong Cyberspace":
King-wa Fu (Principal Investigator), Michael Chau (Co-Investigator), Cedric Sam (Developer).

Sina Weibo Open API

Data collection strategy: the API

Actually, you do.
In the beginning, there was data.
From the Weibo Open API...
And then the data was parsed. our database.

Data collection strategy

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What, ALL the most popular users?

  • Using the API's search function, it was possible in 2010.
  • Collect all the users by region.
  • Aggregate.
  • Discover new popular users through popular posts.
  • Friends of friends.

Their timelines too.

  • Timelines > Streams
  • Some control over your user sample.
  • Staggered snapshots (once a day, couple of days).

In the database...


Ok, I want to see visual stuff now

Enough of text-only mode

Weibo reposting vs. Twitter retweeting

  1. Current user's weibo (referring to another weibo)
  2. Original poster's weibo
  3. Number of comments and reposts on current user's weibo

China Meme Machine (fall 2010)

Counting emoticons (January 2011)

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Sentiment analysis for lazy people


Helping reporters covering China (like our JMSC colleagues at China Media Project)

China Media Project reporting on the death of a college student from Hebei province

  • 23 January 2011: Zhao Wei dies on a train bound for Tianjin. Ruled suicide by train authorities.
  • 27 January 2011: Parents sign a letter suspecting foul play in death.
  • 27 February 2011: Letter gets posted on online forum.
  • 28 February 2011: The letter goes on Sina Weibo (
  • 2 March 2011: News gets picked up by David Bandurski of CMP through China Meme Machine (
  • March-April 2011: The Guardian picks it up.

Social Media (e-mail) Report

China Sina Weibo Scoop Machine (April 2011)

The important 1% inspiration

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WeiboScope (fall 2011)

WeiboScope (search easter egg!)

Finding deleted posts (January 2012)

You don't, but you could.

Finding deleted posts (January 2012)

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What does the Sina Weibo API say about deleted posts?

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WeiboScope Search (fall 2011)

China Media Project's (**pun alert**) Anti-Social List

WeiboSuite was created by Henry Williams, Jacky Wong and Tony Yoo as a final project for Jonathan Stray's course at JMSC.

So, did I learn anything?

Now in 2013

Lesson #1: Get out of your comfort zone

Lesson #2: Multidisciplinarity

Lesson #3: Avoid bandwagons

Lesson #4: There is a lot of space

Lesson #5: Don't let constraints of the system stop you

<Thank You!>