• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    The New Generation of Viet Bloggers: Yahoo 360

    Since the inception of the Bleeding Ear, we have joined with others in looking for Vietnamese blogs. Previously, I listed a couple blogs I found off of Noodlepie, and some reasons why I wished blogging among the Vietnamese would blossom.

    How Yahoo became the exclusive purveyor of chatting in Vietnam, I don't know
    My first foray into the "Vietblogosphere" found a wide variety of expat blogs but only a few blogs written by Viets.

    Yet over the last year, things have started to change. I'm not sure how noticeable this is from America, but I have seen it personally. You see, Yahoo and Google get a lot of flak for bowing to communists and censoring search results--as well they should. But Vietnam is showing China that things can be done differently. The internet is slowly opening--not closing--in Vietnam, and the presence of Yahoo and Google, if neutered, has had profound blessings.

    What blessings?? Well, Vietnamese youth waste hours a day chatting on Yahoo messenger. My first day as an English teacher in Vietnam was a lesson in the power of Yahoo. It was in Go Vap district, in Ho Chi Minh City, with VATC--Vietnamese American Training College. I arrived to the skinny, three-story concrete building as the sun was setting, and walked inside the front doors, found the manager, and received my lesson materials. After a quick planning session, I was escorted to my first class--PET3. PET classes are pre-teenage classes. My class was full of 25 boys and girls all about 12-14 years old, with moderate English skill.

    These pages mix the allure of Myspace with the chatting of Yahoo Messenger
    My teaching was nothing memorable that first day, with most of it spent answering personal questions from the students. But every class has a ten minute break, and when the bell rang, my class emptied so fast, I almost believed the previous 45 minutes had been a dream.

    Eager to find out where my students were running to, I walked downstairs. I passed one or two talking on the staircase. Then I reached the first floor and found the computer room. Every VATC has a room for students' use that contains about 10 computers. This room was packed--standing room only--with about three students per computer. Every student was doing two things--playing flash games and chatting on Yahoo.

    How Yahoo became the exclusive purveyor of chatting in Vietnam, I don't know. But unlike America, where everyone is broken into AIM, Yahoo, GoogleTalk, and MSN circles, there is only one large circle in Vietnam--Yahoo. Children and teenagers squeeze every minute they can chatting with friends--10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, an hour before school here, an hour at night before bed there. Internet cafes are chalk full of them at almost all hours of the day, and it has become a nearly unregulated way of mass communication and relationship building.

    At that moment, seeing all those students chatting, I wondered if they would ever jump to blogging. They were so close--talking to friends about school, what to do the next day, the game they're playing--all over the internet. I shouldn't have wondered.

    Thanks again to Yahoo comes the next generation of Vietnamese youth. Yahoo 360 has finally taken off. I have seen most of my chatting students set up personal Yahoo 360 pages within the last year. These pages mix the allure of Myspace with the chatting of Yahoo Messenger. You have a home page where you see new blog posts or messages from friends in your network, a blog page, and picture albums like Myspace.

    All of this thinking about Vietnamese blogging and Yahoo 360 happened when I read a student's post that came nearest to an American blog post that I have ever seen. Over the next couple weeks I hope to highlight her and some of my other students' pages because they are the next generation--no, the first true generation--of Vietnamese bloggers. As they get used to writing their feelings online, I think it will be wonderful to follow their maturity, and see how their discussions of weather and music turn to school and love and even politics.

    It's an exciting time to be growing up in Vietnam. Yahoo 360 just adds another dimension to that statement.

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    Jennie said...

    I'm very happy to hear this. I wish I can write Vietnamese so I can join in on the blogging in Vietnam!

    I'm surprised the government hasn't done anything to regulate this form of free speech. China is known to censor bloggers, knowing how powerful a media tool it is.

    xanghe said...

    Triết, I envy your knowledge of the Viet blogosphere. I've happened across a few Viet blogs, maybe they can add to your list.
    Another blog service that is overflowing with Vietnamese blogs is My Opera. Just a look at their community page shows it.
    Here's a funny blog all about a baby in Vietnam named Lê Minh Đức.
    And a very interesting one, Trần Chí Phúc's homepage. He's a musician who writes songs about current events.
    That's about it.

    Triet said...

    Xanghe, thank you for the heads up on those blogs. They look very interesting. Not the blogs I typically read, but that's why blogging is so great! They reflect individuals, so there's something for everyone.

    I'm interested in strictly native Viet blogs. So, goodbye Tran Chi Phuc. Although he might not like to think it (my wife surely doesn't), there is a large difference between Viets who have lived outside Vietnam (viet kieu) and those who haven't. Viet kieu blogs have merit, and I encourage everyone to read them, but I am currently interested in following the birth and development of blogging in Vietnam by Vietnamese there.

    Which makes your Opera tip so awesome. The leminhduc blog in interesting because it falls into the Viet category I'm studying, but it's not written by the protagonist. I will have to study opera more to see how large their community is.

    Triet said...


    it is interesting that VN hasn't censored blogs like China, and that is a very big reason why it interests me so much.

    My gut feeling is that this follows the general difference we see in the two governments. As much as the old viet war vets want to make the communist government out to be the devil, it's not. VN's leaders are old and want to keep power, but the newer generation feels it can do that by opening up. Instead of clamping down on things, it's opening everything to garner help from America and entrance into the WTO.

    One of the big things on VN's mind is China as an adversary, not a fellow communist. It will continue to open as china continues to threaten it.

    Also, I think with Nguyen Minh Triet as President, Vietnam will only continue its opening. He has made a name for himself as friendly to free trade and tough on corruption, while still being communist party secretary in HCMC. Although President isn't the most powerful man in the VN government, Triet will influence policy much more strongly than before, and provide a good foil against Nong Duc Manh.

    I foresee the press and blogging continue to open over the next five years--but again, it's a gut feeling.

    Preetam Rai said...

    I think the reason Yahoo IM and 360 became so popular was that it was the chat client that used much lower resources to install and run compared to others. I was in Vn in 2001 and even then Yahoo was pretty popular.