Charles Chao

Charles Chao

Who is Charles Chao?

Charles Chao obtained his Bachelor’s in Journalism from Fudan University in Shanghai, China and his Master’s from the University of Oklahoma.  He worked at Shanghai Media Group as a journalist before attending the University of Texas at Austin and earning a Master of Professional Accounting degree.  He then worked as an audit manager at an accounting firm until he joined Sina, a Chinese media company, in 1999 as the Vice President of Finance.  Despite the company’s previous failures, Chao decided to invest in a micro-blogging service.

What is Sina Weibo?

Weibo is the literal Chinese translation of micro-blogging, a form of blogging that uses short sentences, pictures, and files instead of lengthy paragraphs.  There are various Chinese micro-blogging websites, such as Tencent and NetEase, but Sina Weibo is the most popular with 503 million registered users as of last year.

Sina Weibo is often recognized as a mix of Twitter and Facebook and owes its basic design to the creation of Twitter in 2007.  However, Weibo has many features that differ from Twitter.  It is used more for entertainment while Twitter is used more for news. Users can “like” items like they would on Facebook; videos, music, and emoticons are also a lot more common.  Perhaps the biggest difference is the extent to which Sina Weibo embraces the mix of e-commerce and social media, exemplified when earlier this year, Alibaba, an e-commerce business, bought an 18% stake in Sina.  Additionally, studies have shown that Chinese Internet users spend more time on social media and are more likely to use social media when shopping online.

Censorship in China

China is well known for blocking websites that it finds offensive or detrimental to the state of the government.  Within China’s Internet, there is a surveillance network called the Golden Shield Project.  Many have taken to calling it “The Great Firewall” because inside this wall, certain options won’t pop up in search engines and any objectionable material is quickly removed and deleted.  For example, nothing related to the Tiananmen Square massacre in which hundreds (possibly thousands) of pro-democracy protesters were murdered, would pop up.  Certain websites are blocked during times of controversy.  Journalists often face jail time and fines if they write about something the government dislikes.

The timeline below was created by Chi-Chu Tschang, a student at MIT pursuing his Master of Business Administration.  He had to do a final project for his News in the Age of Participatory Media class and decided to look to Weibo for inspiration.  Tschang drew from the work of Cedric Sam and King-wa Fu, two researchers from the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Center who created an application called WeiboScope.  WeiboScope compiles the most popular material on Weibo remarkably fast.  In addition to WeiboScope, Sam and Fu also created WeiboScope Search, an app that archives deleted weibos.  It was from this that Tschang decided the direction his project would take.

Using the search app and some data visualization software, Tschang created a timeline with the deleted weibos.  Over this, he placed politically significant events that correlated with the dates that the weibos had been deleted.  Tschang discovered an interesting trend; days with the highest numbers of weibo deletions matched up with days that big events were occurring in politics.  Of course, this trend is not entirely conclusive as more research needs to be done.  However, Tschang’s findings do match up with a report published by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University who evaluated 56 million weibos.

What gets censored?

Chinese censors are remarkably efficient.  Surprisingly, they tend to focus on posts that could bring about collective action rather than those about mere criticism.  Sina Weibo does censor its own posts, which is part of the reason the Chinese government allowed it to be created and continues to allow it to run.  A group of about 150 men monitor over 3 million posts every day.  Censors undergo a lot of stress to ensure that they catch sensitive posts; if they miss them the government typically responds by putting pressure on Sina to delete the post.  The responsible censor may then be fined or even fired.

In a Reuter’s article, two journalists interviewed a few of Weibo’s former censors.  They didn’t reveal any of their names, but they did reveal the censors’ feelings towards their former jobs.  One man said that it was numbing work and that there was very little pay for such hard work.  However, another one said, “Our job prevents Weibo from being shut down and that gives people a big platform to speak from. It’s not an ideally free one, but it still lets people vent.”  I feel like that statement lined up with the majority of Chinese netizens thoughts on censorship in their country; even Chao alluded to it in the interview below.  As a keynote speaker at a conference hosted by Stanford Graduate School of Business in China he discussed the fact that although Weibo has to censor itself, it is still one of the freest social media platforms on the Internet.

Evan Clark Williams

Evan Clark Williams

“My life has been a series of well-orchestrated accidents; I’ve always suffered from hallucinogenic optimism.”

Evan Clark Williams is perhaps one of the most innovative figures in the Information Age of the 21st Century. While surfing the Web, it is impossible to not come across some of the most iconic and vital creations of this century: Twitter and Blogger.

Evan Clark Williams, otherwise known as Ev Williams, was born in Clarks, Nebraska on March 31, 1972. Throughout his childhood, he spent summers working on his family farm and helped with crop irrigation. In 1994, Williams attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for a year and a half, but then decided to drop out to pursue other career ventures. Ironically enough, he spent his time selling tutorial videos to help people get into the Web.

Early Work

In 1996, Ev Williams moved to Sebastopol, California and worked at the technology publishing company, O’Reilly Media in a marketing position. He then became an independent contractor writing computer codes which led to freelance opportunities in Intel and Hewlett-Packard.

Ev Williams, along with Meg Hourihan, co-founded Pyra Labs in 1999. Pyra Labs was a web application software which combines a project manager, a contact manager, and a to-do-list, all in one.


“Blogging got the concept of personal publishing, but it didn’t really take advantage of the network.”

Pyra Labs then went out to create Blogger, a free blog-publishing service which launched on August 23, 1999. A pioneer ofblogger blog-publishing services, Blogger is oftentimes credited for popularizing blogs and to popularizing the term “blog” and “blogger”. One of the few reasons why Blogger flourished the way that it did in this Digital Age was because in a world of fast and instant access to information, it allowed ordinary people to write what they wanted to express to the world, freely. With about 46 million unique visitors each month, Blogger stands out as one of the top blog-publishing services in the world. Ironically enough, even Word Press.

On February 13, 2003, Blogger was acquired by Google. Williams then left the company in 2004.

Later Work

“I’m not a big-company guy. I need freedom and control.”

In 2004, Williams co-founded Odeo, a company which produced podcasts. In 2006, Williams founded Obvious Corp. along with Biz Stone and other Odeo employees to get all the previous properties of Odeo. Odeo was then acquired by Mount Sonic in April 2007.

Ev Williams created a little company called Twitter, a free social networking service in in April 2007. With 300,000 new users every day and 180 million unique visitors per month, Twitter is one of the most influential social medias of our time because it allows people to share thoughts, ideas, and news instantaneously. 20

For his incomparable contributions to the online world, Williams has received various acknowledgments such MIT Technology Review TR100′s 100 best innovators in the world under the age of 35 In 2004, and he was as one of PC Magazine’s “Person of the Year”.

Today, Ev Williams has a net worth of $2.5 billion. In 2012, Williams created Medium, a new blogging platform which allows users to read and write longer posts. This new venture entails a collaboration between writers where they can edit and comment before publication.

Evan Clark Williams is an innovator in his own right. He revolutionized the modern world and helped enable an new enlightenment era – a technological enlightenment. His creations helped improve the sharing and distribution of ideas that no one ever really knew was possible. A simple idea or a thought can now be accessible to anyone around the world instantaneously and as humans, it helps us learn things which we may not have ever been able to have access to.

J.C.R. Licklider

J.C.R. Licklider, 

also known as “Lick” was an American Psychologist and computer scientist. He has been called the “Johnny Appleseed” of computing for having planted seeds of computing in the digital age. Lick was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1915 where he attended Washington University for his Bachelors Degree in Physics, Mathematics and Psychology as well as a Master’s Degree in Psychology. He later attended Rochester University where he earned his PhD in Psychoacoustics. Psychoacoustics is the study of sound perception, or more specifically it is the study of the psychological and physiological responses associated syncforlazy with sound.

In 1950, Lick went to work at MIT in which he received his first real experience working in computing. He worked with the Air Force in designing air defense systems against soviet bombers during the Cold War. A few years later, in 1957, he went to work at Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), and architectural acoustics design firm. Knowing of their great potential but unsure of the uses, Lick persuaded the company to buy a $25,000 computer. Understanding their uses, the company bought a Digital Equipment PDP-1 for $150,000 and Lick began hiring young computer engineers, which shifted the company’s focus towards computer consulting.

In 1962, Lick headed the Behavioral Sciences and Command and Control departments at ARPA. His main task to find alternative uses for computers other than numerical calculations. Lick received contracts from places like UCLA, Stanford and Berkeley working for ARPA. Jokingly he called the grou the Intergalactic Computer Network. Later this network became the ARPANET, precursor to the internet. He began to envision communication between computers. Although the long physical distance between the computers made it difficult, “It will possibly turn out that only an rare occasions do most or all of the computers in the overall system operate together in an integrated network. It seems to me important, nevertheless, to develop a capability for integrated network operation” (Licklider in Hafner and Lyon). He later stated, “If such a network as I envisage nebulously could be brought into operation, we could have at least four large computers, perhaps six or eight small computers, and a great assortment of disc files and magnetic tape units-not to mention remote consoles and teletype stations-all churning away” (Licklider in Waldrop). Although Lick left ARPA in 1963, his vision lead others to develop ARPANET, the world’s first operational packet-switching networks. Decades later, his ideas at ARPA also created JAVA.

In 1960 Lick began developing his greatest vision, Man-Computer Symbiosis.The main goal of this idea was, “to enable men and computers to cooperate in making decisions and controlling complex situations without inflexible dependence on predetermined programs” (Licklider). He intended for man to come up with the idea and the computer to execute the idea or plan. “Men will set the goals, formulate the hypothesis, determine the criteria and perform the evaluations. Computing machines will do the routinizable work that must be done to prepare the way for insights and decisions in technical and scientific thinking” (Licklider, Man-Computing Symbiosis). As other developers of cybernetics believed computers would take over humans, Lick did not follow that belief. He believed man and computers would work together to create and easier and more efficient world for man. He called it symbiosis because of its definition: “The living together in more or less intimate association or close union of two dissimilar organisms” (Webster’s Dictionary). In his article on Man-Computer Symbiosis, he states six factors or prerequisites that must be considered in the development and success of this symbiosis: Separable Functions, Mismatched Speeds, Memory Hardware, Memory Organization, Language Problem and Input and Output Equipment.

Because of Lick’s visions, work and dedication tot his profession and understanding of a much larger use for computers, the world today has the Internet, JAVA and millions of other programs, apps and uses to make humans living arrangements more efficient and enjoyable. I have attached an audio recording of Phil Barrett, vice president of Technology at Realworks. This is his views for the future of computing.
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David Karp 2

David Karp, 

the creator of Tumblr, was born in 1986 and proved to be a very smart child. He grew interested in computer software and coding at a very young age. At age fourteen, he became an intern at Frederator Studios, a cartoon animation studio. He helped create, design and produce their first internet video network. At age seventeen, Karp designed an online parenting site, UrbanBaby, in a matter of hours, a feat that should have taken weeks. When the site was sold to CNET in 2006, he used his earning to create his very own software consulting company, Davidville, with Marco Arment. In 2006, the two found themselves without clients and, in the span of two weeks, Karp designed Tumblr. The site was launched in February 2007 and it immediately took off. David Karp used a combination of WordPress, Blogger, Flickr and Youtube’s best features in order to make it the platform Karp had envisioned. After a few revisions, the blog site was sleek and avoided cluttered pages. “Tumblr is the place to find the most aspiring and talented creators in the world… we realized that [the users] is what our mission was about” (Plunkett).  In May of 2013, Karp sold Tumblr to Yahoo! for $1.1 billion though he would remain CEO. Over the years, Tumblr made a few changes over the years, with some slight urging from the public, but unfortunately, most of Tumblr’s negative feedback from users arose after the site was sold to Yahoo.

David Karp’s Start-Up Story 

In early 2009, Tumblr introduced a way to block users. This feature allowed people to block those from showing up on their feed. Karp introduced it after a dispute between one of his friends and two users who had been harassing her. The change had been long awaited by other users and is relatively simple to understand and implement. Before the change, comments were not moderated. Those who used Tumblr would be unable to block any rude comments or posts aimed at them. In relation to most sites, Tumblr gave users the ability to ban others from their feed, instead of running to moderators to ban the users completely from the site. This censorship option was highly praised by many bloggers on the site but Karp and the controversy behind the reasoning for the block were highly criticized. On article from The Gawker, a gossip blog, claimed the block was only set up so Karp did not have to “get involved in his friends’ hysterical fits over people reading and commenting on things they publish on the Internet”.
In 2012, the Stop Online Piracy Act, SOPA, was introduced to the U.S House of Representatives. Under the bill, the government would give U.S law enforcement the ability to “combat online copyright infringement and online trafficking in counterfeit goods” (Wikipedia). Essentially, what this means is that U.S law enforcement would be able to take down an entire website if even only one part of the site violates copyright laws. The bill would not rely on the site moderators to remove the copyrighted material and many thought it would hinder their free speech while online. The bill would also ban linking to offending sites and, because Tumblr is more than ten percent porn, would not bode well for the site. This bill was particularly bad news for Tumblr because some of its users had a bad habit of removing credit from pictures and videos and reposting copyrighted material as their own.  January 1st, may companies including Google, On January 18th, 2012, Tumblr and seventeen other sites blacked out their websites for twenty four hours in a form of protest against the site. “By the following day, eighteen of the 100 senators, including eleven of the original sponsors of the PIPA bill, had announced that they no longer supported” (Wikipedia) the bill. This meant that the bill would be placed on hold but was “indefinitely shelved” (Wikipedia).

In a less positive form of censorship, in early July of 2013, Yahoo! Announced that it would be purging Tumblr of all of its adult and ‘not safe for work’, NSFW, content. A quick study revealed that at least 10% of all blogs, or about 12 million blogs, on Tumblr is porn so the content purge was highly unfavorable. Not twenty four hours after the purge, Karp released another announcement withdrawing the content ban. Instead, he made a ‘Safe Mode’ option available while searching for blogs and posts so adult content would not come up. After users complained once more about the announcement, Tumblr simply made it possibly to flag your blog or another user’s blog as NSFW, which meant that anything they posted would not show up while searching in Safe Mode. While all of these ‘improvements’ were made regarding the Tumblr site, the Tumblr application for smart phones was handled much differently. Many tags were blocked completely from the app and would not provide results when searched for. This upset some users because words such as ‘#depression’ and, for a few weeks, #LGBT did not produce results. Many users were upset by this but so far, Yahoo has refused to change their stance on the matter. With Karp’s help, the Tumblr team is able to quickly provide solutions and satisfy over 153.4 million blogs.

According to Tumblr, as of December 14tth, 2013, Tumblr hosts over 158.1 million blogs with over 70 billion blog posts and those numbers continue to grow every day. Since their opening in 2007, they have gained over 158 million blogs, or over 26 million users a year. The company has 217 employees and has over $125 million in funding from many investors. In 2012, the sire began advertising but it is relatively cheap to advertise, leading to a large rise in profits over the course of the year. Karp and his team continue to interact frequently with Tumblr users but it is unclear what other changes Yahoo will make to the site, though Yahoo promised users their company would try “not to screw it up”.