Archive for October, 2009


Is this blog any good? (or: Why this blog is the greatest)

Over at Roboseyo, he has put up a list of  what makes a good blog. This list borrows from a similar list by RoK Drop only less serious. I decided I would put my blog to the test by matching my blog against the criteria of what makes a good blog (Roboseyo’s list).

Section One: What makes a good blog

1. Start in 2002: Yes, this blog, or rather the original at blogspot, not only started in 2002, it started in early 2002. Although Roboseyo’s point that blogs that started in 2002 are generally the most linked, read and referenced does not apply to this blog.

2. Be patient: I think that having a blog since 2002 also implies that I’m patient. I won’t get into a discussion here about being patient in attracting readership because, although I am going through this list of what makes a good blog, high readership has never been an objective of this blog.

3. Post regularly and consistently: In the early days of Kathreb (as this blog was originally called), I did post regularly and consistently and it is true that the readership was not only higher, it was also quite quality. These days however, I do not post regularly or consistently and my limited readership does reflect that.

4. Maintain a standard of quality: I’m not sure I’m qualified to be the judge of that. I like to think I keep a tidy blog. I avoid profanity and try to keep things civil. I avoid seedy images or links to images which are NSFW, which I think is what really brings down the quality of blogs that otherwise have interesting things to say.

5. Add your own thoughts: Yes, I believe I do that. In fact a basic objective of this blog is go through the key arguments on issues being debated on Korea, North and South, and see which arguments I think are strongest. This necessarily means adding my own two cents into those debates to question or challenge basic assumptions which are out there.

6. Acknowledge what you don’t know: not only do I happily acknowledge what I don’t know, I also acknowledge when I’m too lazy to research and find out stuff.

7. Get on the Korean Blog List: As per my early start as a K-blogger I was an early addition to the Korean Blog List. In fact the only other blogger I remember who was around before me and is still going strong is EFL Geek and Lemon Soju (I think Alan is in Tokyo?).

8. Don’t intimidate readers with walls of pure text: I don’t think I do that primarily because I typically don’t write long posts. I do add photos or youtube video but only when appropriate. Photos and video image are great but they easily look tacky if they don’t fit with the message or tone of the post.

9. Have a commenting policy: Yes, here at Soju and Sake we have a commenting policy and it goes like this: if your comment is germane but ultimately rhetorical, I don’t respond. If your comment implies you are an idiot who missed the point of my post or is off topic, I don’t respond. If your comment raises valid points which contribute to the debate of the topic I raised, I will respond. If you are one of my very few regular readers, I will respond to any questions, but probably not to comments that ask no questions. This is a blog, not a discussion forum.

10. Link to other bloggers: Yes, I have a blogroll and if or when I find others who have linked to me I usually stalk their site for a short while and add them (or not) depending on what I think of their blog. I very rarely spend a few days going through the Korean blog list to look for new links to add but I should do that more often.

11. Make sure there is enough at your blog: I think so. One of the reasons for moving away from the blogspot site was because several years ago now I accidently totally wiped my archives (probably just as well really). So now I don’t touch the template because clearly I can’t be trusted to do so. However, as noted above, I do post irregularly and inconsistently so building up material on the site will take time. Good thing I’m patient.

12. People like lists, top tens and other countdowns: I haven’t done any such lists but I’ll take that idea under advisement.

13.Pick a format and a focus, and stick with it: Kinda. The topics do change because over the years you get sick of writing about the same issues. Also changing jobs and cities can divert your attention to new areas. I think that having an overall focus is good but you need to keep it lively and reflect changes in your life/lifestyle into your posts. Otherwise blogging for the long-term is unsustainable.

Section Two: Getting noticed and promoting yourself (this section has less relevance because this blog has never been about getting noticed)

14. Remember to do courtesy linkbacks: of course, that’s only common courtesy.

15. Have a unique handle: I think he means username. Kathreb is my unique username (although it is not totally unique it does appear to have some small brand recognition among some longer-term k-bloggers). I am still thinking about reverting the blog title back to Kathreb but haven’t quite decided.

16. If hits are all you care about, write about K-pop: not relevant.

17. Don’t spam: I don’t.

18. If you’re not getting acknowledged by the ‘big bloggers’, aim lower: Again, not really relevant.

19. Respect other bloggers: Yes, I am a firm believer in attacking the argument, not the person and avoid all ad hominem. Especially, suggesting that someone doesn’t understand an argument because they disagree with your opinion. Thats the worst.

20. Answer your emails: The email policy here is the same as the comments policy.

21. Get into other media: not relevant.

22. Be funny, or be smart, or be both, but be readable: I can’t be the judge of that.

23. Edit your work: I usually don’t bother with this. If a post takes too long, I don’t finish it. If I have to spend ages proof-reading, I not only get bored, I decide I don’t like what I wrote. If I do a draft and come back to it, I always hate it and delete it. Instead, I trust my good typing skills, press publish and get on with my day. It’s a balance between quality and quantity – if there was higher quality, the quantity has to go down. The quantity of posts is already low here.

24. Start a separate blog for you family and friends, or email them: Certainly, this blog is not designed for family and friends. In fact one of the reasons for starting this blog was because my friends and family were bored witless whenever I tried to discuss any issues related to Korea with them and I needed an outlet for my interest that was away from my friends and family.

25. Recognize that this is a pretty small niche: Not relevant.

So in sum, I don’t follow all the ‘top tips’ to be a popular blogger but I think overall, this blog does pretty well. It’s not famous, or widely read but it has a few core readers and its been around a long time. And most importantly, it still meets the objectives of why the blog was set up in the first place. I think that blogging just to be a popular blogger doesn’t make any sense.


Victor Cha writes article about North Korea’s core goals

Victor Cha has published an article the October edition of The Washington Quarterly. Its been quite a while since I read anything by Victor Cha (or any author writing about North Korea). Victor’s analysis is not dissimilar to Nicholas Eberstadt‘s and wasn’t really anything new.

The article by Professor Cha examines what the core goals of North Korea are and how those goals explain the behaviour of the North Korean regime. The three core goals of North Korea are to possess nuclear capacity; to be recognised as a nuclear state; and to ensure regime survival. The first goal has already been achieved.

Cha rightly points out that the last two goals are not acceptable. In terms of being recognised as a nuclear state, he posits that North Korea ultimately wants a deal similar to the one India and Pakistan got with the US – recognition as a nuclear state for nothing. In my opinion, it was a bad idea to arrange such a deal with India and Pakistan. And as the article points out it would be silly to do such a deal with North Korea.

The guarantee for regime security is  not only something the US shouldn’t give; its something the US can’t give. As the article notes, while its one thing for the US to say they won’t attack North Korea its quite another to guarantee the regime’s survival. I would say a guarantee like that would be totally un-workable. For example, the US can’t promise to ensure North Korea’s security if someone else decided to attack them. In an event such as an uprising by the people of North Korea as a result of changes brought on by opening up to aid and or greater exchanges from the US, the US would hardly be in a position to guarantee regime survival in that situation (assuming they would even want to). Similarly, if China, or other state, sees its opportunity to make a move into North Korea ostensibly to stabilise it, or whatever reason they may give, there wouldn’t be much US could do about that (without provoking something US probably wouldn’t want to get involved in).

In context then, what is left for Obama to do? According to Cha he needs to try and keep China on board and to talk to China and South Korea to ensure that, in the event of North Korean regime’s collapse there is some semblance of an arrangement on how to proceed. It’s a good idea but in reality I expect that if any of the parties involved see their chance they will grab it to get the upper hand. All good intentions or plans will be out the window in the full knowledge that all other parties involved will do the same thing given the chance.

And so ultimately the conclusion that Victor comes to (and which I have noted in the past) is that the best thing to do right now is to negotiate in order to do less damage than doing nothing or acting belligerently. At least during negotiations there are periods when the nuclear programme is frozen (or at least bits of it).


Climate Change – a blog action day post

Today is blog action day. The topic this year is Climate Change. Last year I was too lazy to get around to participating but this year I have sorted myself out. Now the trick is finding something to say about the topic. I have no ambition that what I say will actually be interesting or relevant.

I remember a line from John Stewart of The Daily Show that whether or not you agree with climate change, surely what humans are doing can’t be good. This is pretty much my stance. Maybe climate change is happening. Maybe that change is being caused by human behaviour. Maybe its not caused by humans. Maybe climate change is not happening at all I don’t know and given that I believe humans and certainly nations are not going to ‘fix it’ I really don’t care – we’re all doomed anyway. If not climate change, horribly deadly viruses will get us.

I do my part as it is. I recycle, I don’t own a car, I walk a lot and catch public transport. Until I moved into an apartment earlier this year I was even growing some of my own vegetables and recycling all vegetable waste. I don’t shower too often. I turn off the lights when I leave the room and I sent away for my free environmentally friendly light bulbs (even though I live in a rental). I read when others may choose to play on their Wii or DS (or whatever you call them). I eat more vegetarian meals in a week than meat meals. So when, or if, climate change comes and kills us all, I’ll die with a sense of moral outrage and that others have caused my death by their wasteful and ignorant ways.

I think a reason to change behaviour, for those who don’t subscribe to the climate change argument, is that the noise, the loud, horrible noise of cars, the poisonous pollution they make us breathe in and out, and in and out until we’re sick, and the frustration of traffic and rude, bad and/or dangerous drivers that upset us and sometimes kill us with their reckless ways should be enough to make us believe that things need to change.

Of course, not just cars, but factories that produce crap after pile of crap we don’t need. Or worse yet, produce weapons and military products whose production not only produces horrible poisonous waste but the end product too is designed specifically to ensure our untimely death. Climate change could be a worry but when there are so many horrible deaths awaiting us, are we sure climate change is the one we want to prioritise?

October 2009
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