Being a blogger in China comes with some cool benefits. Interesting content is generally only a trip to the supermarket away; every topic is controversial, so comments and conversation is a near guarantee; China’s a hot global topic, and so a reader-base is not something you need to pursue with much vigilance.
However, damned if it doesn’t seem like the powers that be in this country aren’t out to stop us, and our wily noodle-blogging ways. First it was Blogger and Wikipedia, then EVERY free blog platform, then Flickr’s photo servers, and now… FeedBurner.
Honestly, what the fuck?
FeedBurner, for those that actually come to this blog to read it, is a way for you to read your favourite Internet content by not actually visiting the sites. Rather than trekking your way around the blogsphere and news portals, you simply subscribe to the site’s RSS “feed” and your feedreader tells you when it’s updated (similar to old newsreaders/usenet groups – if you’re of the old skool).
Aside from the convenience, RSS feeds also allow us common folk in China to read sites that are normally blocked, as the banned sites’ RSS feeds often go through a service in a country that doesn’t block it (FeedBurner, Bloglines, Google Reader, etc.).
The Moonlight Blog reports that it is being blocked at the China Telecom level – which may explain why some people in China can still access it – if their ISP is not China Telecom. Sadly, I’m not one such individual.
** Note: Before assuming you can access FeedBurner, understand that the block is only on the feed serving domain – feeds.feedburner.com, not the regular site (www.feedburner.com).
FeedBurner’s been none-too-helpful in the matter as well (perhaps a by-product of their recent move to Google management). Their only published path of support comes from a free 3rd-party message board, which seems little answered other than by spam ($100 million dollar company – and they’re using phpBB as their primary form of support?).
Perhaps a little mass chatter will light a fire under their asses – if you feel inclined, go to this forum post and second my thoughts that we need an answer. Also, fire off an e-mail to email@example.com – it’s not a listed e-mail, but it seems to work, as I got a support ticket when I e-mailed it.
Should things not get solved quickly (or perhaps even if they do), I’ve started to look for some alternatives.
- Bring It Home: Possibly the simplest solution is to just not use an external service, but rather keep it all in-house. Samir’s got a good post on How to assemble a FeedBurner alternative using WordPress plugins. The tracking is quite as detailed as FeedBurner’s, but well…
- Fedafi: Fedafi is a collection of RSS tools, including a stand-alone RSS generator and a handy WordPress plugin (even offers the cool little chicklet that shows how many readers you have). This looks like it might be a great path to take. Though I’ll have to look into it more.
- FeedSky: For anyone that’s got solid Chinese skills, a Chinese-born alternative to FeedBurner is the FeedSky service. Useless for many of us “Knee-How” Laowai bloggers though.
If you’ve any other tools or solutions, please add them in the comments.
Whatever the result is, whether FeedBurner remains blocked, or not, it just furthers my opinion that despite appearing to open up, China’s still a long way from it. These blocks aren’t about stopping [*polidis*], or curbing pornography – they’re about restricting our basic right to communicate. Bastards.