Laowai blog on – Taipei Times 28 Jan 2007
Anthony van Dyck – WUIT 12 Jun 2006
Second Home – Taiwan Review 1 Apr 2005
Keep the ICRT true to its mandate – Taipei Times 10 Jan 2005
Founders of community Web site take new risks – Taipei Times 12 Aug 2002 (reprinted below)
Hottest Virtual Spot for the International Community – Taiwan News 30 April 2002
Founders of community Web site take new risks
Oriented.org started out as a service to the community, a free site to provide new arrivals to Taiwan with information ranging from how to obtain a visa and find an apartment to the local hotspots. The site cost thousands of out-of-pocket dollars and countless hours of hard work to build and maintain. Now the group is moving on, with Oriented.org taking its massive vault of information to a new name and location on the Web. Oriented.com is launching as a for-profit site — though the content will still be free for viewers. The co-founders of Oriented.org, Gus Adapon and Christine Hsu, sat down with `Taipei Times’ staff reporter Dan Nystedt to discuss the trials of running a Web site and their plans to create a brighter future
Monday, Aug 12, 2002, Page 11
Taipei Times: Oriented has been on the Internet for almost four years now, how did you come up with the original idea for the site?
Christine Hsu: The reason we started this site is because we know people who are moving in and out of Taiwan all the time and asking us the same questions over and over again, how do you find a job, housing and so we had this information, Gus had his own set of e-mails that he copied and pasted and sent to his friends and I had my own — it’s tiring after a while to keep having to explain to people the same things so we thought, why don’t we put this online and people can refer to it.
TT: What is the most popular part of the site?
Gus Adapon: The Forums have probably become the main thing. We’ve tried other things and we’ve worked hard on other pieces … like the Events Calendar — I guess the jury is still out on whether the Events Calendar is really as effective as we thought it would be.
Christine started publishing the weekly e-bulletin a year after we had turned on and we didn’t know where that would go and now that’s arguably one of the most popular things from the site. So it was a lot of trial and error … it’s all trial and error.
TT: Recently one of your forums focused on the topic of voting one of Taiwan’s three English-language papers “off the island.” What are your thoughts on the topic and the other controversy voiced on your site over Hess Language Center?
Christine: One of my bigger objectives, we want Oriented to be a positive contribution to society and we want to be as responsible as we can as founders of the site. The forums were meant to be a way by which the foreign community can say to local businesses and the local business establishment that “you know, this is how you could be doing it better. Maybe your services can be improved, this is what our expectations are in terms of service.”
What we didn’t expect was that people would use the forums to defame or attack businesses or organizations or people in an unacceptable manner … and we have to be responsible and come up with policies — as subjective as they might be — to try and moderate the discussions going on on Oriented.
It’s a big question mark and to this day we haven’t been able to totally get a grip on it.
Gus: Hess has been a good example. There’s been a lot of things written about Hess and most of them have been pretty negative. And a few months ago, someone from the main office called and said “Can we talk about your forums?”
They actually had a [big file] of complaints about Hess from the Internet. They showed me a bunch of the Hess threads [on Oriented] and said, “Most of this stuff is fine, it’s probably true, but some of the negative stuff — there are some things here that we think are wrong — can we review that?” And there were just three or four issues and we talked about that and then we walked away and we didn’t change anything.
So I asked them, how do you use this, could use this for change? They said “yes, that’s exactly what we do, we get these threads and present them to branch directors and at the same time, we do change, slowly.” And I was really happy to hear that.
That’s exactly what it’s all about. Even though a lot of the Hess stuff that’s up there is negative, they don’t want it to change because it’s useful to the head office.
Christine: That the Taipei Times receives so much criticism is, in a backhanded sort of way, the greatest of compliments, in that if it wasn’t considered one of the best English papers in Taiwan, no one would bother to put their two cents in.
TT: What is the future for Oriented.org?
Christine: We are about to announce a big change.
Gus: We are about to announce that we’re changing the name of the Oriented.org site [and the new name is as yet undecided, and] now there will be an Oriented.com, which is Christine’s project that she is turning into a business.
Christine: Because at the time, a couple of years ago, it came to a point where we had to decide: are we going to put our hearts all into this and make it into a business or maintain it as a personal project between us. At that time, Gus said to me: “I’m not interested in taking this to the business level, the regional level,” and his focus was in South East Asia, in the medical, health care industry and at that time I was disappointed that Gus wasn’t going to help me take this to the next level. But at the end of the day you have to respect what people want to do and so I proceeded to purchase the Oriented.com URL, which we did not own at the time.
Over the year, I wrote a business plan for Oriented.com separate from Oriented.org and then subsequently earlier this year, I got funding for it.
So, now we have two entities using the same names, Oriented.org and Oriented.com, very different infrastructures, totally different people working on it and a totally different goal.
TT: So what is the difference between the two?
Christine: Now, [Oriented.com] does look very different, but at the end of the day, it will be somewhat similar to Oriented.org except that it will be offered to all of Greater China. It’s a commercial spin-off of what we were doing with Oriented.org.
TT: So what will happen to Oriented.org? Will you keep it up essentially as it is?
Gus: Oriented.org is going to be up, but when you go to the front page, it will you ask whether you want to go to the new site or to Oriented.com.
We basically divided the main components of Oriented.org up into two new sites, Oriented.com and the new site [to remain unnamed for now].
Christine: We split up the components based on how we could handle it. What’s going to the new [unnamed] site is all of the most interactive sections of Oriented.org, the events calendar, the forums and the jobs.
What’s going to Oriented.com is the directories that we had not been able to maintain for years, the business directories, the people directories, the community directories, they’re outdated, they’re not working — once in a while a business will submit their information because they want to be listed and that’s been in a queue for over a year.
It makes sense to pull those into the new regional Oriented.com. The new site is going to remain just for Taiwan, it has no aspirations to go beyond that.
Initially, what I wanted to do was take Oriented.org and just absorb it into Oriented.com but …
Gus: I wouldn’t let her. We’ve always had this agreement that if things didn’t look clear on the business end, we would just kill the project.
Christine: So at the end of the day, Gus wasn’t going to let me absorb it into Oriented.com and I had to respect that because we worked on this for four years and I couldn’t just take his 50 percent away.
TT: So Oriented.org has been a completely volunteer effort for the past four years? How have you covered the costs of the site and the time?
Gus: It’s been mostly out of our pocket. Our time has actually been substantial [but] the costs have not been that high. It’s the time, it’s a big investment.
Christine: There was one year, where it was like, well, just so much time dedicated, like hours and hours, staying up all night … I remember the day we launched … there were so many last minute technical details. I was so excited about our launch and Gus was totally drained.
Gus: It was 2am in the morning.
Christine: There were still a lot of technical things to do and I was sitting in front of my computer and he comes over and says to me, “do you want to turn it on, do you want to do the honors?” So I turned it on and then Gus goes, “I’m going to bed.” He didn’t even look.
I stayed up for hours surfing the site and sending out e-mails to friends … but the technical end has been a lot of work on his part. Everything you see on the site is his.
Gus: Christine did all the writing, all the content is hers.
TT: How did you keep it going through the dotcom bomb?
Christine: The answer to that is that we are cutting down how much we have to offer to a more sustainable level and the other thing is really it takes commitment and a reason. If it’s money, that’s fine, but you’ve got to have a purpose.
In our case we really believed that there was a lot of value we could be adding and when we leave Taiwan we can actually say that hey, we have contributed to this society.
It’s no rocket science formula, it’s all advertising, job postings, business listings, everything you see on Oriented.org and probably more. There are thousands of community sites out there and I don’t think a single one is a rocking success.
I would like to be able to say this is going to be a million dollar company one day but the reality of it is I’d really like to see the service provided because I think it’s important.