Mind the Gap Saturday: Forums East and West
Enter the Big Big Pig
I don't blame them: our language, after all, is an image language - we use characters, not letters of the alphabet (although we use them for Hanyu Pinyin romanisation). But then again, sticking a great, big picture of Miss China 2007 as your signature is a massive hog on bandwidth and slows down how fast a page loads. It could also be treading on that thin red line known as IPR.
So image heaven - or image hell? If you're like me, educated in Chinese universities, with textbooks full of characters for pages on end, those images look like a welcome break. But too much of a good thing creates quite the opposite effect. While not dismissing the case as "image hell", I would suggest our fellow netizens shrinking down that huge image.
Ding up my tiezi, banzhu!
If you've taken your Mandarin courses - unlearn them, for they may still see you more than confused inside many a Chinese forum. That's right: along with the lively names and lively images is some extremely lively forum language.
In charge of every forum is a banzhu (版主 or 斑竹), or moderator (the word banzhu actually means the owner of the forum). This banzhu is either directly elected by the forum population, or (more often than not) is appointed or got the post thanks to "unofficial business" (back-door discussions included).
To make a tiezi (帖子, post) sticky, Chinese netizens request it be dingzhi (顶置), or put at the top. That same word, ding (顶), is also as a sign of support - if you've a post with quite a number of follow-up messages all going ding, you know you've struck a right note with the community.
If you're a qianshui (潜水) kind of guy (or gal), chances are you surf around but you don't post a lot. If you're mad on posting, though, you're known as a big guanshui-er (灌水), literally "injecting water".
Looking for those really great posts? Go for the jinghua (精华) posts - literally "classic" posts. Since quite a number of Chinese forums operate on a virtual point system, those who post a lot of great posts will score higher awards.
Steer clear of troubled waters
If there are any two topics you'd want to keep out of, it would be the two please-keep-out Ps - politics and porn (the two just don't match, either). Not only is the Internet with Chinese Characteristics (with our Net Nammy of Infamy) hostile to the two Ps, but it can nearly always be a big sap at forums - if you're debating the latest party policy at a Mac forum, for example, expect a lot of blank stares and the inevitable "BUT WE THOUGHT THIS PLACE WAS NOT A PLACE TO TALK POLITICS!!!" post.