Mon, Aug 12, 2002 - Page 11 News List

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

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Christine Hsu and Gus Adapon, the founders of Taiwan's Oriented.org, talk about what motivated them to create the site and about their plans for the future.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

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.

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