Extra! Korea

July 27, 2010

Why blogs have surpassed Dave’s esl cafe for usefulness

Filed under: expatriates — extrakorea @ 7:49 pm

You might be surprised by how many Korea-related bloggers got their start as posters at Dave’s esl cafe (blogger / username on Dave’s).

Brian in Jeollanam-do / Smee

Grand Narrative / Exciting Head

Korea Beat / Hater Depot

Page F30/ Mithridates

Zen Kimchi / Zen Pickle

The Yangpa / Billybrobby

Gord Sellar / Gord

– [myself] / Troll_Bait

This is because Daveseslcafe used to be the place for expatriates to meet online, discuss, and exchange information. However, in my opinion, Korea-related blogs like Gusts of Popular Feeling have surpassed Dave’s in usefulness and relevance. The reason why can be summarized in one word: accountability. The recent issue of the revised E-2 visa regulations is a perfect example. Gusts of Popular Feeling and the Chosun Bimbo have written excellent posts on the matter. By contrast, the discussion on Dave’s was so full of vagueness, rumours, inaccuracies, and going-around-in-circles that the resulting noise-to-signal ratio was so high that it was pretty much useless. Why? GoP Feeling and C. Bimbo are accountable. Even if they were to blog anonymously, as I do, their reputations are currencies that they want to make and keep valuable. If they talk out of their arses, then they will lose credibility and people won’t visit their blogs. On the other hand, everyone on Dave’s is anonymous. You don’t know if someone is correct, ignorant, or trolling. Why bother trying to guess? Even if someone gets called out, it’s no big loss to them if the reputation of their anonymous username is damaged. Another, related problem, is the fact that the moderators are also anonymous. If a blogger is abusive of his power, or negligent in some way (e.g. his comments section is full of flame wars), people know who to complain to (even if, like myself, they are anonymous). Again, the reputation of the blog is on the line. However, at Dave’s, some of the moderators are lax about some of the Terms of Service. For example, GoP Feeling put a lot of effort into translating an interview with the founder of Anti-English Spectrum (a great service to us all).* Somebody at Dave’s posted all of GoPF’s work there. This is a violation of the Terms of Service:

Articles that are more than 300 words may be edited or deleted. Try to keep your comments concise. If an article is longer, post a link and quote only the really important parts to your argument.

When I was an active poster at Dave’s, I noticed this kind of thing all of the time (another example here) and would complain about it to the moderators. They would then slowly, belatedly take half-hearted action, usually consisting of, “Please don’t kind of do this, OK?” Another example was the fact that a poster named Homer would always mock and ridicule other posters. He wouldn’t say, “You’re stupid,” but he would sarcastically say, “What a logical idea.” His favorite trick would be to put a laughing emoticon right next to his mocking words. Insulting people is not OK, but mockery shouldn’t be either. He was called out on it many times, but nothing was ever done. Why not? Probably because he was also a moderator, by the username of The Dude.

So if you’re new to Korea, and you have a question, I would advise you to pose it to a reputable blogger, such as:

Chris in South Korea

Ask the Expat

Ask a Korean

(There’s a whole list of them here, here, and here. So if, for example, you’re interested in gender-related issues in Korea, you might want to look at Grand Narrative.)

Just two things:

1. Don’t ask silly questions.

(“Can I bring a laptop to South Korea?”)

No, despite being one of the biggest producers of laptops in the world, laptops are illegal in South Korea.

2. Don’t ask questions that betray an obvious case of yellow fever.

(“When I’m there, will I be able to date Korean women easily?”)

If dating the local women is your priority, then maybe you shouldn’t be coming here.

* [Edit] I’m seriously thinking about taking Kushibo’s advice and asking the National Human Rights Commission to have Anti-English Spectrum classified as a hate group.


  1. I’d like to see every one of these popular Korean bloggers comment on the Korean idol who appeared in blackface on MBC! I still can’t believe this happened! http://community.livejournal.com/ohnotheydidnt/49233603.html?page=7

    Comment by Maji — July 27, 2010 @ 9:38 pm

    • Oh. My. God.

      Comment by extrakorea — July 28, 2010 @ 2:29 am

  2. Thanks for the link.

    It’s a good point about Dave’s, but—and kushibo pointed this out a while ago on a comment somewhere—it’s built up so much inertia over the years it will continue to get a lot of hits, way more than any of our blogs. (Similar to The Marmot’s Hole, which rarely has any timely or original posts from Robert anymore).

    The visa regulations are an excellent example, and though I haven’t followed that situation very closely from over here, it’s clear there’s a lot of rumor-mongering going on, with a half-dozen posts in the job discussion forum, all citing an unnamed recruiter, or a friend, or a co-teacher.

    Dave’s is useful in some ways, and anything posted there will be seen by hundreds of people who may or may not even know K-blogs exist. But all the heavy-lifting and quality writing has long since moved to the blogs.

    Comment by Brian — July 27, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

    • By the way, I would have included you in the “ask these bloggers your questions” category, except that you’ve moved back to the United States and are in semi-retirement. Your archives are still a gold mine of information, though.

      Comment by extrakorea — July 28, 2010 @ 2:31 am

  3. Appreciate the plug – and good timing too 🙂 I’ll be answering a reader’s question about coming to Korea with a family.

    Maybe I’m part of the newer generation here, but Dave’s never really seemed relevant to me once I got to Korea. For every one interesting / important story I heard about (originally) through Dave’s, there’s probably 10 I heard about through a blogger. Being one myself, it’s probably because I’m better plugged into them though..

    Comment by Chris in South Korea — July 28, 2010 @ 4:40 am

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