A few days ago, I exchanged emails with Jeremy Goldkorn, who runs the wonderful Danwei online magazine. I was introduced to Jeremy through Professor Geremie Barme at ANU, himself introduced by Jill Collins at the Australian Embassy in Beijing. Thank you networks! It is really precious, when you start a project like this one, to received some attention and support.

I was thrilled when I saw Jeremy’s email. He’s a legend – he’s been one of the most influential online writers in China for the last 8 years. And now he’s giving us advice. He confirmed our initial thought that crowd-sourcing would only really work if we built solid partnerships with teaching institutions, who would feed a regular inflow of fresh and motivated translators to our website. He also expressed concern about the quality of our translations – something most people have talked about. We will need to think about it more deeply, maybe find a way to pay translators to review advanced work, or have ‘sponsored’ articles, with a reward for the translator.

But now, my main feeling is confidence in the possibilities of the internet. Jeremy was very friendly, and very quick to contact us. Earlier this year, I had a similar thrill when I contacted Meedan.net, and they got back to us rightaway, telling us about their web system.

Right, we’re still a bunch of random friends buidling a website in our study. But I can see how, slowly, we’re beginning to exist as a group with a mission. It’s a great transition, towards a proper collective. Thank you Danwei for the tips. Let’s do this thing!

Back in Melbourne after two months in Tianjin, it’s time to launch the second phase of development for Marco Polo Project.

While in China, I made good contact with Nicolas Idier and Jill Collins at the French and Australian Embassy. I also talked extensively with Juliette Salabert, director of Alliance Francaise in Tianjin.

This Chinese time did not make me doubt about the feasibility of Marco Polo. The Chinese people I met, whether students at Alliance Francaise or friends of friends, were all very keen to promote Chinese culture, intent on improving their English and any other language they spoke, and constantly plugged into the internet. Idealistic only children are ideal users for our website!

So now, let’s get the thing started, and launch an improved version. Nicolas mentioned the possibility of taking part in French-Chinese cultural events or, if not, he offered to circulate our business cards at the many literary events that he attends around China. High level marketing – let’s be worthy of the generous offer. To work!