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WeChat for the Workplace: The Rising Popularity of Enterprise App Ding Ding

A nightmare or handy work tool? Alibaba’s Ding Ding is gaining popularity across China.

Manya Koetse

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While some call it a wonder tool, others say it’s a nightmare for employees. Ding Ding, Alibaba’s mobile and desktop app for companies, is gaining popularity across China. With its GPS-based features and other nifty functions, companies can now monitor the whereabouts of their employees.

It has been over 2,5 years since Alibaba launched its ‘enterprise app’ Ding Ding (钉钉). In February of 2015, websites such as TechCrunch and TechinAsia described the app as a new mobile and desktop program for businesses that aimed to compete with Tencent’s WeChat – China’s top messaging app.

At the time, Ding Ding (also known as DingTalk) was only available in Chinese. But the app, now updated to the 3.5.3 version, has become readily available in English on Chinese app stores, Google Play, and Apple stores.

Its use by companies across China is picking up. The app has now been downloaded 50.5 million times on the Huawei store, 27 million times on the Tencent app store, 20+ million times on the Oppo app store, 12 million times on the Baidu app store, and 8.5 million times on the 360 Mobile Assistant app store.

Smart mobile office

More companies across China are now using the app as a ‘smart mobile office’: it functions as a messaging app among colleagues, a tool for making conference calls, but more importantly, as a program that makes it easy for employees to clock in and out of work and for employers to check their whereabouts.

“Our company just started implementing it. Nobody gave us any warning,” an employee named Bryan Lee (alias) of a middle-sized Beijing educational company told What’s on Weibo this week: “I’ve spoken to many people of other companies here who also started to use it recently.”

Ding Ding has many functions, and in some ways is meant to replace WeChat as a work tool. The app allows users to create team groups, and also functions as an address book that shows the organizational structure of the company. Users can directly contact the HR group or other colleagues through Ding Ding.

According to Alibaba, ‘DingTalk’ is a “multi-sided platform” that “empowers small and medium-sized business to communicate effectively.” The app’s functions include, amongst others, the following features:

– Ding Ding is a global address book that allows users to view the organization’s structure in a glance and contact everyone, but also shows contacts outside of the company (suppliers, business partners, etc.) and functions as a customer information management system.
– The program is also a calendar for creating tasks and meetings.
– Ding Ding is an instant messaging app designed for office use, supporting both private and group chats and supporting file transfers. To improve communication efficiency, all types of messaging display read/unread statuses.
– The app’s ‘Ding It’ function makes sure recipients never miss a message by alerting them through phone, SMS, or in-app notification. Companies can also send out a voice message or hold a conference call to make sure their message is heard.
– The Secret Chat function works like SnapChat, making messages traceless and self-deleting for ultimate privacy and protection.
– Through its Smart Attendance System companies can keep track of employee’s attendance and overtime records; employees can clock-in and out of work in an instant. The software also automatically generates attendance reports.
– Ding Ding can process approvals by electronically dealing with request for leaves, business trips or reimbursements. Approvals for business trips and leave are automatically linked with attendance records.
– DingTalk is also a high-definition video conferencing system and allows users to also start free individual calls.
– Ding Ding has its own business cloud (or “Ding drive”) feature, making file saving and sharing a quick and easy task, also between PC and mobile.
– DingTalk’s email inbox also makes it possible to receive email notifications in chats.

Despite the myriad of functions, or actually because of them, some employees call the app a ‘catastrophe’ for office staff.

Big boss is watching you

“Since Ding Ding is GPS-activated, I will be signed in when I get to work. And when I leave work, it will clock me out,” Lee says.

The app’s clocking system is one of its most used functions and allows companies to track whether their employees arrive late at work or whether they are working overtime.

“Clock out successful. Got off work 18:04.”

There is a positive side to it for employees since there is much less paperwork to fill out when, for example, asking compensation for overtime work. Lee notes that people can also electronically apply for a leave of absence through Ding Ding.

But the downside is that there is no room for white lies anymore. Because of the app’s geotagging function, the employer can actually check if you really are seeing the doctor (as you said you were going to).

“Through Ding Ding you can report where you are for your company. If you requested a leave of absence to go to the hospital, for example, you can bookmark the location so that your company knows you really are at the location where you are supposed to be. Same goes for business-related appointments – if your company requires it, you tag the location so they can see that you are where you said you were going, so they won’t deduct your salary for that.”

“People have a lot of different views on it,” Lee says: “I am always at work when I need to be and I never cheat the system. So I think it is very convenient that I no longer need to take my phone and scan a QR code every day to log in to work, which used to be mafan [trouble] – this is much easier. But a lot of people think it is somewhat Orwellian. They do not monitor your everyday moves but if you actually go drinking with your friends instead of going to a doctor as you told your boss, then that might get you in trouble.”

Apart from the location-tagging function, which may or may not be required/activated by the company, there are also other functions that many people do not like. Ding Ding, unlike WeChat, automatically shows that your message has been delivered and read. It also allows a company to send out a ‘Ding alert’ (which notifies recipients through phone call/SMS/In-App alerts) to make sure everybody gets the message.

On Q&A platform Zhihu.com, user ‘Aurora’, who works at a HR company, tells how this has made life more troublesome for office staff:

“The rapid growth of Ding Ding lies in the fact that it meets the requirements of its user – the boss. Just imagine: you’re in the midst of finishing a proposal when the boss sends you a message saying you need to come over to bring them a certain file.

    Before using Ding Ding:

1. You see the message. You finish the last part of your proposal before bringing over the file to your boss a bit later.
2. You don’t see the message. You finish your task and take a break. You then see the message and take care of it.
3. No matter if you see did or did not see the message, the boss notices you did not respond and gives you a call.

    Since using Ding Ding:

1. You see the message. Your boss gets a ‘message read’ (已读) confirmation and you have no other option than to break off your work and immediately take care of it.
2. You haven’t seen it. So your boss sends you a ‘ding alert’ and you have no other option but to read it, break off your work, and immediately take care of it.”

Aurora also writes that Ding Ding is completely made to comply with the demands of the company’s managers rather than their staff. For office staff, it is not convenient to have to respond to the boss’s wishes immediately – it can disturb their everyday tasks and adds stress to their job. For the manager, on the other hand, it has become very easy to reach the staff: they do not even need to pick up the phone anymore, and can reach whoever they want right away.

Unhappy Dingers

On Weibo, many people share Aurora’s views and are not too happy with Ding Ding. “I’ve had enough with this app! It reminds me every single morning to clock in to work!”

“You have to be at work in 12 minutes, don’t forget to clock in!”

Others also complain that the app only adds to the time they spend looking at their phone: “If it’s not my QQ group, then it’s my WeChat group or my Ding Ding group – it seems I am looking at my phone screen all day,” one Weibo user says.

There are also people who note that they are hardly ever really free from work anymore. As one Xiamen worker writes: “I had the morning off. But I had hundreds of WeChat messages, dozens of Ding Ding messages, and three missed phone calls. This is ruining me.”

“With this Ding Ding app it seems like no matter what time it is or where you are, you’re just always at work,” another complaint said.

“It looks like they are going to implement Ding Ding at my office. I just want to punch the person who invented this app.”

But despite all the backlash and complaints, Ding Ding’s popularity as an office solution for immediate workplace communication and registering employee’s working hours is on the rise.

On the app’s review page on the Huawei store, some call it “the best office application.” Others also note that the app is not just convenient, but also free: “It is very practical, and it has saved me the costs for other office management software.”

Other reviewers also seem much more enthusiastic than the complaining netizens on Weibo: “In our office, it’s become an essential tool – and its functions just keep getting better and better.”

By Manya Koetse


Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Digital

Must-Read: SCMP’s China Internet Report 2020

The China Internet Report brings order to the chaos of China’s ever-changing digital environment. There’s a special What’s on Weibo discount for the Pro-edition.

Manya Koetse

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First published

SCMP Research’s China Internet Report 2020 is here, covering the country’s biggest tech trends, breaking down the major players and key markets, and bringing some order to the chaos of China’s rapidly changing digital environment.

Today, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) has launched its third edition of the China Internet Report – a super-comprehensive resource on China’s technology landscape offering insights into the most important trends and players shaping the world’s biggest internet community.

This year, China’s online population has reached the staggering number of 904 million users, with the average daily time spent on the internet rising to 7.2 hours in March.

COVID-19 has significantly increased online media consumption across China.

China’s rapid digitization has not just radically altered Chinese society – it is also increasingly impacting the global internet ecosystem at large.

With yesterday’s local startups becoming tomorrow’s international tech leaders, and today’s trends soon becoming worldwide shifts, understanding China’s latest digital developments has never been more important.

The new coronavirus outbreak in China has not just temporarily affected people’s online behavior, the report finds, suggesting that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on China’s tech sectors.

Besides social media platforms and other apps becoming a crucial tool of mass communication and information for Chinese netizens in times of COVID-19, the pandemic also changed how people in China started using technology in their everyday lives, from online learning to digital healthcare seeking. These trends have brought about permanent changes.

The accelerated digitization and the innovative tech use in times of the coronavirus crisis are listed as one of the major trends of 2020, among other vital digital shifts changing China’s online landscape, from the mass adoption of 5G to live streaming in China reaching its third phase.

To check out the main trends for 2020, China’s latest internet statistics, its top tech competitors, internet companies, and more, here’s a link to the report.

This year, in addition to the free report, SCMP Research also introduces its Pro Edition (US$400) that features more than a hundred pages of deep-dive per sector – from e-commerce to healthtech, 5G and more – providing additional analysis, data, as well as access to six closed-door webinars with leading C-level executives of internet and technology companies in China.

The folks at SCMP have been kind enough to reach out and offer a special 30% discount on the Pro Edition report for What’s on Weibo readers.

You’ll get the discount by using the discount code: “WHATSONWEIBO“, or by clicking this link that will automatically include your discount code.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Digital

From Tea Farmer to Online Influencer: Uncle Huang and China’s Rural Live Streamers

‘Cunbo’ aka ‘rural livestreaming’ is all the rage. A win-win situation for farmers, viewers, and Alibaba.

Manya Koetse

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This is the “WE…WEI…WHAT?” column by Manya Koetse, originally published in German by Goethe Institut China on Goethe.de: “VOM TEEBAUERN ZUM INFLUENCER: ONKEL HUANG UND CHINAS LÄNDLICHE LIVESTREAMER.” 

The past year has been super tumultuous when it comes to the topics that have been dominating Chinese social media. The Coronavirus crisis was preceded by other big issues that were all the talk online, from the US-China trade war to the protests in Hong-Kong, the swine flu, and heightened censorship and surveillance.

Despite the darker side to China’s online environment, however, there were also positive developments. One of the online trends that became popular this year comes with a term of its own, namely cūnbō (村播): rural livestreaming.  Chinese farmers using livestreaming as a way to sell their products and promote their business have become a more common occurrence on China’s e-commerce and social media platforms. 

mage via Phoenix News (iFeng Finance).

The social media + e-commerce mix, also called ‘social shopping,’ is booming in the PRC. Online platforms where the lines between social media and e-commerce have disappeared are now more popular than ever. There’s the thriving Xiaohongshu (小红书Little Red Book) platform, for example, but apps such as TikTok (known as Douyin in China) also integrate shopping in the social media experience.

Over recent years, China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba has contributed to the rising popularity of ‘social shopping.’ Its Taobao Live unit (also a separate app), which falls under the umbrella of China’s biggest online marketplace Taobao, is solely dedicated to shopping + social media, mainly mobile-centered. It’s a recipe for success: Chinese mobile users spend over six hours online per day, approximately 72% of them shop online, and nearly 65% of mobile internet users watch livestreaming.

Every minute of every day, thousands of online shoppers tune in to dozens of different channels where sellers promote anything from food products to makeup or pet accessories. The sellers, also called ‘hosts’ or ‘presenters,’ make their channels attractive by incorporating makeup tutorials, cooking classes, giving tips and tricks, chatting away and joking, and promising their buyers the best deal or extra presents when purchasing their products.                

Livestreaming on Taobao goes on 24/7 (screenshots from Taobao app by author).

Sometimes thousands of viewers tune in to one channel at the same. They can ‘follow’ their favorite hosts and can interact with them directly by leaving comments on the livestreams. They can compliment the hosts (“You’re so funny!”), ask questions about products (“Does this also come in red?”), or leave practical advice (“You should zoom in when demonstrating this product!”). The product promoted in the livestreams can be directly purchased through the Taobao system.

Over the past year, Alibaba has increased its focus on rural sellers within the livestreaming e-commerce business. Countryside sellers even have their own category highlighted on the Taobao Live app. Chinese tech giant Alibaba launched its ‘cūnbō project’ in the spring of 2019 to promote the use of its Taobao Live app amongst farmers. The most influential livestreaming farmers get signed by Alibaba to elevate Taobao Live’s rural business to a higher level.

One of these influential Chinese farmers who has made a name for himself through livestreaming is Huang Wensheng, a tea farmer from the mountainous Lichuan area in Hunan Province.

Uncle Huang livestreaming from the tea fields (image via Sohu.com)

Huang, who is nicknamed ‘Uncle Farmer,’ sells tea through his channel, where he shows viewers his work and shares stories and songs from his village. He is also known to talk about what he learned throughout his life and will say things such as: “It is important to work hard; not necessarily so much to change the world , but to make sure the world does not change you.”

With just three to five livestreaming sessions per week, ‘Uncle’ Huang reaches up to twenty million viewers per month, and, according to Chinese media reports, has seen a significant increase in his income, earning some 10,000 yuan (€1300) per week.

Huang is not the only farmer from his hometown using Taobao Live to increase their income; there are some hundred rural livestreamers in Lichuan doing the same.

Some random screenshots by author from rural livestreaming channels, where online shoppers get a glimpse of countryside life

The rural livestreaming category is significantly different from the urban fashionistas selling brand makeup and the latest must-haves: these hosts do not have the polished look, glamorous clothes, or stylish backgrounds. They usually film outside while doing their work or offer a glimpse into their often humble rooms or kitchens.

Viewers get to see the source of the products sold by these rural sellers; they often literally go to the fields to show where their agricultural products grow, or film themselves getting the eggs from their chickens or the oranges from the trees. From fruits to potatoes and flowers, and from fresh tea to home-made chili sauce – a wide range of products is promoted and sold through Taobao Live these days.

Some rural livestreamers are trying to stay ahead of their competition by coming up with novel concepts. A young farmer from Sichuan, for example, recently offered viewers the opportunity to “adopt” a rooster from his farm, allowing them to interact with ‘their’ rooster through social media and even throwing the occasional birthday party for some lucky roosters.

Image via sina.com.

Examples such as these show that although the countryside livestreamers usually lack glitter and glam, they can be just as entertaining – or perhaps even more so – than their urban counterparts.

Who benefits from the recent ‘cūnbōboom? One could argue that the rising popularity of livestreaming farmers is a win-win situation from which all participants can profit in some way. The commercial interests are big for Alibaba. The company has been targeting China’s countryside for years, as it’s where China’s biggest consumption growth will happen while mobile internet penetration is still on the rise. Alibaba earns profits from an increasing number of rural e-commerce buyers, as well as e-commerce sellers.

Alibaba’s early focus on the countryside as a new home for e-commerce has previously also led to the phenomenon of so-called ‘Taobao Villages,’ where a certain percentage of rural residents are selling local specialties, farm products or other things via the Taobao platform with relatively little transaction costs.

Many Chinese villages and farmers are profiting from the further spread of Taobao in the countryside. Not only does Alibaba invest in logistics and e-commerce trainings in rural areas, these e-commerce channels are also a way to directly boost sales and income for struggling farmers.

Chinese media predict that the rural livestreaming trend will only become more popular in the years to come, bringing forth many more influential farmers like Huang.

But besides the commercial and financial gains that come from the rising popularity of rural livestreamers, there is also a significant and noteworthy social impact.  At  a time in which China’s rapidly changing society sees a widening gap between urban and rural areas, these rural channels serve as a digital bridge between countryside sellers and urban consumers, offering netizens a real and unpolished look into the lives of farmers in others parts of the country, and gives online buyers more insight and understanding of where their online products came from.

Taobao Live is actually like a traditional “farmers’ market,” but now it is digital, open 24/7, and accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. It’s the Chinese farmers’ market of the 21st century.

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

This text was first published by Goethe-Institut China under a CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE license (Creative Commons) as part of a monthly column in collaboration with What’s On Weibo.

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