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.
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.
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!”
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.”
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In China’s “Kua Kua” Chat Groups, People Pay to Be Praised [Updated]
Money can’t buy you love, but in these ‘kua kua’ groups, they can buy you praise.
A new phenomenon has become a hot topic on Chinese social media these days. ‘Kua kua’ groups (夸夸群) are chat groups where people share some things about themselves – even if they are negative things – and where other people will always tell them how great they are, no matter what.
Kua kua groups (夸 ‘kuā‘ literally means ‘praise’) have become all the rage in China. People seem to love them for the mere fact that it makes them feel good about themselves.
The format is clear. Person A tells about something that is on their minds, and asks people for positive feedback. Person B, C, and D will then come forward and tell them how good or pretty they are, sometimes based on their profile photo.
One could say: “Hi everyone, I’ve just turned down a job offer, but now my future is full of uncertainty, please compliment me.” Then people in the chat group will respond and say things such as: “You look like the type of person who knows exactly what they want.”
The Kua kua praise group phenomenon allegedly began within the online community of Xi’an Jiaotong University – although some claim it was Shanghai’s Fudan University – when one person asked others in a chat group to compliment them. The idea started to compliment and praise others, and so a trend was born; first, in university (BBS) chat groups, and now on WeChat and beyond the realm of universities.
The phenomenon has been around for at least six years, but only recently started gaining widespread attention on Chinese social media. According to China’s Toutiao News, virtually every college now has its own ‘praise group.’
But the praise does not always come for free. Although many (college-based) chat groups are free to join, people who want to be complimented and are not yet a member of an existing group can join Kua kua groups when they pay for it. On Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao, there are various online shops that sell a ‘Praise group’ membership starting from 50 yuan ($7,5) per person, going up to 188 yuan ($28).
The time of praise is limited to five minutes unless you pay more. The quality of the compliments you’ll be getting also depends on how much you pay. Some groups allegedly consist of “students of great talent,” and the number of people complimenting one person could reach up to 500 people.
The contents of the praise could literally be anything. A simple “I want to be praised” comment could get a variety of reactions from “your hat looks nice” to “the fact that you’re so honest and straightforward about what you want is something that is hard to come across in this day and age,” to “you used a period mark [at the end of your sentence], you must be someone who is very persistent in reaching your goals.”
The fact that the “Kua kua” phenomenon is such a success in China might relate to its culture, where humility and modesty are considered ideal in day-to-day communications. When given a compliment, it is common in China to deny it or to suggest that the person giving the compliment is much better than they are (also see Cheng 2003, 30).
These chat groups, however, break away from the dominant cultural interactions: people don’t have to be polite in responding to the compliments and can wallow in the praise they paid for.
Although not as big as the “Kua Kua” group phenomenon, these kinds of groups also exist in the English-language social media sphere. On Reddit’s “Toast Me” page, for example, there are some 92,000 subscribers participating in asking and giving positive feedback to others, albeit unpaid.
The people giving compliments in the Chinese Kua kua groups are random people, some students, some staff of Taobao stores, who get hongbao, red envelopes with digital money gifts, for contributing to the group. According to some reports, some ‘customers’ end up staying the group and become a part of the team themselves.
We will follow up on this later: we booked a ‘five-minute praise session’ ourselves, but are still awaiting admission to the group…
Update: Our Kua Kua Experience
So what is the Kua kua experience like? We decided to try out for ourselves and purchased a 5-minute praise session through Taobao for 50 yuan ($7,5) from a seller that had a good rating.
After the purchase is completed, the seller will contact you with details asking for your WeChat ID. After adding, they will ask you what your ‘problem’ or issue is, and you will be put in a virtual queue until your turn comes up to be praised.
You’ll then be added to a WeChat group that has your name in the headline (ours was something like “Manya you can do it”) and that has around 200 participants.
The message posted by us was:
“Hello, I’m Manya (Dutch). I’ve been studying Chinese for more than ten years. In fact, I’m afraid to say it may even be more than 13 years, but I still often don’t understand what Beijing taxi drivers are saying. Even studying every day won’t help. I’ve been learning for so many years, yet I often still don’t understand what the old people in Beijing are saying. It’s a bit embarrassing. I think my Chinese is still not good enough. I can’t understand the ‘crosstalk’ [comedy sketches] during the Spring Festival Gala at all. It makes me feel a little dispirited.”
Within a matter of seconds, the screen then just fills up with positive feedback and emoji. There are dozens of comments, and they almost go too fast to read them all.
Some of the responses:
“You’re great, and even I don’t understand Beijing taxi drivers.”
“Stay confident in yourself!”
“You’re so cool.”
“You can type so many Chinese characters, who’d say your Chinese is not good enough?!”
“Manya, you’re so fantastic.”
“None of us understand what old people in Beijing are saying.”
“Chinese is just not easy to study, the fact that you’ve been doing it for so long already shows how great you are.”
“It’s incredible that you’ve already come this far.”
“A woman who is so motivated about studying really moves me, you’re my role model, you make me want to study more English.”
During the praise session, the group leader will occasionally post a hongbao [envelope with money] for the participants to receive in return for their compliments.
After five minutes, the session ends, and the people will send out some last words of encouragement. The group leader will personally thank you for being part of the group, and later, you’ll be removed from the group as the people will move on to the next person who is waiting in line to be praised.
How does it feel to be praised by some 200 people, receiving hundreds of compliments? It’s overwhelming, and even though you know it’s all just an online mechanism, and that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you say, it still makes you glow a little bit inside.
Although some experts quoted by Chinese state media warn people not to rely on these praise groups too much, there does not seem to be much harm in allowing yourself to be complimented for some minutes from time to time.
Other people reviewing the same Kua kua group apparently feel the same: “I’m super satisfied, the result is amazing.”
Featured image via hexun.com.
Cheng, Winnie. 2003. Intercultural Communication. Amsterdam, John Benjamins Publishing.
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China Youth Federation: Ban Minors from Live Streaming Platforms
If implemented, this would mean a big blow to China’s live streaming market.
Chinese minors will no longer be able to do live streaming if it is up to the All-China Youth Federation (ACYF, 中国青联). The China Youth Federation submitted the proposal during the Two Sessions (Lianghui), China’s largest annual legislative meetings.
The China Youth Federation is an organization to represent China’s youth groups founded in 1949, that has the Communist Youth League of China as its core.
China’s live streaming market is booming. Sina News reports that some 425 million netizens used live streaming platforms in 2018. According to the Online Information Center of the Communist Youth League, Chinese minors are particularly active live streamers: 6.4% of live stream users are primary school students, 18.3% of them are junior high school students and 20.3% are senior high schoolers.
There are dozens of live streaming platforms in China, with this list of apps, including the short video & live stream platforms Douyin and Kuaishou, being among the most popular ones. If the law would be implemented, China’s thriving live streaming market would certainly suffer a big blow.
Earlier this week, Sixth Tone already reported that “protecting minors online” would be among one of the important themes discussed by tech leaders at the Two Sessions.
On Saturday, March 9, the hashtag “Proposal to Ban Minors from Engaging in Livestreaming” (#建议禁止未成年人担任网络主播#) [basically meaning “prohibiting minors from being online hosts”] became top trending on Weibo, attracting more than 180 million views. Various Chinese state media sources state that the live streaming industry is in “a state of chaos” and needs stricter control to protect minors, who could easily come into contact with “vulgar” and “inappropriate” content through live streaming platforms.
The ban could be realized by implementing stricter controls on the registration process of China’s various live-streaming networks. This could suggest that the measures would go beyond minors just being banned from live streaming themselves.
“I support this proposal, live streaming platforms are not appropriate for minors,” a popular comment said, with many Weibo users agreeing: “Young people should focus on their schoolwork instead.”
But not everyone agrees with stricter controls on China’s online platforms. One commenter wrote: “Officials can have multiple wives, rich people have multiple women, yet if common people watch live streams where some vulgar language or sensitive content occasionally pops up, then it’s not allowed.”
“What should be banned is vulgar content, not minor users,” others write.
Earlier this week, Beijing News reported that Yan Xiaohong (阎晓宏), director of the Chinese Copyright Association, also submitted a proposal relating to minors using the internet. Yan’s proposal goes much further than that of the ACYF: he suggests that special online platforms should be developed for minors, and argues that it is not good for China’s youth to be able to access the same online content as adults.
By Manya Koetse
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