Lin Dongping, a 25-year-old IT programmer in Fujian's provincial capital, Fuzhou , uses his Weibo microblog to help high school pupils with their homework. Lin, who calls himself "homework uncle", seeks help from others or digs up answers after pupils take a photo of the question and send it to him.
Were you good at school or do you just miss school so much that you came up with a microblog account dedicated to homework?
I was not a good student, with just average scores at an average school. I am not an academic success and more into non-academic stuff, like reading swordsmanship novels. I rarely did my homework. Nobody told me that I should study hard and would have a brighter future. I was not aware that if I achieved more academically I would be better off in my career and become a more learned person. It was a fun project for me. I didn't attach much meaning to it. I have grown tired of video games and am now into a different kind of fun.
What kinds of question do you get most?
Most of the questions are about mathematics, followed by physics and chemistry. I also have a lot of questions on relationships, be it among classmates, with teachers or a secret crush on someone. One reason is that it makes my posting topics more diversified. Another is that these questions are very typical among pupils. Some just want a listening ear. They will not talk to their parents or teachers, like we did when we were young. So I post it and many people comment and they learn that their problems are no big deal and have happened to a lot of people. They'll feel better after feeling the wide support. I don't have a solution. What do I know about relationships?
Does it take you a lot of time to run the account?
I am busy at work and I maintain the account at night, usually two hours a day just to browse questions. Now I give tests as well, instead of just forwarding difficult homework questions. I also post study materials and insights that are supposedly helpful to pupils. Around 1,000 people have sent me their questions. I have posted more than 80,000 comments or Weibo postings. I used to work very hard very to post these questions and answer them myself but it took me more and more time. Now I only post the questions that have not been asked before, that are classic questions on the subject or those from people who have provided their own idea of how to solve the question. They must have worked on it and made an effort and deserve more attention.
I see you have made some changes in your postings. Are you trying to make your Weibo a study community for middle school pupils?
It's mostly because of my limited time and energy. As more and more questions are sent to me I really don't have so much time so I hold a regular event called "star of the lord of study" and those who believe they are good at a certain subject can apply for the title. I select eight every time and make their Weibo accounts public so that the "dregs of study" - those who suck at academics - can follow them and ask for help. I am amazed that more than 10,000 people have applied for the title. I guess people feel good that they are deemed academically capable and able to help others. But I find they are not as persistent as I am. I guess they are not taking it as seriously as me.
Do you answer all the questions yourself?
Some questions, I can totally understand and solve. Some I don't and I used to look them up online to find the right solution. Now I send it to the "lord of study".
It is very strange for someone who is bad at studying to dedicate a lot of time after they have left school to homework. Shouldn't you be avoiding such topics?
I've had some nightmares, like sitting in a test or working on a mathematics problem that could not be solved and have suddenly woken up, realising that I have already graduated and do not need to take such tests again. Then I feel so happy. This is just my hobby and I am having a lot of fun. I won't bother expanding the number of followers because l want a good night's sleep.
You have more than 130,000 followers. Do you plan to profit from this, such as by promoting products for advertisers?
This is not an account for marketing and the fans are not deemed "high quality" targets for commercial promotion activities. Most of my fans are high school pupils and they don't have much buying power. I just want to do something fun and popular, with its own characteristics. I don't have any desire to profit from it.
Do your parents and friends know about this account?
My father has a Weibo account but he does not know about this. I used to have him on my QQ (a form of instant messenger) but whenever I posted something sentimental he would immediately call me up. It's terrible. I am sure he would say, "You are misleading and causing harm to the young people". My friends know about it and they don't care very much. I am the same old person to them and they think it is typical of me to have such account. Actually I also have another Sina Weibo which is quite unique.
Can you tell more about your other Weibo?
It is dedicated only to dead people. The account only follows the accounts of the deceased and I summarise their lives or what kind of person they were in 140 words. I also post it as a comment on the last posting of the deceased so that people who cared about them and return to their Weibo page can see it. It's a way of commemorating the lost life. When I began it a year and a half ago I did not feel it was a heavy topic. Now I have more than 10,000 followers and I think that's a lot because it was not an account for entertainment.
How do you know which Weibo user just died?
My first such Weibo posting was written after someone I knew died and I posted the words in commemoration of the dead on the comment section. Those who returned repeatedly saw it and forwarded my Weibo. Somehow my Weibo became famous and people notify me when a Weibo user dies.
Lin Dongping spoke to Zhuang Pinghui