Extracting Audio Messages from WeChat

December 4, 2015

Want to skip the chatter and just find out how to extract and convert WeChat audio messages? Click here to skip to the instructions.

WeChat (Chinese: 微信, wěi xìn) is a chat app popular in mainland China and used by many Chinese immigrants around the world. It’s a staple in China as much as Facebook is here, being used by pretty much everybody who has a smartphone. It was also far ahead of introducing features that are now standard in most chat apps: things like stickers, “share” messages from other apps, and audio messages were present in WeChat long before they made their way to services like Facebook Messenger.

Audio messages in particular are an interesting case: because Chinese text input is more complicated than English, many Chinese people just prefer pushing a button and speaking a short message to their friends than trying to type it out. It allows for much quicker messaging when you’re on the move.

Recently, I found myself wanting to extract some WeChat messages from my chat logs for use in a personal project. The problem is, WeChat offers no opportunity for bulk exporting chat logs: the most you can do is email a small, hand-selected set of messages to yourself, and that only brings across text content. So I found myself realizing that if I was going to do this, I needed to do it myself.

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Who Do You Think You Are?

November 2, 2015

My ethnic history is a complicated subject.

Whenever people ask me what my background is—a common occurrence in a place as multicultural as Toronto, where I lived most of my life—I can never just give a simple answer.

Some people can. For some people, their family have lived in Canada for generations. Others are recent immigrants, who were born outside the country. Still others are second-generation immigrants whose parents were both born in a country outside Canada.

With me, things aren’t as simple, because my heritage comes from two different continents. My father was born and spent much of his childhood in Europe, in Portugal. My mother is from South America, and lived in Brazil from her childhood through to her twenties. But I was born and raised in Canada, where the two of them settled down.

What this meant was that when I was growing up in Toronto, I was raised between a few very distinct and different cultures. And this diversity of experience has in many ways shaped who I am today.

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Impossible to Learn

March 30, 2015

Mandarin Chinese has a reputation for being extremely difficult for westerners to learn.

Image source: PRChinese

It’s a not an undeserved reputation. The writing system is obscure, with thousands of different characters, and there’s no way to learn them except through memorization. The language is tonal, which means that depending on the contours of the pitch of your voice, a single syllable can have many vastly different meanings. And there’s a massive cultural gap between the east and west, meaning that the idioms that Chinese people spout—most of which have root in old folk tales, literature, and history—are going to be incomprehensible to a westerner. Put all this together, and you end up with a language that presents massive barriers to adoption for people on this side of the planet.

But what if you decided to try anyway?

That’s what I did for much of last year. I didn’t commit too many resources to it: I did it in a relatively small share of my spare time, and spent little to no money on the pursuit. But by now, although I’m far from fluent, I’ve achieved a good enough understanding of the basics of the language—both spoken and written—that if I were to travel to Beijing tomorrow I think I’d be okay getting my way around.

And although it was difficult, it most certainly wasn’t impossible. In fact, in the Internet Age, the idea that something like this is “impossible to learn” is damaging and artificially limiting. If you’re able to read this article, your access to knowledge, culture, and learning resources is at a level that is completely unmatched throughout history. All you have to do is harness it.

I want to again take you through the barriers to learning Mandarin that I listed above, but this time with a more positive outlook, showing you how I used the resources at my disposal to work around them.

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The Dark Side of Fame

September 16, 2014

Back in 2010, when I was still in the midst of university, I was at a friend’s house doing some work for the University of Toronto Game Design and Development Club. I was the Vice President of the club that year, and as a member of a completely new team of executives, we had our work cut out for us in handling the responsibilities that our club demanded of us.

So we worked through the afternoon, discussing ideas and directions and plans and requirements. And then the evening hit, and we were done.

And then, my friend turns to me and asks me to try out this cool little game called Minecraft.

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