Sunday, February 19, 2012

Free Willie: The Complicated Quest for Freedom

You know how movie nowadays starts with the opening of a poor guy working his ass off in a corporate world (in dull color), getting his ass kicked, asked to conform and yet not getting the recognition he so much desired. Living in a cold city, with not much of the money he tried so hard to earn, losing out in life, time, health, family and yet still couldn't game the system. He lives in a rat race with no future and no way of getting out, until one day, something happens …

Morpheus to Neo: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

In a certain way, all of us employed is the poor bastard in the movie,  may we be an executive or a manager; either you work in a cubicle, or run around getting rejected day in and day out. We sell our time and some part of our soul for money: our salary. The company make no promise to take care of us, or do they care to understand us; they make the commitment to shareholder to make more money, and that’s all there is. Why anyone in their saint mind would want to be employed forever and ever. I understand there is the need to put food on the table, and perhaps to join a company to learn a thing or two; but what happened after that? How do we come up with the conclusion to do this for life, and what do we expect out of it?

I been through the corporate life, and understand how it is both delusional and comforting at the same time. We just need to clock in day in and day out, handle some shitty work (sounds like challenge at times), complaint and gossip a little, believe that promotion is a good thing coming and retrenchment is something not going to happened to us. Even if it’s true that no really bad shit happened to us, what do we really get out of it? It feels like a safe and comforting path, but then again it boils down to the questions that how to we want to live our life, and it this the right way for me? Something is missing, and it doesn't feels right, but I don't know what else to do, and it becomes obvious once I snap out of it. What was once my only way of making a living, become something worthless and a waste of time.

I believe some of us live in the present moment, where we take our job easy, and understand really well that there is a life beyond the job, and the job provides for that life. I am happy for those who can life in the present moment, which is what I was not that long ago. Some people live in the past, which is something I couldn’t comprehend or explain, as I have no experience. I at this moment live in the future; I plan the patch for the future, work for the future, and perhaps sacrifice for the future. Whenever I do something, the questions which always play in my mind are: is this good for my future? How long can I continue to do this? Does it satisfy my ultimate desire, freedom!

My thinking is kinda ironic, it’s like saying we need a war to end a war; I sacrifice freedom to gain freedom. Human is a complicated being, we wanted something so much, that we are afraid to get it immediately. I know the city is a cold place (though convenient), and I desire to live in the country side, but I can never quite get myself to pack my bags and go. I manage to satisfy that desire with a 1 month holiday, but I still can’t cross the line or 3 months, and maybe 1 year, or perhaps forever. Why is that so? Besides my dad will frown upon me if he knows I am enjoying myself with no work for a few months (which I know it’s just an excuse for myself), what’s really stopping me? I suspect it’s security, and the need for money to feel secured; sooner or later the money will run dry, or we would require more money in certain cases, that we would need to break our holiday dream and get our sorry ass back into reality and start earning money again. Why can’t my country side lifestyle be just another way of life (an alternate reality to the city life), where I work as a farmer I supposed? I guess all those movies show that farmer always get into financial difficulties one way or another, haha.

So, life is complicated again. I know what is shit to me, so I don’t do shit. I desire freedom, and believe freedom requires money, so I can sacrifice for money. But I don’t really work for money for the sake of money (else, I would be doing shit), so I choose my passion and live a dream. There is some necessary evil, which are not really evil because sometimes we are just too comfortable before our time comes. Until then, let’s work our ass off in something we really believe in; something which shall lead us to happiness in the end.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pinterest: Product Evolution from Delicious

My wife super-like Pinterest lately (moving away from craftgawker), and it lead me to think of how Pinterest is an “evolution” of past product like delicious and twitter, and how to mesh elements of different product together and how to get it “right” at the end. Though I’m a programmer cum entrepreneur, I am kind of a late adopter in terms of product and technology (I totally missed the Friendster boat, and I use Facebook only because I need a Facebook Page for my startup). Let’s get to know Pinterest a bit more, shall we?

My wife told me that Pinterest is successful because it is beautiful, and she like pinning beautiful photos under her collections: design, craft, travel places, etc. Beauty is attractive, and collecting is addictive, sounds like a deadly combo.

Thinking of collection, it reminds me of delicious, and further back with bookmarking on browser. In the beginning of Internet experience for me, I try to scout for all my favorite sites and bookmark them properly into folder (tagging was invented much later). It’s quite an addictive exercise; I am guessing “to collect and organize” is human nature. Then came delicious (the social bookmarking), where the power of the crowd comes into play: not only you can share your bookmark list publicly with others (no naughty stuff here), you’ll know how many people share the similar links as you did, and which links are the most popularly shared (sounds interesting and powerful). Sadly, Delicious was sold to Yahoo and innovation kinda stop there. Later we have Foxmarks and Google Bookmark, but those are just useful but boring tools. So that’s the end of social bookmarking.

My wife reminded me that Pinterest is like StumbleUpon, where there is a button on your browser toolbar to share site with others (which sounded like delicious as well). I never use or cross path with StumbleUpon, but why did Pinterest gain more prominence? I am guessing visual beauty (picture can be attractive, webpage might not), and perhaps the application is simple and easy to use. Having said that, it also means Pinterest is not good at sharing website with great information, but not visually attractive.

Is Pinterest like Twitter? Twitter focus on spreading or sharing of Text, and Picture as secondary (no great Photo or Video integration yet, perhaps Weibo is doing a better job); Pinterest share Picture, you can follow it, collect it, repin it :) Isn’t it something like a Twitter for Picture (or Delicous for Picture).

It’s kind of amazing where such a simple and mundane idea have such great traction and make an impact. Thinking of it, Twitter is simple as well.

I do admit I like the space of consumer Internet, where there is so much fun and innovation. As someone who comes from product development, I believe in the mantra “solve a pain” (build something of value to your customer, which is good). But does Pinterest or Twitter really solve an existing pain when it was launch, or it just creates a new and fun opportunity where you can do new things which are not possible before? Is twitting really micro-blogging, solving the pain of writing lengthy blog? Perhaps twitter is our voice on the Internet, and also to hear what others have to say or share; Pinterest solves the problem of finding and sharing beautiful picture. I am guessing these are not “serious existing problem”, but the outcome is equally unpredictable. Something like luxury goods? Not much of a real purpose, but it feels good :)

 What can we learn from Pinterest?

  • UX Rulez: Layout and Usability; Mansory Layout and Infinite Scrolling, simple and barrier free 
  • It’s still about Social Sharing (and Follow), and bookmarking (collection), and also a Passion Pit (narrow into categories which interest us). 
  • Still have to be easy and fun, right?
Idea: Any Pinterest for Video coming up?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who is the real competitor?

More than a decade, Microsoft Windows had enjoyed more than 90% market share on computers. Linux win some market share on the server front, Mac OS get 5% of the pie, and BeOS is almost gone; it seems like no one can threaten the giant, until a new breed of computer is born: smartphone and tablet. By 2014, Mobile Internet usage should overtake Desktop Internet, and the number of conventional computers (Desktop & Notebook) is shrinking. Microsoft Windows is not running on smartphone and tablet, and Windows Phone had less than 5% market share on mobile devices. Who would have thought that a Microsoft Windows killer is not another Desktop OS, but iOS and Android running on mobile devices? 

Google is the King of search (except in China, where Baidu owns 83% market share) with 66% market share, which dwarfed other competitors: Bing (15%), Yahoo (14%) and Ask (3%). Money is being invested to create better search engine, such as Blekko, Yandex, DuckDuckGo might be gaining some prominence; but many others failed miserably (I can’t even remember or google for their name anymore!). Who would thought Google Search’s enemy is Facebook, who control a significant amount of new content generated every day, which are inaccessible for Google Search? Not forgetting that “social” element is starting to play a role in search as well (not just pure data and result, but human’s relationship with the data: who recommend what).

From the above example, the real competitors emerged not by creating similar products in the same category, but by changing the source (the element which the dominant product is controlling or depending on). Microsoft Windows control the PCs, so iOS and Android replaced the PCs with mobile devices; Google Search depending on web content (the more content the better), and Facebook is controlling the new content.

What’s next? Facebook is the newcomer for the decade, and Google is challenging that with Google+. From my perspective, I would say Google+ is just an interim solution to wrestle some market share from Facebook and injecting social element into Google Search at the same time. Google+ will gain traction, but it’s unlikely to dethrone Facebook (unless Facebook did something really stupid, let’s see if adult-supervision model a.k.a Eric Schmidt for Google is overrated or not); and Google doesn’t have a significant advantage over Facebook’s resources and talent pool. I suppose the real question is: what is Facebook controlling or depending on? How to create a new application or technology to wrestle or replace this element?


  • Creating a better platform for content creation?
  • Creating a place for people to spend their time online every day?
  • Change how we connect with friends, again?
  • Perhaps something so seamless, that people aren't aware they are using it at all?

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Review: Tara Hunt - The Unclear Path

She might have a dramatic showmanship, but that's the true emotions, feelings and thoughts of a startup entreprenuer. Totally delusional :)

  • I'm Tara, I'm more broke and happier, and I'm a Startup Entreprenuer
  • Most investor will not understand nor believe in your venture, and believe you'll probably fail (too much competition, no competition, never been done before); you walk out of the meeting with 2 things: i) a broken weary heart ii) the burning desire to walk back someday and say "I told you so" when you found success.
  • Sometimes you get a meeting which really go well, but the follow up is dead with an email of "You're great, but we have to skip"
  • You break my heart, but not my spirit
  • Despite all the disappointment, what if ... (we actually made it), wouldn't it be worth it?
  • What it takes to be an entreprenuer: You need to be all in; working on side project is fine, but it's not a entreprenuer; working as a consultant is detter defined as self-employed.
  • When you are all in, you are obsessively focus on survival and success of your business day in and day out because you have to be. You get very creative, you dream about it, you keep thinking and doing it.
  • Characteristics: i) delusion ii) a desire to change the status quo iii) sheer, utter and audacity
  • It's not a matter of taking a easy or hard road: it's to do something meaningful
  • I don't know the road to "success"; goals will shift (pivot); does Mark knows what Facebook will be today, in the beginning?
  • The arrogance in believing in something so strongly that you are going to drive the people around you that love you completely bonkers.
  • Perseverance: ability to hang-on, stand up and continue walking again (99 no to get to a single yes).

Apple's Think Different

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.