Monthly Archives: July 2005

Driving in Hangzhou

Driving in Hangzhou is totally a different experience than walking in the city.

  • The mountains are near the city and the city is part of the mountain.
  • The traffic in east part of the city is good – the winding road in the mountains are wonderful.
  • Zhejiang University is nice – it is nice to see startups in ZJU are very active.
  • The West Lake is much clearer than before.
  • The recent re-construction of south side and east side of West Lake turned Hangzhou is a very decent city for bars and restaurant.
  • It is only 168km between Shanghai and Hangzhou (only counting the express way). It took about one and half hour for us to drive back to Shanghai.

Hangzhou’s Entrepreneur Spirit

I am visiting some partners in Hangzhou again. For the second time, I am quite impressed by the entrepreneur spirit in Hangzhou.

Recent, the Internet center seems to be shifting a little bit out of Beijing and to cities in th south. Hangzhou starts to be a center. I visited some smaller companies and found the developers there are great, and they have great ideas for the new generation of Internet.

Hangzhou is city that make people quiet. When people goes near to the West Lake, their pace naturally slow down. Time is not so critical a matter as in Shanghai.

For the young people graduating from universities, their salary requirements are not as high as Shanghai, because for basic living, Hangzhou is much cheaper. (If we talk about luxurious apartment and visiting nice bar near the Lake, Hangzhou may be even more expensive). They have much lower pressure to survive than in Shanghai so they can concentrate more on coding and innovation.

Hangzhou, as the capital of Zhejiang, is also a capital for private owned companies. Many private investors put their money into small startups and make them easier to raise money. Although international VC and big domestic VC don’t visit Hangzhou as often as Shanghai, the investment requirement for small startups is typically smallers, which make it a perfect place for startups.

I have the impression that Hangzhou may have good potential for the next round of startups in China – something like the Bay area.

Good luck guys!

Wiki is Weak-y

Wiki spam is worse the email spam.

Look at this picture: I receive about more than 10 Wiki author request within every minute and it never stopped since two days ago.

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The page they created contains link to their porn website. That means, they are creating hundreds of garbage pages on my server, day and night, linking to their site – until the disk on my site are used up.

This is the weakest point of Wiki, something others can easily spam…

Real Name Requirement for QQ

The most popular IM QQ in China has a great feature called QQ Group. It is real time chatting groups integrated in QQ client.

Recently, Tecent was asked to enforce real name registration for all group owners. People much submit their national ID to keep their QQ group. Well. Another step after the web site registraiton.

Taxi Driver’s Life Tougher – Part II

Taxi drivers’ life is one of the major topic I continously observe the report. They are very typical hard-working people in this city, and come from a world I don’t normal have access. Talking with taxi drivers is always my favorite. Their stories are vivid mirror reflecting the changes of the city.

Recently, we clearly feel taxi become rare resource for this city. Not at only rush hours, but also at normal time it is hard to find a taxi. I thought the major reason was because of the hot summer – these days, Shanghai is just too hot which drives up the demand. However, the recent talk with a taxi driver revealed another part of the story.

About 28 days ago, the price of gas increased a lot. Yesterday, it kept increasing. The price of 93# gas increased from 3.96 RMB/L to 4.26RMB/L. I guess it may be related to the change in RMB price? Just some guess.

The gas price change dramatically increased the cost for taxi drivers. They may need to spend more than before. In summer, it is required that taxi much turn on air condition. It continue to increase the cost of operation.

To help them, the taxi companies give them 7 RMB per day compensation, but it is almost nothing compared to the cost. So many taxi driver finally find out that even if they work very hard 24 hours, they still gain much less than before, and sometimes cannot earn money. So they just quit.

According to one taxi driver, many taxi companies have empty taxi parking in their parking lot without taxi drivers. The increase of demand and descrease of supply caused the current situation.

P.S. Shanghai Taxi Driver’s Life Tougher

RMB Finally Goes Strong

This afternoon, I got a SMS from Eric that RMB finally changed its policy and become floating rate. The rumar is the exchange rate between RMB to USD may change to 8.1 or something (I cannot find sources and proof for this. So use this information with caution).

I am not an econmist, and I don’t know exactly what it means to the market and two countries. I did get some conflicting oppinions and news. It is out of my knowledge scope to judge. So I don’t want to comment. The direct impact for me may be, the next time I shop at Amazon.com, I can buy one more book if I buy several books. :-)

P.S. Oh. Talking about Amazon, I read the news the change after they bought one of the largest book selling website Joyo. 1) All the employees start to learn English, while before, they don’t have any English test in their interview processes. 2) The founder left the company and top management team were replaced by external professional managers 3) Their system migrated to Amazon platform, 4) After the migration, their shipping speed is 2 days slower than before – now one day slower than its major competitor Dangdang.com.

Donghai Bridge

Donghai Bridge is under construction. It is one of the most interesting projects I know besides the World Expo and the Hangzhou Bay bridge. The 32 km long bridge will extend to the island at the heart of the Hangzhou bay and it is the first bridge that will enable us to drive onto an island in Shanghai. The A2 expressway connects A20 and the bridge.

This is how the bridge will look like after completion.

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Image in courtesy of Eastday.com

More Dong Hai Bridge pictures

At around 5:30 PM, I don’t know why but Wendy and I suddenly decided to drive there and see this bridge. It is not too far away from our home – 41 km means 30 minutes’ drive. We started from A20. When we turned right onto A2, as I expected, we are the only car on the newly completed express way. I believe it is safe to claim that A2 is the express way in Shanghai with the best traffic condition – I never saw a car before me or after me and only saw about 5 cars on the opposite direction.

The Chief Architect’s speech on TV last year, when the major part of the bridge completed, was very misleading. He welcomed people to drive to visit the bridge but it turned out that the area is still a big construction site. Huge, yes, really huge tractors and big carts run along the narrow roads, and my car looks so tiny on the road – just like a rabbit playing among the elephant. Within 20 minutes, we decided we’d better returned to A2, where we are the biggest vehicle on the empty expressway. I didn’t take any pictures – maybe next time, and when we returned to near my home to have dinner, it was about 8:00 PM. According to the report, when the bridge is completed, I can directly drive to the island in the sea, and transfer to fast boats to the other beautiful island nearby…

On Time Management

Richard asked:

As reading your blog, reading your life. I start wondering how can you manage your time so well? As a director of Kijiji, a person who keeps writing a blog every single day, and also occasionally gives speech in university, moreover quite often produce a thoughtful article in your Chinese blog… I would be very expecting to read an article about your way of managing time someday. :-)

and Cai asked the same question:

Yes, I have same feeling, when I read an article about your blog, I began to surf on your website. I can not believe that you insisted for about three years. Amazing!

I also want to how do you manage time and write an article just about story of daily life which we ignored most time.

It is very interesting question. Let me try to answer it.

I am not a Time Management Expert

The first answer is, my time management may not as good as you describe. I am try to improve. Having said that, I just want to share the reason when I kept blogging and doing a lot of things at the same time.

Blogging? It is Just What I Decided

This entry: I Started the Blog to Post Resume, which was posted exactly one year ago, explained the initial reason why I started blogging. It is a little bit kidding, but meanwhile, it is true. I often ask my friend of the question: “What do you remember in the year 2004?” Sometimes, we may be too busy on the daily life and forget what is important. As the forth generation time management experts put it: “We have wasted years. Why hurry for the seconds?”. Blogging is the time to force me think and keep observation. For this blog, in particular, has a mission to help communities who are new to Shanghai or who are away from Shanghai to learn about this city, by a very small window – a window of a normal persons’ life. Although the recent role change made my life much busier than before, I still believe I have time to keep writing. The strongest reason I convince myself to continue is, “If I cannot manage to get some time writing, how can I manage a business bigger than that?” :-) Bill Gates have thinking week; Google has 20% innovation time; Steve Ballmer still reserved time for his family and grass. It is not only skill, but a wise philosophy.

The Heart of the City is in Theatre

It was quite some time before I saw another exciting drama in Shanghai. About 6:20 PM, when I was in a discussion with a very experienced person in the classified industry, Wendy sent a SMS to me: “How abuot drama tonight?” It is a good idea. Although it means I won’t have any chance to grasp dinner, it well worth it. At rush hour, I never expect the traffic be good, especially when it is combined with a Friday.

Today is the first day of the city to really enter summer. Well. I don’t know how to say it in English. In China, there are some seasons, and the hottest season in summer is called “Fu” or “伏”. Tomorrow it is forecasted to be 7 degrees higher than today. As of English writing, I checked how Alan de Botton describe the established of winter as the first sentence at the Art of Travel:

It was hard to say when exactly winter arrived. The decline was gradual, like that of a person into old age, inconspicuous from day to day until the season became an established, relentless reality.

He uses very simple words but described beautiful scene of the gradual arrival of winter. Summer is the same.

The drama tonight is called “The Protein Girl”, adoptted from a novel with same name. The show was wonderful and I encourage everyone to go there, but if you don’t understand Chinese, well, maybe wait for another. It is just so funny, and the lighting and music was wonderful.

At a theatre, in dark and watching the live show emphasizing and highlighting the details of daily life helps to relax.

Hotmail Backlogs

Let me get rid of my hotmail backlog. Sometimes, I can check hotmail account several times to se if there is no emails for me, but some time (just like recently), I didn’t check it in the last two days and found 50+ new emails. I know I missed more recently. I have to appologize for not responding to many emails about information on Shanghai, such as how to get from one location to the other, how to buy certain goods in Shanghai. I really love to answer these questions, but it is obvious that I don’t have the bandwidth to handle that. Many one idea is to ask for some volunteers to help, but I believe I don’t have time to manage this, the other idea, I guess is better, is to direct the questions to a volunteer groups, Shanghaiist.com. It is a small group of people living in Shanghai willing to help people. Dan Washburn, the famous journalist, my good friend and a frequently mentioned person on this blog, started the website and I am honorablely be part of the team. Although I told Dan that I may not be able to contribute a lot, Dan still kindly kept me in the membership list:

Shanghai blogs

Bingfeng Teahouse

China Herald

Micah Sittig

Myrick

Running Dog

Shanghai Eye

Shanghai Diaries

Sinosplice

Wang Jian Shuo

They have formed up some ways to help people to answer questions about Shanghai. The column is called Ask Shanghaiist. On the website, Dan said: “Need answers? Advice? Ask Shanghaiist! Email shanghaiist(@)gmail.com.”

BBS on this site is also a good choice. The community may help.

When the House Prices Goes Down

It seems the turning point of the Shanghai Real Estate has appeared. It seems to me that the price of real estate in Shanghai (one of the hottest topic) is turning down. Evidence: 1. The latest flyer I got from my mailbox about the price of the apartment was lower than the last quote – the first time in the last several years. 2. More and more real estate brokers closed their business because the limited transaction cannot support the rent. Interesting observation.

Back from Beijing Trip

I am back from a short business trip in Beijing. I slept a little bit on the Boeing 777-300 aircraft – very nice seat + a little bit tired Jian Shuo = a good sleep.

The two airports in Beijing and Shanghai are obviously busier than before. The Pudong airport expansion project is undergoing and very soon, after the second runway completed, the second terminal will be put into use soon. It is the same in Beijing – the second runway is under construction after the second terminal put into use some time before.

CTRIP or eLong

At Shanghai airport, when we stepped into the airport, someone (people call them farmer sellers) approached me and sent me the CTRIP booklet and a card attached to it. We have been so familiar with it but this time, I took one. 3 minutes later, a person from eLong comes and give another one. 5 minutes later, when I passed the security inspection, my ticket and boarding passes was returned with my national ID, AND another booklet from eLong.

The two booklet (or three to be more exact) looks so similar, and it is interesting that they both announced they are U.S. NASDAQ company with code CTRIP and LONG. They announced they are Internet company in U.S., but actually, they are still very traditional company and the biggest revenue still comes from the farmer selling at the airport. The CEO of CTRIP claimed that if you travel by air, they are 100% sure you will see CTRIP card.

Taxi in Beijing

To take a taxi in Beijing is often embarrassing, especially when the destination is just at the other end of the airport expressway. They waited for 4 hours and 55 RMB trip obviously cannot satisfy them. The difference between taxi drivers in Beijing and Shanghai is, in Beijing, taxi driver will explicitly complain about it on the whole way while in Shanghai, the taxi driver just keep silence…

Overpriced?

I saw the discussion about overpriced brands in China. There are some on the list:

Häagen-Dazs

Starbucks

IKEA

I agree that they are over priced. But the market votes. The recent Haagen-Dazs accident in Shenzhen (where they were caught to process the ice cream in dirty local workshops) not only put Haagen-Dazs into a position not easily recover, but also put Haagen-Dazs fans into very embarrassing situation. The same for Starbucks fans…

Pudong Starbucks is Nice

My favorite place to meet in the last two months in Shanghai shte the Starbucks at the Pudong side of the Bund, or typically refered to as Binjiang Store.

Origional posted at Starbucks in A Day

It is a nice place for both people in Pudong and Puxi to meet. Typically, my meetings with IT related people are arranged around 8:00 PM in this Starbucks. Everytime friends from other cities comes, no matter he is VP of QQ, or journalists from Beijing, or CEO from websites, we simply drop a SMS to the friend circle of IT in Shanghai and say: come and visit. The same time, same place, and people have formed the idea that it will be this Binjing Starbucks, at 8:00 PM that night. :-) For example, I spent wonderful afternoon with Dave, President of eTang there this Sunday afternoon.

This Starbucks has the best view in Shanghai – not every Starbucks has wide view to the Huang Pu river. Watching big ships moving slowly along the river with old architects on the Bund is nice experience. The view also inspires people’s thinking a lot – when we see moving objects, espectially those very big one like ship, our thoughts are typically running faster.

I would recommend people to choose this Starbucks as the next gather place..

eCommunity Center in Shanghai

Shanghai is famous for the strong execution power of the government. I read about the eCommunity Center project on newspaper. It was reported that 400 eCommunity Center will be built in the recent 3 years to help people who do not use Internet to gain access to the Internet. 100 of such centers have been built and they offer FREE Internet access for all the community members. They are equipted with computers and staff to help people get online. This is a good idea.

I visited some eCommunity Center today. It was impressive.

Most eCommunity Center were located in very good residential areas like this:

shanghai-xinxiyuan-buildings.jpg

Zhi Yin Community in western Shanghai

They are typically an empty room just like other residential apartments, but with computers. Here is the entrance:

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Door of the eCommunity Center

The backdrop of the center with name and logo on it.

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Entrance of the eCommunity Center

This center is relatively smaller, so they only have few computers in this room and will have some in the other.

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Computers of the eCommunity Center

The other eCommunity Center was of shop functions that they can deliver the goods when people order online (but what I heard is 90% or more orders still comes from telephone).

shanghai-info.community-shop.jpg

Shelf of the eCommunity Shop 365

To be honest, I was really impressived by those information center – it is a big step to leverage the IT technology to change people’s life.

Web 2.0, With Whose Name We Gather

I share the pain Mao had for frequently being asked about comment on Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 started from a conference in San Francisco about 1 year ago, and now Web 2.0 is the hottest buzz words in the IT world in China. Something I cannot understand is that so many magazine, whether IT related or not, put so many effort on the concept of Web 2.0. People say: Web 2.0 = RSS + Blog + SNS + (anything new, you name it)… Well. I just have strong feeling that when non-IT magazine care about some new stuff in IT world, it means the Internet penetration has arrived to a new level. This is interesting – just as non-IT magazines and newspapers start to focus on Internet several years ago.

Web 2.0 is a new concept, but a very comercialized concept. I just learnt that several thousand people attended the web 2.0 conference last year, no doubt why so many media knows this word. The Internet market in China is different from the U.S, – completely different – I am not talking about how new the idea is, I am talking about the user base. I wrote an article on this on my Chinese blog, and it got some attention. My point is, the reality of Internet in China has nothing to do with the concept and buzz word in America…

Web 2.0 is a buzz word. To use this word to get some money (short term) is a good idea, but to bet our business in the next two years on it may not be wise.

Shanghai

I often forget the fact that I still live in the city of Shanghai. Recently my thinking and my talk are completed around the classified business and the business mode, the new trends we need to pay attention. It is not easy and occupies 100% of my time. Maybe the only time I remember I am in Shanghai is when the weather changes – when it becomes hot or it rains heavily, just like this afternoon…

I hope I will resume the lifestyle and continue the “real person reporter in Shanghai” role soon.

Shanghai Under Stress Test

The weather is hot and all kinds of functions of Shanghai are therefore under a stress test – a test that seldom happened so strong before. The 37 – 39 exteremely hot weather not only generated red high temperature alarm, (later changed to black high temperature alarm), but also generated huge volume of phone calls and emergency on-site request.

Taxi? Never Think About it.

8:00 AM in the morning, the air starts to burn my skin. The Sun almost killed me. It is impossible to get a taxi at this time – there is almost no taxi, no to mention empty one. Calling the taxi service numbers, like 96961, 6258000 – whatever number you call – the line is always busy. I know they have a very large call center, but the volume should be bigger. Waiting for half an hour for a taxi in the burning air is not good experience, especially when you see people are waving their hands to call taxi along the road, you know the possibility for you to get one is almost zero.

Fresh Water?

Newspaper reports many workers distributing fresh water got sick after working in the Sun, and the demand for fresh water increased dramatically, and people cannot get their water in time. The service line is also busy.

Air Conditioner

The hot weather added burden to A/C and some breaks. The repaire center got so many calls that they can only schedule the on-site to several days later. A lot of people complaint about it on radio station (I heard one this morning) and on TV, on newspaper, but there is no good solution since the repairing forces are so limited.

Registration? Claim of Buggage?

Let me update something that seems important for me but I didn’t take too serious about. :-)

1. Registration of blogs.

After I registered all my information with the official website, nothing happened so far. I checked every other day, but it seems there is no reply yet. It means, I am in the process of registration, and the process took about 2 weeks already. Don’t worry. My expectation is to get it done in the next two months. I can image how hard it is to process all the registration requirements from all the bloggers, personal website owners, business, and all kinds of website with a single website, and manual process. Let’s wait.

2. Recently, the change in custom rule requires all passengers exit the custom to claim their belongings.

The upper limit is 5000 RMB or equivalents. Anything above this number will be charged for tax. So in the next trip, I need to claim my laptop, my camera, so that I am not charged of tax when I am back. Actually, this rule was there, just like the rule for website registration, for years but hasn’t been enforced (correct me if I am wrong).

Others

I am doing well recently. I put all my effort into the new business Kijiji and really didn’t put too much time in this blog. Most of the time, as you may notice, the blog was updated after 1:00 AM. I feel bad about it, but still think I kept my commitment almost three years ago to write daily. But what is not as good is, as you may also feel, that I didn’t put too much personal stuff as I did in the previous two years. Well. I know that is the most important part of this blog – the details, and the human side of the life in this city. Let me try to get back soon. Sorry for not be able to reply to every single comment. I wanted to, but when I sit down at my desk in my home, it seem it is far too late for me to got to bed. This is Friday weekend, and I get back early – at around 10:00 PM.

Commit? You get it in China

I talked with a Tina, a girl with very nice profile in media industry, who is going to U.S. for graduate study in Stanford. She shared her experience of being a volunteer in Fortune. Her responsibility was to hold the microphone so if someone want to ask a question, she will hand it over. There are too much wire on the ground that she fell over when she runs. What one of the guess on the stage noticed was, she handed the microphone over to the person asking the question, before she tried to get up and check if she was hurt. The second day, the person (with name Mary, one of the big name) who saw it came to her and asked “Are you OK? I was really impressed yesterday that you gave out the microphone to complete your job first before you got up…”

It echoes the story I heard from foreigners at the Paulena in Pudong, at the other side of the Bund. The foreigners were discussing about how people committed to their work in China. “I was really impressed by how much people committed to their work. They just want job done!” commented one of them.

I happen to read about a story in Shanghai in Xinmin Weekly today. According to the late report, 1/4 of people go to bed between 10 – 11 PM, 1/4 go to bed after 11:00 PM in Shanghai. Only 1/10 of people go to bed before 8 PM. Well. I don’t know whether it means good or bad. On one hand, people work (or play) hard in this city, which is good for the grow of the economic, on the other hand, people really scarifies a lot of their personal life. I am pround of the hard work spirit people have in this city, and meanwhile, appreciate those efforts to remind people to spend more time with their family and enjoy life.

Personally, I am very happy about what I am doing – if someone has a chance to do something, that may change the way people live, and give back to the community and generate big business at the same time, the passion will drive him to try very hard. I am in the stage.

Personal Feel

The direct feel to live in Shanghai these days is, it is hot, way too hot. It has broken the record set in the year 1934. In the last 70 years, not a single year is hotter than this year in early July. It is wired that there is no raining season this year too. I warned two reporters who just relocated to Shanghai from Beijing that the two months of raining season is ahead and waiting for them, the radio station announced yesterday night that we have already left the raining season and stepped into hot summer. Wow. This is the first raining season without rain in Shanghai.