Monthly Archives: March 2009

Back to Office with Full Energy

I have to admit the best way to get back energy after working for a long time is to give ourselves a pause, and get away from work.

Now, I am sitting in the quiet office, one hour before everyone comes. I will list this as one key happiness items – it allows you to concentrate, and wandering in the office to see where you can improve this important place.

I am back, and I am fully refreshed. Thanks for the long Yangshuo, Guilin trip. It seems I should arrange more? Work + Pause is actually more productive than continuous work.

Photos of Shanghai in Spring 2009

Photos of Shanghai

I took some photos along the way back from Starbucks home, to give my frequent idea about what Shanghai looks like TODAY.

Loving couple before the nice flowers on the tree.

© Jian Shuo Wang

The nice flower – spring comes to Shanghai! Woolaaa!

The Jinmao Tower, and World Financial Center.

And in Lujiazui, this kind of truck is more commonly seen than any other places in Shanghai. Today, Lujiazui is a even bigger construction site, and a bigger mass. :-)

After I am back from Guilin and saw all the mountains there, I just formed the habbit to imagine all these buildings as a hill in Guilin – if the transformation from building to hill really happens, Shanghai will be an even better place than Guilin.

Cannot Measure it, Cannot Improve it

Found a famous quotation, that within Microsoft, people use very often. But this time, saw it on Google’s website:

If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. by Lord Kelvin

This is for many times proved to be true, and I believe it is also the foundation principle of the modern science. Fengshui? Or Chinese Medicine? That does not include measurement yet. Don’t have measurement does not necessarily means that they are not effective, but it is maybe one of the key distinguishing characteristic of modern science and others. The other is religion – you just cannot use science to explain religion, just like you cannot use English to exactly explain Chinese.

So, recently, I wrote the following question on the notebook I brought with me: How can we measure happiness?

The conclusion was, no, we cannot measure happiness, especially after I re-read Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness. (BTW, fanatic book on what happiness is. It seems to be particularly written to ENFP people like myself).

Since we cannot directly measure happiness, this afternoon I told Wendy that I am going to do something else. I will write down scenarios that I typically feel happy, and then count the number of times that I run into that scenario. By counting that number, I can have a proxy to measure whether I am happier this week than the last week, or not. (Jinshengtan has a famous 33 happy moments. Everyone should have a simliar list)

Even better, if we can develop a common check list about what happiness means for us as a family, we can collectively measure how happy we as a family are.

Sunday Morning Session

My morning started again from a meeting in the cafeteria of Pudong Shangri-la Hotel, followed by a meetup in Starbucks opposite to the Bund with friend from Baidu, Inezha, and Shopex. Then we had a lunch at nearby Italian restaurant with Hengge from blogbus. How long has been the last Sunday morning meetup like this? I think it is at the end of 2004. It seems really good ideas and high quality meetups only happens during bad ecomony times. It always seems to be that ideas comes from, then company and then capital, and then competition, and then, many die, and the process start all over again. I think it is a great idea to have regular (by regular, I mean not more frequent than monthly or even quarterly) Sunday morning meetups.

Green Lotus Hotel of Yangshuo

The best way to explorer Yangshuo should be any of the nice hotel (including youth hostels), and hang out in the bars on the West Street.

The lobby (Yes, the little model in the middle is Yifan)

The view from the top of the hotel.

The hotel windows.

The entrance of the hotel from the river side.

The other side of the Lijiang River.

The view out side the window. Pretty nice, isn’t it?

My Review:

This is obviously a very family friendly hotel, with very nice hardware. It was built according to 5-star standard, but not a 5-star yet. This is the typical trick of many hotels. They claim to be 5-star or 4-star STANDARD, but not certified yet. Many of them, are just in the middle of opening and get certified. I heard the hotel must be running for a period of time before it is accepted for review. I guess Green Lotus Hotel is one of them, but some others just claim they build the hotel according to that standard, which does not mean that they are certified yet…

The service of the hotel is very nice. In most places, like the managers of the hotels always greet people, and the house keeping standard are very close to 5-star standard. You just feel that it is pretty like Shangri-la Hotel. However, there are many details that shows a much lower standard.

One of the small details was, the server in the cafeteria does not ask you the must-ask question “tea or coffee” at breakfast time, which means that they frequently miss to greet a guest, and don’t seat them. Also, they do things like ask guest to move to a table have they sit down, instead of move the forks, and knives to the guest. Well. I know I am over-picky here, but I am not talking about my preference, I just talk about the service of most 5-star hotels.

I believe the Green Lotus Hotel should be the best quality hotel of Yangshuo, and is suitable for families, especially with a kid.

Having said that, I have to say I regret that I missed the most exciting experience and maybe the best part of Yangshuo: backpacker type of travel. That is the cost of having a family and having Yifan traveling with us. I accept it. People always swing from nice hotel with good condition and service, and the local budget hotel which is not only cheap but also interesting. At different stage, people have different perference. Hope one day, when just Wendy and I travel, we switch back to the life style we like better: travel as a local, and stay away from 5-star hotels.

P.S. OK. Hope this article wraps up my Guilin trip, and I am getting back to normal life in Shanghai.

P.S. 2 The most interesting thing possible would be leave Shanghai for a week, and when you get back, you find many different new progress, like the poles Yanggao South Road viaduct at Gaoke West Road have been completed, and some new roads appeared near my home. Shanghai is really changing by weeks, while many other city change by year.

Photos of Yangshuo, Guilin – Part II

Here are more photos of the trip with very brief note. I am here in Shanghai. Immediately after I get off airplane, I headed to Shangri-la for a meeting, and there are two meetings near the Pudong Shangri-la and Starbucks tomorrow. I already noticed the big difference – I feel excited about the upcoming meetings – that is the benefit of a vacation.

Follor near Lijiang River – from the Bilian Jiangjing Hotel.

© Jian Shuo Wang

Boat on Lijiang River.

© Jian Shuo Wang

Below: Scene of the West Street. Wendy said she loves this picture.

© Jian Shuo Wang

Below: the lobby of Yangshuo Youth Hostel. We reserved this hotel but later cancelled it. It turned out to be a nice and quiet hotel.

© Jian Shuo Wang

The Yangshuo Shiwaitaoyuan 世外桃源 (they translate their name to “Shangri-la”, which I don’t think is a proper name).

© Jian Shuo Wang

The mountains and architect of the village.

© Jian Shuo Wang

© Jian Shuo Wang

They have live performance – there are people act as native people.

© Jian Shuo Wang

This lady is NOT an actor – I love the natural feel of the village

© Jian Shuo Wang

© Jian Shuo Wang

© Jian Shuo Wang

© Jian Shuo Wang

The water circle:

© Jian Shuo Wang

© Jian Shuo Wang

This is the Yinzi Yan 银子岩. The Karst cave.

© Jian Shuo Wang

© Jian Shuo Wang

© Jian Shuo Wang

© Jian Shuo Wang

Why People Travel

Event at the lake of Yangshuo near West Street and facing the nice Bilian (Green Lotus) Hill, I brought out my Nokia E71 smartphone, and Googled the question: "Why people travel?"

Yes. That was exactly the question in my mind, and the question I tried very hard to answer. I read books about it, fall into deep thought in airports, and hotels, and even went to many places myself. The question was still in my mind that I still didn’t find a satisfactory answer. When I am reading a blog entry started with this

I’m writing from my hotel balcony in Giza City, Egypt – just outside Cairo, and the site of the historic Pyramids. The sun is coming up right now, and the view is great..

I feel that I am very attracted by the scene, and would love to check out airline websites. But, I still don’t have the exact answer to the question: "Why People Travel?"

Before I continue to write my answers, I am turning my question to my readers. Why you travel? By travel, I am excluding business travel or other travels that you are required to. I mean the travel that you WANT to go yourself. Again, my question is, Why YOU travel?

Wrapping Up my Guilin Trip

I am packing up for my departure to Shanghai tomorrow. Good bye Guilin and Yangshuo.

  • It is good and important to take break at least every year to find time to spend with family.
  • People need to have a unique place to go to make a mark in memory about the year.
  • This is not a relaxed trip with Yifan, and my parents-in-law. As Wendy put it, we are learning to take care of people, and start to share the responsibility of a family. A big family trip proposes a much bigger challenge on where we stay, and where we eat.
  • We started with a cheap hotel (180 RMB per night) in Guilin, but immediately cancelled our booking in Youth Hostel in Yangshuo, and moved in to the local 5-star hotel. I just realize that we are no long the same person when we were a backpacker – a big family is not the right group of people to do that kind of trip.
  • Guilin is nice, and you have to spend time to find places that local people go – the Ronghu Lake, instead of the Elephant Hill..
  • The trip is like a trip in a city. I still preper destination like Sanya, where you stay at the beach, and far away from the city.
  • I am back with engergy to start my Q2

Shanghai, we are back!

Mountains of Guilin

Just had a strange thought: after several hundred years, when all the tall buildings in Shanghai got abandoned, and trees, and grasses grow out of the buildings, that will be another Guilin.

You get the idea of the mountains of Guilin? Just like the high-raising buildings in Shanghai. It just stand there, coming out of no where.

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

When I am in Guilin, I also understand that the “stone drawing” of Suzhou Museum by I.M. Peimust be the mountains of Guilin.

Look at this drawing and this photo. Are they similar with each other?

Yifan on the Road

Yifan on the Guilin to Yangshuo boat – his first boat ride.

Yifan likes his red car – he has been with the car for many weeks – days and nights. At night, he sleeps with the car – any attempt to remove the car from his hands will cause him to cry for a long time to protest against.

Yifan and the bird (technically, it is called Phalacrocorax carbo 鸬鹚). I paid 2 RMB to get the permission to take the photo for Yifan.

Yifan’s other good friend – the little red travel case. He loves to push the case around – on ground with nice surface, like airports, or tough places, like this one at the pier.

Not surprisingly, Yifan is the first person fallin asleep when we arrived at hotel after a long trip.

Yifan finally got the chance to play with water as long as he wishes – he was not allowed to do it in Shanghai when the weather is still too cold.

As you can see, whenever there is Yifan, there is the red car.

He finally got some interest in the menu – when he feels hungry, or shifted his interest to cup when he feels thirsty.

Before a bar with strong rock-n-roll music, he dances with me:

Every time Yifan travels with us, he grows up a lot, and learn some new tricks… How wonderful the trip is with Yifan, although we almost haven’t explore Yangshuo yet.

Impression of Impression Sanjie Liu

We went to see the long expected Impression Sanjie Liu 印象刘三姐.

The show was designed to be the highlight of the trip, because of several reasons:

  • It is a show on the Lijiang River, and before the nice mountain.
  • The type of show is very unique in China.
  • It is directed by Zhang Yimou, the director of Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
  • Also, the ticket is very pricey: 188 RMB per person.

Hmm… What is my impression? It is very hard to say.

It is Good in Terms of Economy Return

I did a rough calculation. The ticket price is 188 RMB (or 130 RMB if you get it from tour guide). And there are much more expensive tickets like 380, 680 RMB. There are one to two sessions per day. Every time, the theatre of 2000 people is full.

Let’s say, the performance gets 100 RMB per person net on average, and there are 1.5 performance per day, that is 300,000RMB per night, which is 109 million RMB per year. That is a huge number for a theatre in a county!

The Theatre

The theatre is big – 2000+ people. To my greatest surprise, it is fully packed today. We got a very bad seat at the corner of the second row. I was told that when the show starts, I can change my seat if there are open seat. But, there is no any available seats… It is quite amazing.

Yangshuo shocked me a lot that the 2000 people all fly from different places and get to a theatre in the middle of almost nowhere…

The Show is…. Generally Good

Let me post some photos.

Disclaimer: It is allowed to take photo during the show (it is not a theatre anyway. We were at the river side, and among the mountains) as long as no flash is used.

Photograph: Jian Shuo Wang

Photograph: Jian Shuo Wang

Photograph: Jian Shuo Wang

Photograph: Jian Shuo Wang

Photograph: Jian Shuo Wang

Photograph: Jian Shuo Wang

Photograph: Jian Shuo Wang

As you can see, the scenes are very nice – my photography is the problem and I didn’t spend any time in taking the photos, because the scene was very nice.

BUT, Something is Wrong

After the show, Wendy and I briefly exchanged the question: “How do you like it?” followed by long silence. We just feel there is something wrong. Chaos? Distracted? Or something else? Wendy described it as “Modern Vision Art Show” – just vision art, and nothing beyond that.

On the shuttle back, we talked with a girl from Australia, and I suddenly got the feeling. It was exactly the feeling after we saw Zhang Yimou’s movie Curse of the Golden Flower.

Yes. That explains why we feel the first half much better than the second part. In the second part, there is no single person, just a group of people doing exactly the same thing with no personal expression, no individual – just an army of fish men and fish women. Everyone of them are so small and meaningless, but altogether, they formed something big. I don’t like it.

Anyway, I would rate it as excellent show and would recommend others to go and see it.

Bad Tourism: Killing Goose for Eggs

Tourism is a prosperous industry in China. It drives the economy of many cities, like Guilin (where I am now) and Luoyang (my hometown). How to develop a sustainable tourist industry must have been the focus of many officials. Here is my observation, and thoughts, although I am not sure yet.

Moving Piers to Increase Transportation

Guilin is the popuar travel destination city (with an International airport), and Yangshuo is the emerging and even hotter place that people must visit. The cruise on the Lijiang River is many people’s choice to get to Yangshuo from Guilin, after arriving by air.

The origin pier to get onto the cruise was near the Elephant Hill, which is exactly at the downtown of Guilin. The tour guide told us in order to help the development of other areas, they moved the place to get on board to somewhere 29 km away from the city.

This way, it generate huge demand for transportation from the city. Almost all tourist company, taxi company, and local transportation company got customers. It easily cost much money.

I am not an expert of city planning. I just doubt whether this helps to build the local economy. The answer must be yes, but at what cost? I know the reason to put airports far away from the city is common practice for two reasons: 1) to avoid noise, and not to prevent the city from building tall buildings, 2) To help to pull the economy of places from airport to the city. That may makes sense for a big city, but for tourist city, travelers are customers, and does it still make sense?

Shopping Street

At the other side of the cruise, Yangshuo, situation is the same, or even worse. The moved the pier from the down to another one far from the old town. You have to take the electronic shuttles (10 RMB per person, which means 40 RMB for us) to the town. That is almost the only choice – walking is not feasible.

I am very sure that by providing that mandate transportation, the government get at least 20 RMB per tourist (round trip) as tourist tax (without the name of tax). That is, I would say, short sight.

Also, before we can get to the shuttle station, we have to walk for 15 minutes along a shopping street with hundreds of small shops along both way. Every single shop is selling exactly the same thing – they even do not bother to sell souvenirs – they sell the stuff you can see from every tourist place across China. By showing you the same thing hundreds of time, the local government official must believe this is the most effective way of increasing the local tourism income.

Well. I believe they must be very successful in doing this, but again, at what cost?

Too Commercialized

In Yangshuo, every tourists are bothered by people approaching you asking about Impression Liusan Jie, or restaurants or hotels (one guy said sincerely to me: “This hotel obviously does not suite people like you – it is way too expensive”). Is squeezing every penny out of tourist the most important thing? I know local government does not directly control vendors, but they can (just as they move the piers). It is just a matter of whether they want to or not.

My gut feeling is, every place needs to go through this process of squeezing money to provide value, and grow with its customers (refers to Customers Wants Service to be Bad). I know I am not on the driver seat to make the decision, and I really don’t know what my choice will be if I am in charge of the tourism of a small city – will I be too attracted by the golden eggs to kill the goose, or just kill one of my gooses, to get my first barrel of gold?

So, my question I want to seek for an answer is, Whether Making it Hard to Tour is the Solution for Chinese Tourism?

Thoughts on the Road

People like to think on the road. I believe it is the massive input of information – the scene, the smell, the noise, the interesting stuff… Here are my thoughts during my Guilin, Yangshuo trip.

Travel

Why people like travel? Besides all the possible reasons, there is another one I found out: Convenience. Most hotels are close to nice streets, beautiful scenes. The nice view or the bar streets are much more accessible for travelers, not local residents. I believe my next travel destination will be Shanghai, the city I live. But I will spend the day in a hotel, which is exactly in the downtown or along the Huangpu Bund – that provides a completely different lifestyle than living in home.

Network Effects in Dining

In the small county of Yangshuo, a large percentage of restaurants offers beer fish. I had the impression that every shop offers that. Why? I doubt it is really the tradition of this emerging tourist destination. It should happen like this: A) When there are beer fish signs everywhere, visitors think it is the local specialty, and they think they must try it. B) When everyone wants to try it, more restaurants offer this dish… It is like A -> B -> A -> B… each feedback circle makes the next step stronger (I am Automation major in university, and I love feedback loops).

But… there is one unanswered question: who started the loop? The answer is CCTV. When CCTV first reported one restaurant offering beer fish, everyone follows, and put the CCTV sign to their logo, and the loop started…

Smart (or Over Smart) Tourism Industry

When we get onto the bus transporting us from Guilin to cruise port, the tour guide asked everyone to stick a sign with the bus plate number on it. She said that it is to help everyone to find the bus. Actually, I believe they do it just as Internet affiliate program set the cookie – it is a tracking code, so everything you consume along the way get credited back to the tour guide, which means $$$$.

On the cruise, at the final 20 minutes, they want everyone to get back to seat, instead of hanging around on the deck – dangerous for docking, or other reasons. They broadcast many times that they will send souvenir gift to everyone who is SITTING on the seat. That is much more helpful than anything – everyone gets back to seat immediately.

We are adult but sometimes, we behaves like kindergarten kids.

Photos of Yangshuo, Guilin

Let me post some photos of Yangshuo. It is no longer that kind of backpacker trip with Yifan with us, and his fixed schedule of sleep, we are more hotel oriented with just random adventures out side the hotel.

The Gongnong Bridge of Yangshuo.

These mountains are famous because they are on the back of the 20 RMB note.

This is the view from our hotel – no easy way to access the river bank, but the view is still pretty nice.

Customers Wants Service to be Bad

The day tour from Guilin to Yangshuo was by no means a pleasant trip. I don’t like the boat – with 100 people packed into the lower deck, and the bus picked us from the hotel to the pier turned out to be a tourist group, which means we were pushed into the sourviner market before we get on board the boat.

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang. The boat – obviously, it is another boat, but ours is similar.

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang. The lower deck of the boat

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang.

People smokes, and the free lunch is terrible. BTW, we didn’t expect it to be good when we got on board. Wendy and I had the same comments as we had in Xi’an many years ago: “Why they cannot make it service, the environment or both a little bit better?”

Before I seek for the answer, let me get a little bit off topic and talk about another similar phenomenon.

The Annoying TV Commercial

On TV, we sometimes see really annoying TV commercials, like those by Naobaijin 脑白金. Everybody hates the simple, ugly and silly commercial, but it is still on almost all TV station, just as it appeared 10 years ago. Meanwhile, the TV commerical also boasted the sales of the product like crazy.

Many experts request to ban the commercial, but all in vail. They are pointing figures to Naobaijin about the annoying TV Commercial.

Well. I think the other way. I believe they have been using it for 10 years, and the company is a huge success in China, that means the commercial has been very effective. Many different versions have been tested, and this version was proved by sales to be the most effective version.

If that is the case, it is the audience who are not maturely enough. We need to build a mature consumer base before we ask advertisers to change. I am very sure that if the audience grow more mature, the commercial will.

The Service is Bad Just Because Customers Wanted

It is the same. I am not happy, just because I am still not the mainstream tourists. Maybe I should still go to Sanya, not popular points of interest, like a boat on Lijiang in Guilin. The service level the boat provides must have been adjusted to the need. It takes time.

Now, Shanghai has better public transportation system than 10 years ago. It is not only the improvement of the public transportation companies, it is also the improvement of the riders that made the change. Think about the ticket price – from several cents to 2 RMB (1 RMB bus still remains relatively lower service level). If customers are willing to pay more, the service surely will improve.

The point gets back to the choice: Better service v.s. Higher Price. If the majority of people choose the later, the service quality surely will improve, but, it takes so long time, especially tourist industry. It needs the whole country to get richer, and richer…

I enjoyed the cruise in Sydney, and I liked the bus tour of Great Ocean Road in Australia – but think about the price we paid – much much higher than the cruise today.

So, I just want to stop complain and get back to the basics of understanding: It is not a service level problem. It is just an economic problem. When people get richer, most problems are solved.

P.S. Ironically, most of the people on the boat liked the trip. I chatted with someone, and he said the highlight of the trip was the sourviner market… See? Customers shapes the service, and I am just not a “typical” customer, and you, my readers, maybe are not, either.

I am in Guilin

I am in Guilin.

Before I came, I thought Guilin is like Sanya. I am wrong. I am presented a city like Luoyang.

The city is small, crowded (full of the atmosphere of life, of cause), and not so beauitiful. It is like the old town of Guangzhou, or Shanghai – you can find the energy from the chaos.

I even didn’t took a single picture in Guilin, before I left the city for Yangshuo.

To be exactly, I am now in Yangshuo. Guilin is just a glance of the Elephant Hill from taxi window just before sunset.

Today, we spent the morning doing a Guilin Hotel tour on bus (The bus took us to every hotel to pickup tourists, and it cost more than one hour), and spent the rest of the day on the boat from Guilin to Yangshuo.

Now, at 10:30 PM, when Yifan fall asleep – he is obviously too tired today, let me take some time to record my thoughts of the day. I will seperate the thoughts into many different blog entries, in an effort to cut each article shorter and more readable.

Shanghai Bejiing Express Railway Photos

Only seeing is believing. Although I know the Shanghai Beijing Express Railway started construction on April 18, 2008, I didn’t realized that there is big progress there. On March 17, 2009, Wendy and I drove to Suzhou, and along the Shanghai-Nanjing Expressway (A11), you see the poles of the tracks are already completed.

The 1318 km high-speed railway will enable specialized CRH trains to run at 350 km/h, that cut the total travel time to Beijing to 5 hours, from current 10.

Below are two photos of the poles completed. It is very long – I saw at least 5 km of track like this.

Photograph by Wenfy Fan

Photograph by Wenfy Fan

According to reports, 80% of the 1318 km will be constructed like shown on the photos: elevated to save land, and reduce noises.

Pudong is Now Like Puxi

Remember the painful move decision I made in 2004 about moving from Puxi to Pudong? Then look at what I observed at that time (that is, OMG, 5 years ago):

First Week in Pudong:

Pudong is Quiet

Pudong Sleeps Early

Fresh and Natural Life

No Restaurants, no entertainment

What does Pudong looks like in my eyes after 5 years?

I climbed to the top of one building in the area where I live, and took the following three photos:

Below is a mixture of villa area and high raising buildings:

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Below: A new move is, almost every room in the building is occupied by people, instead of empty houses many years ago. It is not easy to identify a room with no people living in there.

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

See the blank area further than the park? It will be another round of high raising buildings.

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Do you still feel it is the same Pudong as I described 5 years ago? It is very like another Puxi, at least by both the number of high-raising residential buildings, and the population density.

I am Going to Guilin

Business is business – the excitement, daily thought (not only daily, it is also nightly), inspiration, challenges, and changes – when I look back, I just realized I didn’t go to a well planned trip in the last two years. What was the last time, I was from business and normal life? 2007 in Australia! It was before Yifan was born. I did visit nearby places like Hangzhou twice, and even fly as far as Sanya for several days, but these two cities are too familiar and we visited almost the same thing as before, and they even didn’t leave too much memories (even not a blog entry) for me.

I am taking leave in the next several days to go to Guilin 桂林, Guangxi Province. Yifan is old enough to understand interesting places (2 months to 2 years), and his grandpa and grandma have been busy baby sitting him for quite some time. It makes sense to have a family celebration for everyone. So I decided (well. It is partly Wendy decided) to go to Guilin for several days.

Although I have one thousand reasons not to take a vacation, at a second thoughts, I think it is too easy to say, business is not all of life, or family is important, without any action. So I want to take solid action about spending a week with the family, especially Yifan and Wendy, and do nothing else. For the business side, it is also good to pause a little bit and see the business from a little bit far away, and do some reflection. When we are too focused on something, it is hard to see the whole picture. Some meditation, reflection, and hindsight (I learn the word from my friend Ashish Gadnis‘s company name: Forwardhindsight) may be more helpful. Peace … Peace … in a place far away…

Where is Guilin

For my readers who don’t know where is Guilin, it is here:

It is at 34°ree;N and 115°ree;E (Shanghai is at 31°ree;N 121°ree;E).

We fly out to Guilin from Hongqiao Airport at CZ3252 at 13:45, and arrives at 16:15 – 2 and half hour flight.

Photos?

I am sure to take some photo and write down something about Guilin. Let me just give you a preview of the trip by using Flickr photo (with Creative Common licenses!)

Photograph by HL Wang

Beautiful Guilin by shengangxi

Beautiful Guilin by shengangxi

Look at the beautiful mountains and clear Li River! My photos may not as nice as these, and we may not be as lucky to get to the best weather, but it is always good to travel (instead of business travel), isn’t it?

Metro Between Hongqiao and Pudong Airport

It is reported that the Metro Line #2 will connect the Pudong and Hongqiao airports by May 1, 2010, just in time for the Shanghai World Expo 2010.

Currently, the most effective transition between Shanghai Pudong Airport and Hongqiao Airport is still by bus or taxi. The Maglev is not a feasible approach yet, since it just arrives at Long Yang Road Station. You have to transit to Metro Line #2 first, and then transit to Airport shuttle at Jingan Temple Station, or taxi.

In 2010, with the east extension of Metro Line #2 to Pudong Airport, and the west extension to Hongqiao Airport, people can directly take Metro Line #2 to complete the transition. It is still not the fastest way. The pending Maglev, and event taxi or shuttle bus are faster than Metro, but the 1.5 hour is so much more reliable than other approaches.

So stay tuned, and wait… I will update as soon as Metro connects the two airports.

7 Office Design Ideas

From the home office to the enterprise, our environment affects the way we work
Office Design Gallery

With the idea of renovate our office and more interaction area, I visited the Microsoft R&D Center in Grand Gateway, where my good friend Eric and Helen work.

Eric is exactly the right person to turn to. He is very (if not over) sensitive to details, and is conscious about the impact of the small things. We toured from the 9th floor to the 8th, and here were our findings.

Writable Walls with/without Pens

There are many glass walls in the Microsoft office. Some of them are full of diagram and notes, and others are absolutely clean? What is the difference? Eric’s answer was: some walls are close to a holder of pens, while there are no pens nearby to others. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Shutdown the Big White Fluorescent Lamps

Although fluorescent lamps on the top provide sunlight like consistent lighting, it does not provide an intimate atmosphere. Replace it with desktop lamps – that is a much better solution – to create the “deep night” type of working environment.

Height of Cubicle

In most modern offices, we have cubicles. The height of cubicles are always a hot topic to discuss. The UX team of Microsoft removed all their cubicle walls, so people can see each other face to face. It is said that the result is great.

I would tend to agree on this approach, but would add that we need to improve communication within a team, and may also want to intentionally cut communication between teams. The idea case is, lower the cubicle for people in the same team, and raise cubicle walls between teams. Ideally, a team is as small as 4 – 7 people, so they can be put into a bigger cubicle group, instead of two rows of cubicles.

Useless of Available/In Use Indicator

Nothing is more effective than bow a little bit and see whether there is people in it or not. The little sliding badge showing In Use or Available is something no one will use.

Conference Room Booking System

On each door, there are papers printed out (maybe by Ayi in the morning) showing that day’s schedule. It is the dream equipment I thought about when I worked in Microsoft, but it turned out to be not practical. It is hard to book the meeting room on the same day, since the paper have been printed out in the morning.

Further more, Eric argues that when a team cannot settle the room usage within the team using an interpersonal way, and they have to rely on a system, something is already wrong. I completely agree.

We should never use a room booking system – just grab a room that is available. If there is no room, just chat with the people using the room to see if they can cut the meeting short.

Every Meeting Room Needs a Clock

The presence of a clock is an effective way to keep meetings short. In places where you need people to take more time communicating, remove the clock.

Ensure at Least One Person can See the Screen of Others

This is absolutely not my idea – it is Eric’s. He suggests that although we should keep privacy of everyone as much as possible, but it is also important that from one direction, at least one other people can have a chance to glance what you are working on, so people can be more productive. This is very debatable. At least what I believe is, screen privacy is very important. We should leverage other ways like shared goal, and consistent reporting, communication to solve productivity issues. Anyway, just list this idea here, and maybe some people may like it.