Monthly Archives: January 2010

Long Lines for Avatar 3D IMAX

I was in the Raffles City today, and saw the long lines for Avatar 3D IMAX in the Peace Theater.

Peace Theater is the only cinema with IMAX in Shanghai that shows Avatar. There is another IMAX cinema in the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, but they would rather keep showing the 3D Moon Walker and other tech movie, despite the fact that IMAX is in huge demand in Shanghai because of Avatar.

That line is at least 10 times longer than the line before a train ticket window near my home. The line starts from outside the box office, winds all the way around the Raffles tower, and winds back to the box office. It may be 200 meters long. I took some photos in my mobile phone and will upload tomorrow. It is just AMAZING!

My question is, why recently, there are more and more things like this: So many people line up for something. The train tickets (every year), and now, a film ticket!

Started to Walk

Walking in Shanghai is a nice experience. I started to walk to everywhere whenever time allows – following Vince’s leads and best practices of loosing weight by walking.

I have gave up exercise for too long, since I broke my ankle. Hope to have some time to make up the time lost.

In Shanghai, and with my current walking pattern, I can use Google Maps on my mobile phone to search the driving path from point A to point B, and get the distance. Multiple the distance in km by 10 is the actual number of minutes for me to get there.

Trend Against Semantic Web

Semantic web is one of the hottest trend in 2009 and should continue to be so in 2010 (like in this article: Top 5 Web Trends of 2009.) We talked about this during the dinner time with Gao Xiang of Hubs1, and other great guys.

I personally don’t see huge potential of semantic web.

X.400 vs SMTP email address

If you compare the two implementation of email address,

X.400 representation:

G=Harald;S=Alvestrand;O=Uninett;P=Uninett;A=;C=no

SMTP address:

Harald.Alvestrand@delab.sintef.no

The later is better, I think. The first one is very semantic, and contains organized, structured information, like the country (C), the organization (O), private management domain Name (P), Surname (S), Given Name (G), but is that all that important for human even computer to understand that?

Human is not Semantic

Basically, as Gao Xiang pointed it out, human beings are not semantic. They love to dance, to drink, to sing, but don’t like to act as machines. Machines like semantic. It should be the machines moving toward human, not the other way.

Look at this “Semantic way” of representing an EMAIL address:

Attribute Type Abbreviation Label

(where necessary)

Given Name Given name G

Initial Initials I

Surname Surname S

Generation Qualifier Generation Q

Common Name Common Name CN

Organization Organization O

Organizational Unit 1 Org.Unit.1 OU1

Organizational Unit 2 Org.Unit.2 OU2

Organizational Unit 3 Org.Unit.3 OU3

Organizational Unit 4 Org.Unit.4 OU4

Private Management Domain Name PRMD P

Administration Management Domain Name ADMD A

Country Country C

Physical Delivery Personal Name PD-person PD-PN

Extension of Postal O/R Address

Components PD-ext.address PD-EA

Extension of Physical Delivery Address

Components PD-ext.delivery PD-ED

Physical Delivery Office Number PD-office number PD-OFN

Physical Delivery Office Name PD-office PD-OF

Physical Delivery Organization Name PD-organization PD-O

Street Address PD-street PD-S

Unformatted Postal Address PD-address PD-A1

PD-A2

(there are individual labels for PD-A3

each line of the address) PD-A4

PD-A5

PD-A6

Unique Postal Name PD-unique PD-U

Local Postal Attributes PD-local PD-L

Postal Restante Address PD-restante PD-R

Post Office Box Address PD-box PD-B

Postal Code PD-code PD-PC

Physical Delivery Service Name PD-service PD-SN

Physical Delivery Country Name PD-country PD-C

X.121 Network Address X.121 X.121

E.163/E.164 Network Address ISDN ISDN

PSAP Network Address PSAP PSAP

User Agent Numeric ID N-ID N-ID

Terminal Identifier T-ID T-ID

Terminal Type T-TY T-TY

Domain Defined Attribute DDA:

DDA:

I am so happy that the collective wisdom of Internet age didn’t adopt this form, and used the current somebody@example.com type of system.

Notes on Harvard Justice Course Part 3/4

Quote from the section 3, part I of Justice – What is the right thing to do.

Taxation = Taking of Earnings

Taking of Earnings = Forced Labor

Forced Labor = Slavery (You are not longer the 100% owner of your own life – taxation means the state is a part owner, or a share holder of you).

Slavery = Against Principle of Self possession (we are the owner of the individual person – wholly)

Even laws to prevent us from hurting ourselves (like helm requirement and safe belt laws) are unjustified.

Fire Fighter’s Case

The example of the Arkansas Fire Corporation is interesting and inspiring – they only put off fire of the houses of its yearly subscriber, or only to make sure the fire does not spread to its subscribers. They get to the house with full equipment of a non-subscriber, and see the house to burn before them, only to make sure it does not hurt its subscriber’s house. The CEO said, he has no any choice to break the rule.

It reminds me that only a society where strange things happens everyday, is a society that has self-improving internal driven force.

Dilemma

Needing something is different than deserving something.

Need is one thing, and deserve is another.

Even for victims of earthquake, they need house, they need food, but they don’t deserve it. Ops. Seems very wrong.

The next question: Is it justified for the father to steal bread for his starving children? Is it justified to rob a store of drugs, to save his child’s life?

How about “use persons” for the aggregated sum of happiness of others?

If I am the 100% of owner of myself, do I have the right to give this ownership to another person? To become a slavery? Can one gives UP his natural right, like life, and property?

John Locke thinks the rights that naturally comes with human kind is unalienable, just like non-transferable air-line tickets. It is just for this person and cannot be transferred to another. It in one sense, makes the right less “owned”, but in another sense, make it more profound.

Private Property

John Locke says, we are the owner of our labor, so the fruit of the labor is the private property, so does anything that is mixed, or joined with the labor. If someone enclose a land from the common, it is his private land. If someone cultivate a land, that is also his private land. Because those things are mixed with his labor.

That implies that we can turn something from unowned to ours with our label.

Human laws is legitimate only when it respect the natural rights of life, liberty and property.

OK. That is all for today. I have paused at 27th minutes of this video .

My Favorate Road – Xingguo Road

I love to walk on small and quiet roads like Wukang Road and Xingguo Road.

There is something special in this area: you can walk besides other people’s window!

That is unique compared to the current “Residential Area” design. That made us feel that we are still in a small town, not in city.

The road is quiet – no wonder a shop on this road cost just 1/6 of resident house on this road.

The road is newly renovated for the Expo. Although it costs much more than it should be (completely replaced every tile even though the old tilescan still be used), it is nice after everything is new.

It is a single way road for cars (direction: south to north). Not noisy.

There are nice historical buildings along the roads. Not very famous – those kind of villa still occupied by local residence. It makes you feel you are in a community – a nice one.

How to Access Twitter and Facebook in China

I setup my connection to Twitter and Facebook via SSH tunnel again. When the original tools to access Twitter, and Facebook failed, I just lost interest to setup proxy. Now, I am back and just accepted the 109 Facebook friend request. (My rule: Accept everyone in jianshuo@Facebook, but be very selective on Kaixin001.com. Here is how I did it.

The process is pretty straight forward, but it is not free.

First, you need to have an account with any web hosting service provider that supports SSH. My list:

bluehost.com (Cheaper: 6.95 USD/month)

mediatemple.net (More expensive, $20/month)

There are many other very cheap hosting services. The only thing you need to check with them is, whether they allow SSH (Secure Shell) access.

Then you need a tool called PUTTY (download for free)

Double click PUTTY to run it, and enter the server name (your host service provider will give you, typically your domain name) into “Host Name (or IP address)” field under the default Session tab. Keep all the rest unchanged, like port 22, and Connection type as SSH.

On the left Category pan, expand SSH under Connection and click Tunnels.

Under “Add New Forward port:”, enter 7070 into Source Port, and select Dynamic for Destination. Keep the rest unchanged, and click Add. You will see D7070 appear under forward ports.

Then click Open to start the SSH session. You will be promoted to enter your user name and password (given by your service provider). When you are at the command line, the SSH Tunnel is established.

Then you need to setup your browser to use this proxy. Let me just talk about Firefox. IE is similar.

Open Firefox, click Options under Tools menu. The Options dialog appears.

Click Advanced button (on the right most of the pane), and select Network tab.

Click “Settings…” button under Connection section. The Connection Setting dialog appears.

Select “Manual Proxy Configuration” radio box. The input boxes under that become available to enter.

Enter “127.0.0.1” without quotation mark into SOCKS Host: field, and 7070 into Port field. NOTE: IMPORTANT Please make sure only enter into the Socks Host field, and keep all the rest fields empty.

Keep Socks v5 selected (unchanged), and click OK three times to close the configuration dialogs.

Now, you should try to enter “google.com” into address bar. You should be able to visit all the sites that you CAN access without proxy, like Google.com, www.sina.com.cn, or 163.com. However, you still cannot access Facebook.com, Youtube.com, Twitter.com. This is because the DNS record was hacked and changed. A small trick will help.

In Firefox, enter “about:config” into the address bar (Yes, it is a strange URL, just in the location where you typically would enter http://….) After click “I’ll be careful. I promise” button, you will see a long list of configuration options started with Filter input box.

Enter “network.proxy.socks_remote_dns” (without quotation marks) into the Filter input box, and you will see a line with network.proxy.socks_remote_dns as Preference Name appears. Double click it so the Value field changes from False to True (and you will also notice the line becomes bold).

Congratulations! Now you should be able to enter “Facebook.com” into your browser, and starts to surf on the Internet without limitation.

Avatar

Just completed 3 hour journey of Avatar. Amazing. Some thoughts:

  • When to good words conflicts, which takes priority. When justice conflicts with the home country, Jack didn’t hesitate to betray his country – in this movie, betray his own race.
  • Wendy said: If I were Jack, I won’t be back too – how good it is to be the hero, and be strong. I said: That is why people love to play online game like WOW.

Google in China – Business Decision?

Google’s announcement risking to quit China is controversial in nature. Not only in China, but also in the States, even in the high-tech camp, Microsoft, and Yahoo! hold different opinions.In fact, it is people’s reaction to this news that shocks many people, in both camp. Let me add my observation by starting from the easiest question:

“Is Google’s announcement about its China operation a business decision, or not?”

The critics about Google’s action that occupied the dominating position in Chinese (government approved) media is, it is all about money, and Google is mixing business with politics… In short, Bad! Ugly!

The argument is about Google’s motivation to do it. As a basic rule, when we argue, we should not focus on the motivation, since it can never be proved. It leads the discussion to nowhere. I neither suspect their motivation to be “its high moral standard” nor “evil anti-China blah/blah/blah”.

(If you ask me to guess, as a Google fans, I think it is the first part, but… Ops! Can we change a topic because the debate about motivation is not productive).

If it were a pure business decision

If it were purely a business decision, what is the right thing for Google to do? Jun made a public statement that “It is the most stupid thing Google did in history, by giving up half of the world” (source). With all the due respect, I don’t agree.

Let me share the The Ford Pinto Case (via Michael Sandel’s presentation)

Ford Pinto Case

Ford, as a company, learned that a defective design in its Pinto’s fuel system can cause death in accidents. But the cost to replace all the 10+ million car parts is significantly higher than just let the accident happen, and pay the victim the money ($137 million versus the $49.5 million price tag put on the death, injury, and car damage). If we don’t value people’s life, the decision is pretty simple and straight forward. 137 is bigger than 49.5, isn’t it?

The result is obvious. When the cost/benefit analysis of Ford exposes to the public sight, Ford was under huge pressure, and was forced to change the design, and also, that case deeply impacted the history of safety regulation in the auto industry since then.

With this case, we can easily understand why a small risk in toys sold in IKEA that caused no injure or death needs to be corrected, at the cost of millions of such toys be recalled and changed. Now it is the legal requires and moral common sense that safety should be placed before any business interest.

Trust as an Assert

Continuing to discuss on the Ford’s case. The mistake they made… (well, who are we to judge that they made a mistake many years ago? Well. That is the one big step forward on the moral standard, or civilization by millions of people’s efforts, and, sorry, many people’s life).

The mistake they made… is to assign zero dollar value for people’s life in the cost/benefit analysis. The other mistake is, they didn’t assign the value of the brand image as a safe car into the equation.

Google’s Case as a Business Decision

Let’s get back to the Google’s case and do a similar cost/benefit analysis. On the benefit side, there are 600 million USD annual revenue, and potentially, 10x of it in 5 years. On the cost side, is the safety of its data (“Take it easy. No one get killed”. No! Reminder Yahoo!’s case about the two journalists who are still in jail?), and the universal principle of free information and speech.

Different people assign different value on the cost factor in the equation. Some put $0, and others put billions… The decision reflects the decision maker’s valuation of what many people valued very low. Can this action be converted into asserts of the company? Sure!

Hmmm… I mean “yes”, in places where people value freedom of speech, human rights, privacy, and integrate, not in other places.

Conclusion

Even if it were a pure business decision, I see value that makes perfect business sense. I am trying to take the chance to talk more about this in the series later, about the Chinese modern moral standards and the long history of ambiguity of the standard.

My Brain Does not Work Well

There is too much information for me to consume these days.

My brain does not work very well. There are many things I want to comment on but don’t know how to start, like the Google’s case, Baidu’s case, and the recent news happening to many companies.

I just feel I cannot find quiet time to sit down to think about all these. The busy hours at work and busy schedule seem to be pretty hard for me.

When I started a new blog entry, I just feel where to get started. I admit anyone’s attention and brain power is limited resource. I just didn’t, and was not able to pay as much attention to the city I am living – Shanghai – as many years ago, and cannot focus on my life (personal life) as much as before. Yifan is a big life changer, and the business world is another.

Any reader felt the change over the last few years? I just hope I would be as helpful as two or three years ago, and report what is happening in Shanghai as before, but … I am no longer a normal citizen who take bus, metro, and taxi to hang around this city any more…

Crazy Week in 2010

No one predicted that we started 2010 in such a chaos way. Following the suspension of many Internet sites in China, Baidu was hacked on Tuesday and stopped serving for 11 hours, which made Internet traffic shuffled upside down because of the big traffic distribution role Baidu played.

Soon after that, Google issued the announcement about uncensored Google.cn. I was at first thought the ball became at the government’s hand, then I was surprised the Google didn’t wait the government take the initiative to shut it down. They simply started to prepare the post-mortem of the office without any real pressure from the government.

According to the announcement, Google is no longer willing to censor Google.cn. They know this will for sure cause the Chinese government angry, and intensive punishment will follow. Then they HAVE TO close their office. But they just didn’t wait. Everything on the news shows that at the day they made the announcement, they started to go ahead to stop the business operation, development, and prepare for withdraw. Employees were no longer able to access corporate network, and the company simply bought everyone a ticket to watch 3D Avatar.

Is that strange enough?

It is also strange that the censorship has been long enough and Google reacted so dramatically only after a cyber attack. What kind of the cyber attack it should be? Why that is more unbearable than another other attack? Is there any other reason besides the target is human right activist? (This is serious enough, but still seems over-react for that) Why IP (Intelligence Property) is involved in that statement? It is hard to believe that the event is simply the last straw that broke the camel’s back. It seems alone is the biggest portion of the weigh that broke the camel’s back.

Only a fiction style rumor can solve all my question: the attack is from within.

P.S. This is the fiction version – the type of conspiracy theorist like, with no any ground evidence. Just a fiction.

Google’s (Right) Choice

Today’s biggest news is Google’s blog about stopping censoring its content on Google.cn, and considering quitting from China. I typically don’t comment immediately about any news, because often, I need more time to under the situation better (as I stated here). But for this topic, I have been thinking it for a long time. I know what I am going to say about this, when it happens.

The Nature of Google’s Choice

The dilemma Google faced is the dilemma every international international companies face, and every Chinese Internet companies face (although it is not often discussed or even thought about). Google’s choice, not as most media headline stated, was not to cease from China. Their choice is to stop censoring the Google.cn content, which may in turn lead to very high possibility to be forced to shutdown in China. Although these two events are connected, but they are very different.

Now the ball is at the Chinese authority’s hand: Google made a clear statement, and the ball is no longer at Google’s hand – it is the government’s turn to make the tough decision (although I believe it won’t be too hard for them to make) to drive Google away.

It sounds like suicide, but stopping censor itself is different than killing the business – it just gives the gun to another party. It is not “kill himself”, it is “has himself killed”.

What is the Right Thing to Do

There are many debate about whether Google is doing the right thing, or acted as stupid, and naive as a boy. Different people have different principles to judge what is right. Thanks Xiaolai to share the wonderful Harvard course on justice: What is the right thing to do. Hope by watching that movie, we get some inspiration about the answer. It is a vivid case that people will continue to study for many years, I guess.

P.S. Do a Flickr search for Google China and order by time these days, to discover what is happening outside Google office:

Photograph credit: Qifei

Back from Snowy Beijing

Wendy and Yifan greeted me at Hong Qiao Airport – so good to avoid the terrible long line for taxi, and taxi driver’s unpleasant look for short distance to my home. Wendy observed: “You are always very happy after you visit Beijing every time”. That is absolutely true. Beijing, more like Silicon Valley, brought inspiration to me. As an ENFP, inspiration and new ideas are the necessary food for my life.

Beijing gave me the impression, especially after meeting with Xiaolai, that people thinks about “useless” stuff more than people in Shanghai – one of the hundreds of subtle ways a city sends you the message (quote). Useless is a good word here – the philosophical, deeper thinking of life. Uselessness is the remoteness one’s thinking from the daily principles, facts, and the benefits. Just because of it, most people would argue to “get real”, to “stop dreaming!” That is the key impression I got during this trip. The talk with Kai-fu this afternoon in his newly established Innovation Works gave me the same impression. BTW, he presented me his new book “Make a World of Difference“. I read it at airport, and on the plane. Better than I expected.

P.S. Beijing was so cold today – it stopped me from breathing when the wind blows against your face. I called a taxi, and opened the door, the wind blew the door to wide open and the taxi driver complained along the whole drive, threatening me to compensate him if the door broke.

Met with Xiaolai in Beijing

During this short Beijing trip, after had great conversation with Keso in his home, I had a nice dinner with Chedong, Zhou Jun, William Gao, and Xiaolai

Xiaolai is a very interesting guy – the few people who really think independently and deeply about stuff. He shared the video: Justice – What is the Right Thing to Do:

Even without watching it, I know I should love it – the hard journey to seek what is justice, and morally right (as I kept seeking in this blog in the previous articles: The City and Its Moral Boundary, Bad Behavior, Its Reason, and Future). I am happy that there are some people around me who think about this philosophical question, although most people would discourage me by saying: “Get real. Do some business, and don’t just sit there and think as a God”.

Two Consistent Internet Companies

Hollywood.com

From time to time, I receive a newsletter from Hollywood.com, in the last 13 years. I remember I subscribed its newsletter in the early days in 1996 – when Hotmail just started, and not bought by Microsoft. At that time, there are just few well known websites for me. I just started to try to use it, and often visit the following sites:

Harvard.edu, Whitehouse.gov, CERN and Hollywood.com – basically any famous name plus a .com or .gov.

13 years past. Most commercial websites was bought and disappeared, like Geocities, but Hollywood.com still persistently send newsletter to me. That is the main reason I didn’t unsubscribe from them, although I never really read about it in the last 13 years. It is just a memory of the very early stage of Internet.

Master.com

The other is master.com. I setup a service to monitor Wangjianshuo.com in 2002. If the site is not accessible, it will send an email to me. In the last 7 years, I never logged in again, but they still faithfully send alert to me – I received two or three alerts in the last few days when Media Temple experienced technical problems.

My Learning

Although these two companies are not significant in the Internet space, they survived in the last two crisis, and they keep delivering services to its customer. That was very rare in the Internet space. Who knows what Yahoo! look like in another 13 years? Is it still accessible?

P.S. One big thing the next week is to transfer my domain name Wangjianshuo.com out of WWW.NET.CN to godaddy.com. It is too risky to hosting domain in domestic company.

Book Earlier for Cheaper Ticket? Not So in China

Yangle asked:

Alright folks?

There’s been some really awesome and helpful stuff here – thanks! :)

I have a question that is probably quite obvious – if I were to book an internal flight in the UK (where I’m from) then I would book it really really early – possibly months in advance if I could – so I could get the cheapest fare possible. Is this the same rule for Chinese domestic flights? Or can you book them just a month or two in advance and get the cheapest fares? I’m wanting a round-trip from BeiJing to GuiLin end of June, beginning of July time.

Looking forward to your invaluable help!

Posted by: YangLe on January 7, 2010 5:48 PM

The China is just the opposite. The later you book the ticket, the cheaper. This may over simplify the situation, but one thing is for sure – it is NOT that the earlier you book, the cheaper the ticket is.

Chinese Price System

If you book months in advance, chances are, you can only get the full price tickets with no discount. The airline business in China is highly regulated. Most of the ticket price is fixed for all the airlines by the CAAC. Basically, the price is proportional to the distance of the two airport – the same way as the fixed price for railway system in China.

However, most airlines will give discount based on the fixed price. They can determine the price table only several months before the travel time. That is, if you book far before that date, say, 6 months before you travel, it is for sure that you can only get the list price – the highest possible price, because they have no idea of what the price in the future will be.

Why?

If you book just few days or few hours before you travel, you are very likely to get the cheapest price, because most of Chinese airlines are not full in most of the case. They will offer some really cheap price before the seats become empty. Another factor is the agents. Most of the airlines rely heavily on agents – tourism industry, and ticket dealer. The way to operate it is, to ask the agents to book a range of the seats. If no one buys the ticket, the agents still need to pay the fixed amount. This causes the agents to be really worry about having empty seats, and willing to sell it out at much lower price at the last minute.

However, the risk to book at the last minute is, you may not be able to get a ticket.

Deeper Reasons

I have to go further to guess the deeper reasons why China is just the opposite of US, UK, and many other countries. Why in other countries, the earlier you book, the cheaper the price will be, and in China, it is the opposite.

Here is my guess.

1. Occupation Rate. The occupation rate of Chinese airlines are always not high. Most of them are just 70%-80% on average. (Spring Airlines (My review) is an exception with amazing 98% historical occupation rate.) For most airlines, the days of fully booked flights are limited, so passengers can leverage that.

2. In China, people still plan things in the last minutes. I have seldom know any of my friends who book tickets, or holiday more than 1 year in advance. That was something I was consistently amazed by my foreigner readers who started the question like: “I am going to China in July of 2013. Can you help me on ….” What? 2013?

Any other reasons?

I Don’t Like 2010

The first few days of 2010 does not show good sign for a new year.

In personal life, Wendy and Yifan got cold, and many people in the company got cold. I just spent the full day at hospital – people mountain and people sea there, and waited for few hours for injection for Yifan (Hospital is Badly Needed).

Meanwhile, although it is not the coldest winter, I felt the freezing cold. I am very sure that the starting of 2010 is making history. People are not aware of the meaning of historical events when it is happening. The significance reveals only afterward. BossTown has been so kind to invite me to join their program to talk about Ten years of Internet in China, and let me predict what the Chinese Internet space will look like in 2019. I expressed a polite refusal to attend the program, since today, I am not in the mood to forecast the future of Internet in China, if there is one.

My Advice to Entrepreneurs

Occasionally, friends ask me for advices of their startup. I am flattered but shy away from giving any advice, since I just started the journey about 5 years ago myself, and I have more lessons from mistakes than tips for success to share. Now, let me give it a try (shamelessly pretending that I know this topic).

Try to Use Bad Words to Describe Your Business

It is not rare to see people describe their products, or services using many good words – the best, the cheapest, the highest in quality, or the newest… In my opinion, the chance to success with any thing more than one good word is small. Let me give you an example.

A friend of mine just started a business few months ago. He told me that they were going to deliver better service than CTRIP, and the ticket price is lower.

I could imagine a business to have worse service, but cost less, or a service with better service, and cost more. There are good opportunity to win for either model because customers’ needs are diversified, and differentiation in position can be a winning strategy. Some people prefer service (and willing to pay more), and some just care more about cost.

But for a startup with very limited resource, to optimize on two or more dimensions does not seem wise. Li Song, CEO of Zhenai.com, put it this way: “We can assume that our IQ is above average (which is often not true), but we can never assume that we are genius.” I would add that we also need to assume the competitors are at least above average, not idiots. In my friend vs CTRIP example, it is not safe to bet that CTRIP guys are stupid and everyone who have an idea can beat them in BOTH service and price.

If I hear people describe their business with one good word, but many bad words, that seems to be a winning pattern for me. For example,

“I am going to build the fastest websites, although it is ugly, lack of function, and cost more than competitor.”

I understand he/she is really serious about site speed. What do you feel if he says:

“We are going to build the fastest sites, with much more functions than any competitors, and have the best visual design, and meanwhile, it cost just 1/2 of other sites…”

If I hear that, I would comment: “You don’t know what you are building yet”.

There are many good things in this world, but you can only pick one or two at most at the same time.

A Business Model Fits Revenue and Cost

A friend of mine is doing an online content business by hiring people to translate and edit the contents. The cost is similar with an offline magazine, but revenue, even in the best case, is much lower than offline. The business model just does not fit into the current cost and revenue structure. There is no good or bad, right or wrong about how much the cost should be. The key is, the revenue has to fit to the scenario of the cost. Never create a business that cost more to deliver the same, or cost the same but deliver less, or even worth, to cost more and deliver less. At the end of the day, profit is always revenue minus cost.

Align Product and Business

Here is another type. They want to build a good function to attract users, and then leverage that to sell something else. The product and services they are building actually does not align with the business / money making efforts. If you visualize it as two arrows, they are pointing to different directions with 30 to 90 degree of angle in between.

Let me give you some examples. A friend told me that they are going to provide some useful tools like map and estimated price of real estate to attract users, then they can charge those people who list house classified on the site. It seems to me that they under estimate the difficulty to do either one really well. A real estate listing service itself is a full-time job of a large company, if you want to do it well, and house price estimation is at least equally demanding for focus, patience, and resources. In this highly competitive market, there are specialized company doing on either direction with 10x of resources. Any startup with more than one direction to go does not seem to be a good pattern to succeed.

There is Demand, Does not Mean You can Do it Well

I heard of another business model. It is like the previous “doing one thing, and monetize on the other” type. They said there are big demand on English version of map in China, and they want to build it first, and then deliver value added service (something irrelevant to map) to make money. The reason they started with map is, there is huge demand for it.

Well. There is demand does not mean that you can do it well, or there is a business around it. One extreme example is, there is huge demand to predict the up and downs of stock market, or there is even bigger demand to buy $100 bank note with $50. Everyone wants it, but there is no such a service because of a reason.

I am not discourage people to try something that no one did before, my point is, if you don’t know what makes you unique in this area, think harder.

Metro Line 9 Opens

The Metro Line #9 east section opens yesterday. The newly opened section starts from Xujiahui Station and ends at Century Ave Station. It connects with the rest of the already opened Metro Line #9 and arrives at Songjia New Town, at the west most part of Shanghai.

I visited the Metro Line #9 newly extended stations this afternoon. Here is my report.

Insensitivity of New Lines

When Metro Line #1 opens, there are just about 10 stations. I know every single station so well. I even wrote guideline about each stations:

Now, it is impossible for me to be even aware of the names of the stations. I just briefly take some photos and share with you about 20 minutes tour.

Century Ave Station

I have more detailed description of Metro Line #2, Line #4, Line #6, and Line #9 Century Avenue Station. But at that time, only Metro Line #2, #6 and #4 where open. Now, Line #9 joined the other three lines, to make the station the biggest transit station in Shanghai (4 lines).

Below: the relative position of the four lines:

Transition

Transition in Metro Stations in Shanghai started to get confusing. Look at this direction board.

At Jiashan Road Station, there are area like this:

Obviously, it is reserved for stairs to go down to transit to another line in the future.

The best transition I saw, even better than , is the Zhaojiabang Road station. Metro Line #9 and Line #7 crosses with each other, with Metro Line #7 at lower level. Transit from Line #7 to Line #9 is just an (long) elevator away:

Xujiahui Station

Xujiahui Metro Station will be an amazing station with 3 lines. Now, the transition between Line #1 and Line #9 is still very bad. You have to EXIT the Line #9 station via Exit #15, and go on the ground for 200 meters, and enter the Line #1 station via Exit 13. You have to pay again (no free transition).

In the future (before Expo 2010), the two stations will be connected via a big transition hall under the Grand Gateway. I am very looking forward to it.

To my Office?

Want to visit me in my office? Remember to take Metro Line #9, and exit at Exit #18. That is the closes Metro exit to me.

P.S. I am going to pay a visit to newly opened Metro Line #11 this holiday. It also opens yesterday. Now, Shanghai has the following metro lines opened:

Metro Line #1

Metro Line #2

Metro Line #3

Metro Line #4

Metro Line #5

Metro Line #6

Metro Line #7

Metro Line #8

Metro Line #9

Metro Line #11