I pre-released Baixing Graph API internally at 1801. I am going to release it to the public on Sept 6, 2012. (One of the key driver to make anything happen is to make it public first, and let the pressure push you to make it happen).
I am learning GIT.
A new frontier for me to learn. GIT.
Technology is actually driven by tool makers. Think of the few generation of advancement: Weaving machines in Florence, Herring cutter and commercial boats in Holland, stream engine in English, electronic and information technology in US – all of them are tools. The advancement of tools help human develop and advance.
GIT is such a tool. I started to use version control with SD (SourceDepot). That was a very good tool developed back in 198x, before git appears in the horizon.
If you want to predict which technical company will win, check what tool they use! If a company start to lose in the tool front, it is losing in many front.
A danger of travel is that we see things at wrong time, before you have the opportunity to build up the necessary receptivity so that new information is as useless and fugitive as necklace beads without a connecting chains. – Alan de Botton
This time, I visited Nanjing during the weekend, and I had some preparation to get the receptivity, and tried to use a connecting chain to guide what to see. The topic will be the government of Republic of China, a historical term in mainland China, and a current term in Taiwan.
I went to the following places:
- The presidential palace
- The Executive Yuan
- The Legislative Yuan
- The Judicial Yuan
- The Control Yuan
- The Exam Yuan
They are scattered into different places across the city, but to follow a path to visit every single one of them makes a great day.
Nanjing is a city with great histories. Many of the memories were painful, just like the feeling of Berlin. It is also moving very fast. I didn’t expect to see a building 450 meters high (due to my ignorance, I didn’t know that). Many years ago, I would say Hangzhou is a much better travel destination than Nanjing, and now I rediscovered the city and claim it to be better to spend a weekend than Hangzhou. Here is why.
- Nanjing is only 1:40 hour away from Shanghai. Hangzhou is less than 1 hour but the difference is not big.
- There are 70 G-trains between the two cities everyday, making it more convineint to get there. The fastest train is only 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Nanjing was capital of 6 dynasties, and the recent Republic of China. There are a lot architect and stories there. Hangzhou is a little bit less “historical”
- Nanjing’s transportation is amazingly good. The two metro lines (one connects at the Railway station!) completely beats Hangzhou. It was nightmare to wait for taxi at Hangzhou railway station.
- In the recent years, Nanjing suddenly became more modern than Hangzhou, with some very nice shopping malls like Deji Plaza at Xinjiekou.
- The mountains of Nanjing is more approachable.
- For many people in Shanghai, Nanjing is obviously a less visited city than Hangzhou, so worth the time.
I will visit Nanjing soon during weekend. A weekend escape in Nanjing is just a very good experience for me – high-speed train, Hanting Hotel, plus Metro tickets are good package for me.
I am trying to do a full day black out on Wednesdays. It turned out, because of previous appointment, there is one meeting slip to the calendar, so I have take the meeting at 2:00 PM.
Having been super effective this morning, and facing an approaching meeting, I am aware of the psychology change. I started to loose productivity about 10 minutes before …
(Bing! Here they come and interrupted my posting and now the meeting is over)
See? When I switch back to the writing mode, it is completely different. The flow of thought was gone, and I don’t have ways to get them back. It takes at least half an hour for me to get back to the interruption point. So, just be very aware of the cost, and in the future, don’t schedule 2:00 PM meetings, and don’t schedule any meetings on Wed.
Below is a reading note on Richard Hamming’s lecture: You and Your Research.
Age: Why most productive things were done young? One of Richard’s explanation was: “If you do some good work, you will find yourself in all kinds of committees and unable to do any more work”. That is the first problem. The second problem is, when you are famous for doing some good work, you can only work on great problems, not small. I was so shocked to know how small the idea Pierre Omidyar, eBay’s founder, had for his next startup. Very few people would understand the once-famous-founders’ second startups at the very beginning.
He mentioned about working condition – the best working conditions are not the way everyone want, just like the shacks in Cambridge is the birthplace for a lot of great physics.
Besides age, and working condition, there is drive. The really ambitious people drive themselves very hard. This relates to my standard of people around me. They can be inexperienced, but they have to be ambitious. There is a saying: Why bother? This is just a blah.blah.blah position. It does matter.
Ambiguity is an interesting one. The right balance between believe, and not believe. You believe it enough to go ahead and practices it, but not believe it enough to be able to adjust and change.
Subconscious. You need work enough, think enough, and starve the subconscious enough, and avoid any dilution of any noise of other kind to really get great result from the work of the subconscious. It is called creativity, or inspiration, or whatever. It is an extension of your hard and intensive work of conscious.
“What are the important problem in my field?” That is the starting point of everything. Again, as Paul Graham mentioned in early articles, beautiful thing is simple. I think this question is simple, shorter, and sweeter, and it is much more inspiring than the complicated 7 habits, or other bestseller books. I agree that the best minds are not always found in best sellers.
Really important problems are daring. Look at the three problems Hamming mentioned in his field: physics – 1) Time travel 2) Teleportation 3) Antigravity. My God!
The two problems a classifieds site have are: 1) fraud listing 2) way to attract enough personal listers. It is such a hard problem that we need to solve. The rest are relatively easy.
For the most important ideas, when there is a chance to fix it, the greatest scientist drop everything else, and pursue it.
That leads to the discussion about whether closed door working style, or open door working style is better. Obviously I know most modern companies, especially Internet companies, favor toward open door, or even open office with no cubicles. I was nervous when I started to read Hamming, and I thought he was arguing in favor of closed door – get more things done in today and tomorrow, and that is against what I long believed, and I felt relief when Hamming finally concluded that open door is a better option. Productivity in short term does not compensate on the error of direction.
Great thinkers get desperate when they see their life as a long sequence of problem one after another after another after another… all small problems If one can solve so many problems, it must be very small problems.
We should really do our work in a way that others can stand on top of ours. The science and technology world is cumulative. The beauty of the whole computer, or Internet world is, it can be split to layers, and our work can benefit others. One on top of another. For mathematics, the effort to generalization means the solution is simpler. It is exactly the same for almost every field. For Internet, and computer system, it is so. We should work on generalization.
On “Great Thoughts Only”. Spend about 10% of the time, in Hamming’s case, a Friday afternoon in every week, to allow only Great Thoughts. Great thoughts means “How computer changes science?” For our business, an example of great thoughts should be something close to: “Why people sell on Baixing?” or “How we can be 10 times more efficient as a company?” These great thoughts help to keep people on track in long term, and push them to the limit, or at least open the eyes of the person who tapped into it. Great thoughts by definition is not a solution. It is a problem. It is why part, not the how or what. We need to correct our path about whether we are attacking the right setup of problems. Another is permission. If you want a No, just go to the boss and you will get a No. Maybe that is deep in many people’s mind – No means you don’t need to work on it. The real doers just go ahead and then present the accomplished fact. Most people would say YES when something is already done. (A note: I just found out the first big gap between entrepreneur and a scientist who has a boss)
On ego assertion. I talked about the conflict in a world with different rules. I claimed that the one who follow the rule of the other side gets the best interest. This is pretty pragmatic approach, just as Hamming changed its cloth to be more formal to get the right service, instead of being who he is. If the dressing has get into the way to something you care, you should change the dress! That’s it. Does it really means you don’t have principle? Well, I would say, when there is a universal principle, stick to it, but there are some local principles, and we should should respect. Sticking to our own ways actually pays small price here and small price there. It is pretty steady cost along the way of one’s life, and the total value is enormous. So try to work with the system instead of fight against.
Hamming does brought out a controversial question: Whether we should fight to change the system. His judgement is, you cannot do the two things together: change the system or be a first-class scientist. Then you should choose. The worst thing is to do it just because of amusement – if that is the case, it is type-B procrastination – Doing less important work.
There are two persons in this world that helped me to gain peace in mind. Both them are alive, and not older too much than me, and ironically, both appear on the same day at the Cannes Lion to give lecture, which I both missed. They are Paul Graham, and Alain de Botton. I believe we share a lot of things in common – maybe all of us are ENFP in personality type; we all like writing; and we all love to think.
Read this article: Good and Bad Procrastination. Just Alain’s Consolation of Philosophy, the article gave me enough confidence to care less about shaving and laundry, which Wendy keep complaining 100 times a day.
Paul mentioned three form of procrastination: you could work on 1) nothing 2) less important thing, or 3) something more important.
That was a really good insight. As Paul explained himself before, beautiful theories are all short, simple, and lasting. This three-type classification is pretty simple, isn’t it? The common people do things but don’t know why and few have insight.
That’s the “absent-minded professor,” who forgets to shave, or eat, or even perhaps look where he’s going while he’s thinking about some interesting question. His mind is absent from the everyday world because it’s hard at work in another.
That gave me the relief to be a little bit at “absent-minded professor” mode – the type-C procrastinators.
I’ve wondered a lot about why startups are most productive at the very beginning, when they’re just a couple guys in an apartment. The main reason may be that there’s no one to interrupt them yet. In theory it’s good when the founders finally get enough money to hire people to do some of the work for them. But it may be better to be overworked than interrupted. Once you dilute a startup with ordinary office workers—with type-B procrastinators—the whole company starts to resonate at their frequency. They’re interrupt-driven, and soon you are too.
“It is better to overwork than interrupted”. It is very well said for startups.
We all need to get into a peace of mind where many people can concentrate to do the most important thing, instead of the overly used word – communication.
I don’t say we cannot fight against the crowd, but it is really hard and cost a lot of energy. In the Silicon Valley, when you meet those technical guys, the investors, and entrepreneurs, you are surprised to see how crazy they are:
- They use the new technology that you never heard of.
- You rush to production and change the server architect, and rewrite the code like crazy.
- They gather and talk about something that people in other places never heard of
- They have some ideas that is so advanced that people in the valley does not use.
- They said “This is broken”, “That is broken”, so they want to fix the education system, they want to fix the car industry, and they want to fix a lot of things.
- They spend the money to invest in something that has no revenue at all, and think it can change world.
The list goes on and on and on.
Every community/city/country has its norms, and you don’t want to be too outlined. In the valley, there are so many crazy people gathering, and you just feel it is the norm.
I wrote an article on Weibo “They Said…” (Chinese) by Lu Chunqing. A very nice article. She mentioned the pressure from “They said…” in mainland China. People tell you to be stable, to get a good job, and to marry quickly… The general opinion from the public just gradually change people, until they become different.
Paul Graham also observed that every fifteen century Italian painters come from Florence. I would argue currently, most of the world famous Internet and software gaint come from the valley. Why?
If we cannot change the world (well, we can but we need to hurry before they change us), we can decide which world we live in.
P.S. Just check what other bloggers are writing about, especially those you greatly admire (like Paul Graham‘s for me), and count who they talk with and who their friends are, and you get some idea. Paul’s blog often opens as “I was talking recently to a friend who teaches at MIT.” as in this article: Taste for Makers. Surround by people you really care, and enjoyed meeting with.
- One week, one goal. If the board meeting is OK, the week is OK. Others are just nice to have. What a wonderful week!
- One week, everything taken care of. No electricity bills, no broken washing machines, or air/con, or what so ever.
- Lonely time. If you choose, you are in a city alone, with no one even know what you are doing. Even at a hotel room – the sense of loneliness is just beautiful.
- Planning. When you have nothing to do, all you do is to plan and make appointment.
- Haiku. There are limited items with you when you travel. No distraction. You even don’t have a glass of your own.
Image credit: mtime.com
Chen Kaige’s new movie Caught in the Web is surprisingly good! Wendy and I went to theater yesterday to watch the film. I am deeply shocked by the rare deep thoughts and humorous illustration of the subject. I’d highly recommend everyone to see the movie. It is simply one of the best one I saw in the last few years.
The current Chinese society is at a very tricky time if you look at the long history of China. The conflicts from different groups of people, the conflicts between traditional value system to the newly created one, and the deep impact of Internet, new media, social, and mobile – everything is evolving in a much faster pace than any year I have experienced. The confusion of the new generations (well, every new generation is always confused, for few hundred years), the social tension, and understanding, all mixed together to orchestrate a pretty decent scene, for artist, novelist, writers, journalis, directors, and actors to catch, and to illustrate.
Disappointedly, the art circle does not pay the due attention to all the themes of China. Wendy and I went to see another movie, Painted Skin, the other day. Not a bad movie, but it just does not has any connection with the current society. I am not saying all movies needs to be a realistic reflection of the current stuff, but the percentage of the type of movie as Caught in the Web is lower than I think it should. For the director, Chen Kaige, I believe it is more valuable to take movies like this, via The Promise (无极） or Sacrificen (赵氏孤儿）.
Besides looking at the reality, and took the courage to face the society, and pin-point the pain of many people, the movie went deep enough and mentioned wide enough aspect of the current Chinese society. Here are some of them I noticed.
Seeing is Believing
I believe this is the core part of the message is delivering. Opening Weibo, or web in general, the Netizen has never been so united and well orchestrated to rely love or hate of a real living person by one photo or video or short 140 description. The power of the web has been release to a new peak (Sir Tim Bernes Lee should be proud, and I just saw him in London Olympic Opening). However, the real story is never fully understood.
The story in the movie is a variation of another well-know story told by Convey in Seven Habits. A father sitting in the subway allowing his two kids to be noisy, and disturbing. Everyone thought he did wrongly, but no one knows his wife, the kids’ mother just passed away one hour ago, and he don’t know how to tell the kids.
By taking part of the story, and dramatically show it to the public, causes deep problems. Although not to give excuses to the wrong behavior, to understand what is behind the wrong behavior makes justice of the society. The movie is pushing everyone to think: What is the story behind the murder? what is the story behind this stealing? What is the story behind the good deed? The mechanism and curiosity of what is behind is widely lacking, and systematically prohibited and removed from the current media. But how about the me-media? What is the responsibility of the twitter or weibo poster’s responsibility besides showing one photo or video clip?
I guess original title of the movie maybe 人肉搜索 (Human Flesh Search), and renamed to 搜索. It is about taking a lead and the crowd contribute, and finally expose all the private information of a person to the Internet. The moral and legal boundary of the action is still controversial, and blur.
The privacy of almost everyone involved (except few) was put online and many of them are not the fact. To expose someone’s privacy is the de factor penalty the netizen can do to a criminal offense, or victim, even without the need of sentence. Although it causes some positive impact considering the current legal system is broken, and it becomes a natural substitution, I believe the hope will still be building the legal system vesus the penalty of the many.
Although I don’t think it is categorically, constitutionally, absolutely wrong in any circumstance to expose one’s private information like national ID, I do believe it is something worth a lot of protection.
The movie also covered a wide range of topics, including:
- Neutrality of Media
- Career challenge of an intern
- PR un-written rules
- Water Army
- The other woman 小三
- The general practice of plant on journalists
- Private communication/recording protection
- Money vs love dilemma
- Career fighting in offices
- Housing price, and hardship of normal people in cities
When I was filling out US Nonimmigrant Visa DS-160 form (my visa expires again), and I saw the following questions.
Have you, while serving as a government official, been responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom?
I know there are many government officials need to say Yes, but I believe they can just lie and choose No.
Have you ever been directly involved in the establishment or enforcement of population controls forcing a woman to undergo an abortion against her free choice or a man or a woman to undergo sterilization against his or her free will?
There are more people on this. There is a huge organization called Planned Birth Committee doing this, on daily basis. Will they answer Yes?
Have you ever renounced United States citizenship for the purposes of avoiding taxation?
This one will be interesting. Re-consider to immigrant to USA. To get in is easy. Get out is troublesome.
My early wakeup practice went bankrupt today, after 4 days.
I wrote Jet Lag Builds Early Raiser before:
Jet lag is good thing for me. Whenever in US, or back to Shanghai, jet lag drives me wake up earlier and then I became an early raiser for some days. Thus I have enough time to write more blogs (helping me to get clearer idea about my world, and comprehend the message I got). It is just like an effective “Raise Early” medicine. But the problem is, the effect gets less significant along the day, and I will fade into normal life.
Is there any way to simulate jet lag?
This is the fifth morning after I got back. 5:08 is too early for me (the sun rise time), and I felt sleepy in the afternoon. I waked up at 5:08, stand up, walked out of bed room, and felt asleep at the sofa in living room. When I wake up again, it was 8:00 AM.
What it Tells When Something is Hard to Do?
I started to wonder, if something is so hard to do, like waking up early, like losing weight, or get rid of procrastination, is there a reason behind it? Is it because it is not the nature way, or there is some hard boundary there (like you can not lose weight lower than a certain number, because that is what a living person’s boundary)? If we fail, is it because of we are fighting against a law?
Taking procrastination as example, Richard Hamming mentioned that don’t fight against all type of procrastination. Great scientist are those who procrastinate to shave, or to pay bills, because they put effort into more important things that requires a big chunk of time. That makes a lot of sense to me.
Analysis of Wake up Early
I believe the boundary is the daily sleeping time the body needs in long term (you can twist it by few days, like before an exam, but not long). Let’s say, it is 8 hours per day. There must be another boundary that pulled me back – the go to bed time.
The social activities and family, and eating time all affects that. For example, if we really can eat dinner at 5:00 PM instead of 7:00 PM, and there is a way we follow the society to really shutdown at 9:00 PM (by shutdown, I mean there is no Weibo activities, or no emails), we definitely can shift to the 9:00 PM to 5:00 PM schedule. This has been proved by travelers. When we were in Hangzhou, we really went to bed at 9:00 PM – actually we were bored at 7:00 PM already. Among all the social interactions, Wendy is the biggest portion that impact my schedule. I just cannot fell asleep everyday.
If the social environment does not change, especially if I cannot get agreement with Wendy to change together, I am actually running against head wind, and the effort accumulation is big enough for me to give up.
Other Things? Like Losing Weight?
How much is enough? Whether we should eat three meals or two? When to have meals? What to eat? All of this is actually much more influenced by our society than we can imagine. We don’t decide by ourself, the social environment does.
I never said we cannot change, or we should not fight, but to realize that we are heading against head wind makes us smarter to choose how to react.
One of the best way is to move. To find an environment that we feel suite our needs better, and shape ourselves, by the environment we choose. If not, choose a micro-environment, or build one.
So, the next step is not to fight harder – it is to change the social interaction.
I waked up early in the morning (5:30 AM), and drove to the french concession. The best time to visit Shanghai is very early in the morning. Here are two buildings. One is at around 140 Fuxing West Road, and the second is on the Wukang Road. Looking at the buildings, and you just feel beauty out of it.
I have been in Shanghai for 17 years (I cannot believe it), but I suddenly realized that I haven’t really been to Shanghai. A visit to the Bund and Nanjing Road shocked me. I haven’t ever been there! Never!
Suffered (or enjoyed) from my jet lag pattern from the States, I waked up early in a very comfortable way (not tired, and not sleepy, and just waked up) at 4:00 AM. After writing some blog post, I packed my bag and grabbed a taxi and threw myself to the beginning of the Bund.
Maybe because of the nice weather/blue sky, which is rare, and definitely because I came here earlier in the morning (too early, at 5:00 AM), and I saw the city in a completely different perspective.
Shanghai without PEOPLE!
The key characteristic of Shanghai is people! It is crowded, noisy, and sometimes chaotic, but not so in the early morning, especially in summer when it gets sunshine very early. Just FYI, the sun raised at 5:06 AM today.
When the taxi runs on the roads in Pudong, flying across the Nanpu bridge, and dived into the alleys of Puxi, there are nice buildings, many trees, but there was no PEOPLE! That created a magic view of the city, and reminds of the days in Silicon Valley (well, it was just yesterday). Imagine, if you put the density of people in the China Town of San Francisco into silicon valley, it would be completely different.
Shanghai that is CLEARER
One of the problems to have a lot of people is being dirty, especially in a city that throwing garbage along the way and spitting are national sports. In the morning, the streets are newly swiped, and the street cleaning cars just passed the alleys and streets. It is much beautiful to have blue sky and no garbage on the road.
Shanghai that is a GYM
There are at least three stages of morning in Shanghai. The first stage is empty stage with literally no one on the street. Before business people and office workers and tourists rush into the city, there is a unique stage: the exercise stage, when older people play all kinds of sports activities in the street, even on the famous Nanjing East Road.
Here are some of the photos I took randomly on the street. Below: dancing.
Below: Fan dancing.
Below: Chi Gong.
Shanghai as a SMALL TOWN
Shanghai is a big city, but in the morning, Shanghai seems to be a small neighborhood. Look this photo and tell me where it is. It is the busiest part of Nanjing East Road, the world famous shopping street. There are phenix trees and there are wide pedestrian, and it is just nice.
Finally, I wrapped my short trip of about 2 hours from the Bund to the People’s Square. The Tomorrow Square (JW Marriott) is the stop sign for the trip. I updated the photos in a Starbucks – free WIFI, and re-think about the image of Shanghai.
Maybe, this is the impression for many tourist, because they get up early, and that is very different from my daily perspective. No one, even the person who lives here for their whole life, can claim that they really know a city. So always challenge ourselves, to see more and in a more different way.
I was born too late – 450 years late, and I don’t know what it looks like in Florence at Renaissance. I heard at that time, in every coffee shop, and in every room, there are people talking about painting, sculpture, music, etc, and there are some greatest artist, like Michael-angel, emerging in those days in Florence.
I meat with a great CEO in his office. Very impressive. He summarized the duty of a CEO and that is very true. The framework is strategy, priority, and people.
I had great time with AG yesterday (I let not to disclose the name before checking) at Red Rock in Mountain View. It was such an inspiring talk. Among them, there is a story about decision making.
In Italy, I got 3G network for one month, unlimited data and 5 EURO calling at 12 EURO (10 EURO in Venize). In the bay area, I am going to get T-Mobile 1.5G monthly plan at $25. It seems the world bandwidth cost is getting down, except China, right now.
I visited the Microsoft Zizhu campus, and met with many old friends – I didn’t expect to see about 10 persons who joined Microsoft around my joining, and they are still there after more than 10 years.
I was a little bit sad though to see the current Microsoft is more like the Yahoo! Sunnyvale campus, than the office in my memory. The building quality is not good enough, and that surely does not justify the long distance from the downtown.
I am quite amused by Alexis Madrigal’s story How Google Can Beat Facebook Without Google Plus. This is one of the best article talking about the deep reasons why a product succeed or fail.
He mentioned California City, CA. Although it is the largest city by land in CA, it only has 15K residents – 1/10 of the number in residential area I am living. The California city has all the infrastructure a great city needs to have, but, it is just an empty city. People gather because of other people, not the infrastructure.
Websites face the same problem. Most websites have in place before the first 100 visitors come to the site, but the problem is, the only problem is, people!
But by most accounts and third-party research, the service is growing its number of users but not their engagement. People are “on” Google Plus, but they are not really ON Google Plus. The infrastructure is there. The street signs are there. People own plots of land. But there’s nobody actually visiting town. To make it obvious: Google Plus is the California City to Facebook’s Los Angeles.
Basically, people are saying, Google+ is a ghost town.
Considering the same thing on other websites, including my own, the core of the sites are people. Internet connects people. When the real people are there, the infrastructure supports, not the other way.
Time on site
Time on site is an important indicator of how people use the product. Google+ has 3 minutes per month. Facebook has 405, Pinterest has 89, and Trumblr is 89 too. (src)
John Herman even mentioned that Google+ “looks like a cubicle farm and smells like a hospital.” How can a product smells like a hospital?
Why John Herman describe it as a hospital? Because of the clean and clear interface? The technical thinking behind it?
A website is built for people to “USE”! Use means spend time on it. Use means getting back frequently, not by accident, not by clicking links that they randomly run into.
Seamless is a Bad Word
When I talked with my friend in Google about Google+, I heard the word Seamlessly often.
You search, and your search queries get to G+ seamlessly. You use Picasa, and your photos integrate into G+ seamlessly. You do x, and you do y, and all these things are synced into G+ seamlessly.
Seamlessly means unconsciously. Seamlessly means they are not intentionally using the site. That explains why classifieds search does not work, and many aggregation sites does not work, because people don’t have the intention to have their content shown on the page. They have no idea about what they share when they “unconsciously” share it.
A community is not about content aggregation. It is about consciously participation. If people see what others are saying, and post intentionally, that is the core of the community.