Sep 20, 2008

The presentation on RoR is a bit boring though, nothing new

Hy Chan Han from Open Institute is talking 'bout Ruby on Rails at barcamppp

a guy from Open Institute is talking about Open Source at barcamppp

@csokun fith row, first column near the door

Vista has the least security bugs in first 6 months? Well, nobody cares to attack it anyway

@csokun right at the door seat

An enquiry to the fall of

Sep 4, 2008 was launched as an experiment at in March and at that time gathered quite a lot of coverage from local newspapers and received an investment deal from IDG Venture, a tech venture capital. I was fascinated by the emergence of yet another web 2.0 start-up in Vietnam and immediately joined the site.

Targeting the wrong audience
Connecting professionals? How many "professional" companies are there in Vietnam? How many professionals are actually working in those companies? And how many professionals are working in those that are not considered professional? And how many people out of those have frequent access to the Internet? But the question is: how does Cyvee define professionalism in a Vietnamese context, where most are still farmers and most of those corporate workers are not of industrial quality.

I would say the people that Cyvee's been targeting make up quite a small userbase and unfortunately the people who they are not aiming at, and who think of themselves as professionals 've also jumped on the bandwagon.

This makes Cyvee people a mixture of everyone, either professionals or not. And this has severely affected the quality of user-generated content on the site, which puts people away because they find it so bizarrely confusing. If you look at how people interact with each other on Cyvee, you will see what I mean.

I think Cyvee has failed since they got the ball rolling.

A bit of everything
Idea? LinkedIn. Q&A? LinkedIn. Slogan? Nokia. News? Groups and Quick Comments. Facebook. Jobs? Thousands of other sites.

Instead of going into detail of each and every of them, I would propose to analyze the business model that Cyvee is currently applying and from that depict the failure of it becoming a successful technology start-up.

The underlying monetary system of Cyvee is CVD, or Cyvee Dollars. This is the second reason why it fails.

Take a look at LinkedIn. Does it cost you anything to connect to people? None. Money seems to be a problem at Cyvee and this is a deterrent to people who want to expand their network. Who would pay 1.500VND for 10 contacts. I'm not buying my friends and connections. One friend is worth 1.500VND? Seriously, this is a joke. I'd rather pay nothing to get friends or pay nothing for nothing. And even if someone is keen to pay, how much would they get?

Let me draw you to a smarter way of making money. It's Twitter, our beloved friend. Twitter is making money by charging people text messages from their mobile phone when they want to twitter an update. Certainly this costs them money but considering the current charge rate, it's not that bad. I see people text messaging all the time and they are quite happy with that.

But there are more in Twitter. What if you have 1000 friends. Would you sms every single one of them to tell them what you're doing (and an increasing number of people are using Twitter for various types of updates).

In fact, Twitter is helping people to SAVE money (and time) while at the same time bringing a great number of benefits to its customers. And this is because of this very reason that people love Twitter. They don't even feel they have to pay. It's just another text message that sometimes shocks the world. Trust me. You can rock in Twitter :)

So let's come back to Cyvee. People see very little potential in the ROI they can get from the small amount of money they spend. No matter how much the money is, it can always be a deterrent when people are not willing to pay. WTP is an important terms in economics because: people respond to incentives.

If people they have to pay to get their network expanded, they won't. And because very few of them are willing to pay, they may either wait for others to pay, or just quit the game. How do you attract customers if they feel they are being restrained from what they want to do. A company which at one time provides a good service and at another time tells its clients not to use the service in a nice way.

Ah yes, you can make CVD - Cyvee Dollars - on their site. And you will be fine. This can be achieved by either you posting a piece of news and receiving1 CVD when it gets popular (similar to Digg) or answering a question.

This is interesting to talk about. Because it looks a bit different from the way Digg functions. The news is still moderated. It means your submission has to be approved by a Cyvee editor before it gets posted. This doesn't look very interesting because it prevents information from flowing smoothly. I would rather it function the way Digg does and get each CVD for each vote my peice of news receives from readers.

Asking questions cost money, everyone. Am I willing to pay for it? Not really. I don't know if the answers I get are those that I want. Why would I pay for a product that I have no clue as to whether it would yield any benefits? This is economically flawed. Hey, I can ask 10 questions per month on Linked in, and can receive professional answers from people around the world. What gives?

Why would I, at the same time, try my best to answer a question? The usual reason would be that I want to help my peers out. But look, Cyvee puts money right into the game and it turns out it's a treasure hunt rather than a "relief effort". How ironic. Similarly, I don't know if the service I provide will yeild any benefit for me. Vietnamese online interacting behavior gives me the impression that they are generally unresponsive. Even if I give the most wonderful answer they've ever encountered, will I get some CVD? Probably no. This looks as if my service is paid entirely by the mercy of others. A professional-turned-beggar :(

Please also allow me to look at its business model from another perspective. GE is one of the most successful corporations in the world (even though it is falling pretty fast due to the transition from manufacturing to financial services). Jack Welch, the one who gave GE a name in the business arena, and the most highly respected management guru used to say: for any single area of business that is not top or next to top in the industry, forget about it.

If you look at the Cyvee website, it looks like an online corporation with various satellite companies servicing different businesses. Unfortunately, none of these is top or second.

Final words
I know the people at Cyvee have a lot of patience to wait for the day they can really achieve something. But asking your customers to be patient is simply not a smart way of doing business. If something is not about to change, they're not gonna achieve anything. Before Cyvee thinks about how to monetize their service in the way that facebook and other web 2.0 start-ups are doing, which is tremendously difficult, they should think about how to make their business sustainable in the long term and start to please their customers. I see more Cyvee people getting together offline.

E-learning 2.0 Platform

I was on a quest for a suitable Vietnamese network suitable for disadvantaged children. Cyvee didn't score.

Google Chrome, it's not worth the Buzz

Sep 3, 2008

News surfaced the web on Sep 1 that Google was releasing its own browser code-named Chrome the next day. It seemed Google was imitating the secrecy culture of Apple. Certainly this news surprised everyone with a great amount of excitement that ensued. It didn't take long for the release to make it to the front page on and at the same time cost bloggers tons of letters to write about it.

Since Mozilla rolled out its Netscape-based Firefox in 2004, the browser war has become one of the most heated debate over the Internet, even more than the Linux vs Windows bloody one. People were given a choice, and so much more.

Then suddenly Google jumped into the game with Chrome and stole the spotlight of the day?

Why Chrome?

Having a browser of your own looks cool, doesn't it? But what it means for Google is about saving the millions that they are paying for third parties (Mozilla, Apple) to draw traffic from these browsers to their search page. You can check it out here

So far I've heard Chrome rendered Javascripts extremely well and this means so much for the Web 2.0 movement. This will give Ajax developers more room to expand their creativity and push the boundary of technology to another high.

Including Google. As a big supporter Ajax technologies (Gmail, Apps), certainly Google is doing this out of its intersest. If you look it a bit differently, Google might embed those little cool apps directly into the browser toolbars and make it all a bit monopolistic. Sorry Google, but I'm afraid this is to be true.

So, my conviction is that Google does this out of its pure interest and at the same time to contribute its technology to the community (that's why it's open source). While the latter is a good cause without a doubt, don't be overexcited.

TaiTran argues Chrome is gonna be an OS for Google Apps. This maybe true. If Chrome can become the leader in the browswer. If it fails to do so, and it seems to me it will fail to do so, then this leaves much to be desired.

Why not Chrome?

If you look at how IE is dominating the game, it's not because it is the most advanced browser (in fact, it is the least one), but because it is a built-in feature of MS Windows and this gives people the impression that IE is the Internet.

So far Firefox is gaining momentum (approximately 20% market share) but the wall is too big to be demolished because many applications are still strictly dependent on IE.

I can be pretty sure that FF will make it because eventually the shift from IE to more viable alternatives is unavoidable.

So this leaves Firefox and Chrome (I don't think Safari will make it, sorry Apple), in the table.

It is natural for me to think that if Chrome is to make progress and gain market share, it will eat that of IE, not Firefox.

Let me give a bit more in-depth analysis to Firefox:
- It is community-driven and possesses a trememdous amount of enthusiasm from its users. Most of the success Firefox is enjoying today comes from its community.
- It is at the same time developed by this very community.
- It has a great number of astounding addons.
- It's constantly improving. How many of you have forgotten about TraceMonkey? It can run Javascript that fast, people.

What does Chrome have?
- Google, quite big a name. Look at IE and Microsoft, they are fading away.
- Outstanding slew of engineers. Do you think they are smarter than the collective brain of the Firefox community? And if they are to build a community around Chrome, do they think they can gather the same amount of enthusiam that Firefox 's already had? Did you feel yourself apart of some community when you downloaded and installed Chrome? Do you think you are supporting a cause? Do you think you are doing this because you want to spread out Chrome to the world?
- Addons. While I think these will eventually make it to the Chrome platform, I can assure you not every good addon will do. This is a competition between Firefox and Chrome and I guyss Chrome won't be based on the same community as that of Firefox, if it is to be the case.
- It's still in Beta. When Google tells you something is in Beta, it's not a joke. Take a look at this.

And how many months, years to come before Chrome can get mature enough to go out of beta?

Look, Firefox is not Beta. And it can render Javascript as well as V8. And Firefox developers are constantly trying to improve its memory usage.

On top of that, Chrome has not been released to Linux, and I can guarantee you many are disappointed bearing in mind how much Google has benefited from the work of this community.

All in all, this looks great. But writing about Chrome on an Ubuntu machine is a bit bizzare. But hey Google, you forced me to do so. It's not my fault. If a faster (renfering) and faster (resources usage) are what Chrome's worth the try, Firefox wins.

E-learning Platform 2.0

I was considering using Chrome as the browser of choice for our upcoming Platform. But it looks like it may take forever. Firefox is still a good choice, and perhaps a better on.

Enjoy Chrome, everyone :)

Update: Sergey Brin on the launch of Chrome:

E-learning Platform 2.0

Sep 2, 2008

Levitt had an interview for the Society of Fellows, the venerable intellectual clubhouse at Harvard that pays young scholars to do their own work, for three years, with no commitments. Levitt felt he didn’t stand a chance. For starters, he didn’t consider himself an intellectual. He would be interviewed over dinner by the senior fellows, a collection of world-renowned philosophers, scientists, and historians. He worried he wouldn’t have enough conversation to last even the first course.

Disquietingly, one of the senior fellows said to Levitt, “I’m having a hard time seeing the unifying theme of your work. Could you explain it?”

Levitt was stymied. He had no idea what his unifying theme was, or if he even had one.

Amartya Sen, the future Nobel-winning economist, jumped in and neatly summarized what he saw as Levitt’s theme.

Yes, Levitt said eagerly, that’s my theme.

Another fellow then offered another theme.

You’re right, said Levitt, that’s my theme.

And so it went, like dogs tugging at a bone, until the philosopher Robert Nozick interrupted. “How old are you, Steve?” he asked.


Nozick turned to the other fellows: “He’s twenty-six years old. Why does he need to have a unifying theme? Maybe he’s going to be one of those people who’s so talented he doesn’t need one. He’ll take a question and he’ll just answer it, and it’ll be fine.”


We are only one month old. Why do we need an identity? Maybe we're going to be one of those people who're so innovative we don't need a traditional one. We've spotted an issue, and we'll just tackle it, and it'll be fine.

While we're compiling an e-learning package that we think nobody has done before, we've still stuck to the traditional way of identifying ourselves: become a part of an organization. Ironically, the core technologies of our e-learning package is entirely based online (except for the Edubuntu platform).

What do you think if we call ourselves an E-learning Platform 2.0? Or something similar? I mean, the naming is secondary at this stage, but the idea is we will define ourselves as an online platform delivering E-learning 2.0 packages. To be more specific, we do not exist offline when it comes to what we're doing.

What's the point of doing 2.0 when you're not 2.0 yourself? Ever since the idea was born, I've had a strong feeling that this is gonna change everything, but didn't foresee that this will today change the way we want to identify ourselves.

What matters is what you do, not how we are. But it comes in handy when we want to communicate with our sponsors and other stakeholders, including our partners, effectively.

This is gonna be challenging, but as the philosopher put it: "It'll be fine". Need more time to mull it over. :)

$2.5USD for a legitimate copy of MS WIndows and Office

I was taken aback to learn from Chris, my teammate + roommate during PV08, that Microsoft is giving away its Windows and Office licenses at a dirt cheap price: $2.5USD to people in developing countries. It looked like Microsoft is doing something good.

The team was very happy with the news because we intended to use as much legitimate software as possible in the lab that we were preparing for the next school year the 15 May School. A fairy tale has become reality I guess.

So I started to contact people at Microsoft Vietnam and fortunately they had launched this program in our country. Great! And guess what, the Microsoft people were really nice to me.

However, Microsoft itself said this was not intended as a philanthropic crusade. It is still a business model. And the reason behind this scheme is that people are stuck to MS Windows forever without really realizing that they've beome technology slaves. From an economic perspective, people respond to incentives. Who on earth would not pay $2.5usd to get a legitimate license of Windows and Office, everyone? This is not Africa. And this is a smart move from Microsoft to combat privacy and push Linux away in emerging markets. You deserve my admiration.

The response got from Ms Ngoc Anh, Education Account Manager delivered the following messages:

- We work with the Department of Education only, not you :)

- You have to buy at least 100 licenses. We don't deal in pennies.

What? 100 licenses? We only have 20 computers. And we don't want to make life complicated by asking the Department of Education. Bureaucracy, remember? This is Vietnam!

I then nicely asked if we could buy 100 licenses and give the rest 80 to others. Unfortunately, the request was rejected because it was not a part of their policy.

Even though I am aware that working through the Department of Education is the right way to promote such program, I still have a feeling that this is politically intentional. I think both the Dept of Edu and Microsoft benefits from such a deal. But why don't they make it more flexible. This seems so much to me a deterrent, not an incentive at all.

Windows XP Pro 110$ / 1 PC

Office 2008 65$/ 1 PC

Are you seriously kidding? I'm not going to spend that much for 20 computers.

Microsoft has simply got me frustrated and I'm not gonna tolerate this monopolistic and unethical business model any longer.

Here are two solutions:

- For the 15 May School, I've left everything as is because it was not us who installed pirated versions of Windows onto those machines.

- For our upcoming program, goodbye Microsoft. I highly appreciate your clever trick, but Ubuntu is way better an alternative.

For those of you who still think you can get something decent from Microsoft, forget about it. Take a look at Ubuntu instead.

Tip: If you are working for a school, and find you cannot live without Microsoft, do contact them and pay a small amount of money to get what you want. But I can guarantee you this is not a smart move on your part.

On another side note,for any business model that wishes to be successful, principles are of utmost importance. Look at how Google is moving forward and Microsoft is falling behind. No matter how smart you and how great your techniques are, principles matter.

Initial Failures

Sep 1, 2008

Before writing this post, I tried to mask its title with something fancy because failure seems to be so unappealing a word. But I guess people tend to hide themselves from failure and that's why they cannot move forward. Come to think of it, it's not as bad as it seems to be. Failure is, afterall, a word, and it comes before success in the dictionary.

For the first time in more than one month, I've come to feel what is called a pain. Ok, not as bad as you may think of. But it was how I felt like, when receiving a message which in essence told me that working as a part of the ICT4DEV wouldn't work out. It might work out, but not in the way that I wanted it to do. This is quite a setback because even though I've got to know this Working Group for only a few weeks, it's gained my full trust. A partnership with, or integration into the Working Group, for our Program (well, Edubuntu & Web 2.0 Technologies for educating Disadvantaged Children in HCMC, in plain English), would provide us with a solid platform to carry out what we've planned. Simply put, Plan A failed. I'm thinking of other ways to work with the WG :). This is called Stakes.

As written in a previous post, I would ask Matt to set up a Student Group at UPenn. But well, he's attempting double major in Computer Science and Bio-engineering. Despite knowing how smart he is, taking up this huge responsibility would kill him without doubt. I'm glad he declined the invitation and this had been expected. Plan B failed. I'm still working with him. Stake number 2.

The only option left is to work with SEALNet. In many aspects I'm thankful for what Project Vietnam 2007 and 2008 have given me. But to be honest, I do not entirely trust SEALNet. My sixth sense is telling me this is a valid concern. But perhaps I haven't worked with anyone from SEALNet directly and this is also a valid prejudice. After a long discussion with Tu, my highschool friend and at the same time Co-president of this Stanford-based organization, it occured to me that this kind of partnership would produce something really useful in the long-term and I shouldn't give up this opportunity. A Fellowship Program worth of $7,500 looks like a good seed funding and the resources that SEALNet can bring to our Program to a success. I'll give this more thought after recovering from today's feelings. Plan C looks rather promising. I only hope that after some SEALNet people read this post, they wouldn't find it offensive. If they do find it that way, well, they don't deserve my trust.

Independence vs Interdependence.

Yeah, cooperation works great. But it's not always the case. I'm reading The 7 Seven Habits of Effective People, and the author's arguement on this is totally true. We'd better manage to stand on our own feet first before thinking about teamworking and partnerships. So, instead of putting my entire efforts to thinking about what the best partnership scenario is like, I should also spend time finding ways to feed ourselves first before eating with others. Indeed, it is our top priority now. Oh yeah, my dad's just said" Nothing is more valuable than freedom" while he was drunk and prepared to sing some Karaoke songs. Thinking of relaxing a bit to reduce today's stressed mind.

Essentially, this is what I intended to do in the first place. But I was hesitant to do so because it would put myself in front of a lot of challenges. For some reason, I'm facing the cons of the easier option and it seems equally difficult.

To sum up, I still remember how Randy Pauch talked about challenges and obstacles: Walls are there to discourage those who are not inspired enough. I'm gonna break this wall. Anther good quote I heard first time from my friend, Loc:"When there's a will, there's a way. If there's no way, make one." Yes, I'm making one, I'm confident in my creativity.

Happy Independence Day everyone. I want to watch The Dark Knight too. This seems to fit the context so much. Independence? Dark Knight? Lol