Friday, January 23, 2009

night time internet is awesome

a few of us (austen and james) at work started something called "night time internet". i think it basically started because we were working on proposals and side projects after work at home. so, we would get home from work, eat dinner, etc and get right back on the computer and work on stuff; instant messaging each other to communicate. eventually, it just became part of our routine and habit to come onto night time internet. a lot of times we would be working on totally different things and different projects. i would be reading and writing blogs as austen hacked away on hackystat, while james pretended to be online. haha. (okay well we don't do this every night, just when we have stuff to do; i suppose we have lives...)

anyway, now its part of our culture. we have a few people that are part time night time interneters. and even people from different companies. but, i think the cool thing is we use a lot of this time to learn from each other.

i'll just focus what i get out of night time internet...
1) i use this time to do a lot of just talking story. a lot of times i'm pretty busy at work so i don't get a lot of time to talk to my engineers. i'm probably able to talk to a large majority of my engineers on night time internet. and the discussions tend to be really good. whether its me offering advice or trying to solve work problems, i view night time internet as a really time to do this. it really does seem to work for us.
2) night time internet is an opportunity to experiment and learn about things that i don't get to at work. i do a lot of digging into new ideas and technologies at night time internet. i read a lot of blogs and try to learn more about things that i'm interested. its awesome because i can share them with others and get feedback.
3) internet networking. um.. you all probably know i spend a lot of time networking. and night time internet allows me to learn about the different people and organizations out there.

those are some of my initial thoughts...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

STEM at the apple store

i've been visiting apple stores more frequently over the holidays and especially since i've got my new iPhone. one of things that i finally realized is that the apple store is changing the world. haha... okay stop laughing. let me explain.

this past weekend i walked into the kahala apple store and i noticed that almost every mac book was taken over by kids playing halo. at first i thought to myself that the kids were basically keeping real customers from checking out the products. after walking around for a while i noticed that the kids weren't only playing halo, some of them were playing with iMovie and some art software (i don't know what it was because i don't have a mac... boo). after checking out some of the iPhone accessories i came back to the mac books and saw this

this scene was so awesome that i had to snap a picture of it. something about these kids excitement was so captivating. they were having so much fun in the apple store. hm.. self taught STEM education at the apple store. now thats definitely unique. i don't have a mac book and i'm not sure if these kids have one either. but, mac book or not, its awesome to see that we share the same fondness of technology. i love technology, but i had a slow start - i didn't really learn about the internet till i was in college. when i grew up we didn't have apple stores, we didn't have opportunities to learn about technology in the shopping centers; technology wasn't part of everyday life. now it is... these kids have a lifetime of loving and learning technology and hopefully that inspires them to accomplish things that i've never dreamed of. and the apple store is playing its small part of making technology cool.

next time while you are at the apple store. look around at the people. notice the young and old loving technology. its pretty awesome when you think about it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

ideas for web videos

i read a lot of blogs and i've noticed that i actually prefer when the blog/article has pictures instead of videos. actually, videos are great for digging deeper into the topic, but i've found that the videos in blogs slow down reading a lot, because you want to know whats in the video. so, you tend to load up the video and manually fast forward to see if there is anything good in it. this slows down my reading and i hate that. but i continue to do that because sometimes the video is actually way easier to understand than the write up.

to solve those problems i have two visualization ideas for web videos.

skimming for web videos
skimming is a iMovie thing and its pretty cool. basically its a way to explore and preview your video and is a great way quickly identify the best parts of your video. to skim all you have to do is move your mouse horizontally over the video and the video plays back chronologically in respect to the mouse direction. you can also hear the audio while skimming. watch the apple tutorial on skimming

skimming for web videos makes a lot of sense to me. it allows you to quickly find things of interest. perhaps there are technical issues with doing that, for example how to download the data to be able to do that. the whole buffering the video thing really sucks and i hate that i have to do that all the time. not to mention it sort of defeats the purpose of the skimming feature.

a collage of video thumbnails
usually, when you upload a video you can select a single thumbnail of the video to show users what the video is all about. but, i've always wondered why stop at just one thumbnail. what if there were multiple thumbnails that showed snapshots of the highlights of the video. then i can just look at the collage of thumbnails to know what the video was all about. i created an example of my thumbnail collage for this time lapse video:

(my mock up)

compare my mock up with the actual video. i wonder if my thumbnails actually helps. what do you think?

(actual vimeo video)

perhaps there would be away to toggle between skimming and the thumbnail collage. anyway, those were two ideas that i think would help save time while encountering videos on the web. do you think those two features would be useful?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

stop saying there is a lack of technology talent

I've been trying to stay away from this discussion on techhui about Are Hawaii's Tech Tax Credit Worth the Cost?, because I don't particularly think its that productive and has a far too negative tone. But, I decided to chime in because of this comment:
As a whole, in software/IT, I don't think the local talent compares with the level of global competition a startup has to face. (This is the same point Guy Kawasaki essentially made.) Because of the talent deficiency, funding such companies is almost inherently a high/bad risk. Money is a very inefficient way to compensate for talent. Using state funds to subsidize this is very likely to be wasteful.

Here are a few comments:
(1) did i miss the state wide talent evaluation survey that allowed you to make this claim. perhaps people should stick recounting their own experiences and refrain from making broad claims. besides i really don't think the talent thread you keep pointing to had very much careful and analytical examination of talent. i know a lot of these software and IT people that you are calling talent deficient and i think thats very wrong and inappropriate. perhaps all the talented people are avoiding you. or perhaps its the senior management, entrepreneurs, and executives that aren't getting the job done. i'm being sarcastic, but i think my statement is just as plausible.
(2) i actually think Guy Kawasaki is a little mistaken in his comments. we do have awesome professors and students in the College of Engineering (he actually is forgetting about the Department of Information and Computer Science where most of the software and technology graduates comes from). but, the problem is that the startup industry is too small of an industry for them to target to transition into. i recently had a conversation with a professor that said we want to grow the startup mentality in his students. perhaps Guy should visit the College of Engineering and Dept of Information and Computer Science and help build and transition the "supply".

anyway, say what you want about the actual tax credit program, the facts, the reports, the investors, or even the companies. but stop calling the people in hawaii's tech industry talentless.

Monday, January 5, 2009

reactions to some of the TechHui discussions

there have been some discussions on TechHui my favorite hawaii social network about a couple of subjects centering around Act221 and the talent in hawaii.

here are some excerpts (i know a few of these authors, so i'm definitely not taking a shot at them):

In Dave Takaki's forum post Action Committee for Threatened Hi Tech Tax Credits John raised an excellent point, "But maybe the issue is: Hawaii has insufficient tech talent so we are simply throwing money at the wrong problem." This is definitely a serious issue for a number of reasons.

- the talent is fairly limited (which is the premise of Dan's opening post)
- we lack talent in building startups
Let me give 2 examples:
When I worked in SF, our 50 person startup had the equivalent of a Hawaii all-start team. The academic and work credentials, along with the level of expertise was extraordinarily high. Someone like Dan would easily excel there but a lot of local techs would have trouble because of a lack of experience/training at that level.

For example, I used to go to the Ruby meetup in Berkeley and every meeting had 30 guys who were really advanced programmers. That's just Berkeley and just for Ruby, there were others in Novato, SF, San Jose, etc. While Hawaii has a number of people with similar skills, it's nowhere near that quantity of people.

IMHO, Mainlanders (well, West Coast mainlanders from my limited experience) tend to invest more time establishing their careers before settling down.

I view Act 221/215 as a High-Tech Charity (or Welfare Program) that should not be renewed.

All of these comments seem to be be pretty negative. And I tend to disagree with them. Here are some of my comments:
  • Hawaii is Hawaii - Hawaii doesn't have to be a Silicon Valley, Berkeley, or where ever. It needs to be what it is. Hawaii is about its people and thats what makes it special. With that being said, I don't think we need to have a Silicon Valley culture to make it in the tech world. We need to maximize the strengths of Hawaii to create a tech industry that thrives off of our own unique culture. People that want Silicon Valley culture should probably go to Silicon Valley. Lets not lose our identity - diversity is key.
  • Perhaps its not the talent, its the leadership that sucks - there are many talented people in hawaii. many that i think would thrive in startups. i think a large part of the finding and retaining talent in hawaii is the lack of true leaders, visionaries, and mentors. i always like to think about this quote that kevin taketa said in hawaii business magazine:
    In Hawaii, you have to listen, you have to be a good listener. You need to pay attention to relationships and how relationships are all connected here. And you need to have a certain kind of humility. And humility does not mean you don’t have courage or a certain kind of self-confidence. Hawaii is a people place and if people don’t feel you respect them or don’t care about them enough to think about them, it is really hard to lead here.

    leading and talking the loudest is different. leading and having the most money is different. you have to listen before people will listen to you; and thats the way it should work. we have the talent, but can you lead us?
  • less talk and more doing - there are a lot of people that unhappy with the current state of the hawaii tech industry. myself included; especially when i was being recruited by google (i failed the interview, i suck). but, i've come to realize that i'm to blame, because i know that i could be doing more to help. i've devoted the last couple years to not only this blog, but also to numerous student and industry events. my goal was to talk to as many students and people (including people like mazie hirono and neil abercrombie) that i could find about what we (techies) do and why its awesome. there is a huge need for mentors and experts to talk to students. do something for the greater good, anything.

    anyway... its great to see discussions on TechHui.