Thursday, 20 June 2013

@Zhong Guan Cun

It was a fruitful week.

The major task I do here in Beijing is to help a friend building an open university for the ordinary Chinese people. It's a non-profitable organization and the founder is not going to accept any commercial fundings. I know the founder personally during a trip visiting the Versailles in Paris. He was a master student in Ecole normale studying Physics. Before that, he was an undergraduate student in Peking University. When I met him in Paris, he already got admitted by ETH for the PHD study with full scholarships. However, instead of going for the PHD study, he returned to China to build the open-university,named 万门大学(one-man university). At the beginning, I thought he was doing the open university for fun. However, after observing for half a year, I realised that he really means it. Indeed, I think he is going to devote his whole life to the education career. In the past two months, he went to 30+ top Chinese universities to give talks on the open-university idea and successfully built good-quality academic communities on existing online social network sites and offline Chinese universities. The major task for this summer is to build an independent academic website for the public. I intended to help him building an iOS app. However, it's not as crucial as building the website. Thus I shifted my role to help building the website. There are two more people helping building the website. One is a software engineer from Douban, another is an undergraduate girl from Harbey Mudd College in California. I really learnt a lot from the Douban engineer,e.g., architecture, frameworks, design,etc. The girl was a bit over-confident. Thankfully, she's getting more humble now. We customised a content management system on top of an existing python framework and built a HTML5 parallax style front end design.

To support my expenses here in Beijing, I also applied for the GSOC project. It was quite relavant to web programming-- to build a timeline viewer for patients. Some machine learning algorithms will be involved as well in the later stage. It's not that important compared to the top priority open-university project. Indeed, I am thinking of not attending the commencement because the open-university is so much more important.

Other highlights:

I attended the China Accelerator meetup(http://www.chinaccelerator.com/), during which 10 entrepreneurs shared their experiences and suggestions. One ruby developer advised that "1.pick a market you want to serve, 2.plan for 20 years if you want to be a happy entrepreneur". I asked myself these two questions and my answer are: 1. students 2.education.

I didn't go to church last Sunday in order to spend more time with the douban engineer. It worths the time. I also persuaded one of my high school mates in Tsinghua university to visit the Haidian Church.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

First Week in Beijing

Some highlights

1. I attended a talk by Amazon China's VP, James Fong in Peking University Guanghua school of management. In one of his slides, Mr. Fong highlighted Amazon's products eco-system in the following diagram which was drawn by one of Amazon's founders in the early years.  The diagram starts with sellers, followed by selection and customer experience, then growing traffic, lower cost structure,lower prices and better customer experience, finally a better eco-system. Some of the stages in the circle can be beaten by other competitors, but a stronger eco-system is not that easy to be challenged. The most important fact in this diagram is " Customer Experience" as Mr. Fong mentioned, that is why most companies now focus so much on improving "Customer Experience".

Another thing he highlighted in that talk is the difference between the Chinese market and the Foreign market in terms of e-commerce.  Two examples can be "Payment(alipay instead of credit card)" and "发票". Amazon shares around 10% of the e-commerce market in China with the purchase of joyo.com . This is quite good. However, the reason why people buy products from Amazon is not because of its superior user experience or cheaper price(Indeed, Amazon's product is quite expensive compared to some other e-commerce sites in China and Amazon CN's UX is pretty bad for the Chinese customers as some audiences complained about the tedious procedure of checking-out and buggy one-click purchase function in the Chinese site). However, amazon still owes its customers because of the TRUSTWORTHINESS it brings to the Chinese customers. Trustworthiness is so important. During the talk, the audience also drew some attentions to the coming 5% tax Chinese government is going to add on to the online-transactions. Well, it's hard to draw conclusions on what will happen to the e-commerce market in China.


2. I attended a non-profitable event by Chinayouthology which is very meaningful. http://www.douban.com/event/18974029/ Attendances come together to design education solutions for kids in rural areas. Many social entrepreneurs attended the event and I found it so cool. The founder of the 多背一公斤 social movement also appeared in the event. I had a short chat with him. It opened my eyes on what social enterprises mean. There are some other interesting social enterprises like the one who invits volunteers to read story books to kids in subways. NPOs doesn't mean the organizations shouldn't spend money, on the contrary, they really need the money to employ talents to move the organizations forwards. Unfortunately, the public don't really understand and these organizations are not so easy to get fundings and sponsorships. 

3. I attended Haidian Church English fellowship on Sunday. This church is much better than the one I attended last week. The pastor explains nicely and the songs are very touching. After the worship, new comers are welcomed to attend bible study groups. The church workers explained the key principles of christianity in 1-2 hours. Thankfully, the key principles are all the same as the ones I was taught in Singapore. Though I was told that the Chinese pastors are restricted by the government to not teach certain topics in churches, I didn't find any teaches wrong in Haidian church. That is great! However, one bad thing about that church is that they only teach 8 weeks' courses for people who are determined to be christians, while the new comers only have one course to learn about christianity. In another word, they expect people to become christians at the first course they get to know Jesus. That's so unrealistic...





Tuesday, 4 June 2013

In the Great Firewall Zone

I flew to HK two weeks ago and stayed there for three days before flying back home. The brief thoughts and observations of HK have been posted on my travel blog. My mum happened to be quite free during my stay at home because the printing factory she worked for was under investigation for its sewage pollution. There are quite a number of problems in China. Some happening ones in my hometown are pollution, food safety, ageing population, rapid urbanization, educational resource shortage for the less developed areas, trust between people,etc. Good news is that problems always come with opportunities. People of my generation are working on it to fix the unhealthy nation.

Last Wednesday, I came here to Beijing which is the IT hub of the whole nation. People are striving for survivor. Competition is fierce, even a call taxi app has got several competitors. http://blog.renren.com/blog/253739580/905754705

Behind the Great Firewall, Blogger, Google Drive, Google handout, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter,etc has been blocked. I am using a proxy server in Google App Engine to access these pages.

Some highlights of this week:

1. I watched a movie named “中国合伙人” in PKU-Hall(北大百年讲堂). It is really touching. The movie tells a story of three young men who started an english training school in Beijing and worked together to make it a big business. There are some scenes which I feel so touched. One of the scenes is the moment when the company gets positive revenues and the founders celebrate in a Karaoke room. One founder cannot control his emotion and sing the song “海阔天空” loudly. The lyrics is so touching and I cannot help crying."背离了理想,谁人都可以,哪怕有一天只有你共我". Another moment is when an old lady who gave extra tips to the hero when she saw the store owner pays very few to the hero. The lady said, her(the store owner) life would be like that forever, but young man, you won't be a waiter for your whole life, you've got to move on.  This inspires me when we are treated badly by the boss, we shall believe that we will be more successful than him someday.

2. I stayed in PKU Guanghua management school yesterday and happen to read an article regarding digital publishing in China. http://content.businessvalue.com.cn/post/10864.html I do foresee the trend that self-publishing will be more popular in the future. Even the educational materials can be part of a self-publishing service. Machine is going to replace the work of editors, which is the biggest part of the expenses in a publishing company. When the writers are not the employees any more, the whole business can be almost cost-free.

3. Cat lovers vs Dog lovers. Cat lovers are somewhat more of individualists while Dog lovers are more socially reliant. That sounds quite true. Personally, I seem to love cats more than dogs.

4. I attended the sunday gathering in the Chongwenmen church in Beijing, which is said to be the oldest church in north China.Well, I would say that I believe more on the teaching in bible than the priest or organization. The church is a bit too lady-oriented. The priest is a female, the choir group members are all females. One bad thing I encounter is that the priest asked people to read one bible story(Christ told a lady not to feed dogs with breads of her children), but she didn't really explain the meaning, which is a bit confusing. One good thing is the church members seem to have strong faiths here.