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What is more important

Just recovered from last weekend's hackathon in Blk71. It was a nice one, except that our team didn't get the top prize.

Honestly, we are among the most hardworking teams and we delivered a cool app. That's great. Though it is the process that matters the most, the team still feel quite down when the result doesn't fit our expectation. The less hardworking teams actually made it, not because their apps are cooler, but that they used the apis provided by the sponsors. However, our app will probably be further polished to fit the real market whereas most other teams will not move on. That's a quite big difference.

The idea first came when Jerry(the project manager) and I met in a hotpot restaurant in Beijing two months ago. It's a travel app which records the friends' location when they post images and generates travel history summery.  Two of my juniors, Zeyu and Cui wei are very interested to join, thus we form a team to make the app out. Jerry himself is good at product growth and promotion. He also recruited two very talented designers which are great assets in his company. The company is now under a painful transaction state from mainly making social web apps to mobile apps. Socialisation is still the key value for the company. It is good that he already found the way to make money from his small apps(kind of social advertising). But the future is so uncertain that he needs to try on different ways to move the company forward.

To me, making something usable is an important factor. However, when I look back to my previous decisions, to create long-term value seems to be a more important perspective in my value system. If you made a very popular app today, but the app cannot add value to itself and quickly died within a few days(months), that's not a long term career. It's just a way to feed the company with short-term cash flows.  Some people say that one needs to feed himself before pursuing for bigger dreams. However, I recently find the saying not really that valid. Being an idealist and a practiser at the same time is possible, just that it is sometimes quite painful.

For instance, I find the wanmen university a long term career. However,  as a NGO, it can hardly support itself financially. The founder is an idealist. He quitted his PHD study in ETH and came back with a big dream to make higher education accessible to all. What's so amazing about him is that he is not only an idealist, but also a practiser. He really did a lot to make the university possible.  This summer, he taught university physics from 8am-9pm for almost a month EVERY day even without financial support. He even slept in office to save money to buy a high-quality video shooting device for in-class recording. I see passions more important than money in his case.

Personally, I'm also quite an idealist. However, I started to feel the pressure from the real life.  I've written in another blog saying that my top interests are 1 music. 2 education. 3 travel. Fortunately, I'm doing education now and started doing travel related technical service in the hackathon last week. Honestly, what I've being doing for education is not a very commercializable approach. I met a senior who is the CTO of an e-commerce technical service provider. He thinks that my recent education related projects(readpeer.com and wanmen.org) are purely non-profitable. What drives me is the 情怀 instead of the commercial potential. I admitted that. Why shall we compromise to the materialistic world?

However, money does matter. Fortunately, it doesn't matter so much to me at this moment. Last week, I felt quite overwhelming, to a state that I started to feel unhappy. I stated to rethink about my priorities and dreams.

I've got a few commitments. Let me list the stuffs down.

1. wanmen university content management system (July+ Early August)[education NGO]
2. GSOC bioinformatics patient timeline project(August+Early September)[feed myself+learning coding]
3. Travel app backend polishing(1-2 weeks)[travel related&for fun]
4. Clocky app polishing(1-2weeks)[for fun]
5. CodeRobot Website(August- October)[possible career]
6. ReadPeer design outsourcing and UX improvement(August- October)[education&product development]

I was working on the first 2 stuffs this month which are already quite busy. Next month is going to be more overwhelming. I'll probably need to share some work to other people&restructure my time table.

1 with a junior
3 with two juniors
4 with three juniors
5 with a front end developer
6 with another designer team

Once I told someone that I want to make some self-sustainable companies/projects. Gratefully, I'm walking towards this goal. As for serious career, I seldom have thought about that. A voice told me that I don't want to work for others, I want to start my own company. But what kind of companies? There are some role models, like 37signals and Instagram, which are small and flexible technical oriented companies. Though that sounds too ambitious, it is not impossible. IT insourcing as a way to feed the company and at the same time making own lightweight products to impact the world. No limitation on location, timezone, etc. That would be so great! The problem is how to position/brand your company and how to attract/become super talented people. I really need to learn a lot to be capable of dreaming that big.

One thing I learned from hackathons is that as a project manager, you don't have to be the best developer in the team, but you'll have to be the most hardworking one. I used to be quite a slacker, but I'm now more hardworking and becoming more trustful in the team.



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