Monthly Archives: December 2009

How do you feel about Google?

It is funny that since I started working at Yahoo! – anytime I mention my dislike of Google I get told I work for Yahoo! so I have to hate Google. Most people don’t always know that I have not been at Yahoo! for more than a few months and prior to Yahoo! I did not like where Google was going. It seems as of late that if Google could buy the Internet they would. Google used to look like the reliable technology partner to build on but anymore, unless you are planning to get bought by them, then you are most surely bound to compete with them.

Maybe not today but someday cause it looks like Google plans to do it all. Those in the valley or the techcrunch fanboys love this because they think the whole world is silicon valley – but it is not. They write articles and purport that anything Google does must be good for the masses but more and more Google appears to be squashing anything in sight so they can put an ad on the Internet – the complete internet. DNS servers – u must be kidding?

One of my new tech/motorcycle friends summed it up well:

What I don’t understand is that the people of Google are not stupid.  But if they start competing in every sector/segment/business online, then no one is going to want to work with them.  Google may be your partner today but may be your competitor tomorrow.  How can they not see that this is a huge problem they are making for themselves?

This is true but I think Google is now deciding that they are big enough to do it all and frankly they just don’t care since they have enough money and clout to buy whatever they can’t build. Google employees don’t care cause most of them are rich anyway – so don’t expect any moral compasses from the minions. Money trumps any sense of doing right – always has.

Microsoft tried this before, doing it all, but the Internet set them back a bit – nice article on that here:

http://counternotions.com/2009/12/15/nexus/

Another premise is that everyone always thinks Google is the best search engine and in many ways it used to be and for some things still is but I find more and more the searches to be pretty lame and the noise around them to be too high.

Great article on this:

Google has become a snake that too readily consumes its own keyword tail. Identify some words that show up in profitable searches — from appliances, to mesothelioma suits, to kayak lessons — churn out content cheaply and regularly, and you’re done. On the web, no-one knows you’re a content-grinder.

The result, however, is awful. Pages and pages of Google results that are just, for practical purposes, advertisements in the loose guise of articles, original or re-purposed. It hearkens back to the dark days of 1999, before Google arrived, when search had become largely useless, with results completely overwhelmed by spam and info-clutter.

It seems Google needs to be reminded of why they became popular to begin with?

http://www.givemebackmygoogle.com/

What I am most stunned with though is the myriads of startups and wanna be hackers constantly lapping up all that Google has to offer and then over beers and coffee wondering why their companies can’t get funded, bought out or compete with – well Google. So the millions of fanboys feed the beast and then wonder why competing with the beast is so hard.

Get a clue folks. When you wanted to compete or tear down Microsoft or anyone else did you use a MSFT PC to do it? No – you would attack using your Mac or your Linux box or whatever. The same goes here – use Google to power your search, your email or your startup then expect them to get bigger and bigger. Don’t cry if the mouth you feed comes back to bite you.

Pretty simple stuff.

Even Mozilla is coming to grips with this very issue.

It is a tough space out there – unless you are the Yelps of the world.

Daring Fireball, Vietnam, iPhones – the world is so small!

It is strange when reading the web and you come across funky connect the dots type of reads. I spend a fair amount of time in Vietnam and have been watching the market closely. I also read Daring Fireball a bunch and appreciate his blend of tech and news. It was a treat today to check his blog to see a link to a Vietnam iPhone app. The app is called CatPaint:

http://catpaint.info/

Strange but true – I guess the weird stuff wins in the nascent Vietnamese iPhone market. As far as I know there is still not an official carrier but the hacking on iPhones in Vietnam is legendary. Even hardware based unlocking as shown here. You see a fair amount of iPhones in Vietnam – even stored dedicated to selling, unlocking and servicing them.

Playing with iPhones in Vietnam I have not seen anything real killer but you will see useful apps related to finding places and people. I like this model and think it has legs – one of the ones I have been following is diadiem which has an iPhone version. There is also Thodia but I don’t think they have an iPhone app yet. Something to watch for.

Lots going on in Vietnam. I was just at Barcamp Saigon and met a lot of cool people. Lots of follow up needed. Hope to be back next month.

Tonight I will be at HackerspaceSG and will write more about the local scene soon!

Some photos from Barcamp Saigon:

www.flickr.com

http://www.flickr.com/badge_code_v2.gne?show_name=1&count=5&display=latest&size=t&layout=h&source=all_tag&tag=%23barcampsaigon&s=rec&user=80553783%40N00

More photos or video tagged with #barcampsaigon on Flickr

The Elbow Room : Good Eats : Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Traveling as much as I do I consider myself somewhat of a foodie and try to get out of the hotels as much as I can to get something to eat. I am always looking for breakfast joints because I love to take the paper/book and sit down to a nice breakfast while chilling out. Finding cool breakfast chill places in Southeast Asia is not easy. You can find a lot of coffee shops or pseudo breakfast places but nothing like the diner or cafes I am used to.

In Vietnam there are tons of coffee shops and many of them have wifi but they tend to have lame food. The notion of Vietnamese breakfast is like bread an egg and lettuce with a tomato slice. Or the bakery type places have lots of croissants and such but I want a real breakfast.

So I had read in the Jetstar magazine about a place called The Elbow Room in HCMC – don’t bothering googling for it since you hardly find anything. The URL to the place is here : www.elbowroom.com.vn but there is no site. Email though : elbowroom52@yahoo.com.

The address is 52 Pasteur Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Phone is 848 3821 4327

Map – not perfect but I think close.

On to the place. It is a cool little bistro type place. Feels like it should be in NY or San Francisco. The decor is brick, wood and some paintings. Music is cool and chill. Service is great and the staff are attentive without getting in your face and speak good english.

Place is not cheap, cheap but not over the top either. Portions are decent and the quality it good. I had the lumberjack breakfast which is eggs, bacon, ham, toast, home fried potatoes and 2 pancaked. Also had iced coffee and some fresh orange juice. About 240k vnd all in. They could use a better bacon and in my opinion drop the ham. Pancakes and bread were good but nice if it came with some jam. Coffee was great and the OJ okay but not amazing. All in all though it was tasty and a nice place to chill for a bit while reading the paper.

I may hit it for dinner sometime but right now it could just stay my breakfast joint for HCMC until I find something better.

Any suggestions?

SEA tour mostly over…

The goal was to get to all my countries before the end of the year – tough to do any thoughtful 2010 planning without getting to the places you are making plans for. Check my TripIt for stats. 🙂 Going from no-flying to flying means I am a peon on Star Alliance again and hoping to get some love before the end of year cutoff.

I was in Manila for a week and did the rounds. Podcast interview here for all the groupies. Manila was an interesting market since it feels like it should be happening more than it is but the startup scene is very small. I think this has to do with the local domination of telecoms, the lack of an angel network and a quiet hacker scene. Very different from being in Singapore or Malaysia where the Government is throwing money all over the place trying to get things going. I need to dig more in Manila and see if we can help get things like Barcamp going.

Speaking of Barcamp – I am in HCMC right now for Barcamp Saigon. Looks to be a cool event! Hoping to dive a little deeper into the Vietnam scene this weekend.

Since I am in Vietnam let’s talk FaceBook – quite the backlash over the new privacy stuff. It is quite the reversal from what FB originally started as. For me, as the site keeps growing, FB is getting less and less useful. The signal to noise ratio just keeps climbing every month. Everyone is trying to use their personal FB accounts to be the next social marketing star. It gets old fast. I think niche networks might start to get more interesting as FB gets less useful.

Seems simpler plays liek Foursquare and gowalla might get more interesting because they help you with what to do and who to do it with. All this could change of course if FB gets more local and makes location based programming easier but for me – I am starting to delete friends on FB more than I am adding them.

Another possible entrant to the location/review game in Singapore. Will be looking it more soon. Seems similar possibly to Koprol. This is an interesting space since the big guys will focus on Europe and Americas while regional guys will try to build something in their home countries. I am waiting for one of the regional guys to try and take the whole region as a defensive play for when the big boys come to town. Question is will they since getting the local info is not easy.

Another possible biz idea for one of these players is rather than being the end user builder there might be a chance to be the pick and shovel dealer for all the various players trying to build social/location/yelp sites. Someone could be the guy offering all the location data and some sort of promo/ad engine around it. Then the other guys concentrate on building the interfaces, social model and grow the user  base. Right now all these guys are struggling with getting local info and building sites. Might be tough.

I think that is it for now. Gotta bunch of work to do but I need to get better with the blog.

cya

ps. Good to see one of the winners from Open Hack Day with his site up and running. If you are into twitter and Indonesia then you will dig this site: http://twiterus.com/

Back from Vietnam!

After open Hack Day Jakarta – I went straight over to Vietnam for another week on the road. HCMC (Saigon) for a few days and then Hanoi to close it off. Met a bunch of startup and some of the local VC players. Thanks to the IDG guys for showing me around a bit.

Given freedom of speech issues news type sites are not the order of the day in Vietnam – unlike places in Indonesia where news, community and user generated content are huge.

However there is some cool stuff going on.

For a local map player trying to go the Yelp model check: http://diadiem.com/

For more of a review based site check: http://www.thodia.vn/hcm

Then there is the Moore group building some community stuff and infratructure for other online players: http://moore.vn/en/

For financial stuff there is: Vietstock.com.vn

Football betting: http://www.yeuthethao.com/

Popular women’s site: http://www.webtretho.com/

Leading jobs site: http://www.vietnamworks.com/

Online dictionary: http://vdict.com/

Music and entertainment: http://yeuamnhac.com/cbeta/index_new.php

Also, given the VN FB mess, this local social network site is growing: http://www.zing.vn/

Also – can’t leave out the big kahuna in the online game space: http://www.vinagames.com/

I am sure there are more – was a busy week.

The internet is in pure growth mode but the sites seem to be very locally focused with mostly no English interfaces. I have yet to meet any players who profess to wanting to grow their sites/companies outside of Vietnam. Not sure this is smart or not – it could be the move for now but I think big ideas will need to target the SEA region – not just Vietnam.

In Manila this week, then Thailand and then back to Vietnam.

Location stuff a topic everywhere I go.

carry on!