Connecting the Dots, Connecting the Blockchain

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs

Back in 1994, I joined a company who was developing a document service for the trading companies in Hong Kong. The service facilitated the trading companies to send various trading documents to the Hong Kong Government securely and with authenticity.

The technology behind all these was Public Key Infrastructure, or asymmetric cryptography. Even though back then I was the System Architect of such system, the technology was totally new to me – Hashing, Asymmetric Encryption, Digital Signing etc. For some reasons however, I was intrigued by all these fancy technologies.

Fast forward to year 2000, Hong Kong rolled out the Smart IDs for Hong Kong citizens and each of these Smart IDs had a chip embedded that in theory you could store the Private Key inside it and did your own digital signing. And of course, with the receiving party’s Public Key, we could do secure encryption as well.

Eight years later, in October 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto published a paper on The Cryptography Mailing list at metzdowd.com, described the digital currency – BitCoin. And the infrastructure that BitCoin worked above was what we call now – Blockchain (this term is not used at all in the original white-paper).

By now, you all know Blockchain is again based on hashing, cryptography and time-stamping. Did I know what I learnt back in 1994 would become the foundation of the digital currency or even future computing infrastructure ?

No of course, because as Steve Jobs said … we can only connect the dots looking backwards.

I don’t know ten, twenty years later, what dots we all can connect and find something new. However, you may be able to get some insights on the following excellent documentary on Blockchain

Another year, another book list

book-xmas-tree

Unlike previous years, I didn’t complete all the books below cover-to-cover. Instead, for most books I just picked a few chapters to read, and learn as much as possible. There are some good ones though (i.e. I finished the whole book) … and you can tell how the state of my mind changed, along the year, with the reading sequence.

  1. The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything
  2. Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes (TED Books)
  3. The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work
  4. The Lean Product Playbook: How to Innovate with Minimum Viable Products and Rapid Customer Feedback
  5. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
  6. Getting There: A Book of Mentors
  7. With Her Eyes (Short Stories by Liu Cixin Book 11)
  8. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
  9. TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking
  10. Magicians of the Gods: Sequel to the International Bestseller Fingerprints of the Gods
  11. The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks
  12. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It
  13. Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice

And there are a few I have yet to start … hope I can finish those in early 2017.

  1. Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today’s Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves
  2. The Road Less Traveled, Timeless Edition: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth
  3. The Art of Startup Fundraising: Pitching Investors, Negotiating the Deal, and Everything Else Entrepreneurs Need to Know
  4. Hard Landing: The Epic Contest for Power and Profits That Plunged the Airlines into Chaos
  5. From Big Data to Big Profits: Success with Data and Analytics
  6. Actionable Gamification – Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards
  7. Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the Happiness Within

Pick a few from above to read, and tell me which one(s) you like most.

Have a great Year of Reading ahead !!

New Roles of CTO, CIO, and CEO

Busy Businessman

We all know what CTO, CIO and CEO stand for, but lately I just think all these titles now stand for something else. Something pretty different.

First, as we all know the full name of CTO is Chief Technology Officer. According to Wikipedia, CTO is an executive-level position in a company or other entity whose occupant is focused on scientific and technological issues within an organisation. Of course I guess “technology issues” include what technology to use, to deliver and to maintain. In the security conference SecureHongKong couple of years ago, renowned security expert Dr. Meng-Chow Kang told the audiences that CTO stands for Chief Trust Officer. I agreed with it wholeheartedly. Technology is crucial to most, if not all, corporations nowadays; but what really matter is the trust that we all shall build among the technology and the stakeholders.

Then what about CIO, Chief Information Officer ? That one is rather easy, as many companies already renamed it to Chief Innovation Officer or Chief Integration Officer. Last year, Deloitte pointed out it’s time CIO to evolve to Chief Integration Officer, and CIO is not only the connective tissue but the driving force for intersecting, IT-heavy initiatives. And of course, to many new startups, innovation is really the single most important reason why the company exists at all. The new Chief Innovation Officer (or CINO) shall manage all the processes of innovation in the organization.

Lastly, the Chief Executive Officer – he or she that shall own the company vision, provide proper resources, build the culture, make good decisions and deliver the company’s performance now may has many new roles. In addition, the modern day CEOs shall understand what experiences the company’s products and services are being delivered to the customers as well as stakeholders. Indeed, many companies already established the role of Chief Experience Office (or CXO).

So, are you possessing one of these job titles ? Are you ready to take on the new role(s) ?

F-Stop Guru Camera Backpack

Two things I don’t like much about the Manfrotto / Kata Revolver backpack are first, it’s not designed to hold two camera bodies even with its rather huge body. Second issue is the backpack cannot stand by itself – after all it’s designed like a revolver (such that you can access lens easily).

So, the Revolver is out … and F-Stop Guru is in.

To me, a great camera backpack should has the following features (YMMV though) :

  • It has to be lightweight.
  • It shall look like a typical hiking / day-trip backpack, but not a backpack with camera gear inside.
  • It shall hold two M4/3 camera bodies, a few Olympus Pro zoom lens, one or two fixed lens, and a flash.
  • It shall allow the photographer to access the gears easily, by slinging the bag or access from the side.
  • It shall be able to slot in a 13 inches laptop.
  • It shall include lots of small internal pockets to hold accessories.
  • The shoulder strap shall not be that thick to fit the Capture Pro Camera Clip.
  • It shall has side pocket(s) to hold bottle of water.
  • It shall include rain cover.
  • And of course, It can stand by itself.

Bonus – it can fit in an internal hydration pack.

Well yes, the F-Stop Guru fits the bill.

 

My 20 Kindle eBooks of 2014

books

2014 is a tough and rough year.

However it is also a good year, as I kind of picked up reading again (thanks to the Kindle Paperwhite II, my fourth Kindle), even though I am still a slow reader. Managed to only finish 20 Kindle eBooks this year, and my favourite ones are “Stuffocation“, “Lean Startup“, “Service Design” and “Pitch Perfect“.

The 20 books in reading sequence …

  1. Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think
  2. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
  3. Data Science for Business: What you need to know about data mining and data-analytic thinking
  4. Chariots of the Gods
  5. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
  6. Stuffocation
  7. Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I Went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur
  8. The Fortune Cookie Principle : The 20 Keys to a Great Brand Story and Why Your Business Needs One
  9. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
  10. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
  11. Difference: The one-page method for reimagining your business and reinventing your marketing
  12. Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time
  13. Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works (Lean Series)
  14. Service Design: From Insight to Implementation
  15. Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising
  16. The Giza Power Plant: Technologies of Ancient Egypt
  17. Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain
  18. Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)
  19. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
  20. The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History’s Greatest Mystery Revealed

Still, there are a few books in the Kindle impatiently waiting … shall be good for the next three, four months !!

  1. The Orion Mystery: Unlocking the Secrets of the Pyramids (a reread)
  2. The FastDiet – Revised & Updated: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting
  3. Loyalty 3.0: How to Revolutionize Customer and Employee Engagement with Big Data and Gamification
  4. Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers
  5. The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users
  6. The 7 Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch
  7. Flash Boys

Keep reading !!

Are QR Codes Dead ?

Newspaper

So you probably know … QR Code was invented in 1994 (yap, 20 years ago) by Denso Wave. Although initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, QR codes now are used in a much broader context especially in mobile, for example to add a vCard contact to the user’s device, to open a webpage thru Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), or to compose an e-mail or text message.

However, just a silly question, how many times have you scanned a QR Code ? Say in the last 30 days ? Let me ask again in greater details, how many times have you picked up your phone, started up the phone, run the scanning app, pointed the phone to the QR Code, and scanned it (provided you have the QR Code in focus and in good light) ?

Two and a half years ago, Forbes asked the question “Are QR Codes dead ?”. And this question was raised many times in the past two years (you can Google it), but still there is no firm answer. In fact, the other 2D code technology Microsoft Tag is closing down soon.

So I did a test … I picked up one San Francisco Chronicle (a daily newspaper for the greater San Francisco area), and flipped through all the pages with an aim to find one QR code to scan. And the result – none. Nothing. Yap there is no single QR code in the whole newspaper.

So why are QR Codes so popular in Japan, Korea, China and also picking up speed in Hong Kong, but yet no one is really using it in a high-tech city like San Francisco ? There are many different reasons from IT and marketing experts, but I think the real reason is – the English language.

Imagine your small company (“Company”) is running a promotional campaign and want your target customers to browse your company website like http://www.COMPANY.com, or call the toll free number – 1-800-COMPANY. It may be pretty easy to do it in North America, just print the ad in newspaper with the website address and the phone number.

But what if your target customers are not that fluent in English ? What if it is hard for them to memorise your company name, the website address etc. ? Naturally, I think one solution is to use QR Code and I think that is why it’s popular in non-English speaking countries – Japan, Korea, China, as most (if not all) website addresses are composed in English language characters.

With all that said, still QR Code will give it another try, as the Merchant Customer Exchange in US is rolling out a new payment gateway CurrentC, with an attempt to kill Apple Pay (and also Credit Card fee). The whole idea of the payment gateway is to use QR Code to link the transaction to your bank account.

So, may be, let’s visit this question “Are QR Codes dead ?” again in two years time. Stay tuned.

Kindle Voyage, iPad Air 2 or iPad Mini 3 ?

Kindle-Family

Same to many of you, I have the Kindle Paperwhite II and the iPad Air. The Paperwhite II is my primary ebook reading device, and the iPad Air is my primary digital content consumer – be it News, Blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Zite or YouTube. I also use the iPad Air to compose emails, post feeds to social media via Buffer etc.

Both devices are pretty new and of course, both devices did not stone last few weeks even the new gadgets from Kindle and Apple launched recently. The key question is … “Is it worth an upgrade to the latest gadgets, even though mine are still working perfectly ?”

“No.” is my answer, in my case.

But what about you ? Let’s see the specifications of Kindle Paperwhite II and Kindle Voyage, key improvements are highlighted.

  1. Kindle Paperwhite is US$ 80 cheaper;
  2. Screen sizes are the same – 6″;
  3. Kindle Voyage screen include “adaptive light sensor”;
  4. Kindle Voyage screen touch screen and PagePress (Pressure-based page turn sensors in both side of the device);
  5. Kindle Voyage screen is higher resolution (300 vs 212);
  6. Kindle Voyage is lighter, for about 30 g;
  7. Sizes are similar but Kindle Voyage is thinner;
  8. Both store similar number of books and battery life last the same;
  9. Kindle Voyage gets a new Origami Cover.

Again, my answer to Kindle Voyage is “No.”. But if it’s your first Kindle, or your old one is broken, Kindle Voyage is a no-brainer.

ipad-air2

And what about iPad Air, iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 ? Again, I highlight the major differences.

  1. Depends on configuration, but you can get an iPad Air 2 or iPad Mini 3 with 128 GB;
  2. iPad Air is now cheaper than iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3;
  3. The screen resolutions of the 3 devices are actually the same (surprise !!);
  4. iPad Air 2 is 1.4 mm thinner and 30 grams lighter;
  5. iPad Air 2 is equipped with A8X chip and M8 motion coprocessor – it’s 40% faster;
  6. Both iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 have the Touch ID, iPad Air 2 also gets a barometer;
  7. The FaceTime camera resolution is the same across 3 devices, but iPad Air 2 is equipped with an 8M iSight Camera (iPad Air gets only 5M iSight Camera);
  8. iPad Air 2 supports slo-mo video now;
  9. Battery life are all similar.

To me, if you think your iPad Air is fast enough, you don’t really need to upgrade to iPad Air 2, unless you really, really need the Touch ID.