#14

How’s your summer ? I have a pretty good one as I did some virtual traveling a week ago by picking up a dozen of traveling related books in the BookFair 2002. In that particular weekend, I traveled to Spain, Okinawa, Seoul, Greece and many other great places. Just wanna share a little secret with you all, I am dreaming that one day I will become a travel book collector � hmmm we will see.

If you do some serious travel planning, you would collect information, plan your itinerary and compare prices. You will probably ask a few friends, visit some travel agencies, browse a couple of travel web sites and buy a few travel magazines / books. And what you will probably notice is that there are tons of information in all kinds of media but never easy to sort out the details and get what you want, in a timely and accurate fashion.

These problems come down to one possible solution – Information Architecture. In other words, the knowledge of how to collect, sort-out, and present the information to the requesters, in a far better and intuitive way. Obviously, to master this skill, one needs to invest some precious time to study this school of knowledge …

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I bet you’re already bored by some of the updates, what about a quiz ?

You have an empty wine bottle. A 10-cents coin is placed inside the bottle and the cork is inserted in the neck of the bottle. Your job is to get the coin out without removing the cork or damaging the bottle.

How do you do it ?

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This month’s recommendation is “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum : Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How To Restore The Sanity” by Alan Cooper (the father of Visual Basic).

In this book, Alan tells you why an IT professional shall make users happier, improve the process by which the users get work done and make their work hours more effective. Just in the first chapter, he quoted some very interested examples such as why a computerized car has (wrongly) designed to behave like a computer but not a car ? Why a computerized alarm clock has (wrongly) designed to behave like a computer but not a clock ? Same goes to camera, airplane �To us, we have to ask ourselves why our data entry forms were (wrongly) designed to look like a computer form, but not a user friendly paper form.

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No winter lasts forever; no spring skips it’s turn.

~ Hal Borland ~

#13

Everything great and glorious begins with a belief

What’s your favorite moment of the World Cup 2002 ?

To me, it’s not Ronaldo’s golden double in the final last night, but it was the time I checked the transaction count right after the South Korea vs Germany semi-final game. I found that the transaction volume went down sharply during the game but went up again after the game. It’s the moment that I felt our services are not so high-tech but actually down-to-earth, it’s in pace with the heart-beat of people.

I have the belief that one day, all people will benefit from our services. One day they will share the same feeling of Issac Asimov – “I don’t fear computers, I fear the lack of them”.

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Have you ever wonder how the football team managers like Wenger, Houllier, Ferguson, and Eriksson motivate their football players ? How they manage a not-so-fit team to win a game ? You will find the answers in this book – The 90-minute Manager: Lessons from the Dugout.

If you believe in Internet and want to survive, you have to be an expert in
some technologies – XML, XHTML, and Web services. I found the following two
books are very readable – XML, HTML, XHTML Magic and Architecting Web
Services
.

#12

We will review our team structure periodically and seriously to find out the best mix of talents and skills. We are building a league of our own, be it a team of France or Senegal.

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I recently visited one eCommerce web site and found something enlightening in their “Culture Page”. I am sure we are not there yet, but hey, it’s good to learn something good from someone – especially it’s free. It says …

The Culture of XYZ Inc.

1. Openness

  • Recognise that good solutions to problems can come from anywhere
  • Practise candid and collaborative exchange of ideas and information
  • Be open, diplomatic and honest in dealings to earn the trust of others

2. Ownership

  • “Run it like you own it”
  • Be passionate
  • Be responsive

3. Entrepreneurial Spirit

  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
  • Be flexible
  • Take risks

4. Fun

  • Be able to laugh at yourself
  • Have fun working together
  • Have fun scaling new heights

5. Win-win

  • Think win-win for customers and colleagues
  • See problems as opportunities
  • Be creative

6. Teamwork

OK, page up and read it again 😎 And ask yourself why we are not there yet.

#11

Same as last month, a recommendation of a not-too-new book I read months ago – The Monk and the Riddle : The Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur by Randy Komisar. A very interesting book about how one guy wanted to raise fund to set up a hypothetical web site – “Funeral.com”. All the guy wanted was to raise money, based on some superficial revenue projections, and get some quick money back. Eventually he had the site up and running not because of the money – he set up the site to provide grief support to the group of communities who have their beloved one passed away. And had the site renamed circleoflife.com .

The author is a master storyteller, the kind of guy you’d feel honored to share a bottle of wine with. And upon completing the book you will believe his conclusion: “When all is said and done, the journey is the reward.”

After all, it’s great if you’ve made billions on the journey, but the important thing is that you do something you can truly throw yourself into.

#10

How’s your Easter holiday ? I have a rather busy weekend as every hour or so, I surfed to our web site to see if anything went wrong – kinda like a part-time operator. It’s almost like part of my job at home already. In any case, thanks to those who worked in the weekend for the company to keep the system up and running, web page updated etc.

Obviously we have a very busy month as we rolled out many services. I aware that many of you worked late nights or even overnights to keep the tight project schedule on target. Thanks for all the hard works. For those lucky ones who don’t need to work late, please extend your hand to help. In nowadays’ economic climate, all of us need to work closely with all the team members to get the job done – it’s no longer a 9 to 5 job.

And more importantly, no matter how tough a problem is, we need to propose a solution to kill the problem. It is simply unacceptable to say “no” to a request but not proposing a solution. And it is also unacceptable to say “yes” to a request but not delivering.

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I will not recommend to you the two books I am reading, as I have not finished it (and those are pretty boring stuff). Anyway, there is an old book I think it’s excellent -“Only the Paranoid Survive” by Andrew Grove (the boss of Intel).

There is one chapter in the book that lingered in my mind for many years. Basically there was a time that Intel went through a very difficult time and Andrew Grove was going to be fired by the board of directors and replaced by a new chief. Andrew asked himself what would the new chief do the first day report to work. He reckoned the new chief would probably wrap up the Memory chip business and set up CPU business. He eventually decided to close all Memory Chip branches (a painful decision by that time) and set up the CPU lines to produce the 8086 CPUs for personal computers. The rest is history.

The lesson to me was every day we encountered numerous problems and we do not resolve the problem straightaway because of various reasons. Many of the reasons were justified by the project background, history, some environmental issues, and most of all, some beautified excuses. What we need however is to ask ourselves if one day someone picked up the mess, what would they do ? They would probably decisively take some actions and kill the problems. They would probably stop doing the wrong things and save cost.

So don’t give yourself any excuses, but ask yourself, what would you do if you can solve your own problem from a new staff’s point of view, then take the action.

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The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.

~ Babe Ruth ~