Comrades at Hong Kong’s Drupal group reminded me about BarCamp Hong Kong 2008, it was my first time and I got a really good impression of it. It’s probably fair to say I won’t be the only one who wishes we can have BarCamps more often. I loved it!
Check out all the photos at flickr and a general write up about it on LaiHiu’s blog and another insightful one at Ca Phun Ung’s yelotofu. Personally, it felt great to be able to immerse once again in an open, knowledge-sharing environment. We have lots of these events in the US, and they are great for networking. I was able to meet with a few great people and also organized more regular offline meetings after BarCamp.
I listened to iPhone apps development (& finding it more and more amazing how Apple can become so popular and “cool” while maintaining their unfriendly, “closed door” stance.) An Open Education open-mic with John Britton (half of it), then jumped over to Microsoft’s OSS session. The lead developer of one of the best online Rich Text Editor – FCKeditor. A Drupal theming session where John Britton informed us about the Knight Drupal Initiative, and we organized what will hopefully become regular offline meetings for HK Drupalers. Finally, there’s the Start-up Lightning talks where I presented my “Environmentally Conscious Restaurant / Food directory” idea. Hopefully, I can connect with a few kindred souls in the 200+ attendants to help spread the site. (Probably gonna use this “currystar” domain.) Finally, met a young entrepreneur, Alvin, who’s still in studying at Stanford… he was working hard networking and spoke with me about having connections to VC in the US. It’s good to know someone who’s so young and passionate!
Saw a couple of Yahoo HK developers, I asked one of them how he felt about Yahoo in HK, and he said it’s too “revenue oriented”. I think this is a typical problem with companies that have grown big and also for small HK companies. As a general observation, I think companies (and people) who are “revenue oriented” are often too short-sighted. Because of that, nothing truly revolutionary will come out of them. At the other end of the spectrum, we have visionaries who dream of producing something that will change the way everybody do things, they might create that revolutionary product, everybody loves them, but then they don’t know how to make money out of it. (The classic Slashdot joke: “Create genius product -> Everybody loves it -> ??? -> PROFIT!!) LOL. Rarely do we see phenomenon like Google ~ where a revolutionary idea also crosses over well into a revenue generating model.
Generally speaking though, I am supportive of the latter crowd. Take Google for example, they have tons of talented developers but very little managers (they found that managers were killing innovations, so they fired a majority of them in 2001!), everyone is encouraged to spent some of their work hours to work on their own projects! I think most of their products are not making them any money ~ Gmail, Apps, Docs, Reader… etc, but with so many people converging on their platform, something good must come out of it. (Sort of reminds me of how Yahoo was before the bust.) Now, as an ex-Yahoo, (and more importantly, a shareholder!) I really hope Yahoo can produce something “good for the people” rather than “something that helps the bottom line.” I think in the long run, this will help Yahoo gets back on track.
For example, Yahoo Hong Kong is the most visited website in Hong Kong, there are so much more they can do to help the locals, so why aren’t they standing at the forefront of it, but rather they are copying local success like OpenRice.com? At BarCamp, one of the guys is creating a mass transit info site – passionately named it whereismybusrightnowdude.com.hk 😛 As a returning expat, I am like a foreigner who doesn’t know how to get around HK except for the MTR! Other major cities like Tokyo and London already have something like that, people CANNOT live without these services! Why haven’t Yahoo! HK done something similar?