Updates from November, 2009 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • John Erik 12:39 pm on November 25, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Twitter updates, hackathons, YCombinator 

    My last post got me thinking about passively digesting information and how that concept can abstracts all the way out to hackers and creating great products.

    Passively digesting information can be exhausting. While I’ve recently got back into Twitter and Facebook, it was nice to unplug for a month or so.

    That said, there are several downsides to *not* staying connected. For instance I went to this TEDxBeijing event and the whole time I was thinking, “what the hell did I used to talk to people about at things like this.” It really takes practice and being in the social media “flow” (for me at least) to feel like I have fluffy new, current and cool, stuff to talk about.

    Another downside. I’ve totally missed out on my friend’s lives recently. I really don’t know what is going on with them. Or, at least not to the level I did before. danah’s talk referenced how your friends can turn into celebrities. You watch (or receive via Twitter) their every move, you wait to hear about how that meeting s/he was stressed about went. Or, if someone’s mother liked that gift they got for her at Wal-Mart. Silly little things like that. People are always surprised that I’ve never seen 24 or MadMen or even Friends, really. That the only TV show I’ve ever watched (almost) all the way through is Battlestar Galactica (thanks to Melissa). Well, who needs all this when I have the lives of my friends to consume and laugh about.

    Back when I used to talk about things other than Chinese. Back when I had to evangelize Twitter because no one had never heard of it. I would say that Twitter helps me passively digest the life’s of those I care about.

    This is actually very powerful. And still very true, if you use Twitter as I did.

    The value occurs in the real world. Face to face. Being “peripherally aware,” as danah calls it, allows for conversations to start at a higher level. Between people and about topics.

    There is a vocabulary that is formed. There are black boxes. There is the ability to say one word or phrase and evoke in another person a whole set of feelings, memories, or information. This is the kind of stuff I love.

    Minimized backstory. Everyone has less and less time in their day. What do I want from the 30 minutes I get to talk to my friend or loved one per day? I want to talk about something of value, something that I can help with, something that can bring us closer, that we can share. And generally it takes a while to get there. So, I tweet. And I ask my mom to tweet, and my uncle, and my cousins who are off in college, and my college best friend who I want to keep up with because I love that guy. I get these people’s updates to my phone and then when we do have time to chat we can start at a higher level. She/he can reference a meeting, a day when X happened, etc., and I get it. It helps put things in context and it helps accelerate the conversation to one of feelings and emotion (hopefully).

    For news or events it’s the same thing. There is a shared vocabulary. Saying one thing like “the situation in China today” gets you on topic because you heard a bit about this already.

    For me, there is a macro level to this as well, which I think I fell in love with while taking computer science classes. It’s the black box concept again. Or, the shared vocabulary. The more we can compartmentalize and thus abstract away from a concept, or a thought or a process, the sooner we can move up in scope, up in our thought process, up in what we can envision. And thus create.

    I believe when you can do this with multiple people, when you add more processors, you again accelerate your ability to jump scope. This is why computer programmers often code all night or for five days straight or for three months in YCombinator. They don’t want to lose the high-level they are, in that moment, capable of processing at. And this this this is where the greatest things happen. This is what my friend Andrew wanted so badly to recreate with a “startup house.” This is flow.

    And I miss it.

    • Damon Clinkscales 4:03 pm on November 25, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Hey John! Good to hear from you.

      This post is reminding me about your coworking in China (88spaces?) and it makes me wonder how it’s going. When I do hear you talk, it’s usually about travel, Melissa, or Chinese…are you still attempting to create a coworking space and community there where you are? please forgive me if *I’ve* just missed it in the massive stream that is flowing my way these days.

      Happy Thanksgiving. :)

      • John Erik 12:17 am on December 1, 2009 Permalink | Reply

        Hey Damon!

        You are totally right, all I talk about now is learning Chinese and, yeah, @Melissa. heh.

        88 Spaces is up and running (http://88spaces.com). Due completely to the efforts of Markus and Lucas, the guys living in Shanghai.

        The plan was that I would study here in Beijing for a couple months. Then, Melissa and I would move to Shanghai after the new year. However, after studying Chinese for 2 months, I realize I’m going to need a bit more practice and Beijing is the best place to do that. And, it’s looking like Mel’s job is not ready to let her head up to SH. Sooo, we’ll see.

        As far as creating stuff. I miss it. I miss being behind something I believe in and helping bring it into existence.

  • John Erik 11:08 am on November 25, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Some excerpts from danah boyd. Information flow. 

    Our bodies are programmed to consume fat and sugars because they’re rare in nature. Thus, when they come around, we should grab them. In the same way, were biologically programmed to be attentive to things that stimulate: content that is gross, violent, or sexual and that gossip which is humiliating, embarrassing, or offensive. If were not careful, were going to develop the psychological equivalent of obesity. Well find ourselves consuming content that is least beneficial for ourselves or society as a whole.

    In a world of networked media, it’s easy to not get access to views from people who think from a different perspective. Information can and does flow in ways that create and reinforce social divides. Democratic philosophy depends on shared informational structures, but the combination of self-segmentation and networked information flow means that we lose the common rhetorical ground through which we can converse.

    We give power to people when we give them our attention and people gain power when they bridge between different worlds and determine what information can and will flow across the network.

    To be relevant today requires understanding context, popularity, and reputation.

    Making content work in a networked era is going to be about living in the streams, consuming and producing alongside “customers.” Consuming to understand, producing to be relevant.

    …the tools that consumers need are those that allow them to get into flow, that allow them to live inside information structures wherever they are, whatever they’re doing. The tools that allow them to easily grab what they need and stay peripherally aware without feeling overwhelmed.

    via “Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media”Citation: boyd, danah. 2009. “Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media.” Web2.0 Expo. New York, NY: November 17.

    I highly suggest reading danah’s entire talk. Something I didn’t paste because it would have been a bit long, was her reference to (one of my favorite guys) Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” and how “Those who are most enamored with services like Twitter talk passionately about feeling as though they are living and breathing with the world around them, peripherally aware and in-tune, adding content to the stream and grabbing it when appropriate.” When explaining this feeling to others I’ve often used the phrase “passively digesting.” Passively digesting and therefore keeping up the things you care about.

    Those danah describe live in a world where 140 character updates from close friends, possibly family, maybe bits of news and a celebrity or two are delivered to our phones, via SMS, as they happen. I can see the flow metaphor for sure.

    That said, danah’s talk reinforces that “Prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, and power are all baked into our networks. In a world of networked media, it’s easy to not get access to views from people who think from a different perspective. Information can and does flow in ways that create and reinforce social divides.”

    Here’s another one to think about.

    “All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”

  • John Erik 12:19 pm on November 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Pretty sure my iPhone is a goner.

    I have 16 days left on my original one year hardware warranty from Apple, but since that’s only valid in the America (*fail*) I guess what I’m going to do is buy AppleCare to extend my warranty… and take the dumb thing to the Apple Store in Austin when I get to town.

    This is basically my situation: “i tried the power/home combo, tried the home/up-volume/power combo, each done multiple times, none worked. i knew the phone was working because i could play songs, it rang / vibrate when i used another phone to call it, and itunes detected it, i even could back it up. the only problem is, the whole screen is white and i cant see anything else.

    so, i decided to restore it on itunes. now, restore is done. and the screen is still white. ”

    I really wish I could get this thing fixed myself. From this post I thought it was just a connector that finally rattled loose from me dropping my phone all the time, but, after taking the thing apart, I think it’s a busted LCD.

    I could try taking the LCD off to check more connections, but doing requires breaking a sticker that will for sure void my warranty. I could also ship it to American before my one year warranty expires and beg one of my friends to take it to the Apple Store, but that would cost prob 50 bucks and I would just get it from them when I got there myself. Might as well just buy the AppleCare. Alas. What will I do without an iPhone?

    • John Erik 12:30 am on December 1, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      UPDATE: Apple rep just extended my broken iPhone’s 1 year warranty because I won’t be stateside when it expires. That means I’ll (hopefully) be getting a brand new replacement iPhone when I return home!

  • John Erik 11:39 am on November 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Melissa is here visiting me from HK. Yay! We’ll be sure and do a YouTube video tomorrow (I’m writing this so we will remember). Today we went to the 798 District and looked at modern Chinese art. Then we went to YaXiu Market and looked at another form of modern Chinese art, knockoff clothing and bags.

    In other news, I dropped my iPhone face first onto the tiled bathroom floor and now the screen shows only white. I think it’s probably a loose wire inside. I took it to the Apple store here in Beijing but they said they couldn’t help because my phone was purchased in America. I’m a little confused as to why that would be the case. I think I’m going to go back tomorrow and talk to them again. Otherwise I’ll just take the phone apart myself, and void the warranty.

  • John Erik 1:54 am on November 18, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ChinesePod,   

    Just signed up for a Guided account with @ChinesePod. chinesepod logo

    I’ll be using it to keep up my Chinese skills while I’m back in the US for a month or so. Seems like a very cool service.

    • John Erik 4:51 am on November 18, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      This is cool already. I just got a call some a woman at ChinesePod. She was scheduling my first lesson.

      Though, I think I just told her to sign me up for the Executive plan (USD$200/month) because I thought it was free for a month… oops. I clicked a link that said “Take a free Executive Plan demo!” and filled out the short form without reading anything. For some reason I just interpreted the verbiage as a free month. Oh well, guess I can tell my teacher, Helen, tomorrow (at 16:30).

    • John Erik 10:51 am on November 18, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Already really liking ChinesePod. Loaded up my feed with lots of lessons I’m excited about. Downloading all the material via iTunes now. I didn’t know iTunes would download PDFs and everything. I thought I would only be getting audio.

      • Bill 3:40 am on November 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply

        So, did you decide to stick with the Executive plan? I’m following your experiences with Guided/Executive as I’ve yet to make a decision on the level of ChinesePod subscription.

        • John Erik 11:09 am on November 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

          That’s awesome, Bill!

          Nah, I’m back down to the Guided. I sent my tutor an email about my confusion.

    • Dan 9:40 am on November 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I’m one more who will follow your assessment of how that is going. I am doing the reverse – I signed up for ChinesePod as a beginner, after reading and listening to mp3 for a month or two, and next year if I am in China for long enough I will take a class at a University.

      • John Erik 11:10 am on November 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

        Cool, Dan. So, you already have been using ChinesePod for a month or two?? or you will… and then study.

  • John Erik 10:00 am on November 17, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Been watching @Melissa and @davemcclure’s tweets all day from the Cyberport Venture Capital Forum in Hong Kong. Not good for staying focused on studying Chinese.

    • John Erik 10:10 am on November 17, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      It took me like an hour this evening to translate six lines. It didn’t help that we were studying in “Charlie Brown Cafe” and they kept playing the same Charlie Brown songs in French and Chinese. I will never go back to that place without headphones.

    • John Erik 12:52 pm on November 17, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Melissa just told me all about the event. Man, I thought it was like 35 people, turns there were like 500 or something.

  • John Erik 10:20 am on November 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ideas,   

    I really want to make an iPhone app that helps people create sentences in Chinese.

    Here’s the minimum viable product:

  • 1. Search for a word or phrase like you would in any Chinese dictionary app.
  • 2. Save it.
  • 3. Search for another word or phrase.
  • 4. Save it….
  • 5. Once you have all the words you want to use in a list, click Make A Sentence.
  • 6. New page. Empty text field at the top. All your words or phrases are below. Drag and drop them into the correct order.
  • 7. You can now copy and paste your new sentence into a text message or email. Or, just say it.


  • John Erik 10:35 pm on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    It’s so much cooler to get comments on my blog than on things in Facebook. Feels more special, I think.

    • Kevin 12:32 am on November 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Agreed :)

    • Benjamin Hurt 10:06 am on October 6, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Then I hope this makes your day! haha. Looking over your blog this morning as an example. I am going to begin a similar stream of short and relevant content for conscious capitalism (or social entrepreneurship, or whatever we want to call it). May be coming to you for tips along the way – but love the framework you have here.

  • John Erik 10:17 pm on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Clouds are rolling back in. 

    • John Erik 10:25 pm on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      looking at this picture you wouldn’t think it was below freezing. well, believe me, it is.

    • Matt Genovese 10:25 pm on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Wow….you’re right.

      • John Erik 11:14 pm on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply


        It’s so much cooler to get comments on my blog than on things in Facebook. Feels more special, I think. … I think I’ll tweet this.

    • John Erik 11:14 pm on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Posted this from the WordPress iPhone app.

  • John Erik 9:22 am on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Beijing, , , notwashingclothes, yashowmarket   

    Here goes trying to use my blog like a longer version of Twitter. I really like this P2 WordPress theme.

    I just got back from shopping at YaShow or YaXiu. I’ve been going there, and to other markets, quite often. Two reasons. One, I can practice my Chinese with the little shop girls. Two, well, I’ve been in Beijing for about two months now and I just washed clothes for the first time yesterday. I’ve just been buy new stuff to wear. Some of my friends in American will later be very happy that I’ve been doing this instead of washing, as I’ll probably hand over a ton of clothes to them. Gucci pants anyone?

    • John Erik 9:23 am on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Wow no title. That’s a little strange.

    • John Erik 9:36 am on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t like this no title thing. And it makes my Tweets funny. i.e. my most recent tweet looks like this: “Here goes trying to use my blog like a l…: Here goes trying to use my blog like a longer version of Twitter. I .. “

    • Colin Lowenberg 1:12 pm on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Switch to Tumblr.

    • Cesar Torres 5:25 pm on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      My wait size is 30″, thanks.

      I think Tumblr’s good for images or videos of stuff you *find,* but if you’re blogging/writing, use Posterous.

    • johnerik 8:38 pm on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      i’ve debated over and over about what i should use here. at this point i just want to post stuff and try to not worry about it.

    • Melissa 9:15 am on November 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Cesar, we already got you not one but TWO cool things. Don’t worry, we know your sizes.

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